What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves this question only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus and getting overwhelmed by the constantly shifting trend menus. Netflix’s huge catalog of movies continues to expand day by day, week by week, month by month; making the challenge of keeping up to date with best the service has to offer, let alone finding something the best of what to watch after a long day, a task that feels herculean at best and impossible at worst for someone not plugged into its inscrutable rhythms.
That’s where we’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis in November, we’ve narrowed down your options to not only our favorite current movies on the platform, but the best movies Netflix has to offer.
If you’re looking for a specific genre, we’ve got the best action movies on Netflix, the best horror movies on Netflix, the best thrillers on Netflix, and the best comedy movies on Netflix ready for you.
We’ll be updating this list monthly as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen. Our latest update added Road to Perdition as our editor’s pick.
This week’s editor’s pick
Road to Perdition
Genre: Crime drama
Run time: 1h 57m
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law
In the Bible, it is written that the sins of the father are laid upon their children; that what is sown in the past is inevitably reaped in the future. Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes’ 2002 crime drama starring Tom Hanks and Tyler Hoechlin, asks the question: Is it possible to spare one’s children from the legacy of their parents? To spare them the burden of the mistakes of others in the hopes that they can create something better for themselves and future generations? The answer is yes… but not without a price.
Set in 1931 amid the Great Depression and the height of Prohibition, Mendes’ film centers on the story of Michael Sullivan (Hanks), an enforcer working for the Irish mob, as told by his eldest son, Michael Sullivan Jr. (Hoechlin). When Michael Jr. inadvertently witnesses the murder of a close associate of crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman) by his own son, Connor (Daniel Craig), Sullivan Sr. and his family are marked for death. Fleeing the carnage of his family home, Michael escapes with his surviving son in search of sanctuary from the forces now aligned to harm them, among them a sadistic hitman (Jude Law) with a fetish for photographing his own killings. With his back against the wall, Michael is forced to make a fraught decision: Either offer his son’s life to possibly save his own, or take the life of his former mentor and father figure in hopes of sparing his own son from a life haunted by perdition.
In his review for the film, Roger Ebert compared Road to Perdition to a Greek tragedy; one where, unlike the unpredictability of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the drama of its characters’ actions and their resultant downfall is undercut by the grave preordained framing of said actions. With all due respect (and obviously, much respect is due to the late Mr. Ebert), I disagree with that assertion. It is not so much that fate has conspired against Michael Sullivan and his family, but rather that the course of one’s life is the result of the unrelenting pull between the sum of one’s choices and the circumstances entirely out of one’s control. It’s not a subtle film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is nonetheless an affecting and effective one.
Road to Perdition is a beautiful and riveting film that probes at the redemption and the murkiness of sin. Tom Hanks delivers a captivating against-type performance as the stolid yet compassionate father figure of Michael; Tyler Hoechlin is fantastic as the sensitive and observant Michael Jr.; Paul Newman’s subdued yet memorable turn as John Rooney is one hell of a final theatrical role to go out on; and Jude Law is genuinely spine-chilling as the leering paparazzi assassin Harlen. That’s not even mentioning Daniel Craig’s own against-type performance as Rooney’s sniveling, Commodus-like nepo-baby son or the inimitable Conrad Hall’s tremendous chiaroscuro-like cinematography (Road to Perdition would be the final film Hall would work on prior to his death in 2003). 1917, American Beauty, and Skyfall might get the lion’s share of attention, but Road to Perdition quietly yet confidently stands apart as Sam Mendes’ greatest work to date. —Toussaint Egan
The best movies on Netflix
Genre: Sci-fi fantasy action
Run time: 2h 12m
Director: Han Yan
Cast: Li Yifeng, Michael Douglas, Zhou Dongyu
There are a few ways one could go about describing Animal World. One way is to just say it’s an adaptation of Kaiji, Nobuyuki Fukumoto’s 1996 suspense manga about the misadventures of a masterful hustler and gambler. For those unfamiliar with Kaiji, the next-best explanation is through simple comparison: Animal World is Squid Game meets Yu-Gi-Oh meets Fight Club.
