The 25 best movies on Netflix (January 2019)

15. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Region: US

The movie: How do you follow up a film like Thor: The Dark World? Easy. Make it light, springy, and… well, that sounds like the cinematic equivalent of a Victoria sponge cake, doesn’t it? And to be honest, Taika Waititi’s movie is just as much fun to devour. Forget Thor’s dark, brooding episodes. This flick picks up with the beefcake Avenger two years after the events of Age of Ultron, where Thor is lost on trash planet Sakaar and must find his way back to Asgard to prevent its destruction. Oh, and Hulk is there too...

Why it’s worth a watch: It’s a while since we’ve had a standalone movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s THIS MUCH FUN. Taking over from Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor, who helmed the previous two Thor films, Waititi is the perfect choice to imbue the God of Thunder with some comedy. You’ve got one-liners galore, great set-pieces, and Hemsworth’s best performance as Thor to date. 

Read more: Thor: Ragnarok ending - 5 questions we need answered

14. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Region: US

The movie: Of all the Star Wars movies ever made, perhaps the one which has generated the most… debate, yes, let’s use that word, debate is The Last Jedi. The second entry in the new trilogy takes the Skywalker saga to a whole new level, as we pick up exactly where The Force Awakens left off with Rey handing over Luke’s old lightsaber to the wise Jedi. From thereon out, writer-director Rian Johnson kicks into high gear, as Rey demands Luke train her, while Leia’s Resistance must fight off General Hux and Kylo Ren’s First Order troops.

Why it's worth a watch: A visually ambitious entry into the Force canon, its writer-director Rian Johnson approaches the story in a similar way to how George Lucas did the original trilogy -- by taking risks. It’s that desire to craft something new that makes this a unique Star Wars movie, that’s nevertheless entertaining from start to finish. Paying a suitable amount of homage to the original trilogy (Luke spending most of the film training) while bringing in the newbies (Hurrah for Rose!) to carry forward the journey brings a nice balance.

Read more: The Last Jedi – What the world is saying about the most divisive Star Wars yet

13. Ghostbusters (1984)

Region: US

The movie: A team of recently-fired university scientists desperate to funnel their efforts into a legit ghoul-capturing business - ahem, yes, the Ghostbusters - begin to tackle New York City’s overwhelming supernatural problem. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson star as the quartet whose money-making efforts turn serious when they stumble across a doorway to another dimension, that threatens to unleash evil on Manhattan.

Why it’s worth a watch: An ‘80s comedy classic that dares to be funny AND scary as hell, without resorting to obvious gags and typical jump scares? Why wouldn’t you watch it. Conjuring up a killer ensemble of SNL cast members, a zippy script, and some serious heebie-jeebie moments, it's always a good time to watch Ghostbusters.

12. No Country For Old Men (2007)

Region: US

The movie: A crazed hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) runs rampant after cop Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a drug deal gone very, very wrong. What follows is a pulsating chase across state lines as Tommy Lee Jones’ aging cop, Ed, tries his level best to stop things escalating. It doesn’t go well. It comes packed in with some of the greatest twists committed to film – and an ending to die for.

Why it’s worth a watch: Why isn’t it worth watching? Javier Bardem gives a career best performance as the instantly iconic Chigurh; the Coen Brothers somehow transcend their lofty legacy, too, and the cast – from minor character right through to the pair or two stoic, heroic leads – is one of the best ever assembled. Stay for the shootouts, be in awe of the existential commentary and beautiful landscapes. This really is a must-watch movie.

11. Annihilation (2018)

Region: UK

The movie: We’re at the end of the year and Annihilation features on both Total Film and GamesRadar's best movies of 2018 lists. Very loosely based on Jeff Vandermeer’s novel of the same name, it revolves around a parcel of land referred to as ‘Area X’. After something crash lands in Florida, the area develops and grows, gobbling up land at an alarming rate, cut off from the world by an enormous barrier called the Shimmer. All previous exploration groups bar one survivor have failed to return from Area X and the government body in charge, Southern Reach, has no idea why. Still, why not try sending yet another expedition into its fatal clutches? Enter Lena, a scientist whose husband was the sole returnee from the previous mission, who joins four other women desperate to figure it out.

Why it’s worth a watch: A gloriously trippy jaunt into a world previously hinted at in Garland’s Ex Machina, Annihilation bursts at the seams with ideas. With less emphasis on a traditional plot, go into this film with the willingness to soak up the mood, feeling and gorgeous visuals. Part body horror, part survivalist thriller, this stands out for its stellar all-female lead cast, who bring a feminine edge to the traditionally male sci-fi genre. Combine that with the daring, WTF aspects of the story, and you’ll find the hairs standing up on the back of your neck several times throughout. Do not miss this. 

