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Best movies on Netflix: 20 films you have to stop what you’re doing and watch right now

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If you’re new to Netflix and want to find the best movies to watch, or you’re tired of browsing Netflix’s catalog day after day and coming up empty, you’ve come to the right place. With thousands of movies at your disposal, it’s easy to get stuck in binge-watching mode, but finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of hassle.

In an effort to determine the best of the best, we’ve put together a list of the greatest possible films you can watch – curated by TechRadar editors and backed up with ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – so that you don’t have to sift through the muck. We’ll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.

Are TV shows more your scene? Here are the best TV shows on Netflix!

1. Blackfish

Blackfish, the controversial nature documentary that follows a misunderstood and often violent killer whale in captivity at SeaWorld, made a huge splash when it was released in 2013. Its story has moved audiences to take action in a way that few other films have ever done, going so far as forcing lawmakers’ hands to introduce legislation that will demand that SeaWorld release killer whales back into the wild. It’s an emotional ride through the highs and lows of the aquatic entertainment industry, one that reveals the real consequences of keeping animals where they don’t belong.

IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

2. Inglorious Basterds

Best movies on Netflix

Prolific Tarantino films come and go on Netflix all the time (see: Django Unchained, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Inglorious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs), but Inglorious Basterds, the current Tarantino film, is definitely high up on our list. Like Django, Kill Bill and well, I guess every other Tarantino film, this one comes with a caveat – if you’re looking for a family movie, look somewhere else. 

IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

3. The Imitation Game

Best Movies on Netflix

There are plenty of great war films on Netflix (including Full Metal Jacket, coming up later on this list. But if you’re looking for a different side of the battle, the one fought with minds and willpower rather than guns and grenades, watch The Imitation Game. Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing and Keira Knightley’s Joan Clarke are an interesting on-screen duo, and the race to beat the Nazi war machine adds palpable tension without ever showing a drop of blood.

IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

4. Memento

Best movies on Netflix

How do you solve a crime that was committed years ago if you can’t remember what happened yesterday? It seems impossible, right? Maybe. Memento is one of the greatest crime films ever made because it never wraps everything up in a tight bow. At the end, you’re left with more questions than answers and while that sounds like a frustrating experience, it’s more memorable and thought provoking than anything you could expect.

IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

5. Titanic

Best movies on Netflix

Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on! Ahem, sorry. Titanic is a classic of cinema, and probably the best thing James Cameron has ever done. (Well, it’s between that and Avatar…) Anyways, Titanic is the story of the eponymous sinking of the famous ship and two star-crossed unfortunate lovers who happened to be on board at the time. Plus some … uh, painting.

IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

6. Cartel Land

Best movies on Netflix

Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film, Cartel Land explores the state of the ongoing drug problem along the U.S.-Mexican border. On one side is the heroic Dr. José Mireles, the leader of the vigilante group, the Autodefensas. On the other is Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon. The two are stuck in a never-ending battle against the cartels, putting both themselves and their families on the line to fight for what they think is right.

IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

7. The Big Short

Best movies on Netflix

Another Academy Award nominee, The Big Short stole critics’ hearts last year as it told the tale of financial downturn of 2008, how it happened and the men who used the opportunity to hit back against the banks who caused it. If high finance doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there’s more than enough drama and humor to keep you hooked on the line while film stars the odd trio of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell alongside Brad Pitt, Karen Gillan and Marisa Tomei immerse you in one of the greatest tales of American ingenuity ever told.

IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

8. Beasts of No Nation

Best movies on Netflix

Beasts of No Nation stars Idris Elba as a war lord, and follows the story of Agu, portrayed by child actor Abraham, who is forced to become a child soldier during the civil war of an unnamed African country. What follows is a nightmare: boys stolen from their families are forced to kill and through blood take their vengeance on the world. It’s a war movie with a profound message, and is probably the closest equivalent of Apocalypse Now that we’re like to see in the 21st century.

IMDB Rating: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

9. Forrest Gump

Best movies on Netflix

This list is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. On this page, though, what you get is one of the most quintessential movies in American cinema. Yes, Forrest Gump tells the story of a man who falls for a girl and becomes somewhat of a phenomenon from humble beginnings, but, more importantly, it’s a history lesson in how America has grown and changed over the years. Heartwarming, uplifting and inspirational, Forrest Gump teaches us an important lesson: if you’re kind and you work hard, amazing things will happen to you – eventually.

IMDB Rating: 8.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%

10. The Babadook

Best movies on Netflix

Horror movies have fallen on hard times. There, I said it. Spending the past decade relying on jump shocks and excessive gore to win over new audiences, it’s rare to find a film as well-made, thought-out and genuinely scary as The Babadook. Two parts horror, one part mind game, the film explores the feelings of guilt that come along with death, the darkest sides of parenthood and the sheer creepiness of kids’ imaginations.

IMDB Rating: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

11. E.T. the Extraterrestrial

Best movies on Netflix

Sure, there have been dozens of much better aliens-living-among-humans stories written in the past three decades, but without Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic, none of them would exist. E.T. was the first time our imagination ran wild with the idea that alien life might not want to hurt us, and could be just as lost as we are in this vast cosmic playground. It’s not perfect, but for a heavy helping of nostalgia, E.T. is an old friend well worth revisiting. 

IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

12. Amelie

Best movies on Netflix

If you haven’t seen it, Amelie is pretty much the French equivalent of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Starring Audrey TauTou, it’s a weird, quirky and all-around whimsical joyride around Paris as we see Amelie develop from a reserved waitress into a romantically involved extrovert. For introverts, Amelie is a spiritually moving film, taking on mental ailments like depression, social anxiety and agoraphobia head-on while still providing a solid rom-com foundation for all fans of the genre.

IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

13. V for Vendetta

Best movies on Netflix

Based on a graphic novel of the same name, V for Vendetta is a poignant think piece mixed with scenes of intense action and over-the-top symbolism that will both entertain and, hopefully, enlighten in equal amounts. We won’t bore you with the entire backstory and what its author originally intended, but the gist of it is that society has spiraled out of control and our leaders, the nice, confident people we’ve put our trust in, really don’t care about us. Just a warning: It’s a bit heady at times and, like Memento, everything doesn’t wrap up in a perfect bow by the time the credits role. Still, if you can stand a little philosophy in your films, this one’s worth watching. 

IMDB Rating: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%

14. Moonrise Kingdom

Best movies on Netflix

Starting September 16, Moonrise Kingdom will be the only Wes Anderson film available on Netflix. And while that sounds somewhat depressing, it’s anything but. By limiting us to a single Anderson flick at a time, Netflix is slowly building our palette for the director’s dry wit, exceptional pacing and phenomenal casting that seems to permeate each film under his supervision. Wonderfully smart and expertly crafted, Moonrise Kingdom might not overtake The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Royal Tenenbaums as our favorite Wes Anderson films, but that doesn’t make it any less of an excellent movie on its own.

IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

15. Full Metal Jacket

Best movies on Netflix

You can always count on Kubrick to come through with something so profound that it almost doesn’t make sense. Full Metal Jacket applies Kubrick’s storytelling genius to the Vietnam War, where soldiers are tasked with committing atrocities all in the name of their country that’s 7,500 miles away. Taking on themes like the meaning of war (or rather, the lack of said meaning) and the idea of serving your country, Full Metal Jacket is a must-watch. 

IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

16. Indie Game: The Movie

Best movies on Netflix

Full disclosure: Almost all of us here at TechRadar love video games. If you couldn’t tell from the hundreds of articles we write about the latest and greatest gaming hardware to the disappointment in our text when we hear that our favorite game has been delayed (again), one of the best parts of the job is getting to be so close to one of our favorite mediums. Not to sound all mushy, but Indie Game: The Movie is the culmination of that love into a single, two-hour film that illustrates perfectly the periods of heart-break and joy that go into each and every one of your favorite games. If you even remotely care about games, you should watch this film.

IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

17. The Fundamentals of Caring

Best movies on Netflix

The Fundamentals of Caring is proof that you can take actor Paul Rudd, put him in literally any movie about any subject and he automatically makes it 10 to 20 times better. With any other actor in the leading role, The Fundamentals of Caring – based on the book by Jonathan Evison – would’ve likely had no lasting appeal. And yet, with Rudd behind the wheel of the ship the film becomes a comical road trip movie with a compelling twist that’s one part Eurotrip and two parts 50/50. The stakes here are that Rudd is taking care of an emotionally sheltered, physically handicapped teen whose bark is fiercer than his bite. The friendship the two form ultimately help the other grow out of their shells. It may come off as trite, cliché and over-wrought at times, but if you stick through the saccharine, there’s a well-crafted story here that might melt your heart.

IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

18. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best movies on Netflix

If you would’ve told us that there’d be Star Wars spin-off films a decade ago, and that those films were actually better than some of the main entries in the series, we wouldn’t believe you. But then again, it doesn’t take much to beat out Star Wars Episode I, does it? Rogue One is entirely its own thing and stands on its own two feet. Sure, you’ll still see Vader walking about and the calculated Grand Moff Tarkin scheming his grand schemes, but Rogue One becomes its own living and breathing story, full of new characters that improve the Star Wars universe as well as expand upon it.

IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

19. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Best movies on Netflix

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the uplifting documentary of one man who never gave up on his … uh, dreams. Jiro became the first three-star Michelin sushi chef in Japan and has been called a national treasure, all the while honing his mantra of being his best self. Jiro’s commitment to his craft that carries the film – but it’s his two sons, both famous sushi chefs like their father that make the film one of the best documentaries ever made. If you’re hungry for a bit of inspiration in an evermore depressing world, pull up a seat.

IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

20. The Shining

Best movies on Netflix

Ending the list on a high-note, The Shining is the pinnacle of American film-making. It remains an exceptionally paced horror/thriller hybrid that remains iconic 40 years after its release. The hardest part about The Shining is talking about where the film went so right. Was it Kubrick and Stephen King’s story? Was it Jack Nicholson’s immersion into the character and frightening descent into madness? Or did it simply prey on our easily accessed fears? Like the symbolism presented in the movie, the answer isn’t totally clear but regardless the trip into madness is an enjoyable one, even after all this time.

IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%