Best movies on Netflix UK
UPDATE: There's a thrilling new film on Netflix this week that will put the recent Autumn chill into perspective: the biographical adventure film, Everest.
Netflix UK has a lot of movies on offer, but if you only have time for the best 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.
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.
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!
New Entry: Everest
This biographical adventure film tells this story of Robert Edwin Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who led rival expedition teams on an ascent of Mount Everest in May 1996. When an unexpected blizzard hits them during their climb, they have to fight to stay alive.
There's an impressive ensemble cast here and some even more impressive cinematography.
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.
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.
Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero is a movie that came out too early to be seen as what it truly is, a gem of a movie. It’s one big knowing nod to action films that just so happens to also be a great action film. Its script is packed with postmodern posturing. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Jack Slater, a big-screen action hero who is befriended by Danny, a boy who is sucked into his movie world. What ensues is satire after satire of action movies, directed by the master of action movies John McTiernan. It’s occasionally too clever for its good, but for the most part Last Action Hero (which bombed on its initial release) is an under-appreciated joy of a movie.
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.
Director Colin Trevorrow had only done one micro-budget movie before Jurassic World, so it was a big gamble when it was announced he was at the helm of this sequel to one of the greatest movies of all time. The gamble didn't quite pay off but Jurassic World is a fun, if pedestrian, stab at Michael Crichton's dino world. As the name implies everything is bigger in Jurassic World but it's the nods to the original movie where the film works best. It's just a shame there's not enough of them. At least his next film will be the ninth film in the little-known Star Wars franchise so he can hone his directing skills away from the wrath of critics.
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.
Wernor Herzog liked the true story of Dieter Dengler, a US pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War, that he told his tale twice. The first is in the documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. The second is in Rescue Dawn, a dramatisation of his survival and it's a great watch. Christian Bale stars as Dengler who is captured and subsequently escapes from a POW camp - how he does it will make you think twice about this being a true story.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The sequel to the first Avengers movie is an unwieldy, clunky film that still has sparkle, thanks to Joss Whedon just about holding proceedings together. He's made an impossible task of a movie - that has to combine the original Avengers timeline and the new Avengers - into something watchable and altogether coherent. For those that like explosion, there's plenty to love - as long as you don't mind a heavy dose of exposition to go with it.
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.
Released at a time when Mel Gibson found his popularity on the wane for various reasons, Apocalypto is one of the actor-director's finest movies. Shot on digital, Apocalypto rattles on at a furious pace, mixing old-fashioned storytelling (about Mayan culture) with huge smatterings of violence.
From Dusk Till Dawn
For the first hour of From Dusk Till Dawn, you'd be forgiven in thinking that there's no horror to be seen at all, other than the fact no one clearly wants to go on holiday in a camper van. But when the film finally lands in the Titty Twister, all hell breaks loose. Given this is a Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joint venture, there's plenty of black comedy to go with the hordes of vampires that eventually turn up and wreak havoc in the movie. Dumb fun.
Kids are the worst. Well, they are when you put them on an island and make them fight to the death until there is only one winner. This Japanese cult classic is a hard watch but it's worth it. It also pretty much inspired the Hunger Games, albeit in a very watered down way.
Best Drama: Under The Skin
Jonathan Glazer may make movies at a glacial speed, but they are always worth the wait. Under The Skin is an unnerving, brilliant piece of cinema that starts off as realist moviemaking and ends up being utterly surreal. The plot, though, sci-fi is slight: Scarlett Johansson is an alien who spends its days driving the roads of Scotland to pick up prey, until one day it starts questioning what it is really doing. But the way Glazer tells the story is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
The star of Mandela is undeniably Idris Elba who does a brilliant job portraying Nelson Mandela as a young man, all the way up to his eventual freedom from Robben Island. His performance holds up a movie that weighed down with too many formalities. It’s a good biopic, though, and one that shines a light into just how rebellious Mandela was.
Mistress America is Noah Baumbach’s third movie with Greta Gerwig. This one is co-written by her and is a superb look at friendships and what it means to be both young and an adult. The film is packed with Baumbach flourishes but this movie is all about Gerwig. She’s phenomenal as someone who is the complete opposite of her persona in Frances Ha - a person who looks in complete control, even if the opposite is true.
