Best movies on Netflix UK
Welcome TechRadar's constantly updated best movies on Netflix UK list - our pick of the films you should be streaming on Netflix right now. Netflix has a lot of movies on offer, but if you only have time for quality then you're in the right place. Here you'll find a list of the best Netflix movies you can get in the UK right now and it's constantly updated so you know you're never missing out.
[Update: Two superb films have been added to our best movies on Netflix list, both of which will leave you with that warm fuzzy glow feeling which is perfect to get rid of the January Blues. The first is the brilliant Pride - the true story about gay rights activists that help the National Union of Mineworkers during their strikes in the '80s. The second is the live-action version of the BFG - which features a wonderful mo-cap performance by Mark Rylance]
Netflix has become known for its TV shows (especially its originals) but that doesn't mean you should be discounting the movies on the platform. Many of them are well worth watching and as you'll see from our extensive list, there are plenty to choose from once you've exhausted yourself by TV binge-watching.
Want to know more about Netflix's take on binging? Watch our very own Jon Porter live on the couch discussing his time at Netflix HQ!
To keep things neat, tidy and easy to navigate, we've broken up our movie picks into categories. For each category we've chosen a selection of movies that you shouldn't miss with further recommendations listed at the end of each category.
In all there's over 150 movies to choose from here, all picked because they are, simply, the best films on Netflix to watch right now.
From comedy to indie, to horror and kids, there's a movie category for everyone.
Keep checking back, too. Unlike its TV output that seems to stay on Netflix for longer, its movies tend to appear and disappear quite fast. We keep this best Netflix movies list updated as often as we can, so please bookmark us. Enjoy!
- If you are a TV fan, then check out our best shows on Netflix feature.
- Want to know the WORST Netflix movies? Check out Not On My Watch
- Check out what the rivals are up to with the best movies on Amazon Prime
- Best sci-fi movies: fantastic films to stream on Netflix and Amazon now
- Best horror movies: scary films to stream right now
NEW ENTRY: The BFG
The BFG is brought to (larger than) life brilliantly by Stephen Spielberg and the acting talents of Mark Rylance. While the film may be a little too slow for younger viewers, it's a mesmerising watch. Full of the scatological humour of the book, but also slathered in beautiful imagery that blends the real world and CG seamlessly. Spielberg has done wonders to bring Roald Dahl's big classic to the big screen.
NEW ENTRY: Pride
What a brilliant film. Pride manages to weave 'message' with entertainment effortlessly, charting the true tale of gay rights activists in the UK that help raise money for a small mining town when the strikes are happening. There's superb performances by all but it's the ever-brilliant George MacKay whose standout.
Best Action Movies: Iron Man 3
Shane Black is never someone to play the Hollywood game. Starting off as a hotshot writer - he penned Lethal Weapon at a ridiculously young age - he went into obscurity, only to come back with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and cement his relationship with Robert Downey Jr. This then pushed him into the director chair for Iron Man 3, which was a great choice. Fun, overblown and with a surprising twist - it's delicious fun.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Nobody expected Mad Max: Fury Road to be as good as it was - given it was stuck in development hell for ages - but it's one of the boldest, bravest chase movies ever made. Tom Hardy is superb as the monosyllabic Max. But it's Charlize Theron's Furiosa who steals the show - a true modern day badass. Director George Miller decided to do most of the action in-camera and the results are utterly spectacular.
A biographical war drama directed by Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield). Despite refusing to bear arms through his service during WW2, Doss won the Congressional Medal of Honor and adoration and respect of his peers for his bravery and selflessness in the conflict.
Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott’s bombastic tale of US soldiers caught behind enemy lines when their helicopter crashes in Somalia is frenetic and relentless. You’ll have as much fun watching it as spotting the young actors who you kind of know but don’t know - including Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd and Ewen Bremner. It’s a bit jingoistic and the bloodshed is sometimes over the top but it’s a superb watch.
“We need guns. Lots of guns.” Okay, that quote is from the wrong Keanu Reeves movies but does sum up the essence of John Wick. This is a movie packed with more Gun-Fu than is healthy but it’s also great fun. The premise is sight: John Wick (Reeves) is a retired hitman, who comes back to avenge the death of this dog. Yup, you read that right. As action movies go, this is one of the most frenetic. Reeves is perfectly cast in the title role and while the plot is paper thin, the hits to a bigger world when assassins rule the roost are fantastic - and something that’s built on in the sequel.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
A masterpiece in both filmmaking and fight choreography, Ang Lee's superb Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon tells the tale of a Chinese warrior who steals a sword off of a master swordsman and the cat-and-mouse chase that ensues. Chow Yun-Fat may have been the star of the movie when the was first released, but it is Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi that steal the show. A follow-up was produced by Netflix, which is worth a watch but has none of the charisma of its enigmatic predecessor.
Kill Bill: Vol 1 and Vol 2
Quentin Tarantino’s bloody brilliant kung-fu opus should have been one big movie. But its distributors got cold feet, which meant we actually got two quite different films. The first is pure Shaw Brothers schlock. A revenge tale that follows Uma Thurman’s Bride looking to kill people on her hit list, for murdering her husband and family on her wedding day and leaving her for dead. The second film is a touch more subdued, but no less brutal - starting with a flashback of the infamous wedding and then furthering The Bride’s mission to ‘kill bill’. If you can, watch them together as it’s an epic movie that should be consumed in one sitting.
After the brilliance of Skyfall there was a lot riding on Spectre to keep the quality levels of Bond high. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that. Spectre is rushed, overblown and full of twists that don’t particularly work. But even at its worst, it’s better than most action movies around at the moment. Daniel Craig is, as ever, brilliant as is Léa Seydoux who has more about her than the usual paper-thin token femme fatale. There’s also a barrage of lovely throwbacks from the Bond of old, including a superb intro that smacks of Live And Let Die.
Mission: Impossible 5 - Rogue Nation
It may be the fifth Mission: Impossible but it’s definitely one of the best. Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt, the secretive IMF operative who is tasked to save his agency as a rogue one is hell-bent on destroying it. Christopher McQuarrie was a great choice for director and while news that he completely reshot the ending of the movie was a worry, it’s lack of bombast is a perfect balance to a film that’s filled with thrilling set pieces. Also, Rebecca Ferguson is by far the best female lead the franchise has had so far - we’re glad she’s been cast in the next instalment too.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
With a script by word genius William Goldman and George Roy Hill at the helm, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid is a wonderful watch. Paul Newman and Robert Redford ooze screen chemistry as the titular pair and the soundtrack by Burt Bacharach is lovely on the ears. It's funny too - mixing both buddy movie and Western tropes with fantastic results.
Focused around a turf war between rival street gangs, The Warriors is an achingly cool cult film. It showcases '70s New York in all its filth and fury and while its focus is on gang fighting, the film never comes across as an exploitation flick. This is because it's shot with such style and flourish by director Walter Hill that 37 years on, it's still as pertinent as ever.
