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The 15 Most Visually Stunning Films On Netflix

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Billy Wilder said that the best director is one you don't see, that if the thing you notice in any given scene is how beautifully it's shot then the director hasn't done his job, because he's making you look at him not the story. Mr Wilder had a point - Mr Wilder always had a point - but there is a counter-argument that gorgeous imagery can make a film, if it sucks you into something magical and transports you somewhere.

Here are 15 of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful films available to watch on Netflix, some of them because they offer big, bursting shots of colour, but some because they offer something weird and unusual, a different way of capturing the world. Everyone, though, is worth watching even with the sound off.

(Images: AllStar/Rex)

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Only God Forgives

Where his previous film, Drive, was steeped in the hazy, sleazy glow of late-night LA, Nicholas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives has the garish, dangerous look of backstreet Bangkok. While the film, in which Ryan Gosling plays a man on a mission to avenge his brother's death, got more mixed reviews than Drive, there's no denying that this is another visual knockout.

Watch it here

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Amelie

Jean-Pierre Jeunet has never made an ugly movie, but until Amelie there was a menace to his visuals, a feeling that something horrible was lurking - because in Delicatessen and Alien Resurrection it usually was. But here the story is so romantic - Amelie is a woman who obsessively aids the romantic lives of others but spares no time for her own - that the pictures soften to match. It's a great big colourful dream of a movie.

Watch it here

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Chasing Ice

Director Jeff Orlowski has some great scenery to work with in this documentary about James Balog, a nature photographer attempting to capture, through time-lapse photography, the rapid disappearance of the world's glaciers. Elegant, icy vistas abound in a film that is shocking as it is stunning.

Watch it here

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The second in the Hobbit trilogy is both a big step up in terms of action-packed storytelling and also in terms of photography. There's a haunting beauty to Gandalf's adventures, a more story-bookish jollity to the dwarfs' travails and in the moment that the almighty dragon Smaug is revealed through a shower of ill-gotten gold, perhaps the best single shot of 2013.

Watch it here

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Baraka

A hypnotic watch, this marries beautifully shot footage to music to describe the relationship between man and nature. There are no words, just lots of time to think and look at the pretty pictures.

Watch it here

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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Director Brad Silberling and superstar cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeszki (Gravity, Tree of Life) create visuals that exactly mesh with the playful creepiness of the Lemony Snicket books, in which a trio of orphans consistently evade the murderous intentions of their mad uncle (played with full force by Jim Carrey). It's just a shame we only got one entry.

Watch it here

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Skyfall

Not only the highest-earning Bond movie, and arguably the very best, Bond 23 was also unquestionably the most beautiful. Whether it's that first reveal of 007 emerging from distant blurry shadow into gun-toting clarity, or the chinese lantern-lit entrance to the casino, or the moody photography of Bond's ancestral home, almost every one of cinematographer Roger Deakins' shots is worth hanging on a wall.

Watch it here

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The Royal Tenenbaums

Wes Anderson is a genius of composition. Every shot in every one of his films is so carefully considered that there's never even a hair out of place. This, one of his most enjoyable movies, is also one of the most elegant. It's not as lavish as, say, The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it's so stylishly put together that it's been copied by no end of photographers and hipsters.

Watch it here

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Revolver

There was much argument at time of release about what exactly Guy Ritchie was trying to say in this puzzling crime caper - if you've worked it out please tell us - but there was no argument about how striking he'd made his strange fourth movie look.

Watch it here

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Sin City

Adapting the look of Frank Miller's stark comic books to screen was no simple task, but he and Robert Rodriguez succeeded brilliantly. The look is over-processed black-and-white with infrequent shots of garish colour, making for a look that's as cool and surprising as the crime-sodden potboiler it's illustrating.

Watch it here

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The Tempest

Julie Taymor always makes her movies look magical and otherworldly, and that's especially true of her adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, which is the perfect match for her look. It's by turns ethereal and earthy and threatening.

Watch it here

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There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson's attention to detail in his films is always masterful, particularly in his best film - no arguments - in which Daniel Day Lewis plays lunatic oil baron Daniel Plainview, who values power above all else. The cinematography and music work together to create an almost horror movie tone, with Plainview's madness the monster. Regular PTA cinematographer Robert Elswit's shots are often full of space, nothing around for miles but Plainview and his resentments.

Watch it here

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Tron: Legacy

In 1982, Tron looked like the bleeding edge of everything, creating visuals using computers in a way that blew the minds of all who saw them (minds were much easier to blow in the 80s). But in 2010 those blocky, candy-coloured images wouldn't cut it. Now we had bigger - no, smaller - computers that made those 1982 computers look like an old typewriters made of rotten wood. And so Joseph Kosinski updated the computer world of Tron and lo, it did look amazing.

Watch it here

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Toy Story 3

Admit it, you sobbed your eyes out at the (perhaps) final adventure of Buzz, Woody and co. And there's no shame in that. Part of the emotional heft of that story was down to the impeccably framed animation, which veered between the colourful and joyous, and the off-kilter and sinister. Think of that shot of the whole gang sliding down a mountain of trash to certain flaming death. It's beautiful and horrifying and gives that moment just the right amount of grandeur.

Watch it here

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Upstream Color

Upstream Color isn't a movie that appears to particularly wants to be understood. It starts out reasonably coherent, with a woman and a man both struggling to readjust to life after being poisoned with a mysterious hallucinatory substance. Then it drifts off into a surreal state, with the story only holding together with the softest grip. The imagery tallies with that, with a dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish quality, that makes you never quite sure what you're meant to think or feel.

Watch it here

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