35 must-see Netflix original movies

The Irishman
(Image credit: Netflix)

As the legend is told from Reed Hastings himself, a $40 late fee from Blockbuster for renting Apollo 13 compelled him to create the company Netflix. Today, Netflix is one of the biggest and most powerful film and TV streaming services in the world, with many of its own "Netflix Original" movies actually must-see movies. But what might be some of the greatest Netflix Original movies of all time?

After successfully launching as a movie rental service where subscribers borrowed and returned DVDs (remember those?) via snail mail, Netflix found the capital and clout to begin an online streaming service circa 2007. This venture was wildly popular, especially for anyone who loved The Office and were desperate to catch up on Lost. 

By 2012, Netflix got into the business of making its own TV shows, first with the wildly successful House of Cards. (Although Netflix had a hand in the Norwegian gangster drama Lilyhammer, which premiered on Netflix in 2012.) Soon enough Netflix began acquiring movies for its exclusive exhibition. Fast forward to today, and Netflix is one of the biggest Hollywood players alongside Amazon, Apple, and legacy entities like Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Disney.

With a library of original movies, some of which have competed for Oscars, Netflix has no shortage of movies that seriously warrant everyone with an account to check out. Below, we rank 35 must-see Netflix original movies.

35. Extraction 2 (2023)

Extraction 2

(Image credit: Netflix)

Expectations for Extraction 2 were mighty low, considering the middling film that is its 2020 predecessor. But the sequel, released in 2023, surprised a lot of critics and even skeptical audiences with its razor-sharp execution and explosive precision. Chris Hemsworth returns as freelance mercenary Tyler Rake, who is still licking his wounds from his mission in Bangladesh when he gets hired by a ruthless Georgian gangster to rescue his family. Impossibly so much better than it has any right to be, Extraction 2 from director Sam Hargrave sure gets the job done.

34. The Old Guard (2020)

The Old Guard

(Image credit: Netflix)

Comic book writer Greg Rucka adapts his own comic The Old Guard for the screen in this surprise Netflix hit of 2020. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard centers on a group of ancient warriors - led by Andy, played by Charlize Theron - who obtain immortality, which they use to make a living as mercenaries across centuries. In the present day, they work to protect their secret existence and maintain their freedom. Released in the thick of the pandemic, The Old Guard brought some much-needed thrills during that long summer of quarantine.

33. Horse Girl (2020)

Horse Girl

(Image credit: Netflix)

For the first time in his career, writer/director Jeff Baena walks on the darker side of life with his psychological drama Horse Girl. Community's Alison Brie stars as a lonely and shy twee woman with a penchant for horses and supernatural television shows. Out of nowhere, her lucid dreams start bleeding into her waking world, making it impossible for her to distinguish between fantasy and reality. In a fresh turn from his usual flavors of black comedies, Baena exhibits serious muscle as a director in the style of David Lynch and Charlie Kaufman.

32. Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw

(Image credit: Netflix)

Five years after writer/director Dan Gilroy and actor Jake Gyllenhaal delivered the neo-noir classic Nightcrawler, they reunited for the black comedy horror Velvet Buzzsaw for Netflix. Gyllenhaal plays a feared, snooty art critic in Miami whose lover Josephina (Zawe Ashton) acquires the work of an unknown, recently deceased artist. After selling off the pieces, everyone finds themselves haunted by supernatural forces that seem resentful towards their greed. While it's hard to top a classic like Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw offers both laughs and scares to make you feel something.

31. Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Always Be My Maybe

(Image credit: Netflix)

Have you ever wondered if your teenage fling might have meant something more? That's the intriguing premise behind the delightful 2019 rom-com Always Be My Maybe, written by comedian Ali Wong and directed by Nahnatchka Khan. Wong stars as a celebrity chef who reconnects with her high school boyfriend (Randall Park) who as an adult still lives with his father and plays in an unsuccessful band. Despite their different lives, they find themselves smitten with each other like they're both still 16. Thanks to its charismatic leads, a laid-back vibe, and a totally game Keanu Reeves in a memorable bit role, Always Be My Maybe is like When Harry Met Sally with heavy doses of millennial nostalgia. It's irresistible. 

