ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

The masterpieces that never made it into the multiplexes

20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see
Jon Mundy
06 April 2024

It used to be considered a poor reflection on the quality of a film when it skipped a cinematic release and went ‘straight to video’.

How times have changed. The modern version of this phenomenon is going ‘straight to streaming’, yet heading directly to a subscription service isn’t seen as a negative comment on a film’s worth. Rather, it often speaks to negative market forces and changing audience behaviour.

Indeed, there’s a prevailing sentiment among movie fans, critics and directors that many straight-to-streaming films have been underserved. That respected film makers are being forced to play to a fickle home viewing audience rather than having their work rewarded with the elevated status of a proper run in theatres.

On that last point, we should concede many of these films have technically been given a cinematic run of sorts. However, they’re typically extremely limited showings, both in terms of timing and in the sheer number of theatres.

In many cases, such cinematic runs exist solely and cynically to qualify them for awards consideration, or else to satisfy the demands of the filmmakers, who invariably wish their work to be experienced on the big screen.

All of which should tell you the following is no mere round-up of modern B-movies, but rather a collection of brilliant films that happened to get their financing from the new power brokers in Hollywood: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus.

20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

Prey could very well be the first genuinely good film in the Predator series since the Arnie-starring original from 25 years prior. Serving as a prequel of sorts, it sees Amber Midthunder’s underestimated native American warrior going toe to toe with a deadly alien hunter on the Great Plains in the early 18th century. Prey’s success lies in the way it gets back to basics, patiently focusing on character development and steadily ratcheting up the tension before all hell breaks loose.

19
1
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

2. Glass Onion

Stream now at Netflix

For his follow-up to the faulous Knives Out, Rhian Johnson takes his flamboyant detective Benoit Blanc (played by the outrageously accented Daniel Craig) and applies his suave talents to a murder mystery-gone-wrong on a tech bro’s private island. Featuring another stellar cast (Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista to name but a few) all playing various shades of awful people, Glass Onion is arguably even more riotously entertaining than the first film.

15
4
Thanks for voting

This modern riff on Groundhog Day may not quite have the universal appeal of Bill Murray’s classic – it’s far too R-rated for that. However, it does pack in lots of well calibrated comic time loop hijinks, as Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti meet at a sun-kissed wedding reception and find themselves caught in an endlessly repeating day. It’s technically a rom com, but Palm Springs is positively bursting with bright ideas and unexpected left turns.

13
3
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

4. Don’t Look Up

Stream now at Netflix

One of the most divisive films of recent years, Don’t Look Up’s story of an imminent comet-based disaster and the head-in-the-sand reaction from our political and media classes serves as a pretty broad satirical swipe against climate change denial. Even those who broadly agree with its political outlook and common sense truth telling might find some of the film’s shots to be a little on the nose, but the movie’s brash approach is never less than entertaining.

8
3
Thanks for voting

This low budget found footage horror movie from Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass really hits the spot. Struggling videographer Aaron (Brice) is offered $1,000 to spend the day filming the terminally ill Josef (Duplass), who ostensibly wishes to leave a video document for his unborn child. Uncomfortably friendly and prone to unpredictable behavioural turns, Josef’s eccentricities soon turn into something far more sinister – not helped by the remote rural location of his home, of course.

5
0
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

6. No One Will Save You

Stream now at Disney Plus

If A Quiet Place gave you a taste for laconic sci-fi, No One Will Save You is the perfect streaming-only follow-up. Kaitlyn Dever stars as a young isolated woman fighting off an otherworldly home invasion. Featuring just five words of dialogue in the entire film, No One Will Save You tells its story through tense cat and mouse set pieces and wordless action, leaning heavily on a deeply expressive performance from the excellent Booksmart actor.

3
0
Thanks for voting

You know those people who complain Pixar doesn’t make films like it used to? They usually forget about Soul. That’s probably because it didn’t receive its intended cinematic release, courtesy of the COVID–19 pandemic. We’re glad Disney Plus stepped up to the plate, because it’s a poignant gem of a film that tackles some weighty themes. Jazz musician Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) meets an untimely end, but manages to get another shot at life by mentoring a lost soul.

5
2
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

8. Mitchell Vs The Machines

Stream now at Netflix

Mitchell Vs The Machines is another animated triumph from the modern masters of the format, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). Olivia Colman voices the coolly calculating yet utterly psychotic AI, PAL, as she instigates a technological apocalypse. Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph voice the middle class American couple caught in the mayhem as they seek to drive their daughter across the country to college.

4
2
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

9. The Irishman

Stream now at Netflix

The Irishman brings one of Hollywood’s biggest directors to the straight-to-streaming party. It was Netflix that agreed to fund Martin Scorsese’s lavish historically based crime epic, and we’re glad that it did. Using cutting edge de-aging effects, it follows Robert De Niro’s Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran as he looks back on a misspent life of violence, and in particular a notorious hit on former friend and labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino.

