The best movies on Netflix (May 2021): the best Netflix films
The best Netflix movies right now - fantastic movies to stream.
These are the best movies on Netflix, the great flicks old and new that have arrived on the service recently and are already proving to be popular. Netflix has made quite the name for itself as a purveyor of top quality, original TV content. But that’s only half the story for the world’s premier streaming service. It’s also a great source of films, from Originals to classics, blockbusters to indie films.
UPDATE: Given the disparity between the best Netflix movies in the UK and US (and elsewhere), we have added an indicator to all of our entries, noting whether they are available in the UK, the US or both. We will keep this updated. Where a movie isn't available in your region, we have tried to offer other places to watch the film.
That's one of the main reasons we love the Netflix film library, it may not be comprehensive, but it does turn up its fair share of established cinematic treats. Netflix also seems to be getting better and better at producing its own original movies - you only have to look at Roma and The Irishman to see this.
Here, then, is a round up of some of the best recent additions to the Netflix film library. Do keep in mind that the non-Netflix Originals will likely be on borrowed time, so don’t drag your feet on pressing that play button if you see something you like. Some titles tend to stay on Netflix for years, others are gone within a month or so.
Additional reporting: Becca Caddy
Need more of a Netflix fix? Then these guides are for you:
- Best horror movies on Netflix
- Best cult movies on Netflix
- Best documentaries on Netflix
- Best crime dramas on Netflix
- Best Netflix UK Shows
- Best Netflix Originals
- Best Netflix stand-up shows
The best movies on Netflix right now
1. The MartianWatch on Netflix now
While there are plenty other sci-fi gems on Netflix we could have chosen - including Looper - we have a massive soft spot for The Martian. Based on the book by Andy Weir (which you can devour in one sitting and is punch-the-air good), the movie sees Matt Damon's Mark Watney stranded on Mars, after his craft crashes. What seems like an impossible place to survive at the beginning starts to look liveable, thanks to Watney's ingenious fixes. Directed by Ridley Scott, this is the director's best work in years.
2. InceptionWatch now on Netflix
A heist movie set in the dream-state mind of someone. That's the basic premise of Inception, a high-concept, high-octane thriller by Christopher Nolan that's tough to understand but fantastic to watch. Leonardo DiCaprio leads the dream bandits who are looking to win big by delving into the subconscious of others. Nolan's next movie Tenet is said to have links to Inception, which makes us even more excited for it.
3. Monty Python’s Life of BrianWatch now on Netflix
You can take your pick of Python movies as both The Holy Grail and The Meaning of Life are also on Netflix but, for us, The Life of Brian is Monty Python’s absurdist masterpiece. The movie caused controversy when first released but that doesn’t really come through now, given the likes of the South Park crew pushing this even further. But what remains is a fantastically funny movie that shows Python in its prime. Lovely stuff.
4. MoneyballWatch now on Netflix
This is old-school filmmaking at its finest. Based on a true story, Brad Pitt stars as general manager of the Oakland As. He needs to build a team, with little money, and decides to ‘moneyball’ the situation - choosing players that aren’t exceptional but they all have certain characteristics needed to make a great team. Jonah Hill also stars as the economics graduate that helps Pitt come up with his analytics. As with all the best sports movies, you don’t need to know a thing about baseball to enjoy this movie.
5. 12 Years A SlaveWatch now on Netflix
Some movies aren't meant to be enjoyed, but experienced. This is one of these movies. Whatever brutality besets those on the screen, just remember that these events happened in real life. 12 Years A Slave is an astonishing piece of work by director Steve McQueen. It holds a mirror up to a part of US (and British) history that should not be forgotten - watch this movie and we assure you that you won't forget it anytime soon.
6. NightcrawlerWatch now on Netflix
Jake Gyllenhaal shines in the lead role of Nightcrawler as Louis Bloom, a man who records violent scenes and car crashes late at night around Los Angeles before selling the footage to a local TV station. It's a hard-hitting thriller that raises important questions about journalism and the public's desire to be the first to see horrific scenes on their TV. It received widespread critical acclaim when it was released in 2014 and was nominated for an Academy Award.