30. El Conde (2023)

El Conde

(Image credit: Netflix)

A sharp-toothed political satire from Chile, El Conde hails from director Pablo Larrain who imagines the late 20th century Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a depressed, blood-sucking vampire. Jaime Vadell stars as Pinochet, along with actors Gloria Münchmeyer, Alfredo Castro, Paula Luchsinger, Catalina Guerra, Amparo Noguera, Diego Muñoz, Antonia Zegers, and Stella Gonet (as a vampiric Margaret Thatcher). Half supernatural horror, half "bickering family" black comedy, El Conde entertains with gorgeous grayscale cinematography, legitimately awe-inspiring flying sequences, and delirious humor with biting wit.

29. Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

Tick, Tick... Boom!

(Image credit: Netflix)

For anyone feeling the anguish of their quarter-life crisis, there is Tick, Tick… Boom! Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature film directing debut in this adaptation of Jonathan Larson's stage musical. A powerhouse Andrew Garfield plays a fictionalized version of Larson, a young diner employee in New York City who feels like he's racing against his imminent 30th birthday to write a hit musical. Though Larson died in 1996 at the age of 35, his works like the musical Rent have ensured his name lives on, and Tick, Tick… Boom! shows us all that it's never too late to be great. 

28. The Killer (2023)

The Killer

(Image credit: Netflix)

A meticulous professional assassin, played by Michael Fassbender, messes up on the job, forcing him on a trip around the world to clean up his mess. Looks are deceiving in this sinister and slick thriller with a sharp sense of humor, from Fassbender's taste for The Smiths and a low-key nostalgia for classic TV sitcoms. (Listen closely to his many pseudonyms.) An adaptation of the French comic book series by Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon, The Killer is arguably not David Fincher's single greatest movie. But it's undoubtedly a showcase of a master artist like Fincher operating at maximum levels, being well-paced and precise as a contract job. 

27. The Wonder (2022)

The Wonder

(Image credit: Netflix)

Director Sebastián Lelio invites audiences to witness horrific miracles in this sumptuous psychological period drama. Taking place after the Irish Potato Famine, an English nurse (played by Florence Pugh) is dispatched to meet and observe an adolescent girl (Kila Lord Cassidy) who is somehow able to live without eating any food. While The Wonder excels in all the ways a good period horror movie should, its most nourishing element is easily Pugh, who exhibits confidence and capability in her capacity as its leading woman.

26. His House (2020)

His House

(Image credit: Netflix)

In his directorial debut, Remi Weekes explores the scary injustices of migrant public housing in his acclaimed horror picture His House. Wunmi Moskau and Sope Dirisu star as traumatized Sudanese migrants granted probational asylum in the UK; they move into dilapidated housing outside London, a place with peeling walls, creaky floors, and maybe something else lurking inside. Alongside Doctor Who's Matt Smith as their callous case worker, His House is one of those eerily perfect movies that mix social commentary with B-movie scares in all the right ways.

25. Our Souls at Night (2017)

Our Souls at Night

(Image credit: Netflix)

In their fourth movie together as leads, screen icons Robert Redford and Jane Fonda - who also starred together in The Chase, Barefoot in the Park, and The Electric Horseman - play lonely seniors who attempt to find a spark of youthful romance in each other. Based on the novel by Kent Haruf and directed by Ritesh Batra, Our Souls at Night is a tender and warm film, and one of the precious few to authentically explore the bittersweet highs and lows of old romance. To borrow from Fonda's Addie Moore, it isn't a gaudy and careless movie about elderly sex, but simply "about getting through the night."

24. The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

The Kindergarten Teacher

(Image credit: Netflix)

A remake of a 2014 Israeli movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in Sara Colanego's The Kindergarten Teacher as, well, a kindergarten teacher, who finds out that one of her very young students may be a poetry savant. While she's eager to cultivate his talent, the student's parents insist he lead a normal life. This compels her to take a dramatic turn as she tries a little too hard to rear a would-be visionary. Provocative and daring in a way so few modern movies are, The Kindergarten Teacher is instructive in how it quizzes us all to wonder where nurturing ends and obsession begins. 

23. All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

All Quiet on the Western Front

(Image credit: Netflix)

The definitive anti-war novel of the 20th century became a fine anti-war movie of the streaming age in the 2022 German-language epic All Quiet on the Western Front. Written and directed by Edward Berger, All Quiet on the Western Front plunges audiences into the trenches of World War I to follow an idealistic German soldier whose fanciful dreams of being a war hero are abruptly shattered by cold, hard reality. While there exist other, arguably better anti-war movies - Come and See asks you to come and see - All Quiet on the Western Front successfully splits the difference between glorious and gruesome. 

