We get it, there are a lot of good movies on Netflix; so much so that deciding on one (or 30) is no easy task and we end up spending an hour going through our queues and every random genre in the streaming giant’s massive library. To make the most out of our streaming time and maximize our movie-watching time and prevent ourselves from getting caught in the infinite abyss, we’ve put together a list of the best movies on Netflix, with a little something for everyone.
Whether it be originals like The Mitchells vs. the Machines or modern classics like Lady Bird, there a ton of good movies to watch on Netflix. Let’s take a look at a couple dozen of the best movies to watch on Netflix as of October 2021.
Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) tests an experimental drug on Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) in hopes that it will awaken the catatonic man from his unresponsive state in Penny Marshall’s 1990 drama Awakenings. Miraculously, the treatment works and Leonard is given new life after being withdrawn from society for 30 years, if only for a short while.
Following the death of Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), Maximus Decimus (Russell Crowe) goes from apparent heir to the throne to slave when the late emperor’s power-hungry son (Joaquin Phoenix) marks him for death. Perhaps the best collaboration between director Ridley Scott and Crowe, the Academy Award-winning Gladiator remains just as moving as it was upon its release in 2000.
Malcolm X (1992)
Spike Lee’s 1992 epic biographical drama Malcolm X sees Denzel Washington take on the role of influential activist as he goes from a low-level criminal trying to make ends meet to one of the most consequential figures of the 20th Century.
David Fincher’s 2007 crime drama Zodiac follows a political cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a dogged reporter (Robert Downey Jr.), and two San Francisco detectives (Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards) as they attempt to track down and nab the mysterious serial killer who used the Bay area as his personal playground of murder.
As Good As It Gets (1997)
A cantankerous author with a severe case of OCD finds new meaning in life when he helps out and injured neighbor (Greg Kinnear) and falls in love with a no-nonsense waitress (Helen Hunt) in James L. Brooks’ 1997 Oscar-winning romantic comedy As Good As It Gets.
Cold Mountain (2003)
Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, Cold Mountain tells the epic story of Confederate soldier W.P. Inman (Jude Law) as he abandons the Southern cause in hopes of returning to his wife, Ada (Nicole Kidman) and their North Carolina farm. Ada’s situation is just as perilous as she is tasked with tending to the farm while fighting off the Home Guard leader Captain Teague (Ray Winstone) and his henchman Bosie (Charlie Hunnam), which is made easier with the arrival of the crude yet devoted Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger).
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
What some would call the definitive cut of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi noir drama, Blade Runner: The Final Cut keeps the basic premise of other versions of the film: Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is tasked with hunting down a band of rogue Replicants led by the psychotic Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), but includes the full unicorn dream sequence, new scenes and dialogue, and other restored footage originally only seen in the international version.
Clear And Present Danger (1994)
Not long after becoming acting deputy director of the CIA, Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) uncovers a massive conspiracy following the murder of an American businessman and friend of the President, with a Colombian drug kingpin the prime suspect. With the help of CIA operative John Clark (Willem Dafoe), Ryan heads down to Central America to get to the bottom of the widespread conspiracy that could lead up the chain of command in the American military and government in Clear and Present Danger.
Do The Right Thing (1989)
What starts out as a disagreement about whose pictures should be placed on the wall of a pizzeria in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Brooklyn quickly unfolds into a full on crisis as tensions rise in Do the Right Thing. The 1989 Spike Lee join explores racism, morals, and acceptance in one of the best ‘80s movies and one whose messages still ring true more than 30 year later.
Once Upon A Time A Time in America (1984)
Sergio Leone’s epic crime drama Once Upon a Time in America tells the story of mafia boss David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro) and his partners in crime as they navigate the streets of New York City in the early 20th Century, showing them as they go from street kids to bootleggers to high-ranking members of the city’s criminal underworld. Be warned, this version clocks in at nearly four hours in length.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
John Hughes’ timeless classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off spends an exciting and adventurous senior skip day with the titular high schooler (Matthew Broderick), his girlfriend, and neurotic best friend as they leave the suburbs behind and explore Chicago, taking in all the Windy City has to offer. That is unless it’s all in Cameron’s head.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can tells the remarkable true story of Frank M. Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young conman who uses his charisma, brains, and unique set of skills to become one of the most famous fraudsters the world has ever known. Life is fun and relatively easy for Abagnale as he takes on the role of doctor, pilot, and even a lawyer until tireless FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) catches up with him with an offer no one would want to refuse.
Before concluding his Dark Knight trilogy, director Christopher Nolan explored dreams, reality, and highly debatable movie endings with the 2010 sci-fi epic Inception. When master-thief Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is given the opportunity to be reunited with his kids and go home for the first time since the mysterious disappearance of his wife (Marion Cotillard), he puts together a team of experts to enter the dreams of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and extract classified information for one of the businessman’s biggest rivals. This, however, is easier said than done.
My Girl (1991)
Directed by Howard Zieff, the 1991 coming-of-age drama My Girl spends a summer with tomboy Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) and her best friend Thomas J. Sennett (Macaulay Culkin) as they enjoy what’s left of the fleeting moments of childhood. This summer will be unlike anything Vada has ever experienced for a myriad of reasons, including one so tragic it’s no wonder My Girl ends up on the list of saddest movies on Netflix.
Although not the best Paul Thomas Anderson movie, the director’s 1999 epic Magnolia spends more than three hours exploring the interconnected lives of a motivational speaker (Tom Cruise), his dying father (Jason Robards), a police officer (John C. Reilly), and nearly a dozen other characters whose own stories help paint the big picture.
