We guarantee you’ll find something to add to your Netflix queue.
We know the feeling: You’re tired after work and all you want to do is relax and watch a good movie on Netflix. But you have no idea where to start or even what you’re in the mood for. That’s why we’ve curated guides for the best movies on Netflix for nearly every genre we could think of: horror, comedy, indie flicks, rom-coms, serial killers, anime, kids movies, nature documentaries, movies based on true stories, standup specials, TV shows, thrillers, 4k movies and TV shows,
We’ve combined the blurbs from some of those lists and written quite a few more to create this ultimate guide to what to watch on Netflix. We’ll be updating this list monthly, so you can rest assurenetflixd that if you see something you like here, you can quickly add it to your queue.
The 105 best movies on Netflix
There’s not a lot to say about Boyhood that hasn’t already been said. It’s a masterpiece, an experience unlike any other, and one of the best movies of the century so far. Champion of the understated, director Richard Linklater casually follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from childhood to college, checking in with his actors as they aged over a 12-year shooting process. In the Linklater way, eschewing grand, life-changing moments in favor of the everyday business of just living, the film becomes extraordinary in its ordinariness. This is one person’s story, and the beauty in it is that the narrative never focuses on anything other than that person becoming himself—which is, of course, both one of the most ordinary and the most beautiful things anyone can ever achieve. To say that Boyhood works only as an experiment would be shortsighted. It works as a complete and profound work of art on its own, too. —Chris Osterndorf
Zodiac is the great crime movie of our time. David Fincher’s masterpiece about the hunt for the notorious Bay Area killer is not only his best film—it’s perhaps the best film ever made on the nature of obsession. Dark, enigmatic, and unforgettable, this is the kind of movie that gets better with each viewing. Finally receiving some of the recognition it deserves as one of the best films of the past decade, if you’ve only seen Zodiac once, the time to revisit it is now. And if you’ve never seen it, the same holds true. —C.O.
3) Full Metal Jacket
Like all of Stanley Kubrick’s work, Full Metal Jacket is cold, distant, and often disturbing. But Kubrick’s iciness works perfectly for examining the horrors of Vietnam. One of only two films he made in the 1980s (the other was The Shining), Full Metal Jacket redefined the war movie by suggesting that the training process could actually be one of the worst parts of the whole experience. The first half of the story, which finds a group of Marines going through a dehumanizing boot camp, is so good that people often forget the portion that’s actually set in Vietnam. The entire film is expertly crafted and sure to make an impression. Full Metal Jacket is the rare war movie that refuses to make war look even remotely cool, and it’s all the better for it. —C.O.
As with the rest of the franchise, Rogue One’s production design is stunning. The tropical base on Scarif is like nothing we’ve seen before, and its sprawling battle scene feels tense and immediate. David Crossman’s costume design fits into the Star Wars universe while distinguishing Rogue One’s place in the beaten-down Dark Ages of the war, with the lead characters dressed in the tough, unwashed garb of guerrilla fighters. Jyn and Cassian look effortlessly badass in their scrubby jackets and layers of grimy shirts, while Baze Malbus and the aging extremist Saw Gerrera contribute sci-fi style with their dented body armor and bulky weapons. As ever, the franchise’s visual world-building is second to none. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
5) Boogie Nights
Several Paul Thomas Anderson films from this century (There Will Be Blood, The Master) are so routinely referred to as masterpieces that one can almost forget he had a career before the year 2000. But not only was Anderson as a much a product of the ‘90s indie explosion as fellow auteurs Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, he debatably made the best film out of all of them with 1997’s Boogie Nights. It’s a sprawling, multifaceted depiction of the porn industry in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The rise and fall (and sort of rise?) of Dirk Diggler proved to be a coming-out moment for star Mark Wahlberg too, not to mention a brief redemption for Oscar-nominated supporting actor Burt Reynolds, working alongside many of Anderson’s usual players, who all give career highlight performances. The music, the setting, the acting, the story: Boogie Nights is an American story unlike any other. —C.O.
6) The Sixth Sense
“I see dead people.” The very phrase still conjures up memories of one of the greatest movie twists of all time. If by somehow you missed the cultural phenomenon that was The Sixth Sense, Netflix now is the perfect time to catch up, with director M. Night Shyamalan suddenly getting his groove back with recent titles like The Visit and Split. Will he ever make another movie as big as The Sixth Sense? Probably not. But no matter what he’s done in the years since, he can rest easy knowing he made an unforgettable addition to pop culture with this modern classic. —C.O.
7) Schindler’s List
Schindler’s List is the kind of movie that is so famously wrenching, it’s increasingly harder to find anybody who has actually seen it. Hopefully its presence on Netflix fixes that, because Steven Spielberg’s 1993 epic may still be the defining film about the Holocaust. In addition to winning Best Picture, Schindler’s List cemented Spielberg’s place as not only the populist favorite among his generation of directors but a true master of the artform as well. —C.O.
8) Inglourious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds may not be Quentin Tarantino’s most iconic film (that would be Pulp Fiction.) Nor is it his most fun (that would probably be Jackie Brown). Nor is it his most stylish (the Kill Bills), his most socially conscious (Django Unchained), his most tightly scripted (Reservoir Dogs,) or even his longest (The Hateful Eight). Yet it’s possible that Inglourious Basterds is his best. He says as much himself with the film’s winking last line, delivered into the camera by Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine: “I think this just might be my masterpiece.” Inglourious Basterds is a cinematic declaration for the ages. The performances, writing, and directing are all immaculate. More surprising is that the movie feels almost like a play at moments, with certain scenes stretching on for a half an hour at a time. —C.O.
Moana is so good it belongs in the canon of all time Disney greats. You need to add it to your Watchlist immediately if you somehow missed it when it was in theaters. And then you need to cancel your plans for tonight and watch Moana instead. The film brilliantly reinvents the Disney princess formula while also honoring all the Disney classics you grew up loving. The representation. The Rock. The music from Lin-Manuel Miranda. I could go on, but really, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, just watch it first. —C.O.
Released on June 20, 1975, it’s often been said that Steven Spielberg’s seminal film about a killer shark effectively killed the more serious era of the “new Hollywood,” ushering in the age of the blockbuster, which continues to reign supreme today. But while Jaws may have been the original summer smash, it shouldn’t be disregarded as silly or frivolous. Jaws is methodical and exacting. Today, it stands as the first real example of Spielberg’s impeccable filmmaking craft, not to mention the source of one of the craziest behind the scenes stories in Hollywood history. In fact, not one but two scripts about the movie’s production recently landed on the much buzzed about Blacklist, which compiles the best unproduced screenplays. —C.O.
Spotlight is a drama of the old-school model, bringing into comparison gems such as All the President’s Men. It follows the Boston Globe‘s Spotlight team as it exposes the numerous cases of child abuse and molestation by clergymen covered up by the Catholic church in Boston. The Boston Globe went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts, and the scandal ran so deep that the Archbishop of Boston was forced to step down. If you care about journalism, it’s a must-watch. —Clara Wang
12) Sunset Boulevard
Sunset Boulevard is both a swan song to the age of silent films and a love story. Silent film star Norma (Gloria Swanson) is wasting away in the era of talkies. She spends her days screening her old movies and being waited on by her former husband Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stronheim), who was once the greatest silent film director of his time and is now just Norma’s butler. When Joe, a failed screenwriter (William Holden) half her age stumbles into Norma’s life, she begins to fall in love and offers him a job. The sordid sequence of events that follow turn Sunset Boulevard into a fascinating and bleak tale of lost stardom and the perils of unconditional love. —Amrita Khalid
13) The Prestige
The Prestige may not be Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious film or even his most action-packed or most mind-bending, but it does contain examples of everything he does so well. There are layers of twists, heart-stopping visuals, and perhaps most rewarding of all, it falls into the half of Nolan’s filmography where you actually care about the characters. In the lead roles, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale shine as Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, two illusionists whose quest for revenge and desire to one-up each other takes them down a path of destruction. It’s one of the better movies ever made about the toxic side of competition and rivalry, and over 10 years later, the film’s ending still sends chills down the spine. Plus, David Bowie’s in it. What more do you need? —C.O.
