35 Surprising Facts About The Office

NBC
NBC

In 2005, a group of Americans tasked themselves with adapting Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's beloved British series The Office for U.S. audiences. They rose to the high expectations and managed to create a super-successful comedy that debuted on March 24, 2005, ran for nine seasons, and is still being binge-watched today.

Here are 35 things you might not have known about the workplace sitcom.

1. B.J. NOVAK WAS THE FIRST PERSON CAST.

 Actor Mindy Kaling (L) and B. J. Novak at the world premiere of Disney’s 'A Wrinkle in Time' at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood CA, Feburary 26, 2018
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images for Disney

The show’s producer, Greg Daniels, was inspired by his time on Saturday Night Live and wanted to hire a writer-performer. Other writer-performers who were later added include Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Paul Lieberstein (Toby). Michael Schur, who wrote and produced the show, played Dwight’s cousin, Mose.

2. THE CAST COULD HAVE BEEN WAY DIFFERENT.

For instance, Adam Scott auditioned for the part of Jim Halpert. Seth Rogen was in the running to play Dwight Schrute. Eric Stonestreet, who is now on Modern Family, auditioned for Kevin. Before getting cast as Angela, Angela Kinsey auditioned for Pam. Bob Odenkirk was originally cast as Michael Scott but was replaced by Steve Carell when the show he’d been working on, Come to Papa, was canceled. In a late-season episode, Odenkirk played a very Michael Scott-like manager looking to hire Pam.

See Also: 12 Outrageous Fan Theories About The Office

3. JOHN KRASINSKI HAD A ROUGH AUDITION.

One reason Adam Scott could have easily played Jim: John Krasinski’s audition for The Office didn’t go too well. First of all, he was supposed to audition for Dwight, but he convinced the casting directors to let him read for the part of Jim. Secondly, he got into some trouble in the waiting room. A man eating salad in the room asked him if he was nervous. Krasinski answered, “You know, not really. You either get these things or you don't. But what I'm really nervous about is this show. It's just I love the British show so much and Americans have a tendency to just really screw these opportunities up. I just don't know how I'll live with myself if they screw this show up and ruin it for me.” The man responded, “My name's Greg Daniels, I'm the executive producer.” Still, Krasinski managed to get the part.

4. AFTER HE GOT THE PART, JOhn KRASINSKI INTERVIEWED PAPER COMPANy EMPLOYEES for research.

John Krasinski stars in 'The Office'
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Krasinski met with several employees at different paper companies to research his role, and he filmed a visit he took through Scranton, Pennsylvania. The footage of his trip through the city was actually used in the show’s opening credits sequence and, according to Rainn Wilson’s memoir, The Bassoon King: Art, Idiocy, and Other Sordid Tales from the Band Room, would go on to play a role in helping production with set decoration and design details.

5. PHYLLIS SMITH GOT CAST BY CASTING PEOPLE.

Phyllis was a casting agent for the show before she got the part of Phyllis. She was reading the script with some auditioning actors when director Ken Kwapis decided that she was the one who should play the role.

6. EVERYBODY NEEDED TO IMPROVISE.

Even if they weren’t writers, Daniels wanted to make sure his actors had a background in improvisation. He has said, “Improv is a good tool to make it seem more natural."

7. THEY INITIALLY STAYED CLOSE TO THE BRITISH VERSION.

Ricky Gervais stars in 'The Office'
BBC

The pilot was shot with essentially the same script as the pilot from the British show. Many viewers questioned this decision, but it had to be done considering NBC bought an adaptation. Daniels believes that the show really branched out into its own entity in the second season.

8. nO ONE WAS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE SHOW.

It was hard for the cast and crew to have faith early on. During the first season, NBC executives would bring a lot of pessimism to the set. According to Krasinski, they would say things like, “This episode is so good—unfortunately, it’s the last one we’re going to do.”

9. THEY OWE THEIR SUCCESS TO APPLE.

One thing that helped save the show was iTunes. Around the second season, when NBC made the show available on the platform, it took up four of the top five slots for downloaded television shows. That’s when the people behind the show learned that their audience skewed young, rather than the white-collar workers they thought would be watching.