Zheng Kaisi (Li Yifeng) is a down-on-his-luck math prodigy working a menial job as a clown mascot at a children’s arcade in order to pay his mother’s medical bills. After being tricked by an old friend from school to mortgage his mother’s home as part of a failed property scheme, Kaisi is driven even further into debt. With no other options, Kaisi is given an ultimatum: Either work off the debt for the rest of his life, or compete in a high-stakes gambling competition aboard a retrofitted battleship known as “Destiny.” The game? Rock, paper, scissors. The stakes? Life or death.
Animal World has one of the most gonzo premises of any film I’ve watched on Netflix: a nail-biting gambling drama combined with a psychological horror thriller about a man who handles stress by imagining himself as a murderous katana-wielding clown battling bizarre insectoid eldritch monstrosities. If that weren’t enough to pique your interest, Michael Douglas stars as the film’s antagonist: a sleazy loan shark who relishes in his power to inflict pain and suffering through debt bondage. He’s like if Gordon Gekko from 1987’s Wall Street was a villain from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. ’Nuff said. —TE
An Action Hero
Genre: Action thriller
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Anirudh Iyer
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Jaideep Ahlawat, Jitender Hooda
A mega-famous Bollywood action star is shooting a new movie, while a brutal politician sends his lackeys to meet with the actor and coordinate a photoshoot. When things go terribly wrong, the actor finds himself in the middle of one of his own movies, being chased around the world in a manhunt after he is suspected of murder.
This is the setup for An Action Hero, a highly competent meta action thriller from India. Released in December 2022, it landed on Netflix in late January and is one of the best new movies you can watch on the platform. Led by strong performances (especially Jaideep Ahlawat, who plays the politician), a vibrant score, and funny commentary on the role of movie stars for the public and for the media, An Action Hero is an exciting and well-paced thriller that is the definition of a crowd-pleaser. —PV
Run time: 1h 45m
Director: Mati Diop
Cast: Ibrahima Traoré, Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow
It’s hard to talk too much about Atlantics without giving away what makes the experience of watching it so special. It’s a beautiful, haunting love story with a tangibly beating heart, touching on romance as well as grief, class, labor, and the lingering effects of oppression. Shot gorgeously by director Mati Diop and cinematographer Claire Mathon, it was the first movie directed by a Black woman to be featured in competition in Cannes (it won the Grand Prix award, losing out on the Palme d’Or to Parasite), and is one of the most remarkable feature film debuts for a director in recent memory. —PV
Genre: Biographical drama
Run time: 2h 50m
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale
Coming off of the massive creative undertaking of his 2002 dream project Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio teamed up once again for a 2004 biopic chronicling the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of Howard Hughes, the charismatic aviation tycoon behind Trans World Airlines (TWA) who pivoted to filmmaking with 1930’s Hell’s Angels and 1932’s Scarface.
Scorsese’s film is a monument to the excess and latent corruption of the Roaring ’20s, encapsulated through the story of a man whose glamorous playboy lifestyle and incorrigible ego were dwarfed only by the subsequent tragedies of his later life, irreparably scarred by a horrific plane crash and wracked by the mental strain of a lifelong private battle with undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The Aviator, much like its namesake’s own career, is a dazzling spectacle of dizzying heights and precipitous lows rendered beautifully by Robert Richardson’s extravagant cinematography and the deft editing of longtime Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker. At nearly three hours, the film’s runtime may appear daunting at first, but The Aviator makes expert use of every minute, bobbing and weaving gracefully from one scene and set piece to the next before landing on a final note whose intimacy, desperation, and unwavering perseverance in the face of adversity is at once disquietingly tragic and profoundly moving. —TE
The Baahubali movies
Genre: Epic fantasy
Run time: 2h 39m (Baahubali: The Beginning); 2h 47m (Baahubali 2: The Conclusion)
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty
In Western terms, this Tollywood production from the future director of RRR, the most expensive Indian film at the time of its release, is like a biblical epic by way of Marvel Studios, with a little Hamlet and Step Up thrown in for good measure. The Beginning chronicles the life of Shivudu, an adventurer with superhuman strength who escapes his provincial life by scaling a skyscraper-sized waterfall, aids and romances a rebel warrior named Avanthika, then teams up with her to rescue a kidnapped queen from an evil emperor. Exploding with hyper-choreographed fight sequences and CG spectacle (not to mention a handful of musical numbers with equal bravura), The Beginning is 159 minutes of mythical excess, going big like only Indian film can and resting on the muscular shoulders of its hero, the single-name actor Prabhas. If you fall hard for it, get pumped — this is only part one. The twist leads into Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, another two-and-a-half-hour epic currently streaming on Netflix. —Matt Patches
Genre: Crime thriller
Run time: 2h 13m
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis
A sleek and sexy thriller that makes hacking look extremely cool, Michael Mann’s unfairly maligned Blackhat stands tall as a high mark in digital filmmaking. It is peak Mann — if you’re not a fan of the Heat director’s work, your mileage may vary. In the film, Chen Dawai (Wang Leehom), a captain in the PLA’s cyber warfare unit, is tasked with getting to the bottom of a computer attack that melts down a nuclear power plant in Hong Kong. While liaising with the FBI investigation, Chen insists on the aid of his old friend Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, who has never been hotter or cooler), an imprisoned genius hacker. When Hathaway and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei), a networking engineer also helping with the case, fall for each other, it adds an extra wrinkle to an already high stakes situation. Viola Davis and Holt McCallany feature as FBI agents who aren’t super happy to have to rely on a notorious criminal.
