Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

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, including plenty of titles that are well worth watching even though they might not have attracted the audience they deserved at the box office—or missed theaters entirely on the way to home video.

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.

Earthquake Bird (2019)

Sometimes the scariest parts of a scary movie don't come from monsters or gore, but from menace and dread. That's what propels the precisely paced Earthquake Bird, based on the novel of the same name by Susanna Jones. Alicia Vikander of Ex Machina returns to the kind of moody, unsettling cinema that made her famous, portraying Lucy, a Swedish expatriate who has settled into a life in 1989 Tokyo that is repetitive, bland, and mundane by design, as she's looking to flee from and forget past traumas. She works as a translator, living alone while maintaining some low-key friendships and playing cello in a string quartet. 

One day, Lucy meets Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi), a noodle shop worker and aspiring photographer. She enchants him and lets him make portraits of her, but just when it seems like her icy veneer is starting to thaw, Lucy's life is interrupted by a brash American named Lily (Riley Keough), who goes missing and is presumed dead. Is the mysterious Lucy responsible, either via conscious act or her status as a tragedy magnet? Or is she merely an unreliable narrator? Gabriel Silver of the Detroit Metro Times calls Earthquake Bird "an enjoyable neo-noir film, with enough twists and turns to leave you thinking long after the ending."

Beyond Skyline (2017)

B-movies tend to get a bad rap thanks to their low budgets and terrible acting and poorly vetted scripts, and let's be honest — Beyond Skyline fits snugly into most of those categories. The basic plot is this: Aliens invade Earth using some high-tech blue lights that turn people into zombies so the aliens can harvest their brains. Enter Frank Grillo, an alcoholic cop with who punches the aliens hard enough to make them regret invading Earth. It's technically a sequel to 2010's Skyline, although all the characters are different and it seems to take place at roughly the same time as the first movie, just from different perspectives. Let's call it a poor man's Cloverfield franchise and move on, because none of that is really important.

What takes Beyond Skyline to the next level is the amount of effort and love the filmmakers clearly put into it. It's chock full of design elements that someone clearly spent weeks perfecting, only for any one element to get just a few seconds onscreen. It's the kind of attention to detail you expect from a big-budget blockbuster, and even then you don't always get it. If Beyond Skyline gets one thing right, it's carrying that passion through to the audience. Also, it's a lot of fun. If you have a soft spot for surprisingly good genre movies, check it out.

Pandora (2017)

It should be a crime to make a disaster movie this emotional. Pandora is like if San Andreas ended with the Rock killing Mufasa in front of Simba. There's just no law-abiding reason to give an average, run-of-the-mill movie like this so much heart, and yet there it is — the music is swelling, the credits are rolling, and you're wiping tears from your eyes like it's the first time you stubbed your toe. It's absolutely uncalled for, and people should be punished.

Anyway, Pandora is about a nuclear reactor that goes haywire after an earthquake, endangering a small South Korean town. After that, there's about an hour and a half of government people trying to make sure they weren't to blame. Elsewhere, people try to escape the inevitable explosion when the cooling rods stop being...cold enough, maybe. It doesn't matter. Play Temple Run if you want. Snapchat your sister.

But stick around, because out of nowhere it transforms into something so beautiful and touching you can't help but wonder if Netflix's autoplay switched movies without you noticing. And okay — the rest of Pandora isn't that bad. It's an extremely well-made film, but the ending is where all the pieces finally come together into a heartbreakingly beautiful kaleidoscope. Then again, maybe it just looked that way because we were watching it through our tears.

Evolution (2001)

Apart from Futurama, Ghostbusters, and Men in Black, there aren't many movies and TV shows hyper-aware of the absurd, ridiculous situations in which their characters are placed. But sci-fi and comedy fans alike prefer to keep their genres pure, so there are relatively few sci-fi comedies out there. It's takes a delicate touch to balance the weird and silly, and with Evolution, director Ivan Reitman treats an alien invasion the same way he treated the supernatural in Ghostbusters. 