10. THE CAST PICKED THE OPENING THEME SONG.

When it came to the show’s opening theme music, series creator Greg Daniels gave the cast four versions of the song and let them vote on the winner. The now-iconic song came from a demo by composer Jay Ferguson, which was then re-recorded by musician Bob Thiele Jr. and a group later dubbed The Scrantones, who made an appearance on the episode “The Booze Cruise.”

11. THEY LOST THEIR ORIGINAL THEME SONG TO HEATHER LOCKLEAR.

In 2015, Rainn Wilson revealed that a number of hit songs were given consideration for the show’s opening theme, including “Better Things” by the Kinks and “Float On” by Modest Mouse. But the one the cast really wanted was “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra. Those plans were dashed, though, when production found out that it was already the song for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Heather Locklear comedy, LAX.

12. tHE OFFICE'S ADDRESS IS AN HOMAGE TO THE BRITISH SHOW.

The Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin is located at 1725 Slough Avenue. That’s not a real street in the actual Scranton, Pennsylvania, though—it’s a reference to the original version of the show, which takes place in Slough, England.

13. THE COMPUTERS ON SET REALLY WORKED.

Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, and Ellie Kemper in 'The Office'
NBCUniversal Media

They even had Internet, which helped the cast feel like they were in a real-life office.

14. THEY LITERALLY MADE THE SHOW BRIGHTER FOR SEASON TWO.

In an attempt to boost ratings after the first season, the producers pivoted the show's style away from the British version to make Michael Scott more likable and make the episodes more optimistic. According to Novak's DVD commentary track for "The Dundies," the first episode of the second season, they also made the lights in the office brighter to help complete that tonal shift.

15. THEY ALSO RECREATED THE OFFICE SPACE FROM SCRATCH.

The show's first season was shot in a real-life office in Culver City, California, so when they transitioned to a sound stage for the second season, the crew had to rebuild it and stock it with supplies to make a perfect replica. They did make Michael's office a little bigger to accommodate cameras, and since they were on a sound stage, they could control the weather.

16. THE DOCUMENTARY CREW MAY HAVE HAD A TRAGIC REASON FOR COVERING DUNDER MIFFLIN.


NBC Universal

In the season two episode “Performance Review,” Michael reads papers from his suggestion box, including one from “Tom,” who wrote, “We need better outreach for employees fighting depression.” Then, he’s reminded that Tom killed himself. During a 2007 Office Convention, a group of writers proposed that this suicide was why the documentary crew showed up in Scranton. They wanted to document how the office was dealing with the suicide before turning to simpler storylines.

17. JIM'S FAKE-RAIN-FILLED PROPOSAL WAS EXPENSIVE.

The writers had a clear vision for how Jim’s proposal to Pam would look. They wanted to shoot it at an actual rest stop on the Merritt Parkway, but it would have cost $100,000. Plus, they wouldn’t be allowed to use fake rain, which was important to the scene. So, the crew built a replica of the Parkway and a rest stop. The shot ended up costing $250,000. Daniels described the scene as “the most expensive and elaborate shot we've ever done, but it's also sort of the highlight of five years of storytelling.”

18. YOU COULD ACTUALLY BUY DUNDER MIFFLIN PAPER.

In 2011, the company Quill.com, owned by Staples, announced that they would start selling Dunder Mifflin paper. At the time, their director of innovation explained, “Paper…is a race to the bottom as paper usage is going down. We’re looking for different pop culture phenomena and external brands that we can tie to these mundane product categories to differentiate. That’s really how initially pairing copy paper and Dunder Mifflin came about.”

19. STEVE CARELL IMPROVISED HIS KISS WITH OSCAR.


Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

In the season three episode, “Gay Witch Hunt,” the script only called for a hug. Nunez recalled, “We were just supposed to hug, and he kept hugging me. And that particular take he came in really close, and I'm like, ‘Where is he going with this?’ Oh, dear, yes here we go.”

20. THE ACTORS WEREN'T THE ONLY ONES WHO WOULD IMPROVISE.

In season five, Pam closes her dorm door on a camera person, who lets out an audible sigh. That was an impromptu moment from the director of photography, Randall Einhorn.

