The 50 best films on Netflix UK
Mike Williams | On 21, Mar 2020Reading time: 9 mins
It’s not only during times of social-distancing and self-quarantining that Netflix can become an essential part of a person’s day. With its original movies and extensive library of classics, hidden gems, and modern masterpieces, we can all breathe a sigh of relief (no pun intended) that it’s readily available to us at the touch of a button.
From action thrillers and moving dramas to hard-hitting documentaries, here’s your guide to the 50 best films currently available on Netflix UK:
A Quiet Place
A recent addition is the Emily Blunt and John Krasinski led horror that dawned a new era of an ultra intense sub-genre. While waiting to catch the edge-of-your-seat sequel, indulge in this – one of the best horror efforts in years.
Boyz n the Hood
The late John Singeton wrote and directed this 1991 classic . The deft coming-of-age story envelops themes of family and belonging in the life and death world of gang culture. Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Regina King, Lawrence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett are reasons alone for watching.
Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola’s oddly charming tale of two displaced souls visiting Japan – an ageing, renowned actor, played by Bill Murray, and a young, impressionable woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, accompanying her photographer boyfriend – who embark on a genuinely touching and poignant friendship that’s hugely satisfying.
Arguably living legend Hayao Miyazaki’s finest hour, this story of a young girl named Chiriro who wanders into a magical world won Best Animation at the 2002 Oscars.
This Martin Scorsese masterpiece stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta – the latter whom the story centres on – and follows a young kid ascending through the Italian-American mob.
Michael B Jordan stars in the powerful and prevalent true story of Oscar Grant III, a black man experiencing his final day alive, in a narrative that illustrates societal and institutional racism in modern America.
Oscar bait for sure, but that doesn’t take away how breathtakingly brilliant Leonardo DiCaprio is as he battles the frosty elements in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s brutal survival drama. Couple that with superb support from Tom Hardy and Will Poulter and it’s a winner.
Martial Arts master Donnie Yen crafts an entire film of mind-blowingly great cinematography, in a tale of a man forced to fight during the 1937 Japanese invasion.
Silence of the Lambs
As far as unnerving icons of the big screen go, Hannibal Lecter is up there. Combine that with a powerhouse performance from Jodie Foster, it’s one of those all time legendary films whose influence is littered through pop culture decades later.
Is it a comedy or a horror film? Imagine waking up to relive the exact same day. That’s what Bill Murray’s narcissistic weatherman Phil goes through. Sure, he deserves it and perhaps he does learn a thing or two along the way, but it’s also brilliantly funny.
When Harry Met Sally
Rom-coms come and go, but When Harry Met Sally is forever. Ok, that was cheesy but Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan have an unmatched on-screen spark, as we see the ideals of love through the eyes of our leads. And also That Diner Scene.
Cabin in the Woods
Overlooked by some as just another teen horror, Drew Goddard’s clever dissection of the genre is not only intelligently constructed and self-aware but it’s helluva fun ride, too.
Trapped in a house and nowhere to go? Don’t panic, you’re not the one incapacitated during a snow-in with crazed stalker/carer Kathy Bates. Just keep an eye out for any blunt instruments.
One of Netflix’s best originals, Hush depictions a home invasion from the perspective of a deaf protagonist – and works to brilliant effect.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
While the TV show is an ongoing classic that still feels fresh decades on, the movie is a superbly meshed combo of wildly offensive musical numbers and Parker and Stone comedy gold.
21 Jump Street
Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s reimagining of the 1980s TV show is genuinely one of the smartest and funniest comedies to emerge in years – plus it marks a breakout role for Channing Tatum.
A flick that many overlooked, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron forge a strong team in this politically-charged, mildly romantic comedy.
A Netflix original doc, Ava DuVernay’s powerful and often-infuriating dive into the US prison system is an eye-opening and shocking depiction of the racial injustice of a nation riddled with inequality.
Adam Sandler’s not generally known for serious roles, but here he’s on top form in arguably one of the best films of 2020. The increasing tension, as it goes on, is like no other.
One of the biggest documentaries to emerge from the streaming giant, Fyre looks at the extraordinary unravelling of Fyre Music Festival, which saw a string of false dreams and broken promises leave thousands of revellers stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere.
Having gained a lot of traction during Oscar season in 2020, Noah Baumbach’s portrayal of a couple going through divorce (played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver) will take you on a journey through all of the emotions.
Alex Garland’s slick and thought-provoking script makes his direction effortless, as inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac) creates artificial life that’s as real as you or I – but can his lab rat Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) tell the difference?
