Netflix has plenty of movies to watch, but it’s a real mixed bag. Sometimes finding the right film at the right time can seem like an impossible task. Fret not, we’re here to help. Below is a list of some of our favorites currently on the streaming service—from dramas to comedies to thrillers.
If you decide you’re in more of a TV mood, head over to our collection of the best TV series on Netflix. Want more? Check out our lists of the best sci-fi movies, best movies on Amazon Prime, and the best flicks on Disney+.
A breakup movie that is really about the joy of female friendship and the pain of growing old, Someone Great is powered by three great performances from Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise. Rodriguez stars as Jenny, a journalist who simultaneously lands her dream job in San Francisco and breaks up with her boyfriend of nine years. To lift her out of her gloom, Jenny enlists her two best friends for one last adventure in New York City. Although the film sets itself up as a series of comic capers (like Superbad or Dazed and Confused), it really finds its heart in the relationship between the three leads and their mutual support as they attempt to muddle through life—it’s like picking up with the cast of Booksmart and finding out they’ve really gotten into drugs in the intervening 13 years.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
How much does Akira Tendo (Eiji Akaso) hate his soul-crushing, meaningless, abusive office job? Put it this way: He considers the zombie apocalypse an improvement. Freed from the shackles of workaday monotony, Akira and a handful of fellow survivors are now free to do everything they ever wanted—so long as they can avoid becoming undead flesh-eaters themselves. Adapted from the manga by Haro Aso (creator of Alice in Borderland) and Kotaro Takata, this raucous zom-com is packed with gloriously stupid moments—zombie shark fight!—but with a central theme of learning how to truly live for yourself, it has plenty of heart too.
They Cloned Tyrone
Drug dealer Fontaine (John Boyega) got shot to death last night. So why has he just woken up in bed as if nothing happened? That existential question leads Fontaine and two unlikely allies—prostitute Yo-Yo (Teyonah Parris) and pimp Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx)—to uncovering a vast conspiracy centered on a Black-majority town called The Glen, where people are kept mollified by hypnotic rap music, dumbed down with drug-laced fried chicken and grape juice, and preached into obedience at church. But who’s using the town as a petri dish, and why is there a cloning lab buried underground? This lethally sharp satire from writer and debut director Juel Taylor masterfully blends genres, from the use of visual motifs and dated clichés from 1970s Blaxploitation cinema to its frequent steps into sci-fi territory and laugh-out-loud comedy. But it’s the powerhouse performances from its central cast that mark this as one to watch.
Rama (Iko Uwais) is a rookie officer in Indonesia’s Brimob—think SWAT—and he’s about to have a very bad day. As part of a 20-man squad set to raid an apartment building controlled by criminal kingpin Tama (Ray Sahetapy), Rama and his colleagues have to fight through floor after floor—but Tama controls the tower’s power and has a legion of hardened criminals at his disposal, making every step a fierce struggle. With its groundbreaking (not to mention bone-breaking) fight choreography, stunning stunt work, and phenomenal cinematography, director Gareth Evans’ ferocious action epic set a new standard for the genre back in 2011. More than a decade later, it’s as fresh and exciting as ever—catch it before the remake.
tick, tick … BOOM!
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut sees Andrew Garfield as playwright Jonathan Larson, the real life creator of Rent, struggling to finish his signature work while approaching his totemic 30th birthday. An adaptation of Larson’s own semi-autobiographical stage musical—produced posthumously, premiering in 2001—Miranda’s cinematic take perfectly captures the tortures of the creative process, charting Larson’s years-long battle to cement a legacy and exploring how perfectionism can be a demon. In reality, Larson passed away in January 1996, the same day as Rent‘s preview performance off-Broadway, a sad fact that lends tick, tick … BOOM! a sense of even greater urgency amidst its joyous musical performances.