14) Finding Dory
If Pixar has lost a little bit of speed on its fastball post-Toy Story 3, Finding Dory is a wily veteran learning how to get by with the offspeed stuff. Dory (voiced by an ever-enthusiastic Ellen Degeneres) goes on her own adventure after getting lost. Dory leans on humor more than its predecessor, aided by great vocal performances from Ed O’Neill, Idris Elba, Kaitlin Olson, and a slew of stars that would make Dreamworks envious. But it doesn’t lack for emotion either, as we expect from the best of Pixar. At its heart, Dory is a story about coping mental illness, and it does right by the material. —Eddie Strait
Screengrab via Miramax/YouTube (Fair Use)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001 film made Audrey Tautou a star, and it’s easy to see why. As the title character, she finds joy in bringing joy to others, quietly pulling strings around Paris to brighten the lives of strangers. She’s not a matchmaker; Amélie’s goal is something bigger. But then she stumbles upon Nino, a man with a similar goal. —Audra Schroeder
16) Blue Is the Warmest Color
Screengrab via Movieclips/YouTube (Fair Use)
Steeped in controversy upon its release (and for good reason,) Blue Is the Warmest Color is nevertheless a nearly unparalleled achievement in 21st-century filmmaking. Discussions about male gaze and directorial ethics are sure to follow many people’s viewing, but we also don’t get many epic, three-hour lesbian love stories. There are elements of Blue Is the Warmest Color that still feel essential, if for no other reason than that we need more of what the film gets right, even while needing less of what it gets wrong. And of course, there are the performances from lead actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, who rightfully became the first actors ever to be awarded the Palme d’Or when the film premiered at Cannes. Playing the two halves of young couple Emma and Adèle, Blue Is the Warmest Color’s leading ladies are both so good, it’s not just that they have created an indelible cinematic love story—it’s as if they’ve reinvented the cinematic love story itself. —C.O.
Grease is a silly movie. It’s got silly songs, silly dancing, silly costumes, silly ‘40-year-olds playing teenagers. But silly doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Yes, the ending feels a little regressive today. But if the rapturous reception of the 2016 live version is any indication, Grease may still be, if not the best or most important musical ever, perhaps the most popular. And if nothing else, the original film version is worth it for John Travolta’s performance as Danny Zuko alone. —C.O.
18) Beasts of No Nation
Screengrab via Netflix US & Canada/YouTube (Fair Use)
Netflix’s first foray into prestige cinema, at least in terms of narrative filmmaking, was this child soldier drama from 2015. Upon its release, Beasts of No Nation immediately declared that in addition to giving you daily doses of ‘90s nostalgia, the streaming giant was committed to socially engaged stories too. Directed by True Detective’s Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba in what should’ve been an Oscar-nominated performance, this is an intense watch but also a rewarding one. If nothing else, it’ll make you aware of how few depictions of Africa we really see onscreen, and how much that needs to be corrected. —C.O.
19) City of God
This 2002 Brazilian film about growing up under corruption, poverty, and violence in Rio de Janeiro moves as fast as a Martin Scorsese gangster movie despite containing enough tragedy for 10 depressing documentaries. Director Fernando Meirelles (with help from co-director Kátia Lund) imbues the film with such a sense of gritty realism, it could only be based on real-life experiences. At the same time, the film is so highly stylized, it’s also a uniquely cinematic experience, whether you watch it at home or in a theater. Instead of being buried under the weight of these contradictions, City of God thrives on them. For anyone interested in doing a deep dive, check out City of God: 10 Years Later, a documentary about the lives of the film’s young actors, which is also on Netflix. Beware though, the follow-up is almost as emotionally draining as the first go-around —C.O.
20) Moonrise Kingdom
If you’ve ever seen a Wes Anderson movie before, you know what to expect here. It’s quirky, it’s got snappy dialog, the images are rendered with painterly precision. But what separates Moonrise Kingdom from his other work is its depiction of childhood. Leads Sam and Suzy are not precocious or pandering, and their relationship is nuanced and honest, despite the usual Andersony quirks. Just as he humanized high schoolers in Rushmore, Anderson again proves he has more respect for young people than most Hollywood filmmakers here. -C.O.
21) No Country For Old Men
We meet killer Anton Chigurh within the first two minutes of No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel. The first murder we witness sets off a domino effect across West Texas, as dirty money, small-town law enforcement, and a dead-eyed killer engage in a deadly dance. -A.S.
Director of Drive and the upcoming The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn has a penchant for exploring themes of masculinity and violence, and he’s never done it better than in this 2008 British film based on the story of the man oft thought to be the country’s most violent prisoner. In Bronson, 19-year-old Michael Peterson is sentenced to seven years behind bars for robbing a post office. He ends up serving 34, three decades of which he carries out in solitary confinement. During this time, Peterson adopts the alter ego of Charles Bronson (yes, like the actor), and the story only gets weirder from there. The center of it all is Tom Hardy in a performance that’s like watching a star about to go supernova. —C.O.
23) Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings faced stiff competition for Best Animated Film of 2016, going up against Disney heavyweights like Zootopia and Moana. But in a different year, Laika’s stop-motion tale about a young boy forced into battle with the ghosts of his family’s past may have swept the awards circuit. Yes, it was a financial failure, but it was a beautiful one nonetheless. Make sure to stick around for the credits, which feature a haunting new rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as well as a glimpse into the film’s animation process. —C.O.
24) Gerald’s Game
It’s the year of the Stephen King adaptation, and Gerald’s Game might be the best one. Mike Flanagan (Hush, Oculus) takes a novel that has long been considered unfilmable and imbues it with tension and emotion. Carla Gugino gives a standout performance as Jessie, a woman who is left handcuffed to a bed in a remote cabin after her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) dies unexpectedly. The bulk of the film concerns her survival and how deep into the past she can go, and it actually improves upon the novel. —A.S.
25) Forrest Gump
Screengrab via Paramount Movies/YouTube (Fair Use)
The quotable lines, the history, the Tom Hanks of it all, Forrest Gump gets pretty sentimental. The movie gets pretty dark in some moments too, but was there ever a film so emotionally manipulative? Ultimately, you’re either the kind of person that gives into Gump’s sentimentality wholesale, or you’re the kind who prefers to avoid it altogether. And if you are in the former category, you have to admit that there are few films that provide such an effective mix of tragic, comic, joyful, inspirational, and yes, sad moments as Forrest Gump. When a movie can manipulate your emotions this effectively, does it matter if you realize they’re being manipulated? I think not. —C.O.
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26) Hot Fuzz
Screengrab via Movieclips/YouTube (Fair Use)
Edgar Wright fans might debate which entry in the Cornetto trilogy was his best. The fan favorite remains the slacker zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead, but I vastly prefer Hot Fuzz, Wright’s second entry in the saga starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. A deft send-up of Michael Bay movies and buddy-cop flicks, Hot Fuzz is at its best when it gets downright weird in its inspired third act. The British comedians—who, this time around, play mismatched police officers—go Rambo on a stuffy British village that may or may not be a front for a cult. —N.L.
