Anyone can tell you everything that's streaming on Netflix, take an inventory of a given month's new additions and subtractions, or cast the net of recommendations so wide that reeling in where to start is overwhelming. Our goal in this space is very simple: to help you find a highly satisfying movie quickly, when you really need it. Here the 100 best films currently streaming on Netflix that we totally endorse.
A Single Man (2009)
Is life worth living after the sudden death of your partner? That’s the question Colin Firth’s forlorn George faces in this drama, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. You’ll see Ford's eye in every gorgeous scene, as if the movie is one long, breathtaking couture commercial. Set in 1960s LA, A Single Man will simultaneously break your heart and give you hope as George interacts with colleagues, visits an old friend (Julianne Moore), and has a romantic tryst with a student at the university where he teaches -- all as he decides whether this will be the day he ends his life.
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Chris Columbus (of Harry Potter, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Home Alone fame) made his directorial debut with this prime example of peak '80s slapstick, whose title pretty much says it all. Our lead babysitter, played by Elisabeth Shue, is also a Chris, and she's stuck taking care of an 8-year-old when her boyfriend stands her up on their anniversary. A comedy of errors ensues, with a car chase, cheating spouses, and teen crushes and runaways, adding up to the perfect high-school caper.
The African Queen (1951)
The legendary John Huston directs Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in this shaggy adventure about British missionaries warding off German World War I gunboats in East Africa.
Peter Shaffer's acclaimed play received the adaptation treatment from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest director Milos Forman, and it might be the greatest biopic of all time. Starring Tom Hulce as the giggling composer and F. Murray Abraham as his struggling contemporary Antonio Salieri, Amadeus extrapolates creative pursuits through bitter rivalry, discovering how masterpieces and failures, disasters and sophisticates, can bang together into history as one invisible, harmonic chord.
For those of us who weren't born early enough for the Space Race, there's Armageddon. While it might seem like an outlier in the Criterion Collection, Michael Bay's sci-fi spectacle is lean, expertly crafted, and rowdy, with scenes of meteoric destruction that channel Michelangelo. The final ludicrous mission to blow up the plummeting space rock is the closest we'll come to a Bay-directed opera. But it's the cast -- Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Steve Buscemi, and so many more -- that makes Armageddon a ride. Bay's drill-team heroes add red and white to their blue collars for a fist-pumping display of patriotism, no international enemy required.
This sweeping romantic epic, based on the Ian McEwan novel of the same name (which is worth a read, though you won't find the book on Netflix), sends Robbie (James McAvoy) off to fight in World War II, and he finds himself in the middle of Britain's retreat from the Germans on the shores of Dunkirk Beach. Director Joe Wright pulled off a tragically beautiful five-and-a-half-minute tracking shot of the whole ordeal that'll break your heart if Robbie's separation from his love Cecilia (Keira Knightley) didn't already.
The Babadook (2014)
It’s the ultimate parental nightmare: what if your child was a total dickbag? Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s moody horror debut works as a jump-scare-filled frightfest, but it’s most effective in quiet, lingering moments that explore the paralyzing nature of motherhood. Thanks to an emotionally raw performance from Essie Davis, the film brings you into the psyche of a woman pushed to the edge by the very thing she thinks she’s supposed to love the most. In this brilliantly twisted story, the monster isn’t under the bed -- it’s tucked in it.
Basic Instinct (1992)
Has any movie ever done more for ice-based weapons? Nineties bad-boy director Paul Verhoeven gave us this lurid tale of a damaged cop, played with real scumbag glee by Michael Douglas, investigating an icepick-wielding serial killer, but Sharon Stone is the real star of this show. Unlike the late-night premium-cable schlock that attempted to steal its sleazy style, this pulp classic has a sense of humor and a Hitchcockian playfulness to go along with all the nudity, violence, and cheesy one-liners.
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
True Detective Season 1 director Cary Fukunaga’s wartime drama is not a movie you put on in the background. Adapted from Uzodinma Iweala’s novel of the same name, this visceral character study tracks a preadolescent after he’s recruited to be a child soldier in an African civil war (its specifics are left purposefully ambiguous). Lorded over by a gruff commander (Idris Elba), the movie is loud, tender, and violent -- a coming-of-age story in which the characters may not live to come of age.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Has any genre aged less gracefully than the '80s action-comedy? While modern films like Pineapple Express and 21 Jump Street have great fun satirizing and celebrating its conventions, it's hard to think of a recent movie with the odd, leisurely charms of Beverly Hills Cop. The jokes are funny, but not so absurd that they break the tension, and the action scenes are competently filmed, surrounding Eddie Murphy's smartass Detroit cop with some real danger and mystery. Why don't they make them like this anymore?
The Big Short (2015)
Adam McKay’s breakdown of the mid-2000s financial collapse is ferocious. With jagged direction, blaring performances, and a sadistic sense of humor, The Big Short makes ideological and physical impact. McKay’s cast spurts out economic exposition -- the skinny on credit-default swaps and subprime mortgages -- with enough character to keep us hanging on. Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carell get their hands as dirty as McKay, plays rougher than ever before. More documentary than drama, The Big Short will make you scream, somewhere between anger and laughter.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Director John Carpenter's rollicking adventure film starring Kurt Russell is a bizarre, ambitious attempt to wrap a bunch of his idiosyncratic interests (serialized adventure stories, monster horror films, kung-fu cinema, Howard Hawks-style romantic comedy) into one sprawling artistic statement. Sadly, it flopped, but its brilliant action scenes (and possibly problematic, stereotype-driven comedy) will live forever.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Released into a media storm overly concerned with its lengthy, controversially filmed sex scene, Abdellatif Kechiche's three-hour opus drowns tabloid buzz with sensual and sensitive drama. Make time for the tender, inquisitive exploits of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who falls hard for the cerulean lure of Emma (Spectre's Léa Seydoux). The runtime breathing room gives Kechiche the chance to explore every glance, every touch, every kiss, and every misstep in their relationship. It's a love epic, where minor notes play like power chords.
