15. The Little Prince (2016)
Region: UK / US
The movie: Netflix doesn’t only focus on mature-themed movies, even though the freedom from R-ratings gives it plenty of scope for swearing, violence and sex. Here you’ll find a precious little animated movie based on a French novella from 1943, about a young lonely girl whose imagination is transported to another world through magical stories told by her eccentric neighbour. As she embarks on this journey, she discovers a world of wonder invisible to the naked eye, changing both her, him, and the girl’s mother in the process.
Why you should watch it: In an age where cynicism almost seems like a default emotion, be it in daily life, politics, or even cinema, The Little Prince is refreshingly heartfelt. It’s not a perfect movie in terms of pacing, but by golly is it pretty. It’s clean, wholesome fun for the family, and we can never have too much of that.
14. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
The movie: Starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller (please, don’t leave yet!), this Noah Baumbach movie is an intergenerational comedy-drama about three siblings (Sandler, Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel) trying to navigate life in the shadow of their father (Dustin Hoffman). As they contend with him, each other, and their families, they find their lives taking unexpected turns.
Why you should watch it: If you’ve seen Baumbach’s previous movies, such as The Squid and the Whale or Greenberg, you’ll know what you’re getting here: a quirky comedy with emotional, dramatic elements, and some darn good performances too. He’s also co-written several of Wes Anderson’s movie scripts, including The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox. And yes, you better believe it, Adam Sandler can act, when he’s given a half-decent script (see Punch-Drunk Love for further proof).
13. Atlantics (2019)
The movie: A spooky love story set in Senegal. A 17-year-old named Ada has fallen in love with a young construction worker, Souleiman, who one day disappears at sea and ides. Those who were missing on the boat return to their old neighbourhood to haunt those left behind, with some hoping to wreak revenge for being underpaid. Souleiman, though, has other plans.
Why you should watch it: There's something magical about Atlantics. A ghost story that's not scary, but earnestly romantic and a political comment on poor working and living conditions in Senegel. The cinematography is beautiful, and Mati Diop's direction is superb. Critics have found it hard to categorise, and you can see why.
12. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
The movie: Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, the iconic actor who created the phenomena that was Dolemite, a kung-fu fighting pimp who released comedy albums and movies. Dolemite Is My Name tells of Moore's struggles to get famous, and then, even when being famous among the black community, the trials that he had to overcome to get his movie made.
Why you should watch it: Murphy has rarely been better than in Dolemite Is My Name. This is his movie, with the comic actor carrying every scene. There's a reason he's been getting awards chatter. Wesley Snipes as director D'Urville Martin is also excellent.
11. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
The movie: In 2015, one of Netflix’s very first productions in their still-ongoing onslaught on the movie industry was a bold proposition indeed; a war movie in a fictional African country, performed for long stretches in Twi (a dialect of the Akan language spoken in Ghana), about a child soldier groomed for violence by a simultaneously terrifying and magnetic commandant played by Idris Elba. Oh, and the director is ambitious indie master Cary Joji Fukunaga. The movie plays out in just as bleak a manner as the premise suggests, leaving the viewer morally conflicted and emotionally exhausted.
Why you should watch it: In a movie that’s equal parts thrilling and harrowing, Elba delivers and absolute masterclass in his role as the commandant. You watch him groom a child for war and perform several war crimes, and yet, somehow, you still find yourself wanting to root for him. And no less of a revelation is the young Abraham Attah as Agu. It’s all directed, written and shot by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who’s gone on to direct No Time to Die, and you can see why Bond’s producers liked him.
10. On Body and Soul (2017)
The movie: Two workers at a slaughterhouse discover they are sharing the same dreams night after night, where they meet in the forest – as deer – and fall in love. So, naturally, they form an unusual bond and decide to make their dream come true. This is the premise for Hungarian writer-director Ildikó Enyedi’s first movie in 18 years, and it garnered her a 2018 Academy Award nomination for the best foreign language movie.
Why you should watch it: On Body and Soul has a Lynchian sort of not-quite-sure-what’s actually-happening surrealism to it, and it’s definitely not a movie you can half-heartedly watch while browsing on your phone – you’ll need to be focused and awake for this one. But for that minimum level of effort (which you really should be putting into any movie-watching exercise) you will be rewarded with a bizarre (often slightly uncomfortable) and fascinating experience.
9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The movie: In one of Netflix’s largest coups, the streaming service produced a Coen brothers project. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which was initially going to be a television show, consists of six short films, each detailing a story from the American West. This movie, which evidently enjoyed great success with viewers (remember, Netflix rarely release viewing figures), is perhaps one of the clearest examples of Netflix succeeding with something that would at most be a limited-run release with the traditional cinema-release model.
Why you should watch it: Simple: it’s a Coen movie – well, technically, it's six Coen movies all wrapped up into one. And Coen movies are, as cinema aficionados know, quality (well, most of them). While you might not take a night to go watch a series of shorts at the cinema, firing it up at home and making yourself cosy on the sofa is easy. Also, if you get interrupted, tired, or otherwise distracted, each movie won’t last longer than an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so you can divvy it up if needed.
8. Mudbound (2017)
Region: UK / US
The movie: Set in the post-WWII Southern US, Mudbound is a dramatic thriller about the racial tensions and cultural segregation that still thrived at that time, almost a century after the abolition of slavery. It follows a cast of characters both white and black, as they navigate the often volatile society of the South, while at the same time dealing with the traumatic aftermath of World War II.
Why you should watch it: Mudbound is a war drama akin to a progressive rock song, adding layers and elements throughout, culminating in a true epic as all its strands converge dramatically. Aside from its cultural relevance today with increased racial tensions in recent years, it’s a damn good movie in its own right, and marks both Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund’s finest performances to date. This one’s a mammoth.
7. Private Life (2018)
The movie: Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn play a married couple who are desperately trying to have a baby. As time is running out for them, they try to go for various methods of assisted reproduction, but when college dropout Sadie suddenly enters their life, everything changes. It’s a mix of comedy and drama, with that typical sort of existentialism that only seems to exist in New York-set movies.
Why you should watch it: In many ways, it’s a combination of your archetypal New York indie movie and your archetypal middle-aged conflict indie movie, but director Tamara Jenkins (2007’s The Savages) infuses it with her special brand of charm. Also, Paul Giamatti is on vintage form with Kathryn Hahn delivering a great performance too. Like with so many of Netflix’s recent successes, the strength of this movie lies in the script’s understated authenticity rather than reliance on the sensational.
6. Happy as Lazzaro (2018)
The movie: Happy as Lazzaro, winner of the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes in 2018, follows the life and adventures of Lazzaro, a young man who struggles to fit into society and (check notes) can travel through time? Okay then. Written by Alice Rohrwacher, author of 2014 movie The Wonders and 2011’s Corpo Celeste, Happy as Lazzaro is one of the highest-profile movies to come out of Italy in the last few years.
Why you should watch it: Casual viewers will get a quirky, offbeat script, great understated performances, and a story that will linger in their mind for days. Cinephiles will see oodles of symbolism in the movie's characters, a director playfully toying with Italian filmmaking traditions, references to the neorealism of the 1940s mixed with more contemporary genres, and a story that will linger in their mind for days.
Turn to page 3 for more of our picks of the best Netflix Original movies...