The 50 best movies on Netflix UK

Critic Lillian Crawford has combed the Netflix’s UK library, writing the definitive list of the best 50 movies currently available to stream.

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An Easy Girl (2019)

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Few filmmakers capture summertime like French director Rebecca Zlotwosksi, and nowhere better than in her 2019 drama An Easy Girl. With remarkable lead performances from Mina Farid and Zahia Dehar, the film explores female sexuality in the vein of New Wave directors like Éric Rohmer. It’s tucked away on Netflix UK, but is certainly worth seeking out.

Annihilation (2018)

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Alex Garland is very hit-and-miss as a director, but his 2018 adaptation of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is his most successful cinematic endeavor. Led by some of the greatest working actresses today, including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson, it’s a sci-fi adventure quite unlike any other.

Apollo 10 ½ (2022)

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Richard Linklater’s latest animated feature following Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly similarly uses rotoscoping to tell a coming-of-age story set during the events preceding the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Inspired by Linklater’s own childhood, the film stars Glen Powell, Jack Black, Zachary Levi, and Josh Wiggins in its voice cast. Linklater crafts a moving story through beautiful animation filled with nostalgia for the height of the Space Race in the 1960s.

Atlantics (2019)

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There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Atlantics, the directorial debut of French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop. Both a class drama and a ghost story, the Dakar-set film defies genre classification, and is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Claire Mathon. It is a wholly unique work released in the UK by Netflix.

Bridesmaids (2011)

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In 2011 Paul Feig shook up the American romcom when he directed Bridesmaids. Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, who stars in the lead role, the film changed the game for woman-led comedy and has influenced almost every film in the genre since. Still one of the funniest films out there.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

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Dappled by the Northern Italian sun, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer play young lovers in this tender gay coming-of-age drama directed by Luca Guadagnino. The film was adapted by James Ivory from André Aciman’s 2007 novel, and features a heart-wrenching supporting turn from Michael Stuhlbarg. It also has a gorgeous soundtrack, including two original songs by Sufjan Stevens.

The Card Counter (2021)

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The follow-up to Paul Schrader’s thematically similar First Reformed is a gripping crime drama about a gambler dealing with an ethical crisis after an eight-year term in military prison. The title character, William Tell, is magnificently played by Oscar Isaac at his most cooly elusive, appearing alongside Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, and Willem Dafoe.

Chicago (2002)

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The most recent musical to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Chicago is a spectacular adaptation of the classic stage musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb. It stars Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly, the two smoking hot murderesses aided in their evasion of justice by the fast-talking lawyer Billy Flynn (played by Richard Gere).

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

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Set in the world of high fashion and magazines, this simple tale of a young journalist-cum-PA became a modern classic. Anne Hathaway leads the film as the hapless Andy Sachs, but it’s Emily Blunt as couture snob Emily Charlton and Meryl Streep as demonic editor-in-chief Miranda Priestley who steal the show. There’s even a musical version written by Elton John on the way.

Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020)

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Director Kirsten Johnson made a name for herself in 2016 with the autobiographical documentary collage film Cameraperson. This follow-up turns the camera on Johnson’s father Richard, who suffers from dementia, a condition which has made the director more aware of her father’s mortality. To reckon with this, she stages a sequence of deaths making light of his inevitable fate. It’s a darkly hilarious and consistently imaginative look at how we can never brace ourselves for grief.

Disclosure (2020)

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Sam Feder’s 2020 documentary Disclosure is essential viewing, especially in light of the growing wave of transphobia across the globe. A host of talking heads including Laverne Cox and Lilly Wachowski dissect representations of trans* people throughout the history of cinema, and gesture towards a more positive future.

Dune (2021)

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Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction novel has often been described as unfilmable, not least after an attempt by David Lynch flopped in the 1980s. Denis Villeneuve took up the mantle with the benefit of modern special effects to bring the giant sandworms of Arrakis to life. The film is aided by an epic cast, led by Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and including Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem.