Complete and total madcap chaos begins after a meteor crashes on Earth... thus leaving its single-cell organisms to grow and fester. Aliens are aliens even if they're tiny, but before long, they've evolved into nasty, humanity-threatening monsters. It's up an unlikely and ill-prepared individuals to put a stop to it. Among them are a community college professor (alien-proficient David Duchovny from The X-Files), an amateur fireman (Seann William Scott), and a geologist (Orlando Jones). Evolution is just as unabashedly crazy, boundary-pushing, and often as gross as Reitman's better-known film.

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer takes place on the last day of summer 1981 at Camp Firewood, and at first, it seems like it'll be an amusing send-up of 1980s summer camp movies. But then the film gloriously descends into madness, becoming one of the most unabashedly silly movies of all time. That's to be expected, as it's directed by David Wain, later to helm Wanderlust and Role Models, and former member of the State, a comedy collective that had its own popular sketch show on MTV in the mid-'90s. 

Wain co-wrote with State member Showalter, who also appears alongside future stars Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, and H. Jon Benjamin (Bob from Bob's Burgers) as a talking can of vegetables who counsels camp cook Gene (Christopher Meloni) into being proud that he likes to "fondle sweaters." That's not remotely the weirdest thing in a movie that features Skylab crashing, the casual deaths of multiple campers, an '80s-style training montage, a vaudeville comedian, counselors ducking into the nearest town for french fries and heroin, and Elizabeth Banks trying to seduce Rudd while her face is covered in barbecue sauce.

Fullmetal Alchemist (2017)

Hate on it all you want. Just go ahead and squeeze all that hate out. Is the live-action version of Fullmetal Alchemist as good as the anime? Not even close. Is it cheesy and hilarious and full of moments that blow your mind? Oh, you bet.

For newcomers to the whole thing, the story is about two brothers with a natural inclination for alchemy (the "science" of making things out of other things) who attempt to bring their mother back to life. Things go horribly wrong, and one brother ends up with his soul trapped in a suit of armor while the other loses an arm and a leg. When they're older, they search for the mythical philosopher's stone in the hopes of restoring their bodies.

As far as anime adaptations go, Fullmetal Alchemist is arguably one of the best out there. It doesn't cover the whole story, but it serves as an origin tale and works as a self-contained story that even non-fans can enjoy. That is, you can enjoy it if you already like over-the-top Asian action fantasies. That's all this is.

Spectral (2016)

Sci-fi thrillers with style can feel awfully hard to come by. If that's your kind of thing, chances are you've probably seen all the good ones (and way too many bad ones), which makes Spectral even more of an unexpected treat and a definite Netflix hidden gem. Following a team of U.S. Special Forces soldiers who stumble across a mysterious new enemy while they're off on assignment in Moldova, Spectral jacks the action up into the stratosphere with lightning-quick combat scenes and several nail-biting moments of true, unadulterated terror. The present-day war-torn environment grounds the action even as the movie leaps into the realm of pure science fiction. In the end, Spectral admittedly falls short of cinematic perfection, but it still more than 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.

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, this brutally effective 2015 drama 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. Beasts of No Nation never had a prayer at the box office—partly due to its uncompromising subject matter, but also because of the ongoing struggle between Netflix and the nation's biggest theater chains, whose execs have resisted the streaming giant's efforts to narrow (or eliminate) the gap between big-screen releases and a film's availability for home viewing. For that reason alone, Beasts missed the boat with most viewers, but this powerfully acted drama definitely deserves to be seen.

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 a good-natured, 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—and the duo get unexpected company when they pick up a hitchhiking Selena Gomez along the way. Road trip dramedies aren't exactly hard to find, and in terms of quality, the genre's familiar narrative arc has long since settled into a predictable rut filled with wacky quests, beautiful vistas, funny montages, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that get swept away in the final act. The Fundamentals of Caring includes most if not all of those time-tested ingredients, but the excellent cast—and writer-director Rob Burnett's deft touch with the material—make the movie's more unsurprising moments easy to forgive, and the whole thing adds up to an enjoyably diverting journey.

