Hidden gems on Netflix you need to watch

While Netflix is good for an afternoon of binge-watching your favorite TV shows, it has a great movie selection, too. With an amazing 83 million subscribers, the streaming service has capitalized on the cord-cutting movement and has recently expanded into offering their own original series and films. Even though the titles Netflix offers change from time to time, they consistently offer up some really great movies. At the time of this writing, these are the best "hidden gems" on Netflix you may not know about. Some are sleeper hits from the last decade, while others are older classics you may not have seen unless you're a real cinephile. Either way, do yourself a favor and add these to your queue.

The Void (2016)

In many ways, the John Carpenter horror thrillers of the '80s were a genre unto themselves. Movies like The Thing and Prince of Darkness reveled in violence and body horror without leaning on it as a pure shock tactic the way many horror movies did at the time—and somehow, in 2016, a small sci-fi horror film slipped unnoticed into that exclusive genre. The Void is a throwback to those '80s creature features in many ways, from the practical monster effects to the subdued, foreboding atmosphere, but it also stands on its own as a bloody good sci-fi creepfest.

Odd Thomas (2013)

Based on a Dean Koontz series of novels about a guy who can see ghosts and monsters, 2013's adaptation of Odd Thomas missed the mark with critics and completely bombed at the box office. But that doesn't mean you should steer clear—it's really a quirky fantasy thriller that takes a refreshingly lightweight approach to the paranormal, something along the lines of Supernatural crossed with Dirk Gently. There are plenty of clichés along the way, and the cast certainly wasn't working with a perfect script, but Odd Thomas is still a roundly entertaining gem worth digging up on a rainy day.

Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Terry Gilliam is one of those directors who walks the razor's edge between delighting fans and driving studios insane. The guy breeds chaos on his sets the way some people breed puppies, and nowhere was that more apparent than during the production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a film on which Gilliam worked off and on for nearly 30 years before finally completing it in 2017.

But while the movie got a happy production ending, the first full-scale attempt to make it was a complete disaster, as captured in the eye-opening documentary Lost in La Mancha. Starring Johnny Depp and French actor Jean Rochefort, Gilliam's original Quixote was plagued by flash floods, scheduling problems, and illness. Lost in La Mancha is a fascinating look into the ultimately doomed production, a must-watch for fans of Gilliam and his over-the-top, fantastical films like Time Bandits, Baron Munchausen, and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

The Wraith (1986)

Back in the technicolor '80s, there was a wonderful movie called The Wraith. The idea: a murdered street racer returns from the grave to get revenge on a bunch of street punks in an undead muscle car. Let's just…let's let that sink in. Let's marinate in it for a spell. As far as terrible-but-awesome premises go, this sits somewhere near the top of the stack. It's the kind of idea that shouldn't exist and yet it does—and it has an indefinable, defiant beauty, like a pegasus, or a three-legged dog. You can't look away.

And in spite of everything it's got going against it, The Wraith actually works. It's solid B-movie material elevated to hidden gem status by colorful characters, surprisingly good special effects, and fun dialogue. The Wraith knows full well what it is, and it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Turbo Kid (2015)

What happens when you roll every post-apocalyptic trope into one movie, mix in absurd violence straight from Quentin Tarantino's unaired Saturday morning cartoon series, and then add superheroes? Probably something like Turbo Kid, a movie that plays like Mad Max if the production crew could only afford bicycles. Stay with us here. It's got wastelands, a water war, robots, Soylent Green jokes, and, most importantly, an evil Michael Ironside (the best kind of Michael Ironside).

In the distant future of 1997, a loner kid survives one day at a time in a wasteland, scavenging junk to trade for water. To pass the time, he reads the adventures of Turbo Rider, a superhero with a blaster cannon on his arm. But when he gets on the wrong side of the local warlord, he has to become the hero himself to save his new friend. Don't expect any deep insights into human nature with Turbo Kid. Just enjoy it for what it is: a goofy romp through the imagination of someone who probably grew up wearing out the scanlines on their RoboCop LaserDisc.