Boogie Nights (1997)
This ensemble drama about the porn business from director Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most rewatchable movies ever made. Any stray moment can draw you in: Mark Wahlberg's Dirk Diggler picking his name in a hot tub, John C. Reilly singing that Transformers song, Julianne Moore snorting an afternoon away, Burt Reynolds framing up a shot, or Heather Graham strolling across the screen in nothing but her roller blades. Splitting the difference between the laid-back melancholia of Robert Altman and the coked-out frenzy of Martin Scorsese, Boogie Nights remains PTA's most purely pleasurable film, a loving tribute to an era of big stars, big egos, and big… well… you've seen the ending.
Richard Linklater spent a decade with the same actors to shoot bits and pieces of his coming-of-age story as an experiment in seamless onscreen aging. The result is a subtly funny, troubling, and true portrait of how special each person's "normal" life can be.
Drive and The Neon Demon director Nicolas Winding Refn put Tom Hardy on the map with this expressionistic biopic of career inmate Michael Gordon Peterson, aka "Charles Bronson." Attracted to mayhem and prone to spurts of violence, Bronson is known for having spent most of his life in solitary confinement. Refn takes this in playful stride, framing prison life like a circus with Bronson as the ringmaster. Imagine Hardy's Dark Knight Rises character, Bane, with an old-timey mustache and wicked sense of humor instead of mask: that's his Bronson, who is frighteningly fun to watch.
Cartel Land (2015)
Produced by The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow, this cinematic documentary is like a real-life Sicario. Documentarian Matthew Heineman embedded himself in both a group of Arizona border-control vigilantes and a band of Mexican "Autodefensas," armed with only a camera and his instincts. The run-and-gun style and Heineman's jaw-dropping access will keep your heart pounding through this examination of the current War on Drugs.
Chasing Amy (1997)
Nineties indie-film icon Kevin Smith softened his geekcore sensibilities for this romantic comedy. OK, soften is unfair -- like Clerks (also on Netflix), Chasing Amy is born from Smith's pondering on the taboo-ish topics of weed, threesomes, and the penetrative definition of sex. But with Ben Affleck playing a straight comic-book bro, and Joey Lauren Adams as a lesbian he wishes he could date, it's a... sweeter turn for Smith. And oh so '90s.
Most war movies are about action and ideals; Che is about tactics. In telling the story of the Argentine Marxist leader, played with an enigmatic glow by Benicio del Toro, director Steven Soderbergh found the perfect historical setting to once again explore his favorite theme: process, particularly the way groups plan and execute complex tasks. In Ocean's Eleven, it was a casino heist. In Che, it's guerrilla warfare. While many military films take the long view, Che is almost single-mindedly focused on the tactile and granular aspects of combat. It puts you in the dirt, then leaves you there.
Clouds of Sils Maria (2016)
Set against the heavenly hills of Sils Maria, Switzerland, this chamber drama traps an aging actress (Juliette Binoche), her raw and responsive assistant (Kristen Stewart), and an ingenue gunning for fame (Chloë Grace Moretz), as they swirl trough each other's lives like a mist. There's little plot to describe in Clouds of Sils Maria; you come to watch three premier actresses drill into psychology and they deliver in spades.
Drinking Buddies (2013)
This understated romantic comedy from mumblecore master Joe Swanberg centers on the intimate relationship between hard-drinking brewery colleagues Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde, who both also happen to be dating other people (Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, respectively). The two relationships get progressively entangled over the course of the film. Although Drinking Buddies starts out looking like a traditional rom-com, Swanberg quickly subverts viewer expectations, resulting in a film that is romantic but surprisingly devoid of sap, funny without falling back on cheap gags. This is a movie that moves along in small moments: a lingering glance, an awkward silence, a stolen kiss. A crisp, refreshing little film.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
In Steven Spielberg's best movies, a sense of wonder is rooted in the drab confines of reality. This story of a boy and his alien friend endures because the details surrounding that iconic moonlit bike ride are so specific: the Coors E.T. drinks, the Speak & Spell he uses, and the Reese's Pieces he loves. Like modern life, the world of E.T. is one defined by brands, consumer goods, and the need to escape. If only we all had another planet to phone home to.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
The mysterious Banksy earned an Oscar nomination for his documentary about fellow street artist Thierry Guetta, a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash, and to this day it’s still debated whether or not the whole thing was made up. Either way, Exit Through the Gift Shop is still an important and quite hilarious peek behind the curtain of the art establishment and what a sham it is.
Europa Report (2013)
The key to funding space-travel expeditions? Reality television, probably. Europa Report imagines our first-manned mission to Jupiter's moon -- oft-speculated to contain frozen and liquid H₂O -- as a television event, with onboard shuttle cameras streaming the crew's activity like Big Brother in space. The inventive approach, which allows the movie to bounce from angular perspectives and simultaneous, four-quadrant action, is especially effective when all hell breaks loose. Because where there's water, there's life.