27) The Road
This is a bleak, devastating film, with no real sweet spot. If that appeals to you, then The Road—adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name—is a solid look at humanity in upheaval. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee play a father and son traversing a terrifying, no-rules dystopia after an unnamed event has devastated the country. Director John Hillcoat set the tone with 2005’s The Proposition. –A.S.
28) Paris Is Burning
With its unforgettable look at Harlem’s drag ball community, this famous documentary doesn’t just give us a glimpse of a hugely underrepresented aspect of queer, black, and Latino cultures. It also introduces us to notable trans icons like Octavia St. Laurent and prominent drag queens like the legendary Paris DuPree and Pepper LaBeija. And it gave us the story of other trans women like Venus Xtravaganza, who ultimately became victims of a transphobic society that three decades has done little to erase. Released just as the AIDS epidemic was peaking in the gay community, Paris Is Burning examines issues of race, class, homophobia, transphobia, and the devastating effects of AIDS on the community. A seven-year labor of love, the documentary still causes heated controversy today because of white filmmaker Jennie Livingston’s approach to telling the stories of a community not her own. But it remains an important and multifaceted early look at queer culture, at a historical moment when far more than Paris was on fire. —Aja Romano
29) Lucid Dream
A South Korean riff on Inception, Lucid Dream follows a journalist, Dae-ho, working to find his son, who was kidnapped three years earlier. The investigation has gone cold, but an experimental technique allows Dae-ho to relive the day his son was taken through lucid dreaming. For a premise as inherently grim as a parent searching for a lost child, Lucid Dream is surprisingly fun. The investigations taking place in dreamland and the real world intersect in interesting ways and the story is constantly upping the stakes. —Eddie Strait
30) The Jungle Book
As a director, Jon Favreau specializes in making broadly appealing movies. Ever since Elf he’s primarily made blockbusters, both original (Cowboys & Aliens) and based on someone else’s IP (Iron Man). Working in the later category, his live-action retelling proved to be much more than a cash grab. The visual effects are incredible, and it’s worth seeing the movie just to soak in the stunning imagery. Add in some noteworthy voice work (Idris Elba stands out in a sea of great vocal performances) and a strong debut for child actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli, and the result is one of 2016 most successful crowd-pleasers. —E.S.
Metropolis, a silent German film, is essential viewing for science-fiction fans. The futuristic utopia that Freder, the son of the city’s master, lives in is heavenly until he learns about the workers who operate the machines vital to the city’s existence and strives to help them. —M.J.
Jake Gyllenhaal might not be the best living actor, but he is certainly the hardest working. Since 2011’s Source Code, it would be difficult to find someone with a more diverse array of challenging roles—from the explosive boxing drama Southpaw (for which Gyllenhaal famously hulked up) to more sinuous work in Prisoners and Nightcrawler. In the latter, the 35-year-old actor particularly gets under the skin as Louis Bloom, a self-taught cameraman determined to make it in the news entertainment business. Louis gets a job working as a stringer for a producer, Nina (Rene Russo), working the graveyard shift of the lowest-rated network in Los Angeles. Bloom is willing to do anything to get the story, and desperate for ratings, Nina doesn’t realize the monster she’s creating to get it. Directed by Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy), Nightcrawler is a satire of our news media culture so spot-on you may need to shower after. -N.L.
33) Sing Street
Sing Street is simply a lovely movie. From Once director John Carney, this story of a teenager who starts a band to impress the girl who’s too cool for him is archetypal in premise but sublime in execution. Music and relationships are center stage in all of Carney’s films, and Sing Street is no exception. Every one of the original songs is great, but the sequence that features “Drive It Like You Stole It” was one of the best scenes in any movie from the past year. No disrespect to La La Land, but Sing Street should have easily taken one of its slots in the original song category. All the performances are great too, butexit Jack Reynor as our her Conor’s stoner brother Brendan is is particularly brimming with charm. —C.O.
34) Exit Through the Gift Shop
Screengrab via ENTRTNMNT/YouTube (Fair Use)
Is it an elaborate prank or a piece of high-performance art? Is it an inviting work of genius, or is it subtly poking fun at everyone who views it? These questions apply to both Exit Through the Gift Shop as a work of art and to the art world the film depicts. Directed by the ever-enigmatic Banksy, this documentary begins as a co-exploration of the street art movement, and the French shopkeeper who sought to capture it, Thierry Guetta (a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash). But when Banksy decides halfway through the movie that Thierry might not be, so to speak, the ideal candidate to make the definitive movie on this movement, Exit Through the Gift Shop’s narrative takes an unexpected turn. The film eventually becomes a meditation on the idea of authenticity in an art culture that is increasingly commercialized. If that sounds too esoteric for you, don’t worry, Exit Through the Gift Shop is also riotously funny and at times utterly unbelievable. —C.O.
35) Frances Ha
Screengrab via Movieclips Trailers/YouTube (Fair Use)
Noah Baumbach is having an incredibly prolific late career—churning out Greenberg, The Squid and the Whale, Mistress America, Margot at the Wedding, and While We’re Young in an amazing decade-long stretch. During that span, he also made Frances Ha, a riff on Annie Hall as seen through the lens of Godard, Truffaut, and the masters of the French New Wave. Instead of watching a couple slowly drift apart, Baumbach tracks the dissolution of a best friendship between Frances (Greta Gerwig, in her star-making role) and Sophie (Mickey Sumner). It’s not only a lovely Woody Allen homage but one of cinema’s best portraits of millennial disaffection to date. —N.L.
Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel didn’t see much movement in theaters, but then it’s not really a movie for everyone. Ballard’s tale of an apartment building that devolves into class warfare, floor by floor, is still pretty relevant in 2016, and Wheatley (who previously directed the impeccable Kill List) adds his trademark dread and style to the proceedings, which include decadent parties and dead dogs. Tom Hiddleston, as lightly chilled protagonist Robert Laing, attempts to break down what this literal class warfare means but gets lost in the mania, narcissism, and the need to belong. It’s a beautiful set piece, even if it lacks some of the novel’s philosophical corners. —A.S.
Christopher Nolan’s crafty 2000 thriller is an early indication of future brilliance. It’s also refreshingly small compared to the blockbusters he would go on to make later in his career. Told backward, Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard, a man with anterograde amnesia, a condition that erases short-term memory. Upon first viewing, the structure and the twist ending are enough to blow you away. But Memento is worth coming back to for its performances and philosophical themes. If you can’t remember the things you do, how do you know who you really are? —C.O.
38) The Babadook
Screengrab via Movieclips Trailers/YouTube (Fair Use)
In Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, the mother is supposed to be the protector, but she might be the monster, too. This tangled duality pushes The Babadook, a film that takes the idea of a bogeyman and draws a thick black line to the depths of our subconscious. Essie Davis is wonderful as Amelia, a single mother who’s slogging through life with her troubled, high-strung son. Their relationship starts to shift after a creature in a children’s pop-up book starts appearing outside the pages and becomes a terrifying metaphor for grief and depression. It joins a handful of recent horror films (The Witch, It Follows, Ex Machina) in which women aren’t just prey or victims. -A.S.
39) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Deciding whether to watch E.T. or not is one of the easier Netflix choices you can make. You see it and you click play, right? For most adults that reaction is automatic, and now is as good a time as any to bring the next generation into the fold. Steven Spielberg’s classic holds up astonishingly well, and the idea of bonding with a stranger and helping others is always timely. E.T. is the kind of movie that will endure for as long as watching movies is a thing, and almost 40 years after its release, the joy you get in sharing the movie with the next generation nearly exceeds the pleasure you get from watching it. Almost. -E.S.
