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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clint Eastwood's transition from actor to respected director couldn't have gone any smoother if he'd smeared it with honey. Although he's been directing movies since 1971, Eastwood really started delivering the goods with 1992's Unforgiven, and it's all been uphill from there. Eastwood's films are gritty, emotional voyages into the depths of the human experience, and you could probably argue that none of his movies capture that more than Million Dollar Baby.

To its credit, nobody ever mistook this for a mere boxing movie, even though it's essentially the story of a plucky young boxer earning her own in the ring. Sure, there's boxing in it, but this is really a story about determination, fear, and honor that gets surprisingly dark as it goes on. Without spoiling anything, the last 30 minutes or so are some of the most harrowing ever put on film. Million Dollar Baby won four Oscars — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actress, and Best Supporting Actor — and it deserved every single one of them.

The Truman Show (1998)

Before 1998, Jim Carrey was just a man of many zany characters. He was Ace Ventura, the Mask, and Lloyd Christmas, a loveable goof whose extreme comedy style could both entertain and alienate, depending on the audience. Then came The Truman Show, and all those oddball layers were stripped away to reveal a serious actor who could be both silly and sincere.

In The Truman Show, Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, a quiet, everyday guy who just so happens to be the star of the world's largest reality show. The catch? Truman doesn't know he's on a show. Since birth, every moment of his life has been filmed and broadcast to the world. All his neighbors and friends — even his wife — are actors in the show. He's never left his hometown, because his hometown is a giant film set inside a dome.

Over the course of the movie, Jim Carrey shows the first inklings of the remarkable depth that he'd later plumb for other serious roles like Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Couple that with beautiful direction and a heartfelt story, and The Truman Show is easily one of the best movies of the late '90s, and one of the best on Netflix right now.

Room (2015)

So this is the formula for Room. You take a room. You put two people in it. And then — and this is the most important part — you center it all around a thrilling, emotional struggle that builds and builds until the entire audience is quietly weeping and questioning everything they thought they knew about life, family, and love.

That's, uh, the important part.

But oh boy, does it work. Once Room starts going, it never slows down. And by the time you realize that watching a kid get rolled up in a carpet was just more nerve-wracking than the entire Insidious franchise, you have no choice but to stick around for the ride.

The beauty of Room comes unquestionably from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who play the mother and son locked in a room. They're visited periodically by a mysterious man with unpleasant motives, and the rest of the time they occupy themselves by playing games, telling stories, and — for Larson's character — trying not to focus on the hell of spending the rest of their lives in the room. It's their bond, with all its ups and downs, that anchors the movie and drives everything that happens. If you've been on the fence about Room, queue it up now and don't worry. It won't disappoint.

Black Panther

During the '90s, Wesley Snipes tried like crazy to get a big-screen version of Marvel's Black Panther into production. For a myriad of reasons, it never quite came together — which turned out to be a good thing, because it allowed Snipes to bring his version of Blade to theaters instead. A couple of extra decades also allowed CGI technology to advance enough to bring the radical, tech-centric world of Wakanda to life. That's just what director Ryan Coogler accomplishes in Black Panther, delivering a vividly realized vision of the fictional nation that appears advanced beyond our wildest dreams, but also feels like human beings actually live there. 

Of course, the high-tech world-building is only part of the fun in Black Panther. Coogler also ingeniously uses the setting as a plot device in a Shakespearean tale of palace politics, tribal traditions, and ideological conflicts. That he populates that narrative with richly developed characters (both heroes and villains) and propels it forward with some of the most electrifying action sequences the MCU has ever seen (the casino scene is a legit all-time great) is what makes the film so much fun to watch. That he also delivers a politically subversive film along the way is what may qualify Black Panther as the best Marvel movie to date.

Brick

There was genuine excitement when Rian Johnson was announced as the director of the middle film in the new Star Wars trilogy. To the surprise of many, the Looper filmmaker wound up delivering the most divisive film in the Star Wars universe, but however you feel about The Last Jedi, it's hard to deny that it's a refreshingly original take on the saga that was crafted with skill, ingenuity, and passion. If you'd been following Johnson's career, you expected nothing less. The director had, after all, been pushing the limits of genre filmmaking since making his feature debut.

