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Best Netflix movies: 20 films you need to watch in January 2020

Marriage Story
(Image credit: Netflix)

In this article, you'll find the best Netflix movies you can watch in the US. 

When was the last time you sat down ready to watch a Netflix film without being paralysed by the huge array of choices at your fingertips? No, us neither. However, to stop you absent-mindedly scrolling through the streaming service's endless options, we've selected the top 20 so you don't waste your time on something rubbish.

There are plenty of quality flicks here, too, some of them even Oscar-worthy. Looking at the Oscar nominations 2020 list, intimate, but gruelling divorce drama, Marriage Story and The Irishman, Martin Scorsese's gangster epic, are in the running for several of the biggest gongs in film. And you can stream them both on Netflix, right now. What a time to be alive.

In the following list you'll find the best Netflix original films for a rainy Sunday afternoon, as well as other licensed films that tend to only enjoy a temporary stay on the platform. So we'll be continuously updating this list of the best Netflix movies that remain on the platform, so you don't get your hopes up only for something to have moved on. Here are 20 films you need to watch on Netflix. 

The Irishman

The Irishman

(Image credit: Netflix)

Genre: Crime drama

Who's it for? Cinema buffs and Scorsese fans (which are the same group of people). 

This threateningly long Scorsese pic attracted attention for the extensive effects work used to de-age its old stars, and it's a creative decision that's occasionally distracting. But there's no denying the appeal of seeing De Niro, Pesci and Pacino in the same movie together for likely the last time, and this life-spanning, extremely rewarding crime epic is a suitable tribute to their collective talents. The Irishman is about the life of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), as he recounts his long association with the Bufalino crime family. It's arguably the biggest awards play Netflix has ever made, and even though it didn't win at the Golden Globes, we'll see if it pays off at the Oscars

Inception

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Genre: Science fiction/heist movie

Who's it for? Fans of Heat who also enjoy high-concept sci-fi.

This is arguably still the perfect Christopher Nolan movie. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, the most acclaimed actor of his generation, it features an intense Hans Zimmer score and boasts a winning high-concept idea, where it's possible to enter people's dreams in order to manipulate them and steal their secrets. As the movie escalates that premise into dreams within dreams, it pulls in more and more bizarre, memorable imagery. And the ensemble cast here is outstanding, with Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and Mario Cotillard rounding it out. Nolan's next picture, Tenet, looks like it's in a similar vein. 

Marriage Story

(Image credit: Netflix/Wilson Webb)

Genre: Character drama

Who's it for? Awards buffs and the emotionally resilient. 

Ensure you're in the right mindset to watch Marriage Story – i.e. skip this if you're in the middle of a break-up – because this sympathetic movie about a failing marriage and the resulting fallout can be tough viewing. It's the latest picture from director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha), and features actors Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson at the top of their game in what are surely emotionally draining roles. Watch it before it gets memed and gif-ed to death on social media, and you only see Marriage Story as that movie where Kylo Ren cries a lot. 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

(Image credit: Netflix)

Genre: Western/Dark comedy

Who's it for? Fans of anthology shows.

The Coen Brothers' first Netflix project is an adaptation of a selection of short stories, some written by the Coens and some inspired by other material, all set in the Old West. It's an anthology movie that started life as a TV project, but it makes just as much sense as a single movie. The titular Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) features in just the opening of six genre-spanning stories, with the others starring actors like Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson and James Franco. Its most memorable tale follows the fortunes of Neeson's traveling theater owner, which features the dramatic performances of a young actor with no arms or legs. That is, until his act is usurped by a chicken...that can solve maths problems. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Genre: Adventure

Who's it for? If you don't like this movie, we cannot be friends.

The first Indiana Jones movie remains the best. It's a beautifully-made, funny and exciting adventure, deliberately recalling George Lucas's pulpy favorites from the first half of the 20th century. The entire trilogy is on Netflix US right now (that's right, trilogy). Don't stop and think too hard about Indy's ethos that ancient artifacts belong in a museum, or the fact he dated his former student, or the generally eyebrow-raising stuff in The Temple of Doom. Instead, enjoy the wicked set pieces and the gorgeous locations of these three classics, before they inevitably move to Disney Plus forever someday.