With sharp digital cinematography and unforgettable set pieces, Blackhat explores our changing global relationship to technology. Mann makes tangible the microscopic computer systems that run the world: an extreme close-up of internal wires leading to a motherboard like a vast interconnected highway; a computer fan that sounds like a jet engine. Events that in other films would be shown as a boring stroke of keys are instead depicted as hypnotic processes happening under the surface of the visible world. —PV
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher
Suburban paranoia is as time-honored of an American tradition as baseball, apple pie, and redlining. In this 1989 horror comedy, Gremlins director Joe Dante taps into a wellspring of simmering communal tension and urban superstition and strikes gold. Tom Hanks stars as Ray Peterson, an overstressed homeowner trying to enjoy his weeklong vacation, if only everyone in the cul-de-sac of Mayfield Place would just leave him the hell alone. Unfortunately for him, the mysterious goings-on of his reclusive new neighbors have drawn the overimaginative ire of fellow suburbanites Art (Rick Ducommun) and Mark (Bruce Dern), who enlist Ray in a harebrained scheme to uncover what they’re absolutely certain is a murderous home-grown conspiracy.
Dana Olsen, the screenwriter for The ’Burbs, aptly summed up the film as “Ozzie and Harriet meet Charles Manson.” It’s a gleefully dark movie about a bunch of adults running around like grown-ass children, whipping themselves up into a frenzy with ever more outlandish theories while transforming into the very mirror image of their own tall tales. The script is fantastic, with memorable one-liners like “I’m gonna go do something productive; I’m gonna go watch television” delivered with an acerbic sense of wit by a cast of terrific actors who are all in on the joke. If you’re a fan of Joe Dante’s other films, like Small Soldiers, Innerspace, or, of course, Gremlins, you owe it to yourself to make the time to watch this bona fide cult classic. —TE
The Debt Collector movies
Genre: Action comedy
Run time: 1h 35m (The Debt Collector); 1h 37m (Debt Collectors aka The Debt Collector 2)
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Cast: Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Vladimir Kulich
A buddy comedy by way of direct-to-video action specialist Jesse V. Johnson, The Debt Collector is the first of a series of two very good movies starring Scott Adkins (Avengement) and Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as a wise-cracking duo collecting debts for the mob. Adkins plays French, a down-on-his-luck martial arts instructor who turns to debt collecting to pay his own debts off. Mandylor plays a boy named Sue, the veteran debt collector French is paired up with for his first day of work.
As the two get deeper into their work, they discover a scheme that puts a young child at risk, and consider risking it all themselves to help. Adkins and Mandylor have terrific chemistry in the lead roles, bringing this out of the echelon of “solid DTV movies” and into the realm of “great hangout flicks.” Also, Tony Todd (Candyman) plays a mobster named Barbosa. And the sequel rules, too. —PV
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Genre: Romantic comedy
Run time: 1h 55m
Directors: Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai
Cast: Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Gao Yuanyuan
Johnnie To is one of our great modern directors, equally adept in hard-boiled triad crime dramas and light-hearted romantic comedies alike. 2011’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart falls in the latter category, and is one of the many high marks of the Hong Kong director’s legendary career. Fresh off the end of a long-term relationship, Chi-yan (Gao Yuanyuan) is an analyst for an investment bank who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle. On one side, there’s Sean (Louis Koo), a CEO who works across the street from Chi-yan and yearns for her through the tall corporate glass windows that separate them. On the other, there’s Kevin (the always-dreamy Daniel Wu), an alcoholic former architect who helps Chi-yan move on and is inspired by her to start creating again. What follows is a sincere, funny, and truly charming romantic time. —PV
Genre: Revenge thriller
Run time: 2h 14m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
Cast: Sudeepa, Nani, Samantha
Eega is a delightful slapstick romantic comedy from the director of RRR, about a fly and his human girlfriend conspiring to ruin a man’s life and then murder him for vengeance. If that doesn’t sound up your alley, I’m not sure what will.
