The best movies on Netflix right now
In these tumultuous times, distanced though we all are and divided though we might be, one question haunts us all in equal measure: What should I Netflix next?
We’ve got you covered. Here’s EW’s list of the 20 narrative films you should be watching on the streamer right now, from the most beautiful to the most quotable to the best Best Picture winner to the best Tilda Swinton transformation. Check back every month for our updated list as the Netflix lineup changes, but in the meantime, you’ve got some serious streaming to do!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
For those of you wishing you could wipe 2020 from your memory, here’s a compelling counterpoint. Michel Gondry’s mind-bending romance-in-reverse dreams up a world where people can pay to do just that, and when a broken-up couple chooses to scrub their memories of each other, the Charlie Kaufman-written film (who else could possibly?) goes on a backwards journey through their turbulent love story. Watch it to shatter your fragile heart — or mend your broken one, who’s to say?
Wins EW’s award for: Most Memorable, Unless You Choose to Forget It, But Maybe Somehow Even Then, Still
File under: Nonlinear Narratives, Jim Carrey In Dramatic Roles, Justice for Kirsten Dunst, Bold Hair Choices, Doomed Romances/Destined Romances
Related reading: The real story behind the orange hoodie in Eternal Sunshine
Howards End (1992)
“Only connect!” reads the most famous line in E.M. Forster’s immortal 1910 novel. How wonderful such a directive sounds now, over a century after the book was first published and 28 years since James Ivory’s exquisite adaptation was released. Emma Thompson (who won Best Actress for her performance) and Helena Bonham Carter star as idealistic sisters whose fates intertwine with a poor young couple and a wealthy, highly conventional family. “Live in fragments no longer,” Forster’s passage continues. How dare they make this book into a miniseries!
Wins EW’s award for: Best Literary Adaptation
File under: 20th Century Brit Lit, Merchant Ivory Productions, Supremely Tasteful Period Pieces, Elegant Country Homes, Class Consciousness, Quirky Sisters, Mind the Bookcase
Related reading: Helena Bonham Carter: Howards End ‘absorbed into my life’
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
It may have been defeated by The Expendables at the box office, but after 10 years, Edgar Wright’s hilarious, hyper-stylized cult classic still hasn’t run out of lives. Michael Cera stars as the title character, a bassist in a garage band who falls in love with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Technicolor-haired Ramona Flowers — but must first battle her seven evil exes in order to earn the honor of dating her. He must battle Jason Schwartzman! He must battle Chris Evans! You must battle the urge to just watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on repeat for the next month while you’re pretending to work from home!
Wins EW’s award for: Best Box Office Bob-Omb
File under: Graphic Novel Adaptations, Toronto, Comic-Con, Early Chris Evans, Veganism, Fraught Dating Histories
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
As the moviegoing experience fades into a more and more distant memory, the movies you watch at home need to get bigger and louder to remind you of the delicious bigness and loudness of theatrical viewing. Right? Right! And we’re here to tell you that what you need is Martin Campbell’s big, loud, fun, epic, thrilling, romantic, old-school adventure flick based on the tales of the classic vigilante. It is the movie-est of ‘90s movies, and it’s on Netflix! You’ll be tango-ing around your living room and slicing Zs into your bathroom mirror in no time.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Swashbuckling
File under: ‘90s Blockbusters, Spirited Dancing, Revenge!, Very Precise Swordplay, Mentors in the Workplace, The Many Benefits of Mask-Wearing
EW grade: B (read the review)
The best Best Picture winner available on Netflix is a no-brainer. While we’ll never forget the moment team La La Land had to cede the Oscar stage to Moonlight after Faye Dunaway was given the wrong envelope, the film itself is even more indelibly etched in our memories than the event of its dramatic underdog victory. An adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Barry Jenkins’ achingly expressive film tells the story of Chiron, a black boy (then teen, then man) discovering himself amid great pain and difficulty — and beauty.