BEST DRAMA: Elle
Oh, Paul Verhoeven how we’ve missed you. Elle brings back everything the director is famed for - controversy, satire and, well, more controversy. Elle sees the fantastic Isabelle Huppert play a businesswoman who is raped and decides to exact revenge on her rapist, except she doesn’t know who it is. Elle never goes the way you think it’s going to go and, despite the subject matter, is genuinely funny in places. It’s occasionally a tough watch but doesn’t offer the gratuity that some of Verhoeven’s other films are famed for. It’s Hupert here that makes the movie. She is subversive and simply superb.
Spotlight is that rare beast of a movie: A tense, taught thriller that's based mainly around a newsroom, with nary an explosion or chase in sight. It centres on a team of reporters and editors at the Boston Globe who investigate what they believe is a devastating cover-up by the Catholic Church. A star studded cast propels a fantastic script - Spotlight thoroughly deserved its Best Picture Oscar.
Personal Shopper is a strange, but captivating movie. It shows off the acting prowess of Kristen Stewart who is superb as an American 'personal shopper' living in Paris who caters to the needs of an infuriating supermodel. And it just so happens, Stewart's character is also a medium who starts to interact with what she believes is her not-long dead brother. Personal Shopper is one movie which doesn't let you really know what it wants to be until the end - and that is what makes it great.
Bridge of Spies
Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg team up with dazzling results for Bridge of Spies. Based on the true tale of a Russian spy sent back to the cold, in exchange for two US prisoners of war, Hanks plays a lawyer brought in to make sure that the exchange takes place. The tension is high but the voices are low. The quiet chats between Hanks and the superb Mark Rylance are astonishing to watch.
A biographical drama from Danny Boyle and Adam Sorkin, Steve Jobs follows the life of the eponymous Apple co-founder (Michael Fassbender) from 1984 to 1998. The performances in the film and its screenplay were widely praised and received recognition at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and the Academy Awards.
American Graffiti is a classic coming-of-age film with a host of stellar Hollywood names behind it including George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, and Ron Howard. Set in early 1960s California, the film tells the separate stories of a group of recent high school graduates and the rock and roll culture that defined them through a series of vignettes.
Mudbound proves that Netflix is getting serious with the movies it is producing. This superb ensemble drama focuses on two brothers (Garret Hedlund and Jason Clarke) back from the second World War and the struggles they face adjusting back to ‘normal’ life. The film pulls no punches when it comes to tackling racism and sexism, both rife in 1940’s Mississippi, but layers these heady issues with a fair amount of levity and brevity. The cast are superb - Better Call Saul’s Jonathan Banks is riveting as always but Jason Mitchell is standout here - but it’s the tight script and wonderful, sweeping direction by Dee Rees that makes this movie truly and Oscar worthy.
It’s rare that Tom Cruise gets upstaged in his movies but that’s what happens in Rain Man. This is because Dustin Hoffman puts in a performance of a lifetime as Charlie’s (Cruise) autistic brother Raymond. In the film we see Hoffman recite dates of airline crashes when he doesn’t want to fly, and this brings the brothers on a road trip after their father passes away. Cruise’s character in unlikeable for the most part but his softening to Hoffman’s Raymond is a beautiful watch - sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender.
The Big Short
Director Adam McKay was known for creating big belly laughs before The Big Short came out. And that’s what makes this movie such a surprise. It is funny in places, but it’s also a super-sharp look and - shock, horror - endlessly entertaining look at those who betted big the the housing bubble in the US would burst in the mid 2000s. Filled with fantastic characters (played by Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell) and a superb script, this is a must see.
Inherent Vice is a fantastic film but one you may want to watch twice to figure out just what is going on. Director PT Anderson - this is his best movie - tries to make sense of Thomas Pynchon's opaque novel, about a stoner detective trying to figure out the disappearance of his ex-lover's lover. Nothing makes sense in the movie. It's covered in a fog of weed and hallucinogens, dripping in Californian sunshine and swathed in seediness. Don't try and unpick it too much and you will be rewarded with a brilliant, beguiling watch.
Straight Outta Compton
This shouldn’t have worked. The manic tale of how NWA came to be may well be larger than life but in the wrong hands it could end up being cartoonish. On the whole, Straight Outta Compton manages to avoid this thanks to director F Gary Gray who also created the brilliant Friday. Casting for Compton is inspired. O'Shea Jackson Jr does a great impression of his real-life dad Ice Cube, but it’s Corey Hawkins that steals the show of Dr Dre. Perhaps the weakest link is Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller but it doesn’t detract from what is one of the more entertaining biopics in recent years.
The Squid And The Whale
The Squid And The Whale is director Noah Baumbach’s masterpiece. It’s a short 81 minutes but in that time he paints a perfect picture of a family frayed at the seams because of a divorce. Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney and Jesse Eisenberg are all fantastic in the film that’s both uncomfortable and claustrophobic but only because the themes will be familiar to all. It’s part autobiographical and it shows - this is proper heart on sleeve stuff.
Dope was a revelation when it was released in 2015. Part coming-of-age drama, part hip-hop homage, the movie is about a group of teenagers who go to a party and end up tangled up in drug dealing. While that sounds all very gritty, the film plays it for laughs more than often, punctuated by moments of drama.
All About Eve
Bette Davis is superb in this classic film about ageing Broadway star Margo Channing and the relationship she has with 'superfan' Eve (Anne Baxter). Joseph L Manckiewicz script (full of biting one liners) and direction is breathtaking - showcasing a story of fame a celebrity in the most scathing and satirical way possible for something shot in the '50s. If you've never seen this movie, be prepared for it to enter your top 10 favourite films.
The Breakfast Club
The movie may now be parodied beyond belief but The Breakfast Club is still a fun watch. It’s an ‘80s movie that’s so ‘80s it should come with its own shell suit. The premise is simple: a bunch of kids are put into detention one Saturday, dubbed the Breakfast Club. They’re all a different stereotype - geek, jock, the pretty one, the angry one - and seemingly have nothing in common but it turns out they have everything in common. Yes, it’s cheesy but you can’t help but smile as the kids ‘find themselves’ to the tune of Simple Minds.
Birdman of Alcatraz
Director John Frankenheimer should be given all of the plaudits for managing to get such a commanding performance from Burt Lancaster in the Birdman of Alcatraz. Based on the true story of the violent murderer Robert Franklin Stroud who is sent to solitary confinement for his actions, where he befriends a bird and becomes an expert on the species - only for things to change when he is sent to Alcatraz. Unfortunately, since the movie was made, some even nastier allegations about Stroud came to light, but this movie is still a fantastic watch.
This is one of the most affecting movies that you will ever see. Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a factory owner who begins to help his Jewish workers during World War II after he sees them persecuted by the Nazi Germans, the movie is a study in brevity. Steven Spielberg manages to find the human stories in the atrocity of WWII without shying away from the true horror of what happened during the conflict.
A heartfelt and considered look at Martin Luther King Jr's struggle to gain equal voting rights, campaigning in racially-charged Alabama, Selma was one of the finest films of 2014 and was rightly nominated for a Best Picture Oscar as a result. It may have missed out on the top gong, but David Oyelowo's performance as the civil rights leader is a powerful one, with a supporting cast recreating the inspiring story with great respect.
