Narrowing down the best Netflix movies in the UK right now is tricky business.
Luckily, our pick of the 30 best films on Netflix UK is regularly updated with more suggestions as and when they become available to stream – whether they be the platform's own originals, or licensed arrivals from other movie studios – and we frequently replace the titles no longer available to watch on the service, too (RIP, Spider-Man: Far From Home).
The most recent additions to our best Netflix movies list are tick, tick...BOOM! and Passing, two character-driven dramas with a poignant moral message. They're also joined by older flicks like Scarface and Heat, for those looking to mop up on the streamer's collection of classics.
That winning combination of old and new is why Netflix remains our pick for the best streaming service in 2021. There's really something for everyone here, so you won't be lacking in film choices for whatever the mood.
Below, then, you'll find our pick of the best Netflix movies available to UK viewers right now.
- These are the best Netflix UK series to check out right now
- The Witcher season 2: what we know so far
- Check out the best Netflix VPN in 2021
So, Andrew Garfield can sing – who knew?
In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut, promising young theater composer Jonathan Larson (Garfield) navigates love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City on the cusp of his 30th birthday.
Incidentally, tick, tick...BOOM! is actually based on the semi-autobiographical musical of the same name by Larson himself, whom Garfield plays in this one, so fans of the playwright (and musicals in general) should find lots to love here.
Based on the novel by Nella Larsen, Passing follows two black women (Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga) who can 'pass' as white, but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York.
This one marks actress Rebecca Hall's directorial debut, and has been near-universally praised for the sensitive handling of its complex subject matter and important examination of racial identity in the early 20th century.
Expect Passing to prove the subject of much Oscar buzz in the coming months, particularly for its lead actors.
The Harder They Fall
Arriving nine days before the most expensive film that Netflix has ever made – the Dwayne Johnson-starring Red Notice – The Harder They Fall marks the feature film directorial debut from Jeymes Samuel. Don't let that fact put you off, though. The Harder They Fall is one of the best films that the streaming giant has produced in 2021, which says a lot about Samuel's eye for detail, the movie's all-star cast and its pulsating plot.
After Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is sprung from prison by his former gang, including Trudy Smith (Regina King), Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) rounds up his own posse of lawmakers to exact revenge on the man who murdered his parents.
The Harder They Fall also stars the likes of Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) and Lakeith Stanfield (Knives Out) in this Western flick that pays tribute to the Black cowboys who are often overlooked in similar productions. A film that shouldn't be missed.
The ultimate heist movie, Michael Mann's Heat is now on Netflix UK. Pitting Al Pacino's cop Vincent Hanna against Robert De Niro's criminal mastermind Neil Macauley, the film is a sprawling Los Angeles epic, full of near-misses, big twists and dramatic firefights. It's a five-star movie through and through, and one of the most rewatchable films ever made.
The Lighthouse is now on Netflix UK, which is an unexpected treat. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play two lighthouse keepers who struggle to keep madness at bay as they're stuck at their post due to rough weather conditions. Hallucinations and other nightmarish events soon follow in a film that's part horror, part character study and part dark comedy. Get it watched.
A same-name adaptation of the award-winning Danish drama, The Guilty stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a 911 call center operator who faces a race against time to save a kidnapped woman on the other side of the line.
Netflix reportedly paid $30 million to acquire this one, which comes from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective). The Danish original is already a great thriller, combining taut dialogue sequences with unexpected twists, so throwing a talent like Gyllenhaal into the mix makes this version of The Guilty an easy recommendation.
A remake of the 1932 film of the same name – and one of the best gangster flicks ever made – Scarface tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino), who arrives penniless in 1980s Miami but rises the ranks to become a powerful drug lord.
Perhaps best known for its iconic dialogue lines ("the eyes, Chico, they never lie" and "say hello to my little friend," in particular), Brian De Palma's Scarface is in fact a sweeping, emotional tale of a human being corrupted by greed and confused by a misplaced sense of family duty.
Come for the quotes, then, but stay for the provocative moral lesson.
Wonderfully, just ahead of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Netflix UK has dropped the original Sam Raimi Spidey movie to enjoy. It doesn't reach the heights of the second one – still among the best superhero movies ever – but it's still the template for every superhero origin movie that would follow.
Young Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) gets bitten by a radioactive spider while on a school trip, which imbues him with special powers. After learning a harsh lesson about power and responsibility, he decides to become the superhero Spider-Man – saving New York from every criminal menace terrorising the city, eventually including the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe). It feels slightly dated in a couple of ways, but it's still great fun, helped by an ensemble cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and of course, JK Simmons.
To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Netflix commissioned Worth, the untold true story of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which sought to reimburse those families affected by the tragedy – though not on equal terms.