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.
Bleed For This
We all love a comeback. And a training montage. And a boxing film. And that’s what Bleed For This is, the remarkable true-life tale of a boxer who gets into a serious accident and doesn’t think he’ll walk again let alone box. Miles Teller plays boxer Vinny, looking almost unrecognisable given how much muscle he put on for the role. Another unrecognisable actor is Aaron Eckhart who plays his balding coach. It’s not perfect, but it does occasionally pack a punch and the ‘80s soundtrack is welcomed.
We’ll admit it, anything with Greta Gerwig in it will be watched by us. She’s a brilliant, funny, understated actress that lights up the screen. In Greenberg she catches the eye of Ben Stiller, who comes to stay with his brother in New York after being in a psychiatric hospital. Stiller is Roger Greenberg whose social awkwardness is the basis for most of the laughs in the film but it’s Noah Baumbach’s deft direction that makes the film. The way he edits the kids party scene is superb and he’s packed the movie out with (now famous) famous, including Brie Larson, Juno Temple and Zosia Mamet.
Love And Mercy
Love And Mercy is by no means a perfect film. But Paul Dano as Brian Wilson is an absolute must see. The actor balances Wilson's fragility, torment and genius brilliantly. The film flits between timelines to tell its story, taking place in the 60s during the making of Pet Sounds and the 80s when Wilson was a shadow of his former self. At times the parallel storytelling is confusing but this is definitely a movie worth sticking with.
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.
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.
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.
Trumbo is an interesting take on the whole communism scandal of the 1950s that saw many prolific screenwriters and filmmakers blacklisted for supposed anti-American beliefs. Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was one of them and instead of taking the whole thing on the chin he tried to expose what was going on, winning two Academy Awards in the process. Cranston is great as Trumbo, a role he took soon after Breaking Bad finished its run.
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.
Richard Linklater astute directing and Jack Black’s surprisingly reserved turn as Bernie make this film a wonderful watch. It’s based on the true story of a friendly and well-love mortician who befriends a wealthy widow, a move that spirals Bernie’s life out of control. Given this is a Linklater film, it’s full of Southern Texas charm and characters that are full of quirk. Shirley MacLaine is also fantastic as the widow.
Tommy Lee Jones is one of those actors that you may not seek out a film for, but when you watch him you remember just how good he is. That’s what you get with Emperor, a movie about the surrender of the Japanese at the end of World War II and what happened to the generals of their army. Jones plays a commander who is a leading Japanese expert and puts on a, well, commanding performance. Lost’s Matthew Fox is also great as another general, who hasn’t quite got the presence or authority of Jones’ character. This is a fascinating insight into a little known part of history of postwar Japan.
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.
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.
Girl, Interrupted quite rightly earned Angelina Jolie a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the rebellious Lisa, a resident of a psychiatric hospital who befriends recent incumbent Susanna (played by Winona Ryder). The film is filled with performances that are better than the movie - including an early turn by Elisabeth Moss.
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.
Just because this biopic of Miles Davis flew under the radar when it was first released doesn’t mean it’s not great. Don Cheadle is brilliant as Miles Davis, the genius jazz musician. This was a passion project for Cheadle and it shows - it’s not perfect, but the non-linear storytelling works in the film’s favour. And the soundtrack is superb, thanks to Miles’ music and the help of producer Robert Glasper.
Birdman marked the third English-speaking movie by Alejandro G Iñárritu and perhaps his most linear film to date. Instead of weaving multiple narratives the movie is almost a one-take look at the life of Riggan, a theatre actor in the middle of a life crisis. Although the movie won four Oscars, Michael Keaton cruelly missed out on Best Actor - he’s mesmerising.
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.
City of God
Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles recently showed the world his talent by directing the Rio Olympics opening ceremony but it's City of God where you will see the true skill of the filmmaker. Shot in and around the favelas of Brazil, the movie is a beautifully shot eye-opening look at the violent neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro and the people who are trying to make a living within them.
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.
The Big Short
Eyebrows were raised when Anchorman director Adam McKay's next project was a deep dive into the US subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, but The Big Shot is a fun and frivolous look at the people who betted against the housing market and made a lot of money.
Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling are all superb, playing varying degrees of slime balls with charisma, while the script - which won an Oscar - is whip smart.
The People Vs Larry Flynt
There was no better director to tackle the life of Larry Flynt (played effortlessly by Woody Harrelson) than Milos Forman. Having tackled eccentric people in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, he brilliantly encapsulated the unbelievable life of porn baron Flynt. From his rise from pornographic publisher to free speech advocate, the movie slightly idolises the man but it’s still a fantastic watch.
Best Indie: The Lobster
One of the stranger movies you will ever see, The Lobster is set in some sort of strange dystopian future where people who are not in love go to a retreat to find love. If they don't find love after 45 days, they are turned into an animal of their choice. Far funnier than it should be and littered with symbolism about fighting against the norm, this is one of the most original movies around.
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.
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.
With the title Antichrist, Lars Von Trier was always up for a bit of controversy with this movie, like he always is. Starring a very game Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the movie charts a couple's life after the terrible death of their son. While not all of it works - what's with the talking fox? - Antichrist is a thought-provoking and worthy watch, as long as you aren't easily offended.
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.
Before Guardians of the Galaxy catapulted director James Gunn's career into the stratosphere he had worked on another superhero movie, albeit one that's about as far from the mainstream as you can get. Super sees Rainn Wilson as a chef who decides to turn into a vigilante after his wife leaves him. What ensues is the blackest of black comedy, with Wilson fighting through bad guy after bad guy, splattering graphic violence all over the shop. Think Deadpool but that bit ruder and you are halfway there - Super is a devilish delight.
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.
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.
Nobody does 20/30/40-something character studies better than Judd Apatow - the director responsible for the likes of 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People. Trainwreck sees comedian Amy Schumer as a heavy drinking, party going journalist who gets an assignment to interview a sports doctor and, well, you can sort of guess the rest. Written by Schumer, while not all the jokes hit Trainwreck is a fun film and far from the disaster that the title implies.
There is no reason for this movie to be as fun as it is. Spy is a spoof film that treads a fine line between stupid and funny and surprisingly succeeds. This is mostly to do with the superb cast who deadpan their way through the entire thing. Even Jason Statham finds his funny bone by playing a character who boasts about every single thing he's ever done, with fantastic lines like: "Nothing kills me. I'm immune to 179 different types of poison. I know because I ingested them all at once when I was deep undercover in an underground poison-ingesting crime ring."
The star of the show, though, is Melissa McCarthy. Teaming up once more with Paul Feig, she shines as the bumbling undercover agent who normally has a desk job.
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.
The film doesn't quite live up to its star-studded cast, War Machine is a fun, sardonic take on the war in Afghanistan where a journalist takes down a high-ranking general with their expose. This is one of Netflix's original movies and it certainly isn't perfect but we'd much rather they concentrate on films like this than offering us another slice of Adam Sandler.
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.
New addition: Death Note
It's not the masterpiece that some will be hoping for but Death Note, a Netflix original, is a super-stylish, if a little substance free, take on the Manga of the same name. It's about Kira, a high school student who discovers a book that kills off whoever's name you write in it. It's a fevered riff of the Final Destination series and while it does suffer from being transposed to the US, Willem Dafoe is great as the voice of Ryuk, the demonic god of death.
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.
If you love Nicolas Winding Refn’s Neon Demon then you'll get your kicks out of Starry Eyes. It’s a horror movie that takes on the same basic theme of someone trying to make it big in an industry - in this case. Hollywood, in Neon Demon’s case fashion - and watching a slow descent into hell because of it.
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
This Netflix exclusive landed just before Halloween but while it offers chills, don't come here expecting conventional scares. I Am The Pretty thing is much more brooding than to offer cheap thrills - instead it's a ghost story hidden within a ghost story, focusing on carer Ruth Wilson who slowly realises the house she is working in may be haunted.
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.
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.
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.
Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World may well be the worst of the recent Marvel movies. But it's still a fun film - which shows just how high the quality level has been for the Avengers and their spin-offs. Most of the movie takes place in Asgard so it made sense for Game of Thrones veteran Alan Taylor on board. This is the movie where Thor (a superb Liam Hemsworth) starts to lighten up a bit. It's also the movie where Thor takes a Tube to Greenwich which is impossible to do. But, that's just nit-picking considering this is a movie about heroic demigods, dark elves and a cosmic event known as the Convergence.
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.
While it never sails as high as District 9 - director Neill Blomkamp's stunning debut - Chappie is a fun, interesting movie set in the near future about a police droid that becomes sentient. Think Robocop but with lower-key technology and half the violence. The movie is a bit disjointed in places but it's worth a watch, even if it's just to see Hugh Jackman play a bad guy.
Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness wasn’t the critical darling that the first film was. This is partly due to the bumbling nature of the marketing campaign, which tried to keep the real identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character secret. Away from this, it’s a decent movie - it won’t satiate the appetite of true Trekkies but it’s got enough for others to boldly go and enjoy.
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.
Guillermo del Toro's back catalogue is wonderful bag of strangeness. He's delved into the superhero genre with both Blade II and Hellboy, wrote a fan letter to Japanese culture with Pacific Rim, tackled horror with both Chronos and Devil's Backbone but his masterpiece has to be Pan's Labyrinth. An adult fairytale that has peculiar characters and a sad story set among the Spanish Civil War, it masterfully blends child and adult fantasy. It's a must watch.
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.
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.
Searching for Sugar Man
Searching for Sugar Man is a superb true tale of two filmmakers looking for answers about the apparent death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez. Rodriguez, at the time, wasn't really known outside of the US but in South Africa he was something of a cult figure. As the documentary unfolds, it becomes apparent that the movie will have one hell of a surprise ending.
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: Sicario
Emily Blunt is sensational in Sicario, a film that's centred around the drug cartels of Mexico and the government agents tasked to stop the drug running. Alongside Blunt as a new FBI agent assigned to the case is Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, two agents who are well versed in dealing with drug lords and the devastation they cause. The film was so good, its director Denis Villeneuve was picked to helm the sequel to Blade Runner off the back of it.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The original Lisbeth Sander films do a decent job of adapting The Millennium Trilogy for the big screen. This is mainly thanks to the acting talents of Michael Nyqvist (who really passed away) and Noomi Rapace whose portrayal of Lisbeth Salander catapulted into the Hollywood A List. The Girl Who Played With Fire hasn’t quite got the bite of Dragon Tattoo but it is an engrossing watch. This time around Salander is investigating a sex-trafficking ring and in the process is framed for three murders.
Director John Hillcoat’s CV is peppered with movies about hard men. Men who put up with extreme situations (The Proposition, The Road), men who fight their ways out of trouble (Lawless) and until Triple 9, his movies were all period pieces. Triple 9 loses some impact by being set in modern day but it’s no less gritty. It’s about criminals and corrupt cops who are blackmailed in pulling off a big heist. It’s taught and grim but is lacking something to make it an absolutely essential watch.
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.
New addition: 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.
The 9th Life of Louis Drax
Alexandre Aja is a frustrating director. He started off in his native France with the superb Haute Tension (well, apart from the ending) but since his move to Hollywood he’s released subpar movie after subpar movie. The 9th Life of Louis Drax puts an end to that. Starring Jamie Dornan and Aaron Paul this is a great Hitchcockian thriller about an accident prone child. While it’s not perfect, this genre-bending film is the best the director has made in years.
Don't let the frankly terrible name of this movie dissuade you from watching it. Anthropoid - named after an operation in World War II to assassinate one of Hitler's main commanders - is a tense David and Goliath battle between Czech resistance fighters and the Third Reich. Both Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy are fantastic as part of the Resistance, even if their Czech accents are a little off.
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.
Back before Jennifer Lawrence was a superstar Oscar-winning actress, she made a film that arguably houses her best role. Winter's Bone is bleak. Set around the harsh Ozark Mountain landscape of the US, the film sees Lawrence on the hunt for her meth-making father. On the way, she unravels a conspiracy that involves much of her untrustworthy neighbours. This is Lawrence at her understated best.
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.