21. sEVERAL RESTAURANTS FEATURED ON THE SHOW ARE REAL.

Remember when Michael bungled the office’s pizza order by getting pies from Pizza By Alfredo rather than the popular Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe? Well, you can head to Alfredo’s Pizza Café right now if you’d like—it’s a real place, right in Scranton. (Its similarly named competition is purely a product of Hollywood.) To get that authentic Pennsylvania feel, the show’s production incorporated real-world businesses and restaurants from the area when writing scripts. So if you want some calamari, you can go to Cooper’s Seafood, one of Kevin’s favorites. You can also swing by Poor Richard’s for a pint, or head to the Steamtown Mall, where you can see a display featuring the original burgundy “Welcome to Scranton” sign from the show’s opening credits.

22. SADLY, SCHRUTE FARMS ISN'T (BUT ITS REVIEWS ARE).

Rainn Wilson in 'The Office'
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Schrute Farms is a very fictional place with very real reviews on TripAdvisor—more than 1100 of them. Though all the reviews are full of obvious Office-isms, the site still covers its bases with a warning at the top that reads: “This is a fictional place, as seen on NBC's The Office. Please do not try to book a visit here.”

23. STEVE CARELL HAD HIS NUMBER RETIRED.

When Steve Carell left the show after seven seasons, he was still adored by the cast and crew. Up until that point, he had always been number one on the call sheet. So, when he left, they “retired” the number one, and it didn’t appear on the call sheet again.

24. ANDY BECAME OFFICE MANAGER IN THE FINAL TWO SEASONS BECAUSE HE'S A PEOPLE PERSON.

Lieberstein, who was showrunner at the time, said, “The Andy character is very different from Michael, but one of the things they have in common is that they both put people first and relationships first.” The writers also considered promoting Darryl, but decided that he was “too rational and smart to be the manager,” so he couldn’t cause as many disasters.

25. JAMES SPADER WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO make A CAMEO.

James Spader and Craig Robinson in The Office
Chris Haston, NBCUniversal, Inc

The writers liked him so much that they asked him to expand the role. "[Spader] has a way of taking on his character so fully, even in rehearsal, that it's changing the mood on the set,"Lieberstein said. "Everyone is discovering who they are with this new energy."

26. SHOWRUNNERS KEPT CARELL'S FINALE APPEARANCE SECRET FROM EVERYONE.

The showrunners didn't even tell network executives that Carell was going to appear in the finale. According to Daniels, “We shot the Steve stuff and we kept it out of the dailies and didn’t tell them about it. At the table reading, we gave the Steve Carell lines to Creed.”

27. WE MISSED OUT ON A DWIGHT SPIN-OFF SHOW.

Thomas Middleditch and Rainn Wilson in 'The Office'
Tyler Golden, NBCUniversal

After The Office ended, Dwight was supposed to get a spinoff called The Farm on NBC, but the network passed on the show in 2012. According to Rainn Wilson, “The timing was wrong.”

28. bUT THERE WAS AN OFFICE SPIN-OFF, KINDA.

Although The Farm never happened, nor did a proposed Andy Bernard show based on An American Family, you can view Parks and Recreation as a kind of spinoff. It was developed by the same producers and was originally going to be a spinoff before Rashida Jones got cast after playing a separate character on The Office.

29. THE CPR EPISODE HELPED SAVE SOMEONE'S LIFE.

Rainn Wilson in the "Stress Relief" episode of 'The Office'
NBCUniversal

In the season 5 episode “Stress Relief,” Michael arranges a CPR training session for his staff that quickly devolves into a very Scranton-y debacle. But even if no one at Dunder Mifflin learned anything, someone at home actually did. On the show, it’s said that the chest compressions should be done to the beat of the popular Bee Gees song, “Stayin’ Alive,” and this tip helped an Office fan from Arizona perform successful CPR on a woman he found slumped over in the seat of her car. She regained consciousness after about a minute of CPR and was brought to the hospital, where she was later discharged.