The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides is a woozy homage to movies such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Don't Look Now. Fractured in its storytelling, dreamlike in its visuals it's an assured debut by Sofia Coppola. Based on the best-selling novel, the movie charts a spate of suicides in a small town and the cast is lead by the mesmerising Kirsten Dunst.
It is still baffling how Slumdog Millionaire was billed as the 'feel good hit of the summer' when it was first released. There is nothing feel good about this rag to riches tale, apart from the very end. It is a sublime watch, though. Director Danny Boyle relishes the colours in India, using them to great effect while there's a frenetic pace to the whole thing. Lovely stuff.
Adapted from Stephen King’s novella, Shawshank Redemption is a film that tissues were invented for. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sentenced to life in prison for two murders he didn’t commit. There he befriends Red (Morgan Freeman) and embarks on both serving his sentence and trying to clear his name. Heartwarming and gut-wrenching in equal measure, Shawshank is a modern classic.
Captain Phillips is a masterstroke of suspense. Directed by Paul Greengrass - the Bourne franchise king - it's about the true story of a 2009 hijacking of a US container ship. By showing the hijack from both points of view - the captain's and the Somali pirates - the film humanises what is a complicated, horrific hostage situation.
Don’t let the title or, for that matter, the plot put you off, Warrior is a fantastic movie, centred on two brothers who find redemption and solace in the biggest MMA tournament ever held. A superb script and superb performances from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as the brothers and Nick Nolte as the alcoholic father, make this a must see.
Son of Saul
This study of the Holocaust is something we haven’t seen before. It’s from the point of view of someone who was forced to burn the bodies in Auschwitz who comes across a boy that, he believes, deserves a proper burial. Son of Saul is a hard watch. It’s about a time that’s filled with despair, but director László Nemes tells the tale so well that it makes for utterly compelling viewing.
Not only did Network spawn one of the greatest lines shouted in a movie - "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" - it also shone a light on US network television and its constant push for higher ratings. The plot is great: longtime anchor Howard Beale finds out that he is about to get fired, so to drive ratings he announces he will commit suicide on air. What ensues is a harsh look at TV that's still prescient today.
BEST INDIE: The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the most divisive directors around and he's not looking to change that with The Neon Demon. Like Only God Forgives and the slightly more accessible Drive, Neon Demon is stylish, blood soaked and, well, cold. It features a fantastic central performance by Elle Fanning and never compromises - this makes for a difficult but ultimately rewarding watch.
Anyone who doubts the acting caliber of Tom Hardy needs to watch Bronson immediately. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn who found fame with Drive and the divisive Only God Forgives, Bronson is a fragmented, surreal look at one of the UK’s most famous prisoners, Charles Bronson. Hardy commands the screen as the titular inmate, bulking on the body mass and belting out charisma and chaos in equal measure. It’s not for everyone, thanks to its obscure storytelling, but this is a unique film and one that demands your attention.
Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino at his finest. Endlessly quotable and always a refreshing watch, Tarantino re-invents what a crime movie should be. He does this be interlocking seemingly unrelated stories in a non-linear way, riffing on pop culture and breathing new life into old actors - including John Travolta, Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson. This film deserves all the accolades it's garnered over the years. It's just a shame Tarantino has never bettered it.
Drive is a brutal but beautiful film to watch. Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies are opaque at the best of times, but his fractured storytelling works wonder here, in the tale of a Hollywood stuntman cum getaway driver, who’s played brilliantly by a monosyllabic Ryan Gosling. The look of the movie is iconic, the sound of the movie is sublime - forget neo-noir, Drive is neon-noir.
It may feel a little dated now, but Fight Club was the epitome of male angst when it was first released. It's an angry movie, with work and consumerism in its sights but it's also a brilliant one, thanks to David Fincher's knack of taking the novel and transposing it menacingly to the big screen. Brad Pitt has never been better as Tyler Durden - his role making you want to talk about Fight Club, instantly breaking the first rule.
Django may not be on a par with Pulp Fiction but it's a film that shows how fast Quentin Tarantino has come from the pop-trivia infused movies of his youth to the epic Leone-inspired landscapes of Django Unchained. The plot is great: Django (Jamie Foxx) is a freed slave-cum-bounty hunter who is on a mission to find out what happened to his wife.
Okja is a fantastic movie that proves Netflix really does know what it's doing when it comes to commissioning films. Made by Bong Joon Ho, one of the greatest directors around, the film is the strange tale of a little girl and her best friend, a giant animal called Okja. The friendship is threatened when a CEO (a superb Tilda Swinton) wants to take Okja for nefarious means. The whole movie may well be an ode to animal activism but it's such a refreshing movie that you don't mind it preaching to you on occasion. Now you have this on-board Netflix, can you please grab the UK rights for Snowpiercer - another superb Bong Joon Ho movie that never saw the light of day in Britain.
Dallas Buyers Club
This is a movie that was close to not being made. Just as shooting began, funding was pulled and it means that star Matthew McConaughey may have had to drop out, as he needed to put all the weight on he had lost for playing Ron Woodroof, an electrician diagnosed with Aids. Money was found, though, and we're glad it was as this is a sometimes harrowing but strangely uplifting account of someone who goes to the extra mile to get their hands on an experimental Aids drug that can lessen the effects of the disease. McConaughey is fantastic as the makeshift drug runner while his partner in crime is Jared Leto as Rayon, a trans woman who helps him on his journey. Despite the budget cut, there was Oscar nominations aplenty for the film with it winning Best Makeup. Considering the makeup was done on $250 budget, this is an impress feat.
BEST COMEDY: Be Kind Rewind
While sweding didn't quite make it into popular parlance, Be Kind Rewind should be celebrated for showing what it's like to be someone who just wants to make films, no matter what budget they have. And that's the plot of Be Kind: it's about two video store clerks who erase all the footage from the tapes in their store, so go on to try and make the movies with no budget but a whole lot of charisma.
Looking for a great crime thriller that'll make you laugh? You've found it. Robert De Niro stars as Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter who's offered $100,000 to bring in mob accountant Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin). What starts out as a simple job gets complicated very quickly.
The plot for this one is fantastic. It’s a road movie centred around two teenage bike thieves who go on an adventure after they get word that seven tonnes of cocaine has been shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland. Their plan is to get some of it and sell it for a better life. This is one of the funniest comedies to come out of Ireland for a while. It’s got a distinct Adam & Paul feel but is thankfully a bit lighter. Young Offenders is a coming-of-age story with oodles of charm.
Ace Ventura Pet Detective
A classic Jim Carey comedy, Ace Ventura Pet Detective follows a PI who specializes in missing animals cases. When the mascot for the Miami dolphins goes missing he's in for the case of his life. Expect a madcap adventure with a lot of energy and laughs.
Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater's latest is a bedfellow to Dazed and Confused. Instead of the ’80s, though, the '70s is used as a backdrop instead and the focus here is very much what it is like to be a boy growing up into an adult. As with most Linklater movies, not much happens in the movie but the characterisation is so spot on, that it really doesn't matter.