7. The Truman ShowWatch now on Netflix
There is so much about The Truman Show that was ahead of its time. Filmed before the glut of reality TV shows put ordinary lives in the spotlight, the movie showed what can happen to someone when their whole life turns out to be a lie that’s watched by billions. Jim Carrey is sublime here, perhaps offering up his greatest performance . He manages to give Truman enough wide-eyed innocence for you to believe that he has no idea what’s going on, then manages to flip this when everything is revealed. Fantastic stuff.
8. Spirited AwayWatch now on Netflix
Perhaps the greatest animation ever made (it's certainly the best thing by Studio Ghibli), Spirited Away is a masterclass of emotions. Filled with the supernatural and the wonderful you have some to expect from anime, the movie focuses on Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl who is unhappy about moving house. It turns out, though, her new home is near something called The Land of Spirits. Beautiful stuff.
9. PrisonersStream now on Netflix
Before he ventured into Blade Runner territory, director Denis Villeneuve made this superb, dark thriller about a missing girl and her friend. Hugh Jackman stars as the father who takes matters into his own hands when the police leads lead to nothing. Things get very dark indeed, but this is a brilliant edge-of-you-seat rollercoaster.
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10. DeadpoolWatch now (Netflix)
Now he's part of the Marvel world, we may never see the likes of the Deadpool and Deadpool 2 movies again. Yes they are crude but they are also blisteringly funny with Ryan Reynolds nailing the part of Deadpool. Directed by SFX supremo Tim Miller, this isn't one for the kids but definitely one for those who want sex jokes, mixed in with their superhero adventures.
11. ScarfaceWatch now on Netflix
If there was an '80s movie that reeks of the decade it was made, Scarface is it. It is full of excess: Al Pacino’s acting, the coke mountains, the costumes and the houses - all over the top and brilliantly so. It’s perfect for a film that’s about the rise of Tony Montana, an immigrant who, in search of the American dream, leads a lavish life of crime.
12. ContagionWatch now on Netflix
We don't think it's a coincidence that Netflix has added Contagion to its movie catalogue this month – and it's already proving to be a big streaming hit. It turns out there must be something oddly cathartic about watching a movie about a pandemic that has similarities to what we're going through right now – but in actual fact is much worse. Of course you'd expect that from a Hollywood movie about a pandemic. There's great performances here from the likes of Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne. But having said that, if you're worried about what's happening right now, it might be best to skip this one and check out something lighter instead.
13. Se7enStream now (Netflix)
Yes, the serial killer in the movie is now more problematic thanks to its actor, but if you can look beyond this then Se7en is a classic of the crime genre. Based on a killer who is offing people using the seven deadly sins, it’s a twisty tale that keep surprising you right up until the horrific end reveal.
14. The PrestigeStream now (Netflix)
Chris Nolan may have made his name thanks to the Batman franchise, but his original movies really are where his best work is. The Prestige has all the hallmarks of Nolan: time shifting, a curate's egg of a plot and absolutely no dumbing down to the audience. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are brilliant at the warring magicians who are both looking for the ultimate illusion. And David Bowie as Nicola Tesla is just inspired.
15. The IrishmanWatch now on Netflix.
"I hear you paint houses?" That line sets the scene for The Irishman, an epic 3.5 hour movie that is everything you want from a Martin Scorsese / Robert DeNiro link-up. This is a film about Frank Sheeran, a hitman and his ties to the mob. It spans decades and while the de-aging doesn't always work, this is a movie that demands to be watched on the biggest screen possible - slightly ironic, given many of you will be giving it a spin on your smartphones first.
16. Midnight CowboyWatch now on Netflix
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman star in this classic 1969 drama about an unlikely friendship between prostitute Joe Buck (played by Voight) and conman Ratzo Rizzo (played by Hoffman). Based on a 1965 novel of the same name, it scooped three Academy Awards when it was first released and is considered one of the best American films ever made.