Wins EW’s award for: Best Best Picture
File under: A24, Indie Film, LGBTQ Cinema, Miami, Romantic Diner Dates, Unforgettable Beach Moments
Related reading: Moonlight writer-director shares secrets from the most suspenseful scene
An Education (2010)
Carey Mulligan, had her breakout moment in Lone Scherfig’s breathtaking coming-of-age drama (based on Lynn Barber’s memoir), about an English schoolgirl in the ‘60s who gets swept up in a whirlwind affair with an older conman. If that much of a bare-bones description is already raising red flags, congratulations! You’d be correct. But good luck not getting swept up right along with her, the smoky nightclubs and party dresses and sophisticated flattery and weekend jaunts to Paris all irresistible enough to blind you just as thoroughly as it does her — at first, anyway. If we all must become a little sadder and a little wiser, this is the loveliest possible way to take it.
Wins EW’s award for: Hardest Lessons Learned
File under: Indie Film, Breakout Performances, Bad Latin, Chanel Perfume, Glamorous Nightclub Singers, Beware the Charming Sociopath
A Single Man (2009)
Here’s the movie that Colin Firth really should have won his Oscar for. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, Tom Ford’s poetic directorial debut stars Firth (who did at least score a nomination for it) as a man in 1960s Los Angeles who is quietly, heartbrokenly mourning the loss of his partner while secretly planning to commit suicide himself. It’s much more life-affirming than it sounds! And much more gorgeous, in every moment, than anything else you’ll find on streaming.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Beautiful
File Under: Indie Film, LGBTQ Cinema, Hair Goals, Los Angeles, Mohair Sweaters, Skinny Dipping, Perfect Closing Lines
Related reading: The 25 most stylish movies of all time
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Okay, it’s almost summertime, let’s liven things up in here! Steven Spielberg’s first Indiana Jones movie — the irresistible energy of which only increases with each repeat viewing — is still the best, and probably still will be after Indy 5, if we’re being honest. It just can’t be improved upon! Harrison Ford is at his heartthrobbiest, the Nazis at their vilest, the boulders at their rollingest, the Ark of the Covenant at its face-meltingest. Everything is the most! Let’s watch it now!
Wins EW’s award for: Best Summer Blockbuster
File under: ‘80s Movies, Rousing John Williams Score, Drinking Contests, Bringing a Gun to a Knife Fight
EW grade: N/A; predates EW. The archaeologist has become the fossil, am I right?!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
One of the most impressive feats that this psychedelic superhero trip pulls off is that it really, truly will not make you groan about how there have been far too many Spider-Man movies in your lifetime, and the one with Alfred Molina is always going to be the best one anyway, and it’s frankly a little offensive how they keep making Aunt May younger and younger, so can we please just stop? You will forget all of that entirely (except the part about Spider-Man 2) with this first animated feature about the webslinger, which adds a fresh perspective and a whole new dimension — or a few — to the hero’s long screen history. Lily Tomlin is an age-appropriate Aunt May!
Wins EW’s award for: Coolest Superhero Flick
File under: Marvel, Superhero Movies, New York City, Really Famous People Casually Doing Voice Roles
EW grade: B– (read the review)
Related reading: Tom Holland reveals his cut Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse cameo
The Social Network (2010)
A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin’s deliciously slick film about the creation of Facebook has a different resonance now that what was once just a fun website for college pals has become the foundation of a powerful billionaire’s empire and platform for the potential spread of dangerous misinformation. Despite the years, however, it’s a testament to the film’s greatness that it’s aged like a wine fine enough to satisfy even the Winklevii. The only improvement we’d suggest might be to drop the ‘the’ — just Social Network. It’s cleaner.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Quotable
File under: Best of the 2010s, Biopics, Iconic Movie Trailers, Ivy League Pretension, Appletinis, Armie Hammer x Armie Hammer
Frances Ha (2012)
An aspiring dancer in New York City with an irrepressible spirit and an eye for magic (but no apartment, at the moment), Frances Halladay is not a real person yet, but she just might be the heroine the world needs right now. Co-written by star Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach, the pair’s creative chemistry makes this black-and-white portrait of young adulthood, ode to female friendship, and homage to the French New Wave one of the most sparkling options on the streamer right now.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Romantic Non-Romance
File under: Indie Film, New York City, Early Adam Driver, Quarter-Life Crises, Things That Look Like Mistakes, Ahoy Sexy
Netflix has proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with at Oscar season (which will probably prove truer than ever next year), and its first original narrative feature to score a coveted statuette (for Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Director, though it unforgivably lost Best Picture to Green Book) was Alfonso Cuarón’s deeply affecting chronicle of a live-in housekeeper to a Mexico City family, inspired by his own childhood. Marriage Story and The Irishman are extraordinary films from world-class directors, but Roma takes our crown for the streamer’s greatest.