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.

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.

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 Trust (2016)

There's nothing particularly amazing to say about The Trust. It's a by-the-numbers heist thriller about two cops who decide to steal a drug dealer's stash of cash via a convoluted plan involving disguises and hi-tech machinery. But if there's one fact of life that separates us from the animals, it's this: anytime Nicolas Cage puts on a mustache and says, "I have an idea... It's kind of wacky," you'd be crazy not to stick around for the ride.

In the end, it's dual leads Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood who elevate The Trust from a forgettable crime whatever into a quirky, fun, still fairly forgettable, but entertaining crime thriller. Wood has an offbeat comedic touch that's hard not to like, and Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage. Even if he's not at full Cage capacity in this movie, he's a good part of the way. He's sailing at half-Cage.

Christine (2016)

We'll come right out and say that there's nothing lighthearted about Christine. Not to be confused with the Stephen King thing about the demonic car, this is a 2016 biopic about Christine Chubbuck, a Florida news reporter who shot herself on live TV. Starring Rebecca Hall in the lead role and Dexter's Michael C. Hall (no relation) as her co-anchor, the movie focuses on Christine's life leading up to the event, and dang, it is nothing less than a sprint through broken glass.

Hall portrays Christine with such power that it's impossible to look away, even while the sense that the elevator's about to drop down the shaft grows to a shrieking crescendo. It's a sad, heartbreaking character study along the lines of Punch-Drunk Love, except that it doesn't even pretend to offer any hope before crushing your soul; it just grabs a hammer and starts breaking off chunks. Is it good? Yes. Will it wither your faith in humanity? Also yes. Look, this is just one of those gems that you'll have to take your chances with.

Blame! (2017)

There seem to be two camps when it comes to this Netflix animated film — those who like the original manga hate the movie, and those who haven't read the manga generally enjoyed it. At least, they enjoyed it if they're the type of person to watch a feature-length anime in the first place.

But love it or hate it, when it comes to fresh takes on the apocalypse, Blame! has most any other futuristic vision beat, hands down. That's what makes this film so intriguing. In a seemingly endless, continually growing city that goes for miles up, down, and in either direction, robots have taken to exterminating humans. But a small band of people has survived for centuries inside an invisible shield that keeps the robots out. They don't know why the robots can't get inside their colony; they just know that going outside means risking life and limb at the hands of predatory robots.

It's only when a stranger comes to their town that they realize there may be a chance to do something about their predicament and finally stop the expansion of the city. It's not a perfect movie, but for vision alone, Blame! is well worth watching.

Bo Burnham: what. (2013)

It'd be a stretch to call what Bo Burnham does on a stage "stand-up comedy." It's more like a one-man show starring a 20-year-old on the verge of a mental breakdown, but with jokes. Yet somehow, there's genius in the madness. Using everything from musical numbers to choreographed skits to poetry readings, Burnham uses his stage time to deliver an irreverent, unforgettable experience.

And while Burnham's other special on Netflix, 2016's Make Happy, is probably a more polished show, his 2013 special what. is nothing short of raw, pitch-perfect insanity. Even if stand-up comedy isn't usually your thing, you'll have a hard time getting through what. without cracking a smile at the very least. There's a battle between two halves of a brain, a story about frogs, and a humble song from the perspective of God, and that's just the beginning. Fair warning though: It can get pretty raunchy, so make sure you put grandma to bed before you queue it up.

He Never Died (2015)

Every now and then, a truly inspired story shows up out of nowhere, then disappears again because the studio didn't have enough of a budget to market it. That had to have been what happened with He Never Died, because there's no other reason it isn't more well known than it is.