S.S. Rajamouli has wowed audiences worldwide with his bombastic, exciting historical epic RRR, Polygon’s #1 movie of 2022 (and recent winner for a Golden Globe for best original song for the incredible “Naatu Naatu”).
In this very post, we’ve encouraged readers to watch his previous two historical epics, the Baahubali series (also available on Netflix). But one of his earlier entries, made a decade ago, was recently added to Netflix, and it is one of the most fun movies you could ever possibly watch.
Eega tells the story of a man who is murdered by a wealthy businessman. After being reincarnated as a fly, he makes it his mission to exact vengeance on the man who killed him. As a fly.
With groundbreaking visual effects that pushes digital filmmaking forward, Rajamouli injects a delightful energy and lighter tone into the genre of “dark revenge thriller,” with thrilling set pieces (stakes include “our hero gets stuck on a tennis ball being used in a cricket match” and “our hero causes a traffic jam by buzzing in the ears of a crossing guard”) and plenty of visual gags inspired by slapstick and screwball comedies alike. It’s all balanced by a compelling romance that sells you on the movie’s emotional stakes in the first half hour, culminating in an experience unlike any other. Rajamouli is just special. —PV
Ghosts of Sugar Land
Genre: Documentary short
Run time: 21m
Director: Bassam Tariq
Director Bassam Tariq recently got replaced on Marvel’s upcoming Blade movie, and it’s as good a reason as any to catch up with his masterful 2019 short. Best known for the hip-hop drama Mogul Mowgli starring Riz Ahmed, Tariq’s previous movie is an enthralling documentary well worth the 21-minute running time.
Ghosts of Sugar Land is about a young group of friends in the suburbs of Texas, and what happens when one of them becomes radicalized by ISIS. A compelling portrait of an America we don’t often get to see depicted on screen, Tariq offers no easy answers, instead leaning on the shock and despair of the friends left behind, and on the dangers of isolation and loneliness in a country that often seems on the brink of collapse. A winner of multiple festival awards, including the 2019 Sundance Short Film Jury Award, Ghosts of Sugar Land is not to be missed. —PV
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Did you enjoy Knives Out, but could use a little less puke in your murder-mystery movie? Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the solution. I have a vomit phobia, so maybe this is a niche idea (there are dozens of us!), but sometimes movies with less vomit are better. In their own way.
Where Knives Out took precise aim at the entitlement of the rich, Glass Onion is more of a shotgun blast at influencers, billionaires, and tech bros who fail upward. But the performances help keep Glass Onion’s twists and turns tight and exciting. It’s easy to get swept up in the showmanship of it all, particularly Daniel Craig fully embracing the character of Benoit Blanc (and the air of Southern naivete that he adopts early on), as well as Janelle Monáe killing it in a particularly nuanced role. It might not be the knockout that Knives Out was, but it has its charms — and 99% fewer spew scenes, with only one! —Kallie Plagge
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson
Cast: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann
It only feels like serendipity that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio would premiere a little over a year after the release of Mad God, Phil Tippett’s experimental animated horror fantasy film. Both are labors of love dedicated to the painstaking craft of stop-motion animation, dreamt of by their respective creators for a significant portion of their lives and careers. Both are uncompromising, beautiful works featuring fantastical characters entrenched in harrowing situations, each confronted with the sum total ugliness that either of their respective worlds has to offer. But where Mad God is a precipitous descent into an endless nightmare realm of horrors, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a testament to the enduring power of love in the face of barbarism and tyranny.