Wins EW’s award for: Best Netflix Original
File under: Mexican Cinema, Egregious Oscar Snubs, Found Families, Bad Boyfriends, Balancing on One Leg
Related reading: The biggest foreign film winners in Oscar history
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
There are a lot of comedies available on Netflix. There are romantic comedies, there are raunchy comedies, there are basically-just-dramas-but-wanted-a-Golden-Globe comedies, there are just fully bad comedies. The second Monty Python feature, however, which uproariously lampoons Arthurian legend, is — forgive me — the holy grail of the streamer’s comedic selection. If you haven’t seen it, well, your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Absurd
File under: ‘70s Movies, Arthurian Lit, British Humor, Flesh Wounds, Knights Who Say ‘Ni!’
EW grade: N/A
Taxi Driver (1976)
Happily for everyone (or if not happily, exactly, then maybe kind of darkly, or violently, or in fact musically, or what have you) there are a few Martin Scorsese movies on Netflix, including the streamer’s The Irishman and a pair of the filmmaker’s rock docs. But the most crucial among them — no shade to Hugo! — is Marty’s earth-shattering fifth feature, which marked his second collaboration (after 1973’s Mean Streets) with Robert De Niro, who scored an Oscar nod for his performance as the iconic title character, Travis Bickle.
Wins EW’s award for: Best Scorsese
File under: ‘70s Movies, New York City, Vigilantism, Quarantine Haircut Inspo, You Talkin’ to Me?
EW grade: N/A
The Invitation (2015)
Quarantine got you missing dinner parties? Have we got a cure for that! Karyn Kusama’s totally cool, totally chilling thriller, about a group of old friends at a dinner party where old baggage and new lifestyles clash spectacularly, will make you glad that you’re stuck alone in your one-bedroom apartment with nothing but box wine and frozen pizzas to keep you company. And Netflix! Of course!
Wins EW’s award for: Most Inviting RSVP
File under: Indie Film, SXSW, Suspense, Los Angeles, Quarantine Beard Inspo, Ominous Opening Scenes, Saving Room for Dessert
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
One of the most talked-about films of 2013, Abdellatif Kechiche’s romance follows a teenage French girl, Adèle, discovering her sexuality and herself as she navigates an intense relationship with Emma, an aspiring painter. The film drew controversy and sparked a heated debate about the value and perspective of its explicit sex scenes, especially in a lesbian love story coming from a straight male director. Blue’s undeniable power, however, lies in its performances from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux — so much so that when the Cannes jury unanimously named the film winner of the Palme d’Or, they chose, for the first time in festival history, to award the honor not only to the director, but both lead actresses as well.
Wins EW’s award for: Bluest, Warmest, Longest Movie
File under: French Cinema, Palme d’Or Winners, LGBTQ Love Stories, Breakout Performances, Controversy and the Male Gaze, Blue Hair, Spaghetti vs. Oysters
Talent: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
The first South Korean film to ever be shortlisted (though not nominated) for Best Foreign Language Film, Lee Chang-dong’s drama follows an aspiring writer struggling in Seoul when he runs into an old classmate, through whom he meets a wealthy, possibly dangerous new acquaintance. Let this slow-burning (and two-plus-hour-long) thriller take its time to catch — and then smolder on your mind for days afterward.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Smoldering
File under: South Korean Cinema, Cannes, Psychological Thrillers, Class Conflict, Cat-Sitting, Alarming Hobbies
Talent: Steven Yeun, Yoo Ah-in
Hell or High Water (2016)
The collective filmography of the Chrises Evans, Hemsworth, Pine, and Pratt are enough to program a whole festival of dreamboat cinema, but there are clear standouts on the list. The competition was close (shoutout to Evans in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World!), but the best appearance from one of the quartet on Netflix right now has to be Pine in David Mackenzie’s tense, layered, enormously watchable neo-Western about two brothers pulling a string of bank robberies and the two Texas Rangers on their tail.
