24 best movies on Netflix right now

There you are again, sitting on the couch, staring at Netflix. You're wondering whether to take a chance on that indie thing with the obscure cover art or just give in to your darker impulses and watch Face/Off for the sixth time. Life shouldn't have to be this hard, and we're here to make it just a little easier. From incredible underrated gems to timeless favorites that you haven't thought about in years, we've rounded up the best movies on Netflix right now.

My Left Foot (1989)

Daniel Day-Lewis earned his first Academy Award for his performance in My Left Foot, a powerful biopic about real-life writer Christy Brown, a lifelong quadriplegic who could only write using the toes of his titular appendage. Day-Lewis masterfully portrays all the nuances and frustrations born of a life confined to a wheelchair—no doubt thanks to the fact that he Method-acted the crap out of the role, refusing to leave the wheelchair or break character between takes.

According to the DVD's "Making Of" featurette, he actually damaged two of his ribs because he spent so long hunched up in the wheelchair. That's insane dedication, but it paid off. It may be nearly 30 years old, but My Left Foot is still an immensely emotional movie about one man's struggles—and ultimate triumph—over the cruel hand dealt to him at birth.

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

From the studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings marks yet another visually stunning achievement in stop-motion animation. It's seriously gorgeous, a musical odyssey that manages to capture the butterfly-like element of pure imagination without bruising a single delicate wing. The story follows Kubo, a little street performer in feudal Japan who uses his two-string guitar to make origami come to life. But little does he know that he's the focal point of a supernatural war raging unseen all around him. All he knows is one thing: never go outside after dark.

Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic adventure that's billed as a kids' movie but probably holds even more magic for the adults in the room. And with a voice cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, and George Takei, the only disappointing thing about this film is that it didn't win an Oscar.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Edgar Wright's 2007 hit Hot Fuzz is arguably the best of the "Cornetto Trilogy," which also includes Shaun of the Dead and The World's End (it's a close three-way tie, anyway). The story starts with super-cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a London policeman who's so good at his job that he's making the rest of the department look bad. To save their image, the brass reassigns him to Sandford, a sleepy little town in the English countryside where he'll be safely out of their way. Of course, it's only a matter of time before he uncovers an insidious plot hiding beneath Sandford's perfect façade, and the only way to bring the truth to light is to do what he does best: blow up everything in sight. Inspired by every action movie ever and packed with more jokes than a Mitch Hedberg special, Hot Fuzz is one of the best action comedies ever made, hands down.

The Imitation Game (2014)

Helmed by Passengers director Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game is an Oscar-winning look into the tumultuous life of Alan Turing, the mathematician largely responsible for breaking the Enigma code, an encrypted communication system that the Axis powers used to coordinate naval attacks during World War II. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an incredible performance as Turing, turning a potentially dry historical period piece into an emotional journey charged with high-tension drama. He's backed up by an equally convincing Keira Knightley, who offsets Cumberbatch's cold, off-putting genius with genuine warmth. Both were nominated for Oscars that year, and for good reason. The Imitation Game is definitely a movie everyone should see at least once.

Spotlight (2015)

Based on the true story of the Boston Globe's investigation into allegations of widespread sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, Spotlight is one of those rare films that ignores all the unnecessary glamour and dives straight into the heart of the story. Spotlight stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian D'Arcy James as the Spotlight team, the tightly-knit investigative journalism squad that broke the real-life story in 2002 (and won a 2003 Pulitzer for their efforts).

For starters, the performances from the cast are simply phenomenal. Michael Keaton's brusque portrayal of team leader Robby Robinson and Mark Ruffalo's brilliantly neurotic acting mark the centerpoints to the film, but everybody on the cast clearly gave it their all. And we have to give a special shout-out to Liev Schreiber, who barely speaks above a whisper and all but disappears beneath a beard and glasses, yet somehow steals every scene he's in. It's no wonder Spotlight took Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 2016 Oscars. Overall, Spotlight is pure, unflinching, and thorough in its take on what was then—and still is—a highly controversial subject. It's definitely a story that will resonate for years to come.