Matilda the Musical
The classic family fable returns to the screen, via the Broadway and West End stages, in this musical update. You know the story—precocious schoolgirl Matilda (Alisha Weir) uses her newfound telekinetic powers to outwit the sadistic school principal Agatha Trunchbull (a deliciously wicked Emma Thompson) with only the kindhearted Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) on her side—but here it’s bolstered with toe-tapping numbers from Tim Minchin and some phenomenal choreography. With an appropriately dark sense of humor throughout, channeling the mischievous spirit of the source material, this new Matilda will charm a whole new generation of delinquents.
Shapeshifter Nimona can become anything she wants, a gift that causes people to fear and shun her. If society is going to treat her like a villain, she’s going to be one, so she decides to become the sidekick of the hated black knight, Ballister Blackheart. Unfortunately for the aspiring menace, Blackheart isn’t quite the monster he’s made out to be, and he instead tries to rein in Nimona’s more murderous tendencies as he seeks to clear his name of a crime he didn’t commit—and face down his old friend Ambrosius Goldenloin in the process. Adapted from N. D. Stevenson’s groundbreaking graphic novel, Nimona is more than just another fanciful fantasy—it’s a tale of outsiders and exiles, people trying to do right even when their community rejects them, and the joy of finding their own little band along the way. After an almost decade-long journey to the screen, this dazzlingly animated movie has become an instant classic.
An exploration of the origins of the “conversion therapy” movement—a harmful and medically denounced process through which religious groups try to “cure” homosexuality—may not make for light entertainment, but this searing look at the practice and its roots is darkly compelling. Director Kristine Stolakis speaks with key founders of the movement and survivors of the often brutal treatments that arose over nearly half a century and offers insight into both. Pray Away is a difficult watch at times—especially for LGBTQ+ viewers—but it shines an important light on the movement and the damage it causes. A bold debut for Stolakis.
In Disclosure, director Sam Feder points a wide lens at the representation of transgender people in movies and television. Starting with the earliest depictions in the silent film era, Feder examines moments when trans people were the butt of jokes in 1980s sitcoms and ends with the better—although far from perfect—onscreen portrayals seen in recent years. The doc also asks viewers to reconsider some Hollywood favorites, such as Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and even Mrs. Doubtfire, and look at ways they have furthered harmful or mocking stereotypes about gender diversity. Filled with insightful interviews from trans actors and creators—including Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, Pose’s Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, and The Matrix’s Lilly Wachowski—and with a particular emphasis on Black trans talent, Disclosure is an important documentary, now more than ever.
The Boys in the Band
Set in New York City in 1968, The Boys in the Band is a snapshot of gay life a year before Stonewall brought LGBTQ+ rights to mainstream attention. When Michael (Jim Parsons, fresh from The Big Bang Theory) hosts a birthday party for his best frenemy Harold (Zachary Quinto), he’s expecting a night of drinks, dancing, and gossip with their inner circle—until Alan, Michael’s straight friend from college, turns up, desperate to share something. As the night wears on, personalities clash, tempers fray, and secrets threaten to come to the surface in director Joe Mantello’s tense character study. Adapted for the screen by Mart Crowley, author of the original stage play, this period piece manages to be as poignant an exploration of queer relationships and identities as ever.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
If you’re not an American boomer, the juxtaposition of the city of Chicago and the number 7 might mean little to you, but the formula stands for one of the causes célèbres of the ’60s. As anti-war, civil rights, and hippie activists involved in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Seven (theoretically eight) were picked as convenient scapegoats after the unrest was crushed at the behest of Mayor Richard Daley. The trial happened at the very end of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency—with the US reeling from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr and Vietnam still devouring thousands of young people—and it came to encapsulate the tensions tearing the country’s social fabric asunder. Director Aaron Sorkin takes a lot of liberties with historical facts (and leaves out some hilarious bits, like poet Allen Ginsberg’s testimony, which would have made for a showstopper), but The Trial of the Chicago 7 largely succeeds in conveying the sense of generational score-settling the court battle came to signify.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
You either “get” the Eurovision Song Contest or you don’t—and chances are if you’re outside of Europe, you don’t. But whether you can recite every winner back to 1956 or have only maybe-sorta heard of ABBA, this Will Ferrell passion project (his Swedish wife, actress Viveca Paulin, hooked him on the contest) will entertain you. Following Icelandic singer-songwriter duo Fire Saga—Ferrell as Lars Erickssong and Rachel McAdams as his besotted bandmate Sigrit Ericksdóttir—it’s got something for everyone. For the Eurovision faithful, it’s a loving nod to the long-running music competition, packed with gleefully camp in-jokes and scene-stealing cameos from Eurovision royalty. To the uninitiated, it’s a wild, weird comedy with plenty of hilariously farcical turns and enough catchy tunes to convert newcomers into Eurovision acolytes. Bonus: You’ll finally understand the “shut up and play Ja Ja Ding Dong!” meme.