The Nice Guys
One of the best films you probably missed in 2016, The Nice Guys is cult director Shane Black at his best. Achingly funny and whip-smart, too, the film is about a private eye and a heavy in the '70s and the shenanigans they get up to. While Black went full Hollywood with Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys sees him back where he belongs - among the indie elite.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil
A cult comedy horror made in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead, Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a whole lot of fun. Hillbillies Tucker and Dale head out to a cabin in the woods for a vacation and, well, all horror breaks loose. With barrels of laughs and buckets of blood, don't expect award-winning performances but it's a lot of fun.
Joe Dante perhaps doesn't get the credit he deserves as a filmmaker. His movies always err on the right side of subversive anarchic fun, and The 'Burbs is no exception. Starring Tom Hanks as part of a neighbourhood watch that have suspicion that the new neighbours that just moved in are killers, the film manages to keep you guessing right up until its fantastic twist. Yes, it's ridiculous, but The 'Burbs is ever watchable and will remind you fondly of the films you used to watch growing up (if you're a child of the '80s that is).
The Big Lebowski
The Coen Brothers have made many a classic movie, but The Big Lebowski is their crowning achievement. The plot is based on a mistake: The Dude (Jeff Bridges) just so happens to have the same name as someone who owes money to the mob. This mistaken identity leads The Dude and his ragtag group of friends deep into the belly of the LA underworld. Endlessly quotable and hugely enjoyable, there is no other film like it.
Hunt For The Wildepeople
The Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a fantastic comedy from New Zealand director Taika Waititi. It's a movie about Ricky, a kid who's been passed through the welfare system and his relationship with Uncle Hec - someone who didn't completely agree with having a foster child - and the unexpected whirlwind adventure they have together. Adult themes of loss, hope and love are seen through a child's eyes which makes for some hilarious and sometimes poignant moments. The film was such a success it brought Waititi's talents to the attention of Marvel, who have snapped him up to direct Thor: Ragnarok.
40 Year Old Virgin
40 Year Old Virgin is pretty much what it says on the tin - a comedy about a man (Steve Carrell) who has yet to understand the joys of sex and whose life is centred on his love for videogames and collectable action figures. Which is nothing like any of the TechRadar team, I can assure you.
One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest comedy performances from Bill Murray. One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest comedy performances from Bill Murray. One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest comedy performances from Bill Murray. One of the finest comedies, featuring one of the finest...
Mel Brooks's career was on a high when he made Young Frankenstein. The success of The Producers and Blazing Saddles had pushed the director into comedy gold territory but it was with Young Frankenstein where he showed his real worth. The movie is a straight spoof of the legend but it's Brooks' most assured movie. It lacks the bite of his previous movies but replaces it with a send up that satirises both the style and content of James Whale's Frankenstein movie. Couple this with some of the best comic performances, not just from the ever-brilliant Marty Feldman and Gene Wilder but Peter Boyle as the monster, and you have a classic as stone-cold as the monster's flesh.
Eddie The Eagle
Feel-good fun oozes from this movie, which is loosely based on the life of English ski jumping underdog Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. While Hugh Jackman is the star power that got this film off the ground, it’s Taron Egerton as the titular character that steals the show. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, he manages to find enough story and sprinkle in some fantasy to create a wonderfully warm watch.
Sing Street’s John Carney plays a familiar tune with his movies: they are essentially musicals that are fine to watch if you're not into musicals. But while Once was great but maudlin and Begin Again was okay and maudlin, Sing Street is fantastic. Centred round a bunch of Irish kids in the 80s who want to start a band, it’s a brilliant and fun movie.
Alexander Payne proves once again that he is one of the best directors around with Nebraska, a film that follows elderly Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) who embarks on a 750-mile journey to Nebraska to cash in the supposed winnings of a sweepstake. Nebraska is full of heart but also home truths when Woody arrives back in his hometown after years away.
One of the funniest movies ever made, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a masterpiece by director Stanley Kubrick. Endlessly quotable - "No fighting in the war room" - with a stellar cast headed up by Peter Sellers, the film is a biting satire that still resonates today.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the perfect '80s movie. It's got teenagers rebelling, budding romance, a great soundtrack and a huge 'stick it to the man' storyline. It's also got Matthew Broderick at his finest (as Bueller) and some great direction and writing by the legend that is John Hughes. Great stuff.
A film that continued John Travolta's Hollywood resurgence post Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty is a fantastic look at what happens when the world of gangsters and Hollywood combine. Penned by Elmore Leonard, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and with a cast that includes Travolta, Danny DeVito and Gene Hackman, Get Shorty is good, sharp fun.
Clueless is the best teenage-centred movie to come out of the '90s, which is no mean feat considering how many there were in that decade. The exploits of Cher (Alicia Silverstone) at a Beverly Hills high school spawned a whole host of real-life fashion faux pas, as well as a new line of dialogue that was, well, "totally buggin".
There are so many one liners and sight gags in Airplane that it really doesn't matter when a few of them don't work. The film skewers the many disaster movies of the '70s with a spoof so funny that it hasn't really been bettered. The stars of the movie are Leslie Nielsen as Dr Rumack and Lloyd Bridges, chosen not just because of his comedy chops but because he had starred in many of the films that the movie was sending up.
BEST HORROR: Let The Right One In
Let The Right One In is a chilling movie set in Sweden. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist - the screenplay was written by the novelist - it's a romance of sorts about two children who become friends after one is bullied. Oh, and one of those children just happens to be a vampire. It's a more subdued film than the events in the book but all the better for it. It's a film full of atmosphere, fear and, well, romance.
Creep was a mini indie marvel when it came out a few years back. Ultra low budget, it starred Mark Duplass and was base on his story about a videographer who puts an ad on Craiglist which leads to some terrifying home truths. In the sequel, Duplass is back and this time he lures someone to his home by claiming to be a serial killer. What ensues is a tense, brilliant low-fi ride.
The Purge is low budget but brilliantly high concept. The idea is that there is one day a year when the world can go a bit crazy murdering and looting and it's all completely legal. This makes for a fantastic adrenaline rush of a movie that's modelled on John Carpenter style 80s heist movies. It's really good fun, as is a number of the sequels.
While it was a success at the box office, some were turned off by Crimson Peak because it was a movie that was miss-sold as a horror film. It's not a horror film, but a superb gothic fantasy that's both lavish and intimate. Director Guillermo del Toro weaves a doomed romance tale that's occasionally violent, melodramatic and beautiful to watch. It's a masterclass in the macabre but don't come for scares - chills, yes, but again this is not a horror movie but a movie about horror.
Gerald's Game is one of Stephen King's leaner novels, with the majority of the action taking place in one room, with one woman (Jessie Burlingame) alone, handcuffed to a bed, after a night of passion goes awry, with just her thoughts, her dead husband, and a number of things that go bump in the night for company. With this in mind, director Mike Flannigan has managed to pull off an adaptation that could have been very one note, by creatively bringing Burlingame's - a fantastic Carla Gugino - thoughts to life. It's a bit too melodramatic at times and does suffer from the King curse of never knowing how to properly end his stories, but there's a lot to like about this Netflix exclusive.