Reimagining Carlo Collodi’s iconic 1883 children’s book as story set in 1930s Italy amid the rise of fascism, Pinocchio is a film that walks a tightrope balancing act between lighthearted whimsy and affecting tragedy above a chasm of unremitting darkness. It’s bold, funny, shocking, and an unquestionably original take on a well-known story that treats the capacity of children to discern right from wrong with the same respect that one would treat an adult’s. As my colleague Oli Welsh put it in his review, “It’s an unruly, wild, and tender film that sometimes gets lost but, by the end, finds its way to a very moving state of grace.” —TE
Genre: Sports comedy
Run time: 1h 58m
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Cast: Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Ben Foster
One of Netflix’s better originals in recent memory is this passion project from the famously basketball-obsessed Adam Sandler, where he plays a down-on-his-luck scout who needs to find the perfect prospect. With an all-star ensemble cast filled with movie stars (Sandler is joined by Queen Latifah, Ben Foster, and Robert Duvall) and NBA players alike (Juancho Hernangómez co-leads with Sandler, while Anthony Edwards, Boban Marjanović, and others give memorable supporting turns), Hustle is an inspiring and thrilling basketball movie made by people who love the game. —PV
The Ip Man movies
Genre: Martial arts drama
Run time: 1h 46m (Ip Man); 1h 48m (Ip Man 2); 1h 45m (Ip Man 3); 1h 45m (Ip Man 4: The Finale)
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung
All five movies in the Ip Man series — the four main entries (all on Netflix) and the spinoff Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (not on Netflix, but on Peacock and Tubi, among others) — are terrific martial arts dramas. They’re a great starting place for anyone looking to get into the genre, and also a terrific comfort watch for enthusiasts of martial arts movies.
Donnie Yen completely immerses himself as the stoic Ip Man, the Wing Chun grandmaster who taught Bruce Lee (played by Danny Chan Kwok-kwan in the series), among others. Yen brings a pensiveness to the role to go with his incredible martial arts prowess. All four movies are directed by frequent Yen collaborator Wilson Yip and go from one all-time great action choreographer to another: The first two movies had action by Sammo Hung, and the next two by Yuen Woo-ping. Those are quite possibly the two greatest to ever do it, and if that’s not enough to get you to tune in, I don’t know what is. —PV
Run time: 1h 38m
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Cast: Kang Soo-yeon, Kim Hyun-joo, Ryu Kyung-soo
Hellbound and Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho’s latest sci-fi action film is set on a 22nd-century Earth, with human civilization now partially submerged beneath the ocean due to the effects of climate change. JUNG_E centers on Yun Jung-yi (Kim Hyun-joo), a legendary soldier who dies in battle only to be resurrected decades later as a synthetic life-form by her now adult daughter Yun Seo-hyun (Kang Soo-yeon), one of the head researchers for a laboratory specializing in military artificial intelligence. When the project is threatened to be terminated by her superiors, Seo-hyun must decide whether to rescue the facsimile of her dead mother from termination, or finally let go of the person she loved above anyone else.
It might be tempting on its face to dismiss JUNG_E as just a contemporary RoboCop derivative with trace notes of Elysium sprinkled about, but the actual world-building present in JUNG_E — let alone the set designs — is striking in the depth of thought and craft evident in its impressive execution. And that’s before getting to the incredible chemistry of Kim Hyun-joo and Kang Soo-yeon’s lead performances, which combine to form a genuinely moving portrayal of maternal love complicated not only by the strain of time, but by the callousness of a futuristic world where technologically facilitated immortality has given rise to a nightmarish caste system of perpetual indentured servitude. It’s high-concept sci-fi with a strong human core and dazzling close-quarters combat scenes throughout. JUNG_E isn’t just one of the best sci-fi films currently on Netflix — it’s one of the best films to come out this year so far, period. —TE
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids
Genre: Concert movie
Run time: 1h 30m
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Justin Timberlake
In 1984, director Jonathan Demme made one of the finest concert films of all-time with the Talking Heads in the raucously triumphant Stop Making Sense. A little more than three decades later, Demme’s final feature film was another joyous concert movie.
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids depicts the final show of a long tour for Timberlake and his excellent backing band at the gigantic MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In typical Demme fashion, the staging and framing of the energetic pop numbers is electric, but he also takes time to show just how much work goes into setting up and breaking down such a large production.
