Critic Lillian Crawford checks out the NOW movie library and curates a list of the most important, beloved, and endlessly rewatchable films to be found, across all genres and eras.

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After Yang (2022)

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Following his stunning feature film debut Columbus, Koganada made his second picture a beautiful science-fiction drama starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith. After Yang follows a family as they try to reboot their unresponsive robotic nanny, delving deep into the artificial subconscious of memory with profoundly moving effects.

Babylon (2022)

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Following Whiplash and La La Land, Hollywood’s wunderkind Damien Chazelle created his most outrageous film to date with Babylon. Depicting the hedonism of cinema’s silent era in 1920s Los Angeles, the film takes inspiration from Kenneth Anger’s wild tales of the motion picture business to craft an epic fable. It stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Diego Calva in the lead roles, mirroring recognizable figures from the past in discordant fashion soundtracked by a wild jazz score from composer Justin Hurwitz.

Barbarella (1968)

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This science-fiction fantasia from director Roger Vadim is a camp masterpiece, featuring an incredible soundtrack from Bob Crewe and jaw-dropping production design. Jane Fonda astonishes in the lead, as a space traveller sent to find the scientist Durand Durand—only to be trapped in his “Exsexsive Machine.” Co-starring John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, and even Marcel Marceau, it’s a treat for all the senses.

Back to the Future (1985)

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Director Robert Zemeckis made one of the most enjoyable science-fiction films of the 1980s with Back to the Future, the popularity of which only seems to grow. The film stars Michael J. Fox as hapless teen Marty McFly who stumbles into the past alongside mad scientist Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd. With a cracking score by Alan Silvestri, the film becomes a race against time as Marty attempts to ensure his parents fall in love before he disappears.

Beau is Afraid (2023)

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Ari Aster’s mind-bending horror comedy won’t be everyone’s taste, but for those willing to get onboard it’s one hell of a ride. Joaquin Phoenix is wonderfully mad in the lead as he goes on a frantic and messy journey, encountering equally bonkers characters played by the likes of Nathan Lane, Parker Posey, and Patti LuPone. You’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

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The surreal screenplays of Charlie Kaufman are entertaining and baffling in equal measure. This film, directed by Spike Jonze, features one of his finest scripts, opening up questions of personhood and identity when characters start entering the subconscious of John Malkovich. The great man appears alongside John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener.

Big Fish (2003)

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One of Tim Burton’s finest films, Big Fish is based on a 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace which tells the story of a man who attempts to find out the truth of his father’s life stories. Ewan McGregor deftly leads a starry cast, including Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, and Helena Bonham Carter, which is made with Burton’s unique visual style.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Loosely inspired by the works of Raymond Chandler, this comedy classic from the Coen Brothers continues to prove endlessly entertaining. Jeff Bridges is iconic in the lead as “The Dude,” alongside hilarious supporting turns from John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Julianne Moore. With plenty of twists and turns in a plot of mistaken identity, the film makes sure you never look at bowling the same way again.

Broker (2022)

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Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda has started to explore beyond his home country since winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 for his film Shoplifters. This film stars Song Kang-ho as a man who steals babies from a church’s ‘baby box’, where unwanted children can be left to be rehomed, and then sells them on the adoption black market. It’s a beautiful, moving film characteristic of Kore-eda’s gentle style.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

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Dappled by the sizzling sun of Northern Italy, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer play young lovers in this tender gay coming-of-age drama directed by Luca Guadagnino. The film was adapted from André Aciman’s 2007 novel by the great American director James Ivory, and features a heart-wrenching supporting turn from Michael Stuhlbarg.

Carry On Spying (1964)

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There’s a smattering of Carry On… films available on NOW UK, with this crime caper one of the entries to have aged best. The ninth in the series, the film is a spy spoof released two years after the huge success of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962.

Cries and Whispers (1972)

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A smattering of Ingmar Bergman’s masterpieces are available to stream on NOW, and this is one of the finest. Starring Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin, and Liv Ullmann, the film is set in a claustrophobic mansion as three sisters and their servant deal with the terminal cancer of one of the sisters. It is particularly distinctive for the astonishing use of colour, especially its reds.