A superb '80s-tinged soundtrack backs this fantastic film that plays on the notions of teen sex and angst by throwing in an STD that when transmitted passes a curse on. The movies manages to be filled to the brim with dread, even if the premise of the movie isn't really explained, and is a superb throwback to zombie movies of old, as well as the foreboding Invasion of the Body Snatcher flicks.
Blair Witch, the kind of remake, quasi sequel to the scare classic The Blair Witch Project was a big surprise when it first announced. Director Adam Wingard had made the film covertly with the title The Woods and then when it premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, they announced its link to the Blair Witch story and the crowd went, well, crazy. The film is a worthy addition to the franchise. It keeps the shaky cam stuff but also adds in some modern day twists such as drones and GPS. It takes a while to get going but once the scares start they are relentless.
The Green Inferno
Eli Roth gets a lot of stick for his movies, with many discounting them as nothing more than torture porn. While that might be true for his Hostel series, The Green Inferno is somewhat different. It’s his take on the exploitation movies of the early ’80s (Cannibal Ferox and Cannibal Holocaust particularly) and it’s a well-made homage to that genre of movie. It may lose itself a little near the end but there’s some genuinely shocking moments in Green Inferno that need to be seen to be believed.
Cabin In The Woods
This super-smart horror from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard is a movie that tries its hardest to turn the horror genre on its head, with continual knowing nods to movies of the past and a post-modern spin of the well-worn 'cabin in the woods' theme. Don't go into this movie expecting a normal film-watching experience but do expect to have fun watching a highly original script at play.
If you are in the least bit claustrophobic, then we wouldn't recommend The Descent. Written and directed by British director Neil Marshall - who is now the ultimate go-to director for Game of Thrones and other TV fare - the film charts a caving expedition that goes very wrong. The (at the time) relatively unknown cast are superb as the victims of something horrible that comes from the deep darkness of the caves.
The real horror in the Babadook isn't the monster, ripped from a children's pop-up book that may or may not be terrifying a mother and son, but the slow and steady psychological decline of the mother Amelia, played by a wonderful Essie Davis. The descent and fear she has at the thought of not being able to protect her child is mesmerising as is the rest of the film. Gripping stuff.
Under The Shadow
Thanks to Netflix's sometimes surprising rights, Under The Shadow has popped on to the service around the same time as the movie's Blu-ray release. We're glad it has. It's a fantastic horror film set in Tehran in the '80s, focusing on a mother and daughter seemingly terrorised by otherworldly beings in an apartment block. The dread in this film is slow release but palpable, making it a terrific, scary watch.
Given Evil Dead II is a quasi sequel/remake of the original Evil Dead, eyebrows were raised when another remake was announced. Thankfully, the movie is actually decent. Director Fede Alvarez plays the movie straight, piling on the gore and the tension, making for some terrifying moments. It feels like Evil Dead too, thanks to both Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi coming on board as producers.
This ultra low budget movie comes from the Duplass Brothers and is one of the most inventive chillers in years. The plot is slight, it focuses on a man who answers a Craiglist ad to film what he thinks is a video for the person’s unborn son. And that’s all we will say about the plot as it twists and turns in on itself, terrifying the viewer repeatedly in the process.
The Woman In Black
Daniel Radcliffe has done well to rid himself of his Harry Potter persona and it's all thanks to choosing roles in movies such as Women In Black. Based on the celebrated novel of the same name and in turn the stage play, the film is a gothic delight, harking back to the good ol' days when horror was implied rather than rammed down a watcher's throat. Well, until the final act at least. Prepare to feel your spine tingle.
Insidious is a film that proves, if you want mainstream horror done right, then you have to call up director James Wan. He brings a menacing atmosphere to this film about a family that moves into a house that's not what it seems. While it doesn't quite match up to the scares seen in Sinister - another film produced by Jason Blum - Wan does enough to make sure there's plenty of shocks to go around.
While the cast may err on the side of mainstream - Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox all star - the plot of Bone Tomahawk does not. Without giving too much away, it's essentially cannibals versus grizzled men of the Wild West. Russell is superb in this tale that is absolutely relentless and all the better for it.
Hush has a brilliant premise. Directed by Mike Flanagan it revolves around a killer who tries to get the best of a girl in the house on her own. So far so 'every horror movie ever made', but the girl who is being stalked happens to be deaf. Yes, the home invasion genre is getting tired, but Hush manages to quietly breathe new life into it.
Let's Scare Jessica To Death
A forgotten '70s gem of a horror movie, Let's Scare Jessica To Death is all soft focus and maudlin music as we follow the exploits of a woman who has just gotten out of a psychiatric hospital. While staying in a country house to recuperate, she befriends a strange visitor. It's worth watching just for John D Hancock's dreamy direction.
Would You Rather
One of the more high-concept horrors on the list, Would You Rather is about a group of seven people who are invited to a millionaire's house to play a game of 'Would You Rather'. The game turns out to be one of the most sadistic around.
BEST SCI-FI: Tomorrowland
While it never quite reaches the perfection its visuals and stellar cast promises, Tomorrowland is a sumptuous watch. A throwback to the old sci-fi adventures of old, the film is based on the Tomorrowland ride at Disney. Cynics would say that the movie is just one big Disney promotion but the movie is better than that. It's a great story that transcends dimensions - just sit back and go with it.
Back To The Future
Given it was made in 1985, the effects of Back To The Future still stand up today. Actually, so does everything about the movie. It's a fantastic old-school romp that showcases Michael J Fox as one of the most affable actors around. Spielberg may have only produced the movie but his fingerprints are all over it. Back To The Future is a classic that is endlessly fun and rewatchable.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
There is a disturbance in the Force. To be honest we weren’t expecting a Star Wars movie to grace Netflix, given the Mouse House will be doing its own streaming service but Star Wars: The Force Awakens has landed and what a movie it is. Part reboot, part re-imagining, all Star Wars, The Force Awakens breathed new youthful life into the series and is a worthy sequel. The Force Awakens is a big, fun nostalgia blast featuring some of the Star Wars old guard and introducing new characters, Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and - most importantly - BB-8/ Watch it now before The Last Jedi lands in cinemas.
The effects may look a tad dated now but The Abyss was SFX filmmaking at its best when it was released in the late '80s. Directed by James Cameron, sandwiched between Aliens and Terminator 2 in his oeuvre, the film is about a diving team looking for a lost nuclear submarine but instead encounter something wholly different. It's a thought-provoking slice of sci-fi that's more thriller than action.
Adapted from Andy Weir's breezy, initially self-published novel of the same name, The Martian is all about Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astronaut left behind on Mars after he’s presumed dead and the rescue mission that ensues. It’s a great, fun film and without a doubt director Ridley Scott’s best movie in years. It not only looks great but Matt Damon is superb as the shipwrecked Watney, playing more for laughs than action.