Read more: Annihilation ending - 5 questions we need answered

10. Okja (2017)

(Image: © Netflix)

Region: Worldwide

The movie: A near-future sci-fi flick by Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho, this is exactly the type of Netflix Original the world needs: funny, weird, and utterly charming. Part environmental parable, part bleeding heart manifesto, the movie follows, Mija, a 10-year-old whose best friend is a super-pig called Okja. When the lab that created her friend steal the swine away from her, Mija embarks on an adventure to retrieve Okja that takes her across the globe. Unlike the brutal, bleak landscape of Snowpiecer, Okja showcases Joon-Ho’s softer side. It’s still oddball and wacky, but packed with a ton of heart. 

Why it’s worth a watch: One of Netflix’s first movies that manages to juggle different ideas without losing sight of the goal; a real genre-blending effort. Oh, and Tilda Swinton. Anything that involves Tilda Swinton is worth watching.

Read more: Netflix is getting booed at the Cannes film festival. Here’s why that's wrong

9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Region: UK, US

The movie: The first of Peter Jackson’s SIX movies set in Middle-Earth is a jaw-dropping piece of cinema. It remains even now, nearly two decades after its initial release, a captivating tale. The story of an unlikely hero, the young Hobbit Frodo, as he bands together a fellowship to journey across the world to save all of Middle-Earth is… well, it’s about as cookie-cutter as you can get. But there’s nothing common about Jackson’s fantastical retelling of the Tolkien classic. 

Why it's worth a watch: Bold, exciting filmmaking that weaves character, action, plot, heart, and some mightily ambitious world-building? That’s what you’re getting with the first chapter of the Rings trilogy. It’s a reminder that despite The Hobbit trilogy’s misfire, Fellowship is the real deal. 

Read more: Is it just me, or is An Unexpected Journey the best Middle-Earth movie?

8. Carrie (1976)

Region: UK

The movie: Starting with that rite-of-passage bloody rags encounter, arguably the best King adaptation opens on one of the toughest times for ostracised teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). Carrie’s high school struggle is made all the more confusing due to her blossoming telekinetic talent and zealous, manic mother. As the film culminates in an outburst of a lifetime’s pent-up rage, some 40 years later, Brian De Palma’s flick still persists in wringing terror from life’s unsuspecting moments. 

Why it’s worth a watch: A heavily-stylised horror from the late ‘70s? It’s bound to be cheesy as hell, right? You might think it wouldn’t have a lasting impact, Carrie continues to pack a hefty emotional wallop, thanks to Spacek’s central performance. Oh, and let’s not forget the scene with Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mother chopping carrots like her life depends on it.

Read more: The 25 best horror movies of all time, whatever your taste in terror

7. The Dark Knight (2008)

Region: US

The movie: Less black and white than its predecessor, the middle chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Bat trilogy is a stalwart example of how to improve upon a genre whilst simultaneously appealing to its die-hard fanbase. The Dark Knight finds Bruce Wayne once again struggling with the criminal element of his hometown. This time, his stacked wallet won’t help him when it comes to the hijinks of Gotham’s most uncompromising villain - the dastardly Joker, who thinks nothing of blowing up hospitals and setting aflame giant pallets of cash.

Why it’s worth a watch: Believe the hype on this one - it’s got the lot. Action-packed set pieces that rival the likes of Cameron, characters caught in a web of moral misunderstandings, it’s simply a terrific piece of superhero cinema. Nolan’s love of Batman feels almost tied with his admiration for the Joker, who, while a criminal mastermind, seems to have a point to his mad ramblings. 

Read more: Is it just me, or is Batman Returns the best Bat-movie?

6. Children of Men (2006)

Region: UK, US

The movie: The world is in peril, as after two decades of infertility mankind is on the precipice of extinction. What would a world be like without human reproduction? That’s the driving force of Alfonso Cuaron’s ambitious actioner, that’s a brainy and thrilling ride into our true worst nightmare. Amid the chaos of a crumbling society, there is a flickering light of hope in the shape of one remaining pregnant woman who civil servant Theo (Clive Owen) must protect at all costs.

Why it’s worth a watch: While only made in 2006, it’s easy to see why Children of Men is heralded as a modern classic. The story, adapted from the P.D. James novel, is intriguing in itself, yet, it’s the methods that Cuaron uses to extract the punch from that tale that stay with you. Superb camerawork, *that* lengthy uninterrupted take, and an arguably career best turn from Clive Owen, all make this one of the best movies on Netflix.

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