Days of Heaven (1978)

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One of Terrence Malick’s early masterpieces, Days of Heaven stars Richard Gere and Brooke Adams as young lovers in Texas in 1916. They start work harvesting crops for a wealthy farmer, and decide to try to claim his fortune by tricking the farmer into a false marriage. Beautifully scored by Ennio Morricone and shot by Néstor Almendros, it’s a truly breathtaking piece of cinema.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

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One of the campest films ever made, Frank Oz directs a deliciously dark and funny tale of vanity and pride. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn scintillate as two rivals who make a deal with the sinister Lisle von Rhuman, played by Isabella Rossellini, to retain their beauty forever. With a brilliant supporting performance by Bruce Willis, it’s a raucous treat featuring pioneering visual effects.

Emily the Criminal (2022)

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The feature directorial debut of John Patton Ford also marks the first foray into producing for the great American actress Aubrey Plaza. It’s a striking dramatic turn for Plaza, playing a young woman struggling with student debt that sees her turn to a life of crime when she’s shut out of the job market.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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Charlie Kaufman is one of the most original screenwriters out there, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is his brilliant take on the romcom. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, the film sees the lead couple face a deep existential crisis, with a supporting cast including Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and Elijah Wood.

Goodfellas (1990)

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Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s memoir Wiseguy, Martin Scorsese’s dissection of mob associate Henry Hill is perhaps the best gangster film ever made. The film stars Ray Liotta as Hill alongside tour-de-force performances from Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who ensure the film’s three hours swiftly fly by. If one is looking for a good place to start with Scorsese, this is it.

Groundhog Day (1993)

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Given the number of time-loop movies that Groundhog Day inspired, it’s possible one might feel that one has seen this film before. Directed by Harold Ramis, the comedy stars Bill Murray as cynical television weatherman Phil Connors who, in his attempt to find his inner goodness, relives the title day over and over until he finally gets things right. Co-starring Andie MacDowell, the film is a fun and charming romantic comedy.

Jaws (1975)

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The film which created the summer blockbuster. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s horrifying novel about a man-eating great white shark has haunted several generations of moviegoers. It stars Roy Scheider as the police chief Martin Brody who hunts down the terrorising shark alongside Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. The film wouldn’t be scary however without John Williams’s magnificent score, which captures the oncoming menace in just two notes.

Jurassic Park (1993)

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An undisputed science-fiction classic, Jurassic Park is one of Steven Spielberg’s very best films. It takes Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel as its basis, with a starry cast including Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough. All five sequels are also available on NOW, although none come close to the original.

King of New York (1990)

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Be sure to check out the ‘Cult Films’ segment of the NOW platform for some hidden gems, including this neo-noir gangster film from 1990 directed by Abel Ferrara. The film stars Christopher Walken as a drug kingpin who rebuilds his criminal empire after years in prison, appearing alongside Laurence Fishburne, David Caurso, Victor Argo, and Wesley Snipes. It’s a unique gritty film, stunningly shot by Bojan Bazelli.

Knock at the Cabin (2023)

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M. Night Shyamalan elegantly shapes Paul G. Tremblay’s novel into a modern apocalypse chamber piece with terrific performances from Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Dave Bautista. Following a couple on holiday with their daughter at a log cabin, they’re disturbed by a motley crew of thuggish characters who attempt to convince them that the world is going to end. It’s surprisingly moving and genuinely scary, keeping the audience guessing until the closing moments.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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With new films and The Rings of Power in the works, we must not forget that Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy will always be the greatest adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. All of the films are available on NOW, perfect for regular binge watches.

Mamma Mia (2008)

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Perhaps the greatest example of the jukebox musical, Mamma Mia! is a delightful riff on the greatest hits of Swedish band ABBA. Directed by esteemed theatre director Phyllida Lloyd, the film has an ensemble cast led by Meryl Streep as the owner of a Greek island hotel alongside Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, and Amanda Seyfried, among many others. It’s a lot of fun, as is the sequel released in 2018.

The Matrix (1999)

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The Wachowskis changed blockbuster cinema forever with their 1999 masterpiece, which, along with its three sequels, is available to stream on NOW. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Laurence Fishburne as characters exploring the messy complications and philosophy of our reality.

