Updated: Best movies on Netflix: 20 films you have to stop what you're doing and watch right now

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Best movies on Netflix

Best movies on Netflix

If you’re new to Netflix and want to find the best movies to watch, or you’re tired of browsing Netflix’s catalog day after day and coming up empty, you’ve come to the right place. With thousands of movies at your disposal, it’s easy to get stuck in binge-watching mode, but finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of hassle.

In an effort to determine the best of the best, we’ve put together a list of the greatest possible films you can watch – curated by TechRadar editors and backed up with ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – so that you don’t have to sift through the muck. We’ll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.

Are TV shows more your scene? Here are the best TV shows on Netflix!

1. Blackfish

Best movies on Netflix

Blackfish, the controversial nature documentary that follows a misunderstood and often violent killer whale in captivity at SeaWorld, made a huge splash when it was released in 2013. Its story has moved audiences to take action in a way that few other films have ever done, going so far as forcing lawmakers’ hands to introduce legislation that will demand that SeaWorld release killer whales back into the wild. It’s an emotional ride through the highs and lows of the aquatic entertainment industry, one that reveals the real consequences of keeping animals where they don’t belong.

IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

2. Pulp Fiction

Best movies on Netflix

There’s no shortage of prolific Tarantino films on Netflix (see: Django Unchained, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Inglorious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs), but Pulp Fiction stands one bullet-riddled head and shoulder above the rest. Tackling questions of morality and social issues like racism and socioeconomic class, the film remains one of John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman’s greatest works. Considering these people have been in half a dozen other flicks found in countless “greatest films of all-time” lists, it’s really saying something.

IMDB Rating: 8.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

3. American Beauty

Best Movies on Netflix

At this point in your relationship with the streaming service, you’ve probably already watched a vast majority of Netflix’s top TV shows – including the absolutely incredible House of Cards. If you’ve watched the political drama and haven’t had enough of Kevin Spacey’s cunning apathetic character, check out American Beauty where a man finds a new lease on life right before he gets shot. All life is like a plastic bag floating in the breeze, right?

IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

4. Good Will Hunting

Best movies on Netflix

No one can ever take Robin Williams’s place in cinema. His ability to ad lib scenes and bring a palpable depth and realism to his roles is irreplaceable. Couple this with an endearing performance by Matt Damon and one of the most pivotal, transformative scenes in all of film, and you have a recipe for a classic that will live on forever. If you haven’t seen Good Will Hunting yet, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault…

IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

5. Braveheart

Best movies on Netflix

Taken out of context, Braveheart is the story of a man born in the wrong place, at the wrong time and then forced to do something nobody else wanted to do, only to be – well, just watch it. In context, it’s one of the best Mel Gibson films of all-time, winning five Academy Awards in 1996 for its gripping, insanely dark narrative and excellent performances. Whether it’s your first time watching the men of Scotland stand up for their freedom or the tenth time, Braveheart is easily worth one of your Saturday movie nights.

IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

6. Cartel Land

Best movies on Netflix

Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film, Cartel Land explores the state of the ongoing drug problem along the U.S.-Mexican border. On one side is the heroic Dr. José Mireles, the leader of the vigilante group, the Autodefensas. On the other is Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon. The two are stuck in a never-ending battle against the cartels, putting both themselves and their families on the line to fight for what they think is right.

IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

7. The Big Short

Best movies on Netflix

Another Academy Award nominee, The Big Short stole critics’ hearts last year as it told the tale of financial downturn of 2008, how it happened and the men who used the opportunity to hit back against the banks who caused it. If high finance doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there’s more than enough drama and humor to keep you hooked on the line while film stars the odd trio of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell alongside Brad Pitt, Karen Gillan and Marisa Tomei immerse you in one of the greatest tales of American ingenuity ever told.

IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

8. Beasts of No Nation

Best movies on Netflix

Beasts of No Nation stars Idris Elba as a war lord, and follows the story of Agu, portrayed by child actor Abraham, who is forced to become a child soldier during the civil war of an unnamed African country. What follows is a nightmare: boys stolen from their families are forced to kill and through blood take their vengeance on the world. It’s a war movie with a profound message, and is probably the closest equivalent of Apocalypse Now that we’re like to see in the 21st century.

IMDB Rating: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

9. Forrest Gump

Best movies on Netflix

This list is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. On this page, though, what you get is one of the most quintessential movies in American cinema. Yes, Forrest Gump tells the story of a man who falls for a girl and becomes somewhat of a phenomenon from humble beginnings, but, more importantly, it’s a history lesson in how America has grown and changed over the years. Heartwarming, uplifting and inspirational, Forrest Gump teaches us an important lesson: if you’re kind and you work hard, amazing things will happen to you – eventually.

IMDB Rating: 8.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 72%

10. The Babadook

Best movies on Netflix

Horror movies have fallen on hard times. There, I said it. Spending the past decade relying on jump shocks and excessive gore to win over new audiences, it’s rare to find a film as well-made, thought-out and genuinely scary as The Babadook. Two parts horror, one part mind game, the film explores the feelings of guilt that come along with death, the darkest sides of parenthood and the sheer creepiness of kids’ imaginations.

