Looking for the best Netflix movies in UK as 2020 wraps up and 2021 begins? Blighty's selection of the best Netflix films hasn't always compared favourably to the US, but these days it's a very positive story, with excellent movies available from Netflix's own slate of originals as well as its many licensed pictures. This week we've just added Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the latest Oscar contender Netflix film that you absolutely shouldn't miss.
Our best Netflix UK movies list features all-time classics like Jurassic Park and The Truman Show, as well as our pick of the very best Netflix original movies. They include The Irishman, Marriage Story and Okja – and we're always on the look out for new pictures to update this list. Even if Netflix's original films are a mixed bunch, there are so many to choose from now that you're bound to find one you like.
So, as we see in the start of 2021, these are our favourite movies on Netflix UK right now. Hopefully you'll find something to add to your Watch List and enjoy.
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.
Ok, hear us out. Yes, the Transformers movies are largely bilge. Loud, expensive, exposition-heavy bilge. But despite this, Bumblebee is a heartwarming robot spin-off that's well worth watching on its own terms. Jumping back to 1987, it sees the fan-favourite Autobot fleeing the Decepticons (as a battered VW Beetle) and befriending a human (an excellent Hailee Steinfeld) on Earth. If you're in the mood for a fun buddy comedy with the '80s nostalgia of Stranger Things, look no further.
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.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
You could say it's a little early to be watching Christmas films. Then again, with us locked down due to the pandemic, there's not much else to do besides sitting inside by the fire and watching some stupendously indulgent festive entertainment. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is certainly that.
Netflix has put together all sorts of Christmas movies from the wonderful Klaus, to the, err, less good, A Christmas Prince. Jingle Jangle is one of the streamer's better efforts, and it sees Forest Whittaker play Jeronicus Jangle (yes, really) as a jaded toymaker who has his festive spirit rekindled by his granddaughter. Over the top would be an understatement: this is a gaudy explosion of glitter, tinsel, and snowflakes with tinges of steampunk, fantasy, and musical numbers. It's exactly what we need right now.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
After some so-so Andrew Garfield Spidey efforts and whatever was going on with that dancing scene in Spider-Man 3, everyone had had quite enough of film starring a certain webhead by 2018, thank you very much. That was until animated gem Into The Spider-Verse came swinging in out of nowhere to become the best Spider-Man film ever made. By a distance.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, starring Mahershala Ali and Brian Tyree Henry, is an unbridled joy. Oozing with vibrant color, laugh-out-loud gags, and homages to the classic character's deep comic book history, it sees Miles Morales trying to stop Kingpin from ripping a hole in the space-time continuum to save his own family. Instead we get not one, not two, but seven Spider people in a wonderful adventure full to bursting with style and heart.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
If you know Aaron Sorkin's work (The West Wing, The Social Network, Steve Jobs, Molly's Game), you'll largely get the idea of what to expect from his movies – big speeches, a touch too much schmaltz but electric dramatic moments when it counts. The Trial of the Chicago 7, about the unjust case against leftist protestors accused of inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, features plenty of courtroom drama – a good fit for Sorkin's dialogue-first style. Drawing parallels between the event itself and our modern day situation, it's worth watching for the cast alone, even if you're not big on the director: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance and Jeremy Strong are among the many big names here.
One of the better movies released recently on Netflix UK, Neil Armstrong biopic First Man is slightly too long, breaking the two hour mark when it probably could've been a little shorter. It's a bit of a languid film – but it's also beautiful to look at, and a tender look at how Armstrong's (Ryan Gosling) journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon impacted his family (Clare Foy plays his wife). First Man presents that journey as though it was a mix of happenstance and fate, and makes the early days of NASA seem as dangerous as they were pioneering. Director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) is behind this film. It's well worth a watch.
A high-concept thriller that mostly takes place on a desktop and in video calls, John Cho plays a widower father whose daughter goes missing in the dead of night. In the course of rummaging through her online history, he tries to unpick the series of strange events that led to her disappearance, and in doing so begins to question how much he really knows about her. Searching features a number of great twists – maybe too many – but it's a really engaging and fast-moving film that's a perfect weeknight Netflix viewing experience.
After a man suffers an attack that leaves him unable to move, he's given an implant that allows him to regain control of his body. This entertaining action movie overcomes its tiny budget with genuine ambition and grim-but-silly tone – director Leigh Whannell, long-time screenwriter of Saw and Insidious, made this before his recent, successful new version of The Invisible Man. If you squint, too, you can pretend that leading man Logan Marshall-Green is actually Tom Hardy.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
The latest Mission Impossible movie is widely considered the best, with all-time great set pieces – one of which required Tom Cruise to learn how to pilot a helicopter – and an entertaining antagonistic turn from Henry Cavill with a moustache. Strangely, Netflix has this movie and the fourth one, Ghost Protocol (also great), but not the rest of them. Still, this is perfectly enjoyable by itself.