Zombie movies often take themselves too seriously—but “serious” isn’t something the Zombieland franchise can be accused of. Released in 2009, Zombieland reenergized the horror-comedy genre with a loose-knit group of survivors—college student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), talented zombie slayer Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and supersmart sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin)—searching for sanctuary from the undead. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s wry and self-aware script plays gleefully with the constraints of the zombie apocalypse, wringing laughs from Columbus’ narrated survival rules and Tallahassee’s obsession with Twinkies. But it’s an incredible cameo by Bill Murray as himself that elevates the whole film. Clever, funny, and just the right level of gory, Zombieland is a blast.
The Two Popes
At first glance, The Two Popes is not a gripping proposition: a film where two very old men in religious garb talk a lot, walk around a little bit, and then talk some more. But top-notch performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins and a stellar script from Anthony McCarten turn this prosaic premise into a film worth watching. Loosely inspired by true events, it follows Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) as he tries to convince Pope Benedict XVI to accept his resignation. The two men couldn’t be more different—Benedict is an archconservative desperate to cling to tradition, while Bergoglio is seen as a dangerous liberalizer who might erode the Church’s authority. While the two men battle out their differences, the future of Catholicism hangs in the balance.
Headed by Jamie Foxx, this horror-action-comedy hybrid sets the night-bound tropes of the vampire genre against a sun-drenched Los Angeles backdrop, with Foxx’s struggling slayer, Bud Jablonski, stuck on the vampire-hunter union’s lower-paying day shift. Bureaucratic union rep Seth (Dave Franco) keeps tabs as the bickering buddy cop vibe makes way for a high-stakes battle to save Bud’s family from a vampire with ambitions of godhood. Through it all, director J. J. Perry shows off the tricks he picked up as stunt coordinator on the John Wick and Fast & Furious franchises. With an awareness of its own ludicrous concept and a willingness to go wildly over the top—Snoop Dogg steals scenes as rotary-cannon-wielding veteran slayer Big John—Day Shift delivers some of the most inventive fanger fights committed to film. It’s horror-comedy brain candy, but for a delightfully dumb action flick, this is one of the freshest in years.
For the Love of Spock
Directed by Leonard Nimoy’s son Adam Nimoy, this looks at the life and career of the famed Star Trek actor and the pop cultural impact of his role as the highly logical science officer of the USS Enterprise. The documentary merges classic on-set and behind-the-scenes footage with interviews from Nimoy’s original Trek castmates, as well as actors and creators influenced by him—including Zachary Quinto, who played a younger Spock in the rebooted movie series—and even personal family photos, for an in-depth look at Nimoy’s career. Despite having begun as a Star Trek anniversary project, For the Love of Spock evolves into a celebration of Nimoy’s life beyond the bridge of a famous spaceship. It’s not just fan service for Star Trek fans—this also examines the sometimes rocky relationship between the elder Nimoy and his son, making for an even more personal and sometimes difficult viewing experience for those who are only familiar with Spock the character, rather than Nimoy the man.