17. My Neighbour TotoroWatch now on Netflix
Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbour Totoro is now on Netflix - and will be one of the first of many new Ghibli movies coming to the streaming platform soon. This 1988 animated movie written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of two girls (Satsuki and Mei) who befriend wood spirits.
18. The Social NetworkWatch now on Netflix
The beginnings of Facebook doesn’t sound like the most riveting of stories but it really is, thanks to David Fincher’s fantastic film. We follow Mark Zuckerberg from a geek who wants to get laid, to a geek that wants to rule the world - and it’s fantastic to watch. It’s played like a thriller and Fincher manages to make people typing just as riveting as them fighting for Facebook’s future in the courts.
19. American PsychoWatch now on Netlfix
American Psycho recently celebrated its 20th birthday and it hasn’t aged a bit. It’s as sharp as ever, thanks to a sublime performance by Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, the Wall street ‘psycho’ of the title. Director Mary Harron packs a lot into the movie: there’s a constant feeling that Bateman is close to being caught, yet he continues. He’s a symbol in the film - the 80s personified, showing that if someone represented all the greed, power, bad music tastes and everything else from that decade they would, well, flip.
20. ZodiacWatch now (Netflix)
If you are a fan of David Fincher’s Mindhunters then you will love Zodiac. It’s like a movie version of the show, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr all trying to find out just who the Zodiac killer is. Based on the brilliant book by Robert Graysmith’s fantastic book this is one of the best movies about a serial killer - just don’t go in expecting a conclusion that wraps everything up.
21. Uncut GemsStream on Netflix now
One of the most stressful movies you will ever watch, Uncut Gems should come with an anxiety warning. But it is worth it as this is one of the best movies of the year, and some of the best work Adam Sandler has done. The plot is slight: a jeweller tries to pull off something that will make him a whole lot of money - unless it goes wrong and then everything is at stake.
22. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-VerseView now on Netflix
This bold, fresh and insanely watchable new take on Spider-Man brings the Miles Morales Spider-Man from the comics to the screen, along with fan favourite Spider Gwen and plenty of new characters too. Featuring voice performances from a great and diverse cast, including Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry and many more, this movie is funny, moving and absolutely breathtakingly beautiful in equal measures. A great watch for all the family.
23. WarriorWatch now on Netflix
Gavin O'Connor’s exceptional drama is wrought with emotion, packed with punches and contains a trio of towering performances from Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. The plot is slight: two estranged brothers find themselves against each other after they both decide to compete in an MMA tournament. It’s a sports movie, sure, but there’s enough here for everyone to like.
24. Dolemite Is My NameWatch on Netflix
It's great to see Eddie Murphy back to his best in this biopic of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian in the 70s who hits the big time with his rude, crude alter ego - a pimp named Dolemite. Moore made a big-screen version of Dolemite, dipping his toes into the blacksploitation movement at the time but he's also seen as one of the forefathers of rap. This movie brilliantly shows off all of this and more.
25. Mission: Impossible - FalloutWatch now (Netflix)
The latest and the best Mission: Impossible. Even six films deep, this series gets better and better with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt on the search for a group of terrorists who plan to detonate nuclear missiles in different places around the world. Henry Cavill and his moustache also star.
26. WatchmenWatch now (Netflix)
Although we would recommend the directors’ cut, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie is a brilliant watch. Yes, it’s flawed but it does enough to make sure the seminal graphic novel isn’t ruined for the big screen - and the emphasis is very much on the graphic here, as he tells a tale of what happens when superheroes are outlawed.
27. Marriage StoryWatch now on Netflix
Marriage Story is a devastating but poignant look at a marriage slowly breaking up and the effects it can have when there is a child in the picture. This is Noah Baumbach’s latest, and best, drama and is loosely based on the filmmaker’s own divorce experience. It stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson and is a must watch (but bring some tissues).