Makkhi (2012)

We've never watched much Bollywood, so we honestly can't tell if Makkhi is making fun of Hindi films or comfortably nestled at the heart of it all. The absurdity feels intentionally cranked to 11, but then again, there's also a distinct possibility that a song-and-dance number followed by a Rocky training montage for a reincarnated fly is completely normal for Bollywood, and we've been living our whole lives blissfully unaware up to this point. If everything tastes like chicken in the Matrix, Makkhi is your first bite of pineapple: tangy, strange, and dangerous if you aren't careful.

Here's the premise, and we'll just get this out as quick as possible: A fly born from the soul of a dead man goes on a revenge rampage against the guy who killed him. It's John Wick crossed with A Bug's Life crossed with…we don't know. La-La-Land, maybe? There's a trippy Ant-Man vibe to the visuals and explosive action sequences, all tied into a to-the-death battle between a man and, well, a housefly. As far as hidden gems go, this one's like stumbling across a dead unicorn in the woods. It's majestic, you just don't know what the hell to do with it.

The Beaver (2011)

Jodie Foster's 2011 low-flying comedy The Beaver is a unique piece of filmmaking. Mel Gibson stars as Walter Black, the CEO of a toy company who has a nervous breakdown, loses his family, and tries to hang himself from a hotel shower curtain. (It is a comedy; wait for it.) On the edge of death, Black snaps completely and allows his life to be taken over by a beaver puppet. Using the beaver to communicate with the world, Black slowly manages to find the broken pieces of his life and put them back together…here comes the comedy part…but still can't connect to his depressed son who hates the fact that he's growing up to be exactly like his father. And his wife still can't stand him. And his employees think he's lost his mind.

And, well, that covers all the "funny" parts. Dark doesn't come close to describing the humor. This is blacker than a coal mine after a cave-in, an intimate portrait of depression and mental illness that flows so seamlessly from Gibson's acting that you can't help but believe he's channeling his own personal experiences. With incredible supporting performances from Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence, The Beaver is definitely a hidden gem worth watching, if only once. Although afterward you may need to watch something a little more light-hearted. Like Schindler's List.

Harlock: Space Pirate (2013)

From the outset, you can look at Harlock: Space Pirate and expect a rocket-fueled amount of fun. After all, a movie with the gumption to call itself exactly what it is in the title isn't about to bore you with over-long, tedious insights into the internal struggles of being a space pirate. No, you're getting spaceships, laser bombs, robot suits, and—have we said this already?—space pirates. Based on a Japanese manga, Harlock: Space Pirate was well-received on its release in 2013 and even won Best International Animated Feature at the 3D Creative Arts Awards, but the CG spectacle didn't come anywhere close to making back its production budget and ultimately failed to find much of an audience.

Does that mean you should steer clear of Harlock? Not even close. If the geek pleasure centers of your brain light up at the thought of a well-made, beautifully animated sci-fi adventure, you'll definitely get a kick out of Harlock: Space Pirate.

Toys (1992)

On the surface, this Robin Williams film looks kind of silly—he plays Leslie, a toymaker's goofy son who's passed over for control of the business when his father dies, leaving the company in the hands of his military-minded uncle. But when his uncle decides to stop making toys and manufacture weapons instead, Leslie decides to fight back…with the toys he loves so much.

It's easy to see why Toys was overlooked by critics and audiences. It was marketed as a wacky comedy, and yeah, Robin Williams is funny, but this is really a story about innocence coming to terms with the harsh realities of the real world. Much like the way the earlier Williams/Levinson film Good Morning Vietnam presented a snapshot of joy in the middle of the hellish Vietnam War, Toys takes two separate worlds and smashes them together in a way that's jarring, yet strangely beautiful. If you saw this as a kid and (with good reason) thought it missed the mark, give it another watch. And if you haven't seen it, you might just find yourself a new Robin Williams favorite.

Bronson (2008)

You love Tom Hardy, we love Tom Hardy. You love violent, brilliant movies, and we do too. So let's talk about Bronson. In real life, Charles Bronson (real name Michael Peterson—he renamed himself after the actor) has spent more than 40 years in prison and was dubbed "the most violent prisoner in Britain" even though he's never killed anyone. He just kind of…keeps going back to jail. For beating the bunions off of people.

