UPDATED: The undisputed classic Lawrence of Arabia has been added to Netflix in its recently restored form, and it looks better than ever before – read more about it on page 4!
If you're new to Netflix and want to find the best movies to watch, or you're tired of browsing the app for 30 minutes before finding something to watch, you've come to the right place. With thousands of movies at your disposal, it's easy to get stuck in binge-watching mode, but finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of a hassle.
In an effort to determine the best of the best, we've put together a list of the greatest possible films you can watch – curated by TechRadar editors and backed up with ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – so that you don't have to sift through the muck. We'll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.
Are TV shows more your scene? Here are the best TV shows on Netflix!
The film that put both director Neill Blomkamp (Elysium) and star Sharlto Copley (Powers) on the international stage, District 9 is an ingenious science fiction Apartheid allegory that puts marooned aliens in South African concentration camps. An anti-alien pencil pusher (Copley) has his whole world turned upside down when he is sprayed with some kind of liquid that is slowly turning him into an alien, and now he has to team up with one of the "prawns" he so despises if he has any hope of turning back to normal. Hilarious, action-packed and filled with flinch-worthy body horror moments, District 9 is an instant classic that rightfully earned a best picture nomination at the Oscars.
IMDB Rating: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
The kind of smart science fiction film that Steven Spielberg used to make in his 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' heyday, Midnight Special continually offers a sense of wonder as its story unfolds. Without spoiling too much, the film centres on Roy (Michael Shannon), a father who must protect his special son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) from both the US government and a cult after it's discovered that the boy has otherworldly powers. Along for the ride are Alton's mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and Roy's close friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). With surprises around every corner, you never really know where Midnight Special is going, though what you can expect are some truly terrific performances and a mind-blowing finale. Fans of Stranger Things should check this out.
IMDB Rating: 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
What if you could prevent murders before they've occurred? More importantly, what would you do if you were due to be sentenced over a murder you haven't committed yet? That is the premise of Steven Spielberg's spectacular sci-fi film, Minority Report. Loosely based on the Philip K. Dick story of the same name, the film sees Tom Cruise play the head of a futuristic 'Precrime' Division tasked with stopping murderers from carrying out their violent actions. They can do this thanks to the psychic abilities of three siblings known as 'Precogs'. But what happens when this trio of soothsayers predicts a murder carried about by Cruise himself? Spoiler alert, he runs! A visually stunning film that's filled with ingenious and forward-thinking technological ideas that will likely become a reality in years to come, Minority Report is intense and action-packed.
IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
While other films from the same time period have struggled to stay relevant, The Terminator remains as interesting and unique as it was 30 years ago. Plenty of reboots and sequels have come out since the release and though some have actually transcended the original critically – ahem, Terminator 2 – many aren't worth the film they were printed on. If you're looking for a retro masterpiece that holds up to modern-day cinema standards, you can stop searching.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A triumphant return to the screen for the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens sees the characters we love from the original trilogy, like Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia, set off another adventure with a new generation of wonderful characters. Ironically, for a series set among the stars, Director J.J. Abrams brings the franchise back to Earth by dialling down the CGI that hobbled the prequel trilogy – this is a Star Wars movie that uses real locations and sets, as well as puppets and actors in costume, to recreate the spirit of Episodes IV through VI. Featuring thrilling action, incredible special effects and terrific performances, The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars film in over 30 years.
IMDB Rating: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
It took an agonising seven years for director Alfonso Cuarón to follow his masterful last film, Children of Men, but what an incredible follow-up! With Gravity, he sure did stick the landing (ahem) and hit this one right out of orbit (I'll let myself out). This nail-bitingly intense film, in which Sandra Bullock's character must use her wits to survive in space after a catastrophic shuttle accident, is a technical marvel – the kind of film that wows even the likes of James Cameron, who called Gravity "the best space film ever done." A perfect marriage of drama and special effects, Gravity is an absolute classic.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Way back in 1999, The Matrix blew audiences away with its amazing special effects, mind-bending sci-fi plot, incredible wire-fu action scenes, wonderfully era-appropriate industrial soundtrack and spectacular bullet-time camerawork. Though writer-director siblings The Wachowskis would eventually follow it up with two lacklustre sequels, nothing could diminish the story of a virtual superhero named Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his awakening from a lifelike illusion. Neo learns that our world is just a virtual construct developed by machines in order to enslave humanity and use us as batteries to keep itself alive – not the best news to wake up to, that's for sure. In the words of Keanu himself, The Matrix is one film that is guaranteed to make you say "whoa".
IMDB Rating: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%