Roma

Image Credit: Netflix

Image Credit: Netflix

Genre: Period drama/Foreign film

Who's it for? Cinema buffs

An astonishing ode to motherhood in all forms, Roma is the most personal film to date from visionary director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity). On paper, Roma is not the easiest sell – a subtitled black and white film about a live-in housekeeper spoken almost entirely in Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language, Cuarón's latest is nonetheless riveting from a cinematic standpoint. More a series of vignettes than a traditional three-act story, Roma examines the life of a Mexico City family in the early 1970s during a time of great social upheaval. 

Described by Cuarón as 90% autobiographical, the film provides some insight into the famous director's early life, although the story is witnessed primarily through the eyes of his caretaker, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who would become a loved member of the family. One of the most gorgeously photographed films in years, Roma deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. Shot entirely in 65mm, Roma would make for an ideal theatrical experience. However, if that isn't an option, you won't be disappointed by the Roma's breathtaking 4K Ultra HD presentation on Netflix – just make sure you keep tissues on hand, because it's very likely you'll shed a few tears during the film.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Image Credit: Sony Pictures

Image Credit: Sony Pictures (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Genre: Animated superhero film

Who's it for? Fans of the famous wall-crawler, super heroes in training

There's little doubt that Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse is the best animated Spider-Man film ever made but, in all honesty, it might even steal the title as the best Spider-Man movie ever made. A harrowing tale that takes place across universes and timelines, the original Spider-Man Peter Parker must teach a new Spider-Man how to save the world one web at a time. As more Spider-Men (and Spider-Women!) get involved in Miles' training, everyone involved soon realizes that it's not the mask that makes the hero, it's the hero that makes the mask. Inspiring, heart-warming and extremely well-written, Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse is worth the watch.

Zodiac

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Genre: Crime drama/thriller

Who's it for? True crime fans.

The most underrated movie directed by David Fincher, Zodiac focuses on the titular serial killer that confounded police and terrified San Francisco residents during the late '60s and early '70s. Jake Gyllenhaal players journalist Robert Graysmith, who unpicks the coded messages and follows the trail well past the point of reason, and ultimately to a conclusion of sorts (even though the case was never solved). Yet this chilling mystery thriller is perhaps most memorable for its genuinely terrifying murder scenes by the unidentified assailant, which really lay the groundwork for Fincher's later Mindhunter series on Netflix. Also of note: Zodiac features a pre-MCU Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. 

The Matrix

The Matrix

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Genre: Science fiction

Who's it for? Martial arts movie fans, and anyone who wore leather in the '90s.

Can you believe The Matrix is now more than two decades old? You wouldn't have thought so from looking at star Keanu Reeves. The Wachowskis' vision of a world where most of humanity is connected to a big computer, living fake lives, is still one of the all-time best ideas for a sci-fi movie. The rules are carefully, smartly rolled out by the directors, providing a fascinating framework for best-in-class martial arts set pieces and cinematic shootouts. The two sequels lost the simplicity of this perfect original, yet curiously, there's a Matrix 4 on the way. 

Always Be My Maybe

Image Credit: Netflix

Image Credit: Netflix (Image credit: Netflix)

Genre: Romance

Who's it for? Fans of romance fans and the one who got away

You may know Always Be My Maybe's leading lady Ali Wong from her raucous Netflix stand-up specials but it's as a successful celebrity chef that she really hits her stride. After a failed engagement Wong's character Sasha Tran heads to her hometown of San Francisco to setup a new restaurant only to run into her old bff played by Randall Park. Through the turbulence of the relationship, a sudden fling with actor Keanu Reeves and despite the differences in careers, the two try to make it work, and the journey from old friends to lovers is a joy to watch.

The Hateful Eight

Genre: Drama/Mystery

Who's it for? Desperadoes looking for a modern masterpiece

There are few directors who have filmographies as celebrated as Quentin Tarantino, and The Hateful Eight only goes to further add to his illustrious career. Based several years after the Civil War in a cabin in Wyoming in the dead of winter, this high-intensity thriller puts a wide variety of suspicious individuals together in the same room, and it’s uncertain whether or not anyone will make it out alive. This film heavily features Tarantino’s masterful use of dialogue and cinematography to really make you feel like you’re part of the action as you suspiciously watch everyone in the room – trying to figure out who is trustworthy.

Bird Box

Genre: Thriller

Who's it for? Hardworking moms who aren't afraid of suspense.