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40) Magic Mike
When this Steven Soderbergh film debuted in 2012, who knew it would reach midnight-movie levels of (feminist) fandom? Channing Tatum drew from real-life experience to shape the titular stripper, and the film explores sexuality, identity, and commerce from a different angle. Plus: abs! —A.S.
41) The Day the Earth Stood Still
Screengrab via idoru345/YouTube (Fair Use)
It’s tough to avoid the parallels this cold war era sci-fi pic has to the world today. Originally released in 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still tells the story of an alien sent to our world to investigate humans and hopefully prompt us into laying down our arms in service of the common good—or else. The premise is unsubtle, simple even. But the message, that total destruction of our enemies also means total destruction of ourselves, never stops being relevant. Like all great science fiction, The Day the Earth Stood Still holds up a mirror, and it finds us wanting. —C.O.
Milk is a sad movie because it shows you how hard the gay rights movement had to fight for the most basic respect. It’s a sad movie because the rights that were being fought for are still too often unrecognized in this country today. It’s a sad movie because Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and anytime a good man dies fighting for something he believes in, those that would carry on their fight must naturally mourn first. But it’s not an entirely sad movie because Harvey Milk also lived a life worth celebrating. —C.O.
43) Stranger by the Lake
Nobody makes psychological thrillers like the French. From Clouzot’s classic Les Diaboliques and Ozu’s Swimming Pool to Guillaume Canet’s Tell No One (which has more twists than a 1960s sock hop), L’Hexagone has long been staked its claim as international capital of suspense. One of the best in recent memory is Stranger by the Lake, an erotic stunner that doubles as an allegory for the AIDS crisis and a queer homage to Alfred Hitchcock. In Alain Guiraudie’s 2013 Cannes winner, sex is death. At a gay cruising spot nestled at the edge of a picturesque lake, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) meets the sexy Michel (Christophe Paou), with whom he has an instant connection. There’s just one problem: Michel is a murderer. Franck spies his the object of his affection drowning his current lover in the lake—but continues to get closer to him. In the movies, there’s nothing deadlier than l’amour. —N.L.
44) Silver Streak
After Gene Wilder’s death in 2016, his roles in Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka were rightfully elevated in pieces about this life and work. But this 1976 action-comedy with Richard Pryor is worth a visit. Some of the racial themes and language will seem very outdated now, the physical comedy is absurd, and the plot kind of disappears, but the chemistry between Pryor and Wilder is what you’re really there for. —A.S.
45) Fruitvale Station
Screengrab via Screen Time/YouTube (Fair Use)
Given the country we live in, any drama about the shooting of an unarmed black man by a law enforcement officers is sure to stir up emotions. This one, based on the 2008 killing of Bay Area citizen Oscar Grant, is no different from any other—except it is. Like all stories of police violence against the black community, Fruitvale Station’s details are unique while also fitting into a larger pattern. What makes the film work is that director Ryan Coogler (who was just 26 when Fruitvale Station debuted at Sundance) chooses to focus on the last few hours of Oscar Grant’s life, rather than just the moments surrounding his death. In that way, the movie becomes equal parts celebration and indictment. Fruitvale Station was a monumental debut on Coogler’s part, as well as a turning point for star Michael B. Jordan (who had previously appeared on such TV shows as The Wire, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood). Fruitvale Station is still a devastating breakout. —C.O.
46) The Big Short
Adam McKay’s The Big Short is not the best film about Wall Street. It’s not even the best film about Wall Street this decade (that honor would have to go to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.) But what makes The Big Short a standout entry in this subgenre is its unparalleled desire to educate. McKay inserts many a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down (see: Margot Robbie,) never straying too far from his comedic routes. But his screed on the mechanisms that led to the collapse of the credit and housing bubble remains didactic throughout, always seeking to inform the public who were affected and scold those who let it happen. The Big Short is self-aware regarding the liberties it takes, to the point where the movie’s meta streak can be overwhelming. Fortunately, an ensemble including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and many more do their best to keep the audience entertained through a mass of technical jargon. This is preachy film, but not one without a sense of humor. After all, what can you do sometimes other than laugh in the face of tragedy? —C.O.
47) Room 237
Do you like movies? Better yet, are you obsessed with movies? What about one movie, specifically? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you have qualified as a prime candidate for watching Room 237. One of the most original documentaries of the past few years, director Rodney Ascher’s exploration of fan theories swirling around Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a testament to the power of cinema to captivate and consume. Native Americans, the moon-landing, and more fall in the crosshairs of various Shining truthers whom Ascher allows to expound on their theories at length here. Ascher doesn’t endorse any of these theories, but he doesn’t condemn them either. Instead, the movie offers a meditation on how we project our own desires and politics into cinema. —C.O.
Sixteen years before Moana, Disney laid the groundwork for a culturally conscious “princess” movie with Mulan. And sure, some elements of the movie look dated today, and if it came out in 2017, it would surely be roasted for not being progressive enough. But that doesn’t change the fact that Mulan is one of Disney’s best movies, featuring a thrilling story, great characters, gorgeous animation, and one of its most complex heroines ever. It’s also worth watching for the showstopping classic “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You” alone. Oh, and Mulan has a mom, who’s actually alive—a totally revolutionary concept for Disney at the time! —C.O.
49) Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the kind of documentary that was meant to be on Netflix. Though it was well-received upon theatrical release, it often takes the accessibility of streaming services for stories with such specified subject matter to reach a wider audience. Sushi master Jiro and his relationship with son Yoshikazu (parodied on IFC’s Documentary Now) make for a fascinating portrait of the pursuit to do one thing really well. Caution to sushi fans, though: Your mouth will be watering through much of the 1:20 runtime. -C.O.
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50) Life Itself
Steve James is debatably the most important documentary filmmaker of the last quarter century, with acclaimed works like Hoop Dreams, Stevie, and The Interrupters under his belt to show for it. But while all his films are personal in nature, James’ 2014 portrait of fellow Chicagoan Roger Ebert feels especially close to home. Ebert had championed his work for years by the time James decided to do a film on America’s most famous film critic. But the result is no mere hagiography, pulling pieces from Ebert’s own memoir to create a warts-and-all portrait that is made all the more affecting by scenes in which James visits him during the last few months of his life. The overall achievement proves to be both a moving tribute to a unique American voice and a touching meditation on mortality itself. —C.O.
Hush is an hourlong cuticle-ripper. The 2016 film centers on Maddie (Kate Siegel, who co-wrote the screenplay), a deaf and mute author who lives in a secluded cabin in the woods. And there’s a killer on the loose, wearing a creepy white mask. This premise might sound awfully well-tread, but Hush upends the typical home-invasion thriller by letting us see the threat (The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr.) unmasked, forcing the tension to build as Maddie finds different ways to thwart his murderous advances. By immersing us in Maddie’s silent world, the tension is even more palpable, and the fact that she’s a writer of fiction allows the film to expand in some inventive directions, even as her fate remains unsure. —A.S.
52) Little Men
Little Men is the third film in director Ira Sachs’ loose trilogy examining modern urban life. Though his previous two efforts (Keep the Lights On and Love Is Strange) both revolved around gay couples, albeit in very different circumstances, Little Men centers around the friendship of two young teenage boys and how a squabble between their parents threatens to pull them apart. It may not feel quite as of the moment as Sachs’ last few movies, but Little Men still has a lot to say about contemporary New York, specifically how the city’s changing real estate market is pushing people out left and right. Yet Little Men’s more important truths are timeless: friendship is hard but worth it, people come in and out of your life, and you may change for the better even if you don’t get what you really want. —C.O.
