Settling down to enjoy one of the best movies on Netflix, suddenly, it hits you: there are FAR TOO MANY things on your watchlist. Which one are you supposed to choose? How are you meant to pick out of the thousands and thousands available? It’s one of life’s toughest choices. And to be honest, if you clocked up all the time you spent scrolling through all that’s on offer - you could have watched a movie.
As luck would have it, I’ve already scoured the deluge of films available to stream, from those new on Netflix to those older than dirt, and whittled down that vast catalogue to bring you a list of 30. These are must-see flicks that deserve to be added to your viewing list immediately - no matter where you live. Check our recommendations for the best VPN for Netflix, and you’ll be set to enjoy every single title on this list. So go forth and peruse this cracking selection of the best movies on Netflix.
30. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
The movie: After pretty much stealing the show from Jeff Bridges in the 2011 True Grit remake, Hailee Steinfeld comes into her own in this spiky coming-of-age comedy. Sure, she’s absolutely slayed in her supporting roles, but it’s here that she’s in her element. Cast as edgy (geddit?) high school junior Nadine, it’s Steinfeld’s central performance that grounds this most excellent teen comedy which dabbles with troubles and strife of being a kid who no-one takes seriously. Nadine’s journey begins as she tells her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) that she’s going to kill herself, and the movie unfolds as we learn why she feels that way.
Why it's worth watching: This is head and shoulders above the rest of the so-called “teen comedies” out there, most of which are bereft of actual jokes. Steinfeld’s brilliant as Nadine, nailing the line deliveries perfectly, but it’s writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s zingy script that recalls the best of Heathers and the warmth of Juno.
29. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
Region: UK, US
The movie: A young Jeff Bridges and a grizzled Clint Eastwood (is there any other kind?) co-star as a couple of grifters in Michael Cimino’s directorial debut. Bridges, then a baby-faced 24-year-old, plays Lightfoot. A scrappy bandit with aspirations of becoming a career thief, shortly after stealing a car he crosses paths with Thunderbolt… whose day job is as a preacher. From then on the pair adventure across the states, bumbling through whatever the road throws at them with humour, even bumping into a couple of Thunderbolt’s old pals-turned-enemies, until the perfect opportunity presents itself: A bank robbery.
Why it’s worth a watch: It might feel unfocused at first: The plot doesn’t really kick in until you’re more than halfway through the movie, but that’s the draw. It mixes together the slow-paced happenings of life with action and comedy, sandwiching one of cinema’s earliest ever bromances between achingly cool car chases.
28. The Endless (2017)
Region: UK, US
The movie: Ever feel as if there is nothing new under the cinematic sun? I'm almost certain that's what led filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to craft each of their films, including their latest, The Endless. A seemingly "normal" tale of two brothers who, as teenagers, escaped the clutches of a cult, is flipped into a realm David Lynch would feel right at home in. This is not your normal genre outing, folks, as the siblings decide to return to their former homestead and discover that the cult is the least of their worries.
Why it's worth a watch: First of all, so you can say you saw one of Benson and Moorhead's earliest movies before the rest of the world caught on. Their horror sci-fi genre mash-up is a glorious headfuck of a movie, a deep dive into the human condition and how we respond to the monstrous - whether it’s a towering beast, or something inside of us.
27. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The movie: After breaking up with his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet), Joel (Jim Carrey) hires Lacuna Inc, a rather ramshackle firm, to scrub all memories of her from his mind. This fantastic wedge of quirky genre cinema hails from the pen of Charlie Kaufman and the unique eye of Michel Gondry, who brings gorgeous visuals to this wacky tale. Much of the movie takes place inside Joel’s memories, as we see him revisit personal moments before they disappear, realising at the last minute that he actually still loves Clem. All the while, the employees of Lacuna Inc. are watching, with one of the workers (Elijah Wood) taking notes from Joel’s mind to try and woo Clem himself.
Why it’s worth a watch: Science fiction typically falls into one of two camps: slickly polished and gleaming or dystopian and grimy. Eternal Sunshine falls squarely in between, into the realm of the everyday and affordable. It’s the best kind of science fiction, taking us to places that don't exist, but that we recognize just the same.
26. Indiana Jones trilogy (1981-1989)
The movie(s): Action adventures don’t come as iconic as this. Steven Spielberg’s trilogy charts the escapades of archeologist Indiana Jones, who, aside from owning the coolest name ever, does double duty as a professor and treasure hunter. Thrown into scrapes during his globe-trotting antics is simply part of the job. Raiders of the Lost Ark is often heralded as the best of the bunch, hitting every point spot on, but if you’re in the mood for a darker edged hero’s journey, go with my favourite - Temple of Doom.