Here’s a great personality test: what’s your favorite Fantasia sequence? Maybe you’re a cat-video enthusiast whose love of goofy animals began with “Dance of the Hours.” Or perhaps you’re a reformed goth kid who delights in “Night on Bald Mountain.” Regardless, Fantasia is one of those movies we’ve never stopped watching, for good reason: it’s inventive, it’s timeless, and it has all the dancing hippos a kid could ever want.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
"Nine times." That's both a quote from this John Hughes classic and the answer to the question: "What is the minimum number of times everyone should be required to watch this movie?" Even if you're well out of your school years, Ferris' truant exploits will give you the urge to blow off work and follow the film's tagline: Leisure Rules. Just maybe ask before you "borrow" your friend's vintage Ferrari and set out to make your boss' life a living hell when he tries to call you on your unauthorized day off.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
It might be hard to believe now, but once upon a time, Jason Bourne and Batfleck wrote an Academy Award-winning script. As the titular Will Hunting, a directionless MIT janitor with a jaw-dropping gift for mathematics, Matt Damon sparred with the late Robin Williams' beautifully portrayed psychologist to create a moving picture that weighs embracing ambition with remembering one's roots. Minnie Driver, South Boston accents, and quality dive bar scenes are also in the mix -- the movie's still a must-see, or must-re-see.
It’s vulgar and bloody, but what else would you expect from a comedy about a fierce hockey fighter? Seann William Scott stars as Doug Glatt, a nice-guy bouncer from Massachusetts who punches his way onto a minor-league team in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he’s willing to do whatever it takes -- and lose as many teeth as necessary -- to help the team. (And if his rough on-ice antics help him win over his crush, too? That’s all the better.)
Even if you know every word to "Greased Lightning" and "Summer Nights” by heart -- which you probably do, given that Grease is the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time -- the original high-school musical is worth an annual rewatch to remind yourself of the outfits, the songs, and how hot young John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John used to be. Well-a well-a well-a huh!
Grizzly Man (2005)
Werner Herzog's best feature-length doc is a sort of forensic character study, an exploration into the mind and actions of bear lover Timothy Treadwell through his own footage, leading up to his and his girlfriend's deaths at the hands (paws?) of grizzlies. This stunning multi-tiered work, featuring running voice-over commentary from the director, turns nature documentaries on their head.
Morten Tyldum's Headhunters is the perfect underappreciated nail-biter for genre purists. When a corporate headhunter (Aksel Hennie) is pitted against a cunning mercenary turned tech exec (hello, Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau!), the latter becomes the real hunter when Hennie's character steals a valuable piece of art to feed his debt-riddled, luxe lifestyle. It's the type of tense sprint that mixes eye-popping car stunts and executions with shocking hiding spots and betrayals. Its only drawback might be how cynical it'll leave you by the end, but it's still well worth the ride.
Like Mean Girls but with murder, this dark '80s cult classic features Winona Ryder and Christian Slater at their peak cool as two young lovers who start bumping off the popular kids in their high school (including a group of pre-Plastics mean girls all named Heather). While the film flopped at the time, the movie seemed pre-destined to be a cult classic, packed as it was with iconic images and lines: Veronica's monocle, the red power scrunchie, the croquet-playing, "What's your damage, Heather!?," and of course, "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw." Years ahead of its time, Heathers was a sharp satire of sickly sweet '80s teen movies, a lethal dose of cinematic Drano that we still can't believe ever got green-lit (and that certainly wouldn't pass muster in today's post-Columbine world).
Even when he's not adapting a comic book, director Guillermo del Toro makes comic-book movies. Any random image from Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim, or Pan's Labyrinth looks like it was plucked from a graphic novel, so it only makes sense that Hellboy, the Mexican filmmaker's spin on writer Mike Mignola's idiosyncratic cult favorite, is a fire-roasted visual feast. As the titular wiseass demon with a right hand of stone, tough-guy Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) grounds the action with his cigar-chomping charisma and keeps it from devolving into pure spooky spectacle. It's the rare haunted house you'd want to live in.
American films make huge bank overseas. Rarely is the reverse true. But Jet Li and legendary director Zhang Yimou's stunning martial arts film is both known for reinventing the "wuxia" film and finding huge crossover appeal with U.S. audiences. If you missed it back when it came a'blazin' with swords, ribbons, and hyper-colorful backdrops, soak it up now.
The Host (2006)
This monster movie from Bong Joon-ho, the gifted director behind Snowpiercer, was a huge hit in South Korea, and it's easy to see why: thrilling action scenes, incredible effects, and slapstick humor make it the perfect antidote to Hollywood's self-serious blockbusters. Switching tones, moods, and even genres between scenes, it's a movie that defies easy categorization, and flits adeptly between the sentimental, the political, and the horrific. You'll never believe that a movie about a mutated killer fish can make you feel so many complicated emotions.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Shaun of the Dead spoofers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg set their sights on bumbling police officers trying to solve a murder in a small English town. The duo watched countless buddy-cop flicks to fully satirize the genre, and it paid off, with laughably bad chase sequences and uproarious slapstick gags. They prove how much fun action movies can be when they lighten up a little (OK, a lot). Remember: it's not murder, it's ketchup.
How to Survive a Plague (2012)
A history of the AIDS epidemic through the mid-1990s is obviously one of the most gut-wrenching films of all time, but this is a documentary that elicits as many tears of joy as tears of heartbreak because it chronicles a story of hope, determination, and ultimate victory. Comprised mostly of footage shot during the early years of the crisis, much of it by camerapeople who didn't live to see the film, the quest of organizations ACT UP and TAG to find better treatment for HIV and AIDS is experienced up close and personal through David France's archival-vérité approach.
While films like Wait Until Dark and Don't Breathe have wrung scares from blind heroes and villains, deaf characters haven't been placed at the center of many mainstream horror movies. Enter (very quietly) Hush, a low-budget home-invasion thriller about a deaf and mute woman (Kate Siegel) being terrorized by a masked home invader. This is the type of movie that can exhaust its premise in 20 minutes if the script doesn't deliver -- how long can two characters face off in a swanky cabin for, really? -- but luckily director Mike Flanagan and Siegel, who co-wrote the film together, have some well-timed twists (and many, many crossbow arrows) up their sleeves.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)
In this maniacal mystery, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a nurse, and her rattail-sporting, weapon-obsessed neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) hunt down a local burglar. Part Cormac McCarthy thriller, part wacky, Will Ferrell-esque comedy, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a cathartic neo-noir about everyday troubles. Director Macon Blair's not the first person to find existential enlightenment at the end of an amateur detective tale, but he might be the first to piece one together from cussing octogenarians, ninja stars, Google montages, gallons of Big Red soda, upper-deckers, friendly raccoons, exploding body parts, and the idiocy of humanity.