To her friends, Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) is a successful events executive and dedicated single mother to her daughter, Jae-yeong (Kim Si-a). In reality, she’s the star performer at MK Ent—an assassination bureau, where her almost superhuman ability to predict every step in a critical situation has earned her a 100 percent success rate and killer reputation. The only problem: She’s considering retiring at the end of her contract, a decision that opens her to threats from disgruntled enemies and ambitious colleagues alike. While its title and premise not-so-subtly evoke Tarantino’s Kill Bill, director Byun Sung-hyun takes this Korean action epic to giddy heights with some of the most impressive fights committed to screen since, well, Kill Bill.
Before winning Oscars and cementing his name in the Hollywood firmament for Parasite, Bong Joon-ho had something of a sideline in creature features. While 2006’s The Host remains worth hunting down, this 2017 saga of genetic engineering and animal exploitation may be the director’s best foray into the genre. After helping raise an enhanced “super pig” in rural South Korea, young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) is distraught when the American company behind its creation, Mirando, comes to take it back. Falling in with a group of Animal Liberation Front activists, Mija travels to Mirando’s headquarters in New York in a desperate effort to rescue her unlikely animal friend. Darkly satirical in places, Okja manages to explore themes of animal exploitation and environmental conservation without feeling preachy.
In a world already ravaged by a zombie-like plague, Andy Rose (Martin Freeman) only wants to keep his family safe, sticking to Australia’s rural back roads to avoid infection. After his wife is tragically bitten, and infects him in turn, Andy is desperate to find a safe haven for his infant daughter, Rosie. With a mere 48 hours until he succumbs himself, Andy finds an ally in Thoomi (Simone Landers), an Aboriginal girl looking to protect her own rabid father. But with threats from paranoid survivalists and Aboriginal communities hunting the infected, it may already be too late. A unique twist on the zombie apocalypse, Cargo abandons the familiar urban landscapes of the genre for the breathtaking wilds of Australia and offers a slower, character-led approach to the end of the world.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The modern master of the macabre brings the wooden would-be boy to life like never before in this exquisitely animated take on Pinocchio. In a stop-motion masterpiece that hews closer to the original 1880s tale by Carlo Collodi than the sanitized Disney version, Guillermo del Toro adds his own signature touch and compelling twists to the classic story that make it darkly enchanting—expect a Blue Fairy closer to a biblically accurate many-eyed angel and a Terrible Dogfish more like a kaiju. It’s the decision to transplant the tale to World War II that’s most affecting though. Cast against the rise of fascism, with Gepetto mourning the loss of his son, the film is packed with complex themes of mortality and morality that will haunt audiences long after the credits roll. If that doesn’t sell you, perhaps the fact that it won Best Animated Feature at the 2023 Academy Awards will.
The Land of Steady Habits
Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn) thought he wanted a change from his stifling life in a wealthy suburb of Connecticut. Now rashly divorced from Helene (Edie Falco), the woman he still loves; regretting his decision to retire early; and struggling with his adult son Preston’s (Thomas Mann) battles with drug addiction, Anders is spiraling. The Land of Steady Habits could be another maudlin look at a rich man’s midlife crisis, but writer and director Nicole Holofcener—adapting Ted Thompson’s novel of the same name—keeps the lead on the hook for his own downfall while infusing Anders’ journey with dark humor and a strange warmth.
In Bigbug, Jean-Pierre Jeunet—the director of Amélie, Delicatessen, and City of Lost Children—presents a near future in which AI and robots are omnipresent, making life infinitely more convenient for their organic masters. Unfortunately, humans are every bit as messy and complicated as ever. A locked-room drama that would be as comfortable on stage as it is in Jeunet’s heightened unreality, Bigbug follows a splintered group of family members and interfering neighbors whose fractious relationships come to a boil when they’re trapped in a household security lockdown initiated by domestic helper robots. Meanwhile, the military-industrial Yonyx androids are taking over the outside world—an AI apocalypse drowned out by human neuroses. Any movie from Jeunet is worth a look, and with satirical flair, exquisite set design, and sharp performances from French cinema royalty, the latest addition to his filmography is no exception.