Demme and Timberlake’s collaboration spurred from a mutual respect — Timberlake, like anyone else with good taste, is a massive fan of Stop Making Sense, and Demme reached out after watching The Social Network. The movie is dedicated to Prince, who died shortly before the movie’s release. —PV
Genre: Sports drama
Run time: 3h 43m
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley
Ashutosh Gowariker’s timeless sports movie classic stars Aamir Khan as Bhuvan, a confident young man from a village that is dealing with both British oppression and a long-standing drought. When the wicked Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne, who is deliriously good in this) challenges the village to a game of cricket (which they do not know how to play) as a bet, with their owed taxes (which they cannot afford to pay) on the line, Bhuvan takes it upon himself to form a team and learn the game. What follows is a soaring sports drama with humor, heart, and a show-stopping match finale. Lagaan was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 74th Academy Awards. —PV
Leave No Trace
Run time: 1h 49m
Director: Debra Granik
Cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeff Kober
One of the best films of the 2010s, Debra Granik’s meditation on the modern world through two people isolated from it is an extraordinary follow-up for the Winter’s Bone director. From our write-up of the best movies new to streaming in July:
An Iraq War veteran (Ben Foster) lives with PTSD and his 13-year-old daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) in the lush green woods outside of Portland, Oregon. Isolated from the rest of society, they work together to live a life with nature. But when the young girl is seen by a jogger in the woods, she is detained by social services and her father is arrested. A touching story about finding your own place in the world and the comforts and limitations of family, Debra Granik’s 2018 drama is a modern masterpiece.
The Metamorphosis of Birds
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: Catarina Vasconcelos
Cast: Manuel Rosa, Ana Vasconcelos, Henrique Vasconcelos
Catarina Vasconcelos’ 2020 feature debut is a difficult one to sum up in a trailer, let alone in words, and therein ultimately lies its appeal. Essentially an avant-garde documentary drama, The Metamorphosis of Birds chronicles the director’s own family history: the meeting and love affair between her grandparents, the childhood of their children growing up in the absence of their mariner father, and the fatal tragedy that rends their lives asunder and haunts them to this day like a lingering ghost.
Every shot and sequence of Vasconcelos’ experimental 16mm opus is beatific in its Magritte-like strangeness. It’s a series of images and sounds accompanied by the narration of letters and conversations between the members of the family that coalesce into a cinematic tableau of uncanny beauty and heart-wrenching tenderness. True to the spirit of its title, The Metamorphosis of Birds is a truly transformative work of emotional storytelling, one which beckons the audience to stare deeply into the intimate, unspoken corners of another family’s decades-long process of turning pain into wisdom and thereby gleaning a deeper insight into their own lives. Turn off your phone, find the largest screen possible, and give yourself over to this film. You’ll be thankful you did. —TE
The Nice Guys
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
Shane Black’s other neo-noir, Los Angeles-set action comedy is a worthy spiritual successor to 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and an uproariously hilarious movie in its own right. The story centers on Holland March (Gosling), an alcoholic single father and licensed PI, and Jackson Healy (Crowe), a muscle-for-hire freelancer. The two end up as an odd couple of idiot-genius sleuths whose respective investigations involving a missing girl converge to unveil a much larger and more sinister conspiracy involving Detroit automotive companies, government collusion, and organized crime.
Crowe and Gosling’s on-screen chemistry as two incorrigible, stubborn assholes with secret hearts of gold is terrific, as is Angourie Rice’s performance as March’s whip-smart daughter Holly. The Nice Guys may not surpass the pure comic genius of Black’s aforementioned classic starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, but it confidently ranks as one of the director’s better films in recent memory. —TE
The Night Comes for Us
Genre: Martial arts thriller
Run time: 2h 1m
Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Cast: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle
The Night Comes for Us just fucking whips, OK? Why waste time on subtlety and preamble; the film certainly doesn’t! Indonesian action thrillers have been enjoying a renaissance period ever since Gareth Evans’ 2011 film The Raid kicked the door down and mollywhopped everything else in sight. Timo Tjahjanto’s 2018 film certainly follows in the footsteps of Evans’ own, with The Raid star Joe Taslim starring here as Ito, a gangland enforcer who betrays his Triad crime family by sparing the life of a child and attempting to flee the country.