Into the Inferno (2016)
Werner Herzog’s illuminating semi-sequel to Encounters at the End of the World reunites him with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer for encounters with volcanoes all over the world. This time, Herzog stays offscreen and lets Oppenheimer have most of the spotlight, though there is plenty of the filmmaker’s signature narration: some of it to revisit the making of another of his films, the 1977 short La Soufrière; or to present other interesting stories of volcanoes and the people who worship them.
The Invitation (2015)
This slow-burn horror-thriller preys on your social anxiety. The film's first half-hour, which finds Quarry's Logan Marshall-Green arriving at his ex-wife's house to meet her new husband, plays like a Sundance dramedy about 30-something yuppies and their relationship woes. As the minutes go by, director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) burrows deeper into the awkward dinner party, finding tension in unwelcome glances, miscommunication, and the possibility that Marshall-Green's character might be misreading a bizarre situation as a dangerous one. We won't spoil what happens, but let's just say this is a party you'll be telling your friends about.
Ip Man (2008)
There aren't many biopics that also pass for decent action movies. Somehow, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip made Ip Man (and three sequels!) based on the life of Chinese martial arts master Yip Kai-man, who famously trained Bruce Lee. What's their trick to keeping this series fresh? Play fast and loose with the facts, up the melodrama with each film, and, when in doubt, cast Mike Tyson as an evil property developer. The fights are incredible, and Yen's portrayal of the aging master still has the power to draw a few tears from even the most grizzled tough guy.
It Follows (2015)
The villain of this retro-thriller doesn't need to creep. "It" -- a demon? An embodiment of fear? A walking STD? -- can come from any direction at any time and can't be stopped. All its target can do is run, or damn someone new by transmitting the possession through intercourse. A relentless chase set against a picturesque suburban dreamworld, It Follows builds scares from pure suspense, a welcome alternative to the screeching, skittish horror movies that frequent theaters.
Jurassic Park (1993)
The movie you've watched 1,000 times on TNT holds up. The way Jurassic Park pushes in from the grandiose to the personal arcs -- Dr. Grant's relationship hang-ups, the two kids' coming-of-age stories, John Hammond's dream blowing up in his face -- is a science on par with genetic resurrection. Spielberg maintains Michael Crichton's knack for navigating the heady in wholly digestible ways while making good on his ensemble's gasps -- the brachiosaurus. By the time Jurassic Park becomes a Jaws successor, where velociraptors fighting a T. rex doesn't feel like excessive payoff, it's already melted us away with awe. Everything you could possibly want out of a modern blockbuster.
The Killer (1989)
Some movies lose their immediacy after they inspire a legion of imitators. Then there's John Woo's The Killer (or, for that matter, his equally iconic Hard Boiled), which hangs like a self-referential fog over his own future résumé. If you've seen his American efforts, including Face/Off, Broken Arrow, or Mission: Impossible II, you've seen the shoot-outs, the slow motion sequences, and of course the pigeons. But it's still worth going back to the source, which follows a hitman (Chow Yun-Fat, later known to American audiences via Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who accidentally blinds a nightclub singer in a gun battle, then vows to protect her. The Killer still slays, and even Paycheck can't ruin that.
Kurt & Courtney (1998)
Nick Broomfield's documentary investigation into the death of Kurt Cobain becomes even more '90s when it shifts attention away from the Nirvana frontman and to his wife, Courtney Love, and her apparent resistance to telling Cobain's story. Even with the late musician out of the picture, there's a dynamic between the two that anyone who grew up in the '90s should know well.
The Little Prince (2015)
Netflix rescued this animated adaptation of the popular French sci-fi novel after a major Hollywood studio dumped it. Watching The Little Prince, you can see why; following a girl who tests her overbearing mother's life plan by dreaming big and adventuring into space, the movie is a little too melancholy, a little too freeform, and a little too poetic -- at least side-by-side with the Ice Age movies. For Netflix, it's a huge win (and a likely Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination).
The Look of Silence (2014)
The stronger one of Joshua Oppenheimer's films confronting the mid-1960s genocide in Indonesia (the other is The Act of Killing) follows an optometrist as he meets and interviews the individuals responsible for the death of his brother, none of whom have been held accountable before. It sounds so simplistic, and at first it plays so serenely, then gradually, it builds into a powerful record of the candid confessions of men still considered heroes in their country. This documentary focuses on the legacy of events that will soon only be in the hands and minds of a generation detached from and mistaken about the events of 50 years ago.
Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’ overlapping-Christmases rom-com has become a polarizing flick in recent years, many arguing that the film is too sickly-sweet for its own good. But if you’re the type who tends to get sentimental at the airport arrivals gate, watching this group of high-wattage British thespians, including Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman (RIP), Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, and The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln, navigate love under the mistletoe, the movie is a perfect seasonal reminder that love actually is all around.
Man on Wire (2008)
James Marsh is the master of the well-planned documentary, and his greatest film is about the master of well-planned high-wire stunts. An impeccably polished portrait of Philippe Petit that chronicles his 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, it's also a thrilling tribute to those since-fallen structures and an era lost to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. With all its pre-production work, heavily directed interviews, dramatized reenactments, and surplus of illustrative archival footage, this is a documentary as far from the observational style as can be, yet it's one of the most marvelous examples of experiential nonfiction there is.