Call Me Chihiro
An idyllic slice-of-life movie with a twist, Call Me Chihiro follows a former sex worker—the eponymous Chihiro, played by Kasumi Arimura—after she moves to a seaside town to work in a bento restaurant. This isn’t a tale of a woman on the run or trying to escape her past—Chihiro is refreshingly forthright and unapologetic, and her warmth and openness soon begin to change the lives of her neighbors. Directed by Rikiya Imaizumi, this is an intimate, heartfelt character drama that alternates between moments of aching loneliness and sheer joy, packed with emotional beats that remind viewers of the importance of even the smallest connections.
The Sea Beast
It’s easy to imagine that the elevator pitch for The Sea Beast was “Moby Dick meets How to Train Your Dragon”—and who wouldn’t be compelled by that? Set in a fantasy world where oceanic leviathans terrorize humanity, those who hunt down the giant monsters are lauded as heroes. Jacob Holland (voiced by Karl Urban) is one such hero, adopted son of the legendary Captain Crowe and well on the way to building his own legacy as a monster hunter—a journey disrupted by stowaway Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), who has her own ambitions to take on the sea beasts. However, after an attempt to destroy the colossal Red Bluster goes disastrously wrong, Jacob and Maisie are stranded on an island filled with the creatures, and they find that the monsters may not be quite so monstrous after all. A rollicking sea-bound adventure directed by Chris Williams—of Big Hero 6 and Moana fame—it secured its standing as one of Netflix’s finest movies with a nomination for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars.
This gleefully entertaining giant-monster movie eschews tearing up the likes of New York or Tokyo in favor of director Roar Uthaug’s (Tomb Raider 2018) native Norway, with a titanic troll stomping its way toward Oslo after being roused by a drilling operation. The plot and characters will be familiar to any fan of kaiju cinema—Ine Marie Wilmann heads up the cast as Nora Tidemann, the academic with a curiously specific skill set who is called in to advise on the crisis, while Kim Falck fits neatly into the role of Andreas Isaksan, the government adviser paired with her, and Gard B. Eidsvold serves as Tobias Tidemann, the former professor chased out of academia for his crazy theories about trolls. But the striking Nordic visuals and the titular menace’s ability to blend in with the landscape allow for some impressively original twists along the way. Although Troll could have easily descended into parody, Uthaug steers clear of smug self-awareness and instead delivers one of the most original takes on the genre in years.
The latest from director Noah Baumbach has him reteaming with his Marriage Story lead Adam Driver for another quirky look at disintegrating families and interpersonal angst—albeit with an apocalyptic twist. Driver stars as Jack Gladney, a college professor faking his way through a subject he’s unable to teach and struggling to work out family life with his fourth wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig), and their four kids from previous relationships. Neurotic familial squabbles prove the least of their worries when an “airborne toxic event” hits their town, sending everyone scrambling for cover with exponentially disastrous results. While the contemporary Covid-19 parallels are none too subtle, keeping the 1980s setting of Don DeLillo’s original novel proves an inspired choice on Baumbach’s part, one that accentuates the film’s darkly absurd comedy. By setting a rush for survival amidst big hair and materialist excess, White Noise serves up some authentic moments of human drama amid the chaos.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Daniel Craig reprises his role as detective Benoit Blanc in this brilliant follow-up to 2019’s phenomenal whodunnit, Knives Out. Writer-director Rian Johnson crafts a fiendishly sharp new case for “the Last of the Gentlemen Sleuths,” taking Blanc to a Greek island getaway for a reclusive tech billionaire and his collection of friends and hangers-on, where a planned murder mystery weekend takes a deadly turn. While totally accessible for newcomers, fans of the first film will also be rewarded with some deeper character development for Blanc, a role that’s shaping up to be as iconic for Craig as 007. As cleverly written and meticulously constructed as its predecessor, and featuring the kind of all-star cast—Edward Norton! Janelle Monáe! Kathryn Hahn! Leslie Odom Jr.! Jessica Henwick! Madelyn Cline! Kate Hudson! Dave Bautista!—that cinema dreams are made of, Glass Onion might be the best thing Netflix has dropped all year.