In this low-key, darkly funny supernatural movie, Jack is a private man with simple pleasures. He likes to sleep. He likes to play bingo with old people. He likes vegetables. And yet somehow, he keeps getting drawn into situations where his only option is to brutally murder people.

As the movie plays out, it's slowly revealed that there's a lot more to Jack than meets the eye. By the time he's pulling bullets out of his forehead with tweezers, you're trying to figure out not only who he is, but also what he is. Was he really in the Bible? What's with the cannibal thing? Is bingo really that exciting? These are just a few of the fun questions you'll ask yourself as you watch He Never Died. Anchored by an awesome, deadpan performance from lead Henry Rollins, this is definitely a movie worth checking out.

Toast of London (2012)

Netflix ships in a lot of TV shows from around the world, exposing audiences to material they'd never find flipping through a cable lineup. One such show is English cult favorite Toast of London. Matt Berry, the spectacularly voiced star of beloved Britcoms like The IT Crowd and Garth Marenghi's Darkplace co-created and stars as Steven Toast, a London-based stage actor who thinks he's a legend but in reality is forever teetering on the brink of obscurity and oblivion. 

That reality is also rather surreal: Toast of London follows Toast as he stars in critically savaged stage productions, tries to get the attention of his shifty agent, waxes nostalgic about acting triumphs of the past with his flatmate, sleeps with the wife of his personal and professional nemesis Ray Purchase, and makes ends meet doing voiceover work for an odious and hostile producer with the wonderful name of Clem Fandango. As if that wasn't enough, each episode's chaotic absurdity gets cut with melancholy musical numbers expressing Toast's self-doubt and loneliness.

Mindhorn (2016)

In this wry and silly comedy, Julian Barratt, best known for starring in the delightfully weird British series The Mighty Boosh, plays Richard Thorncroft, an actor best known for a sci-fi cop drama from the '80s called Mindhorn, in which he played an investigator who could solve mysteries with the aid of a cybernetic eye. Flash-forward 25 years to the Isle of Man, near where Mindhorn was shot, as police pursue Melly (Russell Tovey), an escaped mental patient wanted for murder. He's willing to cooperate, but only if he can deal with Mindhorn... a fictional character. 

Richard, however, is more than willing to help out police by heading back to the Isle of Man (where his co-star and former lover still lives with their daughter), despite having no actual police skills but really looking to step out of his sad, post-fame existence. There are few funnier places than that spot in the human psyche where delusion meets arrogance, and that is the area where Mindhorn comfortably resides.

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (2018)

Curious Creations is itself a curious creation. It's a showcase for Christine McConnell, an Instagram sensation who constructs hilariously elaborate and impressive cakes, bakery sculptures, and crafts, often with a goth or horror bent. But there's a lot more to the show than making a tea set out of chocolate or cookie Ouija board —it's also darkly hilarious sitcom. It takes place in a fictionalized McConnell's idyllic home... which she shares with puppet creatures. Among them are Rose, a trash-eating talking raccoon with a fork for a hand that McConnell proudly brought back from the dead; Rankle, a mummified cat straight out of ancient Egypt;, and Edgar, a werewolf who almost killed the mail carrier. Other characters pop in, too, like a cousin who tries to burn the whole place down and kill everyone inside, an axe-loving suitor named Norman (as in Bates), and a friendly ghost that lives in her home's mirrors. It's the Addams Family meets The Muppet Show meets Cake Wars you never knew you wanted.

The Lobster (2015)

You've never seen anything like The Lobster. It's a dystopian story, or possibly utopian story, but it doesn't seem to be set in the future... only its version of modern-day life is somewhat askew. In this world, society is so committed to pairing people that those who go too long being single are transformed into animals. These are the stakes facing David (Colin Farrell), who goes to live at a hotel/camp that pairs up lonely hearts before their final 45-day single period ends. (David's dog companion, for example, used to be his brother.) If they have trouble finding a mate (who must have a distinguishing characteristic in common, such as a limp or a lisp), they can buy extra time by going out into the woods to hunt down those who choose to remain unattached (and must subsequently live off the grid). 