Magic Mike (2012)
Just in time for the live Las Vegas show it inspired, Steven Soderbergh's story of a Tampa exotic dancer with a heart of gold (Channing Tatum) has body-rolled its way to Netflix. Sexy dance routines aside, Mike's story is just gritty enough to be subversive. Did we mention Matthew McConaughey shows up in a pair of assless chaps?
Man from Reno (2014)
Compared easily to everything from Hitchcock's Vertigo, No Country for Old Men, and classic detective noirs, Man from Reno is a moody mystery thriller shot on a budget. The subdued style only heightens the tension as a crime novelist descends into the underbelly of San Francisco. Just when you think you've cracked the twisty plot, Man from Reno drives you back into the fog. This is modern pulp without the Tarantino-esque name-checking.
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
Miranda July's wandering rom-com had the gusto to make "pooping back and forth, forever" a romantic expression (and in emoticon form, no less). Its exploration of love, sex, and togetherness is just as bold. Fearlessly quirky, Me and You and Everyone We Know peers into the lives of middle-aged singles, blossoming teens, and a young boy preparing for it all. Don't worry: July, as both actress and director, cuts the sweetness by picking at raw nerves. Love can't work without shedding a few tears.
At once a family melodrama, an apocalypse movie, a fantasy epic, and a symbolic meditation on mental illness, the film focuses on Justine (Kirsten Dunst), a severely depressed bride-to-be struggling to make it through her nuptials, then shifts the focus to her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as both women react very differently to the discovery that a rogue planet is on a direct collision course with Earth. Overflowing with stunningly evocative imagery and devastating performances, Melancholia is one of the all-time best cinematic representations of depression, one that will haunt you long after the closing credits.
M. Night Shyamalan is inextricably tied to the "twist" thanks to his movies' many pull-the-rug finales, but Christopher Nolan really deserves the title of Hollywood Twistmaster. Movies like Interstellar, Batman Begins, and The Prestige all tie their emotional journeys in knots, while his amnesiac thriller Memento is the gold standard. Guy Pearce stars as a man who must jog his corrosive short-term memory with Polaroids and explanatory tattoos in order to solve the murder of his wife. Playing with time and truth, Nolan spins the rare detective story that keeps the audience guessing until the end.
Menace II Society (1993)
Following in the wake of John Singleton's more hopeful Boyz n the Hood, this brooding thriller from the Hughes brothers was an urgent, genre-inflected shot to the heart. Telling the story of Caine Lawson (Tyrin Turner), a teenager in South Central LA, the directors paint a vivid portrait of a young man trapped in a violent, unforgiving world with no options to escape. While some '90s gang dramas were filled with clichés, Menace II Society is an unsentimental and stylishly filmed achievement, a movie that's as rewatchable as it is unsettling.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This living storybook reworks Wes Anderson’s subdued sense of humor for a YA crowd. When two teenagers go on the lam during a record-setting hurricane, the capricious adults spin in circles while romance blossoms. Anderson enhances this cheeky love story with his visual stamp, ensuring that even book covers and music cues inspire laughter.
Mountains May Depart (2016)
Underneath every trend, every money-making operation, every geopolitical shift, there are people. Mountains May Depart follows a few -- a happy-go-lucky Chinese woman, her working-class suitor, a millionaire who woos her into marriage, and their son, who wonders how he wound up in Australia without a word of Mandarin in his vocabulary -- as they drift from 1999 to 2014 to 2025. Jia Zhangke packs his epic with laughter, sadness, explosions, and dance sequences. Each pivotal moment thrills and thrills again, reflected a second time through the movie's rearview mirror. The drama's all compounded by Zhao Tao, whose gentle smile has the oomph to crush cars. Wherever you hail from, Mountains May Depart will speak to your world, your time, your life -- that's a promise.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance in this nocturnal noir, playing the haunted, single-minded Lou Bloom, a scavenger of human suffering whose motives are as twisted and opaque as the seedy LA underworld he inhabits. That's news media for you! Be warned: if you’re planning a trip to sunny California, writer-director Dan Gilroy's pitch-black satire will make you see the City of Angels in a whole new light.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Like a blast from Anton Chigurh's cattle gun, No Country for Old Men came out of nowhere. In 2007, it seemed like the Coen brothers had lost a step, sinking into an era of gentle self-parody. This Josh Brolin-starring neo-Western changed all that. Adapting Cormac McCarthy's brutal, uncompromising thriller, the filmmakers crafted their most purely suspenseful and terrifying film to date. The coin flip, the car crash, and Javier Bardem's haircut have all become parodied pop-cultural fixtures at this point. But the sense of dread the film evokes, amplified by Roger Deakins' shadowy photography, is impossible to shake. It's real. It's scary. And it's coming for you.
Park Chan-wook's 2003 weirdo masterpiece was such a cult hit, they made a not-so-great American version in 2013 with Josh Brolin. The original is still on Netflix, though, and definitely worth a watch. Korean star Choi Min-sik plays a husband, father, and alcoholic who gets kidnapped on his daughter's 4th birthday. He spends the next 15 years locked in a small room, teaching himself to fight and counting the years with hatch-mark tattoos. His release sets him on a path to revenge, but first he must discover who locked him up and why, and when he finally unlocks the mystery the secret is even grosser than the scene where he eats a live octopus.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Disney's ride-to-film adaptation is a little over a decade old, but we're ready to call it: Pirates ranks among the greatest adventure movies, right up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars. Johnny Depp's star-making turn as Jack Sparrow, combined with playful swordplay and some of the most dazzling zombie effects to date, make it endlessly watchable. Or, exactly what you want when you hit the couch for a staycation. High-seas sailing, without the actual travel.