Florence Pugh dazzles in this not-quite-horror film from Oscar-winning director Sebastián Lelio. Set in 1862, English nurse Lib Wright (Pugh) is sent to Ireland to observe Anna O’Donnell, a girl who claims to have not eaten in four months, subsisting instead on “manna from heaven.” Still grieving the loss of her own child, Lib is torn between investigating the medical impossibility and growing concern for Anna herself. Amid obstacles in the form of Anna’s deeply religious family and a local community that distrusts her, Lib’s watch descends into a tense, terrifying experience. Based on a book of the same name by Emma Donoghue, The Wonder is a beautiful yet bleakly shot period piece that explores the all-too-mortal horrors that unquestioning religious fervor and family secrets can wreak.
Kosuke and Natsume are childhood friends whose relationship has grown strained as they approach their teenage years. When the apartment complex where they first met is scheduled for demolition, they sneak in one last time, seeking emotional closure. Instead, they and the friends who joined them are trapped by torrential rain. After the mysterious storm passes, the world is changed, with the entire building floating on an ethereal sea, and a new child in their midst.
Adolescent feelings and magical realism collide in this sumptuously animated movie from the makers of A Whisker Away (also available on Netflix and well worth your time). Director Hiroyasa Ishida (Penguin Highway) may not be up there with the likes of Hayao Miyazaki in terms of name recognition in the West, but Drifting Home should put him on your radar.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Hopped up on nationalism and dreams of battlefield glory, Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) is an eager young recruit for the German army during the last year of the First World War. His romantic view of the conflict is shattered on his first night in the cold trenches, surrounded by death and disaster, and dealt a tragic blow with the meaningless loss of a dear friend. It’s all downhill from there in this magnificently crafted adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s groundbreaking novel, one of the most important pieces of anti-war literature of the 20th century. Paul’s journey is one of naivete crushed by the relentless machinery of war and state and an awakening to the way soldiers are chewed up in the name of politicians and generals. Director Edward Berger’s take on the material is the first to be filmed in German, which adds a layer of authenticity to a blistering, heart-rending cinematic effort that drives home the horror and inhumanity of war. Often bleak, it is an undeniably brilliant piece of filmmaking.
Enola Holmes 2
The original Enola Holmes (2020) proved a surprisingly enjoyable twist on the world’s most famous detective, focusing instead on his overlooked sister, Enola. No surprise, then, that this follow-up is just as exciting a romp through Victorian London. Despite having proved her skills in the first film, Enola struggles to establish her own detective credentials until a missing-person report leads her to a case that has stumped even Sherlock and pushes her into the path of his archnemesis, Moriarty. Snappy action, clever twists, and bristling sibling rivalry from Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown and The Witcher‘s Henry Cavill as the Holmes siblings make for fun, family-friendly viewing. It even crams in a touch of vague historical accuracy by making the 1888 match girls’ strike a key part of Enola’s latest adventure.
Goreng (Iván Massagué) awakes in a cell in a vertical prison, where food is provided only by a platform that descends level by level, pausing just long enough for inmates to eat before it travels ever lower. While there’s food enough for all, prisoners on higher levels gorge themselves, leaving those below to starve. It’s the perfect recipe for violence, betrayal, and rebellion in director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s tense Spanish thriller. Equal parts horror, dystopian sci-fi, and social commentary, The Platform works as a none-too-subtle commentary on consumption culture, but it also offers a stark examination of the depths to which desperate people can sink. It’s absolutely not for everyone—scenes involving cannibalism and suicide make it a particularly troubling watch in places—but thanks to its claustrophobic, brutalist setting and stellar performances from its cast, The Platform is one of the most visually striking and narratively provocative films on Netflix.