53) Queen of Earth
Alex Ross Perry does not make movies about people you would like to spend time with. His breakout feature, Listen Up Philip, is about a narcissistic writer (Jason Schwartzman) who spends the entire film alienating everyone. It’s a good film, acidic in its insights about human behavior, and his follow-up is even better. New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane called Queen of Earth a film for “anyone who thinks that there are too many warm hugs in Strindberg,” but that overestimates the movie’s tenderness. No one in Queen of Earth has even heard of a hug. Like Gena Rowlands before her, Elisabeth Moss plays Catherine, a woman on the edge of collapse. She used to work for her father, a famous artist, but he has passed away. During a retreat at a lake house, her relationship with her best friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston), rapidly unravels as Catherine’s sanity slips away. Moss’s performance is as spellbinding as the movie. —N.L.
54) The Ip Man Trilogy
Donnie Yen (who audiences will recognize as the blind warrior Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One) stars in the trilogy of biographical martial arts films as real-life Wing Chun master Ip Man, who eventually became Bruce Lee’s teacher. The first film focuses on events that occurred during the Sino-Japanese War, the second film follows Ip after he opened a Wing Chun school in Hong Kong, while the third featured a young Bruce Lee (played by Danny Chan) going to Ip’s Wing Chun school to learn martial arts. While the fights are excellently choreographed and executed, it’s the emotional story that brings it home. —Michelle Jaworski
55) Win It All
Jake Johnson helms this film about a gambling addict and the duffel bag that starts the domino effect. Director Joe Swanberg follows up Drinking Buddies with another tale of a hapless guy in over his head and adds in some memorable scenes with Joe Lo Truglio and Keegan-Michael Key. —A.S.
Screengrab via Netflix US & Canada/YouTube (Fair Use)
Although not as formally inventive as I Am Not Your Negro, nor as narratively ambitious as O.J.: Made in America, 13th is the third in a trifecta of great Oscar-nominated documentaries about race in America we got in 2016. From Selma director Ava DuVernay, this film builds off of works such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to explore mass incarceration in the U.S. and eventually ask the difficult question: What if slavery in this country never ended, just transformed? Bound to become an instructional text in liberal schools all over, the biggest criticism one can level against 13th is that at an hour and 40 minutes, there might not be enough of it. —C.O.
So many movies are given infinite resources and still manage to feel so minuscule that they might as well not even exist. Sean Baker’s Tangerine, however, is a testament to how much filmmakers can achieve with very little. Shot on an iPhone, the movie cost relative pennies to make, but Tangerine is a hypnotic, extraordinary film about the friendship between two sex workers. That bond is tested over the course of a very long day, and the plot’s simplicity masks its power. After finding out her boyfriend isn’t faithful, Sin-Dee (Kiki Rodriguez) goes off on a quest to locate his mistress. Meanwhile, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) prepares for a performance at a local club. Filmed on a stretch of Santa Monica known as a nexus of prostitution in the city, Tangerine captures the feel of Los Angeles better than any film I’ve ever seen. It’s simultaneously stylish, low-key, and groundbreaking in its authentic depiction of life on the streets. —N.L.
58) Young Frankenstein
Of Mel Brooks’ three masterpieces, one could definitely make the argument that Young Frankenstein is the most beloved. It’s not quite as funny as Blazing Saddles, and it doesn’t have quite the legacy of The Producers. But it does have co-writer Gene Wilder at his manic best, and that alone is enough for many to put it over the top. Brooks also really commits to recreating the early horror films he’s spoofing, shooting in beautiful black-and-white, with ornate production design to match. And of course, who could forget the iconic “Puttin’ in the Ritz” number. —C.O.
59) The Thin Blue Line
Like Blackfish, another socially conscious documentary from the same time period, The Thin Blue Line is a work of social activism (and like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it was parodied on IFC’s Documentary Now). But what makes The Thin Blue Line a singularly important piece of filmmaking is that it actually saved a man’s life—Randall Adams, who was was wrongly sentenced to death in 1976 for the murder of a Dallas police officer. Errol Morris is widely considered to be one of the greatest documentarians of all time, but even among his impressive filmography, there’s nothing quite as politically significant as this exploration of gross misuse of power. —C.O.
60) The Double
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There’s a myriad of influences on display in Richard Ayoade’s The Double. David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Terry Gilliam: It’s all there. And still, Ayoade manages to create something that feels all its own. Choosing to adapt Dostoevsky for your sophomore feature is no easy task, but Ayoade steps up and then some. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as a hapless government worker whose life gets better and then much, much worse when his exact look-alike shows up, this dark comedy is an absurdist fever dream that heralds Ayoade’s arrival as a major talent to watch. —C.O.
61) I Am Love
Where do you even start with I Am Love? There’s director Luca Guadagnino’s luscious visual palette, obviously. There’s Tilda Swinton doing classic Tilda Swinton (right before the chameleonic actor became a household name). But most importantly, there’s the overwhelming sense that camp has never been taken so seriously as it was in this 2010 Italian stunner. Receiving a much-deserved Oscar nod for best costume design, everything about this movie is gorgeously over the top. Like the very clothes she lives her life in, the story of Swinton’s Emma Recchi, who experiences love and loss amidst Italy’s upper crust, is fabulous, gorgeous, sumptuous, and completely unsubtle. But it also never blinks, and it’s that blind commitment to its own self-importance that makes I Am Love such a unique watch. —C.O.
62) The Panic in Needle Park
Long before films like Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream, and Heaven Knows What tackled the subject, director Jerry Schatzberg’s The Panic in Needle Park shined a gritty light on heroin addiction all the way back in 1971. Released just a year before The Godfather came out, The Panic in Needle Park stars Al Pacino as a charming junkie named Bobby and Kitty Winn as his impressionable girlfriend, Helen. Although Panic feels a bit dated and occasionally over the top now, it still paints a stark picture of New York street life at its bleakest. Pacino was as young, charismatic, and handsome as he would ever be here, clearly a star on the rise. But it was Winn who won the Best Actress award when the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, despite appearing in few pictures since. Trivia time: the screenplay was co-written by Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, whose older brother, Dominick Dunne, produced the film. The elder Dunne would of course go on to become a famous writer himself, mostly for the major American trials he covered in the second half of his life. —C.O.
63) The Third Man
Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles frequently worked together throughout their careers, but none of their collaborations is quite like this post-war noir from 1949. Cotten plays a novelist investigating the death of a friend (played by Welles) in Vienna. But the details surrounding that friend’s death only become more mysterious the deeper he looks. Directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene, The Third Man is especially enjoyable for Welles, whose probably better here than in any other movie he didn’t helm himself. —C.O.
64) The Trip
Most of us, at some point in our lives, have taken a long trip with a close friend. During the course of said trip, you probably had some laughs, saw some sights, ate some food, and occasionally, got on each other’s nerves. That’s is what makes Michael Winterbottom’s 2010 comedy such a delight. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves, and their dynamic is jokey and light-hearted yet competitive. As Coogan and Brydon make their way first around the English countryside, they spend a lot of time looking at their own lives and attempting to tackle the big questions. It’s fascinating how from movie to movie (The Trip to Italy is not currently available on Netflix), one man will be up, and the other down, and then it’ll shift, as real life is also apt to do when it comes to close friendships. However, these movies are never more at ease than when they are simply letting the two men riff in their own language, as close friends do. —C.O.
