UPDATED: Disney’s Zootopia has been added to our list of the Best Movies on Netflix Australia – find out why you need to watch it on page 4!
If you’re new to Netflix and want to find the best movies to watch, or you’re tired of browsing the app for 30 minutes before finding something to watch, you’ve come to the right place. With thousands of movies at your disposal, it’s easy to get stuck in binge-watching mode, but finding the honest-to-goodness best films can be a bit of a hassle.
In an effort to determine the best of the best, we’ve put together a list of the greatest possible films you can watch – curated by TechRadar editors and backed up with ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – so that you don’t have to sift through the muck. We’ll keep this best-of list up to date with the latest movies that are must-watch, so you waste zero screen time searching.
Are TV shows more your scene? Here are the best TV shows on Netflix!
Wake in Fright
One of the most powerful and harrowing films in Australian cinema history, Wake in Fright forces audiences to take a good hard look at Australia’s destructively macho drinking culture. Marooned in a small outback town while he waits for a train to Sydney, schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) stops in at a local pub to pass the time. Sounds innocent enough, right? Unfortunately for John, a chance encounter with a pack of local louts sends him on an incredibly dark odyssey into the Australian heart of darkness. As shocking and menacing as any horror movie, Wake in Fright is an extremely confronting masterpiece that requires a strong stomach.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Following the enormous success of its original docu-series Making a Murderer, Netflix has once again returned to the ever-popular ‘true crime’ well with Amanda Knox. The Netflix Original documentary tells the harrowing story of an American exchange student who spent four years in an Italian prison after being convicted for the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher. Forced to endure the prosecution’s various character assassination tactics, including public slut-shaming, Knox maintains her innocence at all times, with her appeals eventually reaching Italy’s Supreme Court. Amanda Knox is an effective and truly eye-opening documentary that is not to be missed.
IMDB Rating: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Drive is the film that made it cool to love Ryan Gosling. Based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis, this pulpy thriller is one of the most stylish films of the last decade, having almost single-handedly revived the neon ’80s synth-pop scene. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Only God Forgives), Drive sees Gosling play a nameless stunt driver who works as a shady wheelman by night. When a job goes horribly wrong, this ‘driver’ must dispense violent justice to make things right for those he cares for. The film’s immense influence can be felt across all forms of media – the video game Hotline Miami, in particular, owes a large debt of gratitude to Drive. A loving ode to the early tough-guy crime movies of Michael Mann, Drive is essential viewing.
IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
It shouldn’t have been possible for what is ostensibly the seventh entry in the 40-year-old Rocky franchise to hit as hard as the original film, both physically and emotionally, but that’s exactly what the franchise spin-off Creed has managed to do. Aside from being an inspired idea (Rocky is now the trainer and his pupil is Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son, Adonis), the film succeeds in large part thanks to the efforts of director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and his star, Michael B. Jordan (also from Fruitvale Station). Through their collaborative efforts, the two have shown all the makings of what could become the next great Scorsese/De Niro-style partnership. It also features a tremendous Oscar-nominated performance from the Italian Stallion himself, Sylvester Stallone. A true knockout.
IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
While the first rule of Fight Club may be that you shouldn’t talk about Fight Club, it’s extremely hard to keep quiet about a film as provocative as this. Though its messages are based in extremely dark satire, David Fincher’s film is as nihilistic and anarchistic as any major film studio has ever produced. Violent, gross and incendiary, Fight Club sees emasculated males bash each other’s faces in to make themselves feel manly once more. While the film’s themes are intended in jest, they certainly resonated strongly with certain fans, many of which would go on to start their own fight clubs. Despite being misunderstood by its biggest admirers, Fight Club is one of the must-see films of the late ’90s.