IMDB Rating: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

11. Jurassic Park

Best movies on Netflix

Sure, Chris Pratt impressed us with his velociraptor wrangling skills in 2015’s Jurassic World, but without Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic, there’d be no Jurassic World, no raptor wrangling and no Indominus Rex. (Well, OK, maybe that last part would be a good thing.) Jurassic Park was the first time our imagination ran wild with the fear of a tyrannosaurus waiting for us outside of our house in the middle of the night or stalking us as we drove through a dark road in the middle of nowhere. The original telling of the story remains one of our favorite for its compelling tale of science gone awry and tech-loving little girl who fortunately and unrealistically happens to be better at systems engineering than Newman from Seinfeld.

IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

12. Amelie

Best movies on Netflix

If you haven’t seen it, Amelie is pretty much the French equivalent of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Starring Audrey TauTou, it’s a weird, quirky and all-around whimsical joyride around Paris as we see Amelie develop from a reserved waitress into a romantically involved extrovert. For introverts, Amelie is a spiritually moving film, taking on mental ailments like depression, social anxiety and agoraphobia head-on while still providing a solid rom-com foundation for all fans of the genre.

IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

13. Almost Famous

Best movies on Netflix

Where Ferris Bueller fed our fantasies of cutting class for an epic day on the town, Almost Famous harnessed our ambitions and played with the idea of a kid writing for Rolling Stone. One part loss of innocence, two parts coming of age story, Cameron Crowe directs the story of a boy who lies about his age to go on tour with a band, falling in love with a groupie and realizing that, once you discover how the sausage is made, it never tastes the same again.

IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

14. Moonrise Kingdom

Best movies on Netflix

Starting September 16, Moonrise Kingdom will be the only Wes Anderson film available on Netflix. And while that sounds somewhat depressing, it’s anything but. By limiting us to a single Anderson flick at a time, Netflix is slowly building our palette for the director’s dry wit, exceptional pacing and phenomenal casting that seems to permeate each film under his supervision. Wonderfully smart and expertly crafted, Moonrise Kingdom might not overtake The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Royal Tenenbaums as our favorite Wes Anderson films, but that doesn’t make it any less of an excellent movie on its own.

IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

15. Django Unchained

Best movies on Netflix

Quentin Tarantino is loved and revered for his work in American cinema, and lately his takes on classic ’70s movies. Like his take on Inglourious Basterds before it, Django Unchained deals with role reversal in a historically controversial time. The story of revenge and justice, Django (played by Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) set off to hunt down a gang of felons before the ultimate promise of setting Django free. Like other Tarantino films, it doesn’t shy away from the grotesque and gory or mind going against the grain, making it easy to recommend and easier to watch time and time again.

IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

16. Indie Game: The Movie

Best movies on Netflix

Full disclosure: Almost all of us here at TechRadar love video games. If you couldn’t tell from the hundreds of articles we write about the latest and greatest gaming hardware to the disappointment in our text when we hear that our favorite game has been delayed (again), one of the best parts of the job is getting to be so close to one of our favorite mediums. Not to sound all mushy, but Indie Game: The Movie is the culmination of that love into a single, two-hour film that illustrates perfectly the periods of heart-break and joy that go into each and every one of your favorite games. If you even remotely care about games, you should watch this film.

IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

17. The Fundamentals of Caring

Best movies on Netflix

The Fundamentals of Caring is proof that you can take actor Paul Rudd, put him in literally any movie about any subject and he automatically makes it 10 to 20 times better. With any other actor in the leading role, The Fundamentals of Caring – based on the book by Jonathan Evison – would’ve likely had no lasting appeal. And yet, with Rudd behind the wheel of the ship the film becomes a comical road trip movie with a compelling twist that’s one part Eurotrip and two parts 50/50. The stakes here are that Rudd is taking care of an emotionally sheltered, physically handicapped teen whose bark is fiercer than his bite. The friendship the two form ultimately help the other grow out of their shells. It may come off as trite, cliché and over-wrought at times, but if you stick through the saccharine, there’s a well-crafted story here that might melt your heart.

IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

18. The Pursuit of Happiness

Best movies on Netflix

Call us overly sentimental, but on more than one occasion The Pursuit of Happiness almost brought a tear to our eyes. Following business man-turned-entrepreneur-turned-homeless man Chris Gardener (played by Will Smith), The Pursuit of Happiness is about one man’s quest to provide a better life for his son, even if that means giving his metaphorical pound of flesh in order to do it. Gardener’s son is played by Will Smith’s actual son, Jaden, and helps add an extra layer of chemistry to the film making it perfect for the times you want to tell your dad how grateful you are, but will settle for watching a movie instead.

IMDB Rating: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%

19. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Best movies on Netflix

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the uplifting documentary of one man who never gave up on his … uh, dreams. Jiro became the first three-star Michelin sushi chef in Japan and has been called a national treasure, all the while honing his mantra of being his best self. Jiro’s commitment to his craft that carries the film – but it’s his two sons, both famous sushi chefs like their father that make the film one of the best documentaries ever made. If you’re hungry for a bit of inspiration in an evermore depressing world, pull up a seat.

IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

20. Back to the Future

Best movies on Netflix

Ending the list on a high-note, Back to the Future needs little introduction and little in the way of selling. The film remains an exceptionally paced action/comedy/sci-fi hybrid that’s almost too easy to watch time and time again. And while Back to the Future II (also available on Netflix) might be the better film overall, there’s a rare form of nostalgia that you get from watching the final lightning storm scene for the umpteenth time and an unparalleled feeling of joy when everything comes together in the end. There are plenty of deeper thinking, harder hitting films available, but Netflix chose wisely when it signed on the dotted line for the rights for Back to the Future.

IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

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