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

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Wes Anderson first proved himself as a master of stop-motion animation with this beautiful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel. Despite the book’s British origins, it works perfectly with an all-American voice cast, led by George Clooney and Meryl Streep, appearing alongside Anderson staples Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and, of course, Bill Murray. It also features a delightful cameo from Jarvis Cocker.

The Favourite (2018)

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Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has made a name for himself as one of the strangest directors working today, combining surrealism with twisted cinematography and stunning production design. The Favourite tells the story of Queen Anne and the rivalry between her lovers Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham, although this it’s from a conventional period drama. Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz deliver sensational performances as the central trio.

Ghostbusters (1984)

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Forget the terrible modern reboots, there’s really only one Ghostbusters movie to call when there’s something strange in your neighbourhood. The film boasts a hilarious cast, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as the lead scientists, alongside brilliant supporting turns from Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. It also has one of the most iconic theme songs of all time.

Gone Girl (2014)

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Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her own bestselling thriller, director David Fincher brings his distinctive muted style to Gone Girl. Ben Affleck pales next to Rosamund Pike as the mesmerising Amy Dunne, whose performance received nominations at every major awards ceremony. The film also features supporting performances from Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon, as well as an intoxicating score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

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Perhaps the best adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s children’s book to date, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio puts a 1930s Italian fascism twist on the tale. Del Toro’s first cinematic foray into stop-motion animation is a breathtaking one, and no doubt many more beautiful features will follow.

Heat (1995)

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With a sequel currently in development, now’s the perfect time to return to Michael Mann’s magnum opus. Starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in the leading roles, the film follows the conflict between an LAPD detective and a career criminal, with a wider view to the nature of policing and criminality in America. Widely regarded as one of the finest of the crime genre, it only gets more compelling with age.

How To Blow Up A Pipeline (2022)

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Inspired by Andreas Malm’s book of the same name which argues for the use of property destruction to enact environmental justice, How To Blow Up a Pipeline is a tense film which imagines what the book’s thesis would look like in action. Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, the film follows a group of young people in West Texas attempting to blow up an oil pipeline at two key locations as a form of activism against Big Oil.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

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Known for his spiralling descents into the surreal, Charlie Kaufman has seldom been more abstract than in I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons go on a trip to visit his parents, played by Toni Colette and David Thewlis, which becomes about as nightmarish as an evening with the in-laws could possibly get.

In The Loop (2009)

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Few write satire as hilarious and incisive as Armando Iannucci, especially when channelled through the mouth of television’s master of profanity, Malcolm Tucker. Peter Capaldi reprises his iconic role from The Thick of It in this excellent comedy which brought the absurdity of British and American politics together. The film has a formidable supporting cast, including Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, and Chris Addison.

Is There Anybody Out There? (2023)

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This award-winning documentary follows filmmaker Ella Glendining on her search to find someone with a body that looks like hers. It’s a powerful exploration about the impact of representation, prejudice against disabled people, and the value of not feeling alone in the world. The film also features discussions of neurodivergence, and the question of whether or not a disability can or should be “cured.”

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017)

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This documentary about the American writer and essayist Joan Didion is very conventional in structure, but it still offers a fascinating interview with the writer herself prior to her death. Having written some of the most incisive journalism of the twentieth century, it’s refreshing to see the lens pointed back on to Didion herself.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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In the ‘Classics’ section of Netflix UK you’ll find this epic truly worthy of that accolade. Directed by David Lean and adapted from T.E. Lawrence’s 1926 autobiography Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the film stars Peter O’Toole at the height of his acting powers alongside Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Omar Sharif.

Le Départ (1967)

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Following a season of Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski’s films at the BFI, including donkey flick EO, Netflix has made available one of his finest works. Le Départ stars Jean-Pierre Léaud, best known for playing Antoine Doinel in films including The 400 Blows by François Truffaut, as a young man obsessed with obtaining a Porsche to drive in a race. It’s a stunning piece of cinema, with Skolimowski trying his hand at the style of the French New Wave.

