5 Roger Ebert-Approved Movies Hitting Netflix This Month

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Netflix plans on spending $6 billion this year to acquire both original and licensed programming to keep you glued to your seat. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of titles. If you need help assembling your queue, check out five films endorsed by the late, great critic Roger Ebert that are new to the service beginning August 1.

1. THE VERDICT (1982)

Paul Newman is a liquored-up lawyer who gets one last chance at redeeming a misspent career in director Sidney Lumet’s no-frills courtroom drama. When Newman’s character, Frank Galvin, is motivated to try a medical malpractice case even though an easy settlement is within reach, he snaps out of his inebriated stupor to combat a battalion of high-priced lawyers and the physicians suspected of patient neglect. Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, hinting the film resonated with him on a personal level: the reviewer had written openly about his past problems with alcohol. (8/1)

Ebert said: “Newman always has been an interesting actor, but sometimes his resiliency, his youthful vitality, have obscured his performances; he has a tendency to always look great, and that is not always what the role calls for. This time, he gives us old, bone-tired, hung-over, trembling (and heroic) Frank Galvin, and we buy it lock, stock and shot glass.”


Like the majority of the audience, Ebert had no idea that this B-grade street racing movie would turn into one of the most lucrative (and logic-averse) film franchises of all the time. Taking it at face value, he offered a generous three stars, praising the practical nature of the stunts and finding charm in the low-stakes heists plotted by street racer Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, eating gravel sandwiches). The movie, he wrote, “doesn’t have a brain in its head,” but gets by just fine. (8/1)

Ebert said: “It's a refreshing change from such no-plot, all-action movies as Gone in 60 Seconds. We learn a little about Toretto's father and his childhood, and we see Paul and Mia falling in love—although I think in theory you are not supposed to date the sister of a guy you are undercover to investigate.”


Collaborations between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have been more of a mixed bag in the past decade, but Ebert thought their take on the Ichabod Crane tale was the right kind of weird. As the detective, Depp is disinterested in behaving in any way approaching heroically, squealing at the sight of the Headless Horseman and running around without much of a clue. At the time, the actor said he based his performance on the mannerisms of Angela Lansbury. (8/1)

Ebert said: “As Crane journeys north, the movie casts its visual spell. This is among other things an absolutely lovely film, with production design, art direction, and cinematography that create a distinctive place for the imagination. Not a real place—hardly a shot looks realistic, and some look cheerfully contrived—but a place in the mind. I loved the shot where mist extinguishes the torches that have been lit by the night watch.”

4. THE ROAD (2009)

Based on the pitch-black Cormac McCarthy novel, The Road is not going to lift anyone’s spirits. It may, in fact, strip you of them entirely. Viggo Mortensen is a father trying to escort his son through a wasteland of unknown cause, encountering survivalists and others dangers along the way. Though he endorsed the adaptation, a conflicted Ebert stressed that the book made for a better experience. (8/25)

Ebert said: “Writing this, I realize few audience members can be expected to have read The Road, even though it was a selection of Oprah's Book Club … I realize my own fault is in being so very familiar with Cormac McCarthy. That may affect my ability to view any film adaptation of his work afresh. When I know a novel is being filmed, I make it a point to not read the book. Yet I am grateful for having read McCarthy's.”


There was no wavering in Ebert’s praise of another Cormac McCarthy adaptation, this one headed up by the Coen Brothers (Fargo, Raising Arizona). A man named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a satchel full of drug money. And like anyone who stumbles across a satchel full of drug money, the urge to tempt fate results in a lot of bloodshed. On his trail is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who totes a compressed-air cattle stun gun as his murder weapon of choice. (8/11)

Ebert said: “Many of the scenes in No Country for Old Men are so flawlessly constructed that you want them to simply continue, and yet they create an emotional suction drawing you to the next scene. Another movie that made me feel that way was Fargo. To make one such film is a miracle. Here is another.”