When Tom Hardy was first tapped to star in Bronson, the real Bronson was less than impressed by the unknown actor (yeah, Tom Hardy was unknown in 2008. Did you know he was in Sucker Punch? Would you watch Sucker Punch again to find out if we're telling the truth?). But after Hardy gained a ton of weight and studied the way the real-life criminal moved, Bronson changed his tune, saying, "Tom looks more like me than I look like me." If you were impressed by Bane and Mad Max Rockatansky, don't miss out on Bronson. It's got its weird moments, but the movie is balls-to-the-wall insanity at its best.

Uncanny (2015)

If you liked Ex Machina, you'll be right at home with Uncanny, a tight, claustrophobic movie about a brilliant roboticist named David Kressen who builds the perfect artificial intelligence. Or is it so perfect? When the robot's behavior grows more sinister, the programmer and his newfound girlfriend, a journalist on assignment to write about Kressen's achievements, find themselves trapped in Kressen's cloistered living quarters/lab with an uncannily human creature who's suddenly become painfully unpredictable.

Beautifully shot and steeped in tension you could cut with a bonesaw, Uncanny plays like a portrait of humanity on the edge of finally understanding itself, then learning what it's uncovered could very well murder everything we've ever known. Okay, it's not as depressing as that, but it's pretty visceral all the same, and with incredible performances from everyone involved, you won't be able to look away until the end.

The Last Unicorn (1982)

Yes, The Last Unicorn is a children's movie. Yes, it's an animated children's movie. But don't lump this haunting and beautiful tale in with Pixar's or Disney's traditional fare. For starters, the gorgeously unique animation style might be familiar to some viewers, as the core members of its animation team would go on to form Studio Ghibli. The sweet, sad tale is brought to life by a stellar voice cast that includes Christopher Lee, Angela Lansbury, Jeff Bridges and Mia Farrow. And don't forget the enchanting score, performed by '70s Mellow Gold hitmakers America. Watch this with your children, or watch it alone—either way, you won't regret it.

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Long before Making a Murderer, there was The Thin Blue Line. Former private detective Errol Morris directed this chilling documentary with the intention of bringing more attention to the case of Randall Adams, a man sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer. Morris' work paid off when his film, and the many discrepancies in the evidence and testimony it uncovered, prompted officials to reopen the case, eventually exonerating Adams and overturning his conviction completely only a year after the documentary was released.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Described as an "eccentric, pubescent love story" by Hollywood Reportercritic Todd McCarthy, Moonrise Kingdom is definitely the most romantic movie on director Wes Anderson's resumé. This coming-of-age tale has a great cast (including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, and Edward Norton), a beautiful setting, and all the quirky hallmarks that Anderson fans have come to love.

Nightcrawler (2014)

Take the best elements from The Network, mix them with the brooding, dark mood of Taxi Driver, and you get Nightcrawler. Suspenseful and visually stunning, this Oscar-nominated thriller features Jake Gyllenhaal in a creepily convincing performance as a sociopathic freelance videographer tasked with covering the late-night crime beat for local news stations. "Gyllenhaal is the same age that De Niro was in Taxi Driver," wrote The Atlantic's Christopher Orr. "Like him, he is learning to channel an eerie, inner charisma, offering it up in glimpses and glimmers rather than all at once."

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Netflix made its first major foray into original films when it acquired Beasts of No Nation. Directed by True Detective vet Cary Fukunaga, it tells the harrowing, powerful tale of Agu, a West African child caught in a civil war and recruited to a rebel militia as a child soldier. Idris Elba gives a commanding—and occasionally terrifying—performance as the militia leader who orders his soldiers to perform ever more horrific acts.