Hush (2016)

Shh…hear that? It's the sound of a smart, sexy horror thriller. With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 2016's Hush is definitely a movie you can't miss. The premise is simple: Maddie, a deaf/mute author, is staying in her isolated house deep in the Alabama woods when a masked killer appears at her window. While that concept could easily devolve into another run-of-the-mill suspense flick, Hush has no problem upping the thrill factor with deft camera work, unrelenting suspense, and a truly amazing performance from largely unknown actress Kate Siegel. Without saying a word, Siegel portrays Maddie as strong, capable, and intelligent, a breath of fresh air for a female role in a horror movie.

Of course, the sound design in Hush is top-notch. It has to be. Just as he manipulated our perceptions of reality with 2013's Oculus, director Mike Flanagan here uses Maddie's disability to keep the constant threat of danger looming. He never gets gimmicky with his portrayal of Maddie's deafness, giving us exactly as much as we need to feel the fear of never knowing what's behind us. It's not always what you hear, it's what you don't hear.

The Babadook (2014)

The hype surrounding this indie Australian horror film is already unreal, so we'll keep our praise to two simple words: Watch it.

The Babadook opens on Amelia, a widowed mother (Essie Davis), who's struggling to raise Samuel, her six-year-old son (Noah Wiseman). She's exhausted, on a mental teeter-totter, and finding it harder and harder to love the erratic child, who's a bit mentally unstable himself.

And then there's the monster.

This is pure horror, far removed from the typical grab bag of jump scares and loud, jarring audio cues you find in most horror movies. Yeah, it can be uncomfortable. It's probably not for everyone. But it's also touching, heartwarming, and impossibly human in its emotions. The relationship between Amelia and Samuel is as real as it gets. Put simply, The Babadook is so fresh, so far removed from cliché, that it'll probably start a few new clichés of its own given enough time. This film will be emulated and studied for years to come.

But don't let that put you off. It's a fun, approachable watch, with one of the creepiest film antagonists since Hannibal Lecter. Well worth your time if you like a good scare.

Oldboy (2003)

Gritty, moving, gut-wrenching, and beautiful, 2003's Oldboy succeeded on two massive levels: one, it breathed new life into the (frankly stale) hard-boiled revenge genre. Two, it brought Korean films into the international spotlight. Well, okay, it succeeded on three levels: it also showed us that we can have way too much fun being grossed out of our minds.

Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-Su, a middle-aged drunk who is kidnapped and locked in a room for 15 years. When he's inexplicably released one day, Oh Dae-Su embarks on an emotional, blood-soaked journey of revenge against the man who imprisoned him. The camera doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable moments—and there are plenty of those. You'll cringe, but you'll also laugh. Maybe, just maybe, you'll cry.

If you aren't in the mood for subtitles, Spike Lee filmed an inferior English remake of Oldboy in 2013 with Josh Brolin, although at present, it's no longer on Netflix.

Beasts Of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation is Netflix's first original feature film (they bought the distribution rights, but didn't actually finance the film) and was released simultaneously in theaters and online. Unfortunately, the resulting controversy—several large theater chains boycotted the film, saying it violated theater exclusivity—overshadowed the film itself. That's a shame, because Beasts is an amazing first choice for Netflix to break into original films.

Starring Idris Elba (Prometheus, Thor) as a ruthless commander and newcomer Abraham Attah as the boy soldier Agu, Beasts of No Nation is powerful, shockingly real, and heartbreaking in its portrayal of the unspeakable horrors of war. It's not an easy film to watch—the pace is relentless, the imagery visceral. But it's a film you should watch, if only for a brief glimpse into the struggle of daily life in war torn Africa.