May December (2023)

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Todd Haynes’s latest masterpiece harks back to the peak of Hollywood melodrama, in its story of an actress imitating her mysterious subject for an upcoming film. Julianne Moore is brilliant as the elusive Gracie who intoxicates Elizabeth, played by Natalie Portman, with her ignorance of the crime she committed. The film also features a breakout performance by Charles Melton as Gracie’s troubled husband.

McQueen (2018)

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During his short career, the designer Alexander McQueen completely revolutionized fashion. This documentary directed by Ian Bonhôte is absolutely stunning, showcasing McQueen’s most iconic shows alongside the heartbreaking story of his life. It also features a beautifully curated selection of works by the composer Michael Nyman including his scores for the films of Peter Greenaway.

Mrs Harris Goes To Paris (2022)

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Sometimes all you need is a warm hug of a film, and there is no hug warmer than this adaptation of Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel. Directed by Anthony Fabian, it stars Lesley Manville as a bubbly charwoman who falls in love with a client’s Dior gown and determines to go to Paris to buy one for herself. Isabelle Huppert also manages to steal every scene she’s in as the Dior director Claudine.

Naked Lunch (1991)

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Rather than adapting William S. Burroughs’s ‘unfilmable’ novel directly, David Cronenberg riffs on the book’s films alongside details from the author’s own life. Peter Weller finds himself lost in the bizarre Interzone, a city in North Africa, populated by giant insects and phallic typewriters appearing from drug-induced hallucinations. Visually overwhelming, it also features a stunning jazz soundtrack courtesy of Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman.

The Northman (2022)

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American horror filmmaker Robert Eggers has a very distinctive sensibility, which one can either love or hate. The Northman is his most epic film to date, away from the claustrophobia of The VVitch and The Lighthouse with Alexander Skarsgård as a Viking prince seeking revenge for the murder of his father.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

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A very loose adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, the Coen Brothers transplanted the Ancient Greek epic to 1930s Mississippi for this musical masterpiece. The film follows three escaped convicts played by George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson as they search for a hidden treasure. On the way they come up against a host of supporting characters, including a group of sirens and a “cyclops” played by John Goodman.

Oldboy (2003)

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One of the greatest South Korean films, Oldboy remains the work director Park Chan-wook is best known for. And for good reason—it’s a brilliantly violent thriller starring Choi Min-sik as a captive caught in a hellscape of conspiracy from which he attempts to break free. Its single-shot corridor fight scene is particularly legendary.

Pearl (2022)

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Ti West’s brilliant horror movie X was quickly followed by this lavish prequel starring Mia Goth in the title role. It’s a very different film, more inspired by The Wizard of Oz than the slashers West pays homage to in its predecessor. Goth is magnetic, her face contorting and changing over the course of the film in constantly surprising directions.

Promising Young Woman (2020)

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Picking up almost every award for original screenwriting during awards season for first-time director Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman is a terrific thriller. Featuring one of Carey Mulligan’s best performances, the film focuses on a woman who navigates her traumatic past through a mixture of forgiveness and revenge.

Quant (2021)

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Directed by actress and fashion designer Sadie Frost, Quant is an excellent retrospective look at the life and career of the great 1960s designer Mary Quant. With her death announced in 2023, it stands as a fitting tribute to a woman who defined one of the most iconic eras of fashion.

Rashomon (1950)

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A film so influential it gives its name to a cinematic effect, wherein contradictory interpretations of an event are shown, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon is a must-see for any cinephile. It stars the great Toshiro Mifune in this adaptation of two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa as it explores how a samurai was murdered in a forest. A great starting place for those wanting to explore more Japanese cinema.

Scream (1996)

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Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher begins with a quiz about horror movies with a woman played by Drew Barrymore. The film goes on to play into the tropes of the genre while subverting them, twisting a well-trodden path to merge with the 1990s teen movie. Starring David Arquette, Neve Campbell, and Courtney Cox, the film launched a lengthy franchise ongoing today, but it’s always worth going back to the start of the grisly proceedings.