David eventually joins up with one of these militant singles collectives and falls in love with another "loner" (Rachel Weisz), but ironically, it's against the rules of the singles group for them to be together. As if all of this wasn't weird enough, the surreal storytelling is taken up a notch by the characters' tendency to speak in stilted, almost rehearsed tones. It all careens toward an ambiguous climax that speaks to the the wild things people will do to find love — and keep it.

Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water takes old fashioned Western movie tropes — outlaws, stoic sheriffs, the need for justice — and sets them in the present day. The result: a story where the bad guys have their understandable reasons for being bad, and the audience may not even want the "good guys" to win. The true villain of Hell or High Water is the economy. 

Facing bank foreclosure on their birthright — the West Texas ranch that's been in the family for years— brothers Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) hatch a plot to get the money to save it. They hit up the very same bank's branches in distant, dusty towns and steal the money they need to essentially pay the bank back its own money. Toby, a divorced dad, is a somewhat reluctant robber, while Tanner is bit of a wild card, an ex-con who seems to delight in the excitement (and violence) of their scheme. 

Jeff Bridges, more grizzled and drawling than ever, plays the brilliant Texas Ranger on their case, a guy just trying to do his job. Audiences will find themselves rooting for the boys to get away with their noble Robin Hoodery... but also rooting for the sheriff because he's a sharp and decent man (and because he's played by Jeff Bridges).

Breath (2017)

Surf movies aren't so much about surfing so much as they are about culture and atmosphere — the people who travel around the world to find the best spots to catch tasty waves, and what it feels like to be out there on the ocean in the early morning hours, at one with nature and one's board. Breath is that kind of movie, a visceral, inviting film that will probably make viewers want to take up surfing as soon as possible.

Breath stars Simon Baker, best known as the pretty-boy star of the CBS crime drama The Mentalist, as Sando, an old hippie surf guru. He mentors two enthusiastic teenage surf newbies in straight-laced Pikelet (Samson Coulter) and bad boy Loonie (Ben Spence). The film is set in Western Australia in the '70s, and Baker also directed and co-wrote the movie, which explores what it means to be a surfer.

Brick (2005)

Years before he wrote and directed the innovative sci-fi gem Looper (no relation) and an obscure little space movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, filmmaker Rian Johnson released Brick, a throwback to gritty, ambient, stylish, and stylized crime noir pictures of the mid-20th century. The main difference: This here detective story is set at a suburban California high school. Imagine a very dark (the titular brick is a load of heroin) slow-burning Veronica Mars, and you've got a good idea of what Brick is like.

Recently dumped teen Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) must unravel a set of vague clues to locate his missing ex-girlfriend that involves a mysterious car, a mysterious cigarette, a weird party, and some guys Brendan definitely shouldn't mess with. It plays like an old mystery novel, but amazingly it's also difficult to predict where it's headed, let alone how it ends. (And unlike every other teen movie ever made, not everybody is guaranteed a happy ending.)

Billy Elliot (2000)

It's the premise of lots of movies — protagonist rises out of bleak circumstances when they exhibit a remarkable talent. But Billy Elliot is different from those other movies because it isn't once treacly or mawkish, and committed first to the authenticity of the setting. Billy Elliot takes place in the coal miner's strike in northeastern England in the mid-1980s, a bleak and poverty-stricken time. From here, Jamie Bell's Billy discovers a a way out — he's a tremendously talented dancer, and an irascible teacher played by Julie Walters wants to help him develop his gifts. (And those are not approved by his family, owing to class, gender, time period, and expense, among other things.)

Billy Elliot has got one of the best dance sequences ever committed to film, as Bell exuberantly bounces through the streets of Newcastle to the tune of the Jam's hard-charging "A Town Called Malice." That scene alone makes this movie, in all honesty, a feel-good romp.