A tiny-budget indie with a massive cult following, this Shane Carruth mindfuck is about two engineers who build a box that enables them to travel six hours back into the past, which they do over and over again, resulting in predictably messy consequences. Without the usual whimsy of time-travel narratives, Primer aims for verisimilitude -- much of the movie takes place in drab, mundane settings -- with a labyrinthine narrative structure intended to simulate the confusing time-travel process for viewers. One of the most complex science-fiction films ever, spawning reams of analysis from fans endlessly dissecting the movie's cryptic temporal trajectory, this film is a must-see for hardcore sci-fi junkies who love tumbling down Reddit rabbit holes.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
No other modern movie so effortlessly created its own language and mythology of cool, where mere objects evoke oceans of meaning. Many have tried, but only Quentin Tarantino could cut and paste his passions into a collage. Both wickedly funny and surprisingly thoughtful, it's even better than you remember it being in the 1990s. Travolta still sizzles. The dialogue still pops. The soundtrack still sings. Forget the loftier films he'd make later in his career -- this is his masterpiece.
Quiz Show (1994)
Back in the 1990s, every true story became a classically tailored, character-actor-filled Oscar prospect. Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford, is one of the best of the bunch, a story of the American dream filtered through the Hollywood machine. Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) became rich and famous playing the game show Twenty One. In 1959, he testified before Congress that producers fed him the answers. He never lived down his scandal. Quiz Show show wrestles with why.
Many filmmakers have tried to translate H.P. Lovecraft's unique brand of literary horror for the big screen. Very few have succeeded... until Stuart Gordon. Although he'd go on to produce several Lovecraft adaptations (including From Beyond and Dagon), Mr. Gordon is best known for his masterful rendition of "Herbert West: Reanimator." This admirably gruesome tale details the exploits of a medical student who believes he can cheat death. But death doesn't enjoy being cheated. The movie is half Grand Guignol, half blood-splattered comedy, and completely cool.
Red Cliff (2009)
After over a decade cranking out oft-junky Hollywood fare like Windtalkers and Paycheck, action-movie god John Woo returned to China for this sumptuous epic about the end of the Han Dynasty. Abandoning the bullet ballets he made his name with, Woo crafts an old-fashioned epic filled with romance, backstabbing, and ambitious battle sequences. It's unsurprising that the movie broke Titanic's box-office records in China. It's cut from the same lavish (and occasionally hokey) cloth.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino’s debut is all talk, and mostly bullshit, spewing from the mouths of knuckleheads who just screwed up the diamond heist of a lifetime. Unencumbered by Hollywood’s rules, Tarantino deconstructs masculinity through monologue, standoffs, and the literal removal of body parts (the now-legendary ear scene deserves that status). Speaking of ears, Tarantino has one; the "tipping" scene alone is an apogee of crude, poetic vernacular. Reservoir Dogs will always feel primordial, an introduction to the writer-director's isms and a kickoff for endless imitators.
Bill Murray achieves peak arrogance in this modern riff on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Written by Michael O'Donoghue, the first SNL head writer, and Mitch Glazer, a longtime Murray collaborator who recently wrote the actor's Netflix Christmas special, Scrooged pairs Murray's slave-driving TV executive up with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, all of whom are a bit more... unhinged than the ones in previous adaptations.
The Secret of Kells (2009)
The Secret of Kells is a fantastical retelling of how Dublin’s legendary Book of Kells came to be. And just like the actual book, it’s utterly gorgeous. The whole thing plays like a meticulously illustrated medieval manuscript from start to finish, with beautifully rendered versions of the real (e.g., Brendan, our protagonist) and the ethereal (e.g., Aisling, his fairy friend). Considering the plane ride to see the actual Book of Kells is pretty steep, this is a decent substitution.
The Shining (1980)
Stephen King hates this psychotropic adaptation of his horror novel because director Stanley Kubrick took too many liberties. Sorry, Mr. King, but Kubrick shot a classic. With ample silence and a seeping sense of dread, Kubrick preys on his viewers' sheer terror -- those twins, that wave of blood, the pages and pages of "ALL WORK AND NO PLAY" -- and leaves the explanation blank. For all the "Here's Johnny!" spoofs in the word, Jack Nicholson's snarling rendition will always cut like an ax.
Sing Street (2016)
"Rock 'n' roll is a risk," Sing Street's resident burnout declares. "You risk being ridiculed." Same goes for taking in a sweet, spirited coming-of-age dramedy that's one of the best movies of the year. From the director of Once , Sing Street follows a band of Irish high schoolers who emerge into the world through '80s pop rock. Like A Hard Day's Night for The Cure-obsessed scamps, that'll you watch once and come back to again, just for songs. Sing Street joins High Fidelity, Almost Famous, We Are the Best!, and The Commitments as one of the deepest looks at rock 'n' roll as religion.
The best episode of The Wire that wasn't actually an episode of The Wire, Tom McCarthy stretches the drama taut as he renders Boston Globe's 2000 Catholic Church sex scandal investigation into a Hollywood vehicle. McCarthy's notable cast members crank like gears as they uncover evidence and reflect on a horrifying discovery of which they shoulder partial blame. Spotlight was the cardigan of 2015's Oscar nominees, but even cardigans look sharp when Mark Ruffalo is involved.
The uproarious comedy that kicked off Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's writing partnership crams more crude sex jokes than anyone ever thought possible into the heartwarming story of inseparable best friends (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) on the verge of leaving each other to ship off to college. Factor in some killer party scenes, a then-unknown Emma Stone, and high-school horndogs riffing to their heart's content, and we all want to be McLovin'.