The country in the film is never defined, although the story could presumably fall into any of the African nations embroiled in turf wars. It was filmed in Ghana, and director Cary Joji Fukunaga spent years researching the conflict in Sierra Leone before finally settling on the 2005 novel as the source material for his film.

The Prestige (2006)

Right smack dab in the middle of making the Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan took a short break from Batman and released a movie about a stage magician struggling to stay relevant in the late 1800s. If that sounds like a total departure from Nolan's usual work, rest assured—it isn't. The Prestige feels almost like a bridge connecting Nolan's earlier, low-key films like Memento and Insomnia to his later, visually stunning sci-fi extravaganzas like Inception and Interstellar—the best of both worlds. Sometimes disturbing, always enthralling, and woven throughout with threads of pure cinematic magic, The Prestige still might be the best movie Christopher Nolan's ever made, and that's saying a lot. Plus, what other movie lets you watch Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman duke it out onscreen? This is literally the closest we'll ever get to a Batman and Wolverine crossover.

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

Heartwarming, poignant, and injected with more lewd jokes and profanity than a Farrelly Brothers comedy, The Fundamentals of Caring plays like a feel-good summertime Disney flick that got left in an AA meeting for too long, with the end result being an experience more real and human than it ever could have been with a PG-rated script. The movie opens with newly certified caregiver Ben (Paul Rudd) meeting his first patient, a wisecracking teenage shut-in with muscular dystrophy who's driven away all his previous attendants. After a rocky start, they set out on a road trip to see a series of roadside attractions, and along the way they both learn valuable lessons about family and friendship.

Saccharine and mushy, right? It may read that way on paper, but by the third bawdy joke you'll totally change your mind. Give it a shot, and just remember that while it looks like something to stick on for the whole family, it's probably better to wait until the kids go to bed.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Undeniably the best installment in the MCU since The Avengers, 2016's Captain America: Civil War is proof that Marvel finally figured out how to nail a sequel. After the letdowns of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: The Dark World, Civil War sings with all the right notes. It's a tour de force of high-stakes action mixed with character-driven drama and all the right dashes of humor, but arguably what makes it all work so well is the humanizing aspect the Russo Brothers brought to Earth's mightiest heroes, along with the troubling idea that there are consequences to all the mayhem and destruction we love to watch onscreen. Hopefully Marvel will continue to explore the deeper texture beneath the spandex in future releases, but until then we can at least relive Civil War to our heart's content on Netflix.

The Wailing (2016)

Equal parts drama, psychological horror, and supernatural thriller, The Wailing sounds like a winner out of the gates, but here's the rub: you've kinda gotta stick with it for the first half hour. It starts out fairly slow—but then again, so do spaceships. And once it picks up speed, The Wailing never stops to take a breath. In a quiet South Korean village, a mysterious disease leads to an outbreak of violent behavior among the residents. When his daughter starts showing symptoms, a bumbling police officer digs deeper into the plague and stumbles into a battle between good and evil that threatens to tear the village to pieces. Beautifully shot, terrifying at times, and scientific proof that Korean exorcisms are way cooler than ours, The Wailing should be on every horror fan's watch list.

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood might just be the most unique movie ever made. Filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast, it tracks a child's life as he develops from a young boy to a college-bound adult. The boy, Mason, is played by Ellar Coltrane, who was seven when filming started and 19 by the time of its release. You literally watch him age onscreen as the story progresses. Similarly, his parents, played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, age alongside him. In fact, director Richard Linklater specifically asked Arquette not to get plastic surgery in real life for those 12 years, since any real changes the actors made over that decade would be reflected onscreen.

But the money question is: did it work? Absolutely. Probably, if anything, even better than Linklater and the cast could have dared hope. The runtime can be a little intimidating—it clocks in just under three hours—but Boyhood is well worth the investment.