Michael Keaton stars as Kenneth Feinberg, head of the operation, alongside Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan, with the team behind Spotlight and 12 Years a Slave on hand as producers. That Oscar-winning creative pedigree is plain to see, too, as Worth develops into a genuinely captivating drama that revolves around the impossible ethical question: how much is one life worth?
As Edgar Wright's latest movie, Last Night in Soho, gets closer to release this year, his 2017 throwback crime film Baby Driver is well worth a rewatch. Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a getaway driver who deals with Tinnitus by listening to music while concentrating on the job. After he tries to escape his life of crime, a gangster (played by Kevin Spacey) drags him back in for more.
The revolving ensemble cast makes this a delight, with Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx and a nasty Jon Hamm among those playing the criminals who surround Baby in this murky underworld. More than that, though, this is just a film with great car chases, itself a rarity these days.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Added in July 2021, Netflix is now streaming director Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of the '70s-set espionage drama, an adaptation of the book by the late John le Carré. Best known as a TV series starring Alec Guinness, this movie is a worthy new version of the story, which is about the events that befall the British secret intelligence service when the existence of a Soviet mole is revealed. George Smiley, who was previously forced out of the organisation, is tasked with uncovering their identity.
This stormy British movie features an amazing ensemble cast: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Kathy Burke and John Hurt to name just a few, and over time its reputation has seemingly grown. This beautifully shot film features wonderful set design and lighting – the sense of place in this period of history is extraordinary. A worthy rewatch.
Want a little bit of borderline-traumatic horror in your movie nights? Try this Wicker Man-esque horror flick about a backpacking trip to a Swedish village that definitely isn't as lovely it seems. Florence Pugh plays a young woman in deep mourning, whose trashy boyfriend and his awful friends offer little comfort as she adjusts to life in this strange place.
Midsommar has no business being two hours and 27 minutes long, really, but this lengthy run time does help to immerse you further in its eerie sunny backdrop. The final image of this film, too, will live with you forever.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino's latest comes to Netflix UK, just in time for his first book, which is an expanded version of the movie's story. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set in Hollywood in 1969, and it's about what happens to a fading actor and his stunt double – played by the pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt – after Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate move in next door. It's a fairytale version of Hollywood that's enormously self-indulgent, but also a lot of fun to just bathe in as a viewer. It fits well with Tarantino's other period movies, Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds.
If you watch one anime movie on Netflix UK, this is the one. Set in the fictional Neo-Tokyo, this wild sci-fi movie is essentially about the fates of two young boys, in a city of behind-the-scenes government meddling, gang wars and buried secrets. We won't spoil the disgusting spectacle of Akira's climax if you've never seen it, but we encourage you to check it out on the biggest TV possible – this is one of the nicest-looking 2D animated movies ever made.
Army of the Dead
Army of the Dead is Zack Snyder’s first feature film since his increasingly acrimonious split with Warner Bros, and it’s everything that his DC superhero movies weren’t. It’s bright, colorful, action-packed, funny and topical, even if its 45-minute introduction is a little self-indulgent.
Dave Bautista leads a strong cast as Scott Ward, a former zombie-stomping war hero who’s approached with an intriguing proposal by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada). The assignment? Enter a zombie infested Las Vegas, break into Tanaka’s casino vault, escape with his $200 million assets and Ward and his group will receive $50 million to split between them as a reward.
Of course, things don’t go to plan and Ward’s group soon find themselves pursued by the undead hordes led by an alpha zombie known as Zeus (Richard Cetrone). With a US government approved nuclear strike set to wipe Las Vegas off the map in less than 32 hours, too, survival, not money, becomes the gang’s main aim.
The Mitchells vs the Machines
Originally intended for a theatrical release, Netflix bought this new animated movie from Sony and producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller – best known as the minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, and also part of the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It's exactly as charming and funny as those movies, too.
Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is an aspiring filmmaker who's about to head to college – until her dad, conscious that they've been drifting apart, cancels her plane ticket and insists on a family roadtrip. Halfway through this fraught journey, an AI takes revenge on its billionaire creator, and the world is suddenly under duress from smart robots.
A lot of Spider-Verse's visual touches cross over into this film, too, with 2D annotations and drawings on the already-pretty 3D visuals. Most of all, it's nice to see Netflix backing a family movie that's not just full of talking dogs and other hackneyed nonsense so often seen in CG kids' fare.
Nightcrawler is a truly nasty – but compelling – film about a dubious photojournalist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who goes out of his way to capture the grizzliest crimes on camera in their immediate aftermath. This film features an outstanding performance from Gyllenhaal as a skeletal, amoral figure, and a matching great turn from Rene Russo as the desperate news director who'll do anything for ratings. An unmissable film from Dan Gilroy.
Written by (and co-starring) 30 Rock's Tina Fey, this teen comedy classic explores the social strata of American high school and the various cliques that form there. Mean Girls is about Lindsey Lohan's Cady Heron, who goes from homeschooled outsider to queen of the school – clashing with female clique The Plastics and their leader, Regina George (Rachel McAdams), along the way. Other than Clueless, this is arguably the ultimate high school movie, a funny, acerbic and sometimes very real film that's always worth a rewatch.