Superman: The Movie (1978)
The first superhero movie triumph remains a gold standard thanks to a crafty blend of coming-of-age drama, romance, high-flying adventure, and Christopher Reeve's ripped-from-the-comic portrayal of the big blue boy scout. The difference between Superman and what Marvel and DC currently pump into theaters is room to breathe; Superman runs 143 minutes and director Richard Donner takes full advantage, traveling from Krypton to Earth, from Smallville to Metropolis, and using a laser eye to cut into every little moment along the way.
Sean Baker shot this award-winning dramedy entirely on an iPhone 5s. Sound like a gimmick? Crazed camerawork proves your do-it-all phone is also the greatest conduit for electric, kaleidoscopic adventure. Set on the streets Los Angeles, the movie follows trans sex worker Sin-Dee Rella, fresh from a 28-day prison stint, as she hunts down her cheating boyfriend. While urgent and modern, Tangerine is still a throwback to road movies and old-school farce. It's wild from surface to core.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
A hell of a lot of movies have tried to revive dusty old Shakespeare plays, but few do as effective a job of modernizing as this remake of The Taming of the Shrew. At the peak of his heartthrob powers, a pre-Joker Heath Ledger got paid by some horny teens (including a dweeby 3rd Rock-era Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to seduce Julia Stiles's feisty Kat, an undateable feminist keeping her popular sister home from prom. It's a testament to the teen actors' charm, raucous party scenes, and philosophizing about Prada and Skechers that the Bard would hardly recognize it.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Errol Morris’ true-crime tale combines reenactment and voice-over to unravel the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted, and sentenced to life in prison, for a of a murder he did not commit. The Thin Blue Line is the gold standard that successors like Making a Murderer, Serial, and The Jinx could only hope to match. Morris’ interviews, arid and frank, and the noir-tailored visuals, make the film more than a document of events. Thin Blue Line is engrossing drama that transcends its revelations with story.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
In 1982, documentarian Marty Di Bergi embedded himself with British rock group Spinal Tap for the Smell the Glove tour. The result is this fly-on-the-wall documentary that captures the raw emotion of band relationships, the power of a great set piece (nothing screams "ROCK" like an 18in Stonehenge replica), and exposes Spinal Tap's penchant for losing drummers to freak accidents. A must-see for music fans.
Selma director Ava DuVernay snuck away from the Hollywood spotlight to direct this sweeping documentary on the state of race in America. DuVernay's focus is the country's growing incarceration rates and an imbalance in the way black men and women are sentenced based on their crimes. Throughout the exploration, 13th dives into post-Emancipation migration, systemic racism that built in the early 20th century, and moments of modern political history that continue to spin a broken gear in our well-oiled national machine. You'll be blown away by what DuVernay uncovers in her interview-heavy research.
Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
Anti-comedy auteurs Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim blow smoke up the American dream's ass in this Hollywood satire about glamour, New Age meditation, and poop jokes. Like their Adult Swim series, Billion Dollar Movie tramps from absurd situation to absurd situation, with a handful of celebrity cameos (including Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Will Forte) working as sanity flotation devices. The script sounds like it was written over seven hazy nights; Billion Dollar Movie's recurring joke is various characters screaming the made-up word "SHRRRRIIIIIIIIIM." With Tim and Eric, you're either in or you're out. We suggest getting in.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Can a master cat burglar uncover the identity of... a master cat burglar? The mystery pushes Cary Grant and Grace Kelly down the rabbit hole, across beautiful French Riviera landscapes, and into one another's arms in Alfred Hitchcock's suspenseful romance. "Lush" and "elegant" don't normally pair with "crime movie," but Hitchcock's hand ensures To Catch a Thief can fill a date night with appropriate intrigue.
Tommy Boy (1995)
Peter Segal's timeless buddy comedy effectively pits a lovably obnoxious man-child against the world when, after an extended college career, "Tommy" Callahan III (the late Chris Farley) finally graduates and inherits his dad's auto-parts factory. With the help of an oppugnant assistant (David Spade), the incompetent heir embarks on a road trip to prove his family business' viability and to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. The two SNL veterans give the type of shining performances in which physical hilarity and unforgettable chemistry abound.
Tokyo Tribe (2015)
This crazed action movie stages the rap battle to end all rap battles. If Anchorman's anchor melee took place in a futuristic Japanese metropolis, doubled down on the weapons and kung-fu moves, and relied on shit-talking, percussive rhymes to do the talking, it would look a little like Sion Sono's gluttonous epic. Tokyo Tribe is all about the obscene, commenting on class issues and penis length all in one breath. The action is dazzling and the left turns, constant and outrageous, wring your brain for every ounce of logical juice. One does not watch Tokyo Tribe so much as submit to it.
The Treasure (2016)
With deadpan delivery that would make Steven Wright jittery, this Romanian comedy tells the story of Costi, a down-on-his-luck office dron, who joins his neighbor and a professional metal detector to hunt for a fortune buried beneath a family estate. While an understanding of Southeastern European history might enhance the viewing experience (you'll have to check with a Romanian), The Treasure can be taken at face value, a financial fable that revels in the quarreling of desperate men. And there's a happy ending, but not the one you expect.
The Trip (2010)
If you enjoy awkward British humor and unrelenting Michael Caine impressions... we'd probably be friends, and you'll also definitely be into Michael Winterbottom's The Trip. Playing himself, Steve Coogan takes on an assignment for The Observer, touring the UK's best restaurants in a futile attempt to impress his food-snob girlfriend. Hilarity and sardonic hijinks ensue, but underneath the quirky comedy lies a meditation on what it means to be happy as an adult, and how friends don't always need to acquiesce in order to be close. Still, the best part is the Michael Caine-off.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
When it comes to mystery movies, this '90s classic is among the, well, usual suspects. Bryan Singer's intricately plotted heist movie is too clever by half, as rewatching the Keyser Söze thriller will certainly remind you. Kevin Spacey won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his tic-filled performance as Roger "Verbal" Kint, a smart-ass criminal with cerebral palsy, but the rest of the killer cast -- Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, and a pre-Bio-Dome Stephen Baldwin -- also shine as they trade tough-guy banter and ornate putdowns from Christopher McQuarrie's script.