8
6
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

10. Hellraiser

Stream now at Hulu

The surprise with this remake of the weirdest and most gruesome horror movies of the ’80s isn’t that anyone would attempt such a feat. It’s that it actually turned out as well as it did. Managing to match the freaky original for sheer sadomasochistic craziness, David Bruckner’s movie goes back to the source material of Clive Barker’s 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart and extracts an altogether slicker brand of infernal horror out of it.

3
1
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

11. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Stream now at Netflix

We still can’t quite get over the idea of The Coen Brothers – those uncompromising masters of modern auteur cinema – making a film for a streaming service. After watching The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, however, it’s difficult to imagine it being released in any other format. Its anthology structure, made up of six distinct western fables, resembles the kind of limited series that Netflix has built its name on, albeit with sky high production values and that customary off-kilter Coen sensibility.

6
4
Thanks for voting

Netflix produced its very own timeless Christmas movie in Klaus. Hiring Sergio Pablos to make his directorial debut was a good start, the Spanish animator having worked on Despicable Me and several of Disney’s overlooked ’90’s cartoons. What follows is a Father Christmas origin story of sorts, but the real point of interest is a striking hand-animated art style that looks quite unlike anything from the usual CGI crowd. An excellent cast includes J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Joan Cusack, and Jason Schwartzman.

5
4
Thanks for voting

David Michôd’s film is a historical epic of Shakespearean proportions – quite literally. Taking as its inspiration The Bard’s ‘Henriad’ plays, it’s a loose retelling of the life of Henry V, whose brief but militarily effective rule in the early 15th century turned England into a major force. Timothée Chalamet plays the young playboy-turned-ruler, while Robert Pattinson plays his rival the Dauphin of France, complete with outrageous French accent and improbable blonde wig.

3
3
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

14. Marriage Story

Stream now at Netflix

If there’s a modern movie that’s painted a better portrait of a failing marriage than the appropriately titled Marriage Story, we’ve yet to see it. Noah Baumbach’s frequently painful yet deeply sympathetic and ultimately redemptive film focuses in on Adam Driver’s theatre director and Scarlett Johansen’s actor as they stumble into a messy continent-spanning divorce. It could just be the director’s best film, regardless of its status as a Netflix production that received only a token cinematic run.

4
4
Thanks for voting

Director Doug Liman might be annoyed that his remake of the 1989 Patrick Swayze original went straight to streaming, but he really shouldn’t be. For one thing, it’s been incredibly popular, with record-breaking viewership on Amazon Prime Video. For another thing, it’s precisely the kind of film you want to throw on at home of a Friday night. It won’t be winning any awards, but its vibrant brand of hyper-violence provides ample trashy fun.

4
4
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

16. The Night Comes For Us

Stream now at Netflix

This Indonesian production from Timo Tjahjanto – one half of cult production duo The Mo Brothers – shows a typical flair for brutally choreographed violence. It also sees charismatic The Raid stars Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais reuniting and facing off against one another as former friends on opposite sides of a bitter triad dispute. The resulting action extravaganza is packed full of stunningly shot, wince-inducing action scenes. It’s difficult to imagine how any of the actors emerged unscathed.

1
1
Thanks for voting

Don’t let Nimona’s straight-to-Netflix status fool you – this is one of the freshest animated movies in recent years, right up there with Disney’s and Pixar’s most recent output. With a novel universe that mixes fantasy and sci-fi elements, a distinctive hand-drawn visual style (echoing its graphic novel source material), and a strong handling of LGBTQ issues, Nimona makes a strong impression. Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed lead a charismatic voice cast.

1
2
Thanks for voting
20 straight to streaming movies that you need to see

18. They Cloned Tyrone

Stream now at Netflix

They Cloned Tyrone is the rare film on this list that seems custom-made for streaming. How else to explains its curious mash-up of tone and genre? Part nod to ’70s exploitation movies, part paranoid conspiracy thriller, part sci-fi action adventure, you can almost hear the gears of that Netflix algorithm machine grinding in the background. Thankfully, the movie works on its own terms, thanks to a bold visual style and stellar performances from John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx.

2
3
Thanks for voting

Apple isn’t exactly mixing it with the big hitters when it comes to animated output, but in Wolf Walkers it has a movie that can stand with the best. This Irish production wraps up a loose trilogy of animated films based on Irish mythology, following on from The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. The young daughter of an English hunter finds herself unwillingly transplanted to 17th century Ireland, where she forms a close bond with a local feral child.

2
3
Thanks for voting

Alfonso Cuarón’s stunningly shot black and white paean to the Mexico City of his childhood follows a middle class family and their live-in indigenous housekeeper Cleo. As the idyllic veneer of the family privileged life starts to peel away due to infidelity, Cleo’s life is shaken when she falls pregnant. Cuarón’s camera expertly captures the beauty, political volatility, and unexpected violence of the time, while exploring two completely different but closely entwined worlds.

1
3
Thanks for voting