Horror movies have fallen on hard times. There, we said it. Spending the past decade relying on jump shocks and excessive gore to win over new audiences, it's rare to find a film as well-made, thought-out and genuinely suspenseful as Bird Box. While the film draws some obvious comparison to 2018's The Quiet Place, Bird Box pits survivors against post-apocalyptic horrors who cause people to commit suicide when they're seen. Cue copious blindfolds to keep the monsters out of sight, but never are they out of mind for a mother tasked with ferrying two kids to safety.

Beasts of No Nation

Best movies on Netflix

Genre: War Drama

Who's it for? Joseph Conrad enthusiasts.

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

The Incredibles 2

(Image credit: Pixar)

Genre: Animated Action

Who's it for? The kids and kids-at-heart in your house.

While there's no shortage of endearing animated films on Netflix (see: Coco, Moana, Spider-Man, etc...) The Incredibles does something none of the others do by building a successful sequel on a fondly remembered original film. The second Incredibles film might not hit the same star status that the original hits, but following the family through their new life as re-instated heroes is as adorable this time around as it was before thanks to Mr. Incredible's role as a stay-at-home dad. If you need something for the kids and don't want to sit through the same movie again, The Incredibles 2 shakes things up while building upon the 10-year-old franchise.

Her

Genre: Drama / Romance

Who's it for? Anyone looking for love in all the wrong places.

While it's a film that's almost certainly mocking tech lovers like us, Her is a beautiful look at a lonely man who's rescued by a futuristic fictional smart assistant. At times a bit heavy-handed with its messaging, Her provides a solid foundation for why human connection is more intimate than machines, even if the latter can remove the awkward initial dating phase using a personalized algorithm. 

Avengers: Infinity War

Genre: Super Hero / Sci Fi

Who's it for? Marvel super fans and... nihilists, I guess? 

Infinity War is a feat of film-making. The Russo Brothers (the film's directors) were tasked with creating a unified Marvel crossover event with every character from the last 10 years. It's a big, bold vision for a universe that so innocently began with Iron Man one short decade ago, but it's woven seamlessly together via a cast of heroes and one singularly misguided villain with the power to wipe out half of all life in the universe. It's a bit heavy on action sequences but in between all the fighting lies a wonderfully wrought world that's straight from the panels of Marvel's comics. This is the only streaming service where you can watch Infinity War in the US. Disney Plus doesn't get it until later in 2020. 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Best movies on Netflix

Genre: Documentary

Who's it for? Anyone aspiring to be better and seafood specialists

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

Fyre: The Festival That Never Happened

(Image credit: Netflix)

Genre: Documentary

Who's it for? Anyone who needs a heaping dose of schadenfreude

Billed as a luxury music experience on a private island, Fyre Festival was tirelessly promoted by social media influencers – but ended up being a complete and utter disaster, with multiple lawsuits being brought against the promoters. This illuminating documentary explores what went wrong, with some extremely personal accounts from the people who helped create it, and it’s a must-watch.

The Theory of Everything

A still from the movie The Theory of Everything

(Image credit: Amazon Prime)

Genre: Romance / Drama

Who's it for? Empathetic scientists and romance fans

The Theory of Everything is the romance-heavy version of Stephen Hawking's life. The stars Eddie Redmayne in the role of Hawking who, despite the overwhelming challenge of playing a character with progressive ALS (commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease), puts on an Oscar-worthy performance as the man who solved some of the greatest mysteries around black holes and their lives. While the film glosses over most of the science behind Hawking's greatest revelations, it does an exceptional job depicting the challenge of providing care for someone whose health is progressively declining. It's based on source material from Hawking's first wife, author Jane Hawking and her book Traveling to Infinity. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Genre: Sci-fi/space opera

Who's it for? Star Wars fans with a high tolerance for nonsense.

No, the world didn't need a Star Wars movie about the origins of Han Solo. Everything you need to know about him is in the original 1977 picture, without a doubt. But...this spin-off, the least successful of all the modern Star Wars movies at the box office, has some genuine merit. Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian is a fantastic creation, and Alden Ehrenreich's cover version of Han isn't bad at all. A few clunky moments aside, the Kessel Run in this film is a genuine treat, one of the weirdest and most inventive set pieces yet seen in the Star Wars universe. It's better than people give it credit for. It just came out at the wrong time.