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

Another winner from Netflix's stable of original films, The Fundamentals of Caring takes the "road movie" formula and gives it an offbeat twist. Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts team up as, respectively, a caretaker and a teen afflicted with muscular dystrophy out to explore the country and themselves (while picking up a hitchhiking Selena Gomez along the way). While road trip dramedies aren't exactly in short supply, the excellent cast—and writer-director Rob Burnett's deft touch with the material—add up to an enjoyably diverting journey.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

The thing we love about Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is how it turns traditional horror tropes on its head. This comedy horror film stars Alan Tudyk (Wreck-It Ralph, Firefly) and Tyler Labine (Breaker High, Reaper) as a pair of West Virginia hillbillies who encounter a group of clueless college students on a camping trip. When one of the college students accidentally hurts herself, the hillbillies take care of her — until the misguided college kids attempt to rescue them from the "scary" backwoods hicks. All sorts of hilarious and horrific hijinks ensue, which make this movie a perfect choice for your Netflix queue.

In Your Eyes (2014)

Do you like Joss Whedon, the paranormal, and atypical romance stories? Then you'll love In Your Eyes. This movie tells the story of two very different people: a rich (and married) socialite from New Hampshire and an ex-con from New Mexico. Rebecca and Dylan may be polar opposites, but they've shared an inexplicable mental connection since childhood that neither seems to understand. As that connection grows, the pair begin to become more aware of each other, and they finally realize that they aren't going crazy — there actually is another person inside their heads. Of course, even though the protagonists know they are sane, the rest of the world does not, which sets up some very interesting problems. What follows is an intriguing and wild ride, with great dialogue as only Joss Whedon can write it.

These Final Hours (2013)

If you enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road, you'll probably also enjoy These Final Hours. Both movies are Australian apocalyptic thrillers with a cast of interesting characters attempting to navigate the end days. With only 12 hours left before an asteroid-induced global firestorm reaches Australia, James abandons his pregnant girlfriend in search of the ultimate apocalyptic party.

Along the way, James is forced to save a young girl, Rose, from attackers with nothing to lose. After saving her, the self-indulgent and arrogant James has some serious choices to make about how he truly wants to spend his last moments on Earth. Tense, edgy, and raw, These Final Hours shows us the best and worst of humanity when pushed to the brink. Be prepared for an edge-of-your-seat ride that will also inspire tears and deep thoughts about what you would do if you only had 12 hours left to live.

The Way Back (2010)

Based on a memoir by a former Polish prisoner of war, The Way Back focuses on a small group of prisoners in a Siberian labor camp as they attempt to escape their captors. Once free of their captivity, The Way Back becomes a survival drama in which the cast must manage to somehow cross over 4,000 miles of frozen Himalayan tundra to reach their freedom in India. While not precisely a "war" movie, The Way Back offers a unique view into the World War II-era Soviet prison system — a topic seldom covered in American cinema. It also features stunning cinematography of a star-studded cast delivering an exceptional and believable performance, and tells a story of overwhelming odds and the determination to survive and persevere.

Snow on Tha Bluff (2011)

Every decade, there seem to be several "hood movies" which become a major success. In the '90s, we had fictional films like Boyz n the Hood. In the 2000s, indie filmmakers turned to full documentaries with movies like Hood 2 Hood. In 2011, Snow on Tha Bluff makes unique use of both techniques of filmmaking to create its own unique style.

Even though it's labeled as a documentary, Snow on Tha Bluff is actually a "found-footage" reality film that follows Curtis Snow, a real-life armed robber and drug dealer. After Snow steals a camera from some naive college students seeking drugs, he hands it to a buddy and tells him to start filming. Even though it's not truly a documentary, Snow on Tha Bluff gives the audience a chilling look at the gritty and bloody reality of life on the street from Snow's perspective. While the footage is mostly dramatized, Curtis Snow himself is very real and the situations he faces are a daily reality for many who live in the hood.

Oldboy (2003)

While an American version of Oldboy directed by Spike Lee was released in 2013, the original South Korean movie is far superior — and it's on Netflix for your viewing pleasure. Based on a Japanese manga, Oldboy is a thrilling neo-noir mystery, centered on the story of Oh Dae-su. After being abducted on the street, he is held for 15 years in a prison cell (which resembles a hotel room), with no knowledge of who his captors are or why they are keeping him there. Then, Dae-su finds himself suddenly released and given the chance to get revenge on his captors — if he can find them in a mere five days.