28. HereditaryWatch now on Netflix
It’s always good when a horror movie transcends the schlock and seediness that the genre pumps out at a regular rate (which is still great, if you are in that sort of mood). Hereditary is brutal and breathtaking - focused on an artist, played perfectly by Toni Collette, whose mother passed away. The death uncovers some shocking truths and even more shocking supernatural goings on.
29. The Peanut Butter FalconWatch now (Netflix)
A few years back it was thought Shia Leboeuf's career was dead and buried but he's slowly but surely become one of the most important voices in cinema - The Peanut Butter Falcon proves this, where he plays Tyler, an outcast who trains up Zak, a person with Down syndrome who dreams of becoming a wrestler. This odd couple buddy movie is full of heart, as well as some laughs and heart-string tugging along the way.
30. The Trial of the Chicago 7Stream now (Netflix)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is Aaron Sorkin on top form. He writes and directs this true story about the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There’s an all-star cast that bolsters the movie but the real star is the dialogue.
31. The First ManWatch now (Netflix)
The First Man is a poetic, personal look at Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon. Charting his rise from fighter pilot to astronaut, this is a tale about how men got on the moon and the families and staff that got them there. Ryan Gosling is great as Armstrong and the moment he goes to space is jaw-dropping to watch.
32. The DigStream now (Netflix)
The Dig is fantastic old-school filmmaking. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of one of the most important archeological finds in the UK of all time and the person person whose land in Sutton Hoo is at the centre of it all Edith May Pretty. Carey Mulligan is superb as Pretty (although it does mean that her age is somewhat skewed as a result) and Ralph Fiennes is great as the archeologist hired for the dig.
33. The White TigerStream now (Netflix)
This adaptation of the exceptional novel by Aravind Adiga which won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. The White Tiger centres on Balram Halwai, a village boy who rises from his caste but hides some pretty dark secrets while he does it. As book adaptations go, this is faithful to the text and is a great watch.
34. BumblebeeStream now (Netflix)
This is what a Transformers movie should be. Filled with the fun, hope and action of the original cartoons, Bumblebee is a fantastic spin-off, which essentially reboots the flabby franchise. It focuses on the iconic Bumblebee, a robot who changes into a VW Beetle. Hailee Steinfeld is the human who befriends the Autobot and the whole thing just oozes childhood charm. Travis Knight is the director, taking what he’s learned from the Laika animations he created and does wonders here.
35. RomaStream now (Netflix)
Alfonso Cuarón directed and wrote this fantastic fable about a housekeeper of a middle class family in Columbia. The movie, shot in stark black and white won Cuarón another Oscar, which is utterly impressive given the non actors who appear in the film. The movie is a semi autobiographical and has more heart in its two hour run time than most of the movies you can watch on Netflix right now.
36. USStream now (Netflix)
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, this deeply unsettling horror movie is a must-watch if you like edge-of-your-seat scares with a great underlying story to boot. It's hard to tell you much about Us without immediately giving away important details, but let's just say it's a tale about doppelgangers and leave it at that! It's one of the best horror movies in recent years, which isn't a surprise given Peele was the great mind behind Get Out.
37. News of the WorldStream now (Netflix)
No, it isn't about the rise and fall of the British newspaper but News of the Worldis swooping drama focused on a civil war vet that goes from town to town reading the news to people. Along the way he picks up an abandoned girl and tries to get her back to her relatives. Both Tom Hanks and newcomer Helena Zengel are superb, as is director Paul Greengrass' adept eye.
38. Pieces of a WomanStream now (Netflix)
Pieces of a Woman has a central performance by Vanessa Kirby that's nothing short of Oscar worthy. But, be warned, it's not for the faint hearted as she goes through a traumatic pregnancy that's show in a heart-wrenching 23-minute sequence. The rest of the film shows the aftermath of what happens and is a devastating but compelling watch.
39. The NightingaleWatch now on Netflix
Jennifer Kent, the director of The Babadook, decided to focus on a whole new area of horror for Nightingale Clare - that of revenge. Set in 19th Century Tanzania it’s a tough watch, following Aisling Franciosi Clare, a Irish servant, who is sexually abused and assaulted by her boss, Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin). As retribution, she heads with a black guide to track down Hawkins and his group. What ensues is not for the faint-hearted.
