There are literally thousands of hours worth of content to watch on Netflix, so why is it that when we see the trademark red ‘N’ pop up on screen, we suddenly have no idea what we’re in the mood to see?
Netflix has established itself not only as the leader in the best streaming services, but since the pandemic, it has consistently been able to churn out new movies, the best documentaries, great TV series and specials while many major networks and film studios have been forced to shorten and delay seasons and films, or cancel shows completely.
The streaming giant has no shortage of critically acclaimed content. Comedy specials with Dave Chappelle, Hannah Gadsby and Neal Brennen are must-sees. Documentaries like Ava Duvernay’s 13th to My Octopus Teacher are entertaining and educational, and every pop star from Ariana to Beyonce, Gaga to Taylor have a Netflix special. For those looking to connect to their teenage daughter, YA films like Moxie and To All The Boys are actually really good (seriously!).
When it comes to original movies, Netflix has been quietly establishing itself as one of the most important production companies in Hollywood. Previously enjoying only the odd hit, the pandemic and its effect on movie theatres has made Netflix a major player, with Oscar winners now regularly being released by the streamer.
If you’re looking to stay in for movie night (because really, who is going out yet?) but aren’t sure what to watch, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best films to watch right now on Netflix. Bum bummm.
1. Concrete Cowboy
Healing through horses, and fractured father and son relationships aren’t exactly new territory on screen, but what about when the animals featured are walking down city blocks in Philadelphia? Loosely based on very real Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, producer Idris Elba plays an absentee father who reconnects with his son, played by Stranger Things’ star Caleb McLaughlin. The pair mend their strained relationship through their shared love of horses while battling over drug dealing and years of estrangement. Add in Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome and Method Man and include Lee Daniels as a producer and you’ve got the making of a film that is far from anything audiences have seen before.
2. The White Tiger
Having fallen in love with Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger, we were a little skeptical about whether a film could do the book justice. Director and writer Ramin Bahrani managed to capture the most important themes and moments from the original, successfully bringing Adiga’s words to life on screen in the 2021 Netflix film. Starring Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Rajkummer Rao and newcomer Adarsh Gourav, the film tells the story of a servant who uses the principles of a rare white tiger to claw his way out of poverty. The film highlights the massive divide between classes in India and explores themes of wealth, religious persecution, family, and the desire to succeed no matter the cost.
3. Set It Up
Netflix has cornered the market on rom-coms, from the holidays to the Hallmark-esque. Some are good, like Always Be My Maybe and Someone Great and some are…not. Set It Up is one of the best. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell play the assistants to Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs, who are at their best as the world’s worst bosses. In order to have an actual personal life, Deutch and Powell’s characters devise a plan to set up their bosses. Not surprisingly, they catch feelings for each other along the way and the plan may or may not blow up in their faces. It’s a rom-com, so you can kinda guess how it plays out, but the film is smart, funny, and endearing. Plus, it’ll make you feel better that your boss isn’t as bad as Diggs or Liu. Hopefully. If they are, it’s time to quit.
4. The Old Guard
When listing the best action stars of the 21st Century, Charlize Theron should be at the top. From 2 Days In The Valley to Atomic Blonde, the Oscar winner has continually proven she can take and throw a punch with the best of them on screen, but never has she been fiercer than in director Gina Prince-Blythewood’s The Old Guard. Based on Greg Rucka’s comic book, the film follows a group of soldiers led by Theron’s Andy. The soldiers have been saving the world for centuries thanks to their unique set of skills, including their inability to die. The film instantly became one of the biggest original vehicles to ever premiere on Netflix and a sequel is expected in the near future.
5. Bad Trip
Missing the days of Jackass? Are you wanting to watch Dumb and Dumber for the 15th time? Put your two ridiculous loves together and enjoy Eric Andre, Lil Rey Howery and Tiffany Haddish in the outrageous Bad Trip. The semi-scripted comedy follows Andre and Howery’s characters on a cross-country trip as they drive towards Andre’s dream girl while being chased by Haddish’s character, who has recently escaped from jail and wants her ‘Bad Bitch’ car back. No surprise, this is the same car taking the men on their not-so heroic journey. Fake gorillas are involved in sexual assaults, projectile vomit covers a honky-tonk, and innocent bystanders quickly learn how they would react in an extreme situation. Some fare better than others. Turn off your brain and turn on your penchant for penis jokes (three words: Chinese finger trap) and enjoy Bad Trip.
6. Bird Box
There’s been no shortage of post-apocalyptic films made, but Bird Box stands out from the rest for its brilliant terror. Sandra Bullock leads the impressive ensemble cast and plays a woman attempting to protect her children against the deadly ‘entities’ that are threatening humankind. The film is terrifying, violent, and has no shortage of nightmare-inducing moments. If you’re looking for a horror film with more than just cheap scares, Bird Box will stay with you for days. And we thought driving a bus was stressful for Sandy.
In a gripping drama set in post-World War II Mississippi, racism and PTSD are displayed in visceral performances by Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige. The devastating film examines the realities of being Black in the South during the 1940s, where even being a war hero still isn’t enough to be treated like a human. Mudbound was one of the first original Netflix films to take home some serious award show accolades. Mary J. Blige made history by earning a Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song nomination at the Golden Globes for the same film. Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars and director Dee Rees was the first Black woman ever nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.
8. The Irishman
It’s rare to ever have so many acting giants together at once on-screen and Netflix managed to score the ultimate A-list gangster cast in 2019. Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel all together in one film to tell a fictional account of the events surrounding the very real disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa? And directed by Martin Scorsese? We’re in for all three hours and 29 minutes (you may want to make this a two-nighter).
9. The Two Popes
Most places of worship have gone virtual during the pandemic, so it seems fitting to watch one of the biggest moments in the Catholic Church unfold on-screen. Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce deliver a masterclass in acting while portraying Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Based on fact but put together with conversations that are largely fictional, the film tells the mostly true story of the two Popes coming together to find a place for Catholicism in the 21st century. The church still has a long way to go in making all members feel welcomed, but the film provides a rarely seen glimpse behind the walls of the Vatican.
10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Broadway and theatres around the world have been closed for over a year and we’re still months away from seeing live entertainment, but with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, moviegoers can feel like they’re back in the theatre. Chadwick Boseman shines in his final role as Levee, a troubled trumpet player who clashes with Blues legend Ma Rainey. Viola Davis took home a well-deserved Oscar for her stunning turn as the music icon and Boseman’s final curtain call was celebrated by just about every major award show except the Academy Awards. It’s not like this is the first time they’ve got things wrong.