X2: X-Men Utd
The first X-Men was the first in the new wave of superhero movies that proved to the world that you could make an adult movie out of comic-book characters. Director Bryan Singer played on heady themes such as the Holocaust and homosexuality to hook X-Men's metaphors around, which helped ground the characters and make for a great movie. X2 expands on this and is arguably one of the best superhero stories ever made, introducing Stryker (Brian Cox) as the former Army commander who was key to making Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who/what he is.
When news hit that Edgar Wright was no longer helming Ant-Man, there was very good reason to believe that Ant-Man would be terrible - given Wright had been trying to shape the project into something for years. The result, with Peyton Reed on board, though is a fun, speedy heist movie that bears all the hallmarks of previous Marvel movies but does it all on a, ahem, smaller scale.
Director Neill Blomkamp's debut was years in the making. District 9 started out as a short film which showed off Bomkamp's impressive talent with visual effects and subsequently helped him get the movie greentlit. District 9 is a fun, if on the nose, look at the apartheid in South Africa, it just so happens aliens are the ones that are getting the rough treatment. The film is the debut of Sharlto Copley, who is brilliant as the scientist hiding out in the alien slums.
The original Blade was a fun, gory take on Marvel's vampiric superhero. But it's Blade II where the character really started to have bite. Helmed by Guillermo del Toro, the visionary director adds all sorts of weird and wonderful characters into the Blade universe and also introduced Whistler, a true screen badass.
World War Z
This disaster movie about zombies taking over the world could well have been a disaster in itself. The shoot was beset with problems and the script was rewritten while filming took place (hence the tonally different conclusion). But what remains is a film that’s a decent slice of action and terror that nods to the book of the same name, rather than adapting it wholly. Brad Pitt is once again great as the dad who is out to save his family and in turn the world. And the ending is something rarely seen in Hollywood fare - it’s a far cry from the bombastic nature of the rest of the movie and all the better for it.
Timur Bekmambetov may be a Hollywood director now, but where his American movies are visually appealing but pretty awful (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the remake to Ben-Hur), Night Watch, which he made in his native Russia, is fantastic. At the time of its release (2004), it was the most successful Russian movie for all time and for good reason. It's a brilliant, sometimes incoherent fantasy that melds Bekmambetov's great style with a story that involves modern day vampires that are split into two factions: the night watch and the day watch. Don't try and understand it, just feast on the surreal, stunning visuals.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Splitting the last book in the series was a mistake as instead of having one fantastic movie, you instead have two good ones. Mockingjay - Part 2 is by far the darkest Hunger Games movie but it's well made and a fitting end to the franchise. While there's not enough Hunger Games style action scenes, the end showdown is worth the wait and elevates the movie above its YA fiction leanings.
The film that pretty much got Rian Johnson the job to helm Star Wars: Episode VIII, Looper is a timey wimey tale that is set in 2074, when time travel has been invented but subsequently banned. This doesn't stop a band of outlaws (called Loopers) using the technology to assassinate people in the past for payment. Yes it's convoluted but it's also a gripping film that doesn't let up until its twist ending.
BEST DOCUMENTARY: The Look Of Silence
The Look of Silence is a hard watch. A sequel of sorts to The Act of Killing - which is sadly not on Netflix - it was created by Joshua Oppenheimer and focuses on a man who confronts the men who killed during the 1965 'purge of communists' in Indonesia in the 60s. He confronts them while giving them eye exams - a ruse to get them to speak. It all makes for uneasy but riveting viewing.
Jim And Andy
Jim Carey has always been an actor that takes things to extremes - whether it's his face gurning or physical comedy. But nothing was quite like what he did in Man On The Moon, the Milos Foreman directed biopic of Andy Kaufman. Mixing exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Carey that the studios didn't want released, this is one revealing documentary about the things people do to make people laugh.
Full of hubris that you can only get when a documentary crew gets more than they bargained for (see also: The Jinx), Weiner follows the mayoral campaign of Anthony Weiner only for him to be embroiled in a sex scandal as the cameras are still shooting. And the best bit about it is, the documentary was meant to be about Weiner’s comeback after another sex scandal that happened in 2011. It’s a tough but compelling watch.
George Harrison: Living In A Material World
Director Martin Scorsese may well be known for his Hollywood productions but he has a decent sideline in rock documentaries. The latest to hit Netflix focuses on George Harrison, knitting together archive footage with interviews and home movies. It’s a warm, revealing portrait of arguably the most talented Beatle and one that came out 10 years after his untimely death.
With nuclear war still a threat today (and a growing one at that), a documentary on how atomic warfare came to be was always going to feel prescient but The Bomb feels like more than that. It's a full-on assault on the senses that weaves archive footage together to create a non-linear, experimental piece that's more mosaic than montage, with a message that's pretty clear: we need nuclear disarmament and we need it now. The Bomb toured the film festival circuit with live band The Acid and was even shown at Glastonbury's Shangri-La. While it's no doubt not as potent as it was in a live space, it's still well worth a watch. And if you need a non-Netflix companion piece, then check out Storyville, Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise by Mark Cousins.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
"Metal on metal / It's what I crave / The louder the better / I'll turn in my grave."
Like a real-life Spinal Tap, the story of Anvil, the oft-forgotten heavy metal pioneers is as tragic as it is funny and uplifting. A huge influence on the likes of Metallica and metal's megastars, Anvil never got to enjoy the success of their peers, resigned to the axe-wielding history books.
Except...Anvil never went away. Continuing to shred on the toilet circuit, the documentary follows the ageing rockers as they make one last attempt at hitting the big time.
Throw up the horns, but keep a hanky at the ready – Anvil: The Story of Anvil is as good as a rock-doc gets.
Bowling For Columbine
This doc about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre is a must watch. It's a frankly frightening look at why the massacre took place and how failings in the US school system and the ease of use guns can be bought in the US were to blame for what happened. Nearly 20 years on, the documentary will still have a profound effect on all who watch it.
The White Helmets
The White Helmets is, quite rightly, the winner of Netflix's first-ever Oscar. It was directed by the only British winner of the 2017 Oscars, too. Orlando von Einsiedel directs this stunning look at the day to day operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, volunteers who assist neighbourhoods that have been bombed, helping find survivors amongst the devastation. It may only be 40 minutes long, but the bravery and tragedy you witness will stay with you forever.
Netflix bagged its first Bafta thanks to this stunning documentary. 13th looks at race and the US criminal justice system, showcasing numerous injustices in the way African Americans have been treated in the system. The documentary was made by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who also made the superb Selma.
Some Kind of Monster
Some Kind of Monster is a intimate look at one of the most successful heavy metal bands ever, Metallica. This unflinching doc focuses on the band as they hit a crossroads - the departure of their bass player. We see a band that's been together for 20 years talk through their emotions and pain points. By enlisting the help of a therapist, the documentary is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at a rock group in group therapy.