Little Women (2019)

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott has been adapted for the screen numerous times, although this latest version directed by Greta Gerwig might be the best. She frees the structure into non-linear sequencing which allows for new parallels to be drawn in the lives of the March sisters, deftly led by Saoirse Ronan as Jo.

Logan Lucky (2017)

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Director Steven Soderbergh is a master of the heist movie (see also: the Ocean’s trilogy). Logan Lucky is a rather different sort of crime film, but no less entertaining than its starrier predecessors. Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig play a trio attempting to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway while evading security officers and the FBI.

The Lost Daughter (2021)

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Following her 2018 directorial debut The Kindergarten Teacher, Maggie Gyllenhaal returned behind the camera in 2021 with this psychological drama adapted from Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel. The film stars Olivia Colman, following on from her Oscar win for The Favourite, alongside Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, and Paul Mescal. She plays a college professor on holiday in Italy as memories of motherhood are reignited, leading to some unsettling introspection.

Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan in Maestro

Maestro (2023)

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Bradley Cooper’s second feature after his remake of A Star Is Born is similarly seeped in classic Hollywood style, this time telling the life story of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Cooper himself is transformed in the lead role, while Carey Mulligan delivers a tender and beautiful foil as Bernstein’s wife Felicia. It’s a truly stunning work, combining extraordinary cinematography with some of the greatest classical music ever written.

Mank (2020)

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David Fincher’s first Netflix feature film project was a realization of a script his father had written decades earlier about the writing of Citizen Kane by Herman J. Mankiewicz for Orson Welles. The film stars Gary Oldman as the struggling writer, alongside Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, and Tuppence Middleton.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

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Denzel Washington’s project to adapt the plays of August Wilson, beginning with Fences in 2013, continued with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by George C. Wolfe. Inspired by the real blues singer of the title, the film imagines a difficult recording session on a scorching hot day in 1920s Chicago. Viola Davis is astonishing in the title role, opposite the late Chadwick Boseman in his final appearance. The film is dedicated to his memory, a reminder of this huge loss.

Mudbound (2017)

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Based on the 2008 novel by Hillary Jordan, Mudbound is one the best Netflix Original movies to have been released. Directed by Dee Rees and starring Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, and Carey Mulligan, the film addresses racism and PTSD of two soldiers following the Second World War.

Okja (2017)

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Before taking the world by storm with Parasite, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho created this striking science-fiction movie for Netflix. It follows the journey of the titular ‘super pig’ in a meditation on animal rights, with a starry cast including Steven Yeun, Tilda Swinton, and Paul Dano.

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

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One of the most remarkable films released by Netflix is The Other Side of the Wind, the last film directed by Orson Welles which many thought would never see the light of day. Thanks to the late Peter Bogdanovich, the film became available to watch 48 years after production, with mesmerizing appearances from Bogdanovich himself and the great John Huston.

Paddington 2 (2017)

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Paul King’s sequel about the little bear from Peru raised the bar for family films forever upon release. With its use of pop-up book animation and Wes Anderson-like aesthetic, the film continues to charm audiences with its wonderful British cast, especially Hugh Grant as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan.

Paprika (2006)

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In addition to the Studio Ghibli catalogue, Netflix has a number of other beautiful anime films. This work from director Satoshi Kon is hailed as his masterpiece, telling the story of a terrorist who steals a device which allows others to share their dreams but causes nightmares for some. The animation is stunning and boundary-pushing.

Parasite (2019)

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Winner of both the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Picture, Parasite is an astonishing multi-genre film from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. Everyone in the film delivers an exceptional performance, including Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, and Park So-dam. Hilarious and terrifying in equal measure, it took the world by storm and continues to be devilishly entertaining.

The Remains of the Day (1993)

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This adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize-winning novel by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant is a sumptuous British treat. The film stars Anthony Hopkins as the aloof butler Mr Stevens who struggles to accept and express his feelings towards his housekeeper Miss Kenton, beautifully played by Emma Thompson. It’s an astute portrait of the British Empire in decline, and a heartbreaking romantic tale to boot.