The Wailing (2016)
Hollywood horror movies rarely shoot for "epic," content with scaring up a storm with micro-budgets and single locations. South Korean director Na Hong-jin does not suffer from the same apprehension. The Wailing is a masterpiece of mood, 156 minutes of every horror trope imaginable, drenched in mythology we foreigners may not entirely understand. That's fine: the movie's plot, a streak of murderers that may or may not have been perpetrated by demons, tows the viewer through the foggiest moments with one visceral pleasure after another.
The Wave (2016)
Roar Uthaug -- great action director name or best action director name? -- takes the time to embolden his main characters, a loving family of four in a small Norwegian village battling against a fjord-enabled tidal wave, and capture Norway's rolling beauty. Then the mayhem starts. When the townsfolk realize their fate, and only have 10 minutes to evacuate, The Wave capsizes tranquility with 100 tons of liquid devastation. Not since Titanic has underwater photography looked so terrifying. Like its actors, we are in the tank for The Wave.
We Are Still Here (2015)
Take a dash of 1970s-era ghost stories, a generous helping of Lucio Fulci love, and a handful of original, winning components, and that's pretty much the laid-back yet enjoyably spooky We Are Still Here in a nutshell. The plot may feel familiar -- a troubled family returns to a long-empty and isolated house in the woods -- but it also heads in some unexpected directions, delivering a generous portion of well-crafted chills.
We Are the Best! (2013)
Ah, to be a freewheeling, naive, rock-star-dreaming teenager again. The ambling comedy We Are the Best! follows three young women who mount a punk musical act during that gloriously chaotic moment in life. Parents keep them down. Boys give them trouble. The smallest mistakes test their friendships. But in the end, a thrashing guitar and night of head-banging is all it takes to recalibrate. A true rush.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Horror at its most primal. Director Lynne Ramsay teams up with the incredible Tilda Swinton for a stylized, psychologically rich portrait of a mother sent into crisis after her son commits an unforgivable crime. Featuring winning turns from John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller, the movie explores visceral, ugly truths without blinking. It's the type of movie that will get you talking -- unless you're left in stunned silence.
After what was supposed to be a meaningless hookup, Russell and Glen spend a dreamy, introspective weekend together, discussing topics from career aspirations to coming out stories. The catch? Glen plans to leave England to attend art school in the US on Monday. Much of the dialogue was improvised, and it pays off, drawing you in with the actors' tangible, intimate chemistry. Watching this movie feels like you're a fly on the wall of a real and romantic one-night stand.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
With the arrival of Netflix hilarious follow-up miniseries, First Day of Camp, it's easy to forget that Wet Hot American Summer wasn't always a beloved comedy classic. The movie initially flopped in theaters and earned some brutally dismissive reviews. You know who saved this movie? Stoned nerds, mostly. How else can you explain the iconic status of a movie that features a scene where the dude from Law & Order: SVU talks to a can of vegetables voiced by H. Jon Benjamin?
What About Bob? (1991)
"I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful." That's the mantra Bob (Bill Murray), a kooky dude so dependent on his shrink (Richard Dreyfuss) that he follows him on vacation, repeats to psych himself up -- as well as what you'll say to yourself after you watch this uproarious comedy of a vacation gone horribly wrong. It's not all bad news for the Doc's family, though: Bob teaches the kids about letting lose and taking care of the people they love, and -- explosively -- teaches his doctor about getting some help of his own.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
Nina Simone, the High Priestess of Soul, is the rare kind of artist who used her talent for change. A revolutionary for both her sonic gifts and her fight for the civil rights movement, Simone gets a fitting tribute with this documentary, which highlights how aspects of her being fueled her fiery personality and ultimately shaped her story.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Depending on how you look at it, While You Were Sleeping is either a sweet rom-com fable about true love or a disturbing portrait of a sociopath. A post-Speed Sandra Bullock plays a lonely subway token-taker who rescues a dashing man (Peter Gallagher) after he stumbles onto the train tracks. Charming, right? Well, after the accident, the man falls into a coma and Bullock pretends to be his fiancée, mourning by his hospital bed, celebrating the holidays with his doting family, and eventually falling in love with his brother (a furniture-building Bill Pullman). Like many screwball protagonists, Bullock lies her whole way through the movie, and the script plays all of her deceptions as lighthearted farce, but with a few tweaks, this could be a Christmas horror classic.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Before taking us to space with Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón steamed up screens with this provocative, comedic drama about two teenage boys (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) road-trippin' it with an older woman. Like a sunbaked Jules and Jim, the movie makes nimble use of its central love triangle, setting up conflicts between the characters as they move through the complicated political and social realities of Mexican life. It's a confident, relaxed film that's got an equal amount of brains and sex appeal. Watch this one with a friend -- or two.
What looks like another anthropomorphized animal adventure, adorable and Happy Meal-ready, is a vivid reimagining of Philip Marlowe-style noir, made sharper with a message on race and class in America. Seriously. Judy Hopps is a bunny cop at a time when bunnies aren't supposed to be cops. Nick Wilde is her confidante, a fox facing prejudice against his "predator" biology. Together they solve a mystery that parallels every societal conversation we're having in 2016. It's heavy! Yet the movie still gets away with tender friendships, pop-music interludes, and sloth jokes. Impressionable kids and adults who swear they're progressive will both take something away from Zootopia.
Want even more movies? It's a new year, so check out our new list of the Best Movies of 2017.
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