Mississippi Grind (2015)

In between filming huge blockbusters like Deadpool and The Hitman's Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds finds the time to make the occasional quirky indie movie — like this one. Mississippi Grind is a disarming comedy/drama about a grizzled, degenerate gambler (Ben Medelsohn) and the young charmer (Reynolds) with whom he embarks on a road trip full of partying and gambling until they make it to a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans.

There's great chemistry between the two leads, playing near-polar opposites: Mendelsohn's Gerry is a likable loser whose life is a perpetual mess due to his habits (and the actor wears all that experience like a costume), while Reynolds' affable Curtis is seemingly just along for the sake of fun and adventure. Mississippi Grind is ultimately a compellingly realistic movie about gambling, as it captures both the highest highs of a good luck streak turned financially fruitful... as well as the gut-wrenching agony of losing everything in an instant.

Winter's Bone (2010)

Not long before Jennifer Lawrence launched into superstardom with The Hunger Games, portraying a young woman whose ability to make do in the wilderness will serve her well, she played a character as no-nonsense, survival-minded, and in touch with the land as Katniss Everdeen. Rural teenager Ree Dolly literally has to save her family and her home. Her dad cooks meth, but has skipped bail and disappeared, and it's up to her to hunt him down in the mountainous, forested Ozark region and get him to turn himself in, or it'll mean Ree and her whole family will lose their home. 

Feeling like a visceral, American-style Greek tragedy, Ree must travel the spread-out backwoods and pry information out of people who don't want to give it to her (they're all hostile for her not keeping her mouth shut and siding with the authorities rather than her people) while the clock ticks and the stress and doom loom large. It's a bleak, fascinating movie about a culture not often depicted onscreen, and Lawrence proves she's a talent for the ages.

Junebug (2005)

There are lots of movies about small town life, and movies about families where each member is trapped in a certain role forever. Junebug explores those topics, but knows that family is complicated and subtle — in other words, it's realistic. The North Carolina family at the center of Junebug isn't dumb; they don't talk much to each other, but still communicate volumes about their own frustrations about life.

Chicago art dealer Madeline (Embeth Davidtz) marries George (Alessandro Nivola), but his family doesn't attend the wedding. When Madeline goes to sign a folk artist who lives near George's family, they pop in for a visit. George's relatives are recognizable archetypes to anyone with a family: never-wrong matriarch Peg (Celia Weston), stoic and withholding dad Eugene (Scott Wilson), and brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie), a gruff guy bristling under the pressures of adulthood. His high school sweetheart-turned-wife Ashley (Amy Adams) is nine months pregnant. Adams steals the movie as Ashley — sweet, kind, genuinely interested in others — but Adams resists the easy route to play her character as a simpleton (she got her first Academy Award nomination in the process). The family's problems aren't and won't be easily solved, but hey, there's progress.

Penelope (2006)

Remember that old episode of The Twilight Zone, about the woman who thinks she's ugly because she doesn't have the same pig-like nose as the rest of the world? Okay, now imagine that as a quirky romantic comedy injected with some class satire, and a message about how looks ideally don't matter in affairs of the heart. With a nod to her Addams Family past, Christina Ricci portrays Penelope Wilhern, a twentysomething in a line of independently wealthy socialites. And just as many royal houses of Europe are afflicted by some kind of physical abnormality due to generations of shallow gene-pooling, the Wilherns face a similar fate: She has a little piggy nose. 

That nose will become "normal" only when she breaks her family's curse and finds true love with someone of "her own kind." A tabloid hires a sleazy guy named Max (James McAvoy) to pretend to be interested in Penelope so he can take a picture of the reclusive heiress. You can probably guess what happens between Max and Penelope, but that's just one part of her journey to decide to live her life — curse or no curse, pig nose or otherwise.