This is film noir at its absolute best. Centred on an insurance salesmen Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) who is mixed up in a tale that sees a woman (the brilliant Barbara Stanwyc) intent on murdering her husband, Double Indemnity is gripping to watch and, ultimately, heartbreaking. Written by Raymond Chandler with help from director Billy Wilder, this rival's Wilder's Sunset Boulevard for being Wilder's best film.
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: Brooklyn
No, not a film about the Beckham's model son but a sweeping tale of young love in New York in the 50s. Saoirse Ronan - easily one of the best actresses around at the moment - stars as the Irish immigrant who moves from a small Irish town to Brooklyn in search of work. Adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, the story flits along at a great pace but its the acting that really shines.
She’s Gotta Have It
It’s a good time for She’s Gotta Have It to land on Netflix. Spike Lee revealed earlier this year that he’s remaking the film as a 10-part Netflix series set to debut this November. Watching this low-budget debut for Lee and it’s easy to see why he’d go back to the themes of the movie - it’s fertile storytelling ground. Centred around Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), it’s about her and, simply put, her three lovers. Their tales intertwine and interlope and show Darling to be someone that doesn’t want to be tied down. It’s Lee’s debut so it’s not as polished as his other movies and has nowhere near the impact of, say, Do The Right Thing. But it’s a curio piece that’s worth a watch.
The ultimate teen romantic comedy, Sixteen Candles is about Samantha (Molly Ringwald) who is about to hit her 16th birthday. Full of the teenage angst you'd expect from such a birthday, Samantha pines for an older boy, while trying to stop her nerdy friend from falling in love with her. Yes, it's dated but it's still a fun watch - especially if you remember it first time around.
The Theory of Everything
Focusing on the life of Stephen Hawking, particularly his relationship with his first wife, The Theory of Everything is a beautiful film to watch - even if it's a little unfulfilling. Both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are fantastic, though, with Redmayne a deserved winner of the Best Actor Oscar.
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.
Who said romance films had to just be about love? 45 Years is about falling out of love, after many years of marriage, and is an absolutely devastating watch. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are the couple trying to figure out what the future holds, when Courtenay's character drops a truth bombshell that puts a strain on a relationship that has lasted 45 years and beyond.
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.
Diary of a Teenage Girl
It's the '70s in SanFrancisco. Minnie Goets (a fantastic Bel Powley) is 15 and falls for her mother's boyfriend. What ensues is a refreshingly honest, funny, unflinching portrayal of unrequited young love. Although there is a lot of sex shown, the movie doesn't sugarcoat it but tells you as it is and because of that it's a much better film than the title implies.
Chasing Amy is of its time - '90s, slacker, indie - but still manages to say something profound about relationships that rings true today. Amy is a comic-book artist who happens to be a lesbian. She becomes the object of desire of Ben Affleck's Holden who falls for her in a big way. Chasing Amy is Kevin Smith at his near best.
Best Kids: The Boxtrolls
Laika is a little-known production company that is taking the world by storm with its animation delights. Its latest movie Kubo and the Two Strings is being heralded a classic - as should The Boxtrolls. This stop-motion animation delight centres on a community of trolls who live among the trash of the city of Cheesebridge and come to the aid of a human orphan. The Boxtrolls is a beautifully made movie that shows there's still a lot of love in stop-motion animation. If you don't believe us, try and watch the end credits of this movie without a tear in your eye. Superb stuff.
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.
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.
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.
One of the most '80s movies you will ever see, The Explorers is directed by the legend that is Joe Dante and follows a bunch of kids who decide to make their very own (working) space ship in their bedroom and then decide to explore space. It's barmy but it's also brilliant.
Into The Woods
Those who watched the trailer for Into The Woods may have been surprised that this movie is a musical, and a rather good one at that. Based on a handful of Brothers Grimm fairy tales and written by Stephen Sondheim, the film looks amazing and has a stellar cast lead by the always watchable Anna Kendrick.
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.
Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks may not be able to dish out the hits as well as Disney but it has still has released a number of fun animated films in recent years. One of the better ones is Monsters Vs Aliens. Using the voice talents of Reese Witherspoon and Hugh Laurie, the movie sees a team of monsters help save the world from, well, aliens.