Selma (2014)

This 2014 biographical drama written by Paul Webb and directed by Ava DuVernay is an emotional look at the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches of 1965. David Oyelowo gives a remarkable performance as Martin Luther King Jr., and the film picked up accolades for the song “Glory,” a protest anthem about the 2014 Ferguson protests, by Common and John Legend.

The Silent Twins (2022)

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Polish director Agnieszka Smoczyńska constantly pushes the boundaries of genre in her films, not least in 2015 mermaid horror musical The Lure. For her latest film, she tells the story of real-life twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, played by Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrence, from the only Black family in a small town in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a powerfully acted drama with two incredible lead performances, with Smoczyńska continuing to produce exciting, challenging cinema.

Sisters with Transistors (2021)

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One of the most fascinating documentaries available on NOW is this look at the groundbreaking work done by women in the field of electronic music. Directed by Lisa Rovner and narrated by Laurie Anderson, the film explores the work of a host of musicians including Delia Derbyshire, Pauline Oliveros, Clara Rockmore, and Wendy Carlos.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

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Writer-director Nora Ephron effectively created the modern romcom single-handedly, and Sleepless in Seattle is her greatest work in the genre. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the romantic leads, the film follows a journalist who becomes enamored with an architect in a plot inspired by the 1957 film An Affair to Remember.

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.

TÁR (2023)

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Written and directed by Todd Field, this enigmatic portrait of a fictional conductor explores the nuances of the classical music world and contemporary cancel culture. Cate Blanchett is extraordinary in the lead as Lydia Tár, alongside brilliant supporting performances from Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, and Sophie Kauer. You’ll never hear Mahler’s fifth symphony in the same way again.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

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It’s a rare that sequel manages to outdo the original, but James Cameron achieved just that with Terminator 2: Judgment Day. With Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising the title role, this time he’s back to protect the child John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance against the malicious Skynet. With groundbreaking visual effects, it’s a thrilling science-fiction adventure.

The Third Man (1949)

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One of the greatest British films ever made, Carol Reed’s masterpiece weaves a tense yarn in the streets of Vienna. Joseph Cotten is terrific as American novelist Holly Martins, albeit overshadowed by the towering Orson Welles as the enigmatic Harry Lime. With an iconic zither score by Anton Karas, it’s a classic that never goes out of style.

The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan (2023)

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Alexandre Dumas’s novel has been adapted countless times, but this version by Martin Bourboulon is one of the finest. Divided into two parts, this first follows the young D’Artagnan as he arrives in Paris and comes to blows with three of the King’s musketeers: Athos (Vincent Cassel Vincent Cassel), Porthos (Pio Marmaï), and Aramis (Romain Duris). It’s a proper old-fashioned swashbuckler, with plenty of stunning fight choreography and a wonderful supporting turn from Vicky Krieps.

To Catch a Thief (1955)

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One of Alfred Hitchcock’s lighter films, To Catch a Thief is nonetheless a gorgeous and entertaining picture. Cary Grant is wonderful as the retired cat burglar John Robie who hopes to catch an imposter who is trying to steal from a wealthy widow and her daughter, played by the luminous Grace Kelly. It’s a dazzling escapist caper that makes one feel as if one is on the French Riviera.

The Truman Show (1998)

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It’s hard to categorize Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, which stages an epic reality television show about a man who does not know the world around him is entirely constructed. Jim Carrey gives his greatest performance as Truman Burbank, appearing alongside Laura Linney and Ed Harris in a brilliant exploration of modern TV culture.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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Perhaps Martin Scorsese’s funniest film, this adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir is an outrageous blast of hedonism. Leonardo DiCaprio chews up the scenery as the amoral stockbroker who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, accompanied by Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey in supporting roles. It’s a riot from start to finish.

The Woman King (2022)

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Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, whose work includes Love & Basketball, this historical picture tells the story of an all-female unit of warriors called the Agojie in the West African kingdom of Dahomey. With a powerhouse performance from Viola Davis alongside Thuso Mbedu, Lasahana Lynch, and John Boyega, the film is a rousing epic about the group as they brave for war. It’s a powerful film about a period and landscape seldom seen in Western cinema, making it a must-see.

This guide is regularly updated to reflect changes in NOW’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