For now, Netflix UK has every single Jurassic Park movie to stream – including the Jurassic World movies. They're mostly mixed viewing experiences, but the first movie, with its then-revolutionary CG effects that still look amazing now somehow – probably because they required so much time and energy to get right – is still a fantastic adventure/horror movie. Dinosaur-related theme parks: after five movies, we can be confident they're a bad idea.
The Truman Show
What does a perfect film look like? In our opinion, The Truman Show is that movie. One of those classic '90s originals you don't really get any more, it's about Truman (Jim Carrey), the unknowing star of a reality TV show built around his entire life. As he starts to figure out something is amiss, the whole world watches his journey play out. A magnificent bit of sci-fi, that essentially predicted the coming of reality TV and social media.
La La Land
La La Land is one of the best films on Netflix if you're in the mood for a big modern musical. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star as two aspiring creatives who come to LA to make their dreams come true, and whose love is tested by their varying degrees success.
La La Land is possibly a little overrated, given just how pervasive Damien Chazelle's film has been in popular culture since its 2016 release, but with amazing musical numbers and a fantastic duo of leads, it's extremely rewatchable.
You've probably seen it on ITV2 a million times by now, but: there is never a bad time to watch Hot Fuzz. It's the best Netflix movie you can possibly watch when you're in the mood for a light comedy (other than maybe 21 Jump Street, which is also on this list).
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is overachieving while working for the London Met police, so is dispatched to the fictional countryside town of Sandford, where the crimes mostly involve underaged drinkers and runaway geese. That is, until Angel and partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) uncover a larger criminal conspiracy around the village.
Riffing on popular '80s and '90s action movies, Edgar Wright's film is absolutely packed with jokes, and features a killer British ensemble that includes Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine and Adam Buxton.
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.
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 American people have been treated in the system. The documentary was made by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who also made the superb Selma.
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane became an unlikely star in Major League Baseball, when his use of stats and analysis in player recruitment turned a team of also-rans into genuine contenders. Even though his innovative approach has caught on with coaches all over the world, it didn’t seem the most engrossing subject for a Hollywood film. And yet this Brad Pitt-starring biopic (based on Michael Lewis’s hit non-fiction book and co-scripted by The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin) is actually an engrossing, defy-the-odds sports movie. Not only does Moneyball manage the unlikely feat of making stats interesting, it also taps into the characters, emotional beats and tension that make real sport so captivating.
The Social Network
David Fincher's movie about the founding of Facebook is essential viewing, with a sharp script from Aaron Sorkin based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. Jesse Eisenberg portrays Mark Zuckerberg, and we see the social media network's journey from an eyebrow-raising college project into the money-making, opinion-spitting beast it is now, and the bitter battles it caused between those who claimed to have a stake in it.
The only question, then, is when are we getting a sequel that covers everything that's happened since then? The Social Network may be Fincher's best film.
The Devil All the Time
This star-studded adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock's novel is the latest big Netflix original movie – and it certainly brings it when it comes to the cast. Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska and Riley Keough star in this gritty small town America period drama. It focuses on the conflicting morality of its citizens, most of which have their own dark secrets and vices – get ready for a hard watch rife with great performances.
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, Elliott Page, Cillian Murphy and Mario Cotillard rounding it out.
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 by Netflix UK.
John Wick 3: Parabellum
Added to Netflix UK in early 2020, the third John Wick movie somehow finds more ways to amp up the scope of its martial arts set pieces over the second movie, including a fight in a stable, a sword fight on motorbikes and a knife fight in a knife store. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is a beautifully shot movie, too, and even though the action is arguably ridiculous, there's no doubting the level of craft that goes into the fight choreography. It's the best at what it does. And Keanu Reeves is perfect as Wick, steely and unflappable even when faced with more and more ludicrous opponents.
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.
This thought-provoking feature on the nature of AI and humanity from Alex Garland (28 Days Later) will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. Here, programmer Caleb Smith is whisked away to his CEO's modernist home in rural Alaska to test his new artificial intelligence, Ava. All shiny surfaces and sharp geometric shapes, Ex Machina bundles in clever, searching questions in the vessel of a Bond-esque thriller.
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.
Based on the book by Stephen King, Misery follows a famous author who is rescued from a car crash by a fan. We won’t spoil what happens next, but you can probably guess it’s not exactly the warm, homely kind of recovery you’d expect after you’ve had an accident. It’s certainly not one for the faint-hearted, so prepare to hide behind a cushion for about 50% of the running time.
One of the most important documentaries of the last decade, Blackfish charts the life of killer whale Tilikum, who sadly died in early 2017. 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.