When Hannah’s (Jurnee Smollett) daughter Vee is kidnapped, she turns to the only person who can help—her neighbor Lou (Allison Janney), whose normally standoffish nature hides a dark and violent past. Janney is phenomenal as the grizzled, broken, dangerous Lou, delivering action scenes that stand alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest. While it would be easy to reduce Lou to a gender-flipped Taken, with Lou painted as a similarly unstoppable force in hunting down the lost child, there’s much more going on in director Anna Foerster’s gritty thriller. This is ultimately a film centered on failed families and generational abuse, and how sometimes blood isn’t enough to bind people together. A dark, gripping action epic.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Written, directed, and produced by Richard Linklater and employing a style of rotoscope animation similar to that used in his films A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, Apollo 10 1/2 is a mix of lazy summers, Saturday morning cartoons, and idealized memoir. Loosely based on Linklater’s own childhood growing up in Houston in the midst of the space race, the coming-of-age story follows a young boy named Stanley as he’s recruited to pilot the lunar lander—which NASA accidentally built too small for full-grown astronauts. Blending period social tensions (“Yeah, that’s a hippie”) with childhood imagination and excitement for the future, this is a distinctive piece of filmmaking dripping with an almost innocent sense of nostalgia.
One of India’s biggest films of all time, RRR (or Rise, Roar, Revolt) redefines the notion of cinematic spectacle. Set in 1920, the historical epic follows real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitrama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) but fictionalizes their lives and actions. Although they come from very different walks of life, their similarities draw them together as they face down sadistic governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson) and his cruel wife, Catherine (Alison Doody). No mere period fluff, RRR is a bold, exciting, and often explosive piece of filmmaking that elevates its heroes to near-mythological status. Director S. S. Rajamouli deploys brilliantly shot action scenes—and an exquisitely choreographed dance number—that grab viewers’ attention and refuse to let go. Whether you’re a longtime fan of Indian cinema or just looking for an action flick beyond the Hollywood norm, RRR is not to be missed.
A stop-motion animated anthology, The House is a dark, borderline-experimental piece starring the eponymous domicile. The first chapter follows a young girl named Mabel, whose impoverished parents are offered free residence in the impressive home but never seem to notice the shifting layout or their own increasing resemblance to the furniture. Things only get weirder when the house appears in a world populated by anthropomorphic rats, with the property developer who’s trying to renovate it for sale plagued by very peculiar buyers. The story then shifts to a seemingly flooded world in which its new inhabitants struggle to leave even as the waters around them continue to rise. A deliciously eerie triptych of tales, all centered on themes of loss and obsession, The House will delight fans of Coraline and The Corpse Bride.
I Lost My Body
An award winner at Cannes in 2019, this tale of burgeoning young love, obsession, and autonomous body parts is every bit as weird as you might expect for a French adult animated film. Director Jérémy Clapin charts the life of Naoufel, a Moroccan immigrant in modern-day France who falls for the distant Gabrielle, and Naoufel’s severed hand, which makes its way across the city to try to reconnect. With intersecting timelines and complex discussions about fate, I Lost My Body is often mind-bending yet always captivating, and Clapin employs brilliantly detailed animation and phenomenal color choices throughout. Worth watching in both the original French and the solid English dub featuring Dev Patel and Alia Shawkat, this one dares you to make sense of it all.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) has a strained relationship with her technophobic father Rick (Danny McBride)—not helped by his accidentally destroying her laptop right as she’s about to begin film school in California. In an effort to salvage their relationship, Rick decides to take the entire Mitchell family on a cross-country road trip to see Katie off. Unfortunately, this road trip coincides with a robot uprising that the Mitchells escape only by chance, leaving the fate of the world in their hands. Beautifully animated and brilliantly written, The Mitchells vs. the Machines takes a slightly more mature approach to family dynamics than many of its genre-mates, with the college-age Katie searching for her own identity while addressing genuine grievances with her father, but it effortlessly balances the more serious elements with exquisite action and genuinely funny comedy. Robbed of a full cinematic release by Covid-19, it now shines as one of Netflix’s best films.