The plot takes off from there and doesn't stop delivering solid punches of emotion, action, mystery, and entertainment. With well-rounded characters, stunning cinematography, and plenty of raw power, Oldboy is a truly gripping movie.

Kung Fury (2015)

There's never been anything quite like the 30-minute laser lobotomy that is Kung Fury (unless you count Bear Force One, and you totally should). The premise is simple and delicious: A Kung Fu cop travels back in time to kill Hitler. Cue '80s music, dinosaurs, Nazi nut-kicking, and more one-liners than a Mitch Hedberg special. Entirely funded by Kickstarter, Kung Fury was written and directed by David Sandberg, who also stars as Kung Fury. His co-stars? A dinosaur cop ("Triceracop"), Adolf Hitler ("Kung Fuhrer"), and David Hasselhoff ("Hoff 9000"). It's ridiculous, over-the-top, and utterly amazing. Even before the movie was made, it already had a cult following—a month after opening the Kickstarter campaign, Sandberg had raised $600,000 from over 17,000 backers. Kung Fury debuted at Cannes and then was released free of charge on YouTube, where it picked up enough steam to secure international Netflix distribution. Now you can hassle the Hoff 9000 anytime you feel the urge.

The Invitation (2015)

It's hard to talk about The Invitation without spoiling the best parts, so we'll leave it at this: if there was ever a dinner party that went downhill, it's this one. Director Karyn Kusama loads the movie with tension right from the start and builds the drama in a way that leaves you guessing right along with the characters. With great, low-key performances from Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones) and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus)—not to mention Tammy Blanchard's turn as an edge-of-crazy housewife—The Invitation is a swan dive into paranoia. It's also a welcome change of pace for Kusama, whose previous films, Aeon Flux and Jennifer's Body, weren't exactly gems themselves, hidden or otherwise.

Creep (2014)

Who knew a film with a cast of exactly two people could be so enthralling? Yeah, you might groan at first: if Creep had a downside, it would be the decision to make it in jerky, handheld, found-footage style—the filmmaking version of that jar of pickles in the back of your refrigerator that's been there for years but never seems to gets thrown away, and every now and then it's in a different position, so someone's eating those pickles, although God knows who.

BUT: Creep pulls it off. And beautifully at that. In fact, this may be the first film since The Blair Witch Project that couldn't have been filmed any other way, and arguably the first good one. Creep switches seamlessly between drama, comedy, and horror thanks mostly to a near-perfect performance by mumbling maniac Mark Duplass. Whatever else you take away from it, there's no doubt Creep will give you the creeps.

Centurion (2010)

At first glance, 2010's Centurion looks like another vanilla sword-and-sandals war epic riding the debris-choked wave left behind by 300. That's probably why it absolutely tanked at the box office when it was released, taking back a mere $123,000 of its $12 million budget in domestic ticket sales. But it'd be a shame for any fan of bloody action to pass on this hidden gem, because Centurion definitely delivers much more than it promises. Rather than lose itself in the spectacle of battle, Centurion hones its focus on a tiny band of Roman soldiers trapped in enemy territory as they try to make their way home. Michael Fassbender leads the cast through every blood-soaked battle, and Neil Marshall (who, for what it's worth, also directed the highest rated Game of Thrones episode ever) helms the film. So sit back, relax, and watch a bunch of people kill each other. What else are you going to do while you wait for the next season of Thrones?

Beyond the Gates (2016)

You could probably get away with calling this movie Jumanji 2: This Time with Demons, but that wouldn't be entirely fair to Beyond the Gates, a unique horror thriller about two brothers who find a VHS board game in their recently deceased father's video store. Video board games were a real, weird thing in the VCR heyday, so there's probably a nostalgia element to Beyond the Gates if you were one of the 30 or 40 people who ever played one, but for everyone else, the idea of a video that knows what you're doing lends as much to the fantasy element of the film as the hellish repercussions the brothers experience as they fall deeper into the game.

Hellish, in this case, is of course totally literal. The more the brothers play, the more the game begins to bleed into the real world, turning their home into Dante's wet, suburban dream. It's a fun, twisted film, perfect for a rainy night.