65) The Place Beyond the Pines
Though not as utterly soul-crushing as his breakout film, Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines is still a tour de force in sadness. Telling three different stories over two generations, Pines is a movie about the bond between fathers and son and how the choices we make resonate well into the future. Though it falls short of its epic ambitions, the film is a great throwback to the gritty American dramas of the 1970s—not to mention the rare “guy cry” movie, i.e. it has action but will also put you in touch with your emotions. Co-lead Bradley Cooper is good in the movie’s second section, but the film never quite gets over Ryan Gosling’s towering performance in the first. As a carnival bad boy skilled in motorcycle stunts, Gosling (reteaming with Cianfrance here following the success of Valentine) is the tattooed heart of gold at the center of this picture. —C.O.
Shot entirely in one take, Victoria, sort of like Boyhood, could be accused of being a gimmick movie. But when the so-called “gimmick” is executed this effectively and thrillingly, who cares? Taking place over a single night in Berlin, the film follows the titular Victoria (Laia Costa) as she falls in love, commits a crime, loses everything, and then gains it back. German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper crams a lot into two hours and 18 minutes, but one of the best things about Victoria is that it still pauses to take the occasional breath. These quiet moments are what makes the film so impressive and help it transcend whatever gimmicky expectations audiences might have. —C.O.
67) The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked Germany’s Enigma code during World War II. Turing’s team (filled out by Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode) offers strong support to Turing’s dogged pursuit, and the film gives us a historical sketch of the time and political climate—and how one’s sexuality could be used against them. —A.S.
68) Y Tu Mamá También
Back in the days when video stores were still a thing, I rented Y Tu Mamá También on a recommendation from a friend, not knowing what it was about. Given that it had “Mama” in the title, I figured that meant it was family-friendly and invited my mother to watch it with me. (Cut me some slack; I was 14 and really, really dumb.)
If you’re familiar with the plot of Y Tu Mamá También, you’re aware that decision was a big mistake: The 2001 Mexican-set drama is about a steamy love triangle between Tenoch (Diego Luna); his best friend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal); and his cousin’s wife, Luisa (Maribel Verdú), who is dying of cancer. She accepts an invitation with them to go on a road trip to see a secret beach known as “Heaven’s Mouth,” and their journey quickly turns into a tangled mess of erotic fantasy.
The funny thing is that both my mother and I ended up adoring it—although for very different reasons. She liked how boisterous Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-nominated screenplay was (loaded with playful, scatological banter between carmates), and I enjoyed the film’s sexual politics, with the movie set against a time of governmental and social upheaval. This is a time in Mexican society when Tenoch and Julio’s gay male friends have boyfriends, which makes the pair’s own erotic encounter all the more dangerous.
Fifteen years after its release, Y Tu Mamá También remains a one-movie sexual revolution. Watch it with someone nice and stay inside with a bottle of wine. —N.L.
69) What Happened, Miss Simone?
Did you know her real name was Eunice Kathleen Waymon? “Nina Simone” was a stage name because she didn’t want her mother knowing she was performing in saloons at the start of her career. And this Netflix-produced documentary opens with her less-than-humble start in 1930s North Carolina and progresses through her journey across the country to become one of the all-time greats. With archived footage and priceless family photos, Simone’s identity as a black political activist during the civil rights era and her struggles with mental illness are brought front and center. (Her alluring, timeless performances? Plenty of that too.) —Nia Wesley
70) In the Loop
Just because the reality of American politics now rivals most political satire in terms of absurdity doesn’t make In the Loop any less sharp or any less brutally funny. Spunoff from director Armando Iannucci’s BBC series The Thick of It—as well as a spiritual predecessor to his HBO creation, Veep—this 2009 Oscar-nominee for best original screenplay depicts a transcontinental struggle between Great Britain and America to prevent an impending war. Starring familiar faces such as Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi and Veep’s Anna Chlumsky, In the Loop is the kind of gem of a movie that hides in plain sight. It’s only gotten more incisive in the years since its release, and you’ll have no idea how you lived without Malcolm Tucker’s wonderfully artful swearing once it enters your life. —C.O.
In a future where siblings are strictly prohibited, families with multiple kids are forced to hide from the government. When one of seven sisters disappears, her siblings have to work together from the confines of their home before they’re found by the spooks. Noomi Rapace plays all seven sisters, and watching her interact with herself is almost as fun as watching the sisters during the action scenes. What Happened to Monday is a fun, fast-moving, and thrilling sci-fi romp. —E.S.
72) Under the Shadow
In 1980s Tehran, during the War of the Cities, a mother and daughter stay huddled up in their apartment as their city is bombarded by missiles. The historical horror and PTSD-inducing sights of rockets cracking roofs should be terrifying enough, but then an evil spirit takes interest in the little girl and things go from bad to worse. Directed by Iranian-born Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow deals with the social issues of a woman’s place in a fundamentalist Muslim society as much as it does demonic forces. –John-Michael Bond
73) V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta’s politics are not subtle, but subtlety isn’t all that effective when you’re aiming for revolution. An underrated classic from the Wachowski siblings, V for Vendetta’s impact has reached farther than most would’ve expected, even showing up in imagery from the Arab Spring. Over 10 years later, its message regarding the fight against tyranny sadly feels more relevant than ever, which makes the film as necessary as ever, too. —C.O.
74) The Overnight
There should be more movies about sexual fluidity. But in the meantime, we’ve got The Overnight, a sly little Sundance gem from 2015 by up-and-comer Patrick Brice. Aided by a terrific cast (Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche), Brice has made the rare comedy about sex that is smart but not preachy. The story centers on two married couples who meet up one night and let their inhibitions run wild. At just under 80 minutes, it’s a total breeze. Smart, funny, and underseen, skip this one if you don’t like sexual humor, but add it to your My List immediately if you do. —C.O.
Screengrab via cupcakes pwn!/YouTube (Fair Use)
You ever watched Fantasia? You ever watched Fantasia… on weed? The 1940 Disney classic has no doubt induced many drug-fueled viewings, but 75 years later, it remains an experimental melding of orchestra and animation, and in the internet age, it’s become a crucial text for conspiracy theorists and Disney fans alike. What other movies can you say that about? —A.S.
76) Pulp Fiction
Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. “Miserlou” and “Jungle Boogie.” Royale with cheese. Great vengeance and furious anger. The dance. A syringe of adrenaline to the heart. The watch. Zed’s dead, baby, Zed’s dead. I shot Marvin in the face. “Bad Motherf***er.” The briefcase. Tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.
Few movies have an impact on pop culture the way Pulp Fiction has. Over 20 years later, we’re still quoting it, referencing it, and stealing from it, much like the way Quentin Tarantino stole from others to create his great cinematic pastiche back in 1994. Now, say you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction again. I dare you, I double dare you, motherf***er. —C.O.
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It’s a little sad that Pariah is best known for a drunken shout out: When accepting the Golden Globe for The Iron Lady in 2012, Meryl Streep slurred the name of Adepero Oduye, the film’s lead. But inebriated or not, Meryl knows what’s up. Directed by Dee Rees, making her debut, Pariah offers a fresh take on the coming-out story. Giving a star-is-born performance, Oduye plays Alike, a black teenager experiencing her queer coming of age on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. As she soon discovers, figuring out who you are isn’t without difficulty: The girl she likes (Aasha Davis) views their relationship as nothing more than “youthful experimentation.” Meanwhile, her parents force her to choose between her sexuality and her family. For Rees, the little-seen film was the beginning of a promising career: She directed HBO’s Emmy-winning Bessie in 2015 and helmed the network’s Stonewall drama, When We Rise. —N.L.