Don’t Look Up
Frustrated by the world’s collective inaction on existential threats like climate change? Maybe don’t watch Don’t Look Up, director Adam McKay’s satirical black comedy. When two low-level astronomers discover a planet-killing comet on a collision course with Earth, they try to warn the authorities—only to be met with a collective “meh.” Matters only get worse when they attempt to leak the news themselves and have to navigate vapid TV hosts, celebrities looking for a signature cause, and an indifferent public. A bleakly funny indictment of our times, bolstered by a star-studded cast fronted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up is, somewhat depressingly, one of the best portraits of humanity since Idiocracy.
Based on the life of alleged mob hitman Frank Sheeran, captured in Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman essentially functions as a Martin Scorsese greatest-hits album. Featuring digitally de-aged Robert De Niro (as Sheeran) and Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), the movie was trapped in development hell for years before Netflix showed up to give Scorsese the creative license (and money) to make the movie his way. It’s perhaps too long, at three and a half hours, and that de-aging technology needs a little work, but the 10 Oscar nominations speak for themselves.
The Wandering Earth
A colossal hit in its native China, The Wandering Earth earned more than $700 million (£550 million) at the country’s box office, prompting Netflix to snap up the rights to stream the sci-fi sensation internationally. The film follows a group of astronauts, at a time far in the future, as they attempt to guide the Earth away from the sun, which is expanding into a red giant. The problem? Jupiter is also in the way. While the Earth is being steered by 10,000 fire-blowing engines that have been strapped to its surface, the humans still living on the planet must find a way to survive the ever-changing environmental conditions.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman’s final film before his untimely death is one set almost entirely in a sweaty recording studio in 1920s Chicago. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom centers on the mother of the blues, played by Viola Davis, as she clashes with bandmates and white producers while trying to record an album. Davis delivers a stellar performance, perfectly reflecting the tensions of the time, but it’s Boseman who is completely electrifying, stealing every scene he’s in. The actor truly couldn’t have done any better for his final outing as trumpeter Levee.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
As with his previous films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, director Charlie Kaufman has created quite the head-spinner with this Netflix drama. In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Lucy (Jessie Buckley) travels with boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents for the first time at their secluded farmhouse. But all the while Lucy narrates her desire to end things with Jake and questions why she’s going on this trip in the first place. Cue an incredibly uncomfortable dinner with parents Toni Collette and David Thewlis (both excellent) and a confusing journey that flits through time. It should be noted that you simply won’t understand all of the elements in this mind-bending film. However, it’s hard not to admire and appreciate the complexities of loss and loneliness Kaufman has imbued in the drama.
Da 5 Bloods
After finding Oscar success with BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee returned with an even more powerful, violent, anguished take on yet another aspect of America’s history of racial injustice. This time it’s in Vietnam, where four Black military veterans have returned to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and a gold fortune they left behind. The film is a multilayered analysis of the racism suffered by Black soldiers who were defending a country that failed to value their lives, and the brutality the Vietnamese people were subjected to in the long, painful American War—as it’s known in the film. As you would expect, a film that focuses so closely on these difficult themes is no easy watch, and there are moments of intense brutality. But at the heart of Da 5 Bloods is an incredibly human story of friendship, humanity, and inherited trauma.
Dolemite Is My Name
After the credits roll on Dolemite Is My Name, we guarantee you’ll be 10,000 times more likely to go out and stage a horndog nude photo shoot for your next cult comedy record. The only person having anywhere near as much fun as Eddie Murphy, playing real-life club comedian/singer Rudy Ray Moore, is Wesley Snipes, goofing around as the actor-director D’Urvill Martin. With the help of a madcap crew, they make a truly terrible 1975 Blaxploitation kung fu movie based on Moore’s pimp alter ego, Dolemite. A brash showbiz movie with a heart of gold, it has shades of The Disaster Artist and music legend biopics. Yet with the cast flexing in Ruth Carter’s glorious costumes—the suits!—and a couple of triumphant sex and shoot-out scenes, it’s a wild ride, whether you know the original story or not.