22. Manhunt (2017)


(Image credit: Netflix)

Marking a return to form for John Woo and the heroic bloodshed era of Hong Kong cinema, Manhunt is propulsive and exhilarating as an old school action thriller. A remake of a 1976 Japanese-language classic, Manhunt stars Zhang Hanyu as a Chinese pharmaceutical lawyer who is framed for a terrible crime. He teams up with a Japanese detective (Masaharu Fukuyama) to stop a larger conspiracy. Though Manhunt doesn't quite match up to Woo's reputation as established by his movies like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled, we are generally better with more movies like Manhunt than without.

21. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Image credit: Netflix)

The final movie to star the late Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has a deceptively simple story that encapsulates the complexity of Black artistic excellence - especially the many ways white America has benefitted from them while denying them humanity. An adaptation of the 1982 play by August Wilson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom takes place over one sweltering hot July 1927 afternoon, during the first recording session for celebrated blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis). Boseman co-stars as Levee Green, Ma Rainey's proud, swaggerin' trumpet player whose dreams easily cloud his judgment. Beautiful and tragic, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a Netflix original you simply cannot scroll past.

20. The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog

(Image credit: Netflix)

Jane Campion's acclaimed psycho-sexual Western earned its director the coveted Best Director trophy at the 94th Academy Awards. It was for a good reason. Based on Thomas Savage's 1967 novel, the movie stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter, the effeminate teenage son of Montana inn owner Rose (Kirsten Dunst) who meets the coarse, wealthy ranch owner Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch). After Rose marries into Phil's family, a series of events unfold that bring Peter and Phil close, in the spirit of the adage "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." With sweeping, breathtaking cinematography of the Montana plains and impeccable direction by Campion, The Power of the Dog is one to saddle up.

19. Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (2022)

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

(Image credit: Netflix)

A dream project by the gothic auteur, Guillermo del Toro finally saw his version of the classic story come to life in this beautiful stop-motion animated dark fantasy that draws inspiration from the original Italian novel and Gris Grimly's illustrations for the 2002 edition. Featuring actors Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, and Cate Blanchett (as a rude, spitting monkey), Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is a triumph of 21st century animation filmmaking that is filled to the brim with monsters, spirits, and sharp political satire, all things you would expect from the celebrated director of Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth.

18. Apostle (2018)


(Image credit: Netflix)

A few years after his Indonesian-language The Raid duology kicked up everyone's standards for martial arts cinema, Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans focused his camera on his native Wales for his folk horror period piece Apostle. Set in 1905, Dan Stevens (known for movies like The Guest and FX's Legion) stars as a man who infiltrates a demonic cult living on a remote island in search of his lost sister. While Apostle awkwardly flips between gothic horror and brutal action, it is still a heavy-hitter that pleases anyone whose tastes lie in the Venn Diagram of Midsommar and The Raid.

17. Gerald's Game (2017)

Gerald's Game screenshot

(Image credit: Netflix)

Once thought to be "unfilmable," Stephen King's suspense thriller novel from 1992 finally made its way to the screen from director Mike Flanagan. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star as a married couple whose romantic weekend getaway at an isolated lake house turns dark when husband Gerald (Greenwood) handcuffs his wife Jessie (Gugino) to act out an uncomfortable fantasy in bed. After Gerald dies of a heart attack, it quickly dawns on Jessie that she has no hope of getting out, succumbing to the panicked voices in her head. Flanagan has since become one of Netflix's go-to artists as the creator of The Haunting of Hill House/Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, and The Fall of the House of Usher. But his adaptation of King's novel remains a stand out even in a packed library of horror-oriented hits.

16. The Pale Blue Eye (2023)

The Pale Blue Eye

(Image credit: Netflix)

It's a movie with Edgar Allan Poe as a supporting character, and that's not even the strangest thing about it. The Pale Blue Eye, from writer and director Scott Cooper (adapting Louis Bayard's 2006 novel) stars Christian Bale as Augustus Landor, an alcoholic detective in 1830 who conducts an investigation into the grisly death of a literally heartless cadet of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. To pin down the murderer, Augustus teams up with another young trainee at the academy, none other than soon-to-be author Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling). Eerie and haunting in its wintry atmosphere, The Pale Blue Eye is an enthralling mystery thriller that takes us long into the night.

15. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

(Image credit: Netflix)

Several months before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rian Johnson unleashed his Agatha Christie-inspired whodunnit Knives Out, a lively autumnal murder mystery that had us all shopping for cozy knit sweaters. In 2022, Johnson followed Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) on a new assignment, one that takes him out of lockdown madness and brings him into a catty social circle of friends vacationing at a sun-drenched island mansion owned by an arrogant tech billionaire (Edward Norton). As riveting as its predecessor, Glass Onion establishes Johnson as the 21st century's Agatha Christie, a craftsman who openly doesn't think too hard about the mysteries his stories contain. 

14. The Night Comes For Us (2018)

The Night Comes For Us

(Image credit: Netflix)

A spiritual successor to The Raid movies, Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim reunite for another blood-soaked smackdown in Timo Tjahjanto's The Night Comes For Us. A triad enforcer (Taslim) has a crisis of conscience after he rescues a young girl. His actions compel his friends in the crime syndicate to turn against him, including his closest pal and ambitious prospect (Uwais). Though Tjahjanto's movie does not reach the same sublime heights as The Raid, The Night Comes For Us is a fist-pumping thrill ride that has you wincing and cheering at the same time.

13. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

The Meyerowitz Stories

(Image credit: Netflix)

Imagine if the characters in Succession weren't so filthy rich they lost touch of their humanity. Noah Baumbach's acclaimed drama The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) centers on a family of New Yorkers, with the adult siblings - played by Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and Elizabeth Marvel - reunite with their father (Dustin Hoffman), himself a moderately successful if unspectacular artist. An authentic and grounded portrait of family dysfunctions and arguably the real beginning of Sandler's career renaissance, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is a streaming movie unlike so many others, one that breathes with real lungs.

12. 13th (2016)


(Image credit: Netflix)

With its title referring to the Thirteenth Amendment that ostensibly abolished slavery in the United States, Ava DuVernay's enlightening documentary dives into for-profit prisons and the systemic prejudices against communities of color, specifically Black communities, which it thrives on. Spanning post-Civil War penal labor - enforced by disenfranchisement and lynchings - to Jim Crow to the war on drugs, 13th puts into necessary clarity the hate-driven economics of mass incarceration. Nominated for Best Documentary at the 89th Oscars and awarded a prestigious Peabody, 13th is maddening but critical for all of us to study.

11. I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

Based on the 2016 novel by Iain Reid, Charlie Kaufman's surrealist thriller I'm Thinking of Ending Thing tells of a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who embarks on a snowy road trip with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemmons) - with whom she is quietly contemplating breaking things off - to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). As soon as they arrive however, not all is what it seems. All the while, a lonely school janitor (Guy Boyd) carries out his work, with his story intersecting with the couple in deeply tragic ways. Tortured and emotive, I'm Thinking of Ending Things is an ice cold warning against failing to seize life and how regret is a road we are all doomed to travel.

10. The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

The Other Side of the Wind

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix obtaining the legendary Orson Welles' previously unfinished final movie The Other Side of the Wind was a flex, but thank the cinematic gods the streamer had the muscle for it. In Welles' final movie which he left unfinished in 1976, the story tells of a grizzled director (John Huston) who returns from Europe to a vastly different Hollywood environment where he struggles to stage a career comeback. A self-reflective portrait of Welles and his own navigation amid the transgressive New Hollywood era, The Other Side of the Wind feels like a miracle, an otherworldly statement from a long-gone artist who has just one last thing to say.

9. Roma (2018)


(Image credit: Netflix)

 It might seem like an "Oscar bait" movie, and indeed Alfonso Cuarón's tender period drama accrued a bunch of Academy Award nominations and won the coveted Golden Lion at Venice. But Roma is so much more than its trophies. Yalitza Aparicio, an actual school teacher making her acting debut, plays Cleo, a domestic worker in 1970s Mexico who finds out she's pregnant. After the father of the children she watches over runs away with his mistress, Cleo joins the family on a vacation that brings her closer to them. Roma's appealing sincerity and warmth stems from Cuarón himself, who sourced the film from his own childhood experiences in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.

8. Okja (2017)


(Image credit: Netflix)

In his second English-language feature film, Bong Joon-ho essentially does his own version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in this science fiction adventure about the devouring nature of greed and capitalism. A young girl who raised an oversized pig - nicknamed "Okja" - embarks on a rescue mission to save Okja from the cruelties of the American pork industry. Ahn Seo-hyun leads an ensemble bilingual cast that also includes Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Shirley Henderson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jake Gyllenhaal. As darkly comic and socio-political as his other movies like The Host, Snowpiercer, and his Oscar-winner Parasite, Okja ranks up there as the rare Netflix original with infinitely more meat than bone.