Dredd is the movie version of 2000AD icon Judge Dredd that everyone always wanted. A brutal action film that merges its source material with the corridor fights and filming style of The Raid, Dredd is more or less entirely set in a single 200-floor tower block called Peach Tree. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are tasked with taking down drug kingpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who has taken over the building and trapped our two heroes within it. What follows is a slew of beautiful, cathartic firefights. Deserved many sequels, but didn't get a single one.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese's hyperreal biographical movie of convicted stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is divisive, simply because some argue it glorifies its subject's outrageous behaviour when he was at the peak of his powers. Wherever you fall on that, though, this is a raucously entertaining and frequently appalling crime film – and possibly the funniest movie Scorsese has ever made.
David Fincher's Zodiac is low-key one of the Fight Club director's best films. Ahead of its time somewhat in the modern fascination with true crime, this is about journalist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his obsessive search for the never-caught Zodiac Killer who haunted the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's a twisty, thrilling and very long film that paved the way for Fincher's Mindhunter series on Netflix, and features some of the scariest murder scenes ever filmed.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Based on the play by August Wilson – and despite the gorgeous period set dressing and costume design, it definitely feels very stage-y – Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is one of the best Netflix original movies of the year. Viola Davis stars as legendary 'Mother of Blues' Ma Rainey, and the film focuses on one fraught recording session with Ma and her band, and the tension between the musician and her white producers and management.
Meanwhile, the late Chadwick Boseman stars as Levee, an innovative trumpet player who struggles to find his place in the jazz music scene, amid bandmates who don't always take him seriously. It's a sad but insightful movie that explores how culture is worth protecting and valuing, in a world where it's easily taken and monetized, and the film truly comes to life in its amazing musical sequences. Don't miss it.
The true horror of His House lies in the real world. It tells the story of a Sudanese couple that endure the consequences of a tragic crossing to England, only to be rehomed in a nondescript estate surrounded by racism, and with something else lurking in the house. It's a supremely confident debut from British writer-director Remi Weekes, and Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu both standout as the two leads in emotionally-challenging roles.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee's latest movie clocks in at 2 hours 25 minutes in length, but it's got plenty of story to fill that time. Da 5 Bloods is about four African-American Vietnam vets who return to the country in search of the remains of their former squad leader (played by Chadwick Boseman), as well as some gold they hid years before. The first hour-and-a-half of this film deals with the trauma carried by the men all these years later as a result of the war and the way their own country treated them, and the last hour...well, it's bonkers.
Either way, it's well worth watching, especially for the performance of Delroy Lindo as Paul, a deeply troubled MAGA hat-wearing member of the group who has a strained relationship with his son.
Spirited Away (and all Ghibli films on Netflix UK)
Studio Ghibli has an unbeatable selection of kid-friendly movies, and almost the entire archive is now on Netflix. Spirited Away, about a girl whose parents are turned into pigs who then goes to work in a mystical bathhouse, is one highlight, but you could pick any of these and have a great viewing experience.
Here's the complete list: Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Pom Poko, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There, From Up on Poppy Hill, Whisper of the Heart, Arriety, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Only Yesterday, The Cat Returns, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, My Neighbors the Yamadas.
They're all beautifully animated and most of them are deeply moving, with more thematic texture than you'd typically get from a movie targeted at kids. A real coup for Netflix UK.
If you're willing to subject yourself to this impressively stressful two hours of tension from the Safdie brothers, let's just say you're about to become very well acquainted with the edge of your seat. Largely an actor known for a series of unfunny films, Adam Sandler is unrecognizable as a New York City jeweler that risks everything to escape steep debts, and angry collectors. Just remember to breathe out every so often.
The Irishman grabbed headlines for the CG de-ageing process applied to actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in this movie, but when you watch this epic crime drama, you'll understand why this creative decision was so important. Based on a biography of Frank Sheeran, a union official who gets caught up in the illegal activities of the Bufalino crime family, this long but rewarding picture by the masterful Martin Scorsese takes place over decades. The changing faces of the actors underlines the idea that you're watching Sheeran's actual life story play out.
This story of a marriage coming apart isn't as devastating to watch as you might think. It explores the complex mixed emotions that come as part of breaking up with someone you once loved, and how this family's structure is impacted by the decision to divorce. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson put in arguably career-best performances, here.
From the director of Gravity and Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, Roma is the story of a housekeeper Cleo, as she and her family come up against social hierarchy and political turmoil in '70s Mexico. This semi-autobiographical film is said to be inspired by Cuarón’s own upbringing, and has been widely acknowledged as one of the best films of 2018, winning two Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film.
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, who would next direct awards contender Parasite, 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.