As winter continues, there’s really only one way to spend your evenings. No, not Scrabble. I’m talking about cruising on the couch with Netflix. The streaming service has thousands of movies just sitting there, waiting to be watched, and with new ones being added to the roster every week it's hard to keep up, never mind select the brilliant movies from the, uh, not-so-brilliant. Lucky for you, some very kind person (me) has trawled through the Netflix catalogue and unearthed the must-see movies that should be top of your watch list.
This month’s OMG Netflix moment quickly came and went (sorry, The Cloverfield Paradox) but there’s always something around the corner to reinvigorate the viewing taste buds. This week’s major title to land is Mute, the latest offering from Source Code director Duncan Jones, which packs a mighty sci-fi punch, and the jury’s still out on Fullmetal Alchemist. Perhaps you can weigh in on whether it’s any cop? Without further ado, here it is: my picks of the very best movies on Netflix right now.
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25. Mute (2018)
The movie: Choosing to follow up Warcraft with a low-key sci-fi offering was an intriguing move by Duncan Jones. I say intriguing, but I mean to say it’s really bloody exciting. This is no normal sci-fi caper - it’s also described as a mystery thriller. It takes place in Berlin forty years from now and follows the exploits of Alexander Skarsgard’s mute bartender Leo as he strives to locate his missing girlfriend in a neon-splattered metropolis, where he encounters two American surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) on a journey of their own.
Why it’s worth watching: With the likes of Moon and Source Code (two of my favourite sci-fi films of the last decade) under his belt, the question of when Jones would return to their cosier ambitions has been answered. This is a compelling ride.
24. The Ritual (2017)
The movie: Hiking trips never seem to end well in films, and for the four friends in The Ritual that tradition unfortunately continues. Following the death of another pal, the quartet decide that a hike into the Scandinavian woods is the best way to honour his memory. As *we* know, long treks into dark, scary forests rarely make for fun times, unless you quite like encountering centuries-old evil...
Why it’s worth watching: We’ve had twenty years of Blair Witch knock-offs, but the old “lost in the woods” trope gets a much-needed shake up here. This is genuinely scary, thanks to a solid score and spooky atmosphere.
23. Fullmetal Alchemist (2017)
The movie: How do you adapt a manga as beloved and well-respected as Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist into a feature? Considering that this property has already received the anime treatment - in two separate series, no less - director Fumihiko Sori decided to go full-on live-action for the movie. The story follows the experiences of the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, as they to rectify a horrible wrong that happened when they tried to bring their mother back from the dead. As you may have guessed from the title… it involves alchemy.
Why it’s worth watching: Fullmetal Alchemist may not be quite the trendsetter die-hard fans were hoping for - the CGI is a little hit n’ miss, it’s nevertheless an exciting, curious reworking of the source material.
22. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Region: UK, US
The film: The juicy filling in the middle of Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy brings back his trusted comrades Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two cops in a quiet English 'burg. One is straight-laced, the other, more of a free spirit. Things inevitably go awry as they often do in quiet, idyllic movie villages.
Why it's worth watching: Imagine your favourite buddy cop movie. And now imagine it retold through the cheeky, meta-tinted eyes of Pegg, Wright and Frost. This is how you homage.
21. Cloverfield (2008)
The movie: Kicking off with a goodbye party, things take a turn when a giant monster crawls out of the ocean and starts tearing up the city. Partygoers flee to the street only to see the Statue of Liberty's head tossed down it like a bowling ball. From thereon out, director Drew Goddard keeps the pace up - thanks to a nippy running time - as a small group try to rescue a friend from a damaged building. That is, if they can make it through the subway tunnels...
Why it’s worth watching: When Cloverfield landed ten years ago, it felt as if horror had truly exhausted the found footage schtick. How many more times would audiences have to bear the vomit-inducing camerawork of characters too brainless to stop filming and save their hides? Cloverfield made all those fears melt away. Gone were the teenagers trapped in the woods, replaced by urban twentysomethings trapped in Manhattan. Godzilla told from the ground, this is truly scary stuff.
20. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
The film: You thought Scream was a fun spin on scary movie tropes? As this film's tagline says: "You think you know the story." Things appear to be like your typical slasher at first; five college kids head out to a remote cabin in the woods, and begin to behave as you'd expect, until they head into the basement and start meddling with the dusty trinkets down there...
Why it's worth watching: Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon hashed out the script for this twisty, turny, WTF? gem in just THREE days. Sure, that's impressive, but what's most jaw-dropping is *that moment* when the horror community gets rewarded with an onslaught of absolute chaos. One of the best horrors of the last decade.
19. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The movie: Ever wondered about the Rebels mentioned in the opening scrawl of the first Star Wars movie? So did SFX guru John Knoll, who thought that band of resistance fighters deserved their own movie and pitched the idea to Lucasfilm. The result saw up-and-comer Gareth Edwards take directorial control of a new type of Star Wars film, a spin-off untethered from the central Skywalker saga and instead focused on Jyn Erso, an ass-kicking Rebel with the best one-liners.
Why it’s worth watching: Rogue One has its work cut out for it because anyone watching knows exactly where it’s going to end up. And yet, it comes packed with surprises and triumphs at every turn with new perspectives on a galaxy far, far away. Its handful of well-written characters (old and new) make for an absolutely killer connection to A New Hope.
18. Donnie Darko (2001)
The movie: What would you do if you woke in the night to a guy in a bunny suit ominously telling you of the world’s demise in 28 days? For Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), the troubled teen at the heart of this stellar teen flick, it’s business as usual. With a reputation for being an oddball, no-one batters an eyelid when he starts to take orders from Frank (the bunny) and speak out against authority figures like Patrick Swayze’s bizzarro motivational speaker.
Why it’s worth watching: Taking the teen movie template and mashing it together with an existential crisis, a time travel paradox and a gigantic bunny, Richard Kelly’s directorial debut is bold, glorious filmmaking. The tale of teenage angst gets better with age, its main point of ‘finding yourself’ is a universal theme that still feels fresh because of how well it’s handled.
17. Goodfellas (1990)
The movie: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” So goes Goodfellas’ opening voiceover, an iconic one-liner that sets the stage for the movie to come. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film is based on the true story of mobster Henry Hill whose exploits are so outlandish you’ll be gobsmacked to learn they actually happened. With excellent turns from Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Lorraine Bracco, this is, simply put, terrific cinema.
Why it’s worth watching: Forget The Godfather with its lengthy shots and moody lighting, this is the real deal when it comes to screen gangsters. The fast pace, the action sequences, that gorgeous tracking shot, and Liotta’s superb voiceover mark Goodfellas as a classic, but it’s the inevitable downfall of the major players involved that makes it so much damn fun to watch.
16. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
The film: If you loved Thor: Ragnarok then you might want to scope out director Taika Waititi's comedy. Shot on location in New Zealand, the film tells of a young boy (Julian Dennison) adopted by a couple out in the valley who befriends his foster dad (Sam Neill) when the pair end up on an adventure in the wilderness.
Why it's worth watching: Part-comedy, part-drama, Wilderpeople's got that unmistakable NZ humour throughout that prevents the flick from growing stale. Twin that with the gorgeous cinematography of the sweeping island valleys and forests, and you're in for a treat.