IMDB Rating: 8.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Way back in 1999, The Matrix blew audiences away with its amazing special effects, mind-bending sci-fi plot, incredible wire-fu action scenes, wonderfully era-appropriate industrial soundtrack and spectacular bullet-time camerawork. Though writer-director siblings The Wachowskis would eventually follow it up with two lacklustre sequels, nothing could diminish the story of a virtual superhero named Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his awakening from a lifelike illusion. Neo learns that our world is just a virtual construct developed by machines in order to enslave humanity and use us as batteries to keep itself alive – not the best news to wake up to, that’s for sure. In the words of Keanu himself, The Matrix is one film that is guaranteed to make you say “whoa”.
IMDB Rating: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
One of the most charming and purely enjoyable films that Marvel has made to date, Ant-Man burrows its way into our hearts thanks to its light-hearted tone, likeable characters and comedic acumen. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an ex-con that just wants to do right by his daughter, so when the opportunity calls for him to use his thieving skills for good, he goes for it. Before long, Lang finds himself teaming up with genius creator Hank Pym (Michael Douglass) and Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to become Ant-Man, a superhero that can shrink to microscopic sizes. Fast, funny and full of heart, Ant-Man leaves a very big impression for someone so small.
IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
City of God
If you’ve blasted your way through both seasons of Narcos and want another South American crime epic to get stuck into, consider City of God as your next destination. Based on true events that took place over three decades in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, the film accurately recreates the lively and energetic vibe of Brazil, but also counters it some truly harrowing scenes of devastating violence. In the ‘City of God’, children brandish firearms and kill each other indiscriminately over petty drug deals. While that might sound like too much to bear, the terrific filmmaking on display from Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund will keep you on the edge of your seat, as will the film’s authentic performers and compelling story. One of the greatest films of all time, City of God is like Goodfellas scored to a samba beat.
IMDB Rating: 8.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
The Silence of the Lambs
Simultaneously terrifying and mesmerising, The Silence of the Lambs is the film that catapulted the fictional character of Dr. Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter to mythic proportions. This brilliantly psychotic serial killer, played with great menace by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the role won him an Oscar, has since gone on be the subject of several films, books and even a fantastic television series. But while his impact on The Silence of the Lambs is huge, the story belongs to Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), an FBI trainee who is given the task of consulting with the infamous man-eater in an effort to track down a deranged killer that’s skinning his victims. Foster’s role is less showy but more impressive, played with equal parts determination and vulnerability. We fear for her because we see ourselves in her shoes, but also because we get a real sense of what drives her character, both emotionally and mentally. These characters may have appeared in many other films, but The Silence of the Lambs is still the best by a long stretch. A true masterpiece.
IMDB Rating: 8.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Director David Fincher revolutionised the modern-day serial killer thriller with his masterpiece, Se7en, so when it came time to revisit the genre with Zodiac, the visionary director opted to tear it back down again (in a good way, that is). Eschewing the grim flashiness of the aforementioned film, Zodiac follows the true (and still unsolved) Zodiac murder spree that occurred across the US during the 1960s-70s. Fincher approaches the morbid material with the kind of journalistic attention to detail and intense investigation that would become incredibly popular several years later (just imagine how celebrated Zodiac would be if it were released now, in the time of total true crime obsession). Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, the real-life newspaper cartoonist that would eventually devote decades of his life in the pursuit of the Zodiac killer’s true identity. The rest of the cast ain’t shabby, either – Robert Downey Jr (not playing Iron Man), Mark Ruffalo (not playing Hulk), Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox and Chloë Sevigny star in supporting roles. A gripping true story, Zodiac is a must for devoted true crime enthusiasts.
IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Check out the trailer on YouTube
Watch it now on Netflix
Few films in the history of cinema are as powerful as Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, Taxi Driver. Made in the mid ’70s, back when New York was a rougher, dirtier place, the film practically oozes a scuzzy, neon-bathed atmosphere all of its own. Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a troubled, lonely Vietnam vet who takes a gig driving a cab because he just can’t sleep at night. Though he’s disgusted with the Big Apple’s sleazy, vice-filled ways, Travis can’t seem to stay away from its seedier areas, picking up questionable fares in bad neighbourhoods and frequenting scummy porno theatres in an attempt to cure his insomnia. After a failed attempt to start a normal relationship with political campaign worker Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), Travis meets a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster) as she attempts to run away from her despicable pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel). With his revulsion pushed over the edge, Travis stocks up on firearms and channels his immense anger and hatred into a mission to save Iris from her tragic circumstances. Fantastically directed and acted, and featuring the late, great Bernard Hermann’s haunting final score, Taxi Driver is a film that every lover of cinema needs to see.
IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Director Mary Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner did the unthinkable when they took on the job of adapting Bret Easton-Ellis’ hugely controversial and largely unfilmable book, American Psycho – they looked beyond the source material’s horrendously graphic and seemingly never-ending violence to focus on the scathing satire of the greed-obsessed ’80s buried underneath. Christian Bale solidified himself as one of the world’s most exciting actors in the role of Patrick Bateman, the Wall Street yuppie with an insatiable lust for blood and dinner reservations. Both shocking and hilarious, American Psycho is a remarkably clever cult classic.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
It took an agonising seven years for director Alfonso Cuarón to follow his masterful last film, Children of Men, but what an incredible follow-up! With Gravity, he sure did stick the landing (ahem) and hit this one right out of orbit (I’ll let myself out). This nail-bitingly intense film, in which Sandra Bullock’s character must use her wits to survive in space after a catastrophic shuttle accident, is a technical marvel – the kind of film that wows even the likes of James Cameron, who called Gravity “the best space film ever done.” A perfect marriage of drama and special effects, Gravity is an absolute classic.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
This Is England
A heartbreaking coming of age tale inspired by director Shane Meadows’ own life, This Is England tells the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a lonely, fatherless child (thanks to Maggie Thatcher’s Falklands War) who finds friendship in a group of local teenage skinheads. Though things start off well, Shaun eventually succumbs to the questionable guidance of a violent, racist named Combo (a never-better Stephen Graham) who returns to town after a stint in prison. Will Shaun be able to break away from Combo’s negative influence?
We’re not going to mince words here – This Is England is a genuine masterpiece of British cinema. Also worth watching are its three follow-up television miniseries’ – This Is England ’86, This Is England ’88 and This Is England ’90.
IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Okay, so you’ve watched all of Making a Murderer, The Jinx, West of Memphis and Dear Zachary, but still haven’t scratched that ‘True Crime’ itch? Well, it’s about time you add The Imposter to your queue. Released in 2012, this (almost unbelievable) documentary follows a young man from Spain who convinces a grieving Texas family that he is their missing 16-year-old son. Told through re-enactments, interviews and news footage, The Imposter is an utterly gripping tale that will make you doubt your own family members. Okay, maybe not, but it’s really damn good.
IMDB Rating: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
The film that finally won director Martin Scorsese a much-deserved Oscar, The Departed is a brilliant cops and gangsters movie that proves not all remakes of foreign films are bad. Closely based on the hugely successful Infernal Affairs series from China, The Departed relocates the action to Boston, placing undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) under the watchful eye of notorious gangster, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Meanwhile, Frank has a mole within the department in Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a man who’s been given the task of finding… himself. Can Billy identify the mole before the mole identifies him? Suspenseful, violent and hilarious, The Departed might be even better than its highly regarded source material.
IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Most of us have had relationships that ended in heartbreak, so if a company came along with the technology to delete the person that caused said heartbreak from your memory forever, would you do it? That’s the premise of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film from the brilliant, twisted mind of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation). Joel (Jim Carrey) is devastated when he runs into his ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), and realises she has no memory of him whatsoever. Unable to deal with the heartache, Joel contacts the company that did it so that he can do the same thing to his memories of her. However, as his bad memories start vanishing before him, the good ones do, too. Now, Joel wants out, but is it too late for him to stop it? Or will Joel lose Clementine forever? Cleverly realised by visionary director Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an undisputed masterpiece that demands to be watched.
IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
As we head towards a world in which Donald Trump could conceivably become the President of the United States, the satirical events of Idiocracy don’t seem so far-fetched. The film, by Office Space director Mike Judge, sees an average Joe (Luke Wilson, and yes his character’s name is literally Joe) sign up for a military hibernation program, only to wake up 500 years in the future. Joe discovers that the planet’s population has become so dumbed down, that he is now the smartest person in the world. Can Joe turn things around before Earth is completely ruined? Biting and hilarious, Idiocracy will open your eyes to all the dumb stuff we casually accept in the world.
IMDB Rating: 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
One of the great comic book movies of the nineties, nay, of all time, The Crow is a visually spectacular revenge film that sees a murdered rock star return from the grave to kill the men responsible for killing him and his fiancee on the eve of their wedding. Tragically, lead star Brandon Lee lost his life in a freak accident on set involving a faulty prop gun. Set to be a breakthrough role for Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, the film was eventually completed by director Alex Proyas in an effort to honour his star and friend. Though this is a tough film that’s mostly dark, rainy and violent, there’s a warmth to The Crow that shines through the darkness, proving that when all hope seems lost, love can transcend even death.
IMDB Rating: 7.6, Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Okay, so it wasn’t quite as crowd-pleasing as its predecessor, The Avengers, but even Marvel’s above average efforts are still incredibly entertaining and spectacular. Laying the foundations for the upcoming film Captain America: Civil War, Age of Ultron juggles numerous characters and leaves them in places that will cause major ramifications for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A must-watch film for any fan of superhero movies.
IMDB Rating: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
One of the greatest comedies of the century, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is the movie that announced Will Ferrell as the comedic leading man that he was always destined to be. And how could it not? Just look at that majestic moustache! Set in the ’70s, Anchorman follows the exploits of San Diego’s most prestigious and popular local news anchor, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his all-male news team of Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) . Though he’s beloved by the whole city and considers himself the king of the town, Ron’s whole world is flipped upside down with the arrival of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an ambitious reporter who dreams of becoming the world’s first female news anchor. Of course, this flies in the face of the Ron and his team’s old-fashioned sexist worldview, bringing about a fierce battle of the sexes in the Channel 4 newsroom. Absurd, imaginative and utterly hilarious, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy just might be the finest hour of everyone involved. Watch it with a nice glass of scotch, in a room that smells of rich mahogany.
IMDB Rating: 7.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Watch the trailer on YouTube
Stream it now on Netflix
More than just a cute movie about talking animals, Disney’s Zootopia cleverly sneaks messages about prejudice, tolerance, and even the war on drugs, into its animated take on cop movie procedurals. Though its characters may be bunnies, foxes and other wild animals, the idea of not judging someone by their race (or in this case, species) is more important than ever right now. Gorgeously animated with loveable characters and a hilarious script full of jokes that only adults will get (there’s even a Breaking Bad reference at one point), Zootopia continues Disney’s streak of incredible animated films. Now bring on Zootopia 2!
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
While other films from the same time period have struggled to stay relevant, The Terminator remains as interesting and unique as it was 30 years ago. Plenty of reboots and sequels have come out since the release and though some have actually transcended the original critically – ahem, Terminator 2 – many aren’t worth the film they were printed on. If you’re looking for a retro masterpiece that holds up to modern-day cinema standards, you can stop searching.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Following the success of their classic rom-zom-com, Shaun of the Dead, director Edgar Wright, star and writer Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost teamed up once again to bring their hilarious sensibilities to the buddy-cop movie genre with Hot Fuzz. London super-cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is involuntarily transferred to a village in the English countryside for making his superiors look bad by comparison. There, he teams up with dim-witted (but well-meaning) cop Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and together, the pair uncover a murder conspiracy. If films like Point Break and Bad Boys II are in constant rotation at your place, you absolutely owe it to yourself to grab a Cornetto and watch Hot Fuzz.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
A heist thriller that doesn’t show the heist, Quentin Tarantino’s scintillating debut Reservoir Dogs announced the arrival of a major filmmaking talent who would go on to win multiple Oscars and secure himself amongst the all-time greatest writer-directors. After a botched jewellery store heist, a group of career criminals retreat to their hideout and try to figure out why the cops were practically already there waiting for them. Is there a rat inside the team? And if so, who is it? With an incredible cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Steve Buscemi, Reservoir Dogs is violent, offensive and utterly fantastic.
IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Watch the trailer on YouTube
Stream it now on Netflix
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A triumphant return to the screen for the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens sees the characters we love from the original trilogy, like Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia, set off another adventure with a new generation of wonderful characters. Ironically, for a series set among the stars, Director J.J. Abrams brings the franchise back to Earth by dialling down the CGI that hobbled the prequel trilogy – this is a Star Wars movie that uses real locations and sets, as well as puppets and actors in costume, to recreate the spirit of Episodes IV through VI. Featuring thrilling action, incredible special effects and terrific performances, The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars film in over 30 years.
IMDB Rating: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Rocky, the 1976 film about a nobody boxer who got a chance to fight the world heavyweight champion, Clubber Lang, almost didn’t happen. Stallone wrote the story with himself as the lead actor and refused to sell it until he got his way. The movie companies thought it was good, and even offered him $238,000 for it so long as they could have someone else besides Stallone, who had virtually zero acting experience at the time, cast as the eponymous role. Stallone held out. He had $106 in his bank account when he filmed Rocky. But his real-life resilience translated to his on-screen performance, making Rocky a must-watch.
IMDB Rating: 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Quentin Tarantino is loved and revered for his work in American cinema, and lately his takes on classic ’70s movies. Like his take on Inglourious Basterds before it, Django Unchained deals with role reversal in a historically controversial time. The story of revenge and justice, Django (played by Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) set off to hunt down a gang of felons before the ultimate promise of setting Django free. Like other Tarantino films, it doesn’t shy away from the grotesque and gory or mind going against the grain, making it easy to recommend and easier to watch time and time again. And, Netflix also provides QT fans with the ability to stream his classic films Inglourious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs.
IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Beasts of No Nation
As Netflix’s first original movie, Beasts of No Nation had a lot to prove. The VOD scene had traditionally been associated with low budget indies and D-grade horror films, but with Beasts of No Nation, Netflix managed to convince people that high quality (dare I say, Oscar-calibre) films could be streamed at home and shown in theatres at the same time. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective season 1), Beasts follows the loss of a child soldier’s innocence as he’s forced to do unspeakable things. The film hits like a sledgehammer, never shying away from the brutality and horror experienced by this young boy (played masterfully by newcomer Abraham Attah). Equally powerful is Idris Elba’s portrayal as the boy’s remorseless and despicable commander. Though not what you’d call a crowd-pleaser, we hope that Netflix continues to bring us brilliant films like this.
IMDB Rating: 7.9, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
The Dark Knight
A major turning point for the comic book movie genre, The Dark Knight saw the concept of a superhero film grow up significantly, with director Christopher Nolan approaching the material like a genuine crime film inspired by the films of Michael Mann. Gone were the days of cartoonish villains in a fantastical setting – Gotham City finally felt like a real place that was being held under a veil of terror by a genuinely frightening psychopath. Which brings us to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance (yes, this is a superhero movie that received an Academy Award for acting) as The Joker. Easily one of the most memorable performances of the last decade from any movie, the character instantly became one of the greatest villains in cinema history, cementing Ledger’s legacy shortly after his untimely death. Jared Leto has taken on the role of Joker in the film Suicide Squad, but chances are that he’ll never top our Heath.
IMDB Rating: 9.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
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