Fellow The Raid star Iko Uwais shows up here as Arian, Ito’s childhood friend and fellow enforcer, who is tasked with hunting down Ito and recovering the girl. The action comes fast and frenzied here, with kinetic choreography and dazzling handheld cinematography that makes every punch, fall, and stab count. If you need to get your adrenaline pumping, throw this one on. —TE
Run time: 1h 35m
Director: Paul King
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters
2014’s Paddington is as whimsical and earnest as it is inventive and surprising. Ben Whishaw stars as the Peruvian bear cub who stows aboard a lifeboat to London in search of a new home. Granted safe haven by the kindly Brown family, Paddington sets out in search for the explorer who long ago visited his homeland and befriended his family while eluding the many perils and pitfalls of the big city.
Nicole Kidman and Peter Calpadi deliver devilishly charming performances as the film’s antagonists, while Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are equally noteworthy as the vivacious Mrs. Brown and her stuffy risk-averse husband. Complete with sharp writing, intriguing set pieces, and loads of creative physical comedy, Paddington is an absolute delight. —TE
Genre: Historical drama
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 historical drama Phantom Thread follows the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), an irascible haute couture dressmaker in 1950s London whose carefully cultivated lifestyle is upset by his ongoing love affair with his muse Alma (Vicky Krieps), a strong-willed woman with ambitions and desires of her own. His final film role to date, Day-Lewis is unsurprisingly masterful in his portrayal of Woodcock as an artist whose capricious infatuations and fastidious inflexibility prove unbearable to all except Alma, who discovers a … let’s say unconventional way of leveling the power dynamic in their relationship. Top that with exquisite score by Jonny Greenwood and beautiful costume designs by Mark Bridges and you’ve got what is undoubtedly one of Anderson’s finest films to date. —TE
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
Genre: Action comedy
Run time: 1h 22m
Directors: Andy Suriano, Ant Ward
Cast: Ben Schwartz, Omar Benson Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, Haley Joel Osment
It’s Oscar season, and with the nominations now out, conversations turn to a familiar topic: snubs. Nope is perhaps the biggest one (although the lack of recognition for Tár’s sound design is borderline criminal), but there are plenty of movies that had an argument for a nomination.
I’m going to talk about one that’s a little outside the box — Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie should have absolutely been in the conversation for Animated Feature nominations. Just because it didn’t get that nod doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it at home now.
The movie version of a cartoon you don’t have to see, RotTMNT:TM is a wild ride of chaotic fight scenes, colorful set pieces, and some actually funny jokes. Ben Schwartz, Haley Joel Osment, and Rhys Darby are among the talented people lending their voices, but the real highlights are (1) it’s a visual feast with awesome fights and (2) it’s 82 minutes long. It’s also got a semi-Terminator thing going on, plot-wise. Enjoy! —PV
Genre: Historical epic
Run time: 3h 7m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
Cast: N.T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn
One of our favorite movies of the year, RRR is an epic bromance for the ages filled to the brim with jaw-dropping action sequences, unforgettable music numbers, and two guys just being dudes. If you can, you should consider watching it in the original Telugu language version on Zee5. If you can’t, the Hindi dub on Netflix is still well worth your time. —PV
Genre: Spy action thriller
Run time: 2h 23m
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench
Sam Mendes’ 2012 spy thriller is commonly cited by critics and 007 fans as the benchmark of Daniel Craig’s tenure as the iconic James Bond. And for good reason, too: Skyfall marks the defining moment not only for Craig’s incarnation of Bond, but for Dame Judi Dench, who up to that point had portrayed the character of “M,” Bond’s superior officer, across seven films between Pierce Brosnan’s and Craig’s tenure.
The film opens with Bond having been betrayed. Surviving a near-fatal wound from a gunshot ordered by M, 007 finds himself adrift in the world, unable to reconcile his newfound distrust for his longtime commander and his nascent discomfort with his role as a glorified wetworker for Britain. When a terrorist bombing on MI6’s headquarters and the loss of a classified NOC list of undercover MI6 agents threatens the safety of the organization — and M’s own life — Bond reemerges to track down the culprits responsible and bring them to justice. It’s only later that he learns that the man responsible is Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), an embittered ex-MI6 operative who was also left for dead by M and now seeking revenge for her betrayal. With time running out and the situation becoming ever dire, Bond and M will have to learn to trust each other again as they retreat to the one place left for them to fight: Bond’s childhood home in the remote Scottish Highlands, though more commonly known as… Well, you can guess.