30. YOU CAN SEARCH THROUGH ALL THE SHOW'S "STARES."

One of The Office’s trademarks is the way the characters would seamlessly break the fourth wall and communicate their feelings to the audience by doing nothing more than looking directly into the camera. These Office “stares” became such a hit that they even became the subject of a fansite that allows you to search through more than 800 different emotions—boredom, sadness, anger, and loneliness, to name a few—and watch a brief YouTube clip of an Office character perfectly embodying it with nothing more than a glance. Lose hours of productivity by experimenting with The Office Stare Machine here.

31. Steve CARELL ISN'T INTERESTED IN JOINING A REBOOT.

Though the show is always the subject of reboot rumors, Steve Carell has said on multiple occasions that bringing back The Office isn’t on his mind, telling Esquire: "Because The Office is on Netflix and replaying, a lot more people have seen it recently. And I think because of that there's been a resurgence in interest in the show, and talk about bringing it back. But apart from the fact that I just don't think that's a good idea, it might be impossible to do that show today and have people accept it the way it was accepted 10 years ago."

32. MICHAEL HAS A DIFFERENT FISH IN EACH EPISODE OF THE "mICHAEL SCOTT PAPER COMPANY" ERA.

Steve Carell in 'The Office' (2005)
NBCUniversal, Inc.

He starts with a goldfish and ends up with a black beta. Maybe he's not good at keeping fish alive? At least it's good practice for falling into a koi pond.

33. SEVERAL OFFICE STARS INTERNED FOR CONAN O'BRIEN.

Obviously cutting your teeth with a comedy legend like Conan O'Brien helps when you're starring in your own show. Mindy Kaling (1999), John Krasinski (2000), and Ellie Kemper (2005) were all interns for the NBC late night host before hitting it big.

34. EVERY EPISODE COULD HAVE BEEN AN HOUR LONG.

According to Nunez, the cast and crew always shot "tons" of footage. A lot of it ended up as DVD extras, but the actor claimed that each episode could have been much longer. "Even the awkward scenes, where nothing is happening, where everyone is just uncomfortable, could go on longer and become even funnier, because the level of discomfort just rises," he said.

35. PAM AND MICHAEL HAD A GENUINE GOODBYE.

Actor Steve Carell, actor B.J. Novak, actor John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, actor Rainn Wilson poses in the press room after winning "Outstanding Comedy Series" for "The Office " at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on August
Cast members of The Office after winning an Emmy for "Outstanding Comedy Series" in 2006
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

For their goodbye scene at the airport in Carell’s last episode, Jenna Fischer was told by production to, “Just say whatever you would want to say to Steve. Just say goodbye and we'll tape it and when you're finished, just give each other a hug and go your separate ways.’” Fischer later revealed in 2018 that, “Those were real tears and a real goodbye.”

Turn Your LEGO Bricks Into a Drone With the Flybrix Drone Kit

Flyxbrix/FatBrain
Flyxbrix/FatBrain

Now more than ever, it’s important to have a good hobby. Of course, a lot of people—maybe even you—have been obsessed with learning TikTok dances and baking sourdough bread for the last few months, but those hobbies can wear out their welcome pretty fast. So if you or someone you love is looking for something that’s a little more intellectually stimulating, you need to check out the Flybrix LEGO drone kit from Fat Brain Toys.

What is a Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit?

The Flybrix drone kit lets you build your own drones out of LEGO bricks and fly them around your house using your smartphone as a remote control (via Bluetooth). The kit itself comes with absolutely everything you need to start flying almost immediately, including a bag of 56-plus LEGO bricks, a LEGO figure pilot, eight quick-connect motors, eight propellers, a propeller wrench, a pre-programmed Flybrix flight board PCB, a USB data cord, a LiPo battery, and a USB LiPo battery charger. All you’ll have to do is download the Flybrix Configuration Software, the Bluetooth Flight Control App, and access online instructions and tutorials.

Experiment with your own designs.