Midnight Run (1988)
Martin Brest’s 1988 buddy action comedy Midnight Run follows bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) as he sets out to capture mob accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (the late Charles Grodin), who has skipped out on his bail. What follows is a cross-country adventure with the mob and FBI hot on their tail.
The Strangers (2008)
One of the most atmospheric and tense horror movies of the early 21st Century, the 2008 psychological horror film The Strangers tells the story of a couple whose stay at a remote vacation home becomes the stuff of nightmares when a group of masked intruders plays a series of sick and twisted games.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
When an unknown yet talented boxer by the name of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) walks into Frankie Dunn’s (Clint Eastwood) Los Angeles boxing gym looking to be coached by the prolific trainer, the closed-off old-timer is initially reluctant to help out in Million Dollar Baby. That soon passes and the two kindred spirits, alongside Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman) pull off the impossible both in and outside of the ring.
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (2021)
The 2021 Netflix original The Mitchells vs. the Machines follows Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) and the rest of her dysfunctional family as they embark upon a cross-country road trip that will forever change their lives. Partway through their journey, the family finds themselves in the middle of a global takeover being carried out by a rogue artificial intelligence with an army of robots at its disposal.
Mystic River (2003)
Three childhood friends, forever connected yet torn apart by a shocking event, find themselves facing another crisis when one of their daughters is found murdered in their Boston neighborhood. Clint Eastwood’s 2003 crime drama Mystic River was nominated for six Oscars at the 76th Academy Awards, bringing home two for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Supporting Actor (Tim Robbins).
One of the best Kurt Russell movies out there, the 1994 sci-fi action thriller Stargate follows Russell’s Jack O’Neil, a U.S. Air Force Special Operations officer, as he and Daniel Jackson (James Spader), an Egyptologist, lead an expedition to another universe through a powerful and mysterious portal.
Legally Blonde (2001)
There are few, if any, Reese Witherspoon characters more recognizable and well-remembered than Elle Woods in the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde. Witherspoon absolutely owns this movie with her portrayal of a sorority girl who finds the best way to get back at her ex-boyfriend: join him at Harvard Law School. Now we just need to figure out the Legally Blonde 3 status.
Uncut Gems (2019)
From the start all the way to the Uncut Gems ending, the Safdie brothers’ 2019 crime drama about a down-on-his-luck gambling addict Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is one hell of an anxiety-inducing thrill ride. This movie, though remarkable in multiple ways, will leave you on the edge of your seat biting at your cuticles even after the ending credits roll.
When confident yet cantankerous chef Casper (Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed the 2014 comedy) pushes things too far at his restaurant, he is forced to go on a soul-searching journey with his son and best friend to start a food truck and find out what got him cooking in the first place. Plus, there’s always the grilled cheese scene to help make Chef a must-watch.
David Fincher’s Mank (which was written by his late father in the 1990s) serves a flashy history lesson of 1930s Hollywood (and society as a whole) as experienced by alcoholic and sometimes unlikeable screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he writes Orson Welles’ crowning achievement Citizen Kane and deals with the fallout from the people on which his characters were based. This black-and-white affair is classic Fincher but with a “Golden Age of Hollywood” feel to it.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 epic There Will Be Blood follows the insanely successful and outright insane oil baron Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he goes from a meager silver miner with a broken leg to a power-hungry and obsessive tycoon of the industry with a trail of blood (figuratively and literally) in his wake.
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (2020)
Aaron Sorkin’s 2020 legal drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows the eight activists charged with starting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as they fight for their freedom (and rights) in a system that has the odds stacked against them. With outstanding performances from Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, and Frank Langella as the authoritative Judge Julius Hoffman, not to mention the classic Sorkin dialogue, it's not hard to realize why it’s one of the best Netflix movies of 2020.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)
It is hard to say who is the protagonist and who’s the antagonist in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but that doesn’t matter to the two leads (played by Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman) as their performances go above and beyond in this 2020 adaptation of a stage play about a high-tempered and heated recording session in 1920s Chicago. The biggest tragedy of this film is the fact that Boseman tragically passed away before he became aware of the universal acclaim his portrayal of Levee Green would receive upon its release.
About Time (2013)
There are few movies that hit as hard as About Time, and even after all these years, this 2013 comedy still gets me every time. Presented as a standard romantic comedy following a man (Domhnall Gleeson) who has the ability to travel back to any point in his life, Richard Curtis’ film is so much more than that. With a beautiful story about the bond between fathers and children and how there is no easy way out of life’s biggest problems, it’s about time to watch About Time again.
Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 black-and-white drama Roma follows the lives of domestic workers and the families whose lives they tend to set in 1970s Mexico City. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards (winning three) following its release, Roma is a touching and daunting feat in filmmaking, and helped further cement Cuarón’s place in movie history.
Lady Bird (2017)
There are few actor/director combinations that work better than Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan, and the 2017 coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird helps make a strong case. Two years before the pair teamed up for Little Women, Gerwig and Ronan told the story of a strong-willed teenager as she struggles with the decision to leave her home and family following high school graduation for a new life in California is filled with teen angst, optimism, and plenty of heart.
This is just a small portion of the best movies on Netflix, as there are literally thousands of decorated films from all corners of the earth. If you want to see all of the good movies on Netflix that are set to come out this year, check out CinemaBlend’s 2021 Netflix Movie Guide.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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