Chicken Run (2000)

Is Chicken Run the most original animated animal adventure? Not by a long shot. Is it the best? Well, that's one that's definitely open to debate. Helmed by Nick Park and Peter Lord, the guys behind Wallace & Gromit and the more recent Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run revels in the same style of goofy stop-motion animation paired with witty writing that made those series such hits. And although it was released way back in 2000, Chicken Run is one of those rare non-Disney/Pixar animated films that has not only stood the test of time, but possibly improved over the years. Featuring the voice talents of Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha, it's definitely a movie that's fun for the whole family.

It Follows (2014)

In an era during which horror movies now get top billing at the box office and every shot is calculated to give us the maximum level of scare, it's refreshing to see a poverty-budget indie horror movie—with an actual story (looking at you, Paranormal Activity 1-6)—that genuinely delivers on the creep factor. "No clichés, no disappointments" must have been the mantra of writer/director David Robert Mitchell when he set out to put It Follows on celluloid. The movie follows a simple premise, but sticks with it the whole way and makes an effort to only let the premium chills make it past the cutting-room floor.

The story: a young woman (Maika Monroe) finds she's been saddled with a curse after sleeping with her new boyfriend. Something is coming for her, something slow but persistent. The only way to pass the curse on is to sleep with someone else. It Follows comes in strong with a strong, unique, vaguely '80s aesthetic and keeps you guessing until the end.

Gangs of New York (2002)

Martin Scorsese is a master at capturing the world of gangsters in any epoch. From the decades-spanning narrative of Goodfellas to the turn-of-the-century mayhem of The Departed, he has the unique ability to take a story and build an entire world around it—and few films showcase that gift better than Gangs of New York, which sees the clash of street gangs in 19th-century New York City reach gritty new highs.

And that's just on the surface. Gangs of New York is one of the director's many examples of near-perfect storytelling, with beautiful cinematography, a sweeping narrative, and pitch-perfect performances from every actor involved. This is not only one of the best movies on Netflix, but one of the best movies, period.

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Quentin Tarantino's eighth film needs little introduction. In the aftermath of the Civil War, eight people get snowed in at a roadside pitstop, and as the title asserts, none of them are particularly savory characters. There's a lot of talking, a lot of bloodshed, and a lot of Tarantino-ness all around. Perhaps too much, according to some critics. With a 74 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Hateful Eight is one of Tarantino's worst-reviewed films.

As a Western, sure, The Hateful Eight is no Fistful of Dollars. But as Nerdist very effectively argues, it's not a Western at all—it's a horror movie. For starters, as Tarantino himself explained, it was most directly inspired by John Carpenter's 1982 body horror film The Thing. The pieces are there—the icy landscape, the claustrophobic setting, people trapped in close quarters by a raging blizzard, and the undercurrent of someone in the group who isn't what they seem. Also, Kurt Russell. On top of that, the musical score includes Ennio Morricone tracks from The Exorcist II and The Thing, deliberately adding to the sense that monsters are lurking, even if they turn out to be human after all.

So why is The Hateful Eight on this list instead of, say, Inglourious Basterds, which is higher rated and also on Netflix? Simply because The Hateful Eight is a better horror movie than Inglourious Basterds is a Western (seriously). Give it another watch and see if you don't agree.

The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Even after 17 years, The Fellowship of the Ring feels like a blockbuster that could have been made yesterday. The sweeping intro to Peter Jackson's epic trilogy may have been overshadowed by The Return of the King a few years later, but it's easy to forget how incredible the first one was. The Mines of Moria. The Balrog. Gandalf escaping from Isengard on an eagle. Heck, the intro monologue alone is usually enough to get a Rings fan on the couch.

Sure, it was kind of a jerk move on Netflix's part to only add the first installment, but let's face it: The Lord of the Rings is cinematic Lays potato chips. You can't watch just one. If you're like most people, having the first one on Netflix is simply the gateway drug, an invitation to dig out the DVDs for the rest of the trilogy and have yourself an accidental movie marathon. One does not simply walk into Mordor, but one can easily sit back for nine hours and watch Frodo do it.