7. The King (2019)

The King

(Image credit: Netflix)

David Michôd's epic historical drama calls to mind such movies of yesteryear, like Gladiator and Troy, but comes with modern touches. Timothée Chalamet stars as the young Henry, Prince of Wales, the spoiled eldest son of King Henry IV of England (Ben Mendelsohn). Disinterested in his inevitable role, Henry spends his days drinking and sleeping around until his father dies and he must grow up to maintain peace and order. Accompanied by a cast including Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Thomasin McKenzie, and Robert Pattinson, The King reigns supreme as a truly handsome medieval epic with serious dirt in its chipped armor.

6. Hold the Dark (2018)

Hold the Dark

(Image credit: Netflix)

Jeremy Saulnier's frosty thriller sprinkles an awful lot of blood in the snow, and it chills the spine. Jeffrey Wright stars as a wildlife author who is beckoned to a small rural village in Alaska at the behest of a young woman (Riley Keough) to hunt the wolves she believes are responsible for taking her young son. Upon arrival, things get very weird after the woman's disturbed husband (Alexander Skarsgård) returns home from serving in Iraq. With a strange mix of David Fincher-esque crime mysteries and eldritch horror in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft, Hold the Dark can make one beg to keep the lights on. 

5. The Harder They Fall (2021)

The Harder They Fall

(Image credit: Netflix)

The euphoric power fantasy of gunslinger Westerns goes from white to Black in Jeymes Samuel's directorial debut, which packs in an all-star Black principal cast. A fictionalized story featuring many real-life figures of the 19th century American West, The Harder They Fall centers on notorious cowboy Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) who seeks revenge for his family's murder at the hands of outlaw Rufus Buck (Idris Elba). Also starring Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, and more, The Harder They Fall brings some much-needed color to a dusty genre. 

4. The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman

(Image credit: Netflix)

The decorated filmmaker and film historian Martin Scorsese marked his first collaboration with a major streaming service in his 20th century gangster epic The Irishman, reuniting him with luminaries like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Based on the book by Charles Brandt, The Irishman follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman in service to the Bufalino crime family in Pennsylvania. One of the longest and most expensive movies Scorsese's ever made (due to extensive de-aging digital effects), The Irishman warrants every minute and every dollar to be a profound meditation on Scorsese's favored theme: The death of the American dream. 

3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs screenshot

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Coen Brothers belt a real tune out of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, their black comic anthology film set in the American frontier. Consisting of six beautiful vignettes, starring the likes of Tim Blake Nelson, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Ralph Ineson, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, and many more, the shorts collectively paint a singular portrait of American grit in a way which only the directors of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and No Country Old Men can. Hilarious but never silly, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a true modern classic.

2. Marriage Story (2019)

Marriage Story

(Image credit: Netflix)

Effectively the spiritual reincarnation of Kramer vs. Kramer, Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story interrogates the highs and lows of modern parenthood, all at the cost of personal happiness. Scarlett Johannsson and Adam Driver play a loving but estranged couple - each with their own careers in entertainment - who undergo a coast-to-coast divorce and split time with their son Henry (Azhy Robertson). Loosely inspired by Baumbach's own divorce with actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, Marriage Story hits hard as Driver hits the wall during the movie's climactic five-minute blow-up.

1. Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation

(Image credit: Netflix)

One of Netflix's first original hit movies is still one of its finest. Cary Joji Fukunaga's penetrating war drama Beasts of No Nation, based on the 2005 novel by Uzodinma Iweala, drops audiences into the frontlines of an African civil war seen through the innocent eyes of a child soldier. An innocent village boy, played by Abraham Attah, is groomed into a mercenary under the Commandant (Idris Elba). Possessing and uncompromising, Fukunaga's movie details the universal death of childhood one bullet at a time.

Eric Francisco

Eric Francisco is a freelance entertainment journalist and graduate of Rutgers University. If a movie or TV show has superheroes, spaceships, kung fu, or John Cena, he's your guy to make sense of it. A former senior writer at Inverse, his byline has also appeared at Vulture, The Daily Beast, Observer, and The Mary Sue. You can find him screaming at Devils hockey games or dodging enemy fire in Call of Duty: Warzone.