This post is updated regularly as movies leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
With hundreds of films from around the world on the streaming giant that changed the game, how does one even know where to start when they’re looking for something to watch? Start here! We have gone through the massive catalog of films available on Netflix and pared down the selection to an essential 30 titles, including action films, comedies, horror flicks, and even stuff for the whole family, with Netflix Originals peppered in throughout, alongside its licensed films. These are films that came from outside the Netflix pipeline to subscribers, and it will be regularly updated as flicks come and go from the Netflix catalog, starting with our pick of the
This Week’s Editor’s Pick
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Mike Newell
Mike Newell’s telling of this fascinating true story contains two of the best performances in the careers of Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Depp plays Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent who went undercover in the New York City mafia, calling himself Donnie Brasco. There, he meets Lefty Ruggiero, played perfectly by Pacino, and realizes that to take down the crime syndicate, he will have to take down someone with whom he’s become friends.
Call Me by Your Name
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Luca Guadagnino
One of the best films of the 2010s, this drama stars Timothée Chalamet as a boy who discovers his own sexuality when he’s wooed by an older man, played by Armie Hammer. Delicate and moving, this is a remarkable drama because of how true it feels, anchored by great performances throughout, not just from the two leads but the amazing Michael Stuhlbarg too.
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director: Barry Jenkins
Following up on a Best Picture win can be tough for any filmmaker but Barry Jenkins delivered with this lyrical and moving adaptation of the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin. It stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, and the Oscar-winning Regina King in the story of a young couple struck down when he’s wrongly charged with a crime. It’s a masterful drama from one of the best American filmmakers.
The Power of the Dog
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Jane Campion
The film that finally won an Oscar for Jane Campion for directing is one of the most acclaimed in the history of the streaming giant. Campion helmed this adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, the story of a vicious landowner (Benedict Cumberbatch) who torments the new wife (Kirsten Dunst) of his brother (Jesse Plemons). A drama that plays like a thriller, this gorgeously rendered period piece unpacks themes of toxic masculinity and manipulation in a way that makes it impossible to turn away. It’s not just one of the best Netflix Original films, it’s one of the best, period, of the 2020s so far.
Runtime: 3h 14m
Director: James Cameron
More than just a blockbuster, this Best Picture winner was a legitimate cultural phenomenon, staying at the top of the box office charts for months. And the headline-grabbing story of the Titan in Summer 2023 certainly gives this flick new relevance. There was a point when it felt like not only had everyone seen the story of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet), but most people had seen it twice. And they’re probably all going to watch it again now.
Runtime: 2h 27m
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro won Oscars for this epic examination of the illegal drug trade at the turn of the century. One of the incredible craftsman’s best films, it tackles no less than the entire structure of drugs in North America, intertwining stories of users, politicians, traffickers, and lawmen. Some of it feels a little dated, but the sheer force of the filmmaking will always be timeless.
Runtime: 1h 46m
Director: Christopher Nolan
The Dark Knight director returned to his homeland to tell one of its most formative war stories in the evacuation of British soldiers from northern France in 1940. Telling a story of land, sea, and air evacuations simultaneously, Dunkirk is a technical marvel, a film that only a filmmaker as ambitious and crazy as Nolan could even consider, much less pull off. Don’t watch this one on your phone. And turn it up loud.
Runtime: 1h 50m
Director: Joe Wright
Saoirse Ronan stars as the title character, who has been raised WAY off the grid by an ex-CIA father played by Eric Bana. He has taught her all the skills she needs to know to survive not only in the wilderness but should anyone try to come and find them. When Cate Blanchett does exactly that, Joe Wright’s film explodes in unforgettable action. It’s a great movie that inspired the Prime Video series of the same name.
Runtime: 2h 50m
Director: Michael Mann
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star in one of the best movies of the ‘90s, a stunning cat-and-mouse game between a career criminal and a workaholic cop. The book release of Heat 2 in 2022 brought a lot of people back to this movie, one that has held up remarkably well over the nearly three decades since it was released. It’s a masterpiece.
Runtime: 1h 57m
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Director Matthew Vaughn proved to be the perfect fit for Mark Millar’s dark comic sensibilities for this 2010 superhero movie for adults. Aaron Johnson stars as an average kid who tries to be a superhero, but Chloe Grace Moretz steals the flick as the unforgettable Hit Girl. If you like the Kingsman and Deadpool movies, you owe it to yourself to check out the movie that helped usher them into existence.
The Raid 2
Runtime: 2h 30m
Director: Gareth Evans
Gareth Edwards wrote, edited, and directed the insane follow-up to his breakthrough hit that takes everything he did with The Raid and turns it up to 11! Like incredible action choreography? Unbroken takes? Stunts that defy the laws of physics? The Raid 2 is quite simply one of the best action movies of the last decade, a thrill ride from beginning to end.
Runtime: 1h 54m
Director: Rowdy Herrington
As production on a remake of this cult classic (with Jake Gyllenhaal!) gets underway, why not go back and check out the original again? Patrick Swayze plays the bouncer at a totally average Missouri bar who ends up getting sucked into a violent world when he crosses paths with the wrong bad guy. Sam Elliott and Kelly Lynch star in a movie that feels like a perfect distillation of the many charms of Mr. Swayze.
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director: John Avildsen
The one that started it all is on Netflix, waiting for you to do a catch-up before seeing Creed III in a few months. Go back almost five decades now to see the start of the Rocky Balboa saga in a film that truly took the world by storm, becoming the highest grossing film of 1976 on its way to winning Best Picture and making Sylvester Stallone a household name.
Runtime: 3h 5m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli
One of the biggest films in the world in 2022, this crazy action flick really took off in the United States when it dropped on Netflix. It’s hard to put into words just how much movie you get with RRR. It’s kind of all the movies — musical, romance, comedy, action, drama. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in here. You’ll want to watch it twice.
Runtime: 2h 7m
Director: J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams took the reins of one of the most influential franchises of all time and went back to the beginning, telling the origin story of how James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) joined the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Some of Abrams’s messing around with franchise histories has been controversial, but this is still an incredibly solid summer blockbuster, entertaining from beginning to end. Note: The divisive sequel Star Trek Into Darkness is also on Netflix.
Runtime: 2h 9m
Director: Paul Verhoeven
The bugs! No one else but the director of Robocop could have made this unforgettable sci-fi/action epic about giant bugs from outer space. On the surface, it’s a wildly entertaining action movie about young soldiers trying to stop an unimaginable force. Dig deeper and you’ll find richly rewarding satirical levels about the military complex and even fascism. However you enjoy it, just enjoy it while you can.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Runtime: 2h 17m
Director: James Cameron
Any list of the best sequels ever made that doesn’t include this is flatly wrong. James Cameron took the ideas of his 1984 sci-fi breakthrough and expanded on them in this action masterpiece that reverses roles and made movie history. Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, the woman who knows that her son is the key to the future. She’s great but the movie belongs to Ah-nuld and, even more, Cameron, who flexes his action directing muscle here in unforgettable ways.
The Woman King
Runtime: 2h 14m
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Living legend Viola Davis stars in this retelling of the all-female warriors of the kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. She plays General Nansica, who trains young women to follow in her footsteps, and leads a rock star ensemble of future stars that includes Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, and Sheila Atim. You’ll know all their names soon enough.