Skyfall might be the best Bond film of Craig’s run due in no small part to the film’s cast, which includes pitch-perfect performances from the likes of Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw as fan-favorite supporting characters Eve Moneypenny and MI6 quartermaster “Q.” Then there’s Bardem as the sadistic and eccentric agent saboteur with a penchant for Joker-like theatrics. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is exquisite, especially during the film’s nighttime sequences such as the duel between Bond and a sniper rifle-wielding assassin in a Shanghai skyscraper office and Silva’s scorched-earth assault on Bond’s family compound. Thomas Newman’s pulse-pounding score is terrific, as is Adele’s mournful title track, which easily ranks as one of the most memorable Bond themes in recent memory.
All of this is window dressing, though, compared to what really makes Skyfall stand apart not only from Daniel Craig’s other entries as Bond, but even compared to all the portrayals of Bond before him: the film’s willingness to probe the psychology of a man whose reputation as an effortlessly suave ladies’ man and steadfast weapon in the service of Queen and Country is contrasted by an internal restless search for meaning and moral clarity with regard to his role as a glorified killer. For those reasons and more, Skyfall is not only an exceptional Bond film, but just an exceptional film, period. —Toussaint Egan
Run time: 2h 16m
Director: Jo Sung-hee
Cast: Song Joong-ki, Kim Tae-ri, Jin Seon-kyu
Space Sweepers: Set in the year 2092, Jo Sung-hee’s Space Sweepers follows the crew of freelance garbagemen in space who discover a strange child-like robot named Dorothy containing a nuclear device. Hoping to ransom Dorothy in exchange for enough money to escape their poverty-stricken lives, their plan quickly escalates into a chase to stay one step ahead of the military force of a corrupt corporation. Though it’s far from the most original of sci-fi premises, Space Sweepers is still a visually impressive film with great action and a likable cast of dysfunctional characters with great chemistry. —TE
The Summit of the Gods
Run time: 1h 35m
Directors: Patrick Imbert
Cast: Lazare Herson-Macarel, Eric Herson-Macarel, Damien Boisseau
This 2021 French-language animated drama centers on Makoto Fukamachi, a tenacious reporter who accidentally stumbles upon the biggest mountaineering story of the century: Proof that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, not Sir Edmund Hillary, were the first climbers to reach the peak of Mount Everest in 1924. However, his only lead to break the story — an elusive mountain climber known as Habu Joji — has been missing for several years. Poring over the details of Joji’s life in the years preceding his disappearance, Makoto finds himself inadvertently drawn by the very same sense of accomplishment and meaning that has compelled countless climbers to crest Everest themselves.
Based on Jiro Taniguchi’s 2000 manga series, The Summit of the Gods is a gorgeously animated drama about the elusive quest for personal and professional validation and the perils of hubris and selfishness. The backgrounds are spectacular, the character animation is impressive, and the film’s final moments are as exhilarating as they are profoundly edifying. Brace yourself for a film that exemplifies “adult animation,” not as a juvenile display of hyper-violence and superficial titillation, but as a story about what it means to move through the world as an adult and find one’s place and purpose in it. —TE
Run time: 1h 23m
Director: Levan Gabriadze
Cast: Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead
Unfriended is a horror movie with a gimmick. The whole thing takes place on a laptop screen, as the action unfolds over a Skype call between a group of friends. When an unknown (and unseen) participant mysteriously joins the call, friends start to die one by one in a terrifying and captivating series of events. The immersion of Unfriended through the device of the computer screen is masterful, and I highly recommend watching it on a laptop if you can for maximum effect. —PV
From our list of the best horror movies on Netflix:
Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended pulls the audiences through the screen — almost literally. Viewed entirely from the perspective of a computer desktop, 2014 supernatural horror film centers around a Skype call between a group of high school students who are joined by an unknown presence known only as “billie227.” What at first appears to be a prank swiftly morphs into something much more horrific, as the mysterious stranger begins to reveal terrifying secrets about each of the friends before killing them off one by one. Unfriended is thoroughly gripping extrapolation of our always-online world; a world where vengeful poltergeists and doxxing exist side-by-side and no secret or offense goes undiscovered or unpunished. —TE