The Godfather (1972)

Time and time again, The Godfather has been rated as one of the best movies of all time (usually second, right behind something called Citizen Kane). The story needs little introduction — Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, is retiring as the head of the infamous Corleone crime family and passing the mantle to his son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). But that's simply the ice covering the surface of a pond that plumbs depths few films have ever managed. These characters may exist in a violent world most of us have never experienced, but they feel as real as your next door neighbors.

A lot of people toss around the word "masterpiece" when they're talking about movies, but The Godfather is one of the few films that truly deserves the moniker. In fact, it's probably only rivaled by The Godfather: Part II — and fortunately, that one's on Netflix, too.

Goodfellas (1990)

Ranking Martin Scorsese's films is like trying to dig a hole with a salmon — it's pointless, a waste of time, and more than anything it just makes you feel dirty. But with both Casino and Goodfellas currently on Netflix (at the time of this writing) and Gangs of New York already on this list, a choice has to be made. So let's leave it at this: Just go watch Casino, and read on to see why Goodfellas is — ever so slightly — a better film.

As a gangster film, Goodfellas is top notch. You've got your rise to the top, your heists gone wrong, and your bloody revenge. But where it really triumphs is in its scale. Goodfellas isn't an epic, sweeping tale — it's a gritty street-level story that perfects the intimate, character-driven moments without ever slowing down its breakneck pace. Sure, it doesn't end on a bang (or a baseball bat) like Casino, but the journey you take to get there is ultimately more enjoyable. Again, though, they're both good.

Wind River (2017)

When a girl is found murdered on a Native American reserve in Wyoming, the discovery launches a harrowing investigation led by Cory Lambert, an expert tracker with his own dark past.

It's tempting to say that Jeremy Renner's performance as Lambert is the highlight of Wind River, but the movie is so deftly woven together that there's no one standout. From the gorgeous, icy landscape shots to the heart-pounding pace, Wind River is just an all-around incredible movie. Which shouldn't be a surprise, coming from the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, two similarly intense films.

In this case, Taylor Sheridan has shouldered both writing and directing duties, and Wind River is proof that Sheridan just as talented with a camera as he is with a pen. This is a thriller in the best possible sense, a character-driven murder mystery that'll chill you to the bone. If this one passed you by in 2017, now's your chance to remedy that while it's still on Netflix.

Changeling (2008)

Even though it's often overlooked among Clint Eastwood's other directorial efforts, Changeling is just as powerful as the likes of Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Like those films, Changeling is a study of loss and a character in the grip of barely contained mental strain — the kind that makes her, and the audience, question reality.

Angelina Jolie stars as Christine Collins, whose son goes missing for five months before the police find him and bring him home. Happy ending, right? Not quite. Convinced that the boy returned to her isn't her son, Collins fights back against the LAPD, who in turn label her a crazy woman.

Say what you will about Angelina Jolie, but her performance in Changeling is near flawless as a mother on the brink of losing her sanity, and director Clint Eastwood is in top form from beginning to end. More than anything, Changeling completely immerses you in the world of 1920s America, albeit a more paranoid, thrilling version of 1920s America than you're likely to find in the history books.

City of God (2002)

Visually striking and punishingly brutal, City of God follows several children in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as they grow up surrounded by gang violence. For some kids, it's the only life they'll ever know. As soon as they're old enough to hold a gun, they leave their childhood behind and cross the divide into executions, robberies, and drugs.

But for mild-mannered Rocket, photography is the way out. Even while his childhood friends turn into murderous gangbangers, he's set on leaving that life behind — no matter how hard that lifestyle tries to pull him back.

Director Fernando Meirelles went on to helm the Oscar-winning The Constant Gardener just a few years after City of God, but this is the film that made him a household name in Brazil. The movie just oozes style, and it's definitely worth watching at least once. Pull it up on Netflix; you won't be disappointed.