One of the most important documentaries of the decade, Blackfish charts the life of killer whale Tilikum, who sadly died recently. Kept in captivity as a 'performance mammal' at SeaWorld, the doc explores the unsightly side of why keeping whales in captivity is a terrible idea. Blackfish had such an impact that SeaWorld decided to phase out its orca shows and rebrand itself. Powerful stuff.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
This Netflix exclusive documentary is a heart-wrenching look at one of the greatest singers of all time. While the highlights are definitely seeing Simone sing live - there's a huge amount of never-before-seen archive footage - it's the eye-opening truths about her troubled life that hit home hardest.
Cartel Land works great as a companion piece to Sicario - found in our Best Thriller list. It's a documentary focused on the bloody and brutal battle between drug runners on the US/Mexican border and a vigilante group of civilians who have had enough and fight back. Produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Cartel Land is a despairing watch punctuated by some stunning cinematography and a fantastic score.
Bobby Fischer Against The World
A movie about chess shouldn't be this riveting but Bobby Fischer Against The World is a stunning portrait of a man who was one of the best chess players in the world. Featuring interviews from other chess luminaries, such as Garry Kasparov, the documentary looks into the tumultuous life of Fischer who won everything going in the 60s, only to disappear into obscurity for some 20 years.
This documentary may have gained prominence thanks to its DJ Shadow soundtrack, but it's the subject matter that makes Dark Days such a must watch. Shot and directed by Marc Singer, Dark Days shines a light on those who live in underground tunnels under New York. Criminally, this was Singer's only foray into documentary filmmaking but at least he created a classic.
At nearly three hours' long, Hoop Dreams is an exhaustive and very personal look at two teenagers trying to make it big in professional basketball. The two kids in question - William Gates and Arthur Agee - are from poor backgrounds which makes the push to basketball superstardom even more effective. The film won Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and for good reason - it's one of the best sports movies ever made.
The Queen Of Versailles
The Queen Of Versailles is a documentary with a difference. It starts off being about the Siegel family, one of the richest in America, who are building the most expensive house in the US. During filming, however, the Great Recession of 2008 hits and David Siegel's timeshare business is hit badly, leaving the building work halted. As his wealth slowly evaporates, the cameras continue to roll.
Also consider: Amanda Knox | Hostage To The Devil | Hot Girls Wanted | Keith Richards Under The Influence | Kurt & Courtney | Catfish | Iris | Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer | The Square | Tabloid
BEST THRILLER: Snowden
Always one for a conspiracy theory - just watch JFK to see how creative his jigsaw-like thinking can get - Olive Stone was the perfect choice to direct Snowden - a film about Edward Snowden, arguably the most prolific leaker the US has ever had. Charting his life from his cut-short army career to his desk job in the NSA, focusing on cyberwarfare, the story humanises a person who already feels like a myth and adds bones to why he decided to go against the US government and uncover a truth that included mass surveillance and more.
It's nowhere near director Danny Boyle's best, but Trance is still a fun ride. It's a film that reunites Boyle with his old writing partner John Hodge - who also recently went on to make T2: Trainspotting with Boyle - and is about an art heist that goes wrong. To understand what happened, a hypnotherapist is hired to try and find a missing painting. The story ends up being hard to understand - but when the visuals are this good, you won't really mind.
The Stephen King renaissance continues with 1922, a movie based on a little-known short story by the horror author taken from his 2010 Full Dark, No Stars compilation. It’s an assured film with a great central performance by Thomas Jane, who plays a farmer in the 1920 who murders his wife, a crime that sparks off a strange string of events. It’s slow burning but when the horror finally creeps in it’s a tough but mesmerising watch.
American Sniper is a taut, tension-filled tale about Chris Kyle, a skilled sniper who 160 people when he was a US Navy Seal. If you can forgive the embellishing of truth to heighten drama and the fact the film offers up a one-sided view of Kyle’s ‘achievements’, American Sniper is one of Clint Eastwood's more assured movies. It’s a troubling movie, though, one that both tries to moralise war and showcase the after effects of being in a war zone.
Gone Baby Gone
Ben Affleck's directorial debut is a superb, taut thriller that's based on every parent's worst nightmare - the disappearance of their child. Ben's brother Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan star as two detectives who take on the missing person's case, even though they have little experience in a case of that type. Based in Boston, the film manages to showcase the heart of the city (where the Afflecks are from) as well as tell a tragic tale in the most human way possible.
Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow is one of the greatest action filmmakers around, so was perfect for helming Zero Dark Thirty. Based on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the movie keeps the terrorist mostly in the background and instead focuses on the people who were key to bringing him to justice. No one would like to see Bin Laden caught more than Jessica Chastain's Maya, an operative who has spent most of her career chasing him. Whatever your take on the War on Terror, this is riveting stuff.
With Twin Peaks: Season 3 currently trying to out weird the world, it's a perfect time to immerse yourself in the delicious nastiness of Blue Velvet once more. The film is a triumph of oddness - based around a seemingly wholesome man (Kyle MacLachlan) who gets embroiled in the underworld thanks to his infatuation with a mysterious women. This is David Lynch at his finest.
Based on the amazing true tale of an FBI informant who infiltrated the highest reaches of the mafia, only to nearly be turned himself, Donnie Brasco is a mob movie like no other. Stellar performances from both Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, this is an assured gangster tale.
David Cronenberg was on a role when Eastern Promises came out. It was his second feature to, well, feature Viggo Mortensen - the first is the peerless A History of Violence - and is about the goings on of the Russian mob in the UK. Mortensen is frightening as a mob member but it is Naomi Watts who steals the show as the midwife who has a dangerous secret to tell.
In what is one of the best performances in a long and varied career Michael Caine is utterly brilliant in Harry Brown - a British Falling Down, where a pensioner goes to extremes to avenge his friend's death and battle the crime, drugs and unrule that have taken over his neighbourhood. It's a stark tale that holds a broken mirror up to the UK's inner city life.
To be a fan of Danny Boyle is to be a fan of movies in general - his style, flits and changes with each film he does, you'd be hard pressed to put a label on what is a Danny Boyle movie. But one thing he has with aplomb is style. 127 Hours is a tense, visceral meditation in loneliness. Based on the true story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), a thrill-seeker who finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he gets his arm stuck in a canyon. What ensues is a man who, through sheer strong mindedness and some DIY surgery, tries to find his way out of a terrible situation.
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
One of the most talked about films at 2016’s Sundance Festival, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is the directorial debut of Macon Blair - a face you will know very well if you’ve seen the likes of Blue Ruin and Green Room. Starring the ever-wonderful Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood, the movie is about two people who go on a revenge mission after they both get burgled. The whole thing plays out like 90s Tarantino-esque thriller, complete with bizarre happenings and fantastic central performances.
Tragically, Green Room is now earmarked as one of the final final films of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin. He is fantastic in this tale about a band being trapped in a club with a group of skinheads after they witness a horrific murder. It starts off slow but once the events happen, the film ratchets up the tension to almost breaking point.
Beasts of No Nation
One of the first movies to be made under the Netflix banner, Beasts of No Nation sees Idris Elba on fine form as a commandant fighting in a civil war. But the biggest praise has to go to Abraham Attah's Agu - a boy soldier caught in the fighting. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga - who made the first season of True Detective the masterpiece it was - this is a harrowing but great watch.