Wins EW’s award for: Best Use of a Hollywood Chris*
File under: Westerns, Cannes, Heist Movies, Texas, Cops and Robbers, Brothers with Baggage
Related reading: Hell or High Water writer explains the film's ambiguous ending
The long-awaited Snowpiercer TV series has finally arrived, but before diving into that one, why not brush up on what came before? Yet another memorable Chris performance and a typically mind-blowing turn from Tilda Swinton make Bong Joon-ho’s class-conscious environmental sci-fi flick a truly piercing streaming selection for these long, lonely, apocalyptic times.
Wins EW’s award for: Best Tilda Swinton Transformation; *RUNNER-UP: Best Use of a Hollywood Chris
File under: Sci-Fi, Headed to Television, The Apocalypse Is Nigh, #BongHive Rise Up
Spring Breakers (2012)
Of all years to watch a movie about a Spring Break in Florida gone wrong, this one feels particularly apt. A quartet of college girls gets more than they bargained for when they pack up their stringiest neon bikinis for a week of beachside hedonism in Harmony Korine’s provocative indie, one of the earliest feature releases from the now-tastemaking distributor A24. Impeccably tacky and vitally millennial, the darkly comedic crime drama will ensure you never hear “Everytime” the same way again.
Wins EW’s award for: Best Use of a Britney Spears Song
File under: A24, Florida, Spraaaang Breaaayyyyyk
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
If you’ve had enough of tabletop puzzles in quarantine, throw one up on your TV screen instead. Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel of the same name, starring Gary Oldman as the author’s famed intelligence officer George Smiley as he hunts down a Soviet spy, will ensure that you’ve kept your mind sharp over the course of these months indoors as it piles on new puzzle pieces and loops back around on itself. Repeat viewings will be rewarded — but hey, you’ve got time on your hands!
Wins EW’s award for: Most Intelligent Intelligence Drama
File under: Spy Thrillers, Cold War Paranoia, Outlandishly Stacked Casts, Titles Begging for Punctuation, Back in the U.S.S.R.
West Side Story (1961)
The Notebook can take a seat. If you’re desperate for catharsis, your best bet is Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’ iconic adaptation of the Leonard Bernstein–Stephen Sondheim musical, a 1950s New York incarnation of Romeo and Juliet. The enduring romance (and those immortal tunes) will get yet another turn on the big screen, from none other than Steven Spielberg, later this year; time will tell if the new film can match the 10-statuette Oscar haul — or sheer emotional power — of its predecessor. In the meantime, stock up on tissues (but play it cool, boy) and allow yourself to be transported to this gorgeous, aching somewhere.
Wins EW’s award for: Most Devastating
EW grade: N/A
Related reading: The 15 most beautiful Oscar movies ever
The Witch (2015)
If you’re still recovering from the perfect weirdness of The Lighthouse, why not keep yourself nice and unsettled with the film that came before it? Robert Eggers made his debut with this atmospheric 17th-century drama, about a devout Puritan family to whom horrifying things keep happening. So why not cast a spell on your isolation? Go ahead. Live deliciously.
Wins EW’s award for: Moste Devilishe and Magickal
File under: Indie Horror, Sundance, A24, Spooky New England Vibes, Babysitting Problems, Goat G.O.A.T.
Related reading: The 10 best witch movies
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Sergio Leone’s epic Western is an all-time classic for a good reason (or three). For the final entry in the filmmaker’s “Dollars” trilogy, Clint Eastwood reprises his role as the iconic “Man with No Name” as he chases a fortune, competing with two other “Bad” and “Ugly” gunslingers, in the old West. WARNING: Do not watch unless you want to be whistling Ennio Morricone’s iconic score to yourself for at least five days after the fact.
Wins EW’s award for: Best, Worst, and Ugliest
File under: ’60 Movies, Spaghetti Westerns, Hat Inspo, Nameless Protagonists, Quietly Smoldering Glares
EW grade: N/A
Related reading: Clint Eastwood: 12 key influences on my life in movies