For the uninitiated, that debut came in the guise of a slick little neo-noir by the name of Brick. Essentially a Sam Spade detective tale set in a high school, the film is driven by crackling dialogue, superbly drawn characters, an astonishingly complex/intelligent narrative, and a captivating performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. From its riveting opening to its heartbreaking finale, this audacious, often hilarious tale of high schoolers running amok never hits a false note. It gets into your head and refuses to leave — the sort of film that makes you wish you could always be watching it for the first time. Count yourself lucky if you get to experience it that way now. Otherwise, relish the chance to revisit the shifty, noir-drenched delight that is Brick.

Out of Sight

The year was 1989, and a brash young director by the name of Steven Soderbergh had just stunned Sundance with his debut narrative feature Sex, Lies, and Videotape, setting the table for the filmmaker to take Hollywood by storm. Soderbergh, it seems, had other plans. While he's widely viewed as one of the most important voices in American cinema today, he spent most of the '90s honing his unique vision with largely experimental films that flew under the Hollywood radar, and it wasn't until 1998 that he brought his vision to a legit mainstream release.

With George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in the leads, adapted from a book by legendary crime scribe Elmore Leonard, and released by Universal Pictures, Soderbergh's Out of Sight is no less edgy than his artier fare — a stylishly ambitious, meticulously realized crime drama that also scores a few hearty laughs and includes a genuinely (if wildly unconventional) romantic narrative. He also drew career-best work from his cast, with Lopez and Albert Brooks in particular delivering performances that really should've gotten more awards talk. Out of Sight showed up at the Oscars with nominations for screenwriter Scott Frank and legendary editor, Anne V. Coates; 20 years after its release, it remains one of Soderbergh's finest moments, and a must-see for fans of crime fiction.

The Witch

With new classics hitting theaters or streaming platforms almost every week, genre fans are experiencing what appears to be a full-on horror renaissance — and Robert Eggers' haunting, New England-set folktale The Witch is one of the films that helped set the bar for current horror trends. Eggers' masterfully executed chiller wowed audiences at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and actually made a few bucks in its initial theatrical release, even if it didn't exactly set the box office on fire. It didn't fare quite as well when the folks at A24 cleverly re-released the film on 666 screens a couple of months later.

Behind marvelous critical buzz and equally solid word of mouth, The Witch has more than found its audience after the fact, with many hailing it as the one of the best horror films of the decade. We're inclined to agree. Eggers' film follows a 17th century family whose devoutly puritanical existence falls apart under the weight of unspeakable tragedies, which may or may not be the cause of an evil lurking in a nearby forest and a demon spirit inhabiting the family goat. That last bit may sound silly, but there's nothing to scoff at in The Witch. Eggers' film is a bleak, intensely atmospheric study in gothic Americana that features a star-making turn from Ana Taylor-Joy. It's the sort of film that you simply have to see to believe. And if you haven't, well, prepare thyself to live deliciously.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

In the pantheon of video game movies, there have been far more misses than hits. There was a time when the same could've been said about graphic novel adaptations as well. That Scott Pilgrim vs. The World arrived in theaters as both a video game flick and a graphic novel adaptation was reason enough to get excited about it in 2010. That the film was also directed by Edgar Wright — then a burgeoning cult icon hot off the success of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz — was reason to be downright impatient for the film.

Wright delivered the goods with Pilgrim, crafting an action-packed, genre-busting romantic comedy with enough razor-sharp wit and eight-bit charm to claim success on both the video game and adaptation fronts. It also featured a hip young cast including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth WInstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Schwartzman, not to mention scene-stealing appearances from future MCU stars Chris Evans and Brie Larson. With that pedigree (and reviews to match), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World seemed destined for box office glory. That didn't happen. In fact, the film was an outright bomb that seemed doomed to claim little more than "cult classic" status. Luckily, Wright's hipster opus found second life on video, and is now counted amongst the director's best work. If you've been sleeping on that fact, now's the time to get into the game.

The Shining

In the winter of 1977, Doubleday Books published the third novel from an up-and-coming writer by the name of Stephen King. Thick with moody scares and a bone-chilling narrative, The Shining was instantly heralded as one of the scariest horror novels ever written. It also served as the source material for one of the scariest horror films ever made in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. While hardcore fans of King's book — including King himself — are generally quick to deride Kubrick's film, few can argue that Kubrick's moody, slow-burning nightmare of a movie matches (at times even surpasses) King's source material. 