Roma (2018)

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Set in Mexico in the early 1970s, director Alfonso Cuarón revisited his childhood memories for his stunning monochrome feature Roma. Produced by Netflix, the film announced the streaming service as a force in international and arthouse cinema, with exceptional lead performances from Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.

Shirkers (2018)

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Singapore-born director Sandi Tan was devastated when in 1992 her independent road movie Shirkers was stolen. When the footage was returned to her later without the audio tracks, she turned what she had shot when she was 19 into a documentary, transforming it into a powerful film on the nature of filmmaking itself.

Spirited Away (2001)

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A list of the greatest films on Netflix UK could quite easily be taken up by Studio Ghibli, the complete collection now available to stream on the service. Rather than include them all individually, Spirited Away still stands as one of the studio’s greatest films at the height of director Hayao Miyazaki’s powers.

The Souvenir (2019)

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The Souvenir and its sequel are two of the best British films of the past few years. Written and directed by Joanna Hogg about her own early adventures in filmmaking, Honor Swinton-Burne and Tom Burke give two utterly heartbreaking lead performances, alongside the endlessly mesmerizing Tilda Swinton.

Submarine (2010)

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Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut is quite simply one of the finest coming-of-age films ever made. Akin to the early films of Wes Anderson, the film adapts Joe Dunthorne’s novel into a muted romance between two young people played by Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige. Supported by more senior stars Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, and Sally Hawkins, the film also boasts an original set of songs by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner.

The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

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Patricia Highsmith wrote some of the most riveting novels of the twentieth century, not least her series of books about the elusive Tom Ripley. This film adaptation directed by Anthony Minghella brings Highsmith’s characters to life through captivating performances from Matt Damon and Jude Law, alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

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The 1979 BBC adaptation of John Le Carré’s spy novel starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley is for many the definitive version. However this film version directed by Tomas Alfredson adds a more adult and stylish filter to the book, casting Gary Oldman as Smiley alongside an incredible coterie of actors including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Benedict Cumberbatch. It is a more real and complex story of Cold War espionage than any James Bond film.

Uncut Gems (2019)

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One of Netflix’s best original films, Uncut Gems is a thriller so tense that every suspenseful film since has been compared to it. The film, directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, features a career-best performance from Adam Sandler as a jeweler trying to pay off his debts in New York.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

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Based on the 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a terrifying film from Scottish director Lynne Ramsay. It stars Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as the parents of a deeply troubled teenager, played by Ezra Miller, who goes on to commit some truly unspeakable acts of violence.

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

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Netflix particularly excels at producing biographical documentaries, and What Happened, Miss Simone? is no exception. The film chronicles the life of American singer Nina Simone as she became a civil rights activist and moved to Liberia following the turbulent events of the 1960s, combining archival footage and interviews with her daughter and friends.

Whisper of the Heart (1995)

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One of Studio Ghibli’s finest films is the 1995 feature Whisper of the Heart, directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayoa Miyazaki. The film follows a teenage girl as she becomes friends with a young violin maker, leading to one of the studio’s most imaginative and beautiful romances.

White Noise (2022)

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Netflix UK is home to a number of films by American director Noah Baumbach, most recently his adaptation of the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo. Thought impossible to bring to the screen, Baumbach perfectly captures DeLillo’s absurdist humor, with sensational performances from Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (2023)

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The first in a set of films adapted from short stories by Roald Dahl, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar allows Wes Anderson to explore the nature of adaptation by having his central character narrate the tale as he acts out its plot. Benedict Cumberbatch fits like a glove in Anderson’s world in the lead role, with Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, and Richard Ayoade delivering excellent supporting performances. Ralph Fiennes also makes for an uncanny Dahl.

This guide is regularly updated to reflect changes in Netflix’s catalogue. A list of capsule reviews that have been removed from this page because they are no longer available on the platform can be found here