The Flybrix LEGO drone kit is specifically designed to promote exploration and experimentation. All the components are tough and can totally withstand a few crash landings, so you can build and rebuild your own drones until you come up with the perfect design. Then you can do it all again. Try different motor arrangements, add your own LEGO bricks, experiment with different shapes—this kit is a wannabe engineer’s dream.

For the more advanced STEM learners out there, Flybrix lets you experiment with coding and block-based coding. It uses an arduino-based hackable circuit board, and the Flybrix app has advanced features that let you try your hand at software design.

Who is the Flybrix LEGO Drone Kit for?

Flybrix is a really fun way to introduce a number of core STEM concepts, which makes it ideal for kids—and technically, that’s who it was designed for. But because engineering and coding can get a little complicated, the recommended age for independent experimentation is 13 and up. However, kids younger than 13 can certainly work on Flybrix drones with the help of their parents. In fact, it actually makes a fantastic family hobby.

Ready to start building your own LEGO drones? Click here to order your Flybrix kit today for $198.

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The 45 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Adam Sandler stars in Uncut Gems (2019).
Adam Sandler stars in Uncut Gems (2019).
A24

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 45 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. 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 Josh and Benny Safdie, the film has been called among the best of Sandler's career. —Jake Rossen

2. 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. —JR

3. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family. —JR

4. 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. —JR

5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

When Marvel promised a comic book film of unprecedented scale with Avengers: Infinity War, they were not messing around. This film, one of 2018’s biggest, was the culmination of a decade of planning, casting, and cinematic storytelling all pulled into one massive movie event. It would be impressive for its ambition and scope alone, but it’s also perhaps the best attempt yet to tell a comic book crossover story on the big screen. —Matthew Jackson

6. 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. —JR

7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may have been in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town. —JR

8. 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. —JR

9. Okja (2017)

If you didn’t think the adventure of a young girl and her super pig could make you pump your fist in the air, it’s time to check out this quirky firecracker from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho. Thought-provoking and breathtaking? That’ll do, super pig. —Scott Beggs

10. Green Room (2016)

Here's a film that starts with an uncomfortable arrangement (a young punk band has booked a gig for a den of Nazi skinheads) and descends from there into expertly crafted cold-sweat terror. Though it's primarily a siege scenario, the band barricading themselves in the dressing room after witnessing a skinhead-on-skinhead murder, the story goes in more directions (figuratively and geographically) than you'd expect. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier never lets it get stagnant. He barely lets you catch your breath. —Eric D. Snider

11. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail. —JR

12. Moonlight (2016)

Barry Jenkins’s trailblazing film, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, chronicles the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) as he grows up under the burden of his own and others’ responses to his homosexuality. It’s a stirring portrait anchored by phenomenal performances (including an Oscar-earning turn from Mahershala Ali). —SB

13. Swiss Army Man (2016)

Vibrant, effervescent, and deeply weird, Paul Dano stars in this musical collage as a depressed loner stranded on an island until he finds a talking, farting corpse played by a very post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe. They save one another and, together, attempt to get back to civilization while singing the praises of Jurassic Park. —SB

14. The Witch (2015)

Delicately crafted with an eye toward historical accuracy, this existential horror film focuses on a New England farming family in the wilds of 1630 who believe a witch has cursed them. Anya Taylor-Joy’s standout performance acts as a guide through the possessed-goat-filled insanity. —SB

15. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in a black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks. —JR

16. Room (2015)

A woman (Brie Larson) is held captive by a deeply disturbed man for seven years. During that time, her son (Jacob Tremblay) has never experienced the outside world. That kind of set-up is usually reserved for thrillers, but Room is not as interested in Larson’s potential escape as much as it is in her courage giving her son sanctuary in an unsafe space. Larson won an Academy Award for the role. —JR

17. Ex Machina (2014)

Alex Garland's quiet—and quietly subversive—robot parable didn't arrive with all the hype of a major studio sci-fi release, but still manages to outdo most big-budget android tales. As the enigmatic CEO of a robotics company, Oscar Isaac uses an underling (Domhnall Gleeson) to test his eerily lifelike AI (Alicia Vikander). But Gleeson may be the one who's really being tested. —JR

18. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk. (Oscar-winner Olivia Colman and her fellow Fleabag co-star Andrew Scott, a.k.a. "The Hot Priest," are two of the people whose voices we hear on the other end of the line.) —JR

19. Snowpiercer (2013)

Years before Bong Joon-ho made Oscar history in 2020 with Parasite, he adapted French graphic novel Le Transperceneige into Snowpiercer (which was recently turned into a television series with Jennifer Connelly). In a dystopian future—in sci-fi, there may not be any other kind—a train carrying cars separated by social class circles the globe. Soon, the have-nots (led by Chris Evans) decide to defy authority and get answers from those in charge. —JR

20. Enemy (2013)

Jake Gyllenhaal has an uneasy feeling that his exact double—a man who looks like him but is substantially more successful—is intruding on his own life. The Gyllenhaal collision is the foundation for this psychological thriller from director Denis Villeneuve, who offers no pat answers but an effective undercurrent of dread. —JR

21. Under the Skin (2013)

Scarlett Johansson explores alien seduction as a being from another world who arrives on Earth to pursue companionship. Unfortunately, she prefers short-term commitments. This erotic sci-fi drama was nominated for Best British Film at the BAFTA awards, the British equivalent of the Oscars. —JR

22. Her (2013)

The perils of falling in love with artificial intelligence are at the core of Her, which features a terrific performance by Joaquin Phoenix as a rumpled office worker who finds his soulmate in something without a soul: An Alexa-esque disembodied voice (Scarlett Johansson). —JR

23. The Master (2012)

Director Paul Thomas Anderson delivers a steady but absorbing tale of a World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls under the spell of a charismatic philosopher (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose teachings soon become the focus of a cult movement. Both Phoenix and Hoffman were nominated for Academy Awards. Of the films he’s directed, which include 1997’s Boogie Nights and 2004’s There Will Be Blood, Anderson has said The Master is his favorite. —JR

24. Drive (2011)

On paper (like in the pulp novel it's based on), Nicolas Winding Refn's tale of a taciturn getaway driver whose life spins out of control is familiar. But on the screen, the combination is uniquely intoxicating—a fresh, lurid, melancholy neo-noir with a hint of existential crime thriller and, for some reason, an '80s-ish techno-pop soundtrack. Spinning its uncommonly entertaining yarn out of perilous characters and nightmarish scenarios, it feels dazzlingly original. —ES

25. The Social Network (2010)

This exhilarating account of how a total jerk started Facebook is even more alarming given what we've learned about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook since then. Jesse Eisenberg's crisp lead performance, Aaron Sorkin's verbose dialogue, and David Fincher's energetic direction combine to make this a cautionary tale of Shakespearean proportions. It might be the best document of how the internet and social media have fundamentally changed us. —ES

26. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

A rare adaptation for writer/director Edgar Wright brings Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popular graphic novel series to life. Michael Cera is perfectly cast in the title role as an awkward young man who is determined to win the heart of the woman he loves (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) by literally winning video game-style battles against her “Seven Evil Exes.” Wright throws every trick in his book at the screen, and the result is a film you can watch again and again. —MJ

27. The King's Speech (2010)

From laughingstock to maestro of one of Great Britain’s finest public addresses, The King’s Speech tells the true story of King George VI’s triumph over stuttering. The film took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), and Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler). —James L. Menzies

28. A Serious Man (2009)

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a man whose faith is being tested at home, at work, and all points in between. A Serious Man is equal parts dark comedy and existential drama, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of why the Coen brothers are masters at their craft. —JS

29. Brooklyn's Finest (2009)

An ensemble cast (Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, and Wesley Snipes) navigate the temptations and pitfalls inherent in police work in this drama from director Antoine Fuqua. Producer John Langley also created the long-running reality TV series Cops for Fox. —JR

30. Moon (2009)

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has been alone on a lunar mining mission for three years, but his isolation comes to an end one day when a stranger shows up at his facility—and this mystery man happens to look just like him. —Jay Serafino

31. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Quentin Tarantino’s Nazi-hunting, scalp-retrieving mission is available to stream without the danger of highly flammable nitrate film reels. Our introduction to Christoph Waltz as a charming villain, who faces off against Brad Pitt’s American GI and Mélanie Laurent’s French Jewish cinema owner as everyone tries to kill Hitler. —SB

32. The Duchess (2008)

Few people can pull off the role of an 18th century aristocrat as well as Keira Knightley. In this case, she's forced to contend with a cruel and philandering husband (Ralph Fiennes) who makes it clear that his only use for his wife is for her to produce a male heir. But the Duchess knows that two can play at this game, and begins a scandalous (and not-quite-hidden) affair with a rising politician (Dominic Cooper). Come for the compelling period drama, stay for the stunning costumes. —Jennifer M. Wood

33. There Will Be Blood (2007)

It was Citizen Kane for the new century: a sprawling epic about a flawed, wealthy man who lets his own power destroy him, directed by a wunderkind already revered by most of Hollywood. Paul Thomas Anderson and stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano all do some of their best work in the story of a duplicitous oilman who meets his match in the fiery son of a preacher. —ES

34. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Following the end of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl (Ivana Baquero) escapes the turmoil of her militant stepfather and ill mother by exploring a hidden labyrinth that houses a variety of strange creatures. Director Guillermo del Toro was praised for his specialty: weaving a fairy tale with sharp edges. —JR

35. The Pianist (2002)

Chronicling the true story of Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody), The Pianist is widely considered one of the best World War II accounts ever committed to film. As Nazis overrun Warsaw, Szpilman tries to maintain his sanity by clinging to the only thing that makes sense in an increasingly senseless world: His love of music. —JR

36. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

The controversially sensual road movie that put Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna on the international map scored an Oscar nomination for writer/director Alfonso Cuarón. It's hard to believe he followed up this drug-and-sex-filled coming-of-age trip with a Harry Potter movie. —SB

37. The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves utters many a "whoa" on his way through this sci-fi classic about a computer programmer who discovers reality is just an artificial simulation. Bullet Time is still just as spectacular as it was when the film premiered more than 20 years ago. —JR

38. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Sports agent Tom Cruise wrestles with clients—including the charismatic and Oscar-winning Cuba Gooding Jr.—as well as love in Cameron Crowe's winning dramedy that continued Cruise's run of '90s hits. —JR

39. Howards End (1992)

James Ivory's adaptation of E.M. Forster's 1910 novel tells the story of free-spirited Londoner Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson) who befriends a dying woman, Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), who ends up bequeathing Margaret her beloved country home, Howards End. It's a stroke of luck for Margaret, who is about to be ousted from the home she has leased for years, but the Wilcox family feels that something is amiss. As Ruth's widower attempts to investigate the situation, he finds himself falling under Margaret's spell. —JMW

40. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Not only did a gory horror film win Best Picture at the Oscars that year, it also won the other four top categories—Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay—a feat achieved only twice before (by It Happened One Night and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Turns out America has a taste for cannibalism when it’s impeccably acted, smartly directed (by Jonathan Demme), and creepy as all hell. It remains one of the best examples of "art-house" horror.

41. 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 Malcom X. —JR

42. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The 1980s were a pretty great decade for Steven Spielberg (even more so if you believe he's the true director of Poltergeist), and followed up Raiders of the Lost Ark with this instant sentimental classic about a boy and his alien friend. Spielberg's sappiness would get the better of him in duds like Always, but here he found the right blend of emotion and nostalgia by giving it a bitter undercurrent (Elliott's parents' divorce, the inevitable farewell) to remind us that even the sweetest memories often have tinges of sorrow. —ES

43. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

All four Indiana Jones movies are on Netflix, but the original still stands its ground as the best in the series and one of the finest action movies ever made. Indy (Harrison Ford) pursues the Lost Ark of the Covenant while evading and diverting Nazis chasing the power the Ark is believed to contain. —JR

44. Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro drew justifiable accolades for his portrayal of Travis Bickle, a mentally askew cab driver in the hellscape of 1970s New York City in director Martin Scorsese's gutter noir masterpiece. —JR

45. 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’s since become a perennial entry in lists of the best comedies ever made. —JR