Mental Floss

The 50 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Jake Rossen
George Clooney stars in 'Michael Clayton' (2007).
George Clooney stars in 'Michael Clayton' (2007). / Warner Bros.

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 50 best movies on the streaming service right now.

1. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece takes a harsh look at the realities of the Vietnam War. Standout R. Lee Ermey got into a car accident during filming and broke his ribs, forcing a halt in the production.

2. Molly's Game (2017)

Idris Elba co-stars alongside Jessica Chastain stars in this Aaron Sorkin-helmed drama about Molly Bloom, the queen of underground poker games that attracted the attention of both big stars and the FBI. Though Sorkin (The West Wing) had long been in demand as a feature writer, this was his first film as a director.

3. The Social Network (2010)

Speaking of Aaron Sorkin: The celebrated screenwriter won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his work on what was originally referred to as "The Facebook Movie." Jesse Eisenberg channels Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in this drama, about the rise of social media. Director David Fincher couldn't shoot at Harvard—the school had bad experiences allowing film productions there—so he had to make do with Johns Hopkins University and two prep schools.

4. Michael Clayton (2007)

George Clooney is a lawyer-slash fixer who finds his corporate loyalties come at a high moral price.

5. Donnie Brasco (1997)

Al Pacino and Johnny Depp headline this true story of Joseph Pistone, who went undercover in the mafia in 1970s New York. Although his intent is to bring down organized crime, Pistone takes a liking to "Lefty" Ruggiero (Pacino), an aging mobster who may have to pay the ultimate price for Pistone's infiltration.

6. I Care a Lot (2021)

Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage co-star in this razor-sharp black comedy about a grifter (Pike) who fleeces the elderly. Complications arise when she picks the relative of a mob boss (Dinklage) as a target. Director and writer J Blakeson said 1997's Jackie Brown and its heroine Pam Grier were one inspiration for the movie.

7. Moxie (2021)

Amy Poehler co-stars in this dramedy about a teen (Hadley Robinson) who expresses herself—and voices her anger at gender imbalances—in an anonymous 'zine she circulates around school.

8. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed this look back at the true story of anti-Vietnam protestors who came to be known as the Chicago Seven, including Abbie Hoffman, who were arrested at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and charged with conspiracy and inciting riots. While there is some dramatic license taken, Hoffman and Jerry Rubin really did wear judicial robes into the courtroom one day.

9. The Outpost (2020)

In 2009 Afghanistan, a squadron of outnumbered soldiers must fend off an isolated base from Taliban forces. This well-crafted war film, which is based on a true story, flew under the radar when it was released in 2020, but critical acclaim has helped it earn an audience. Scott Eastwood co-stars.

10. Uncut Gems (2019)

Adam Sandler is Howard Ratner, a gambling addict who sees opportunity in every game and in every customer who walks into his Diamond District jewelry store. When NBA player Kevin Garnett insists on taking a rare opal out on loan and giving his championship ring as collateral, Howard can't resist the urge to use it as fuel for his vice. Directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, the film has been called among the best of Sandler's career.

11. The Irishman (2019)

Martin Scorsese’s long-in-the-making epic brings together three of the mob genre’s heaviest hitters in Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. But the story of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), who alleged he befriended and then betrayed union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), isn’t your typical organized crime movie. It takes its time to examine the toll of a criminal life, from the alienation of Sheeran’s family to the fate that awaits old men no longer capable of resolving their problems with violence. The de-aging effects aren’t always convincing, but Scorsese’s ability to weave a captivating gangster tale remains timeless.

12. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Baumbach drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family. Baumbach has said that his own divorce (from Jennifer Jason Leigh) did not directly inspire the movie, though it's also not completely divorced from it, either. “This movie is not autobiographical," he said. "It’s personal, and there’s a true distinction in that."

13. High Flying Bird (2019)

Steven Soderbergh directs this amiable and offbeat comedy-drama about a basketball pro and his agent (André Holland) who decide to upend the status quo during an NBA lockout and start up their own league.

14. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

15. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Fans of the Coen brothers get a trail mix of stories in this anthology set in the Old West. A gunslinger (Tim Blake Nelson) proves to be a little too arrogant when it comes to his skills; an armless and legless man (Harry Melling) who recites Shakespeare for awed onlookers begins to grow suspicious of his caretaker’s motives; a dog causes unexpected grief while following a wagon train. Knitted together, the six stories total are probably the closest we’ll get to a Coen serialized television series that this feature was once rumored to be.

16. Roma (2018)

Alfonso Cuarón’s tribute to his upbringing in 1970s Mexico City tells the story of a housekeeper (Yalitza Aparicio) watching over the children of her employers after their father runs off with his mistress. Cuarón’s film is a living photograph, an intensely personal story that holds no major surprises aside from the sheer craft it took to make it a reality.

17. Paddington (2014)

The loveable and marmalade-gorging bear gets an affectionate live-action/CGI makeover from writer and director Paul King. After leaving his home, Paddington (Ben Whishaw) finds himself in London and under the care of the Brown family, who hope to prevent him from being taxidermied by a villainous Nicole Kidman. Actor Colin Firth was the original voice for the bear but dropped out of the production.

18. Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig received acclaim—and two Oscar nominations—for her directorial debut about a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) who struggles with family commitments and a desire to head to college across the country.

19. Shot Caller (2017)

Games of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau headlines this intriguing drama about a white-collar businessman sent to prison for a DUI who quickly learns that he must either adapt to his brutal new environment or allow it to swallow him whole. Once released, his actions threaten both his freedom and the safety of his family.

20. Wind River (2017)

Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen co-star in this quiet thriller about a murder in a remote Wyoming town. Renner is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife tracker who knows the terrain; Olsen is the FBI agent out of her element.

21. Loving (2016)

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in this true story about an interracial couple in 1950s Virginia who run into the state's oppressive anti-miscegenation laws. What should have been a simple union between two people who love each other turns into a fight for personal liberty before the Supreme Court.

22. Hush (2016)

A Deaf woman who is isolated in a remote cabin finds herself trapped with a killer lurking at her door. Directed by Mike Flanagan (Midnight Mass), there are few frills here—just a well-crafted and time-tested tale of courage up against unexplained malevolence.

23. Cop Car (2015)

Before taking over the Spider-Man film series, director Jon Watts helmed this low-key thriller about two young boys (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford) who steal a police cruiser on a lark and discover a kidnap victim in the trunk. The car's owner, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), will stop at nothing to get it back.

24. The Power of the Dog (2021)

Benedict Cumberbatch headlines this slow-burning Western about a rancher who disapproves of his brother's new wife—a distaste that threatens to undermine everything he and his sibling have worked for. Jane Campion, who co-wrote and directed the movie, made Oscar history by becoming the first woman to ever be twice-nominated for a Best Director Academy Award; in March 2022, she became the third woman ever to take home the award (following The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow and Nomadland's Chloe Zhao).

25. The Harder They Fall (2021)

Jonathan Majors is an outlaw out for revenge against Idris Elba in this kinetic Western that co-stars Lakeith Stanfield and Regina King.

26. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)

Ridley Scott directs Harrison Ford in what is arguably one of the great sci-fi films of all time. In 2019 Los Angeles, Rick Deckard (Ford) hunts Replicants, synthetic humans who have fled from servitude to cause havoc in the streets. The Final Cut is Scott's preferred version. You can also catch the 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049, on the service.

27. Worth (2021)

Michael Keaton stars in this intense drama about an attorney responsible for the legal and emotional burden of placing a monetary value on the lives lost during the September 11 attacks.

28. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this romantic comedy-drama about two people with emotionally distant dispositions who find comfort in one another. Robert De Niro co-stars.

29. The Ring (2002)

In The Ring, Naomi Watts is a journalist puzzled by a rash of strange deaths in her town. She soon discovers they're all tied to a mysterious VHS tape that purportedly kills anyone who watches it in exactly seven days. Director Gore Verbinski said he watched the 1998 original, Ringu, on a poor-quality VHS tape, which only added to the concept's creepiness.

30. Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Director Boots Riley scored a hit with this satire about a black telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) who ascends the corporate ladder by affecting a "white" voice on the telephone. What begins as a biting commentary on capitalism takes a turn into fantasy as Riley deftly navigates a journey through an increasingly surrealistic—yet culturally resonant—landscape. Part of Riley's inspiration for the film was his own experience as a telemarketer for fundraisers.

31. Love Actually (2003)

Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are among the many stars in this ensemble romantic comedy that's become a holiday staple. Director Richard Curtis originally planned on 14 plotlines but four were cut for time.

32. Passing (2021)

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga star in this acclaimed feature about two Black women in 1920s New York City who explore their racial identities when they discover they can "pass" as white.

33. Identity (2003)

John Cusack and Ray Liotta headline this thriller about a group of strangers who try to determine which of them is a killer--a mystery that leads to a twist ending.

34. The House (2022)

A single home is the site of three stories in this strange, winning stop-motion animated feature.

35. Argo (2012)

Ben Affleck directs and stars in this true story based on CIA agent Tony Mendez, who plots to rescue U.S. citizens from the U.S. embassy in Iran by fabricating a movie production.

36. Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan helms this layered thriller about a team who steal and implant ideas from a target's subconscious. Nolan has said he originally conceived of the premise as a horror film.

37. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Tom Hanks leads the charge in this World War II drama about a squad sent to retrieve a soldier (Matt Damon) whose brothers have all been killed in the conflict. Director Steven Spielberg cast Damon based on an introduction made by Robin Williams, who was working with the actor on 1997's Good Will Hunting.

38. Croupier (1998)

Clive Owen delivers a star-making turn as a downtrodden man who takes up as a croupier at a casino but soon finds himself gambling his life while caught up in a heist.

39. The Highwaymen (2019)

Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson team up for this fact-based action drama about the Texas Rangers assigned to capture notorious outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

40. Ip Man (2008)

Donnie Yen stars as the famed martial artist who taught Bruce Lee the ways of the fist in this Hong Kong hit that spawned several sequels.

41. In the Line of Fire (1993)

Clint Eastwood turns in one of his career-best performances as a Secret Service agent who failed to stop the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963. Decades later, he finds himself taunted by a would-be presidential killer (John Malkovich) who will stop at nothing to take out the Commander-in-Chief.

42. Top Gun (1986)

Tom Cruise earned his wings in the action genre in this hit about a squad of Navy pilots learning the ropes. Fueled by singles like Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone," the soundtrack moved nine million copies.

43. The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Gregory Peck leads an all-star cast of Allies who seek to damage a key sea channel during World War II.

44. Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Fashion designer Tom Ford directed this thriller about a woman (Amy Adams) who believes her late husband's book holds the secret to a double life better left uncovered. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon co-star.

45. Wild Things (1998)

An eclectic cast (including Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, and Bill Murray) have helped make this campy thriller a cult classic. Two teens (Richards and Neve Campbell) prove far more than their high school guidance counselor (Dillon) can handle.

46. The Last Samurai (2003)

Tom Cruise stars as a Civil War veteran who finds himself caught between warring factions in 1870s Japan.

47. She's Gotta Have It (1986)

Spike Lee’s feature directorial debut also sees him playing one of three men under the thumb of Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns). None of them can stand Nola’s gender-reversing approach to casual relationships, and the three hope to goad her into living a monogamous life. Nola, however, wants to pursue happiness on her own terms, not society’s. Lee’s love letter to Brooklyn is still a standout in his filmography, which quickly grew to include 1989’s Do the Right Thing and 1992’s Malcolm X.

48. Synchronic (2020)

A new designer drug hitting the streets changes the lives of two EMT workers (Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie) who have the misfortune of running across it in this surprising thriller.

49. Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro cemented his reputation as an actor's actor in this study of a cabbie who decides the seedy streets of New York City require a moral cleansing. De Niro's classic line ("You talkin' to me?") came from Bruce Springsteen, who said it when addressing the crowd during a concert De Niro attended.

50. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The Monty Python team delivers their best-known work, a silly and sharply satirical feature that uses the King Arthur legend as a springboard for sequences that feature brave-but-armless knights and highly aggressive rabbits. Opening to mixed reviews, it has since become a perennial entry in lists of the best comedies ever made.

A version of this story ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2022.