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

Call him Frodo all you want, but Elijah Wood is working hard to reinvent his image as an actor, and we can totally respect that. From his mannequin-obsessed killer in 2012's Maniac to his dirty cop con man in 2015's The Trust (a soft #4 on our list of every Nicolas Cage movie on Netflix, ranked), Wood is clearly capable of branching out. In I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Wood plays a geeky loner who teams up with a woman in his neighborhood to find the people who robbed her house. Don't let the title bog you down. It's a black comedy extracted from the varicose veins of the Coens' Fargo and Burn After Reading, a subtle, escalating thriller about two everyday people thrust over their heads into a world of crime where anything can—and does—go wrong. IDFAHITWA (nope, just as bad) is moody, occasionally hilarious, and surprisingly poignant.

Spectral (2016)

Sci-fi thrillers with style are hard to come by. If that's your kind of thing, chances are you've seen all the good ones (and way too many bad ones), which makes Spectral even more of a treat. Following a team of U.S. Special Forces who stumble across a mysterious new enemy while on assignment in Moldova, Spectral jacks the action into the stratosphere with lightning-quick combat scenes and several nail-biting moments of true terror. The present-day war-torn environment grounds the action even as it leaps into the realm of pure science fiction. In the end, Spectral isn't perfect, but it delivers what it promises: a bunch of dudes fighting for their lives against an otherworldly threat. Stick it on, crank up the volume, and enjoy the ride.

Kill Me Three Times (2014)

Simon Pegg is a modern cult megastar, but this hilarious crime thriller still managed to fly under the radar on its 2014 release. Or maybe, just maybe, it flew so close to the sun that nobody bothered to look up and squint, just for a moment, to catch the flaming outline as this jet-fueled albatross soared into space.

But that's a weird metaphor, so here's a better one: Kill Me Three Times is a gem well worth digging for. With a kinetic style reminiscent of Guy Ritchie's good films, Kill Me Three Times follows three intertwined stories of ordinary people driven to the brink, all of it linked by one man: a hitman. With a very hitman mustache. A Simon Pegg hitman mustache. At times brutal, touching, and snort-milk-out-your-nose hilarious—sometimes all at once—you won't find a more flat-out fun movie than Kill Me Three Times.

Look Who's Back (2015)

Hitler's still something of a controversial figure in Germany. Okay, sure, the guy's controversial everywhere—he's Hitler. But Germans have the added headache of being the country that, how do we put this…tried to kill half the world. It's like being born into a family famous for having that one uncle who founded the KKK.

In that light, this German satire is both unexpected and surprisingly hilarious. Look Who's Back starts with Hitler waking up in in a park in modern Berlin, still in uniform, with no idea how he got there. The first people he meets think he's a crazy hobo, the next ones think he's a Method actor doing a bit, and before long, Hitler's all over the news as the next big German comedian…and the people love him. In fact, it's less a satire on Hitler and more a social commentary on modern-day German nationalism and the country's attempts to move on from a particularly dark historical period, even while some of the population seems willing to welcome a Hitler-like figure back into their midst. On top of all that, it's pretty funny. Look Who's Back is definitely a weird combo, but it's one that happens to work extremely well.

Ravenous

There aren't a lot of movies that will make you question your dinner order, but from the very first frame, Ravenous turns rare steak into an entree to be regarded with suspicion. Starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle, this 1999 gem plays like a horror movie on the surface, but does so with a heart of comedic black gold.

While it begins as the seemingly straightforward story of an army captain (Pearce) assigned to the remote Sierra Nevada mountains after the Mexican-American War, Ravenous quickly moves into territory that's hard to classify. There's the horror of cannibalism in the isolated mountains, the action of a spaghetti Western, a thick smattering of tongue-in-cheek humor, and a pulsing vein of modern satire throughout. All of it comes together into an extremely entertaining—if gory—movie experience that you won't forget anytime soon.

Unfortunately, the film's marketing sent people to theaters expecting a more mainstream slapstick comedy, not the violent, black humor they ended up getting. As a result, Ravenous was gnawed to pieces by critics and limped through theaters earning a measly $2 million—half of which came during its opening weekend.