Gillian Flynn's twisty novel is perfect fodder for director David Fincher. It's dark, almost without a moral compass and probes into the dark recesses of the human condition. Ben Affleck is superb as Nick Dunne, the grieving husband whose wife has disappeared. But it is Rosamund Pike who deserves all the accolades - her portrayal of 'Amazing' Amy is something of a roller coaster.
Fargo is the perfect Coen Brothers film. Funny enough to make you chuckle, it's also filled with some ridiculously dark moments, most of which involve Steve Buscemi's bumbling hitman and William H Macy as the cowardly corrupt Jerry Lundegaard. The star of the film, however, has to be Frances McDormand's heavily pregnant, inquisitive and just darn tootin' nice detective.
Brian De Palma is a magpie filmmaker. His style apes that of his hero, Alfred Hitchcock, and he loves to make remakes. Blow Out is one of his best. A re-imagining of the seminal '60s film Blow-Up, De Palma moves the action from London to the US and focuses on sound not photography as Travolta stars as a sound effects producer who believes he has caught a real murder on tape.
Also consider: Carlos The Jackal | The Purge: Anarchy | Gone Baby Gone | The Spy Who Came In From The Cold | We Need To Talk About Kevin | The Parallax View | Rear Window | Serpico | Natural Born Killers
BEST ROMANCE: When Harry Met Sally
The ultimate romantic film? Perhaps. It’s definitely one of the best watches you are likely to have. When Harry Met Sally is an all-time classic, brimming with confidence that only comes when you nail the acting, script and direction. Sally is played by Meg Ryan, someone who has been friends with Harry (a pristine Billy Crystal) for years but lost contact. They meet up again, when their lives are a little different, and the rest is history. Rob Reiner does a fantastic, subtle directing job here but top marks go to the script by the late Nora Ephron.
La La Land
Director Damian Chazelle (Whiplash) does it again with La La Land, creating a fantastic musical romance about two creatives trying to make it big in Los Angeles. One is an aspiring actress (the fantastic Emma Stone), while the other (Ryan Gosling) is a jobbing jazz musician hoping for his big break. The song and dance routines are a wonder to watch, but this isn't just a film that relies on gimmickry - it's a well told modern day love story.
Romancing The Stone
Yes, it was made to capitalise on the huge success of Indiana Jones, but this is no rip off. Directed by the brilliant Robert Zemeckis and blessed with two of the most charismatic stars of the 80s Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, the movie is an absolute blast. It’s a film about a romance author who heads to Columbia to find her kidnapped sister, only to find herself face to face with an adventurer Michael Douglas. With equal measure action and comedy, Romancing the Stone is full of the fun only a rock-solid 80s flick can muster.
Me, Earl and the Dying Girl
Me, Earl and the Dying Girl manages to make the most out of a plot that would normally depress the hell out of everyone. Film fanatic Greg (a superb Thomas Mann) is tasked with looking after Rachel (Olivia Cooke) a local girl who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Instead of playing on the sadness of the situation, Greg makes the most of their time together by spoofing some of his favourite films and making Rachel a movie tribute. It’s sentimental stuff but not sweet enough to rot your teeth.
Whatever your take on Notting Hill (it's either seen as a AAA rom-com or a slice of schmaltz) there's no denying that it changed romantic movies for the better. Writer Richard Curtis weaves a tale about a Hollywood A-lister who hides out in Notting Hill and falls for bumbling bookshop owner Hugh Grant. It's a fun, fleeting movie that doesn't take itself too seriously and is buoyed by the presence of both Grant and Julia Roberts.
Woody Allen won an Oscar for Best Direction, Diane Keaton for Best Actress and Annie Hall won for Best Film in 1977… it's fair to say this movie has critical clout. Even if it didn't win these awards, it would still be known as one of the very best movies about love, and certainly one of the best movies Woody Allen has made. The titular Annie Hall is 'the one who got away', as Allen's comedian character Alvy Singer tries to figure out what went wrong in their relationship.
As much a love letter to New York as it is a romantic film, Manhattan is a brilliant look at love, through those who are in love and have lost love. Woody Allen plays, well, Woody Allen, someone who is already twice divorced when we meet him, then follow him through a string of affairs throughout the film. Although it could do without the rather sombre third act, the movie is a delight.
Charlie Kaufman does it again with Anomalisa, offering up an adult take on relationships using one of the most childlike forms - puppetry. David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh lend their exquisite voices to the movie but it's the animation and the heartbreaking story of a man that experiences something out of the ordinary that shines through.
If you can forgive the ending - there was definitely room for Jack on that raft - Titanic is one of the best, and certainly most epic love stories. The sinking of the Titanic plays second fiddle to the romance of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), two lovers from different social groups that end up on the illustrious liner, the Titanic. Yes, it's overwrought and melodramatic, but it's still one helluva watch.
BEST KIDS: Fantastic Mr Fox
Wes Anderson’s quirky directing is a perfect fit for Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Fox. Lovingly crafted using stop animation that’s voiced by Anderson alumni, and George Clooney, the film works well as a kids animation, but it’s adults that will get the biggest kicks. Director Anderson is going back to stop animation for his next feature - let’s hope it’s half as good as the fantastic Fantastic Mr Fox.
James And The Giant Peach
An animated movie lives or dies by its animation and that's what makes James And The Giant Peach so good. Its unique look is because of Henry Selick, the genius director who also brought Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas alive. His animation is a perfect companion for Roald Dahl's twisted tale.
Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who made the greatest Anime around Akira, Steamboy is a superb Victorian-London infused tale about a young inventor who has to do everything he can to make sure his granddad's inventions don't fall into the wrong hands. It looks amazing, but is sometimes let down by its storytelling. It's definitely worth a watch, though, even if it does get a little too silly.
The geniuses that brought us Wallace and Gromit decided not to use their most famous creations for their first feature-length movie. Instead they chose this brilliant, endearing story about the lives of some chickens in a chicken run. Mel Gibson adds his voice for some A-List star power but it's the stop-motion animation that's standout here.
Roald Dahl's greatest book, Matilda, is given a great adaptation, thanks to director and star Danny DeVito. While brilliant at playing one of Matilda's awful parents, it's his direction that's key here - weaving together hyperreal imagery, a faithfulness to the book and the right balance of comedy and unpleasantness.
Unfairly shunned by critics when it was first released, Hook is a fun spin on the Peter Pan mythos. Directed by Steven Spielberg, he brings his child-eyed wonder to the Pan world, shifting the narrative to a grown-up Pan played brilliantly by Robin Williams. His performance is backed by Dustin Hoffman at his funniest as Captain Hook and too many other great performances to mention.
The Dark Crystal
Muppet madness ensues in The Dark Crystal - yet another classic brought to life by the majesty of Jim Henson and his puppet creations. It may not be as loved as Labyrinth but it's still a brilliant children's tale about the search for a crystal that once brought balance to the world.