He does so by focusing less on the characters from KIng's original, and a little more on the ominous, supernaturally charged environment they inhabit. As haunted houses go, the stoic, isolated Overlook Hotel, with its winding hallways, hushed interiors, and scores of empty (and not so empty) rooms is one you won't soon forget. Kubrick sees to that by letting his camera stalk through its every cursed corner with an eerily omnipotent menace. He doubles down on the film's relentless unease by giving face to the hotel's evils in deeply unsettling ways, and then letting those evils shine through in the twisted eyes of Jack Nicholson, who delivers nothing short of an iconically unhinged performance. However you feel about the source material, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining remains a staggering achievement in cinematic horror that will forever change the way you view the genre — not to mention the way you view elevator doors.

Her

One of the primary functions of cinema is to act as a sort of mirror image of the real world. In the case of science fiction cinema, the scope of that mirroring seeks to show not just the world as is, but the world as it may become. If Spike Jonze's wildly romantic, Oscar-winning sci-fi drama Her is any indication, artificial intelligence is going to complicate our lives in ways we cannot yet fathom — and probably sooner than we think. 

Set in a vividly realized, not-too-distant future, Her follows a kind, lonely man who finds love in a most unexpected place — with an AI-driven operating system named Samantha. On paper, that plot sounds a bit ridiculous, and in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, it probably would've been. With Jonze at the helm, Her's potentially silly setup becomes a tenderly observed study of longing for and finding connection in a tech-obsessed world driven to isolationism. 

At the center of that world is a transcendent performance from Joaquin Phoenix, who brings a warmth, wit, and compassion to this role barely glimpsed in his prior work — not to mention a scene-stealing turn from Amy Adams and dynamic voice work from Scarlett Johansson, who makes a fully developed character of her artificial persona. As a sci-fi film, Her is a towering, deeply personal achievement in style and substance. As a social document, it's an all-too-prescient reflection on the world as it likely will be. If you don't believe that, just ask Alexa what she thinks.

The Endless

In 2015, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead teamed up to deliver a wildly innovative, Lovecraftian romance about a young man falling in love with a mysterious woman while traveling in Europe. It was called Spring, and despite scoring well with critics — who lauded its genre-bending ambition — not many people actually saw it. Those who did likely discovered Spring on Netflix, where the film eventually garnered its well-deserved "cult classic" status. 

Fans of that film were quick to hail Benson and Moorhead as filmmakers to watch, anxiously awaiting the duo's next innovative offering. It arrived in The Endless, another critically acclaimed, mind-bending genre mashup that finds Benson and Moorhead following a similarly grounded, slow-burning dramatic approach to horror/sci-fi tropes while expanding their cinematic palette in ways their genre peers have yet to dare.  

This go-round, Benson and Moorhead spin a complex tale of two brothers who make the fateful decision to revisit the "alien death cult" they managed to escape in their youth. That's all the synopsis you're gonna get from us, because part of The Endless' narrative magic is uncovering the film's unnerving existential mysteries for yourself. Just know that whatever you think you know as the film untangles its intricately woven web, you're probably wrong. That's a good thing, by the way — and further proof that The Endless is almost certain to cement Benson and Moorhead as two of the most daring genre/cult filmmakers of this generation.

Hold the Dark

Over the past decade, Jeremy Saulnier has gone from the little-known writer/director behind the kooky, no-budget cult favorite Murder Party into a bona fide indie auteur. One whose penchant for tightly wound, blood-soaked narratives about normal people in impossibly tense scenarios led to the formidable one-two punch of 2013's caustic revenge tale Blue Ruin and 2016's gory, punk-tinged drama Green Room.

Those films worked because Saulnier had all but unfettered creative control over each. Saulnier found even more freedom with Netflix when he set his sights on the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness to shoot Hold the Dark, and it's a big reason his latest opus is one of his best offerings to date.

Adapted from William Giraldi's novel of the same name, Hold the Dark follows a tracker/wilderness writer (Jeffrey Wright) called to an isolated Alaskan village to hunt down a pack of wolves who may have killed a local boy — and he quickly finds nothing is quite what it seems in the eerily secretive community. We wouldn't dream of spoiling those secrets; just know that, as a mystery, Hold the Dark unfolds under an icy cloud of ambiguity, but those who stick with Saulnier's harrowing journey will find a bold, fiery beast of a tale about loss, regret, lust, and vengeance that functions simultaneously as existential mystery, survival drama, and straight up slasher. Yes, that combination is as confounding and enthralling as it sounds, and it's why Hold the Dark is an absolute must-see.