Some films become a director’s passion project, and Richard Linklater’s dedication to capture a story of the same actor growing from a child into his teens – and reaching the cusp of manhood – is nothing short of astonishing.
One of Netflix’s most acclaimed successes reunites Scorsese with De Niro and Pesci, and throws Al Pacino in there for good measure. Up for Best Picture at the Oscars, The Irishman’s a true feat in filmmaking.
The Great Escape
An apt title for those suffering from proverbial cabin fever, this 1963 Steve McQueen classic following a group of POWS digging their way out of a German WWII camp has so many memorable moments – and masses of generational appeal.
My Neighbor Totoro
Out of all the Studio Ghibli movies added to Netflix UK, Totoro is by far the most iconic. Following the lives of two little girls moving to the countryside after their mother gets sick, we’re whisked away to a world somewhere between reality and fantasy.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
An unexpected hit when it arrived back in 2014, this action-heavy spy-based thriller parodies James Bond but has enough of its own story to forge a unique identity.
Arnie may be globally known for a number of roles, but his part of the menacing, unstoppable T-800 in James Cameron’s classic has to be one of the greatest in the sci-fi/action genre.
Another belter from the 1980s is this tale of a noble cop rescued from the brink of death by fusing his mind (and whatever body parts remain) into the ultimate policing cyborg. They really don’t make action flicks like this anymore.
Exploring the true and devastating systemic child abuse that occurred within the Catholic church, a team of Boston Globe journalists – played by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams – get to the bottom of a shocking cover-up.
The King’s Speech
Love or loathe the Royal Family, Colin Firth’s Oscar-winning turn as stuttering King George VI during the 1930s is endearing and surprisingly charming.
La La Land
Crowd-pleasing modern musicals can be hard to come by, but 2016’s La La Land nails it by casting the perfect duo in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, while director Damien Chazelle throws in a number of inspiring, not to mention catchy, songs.
Some say Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s greatest work but Reservoir Dogs is where it all began. Its ensemble and simplicity renders it timeless – and the dialogue is second to none.
After something exquisitely choreographed and utterly relentless from start to finish? Imagine being trapped in a box with 50 snakes and you’ve got an idea of this under-siege thriller.
As far as documentaries go this has to be one of the most explosive of its kind. What starts out as an exploration into the world of sports doping quickly turns into something much bigger.
The 2010 Coen brothers remake of the 1969 John Wayne vehicle is a sight to behold. Brilliantly crafted, the acting on offer from Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon is top notch as a young Hailee Steinfeld is introduced to Hollywood.
Not only does this offer a compelling and well-told story, the concept of its docu-style fabrication is perfectly balanced with its sci-fi narrative.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World
It’s difficult to imagine how this graphic novel adaptation could work, especially in adapting its zany, psychedelic existence from the comic page, but Edgar Wright manages to pull it off with enormous success.
Known for its adrenaline junkie car chases down a number of precarious and narrowing roads, this 1998 crime thriller packs a punch with its action and plot alike.
Aside from industry innovator Toy Story, Shrek is one of the defining animations that began the CGI revolution. Witty, sweet, and inventive, it’s a mash-up of classic fairytale tropes with a devilishly modern twist.
Winona Ryder, alongside Angelina Jolie, is on fine form as she retells writer Susanna Kaysen’s first-hand account of spending 18 months in a mental hospital. There’s a reason Jolie won a Best Supporting Oscar here.
Silly comedy that’s actually funny swept the movie scene when Anchorman became a student cult classic. A few years on, and to less exposure, along came this gem from Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, who also enjoyed overlapping success as two thirds of The Lonely Island.
Another of Netflix’s original hits, Alfoso Cuaron’s Best Foreign Film winner is a powerful depiction of a maid in 1970s Mexico, following a year in her life while working for a middle-class family.
Jamie Fox enjoyed both critical acclaim and Oscar glory for his mesmerising performance in this biopic of legendary blues musician Ray Charles.
Nightcrawler was a dramatic change of pace for reliable hunk Jake Gyllenhaal, as he became a skeletal version of himself in this creepy, deeply unsettling portrait of a man dangerously obsessed with getting into the world of crime journalism.
One of the most recent entries on this list is Mati Diop’s tale of Senegalise lovers separated by migration and dealing with profound loss.
One of the most devastating docs in recent memory, Blackfish not only exposed the cruel nature of SeaWorld’s treatment of a killer whale, but also began a worldwide movement to end the for-profit captivity these creatures are forced to endure.