40. Ma Rainey’s Black BottomStream now (Netflix)
Sadly this is the final film of Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in 2020. But what a film it is, based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. Based on the life of Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), an under-appreciated but hugely influential blues singer. The movie is set, mostly. in the confines of a recording studio but its themes of race and racism echo what was happening in 20s America at the time.
41. Saint FrancesStream now (Netflix)
A raw, funny and truthful look at motherhood, Saint Frances follows Kelly O’Sullivan as someone who gets pregnant by accident and becomes the nanny to six-year-old Frances. There's a big bunch of taboo busting in this movie and it's fresh and exciting because of it.
42. Sorry To Bother Youwatch now on Netflix
This isn’t a movie for the faint hearted. Boots Riley’s directorial debut is a tale of race and capitalism, and the extreme measure people go to get to the top and make lots of money. Gilliam-esque, we see a grotesque world that’s run by billionaires who want to go much further than just controlling everyone through capitalism. Achingly funny in places and surreal in others, Sorry To Bother You will be too weird for some but those that stick with it will love it. It’s utterly unique and a movie that will stay with you for a long time.
43. Yes. God, YesWatch now on Netflix
This is a decent stab at a coming-of-age story that has a focus on the coming, thanks to Alice (Natalia Dyer) having a sexual awakening that makes here start to question her Catholic faith. This film is lean, at just 77 minutes so it breezes by with a fantastic central performance by Dyer.
44. His HouseWatch now on Netflix
Netflix has got something of a gem with His House. It's a scary film, focus on a haunted house of sorts that an immigrant family moves into. But the horror doesn't start there but within the system of trying to make a life for themselves in the UK. This really is a pertinent must watch.
45. BabyteethStream (Netflix)
There is no better actress than Eliza Scanlen right now and she is fantastic in Babyteeth, where she is an ill teenager that falls in love with a drug dealer. It's an eccentric high-school romance that superbly played out. Ben Mendelsohn is also great as her psychiatrist father.
46. The VigilStream now (Netflix)
Netflix has a decent amount of chilling horror on its roster right now and The Vigil is definitely one of the scariest. It focuses on a possession of sorts that happens when a man is watching over a deceased lady, as per the Hasidic Jewish faith. It's set over one night and is filled with dread and jumps.
47. MankWatch now (Netflix)
A thrill ride through 30s Hollywood, Mank is David Fincher at his finest, offering up a love letter to the movies and using every inventive trick to make you think that you are in that period. At its heart, the movie is about a bed-ridden, rather obstinate, Herman Mankiewicz, the writer of Citizen Kane. Throughout we see the Hollywood system at work, shot with a deft eye that homages the 30s brilliantly. Fincher here is actually directing his late father's script. He doesn't just do it justice, but has created a classic in the process.
48. I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsStream now (Netflix)
Charlie Kaufman movies are always unconventional and brilliant and I’m Thinking of Ending Things is of no exception. The movie is conventional enough in its plot - a woman (Jessie Buckley) spends time with her boyfriend’s family after the weather turns bad. But what ensues is an exploration of the mind and all the complications that come with this.
49. Da 5 BloodsWatch now on Netflix
Spike Lee's latest joint is one of his best movies. Delroy Lindo heads up a fantastic cast, in a film which sees four black army veterans return to Vietnam to find the remains of their squad leader (played by Chadwick Boseman). Shot in differing aspect ratios, with numerous flashbacks, the movie tackles black discontent, both in the Vietnam war and now. Given what's happening in the world at the moment, there is no better time to watch this movie.
50. La La LandWatch now on Netflix
One of the loveliest movies to come out in recent years, La La Land is a great big throwback to the Hollywood musicals of old. Starring the brilliant Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as two people who fall in love while trying to make it big as an actress and piano player respectively. While it doesn't turn out quite how you expect, the movie is a love letter of sorts to movies.