Why it’s worth a watch: This entire trilogy embodies the spirit of pure popcorn cinema. Never silly or dull, the love and attention paid to each aspect of the production shows. And, while Star Wars fans may argue, it’s these films that highlight Ford at his matinee idol peak, cementing his status as a smooth, action hero. This trio of movies certainly waver in tone throughout, but taken together, they’re damn near perfect.
25. The Truman Show (1998)
The movie: Jim Carrey turns his comedic schtick into charm as Truman Burbank in this late ‘90s gem. Truman is a happy-go-lucky guy who doesn’t realise how unique his life truly is. Adopted from birth by a corporation, he is planted into a simulated world that’s kitted out with hidden cameras and microphones capturing his every move. At the controls is Christof (Ed Harris), the director of The Truman Show, a reality series that the entire globe watches religiously. Things start to change for Truman when all of a sudden a giant light falls from the sky...
Why it’s worth a watch: Twenty years old, and yet? Still utterly relevant. What is the cost of our entire lives being lived through screens? Will we ever really achieve happiness through consumerism? Is reality TV a load of old bunkum? All these questions are asked through some gorgeous cinematography, a dizzying plot and an ending that will make your heart ache.
24. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
The movie: You’ve seen the Black Mirror series; now experience something altogether different. And when I say experience, I mean, surrender yourself to a truly interactive viewing adventure. This is unlike anything you’ve watched before as you have control over the actions of a wannabe game designer. Set in 1984, the story revolves around Stefan, who writes a game based on an in-world novel called Bandersnatch. The book is in the Choose Your Own Adventure format, popularised in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and so is this Netflix Original. As Stefan’s day progresses you makes his decisions for him. Does he sign with a game publisher or decline their offer? Does he bang his fist on the desk or shout at his dad? No, seriously: whatever you select affects the outcome of the movie.
Why it’s worth a watch: The technology-driven world of Charlie Brooker’s TV show spills out of the screen into your hands. Seriously. This is the next step in narrative entertainment; Netflix created new technology to make it work. No matter what your thoughts on Black Mirror, this is impressive.
Read more: Every Black Mirror: Bandersnatch ending explained and how to get them
23. Ex Machina (2015)
The movie: Computer programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a week with his firm's CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Given the chance to pick his boss’s brain and perhaps score points excites Caleb, who doesn’t realise the entire set-up wasn’t a lottery - he was specifically chosen. His background leads Nathan to believe Caleb is the perfect candidate to take part in an experiment, wherein he administers the Turing test to evaluate a robot's consciousness. As it turns out, Ava (Alicia Vikander) the robot has other plans.
Why it’s worth a watch: Movies concerning robots imbued with artificial intelligence tend to make a case for their 'souls' being equally as important as ours, and all that they need is love and understanding. Alex Garland's directorial debut dallies with robotic sentience, therefore tussling with a similar topic, except Ava ain't no Bicentennial Man or Iron Giant. This is the darker side of AI, a world where Skynet could very easily exist…
22. To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)
The movie: Netflix’s Original Content isn’t just about hard-hitting TV serials. Part of ‘flix’s attempt to reboot the rom-com, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a refreshing, lighthearted tale that revolves around the love life of one Lara Jean Covey (Lara Condor). After her older sister moves away to college, Lara Jean’s life changes when five secret love letters she had kept hidden somehow find their way into the hands of their recipients. One of the boys, Peter, enters into a fake relationship with Lara Jean - to wind up HIS ex, and to prove Lara Jean doesn’t fancy her sister’s ex. Confused? You won’t be, but you’ll love the optimism and John Hughes-esque atmosphere.
Why it’s worth a watch: For a high school rom-com set in 2018, it’s surprisingly light on teen tech. The kids use their cell phones (obviously), but the central conceit here revolves around a surprisingly sweet one - handwritten love letters. The rest of the movie’s charm spirals off from that notion, making this a rom-com likely to leave a lasting impression.
Read more: The 25 best romantic comedies that won't make you throw up
21. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
The movie: Five years after the Spanish Civil War, Spain remains turbulent, with Allied forces set to free Europe from the Nazi regime. This troublesome time in Spanish history serves as the oppressive backdrop for Guillermo Del Toro’s glorious fantasy. While the war rumbles on, life for young Ofelia isn’t easy either, what with her mother marrying her evil stepfather, Captain Vidal. His orders, to flush out rebels in the countryside, lead their family to a rural retreat, where Ofelia befriends a faun who lives within a labyrinth filled with both wonder and terror.
Why it’s worth a watch: Del Toro’s take on wartime horrors is handled with imagination like you wouldn’t believe, a wondrous moodscape of darkness and delight. This grown-up fairytale meanders between the reality of war and the dream of the labyrinth, and does so with such a light touch, you’ll wonder where one ends and the other begins.