78) Drinking Buddies
Screengrab via hollywoodstreams/YouTube (Fair Use)
The two leads, Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde), are coworkers at a microbrewery; it’s obvious that they’d probably date each other if they weren’t already dating other people. When Kate suddenly becomes single, it brings their relationship halfway closer to a reality, and you can probably guess where things go from there.
But your guess would probably be wrong. This is a Joe Swanberg movie, heavily rooted in the mumblecore genre, which means it’s going to see your expectations and gleefully choose to ignore them. Without spoiling too much, this isn’t so much a romance film as it is a film about boundaries—and about how that common adage that you should date your best friend is perhaps oversimplifying things a tad. —J.K.
79) The Squid and the Whale
Running a swift hour and 21 minutes, The Squid and the Whale is about as compact as any intricate family saga can be. But writer/director Noah Baumbach, who based the film off his actual experiences growing up, manages to land every single blow in this dark comedy. There’s not a single cynical chuckle, awkward moment, or reluctant cheer that feels false or unearned. It’s no wonder this movie made Baumbach a critical darling and brought attention to a young Jesse Eisenberg, who’s transfixing as Baumbach’s stand-in, Walt. Laura Linney also gives a commanding and vulnerable performance as Walt’s mother, Joan, and Jeff Daniels is terrific as his conceited but wounded father, Bernard. —C.O.
80) Fish Tank
Screengrab via arakizeLHF/YouTube (Fair Use)
Before taking on poverty-stricken swaths of the U.S. with last year’s Cannes favorite American Honey, Academy Award-winner Andrea Arnold directed this searing portrait of lower-class England. It features a devastatingly raw performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis, as well as a pre-fame Michael Fassbender playing her mother’s lothario boyfriend. The scenes between Jarvis and Fassbender simmer, but like all Arnold’s work, Fish Tank is especially effective as a nuanced portrait of a specific time and place. —C.O.
81) Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Netflix released a companion piece to this classic film in 2016—Pee-wee’s Big Holiday—but you’ve got to go back to the source. The 1985 Tim Burton film was the first to showcase the comedic talents of Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) on the big screen, post-Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It gave us Large Marge, the breakfast machine, and a film both kids and adults could hold near and dear. —A.S.
Screengrab via ObscureTrailers/YouTube (Fair Use)
This isn’t a rom-com in the traditional sense, thanks to the line “fuck me gently with a chainsaw,” among other things. But the relationship between Winona Ryder’s and Christian Slater’s characters is one of the more complex to emerge from the ‘80s high school genre. Veronica (Ryder), one of the four popular “Heathers,” finds a mirror in JD (Slater), an outcast who inadvertently hatches a plan that kills one of the Heathers. Their relationship doesn’t have a meet-cute; it’s more about what love (or lust) makes you blind to. —A.S.
Phoenix follows disfigured Holocaust survivor Nelly, who returns home with a brand new face to live in a country she no longer recognizes. This may sound heavy, but the film is also quietly pulpy, wearing cinematic influences like Vertigo on its sleeve. As Nelly becomes entangled with the man she used to love, and who may have betrayed her, the movie weaves a tight web, which eventually collapses in a devastating final scene. It may be the best foreign noir in years. —C.O.
Screengrab via Movieclips Trailers/YouTube (Fair Use)
There are many documentaries that advocate for social change, but few have been as effective as Blackfish. Helping to put an end to SeaWorld’s inhumane whale shows, this film called attention to egregious animal rights violations that had been going on right in front of us for years. It’s telling that when Tilikum, one of the orcas at the center of Blackfish, passed away in early 2017, there was a renewed sense of interest on his behalf—and on behalf of policing SeaWorld. —C.O.
85) August: Osage County
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Critical consensus on the adaptation of this Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama from playwright Tracey Letts found it wanting in comparison to the original stage version. But despite the watering down the text suffers, the movie version of August: Osage County still has more genuine bite and sadness than half the melodramatic Oscar contenders that arrive year after year. That’s thanks in no small part to the film’s performances. Julie Roberts and Meryl Streep, both nominated for Oscars, are especially noteworthy in their respective roles. As she often does, Streep goes big as matriarch Violet Weston, occasionally teetering over the top. She’s saved from going into camp territory by Letts’ brilliant dialog. The real star here, however, is Roberts, who’s better than she has been in years as Barbara Weston, the secret glue holding her messy family together. —C.O.
86) Force Majeure
In the aftermath of an avalanche, a wife accuses her husband of trying to save himself over his own family as the audience gets a raw and sometimes uncomfortable look at a marriage on the brink of falling apart. It’s a gripping character drama, and there’s even a familiar face in Game of Thrones’s Kristofer Hivju. —M.J.
87) The African Queen
John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, and Katharine Hepburn teamed up to make this WWI film about a romance between a riverboat captain and a missionary to regain public favor after they publicly spoke up in favor of free speech during the beginning of the Hollywood blacklist. Their efforts worked, and The African Queen became a huge hit, earning Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Actor, which Bogart won, marking his first and only Oscar victory. This despite the fact that virtually everyone got sick with dysentery or worse while on set, and Huston was supposedly more preoccupied with shooting an elephant than shooting a movie, as later dramatized in the Clint Eastwood film, White Hunter Black Heart. —C.O.
88) We Are the Best!
There’s nothing quite like a simple story well told. While We Are the Best! doesn’t feel revolutionary at first, this straightforward account of three young girls’ attempt to form a punk band in 1980s Stockholm resonates the more you think about it. From Together director Lukas Moodysson, this 2013 film captures the raptures of first friendships, crushes, and musical obsessions in a way that feels so real, it’s no surprise that it’s based on his wife Coco Moodysson own autobiographical graphic novel. Perhaps that’s why We Are the Best! doesn’t sensationalize or trivialize the experiences of young women the way Hollywood and cinema at large tends to. Although the movie is charming and a lot of fun (similar to this 2016’s Sing Street), it’s also quietly transgressive. And what’s more punk than that? —C.O.
A movie about fashion icon Iris Apfel should be as fabulous as her extraordinary life. On that front, Albert Maysles’ film is a smashing success. The legendary filmmaker has a way with larger-than-life subjects. With his late brother, David, Maysles directed Grey Gardens, the acclaimed documentary about a pair of faded socialites living in a condemned house in the Hamptons. In the film’s most famous scene, Little Edie Beale models her “revolutionary costume for the day,” a bathing suit with a makeshift headwrap and an American flag. Like Edie, Iris was a one-woman trailblazer, someone who refused to be defined by convention. The force-of-nature is a lively presence on screen, but Iris has a quiet poignancy to it, as the aging icon deals with the daily realities of growing old. Iris is so dazzlingly pleasurable that you might not realize how touching this love letter to oddballs everywhere truly is. —N.L.
90) Little Sister
It’s strange that Little Sister’s examination of Bush-era politics should feel so distant; the country has changed a lot in just under 10 years, and what once felt like national crises almost feel quanit in comparison today. Yet Little Sister’s greatest triumphs are interpersonal, not political. It’s a film about relationships, about how people deal with loss and trauma, about how people change while also somehow staying the same. This 2016 indie dramedy from Zach Clark was too little seen at the box office. Perhaps the premise, revolving around a goth nun who returns home after her Iraq war hero brother is disfigured in combat, was simply to kitschy for some people. But Little Sister is more than quirk or weirdness; it’s a lovely little character piece that is well-acted and smartly written, proving that Clark is a talent to watch. Plus, “goth nun”… come on, you’re kind of interested now, right? —C.O.
Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, Tower is sure to become the defining film on the Aug. 1, 1966 Kent State shooting—never mind that it came out 50 years later. As a haunting reminder of the past and a frightening predictor of the present, few events from the last century are as significant or as horrifying as what happened that day. Using interviews and animation to recreate their actions, survivors of the incident talk about their trauma and their bravery while director Keith Maitland uses rotoscoping to paint a picture of what they went through. This makes the film’s ending, when we see these people as in real life as they exist today—some of them actually meeting in person—all the more powerful. —C.O.
92) We Were Here
There’s been an embarrassment of great documentaries on the ’80s AIDS crisis in recent years, the most well-known being David French’s great How to Survive a Plague. The year before Plague was released, David Weissman and Bill Weber directed We Were Here, an equally important look at queer life during an era where being gay was looked at as a death sentence. What’s refreshing about We Were Here is that shows a community coming together for hope and healing. Weissman and Weber interview psychologist Ed Wolf, activist Paul Boneberg, and others who worked to fight the disease, which had infected 50 percent of gay men by the mid-’80s, including Guy Clark, a dancer who lived in San Francisco’s famed Castro district during the epidemic. He brought flowers to the funerals of those who passed away from HIV. The uplifting We Were Here is a stirring reminder of the power and beauty of solidarity. —N.L.
93) The Young Mr. Lincoln
Many films have told the story of Abraham Lincoln, but few are as unique as Young Mr. Lincoln, a biopic that focuses solely on Lincoln when he was (get this) young. Henry Fonda stars as the future president, portraying him during the period where his law career took off and political ambitions started to set in. Made by John Ford, who would go on to direct Fonda again a year later in what’s probably his most iconic performance, as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Young Mr. Lincoln is a precursor to the great work both star and filmmaker would soon become famous for. —C.O.
2014 was a breakout year for Tig Notaro. During a performance at New York City’s Town Hall, the lesbian comic came out as a breast cancer survivor. In a career-making set, Notaro performed shirtless, baring her double mastectomy for the world to see. After the act generated massive buzz (and applause from those who lauded her fearlessness), she would do it again—this time on her HBO standup special, Boyish Girl Interrupted. The acclaimed Netflix documentary Tig examines the comedian’s life during her treatment and in recovery—as she and her partner attempt to have their first child. Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York’s film is both as candid and disarmingly intimate as you would expect a film about Notaro to be. The documentary is a testament to human resilience—about finding the courage to go on after enormous hardship. —N.L.
Movies that are equally entertaining for kids and adults are an increasingly rare breed, so when one does come along it looks like a mirage in the Netflix listings. Fear not, Zootopia is the real deal. It’s the story of a bright-eyed rabbit (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) who fights off Disney-levels of discrimination to achieve her dream of being a cop. She forms an unlikely alliance with a con man fox (the almost too perfectly cast Jason Bateman) to expose a massive conspiracy. Zootopia is a rock-solid buddy cop comedy, but what really separates it is the social commentary running through the narrative. Sometimes the film bites off a little more than it can chew, but that occasionally happens with ambitious movies and should be embraced here. —E.S.
96) Meek’s Cutoff
Meek’s Cutoff is infuriating but imposing, and no matter what reaction you have to it, it’s likely to be a strong one. But it’s movies that elicit a strong reaction that are also the most worth watching. This western from Kelly Reichardt, one of the most important voices in American indie film, is an unshakeable piece of commentary on the history of America and an incomparable piece of modern filmmaking. Meek’s Cutoff is a must-watch for cinephiles who haven’t found the time yet. —C.O.
97) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Travel back, if you will, to the distant past of 2003. Johnny Depp was not only semi-tolerable, his Captain Jack Sparrow was a revelation, yet to become a grating parody of itself. Orlando Bloom was a movie star, Keira Knightley was an up and comer, and no one knew whether a film based on a theme park ride would work. Moreover, said film had not yet spawned a parade of annoying sequels. Today, it’s hard to say what’s most impressive about the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie—that it still holds up so well, or that it even worked in the first place. —C.O.
98) The Matrix
Seriously? Do you seriously need me to tell you how good The Matrix is? How it’s the Wachowskis’ most sublimely cerebral, gloriously weird, well-executed work ever? How it changed the face of Hollywood, setting the gold standard for sci-fi and action movies for years to come? How Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss created some of the most iconic movie characters of all time? How it’s the movie that makes you go, “Whoa”? Seriously, do I need to tell you all that? If the answer is yes, I just, I can’t with you. Get out of here. This is one of the best movies on Netflix. —C.O.
99) The Invitation
If you missed 2016’s twisty The Invitation, you’re not alone. But you’re also in for a treat. Karyn Kusama’s thriller about a group of friends at a dinner party is simplistic in premise but precise in execution. It’s a movie so intimate, so perfectly claustrophobic, you’ll feel, almost like the characters in the movie, trapped by a kind of relentless dread while watching it. As the plot unfurls and the party stretches on, secrets and ulterior motives are revealed, all the way up to a breathtaking climax. Intense as the experience is, you may immediately want to watch it again, if not because it’s great then at least to make sure you got everything. —C.O.
100) How to Survive a Plague
Screengrab via Screen Time/YouTube (Fair Use)
How to Survive a Plague reflects the terrible struggle gay activists went through just to get noticed while their community was dying in record numbers. Depicting infighting among activist groups, ignorance, and apathy on the part of the political and medical establishment, and the onslaught of a disease no one knew anything about yet, How to Survive a Plague is a necessary reminder of a time when HIV meant an almost certain death sentence. As Larry Kramer reminds us in the film, this was no regular epidemic, it was a “FUCKING PLAGUE!” —C.O.
101) Don’t Think Twice
Although it was a hit with critics, Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice failed to become the crossover hit it should’ve in 2016. Using improv specifically to tell a story about the highs and lows of being a creative person in general, Birbiglia has made a mini-masterpiece, sure to resonate with anyone who has tried (and failed) to put their talent on display for the world to see. The film also gives us another powerhouse performance from Gillian Jacobs, who continues to be spectacular at playing damaged, complicated characters. —C.O.
102) Man on Wire
Man on Wire is the rare documentary that asks you to root for the criminals. In 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit broke more than a few laws in pursuit of an impossible dream—walking on a tightrope between the Twin Towers. James Marsh’s film is an incredibly gripping nail-biter that’s paced like a thriller. That’s why it’s unsurprising that director Robert Zemeckis adapted it into a feature film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit, a kind of fact-based Ocean’s Eleven that takes the whimsy up to 12. But you’re much better off sticking to the groundbreaking original, which is one of the few movies to earn a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. —N.L.
Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is an odd and oddly touching story about a girl, Mija, and her genetically enhanced superpig, Okja. Set in Korea and the U.S., Okja features a diverse cast, thrilling set pieces, and enough emotional moments to keep you engaged even when the film indulges its weirder aspects. Despite the film’s tonal shifts, Joon-ho’s agility and prowess as a filmmaker ties everything together and makes it feel if a piece. Okja is easily the best Netflix original movie to date. —E.S.
104) To the Bone
It may be hard to convince yourself sit down for a harrowing story about a young woman’s struggle with anorexia. Despite To the Bone’s dour subject matter, Marti Noxon’s script has enough humor to act as a release valve. The performances from lead actress Lily Collins to supporting players Alex Sharp, Keanu Reeves, Retta, and Lily Tomlin are great. The story is based on Noxon’s past experiences and that comes through in the intimate and empathetic approach she takes. —E.S.
Ennui, violation, ham-fisted vengeance: It all comes together in Macon Blair’s directorial debut, starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as two amateur detectives looking for justice in a world gone mad. —Audra Schroeder
Editor’s note: This story is regularly updated for relevance.
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