Everyone has found themselves serving as the deer staring into the proverbial headlights of Netflix’s massive library of films at one point or another. With thousands of movies to choose from, it’s easy to find yourself spending hours browsing through film after film, genre after genre, to the point that you’re too tired to even watch anything at all.
Thankfully, we here at Epicstream have you covered, as we’ve combed through the deepest confines of Netflix’s library to bring to you the best movies on Netflix right now:
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Director: Henry Selick
Cast: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara
While Tim Burton generally gets most of the credit, his writing would have fallen upon deaf ears without director Henry Selick’s management of the The Nightmare Before Christmas’ brilliantly spooky aesthetic and charming voice cast. The film follows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of the titular Halloweentown, who becomes obsessed with Christmas and decides to hijack the holiday. Targeted towards children, this is a film that has just as much appeal for older viewers, with memorable and enchanting musical numbers fueled by passion and emotion. Admittedly, it doesn’t have the same narrative fuel and graceful lyrics to match Disney’s best animated musicals, but nevertheless, it certainly comes close.Advertisement
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, David Bowie
Following the story of two dueling stage magicians in 1878 London, The Prestige pairs together the brilliant writing of Jonathan and Christopher Nolan with a star-studded cast – particularly Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, who deliver standout performances in their roles as the feuding rivals. The film is a masterful exercise in storytelling, highlighted by underlying themes of obsession and devotion, and it employs an expertly executed non-linear structure that would make the likes of Quentin Tarantino proud.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Zoe Saldana
Nowadays, we see films based on comic books, toys, and even video games; but an amusement park ride? Surely Disney realized how much of a gamble Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was at the time, but against all odds, this film delivers. This is largely due to director Gore Verbinski’s superb execution of the film’s high seas, swashbuckling aesthetic, complimented by plenty of eerie, supernatural overtones. Additionally, Johnny Depp’s flamboyant performance as Captain Jack Sparrow results in a movie that’s sure to result in an all-around good time, no matter when you decide to give it a watch.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
This is it – the film that made countless moviegoers afraid to step foot in the water. In case you’re unfamiliar, the premise is quite simple: A man-eating great white shark makes himself comfortable on the shores of a New England beach resort, viscously and indiscriminately attacking tourists and locals alike. However, what truly makes Jaws so brilliant is the “less is more” approach that Steven Spielberg was forced to utilize due to the malfunctioning mechanical shark. In a lesser director’s hands, this could have spelled disaster for the film, but Spielberg met the challenge by employing the same Hitchcockian tactics that Ridley Scott would adopt four years later in the 1979 horror/sci-fi classic Alien. You can call it an accidental masterpiece if you’re so inclined, but it’s a masterpiece, nonetheless.Advertisement
Beasts of No Nation
Director/Writer: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Kurt Egyiawan, Jude Akuwudike, Emmanuel “King Kong” Nii, Adom Quaye
Back before Netflix Original films were as commonplace as they are today, Beasts of No Nation managed to captivate viewers with its powerful story of a young West African boy who becomes a child soldier. Idris Elba delivers a bone-chilling performance as the charismatic leader Commandant, with Abraham Attah constantly threatening to steal the show as the young Agu. This certainly isn’t the type of film that will leave you with a smile on your face, but nonetheless, it’s a profound and compelling piece of cinema that absolutely deserves your attention.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Director: Travis Knight
Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey
For years, LAIKA Studios has been cornering the market in terms of unique stop-motion animated films. However, Kubo and the Two Strings is a visual spectacle that’s in a league of its own and boasts a captivating story of a young boy named Kubo’s journey to defeat his mother’s corrupted sisters and his megalomaniac grandfather. Tackling such themes as loss and legacy, Kubo and the Two Strings is incredibly grounded on an emotional level, allowing the message of the story to truly sink in while the aesthetics astound throughout.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, C. Thomas Howell, and Robert MacNaughton
Despite being one of Steven Spielberg’s undisputed classics, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is often overlooked in favor of the director’s higher-caliber motion pictures, such as Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and the like. Even Close Encounters of the Third Kind tends to get higher billing than E.T. as far as Spielberg’s alien-themed films go, but the latter manages to stand out thanks to the incredibly close-to-home story of a family torn apart by divorce, and a lonely boy who befriends a homesick creature from another world. Even though the film tackles some dark subject matter, though, it’s still jam-packed with wonder, imagination, and adventure, which makes E.T. a movie highly worth revisiting..
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Oct. 13)
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen
If you’re looking for some good old fashioned dumb fun, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby should help scratch that itch. The story follows Will Ferrell’s clueless titular NASCAR sensation who’s top spot is challenged by an arrogant French Formula One driver. The comedic timing of Ferrell and John C. Reilly is outstanding, as duo deliver laughs a mile a minute by way of their overall idiocy and some hilarious-yet-lighthearted Southern stereotypes. Naturally, if you’re looking for a film that delivers a powerful message, this might not be for you, but if you’re looking for some prime Will Ferrell comedy, don’t let yourself get left in the dust.
Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed, Ann Cusack
This noir-style film, which was Dan Gilroy’s feature directorial debut, follows Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom on his descent into madness as he goes from photographing crime scenes to actually committing crimes. It’s dark, thrilling, and above all else, thought-provoking, as it explores the difficulties of crime journalism with a gritty aesthetic that takes you on a daring ride through Los Angeles’ dark underbelly.
Director: Mel Brooks
Cast: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman
In this parody/homage of the classic Universal horror films, an American grandson of the infamous scientist, struggling to prove that he is not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body. Young Frankenstein is silly, absurd, has some clever sight gags and cringeworthy puns, and while it may not contain the self-referential, breaking-the-fourth-wall humor that made Spaceballs a classic, it's still loads of fun on its own merits. This is a cult classic, a comedy classic, and a perfect example of Mel Brooks at his best.
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Olivia Colman, Rafe Spall
After turning the Zombie genre upside down with Shaun of the Dead, filmmaker Edgar Wright decided to shift his attention to Action with Hot Fuzz. The film tackles the sometimes mundane aspect of everyday police work and dials it up to 11, resulting in hilarious action that just skirts on the line of parody. Hot Fuzz is an incredibly fun and rewatchable popcorn movie, so if you have some spare time, give this one a try.
The Big Short
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Finn Wittrock, Brad Pitt
The Big Short chronicles the events leading up to the U.S. financial crisis in the late 2000s, from the perspective of a group of Wall Street sharks who saw the whole thing coming. It’s a witty and hilarious tale of capitalism gone wrong and puts many of the intricacies of the financial industry into easy to digest bites, which is a testament to director Adam McKay’s confidence in this project. While the entire cast puts on stellar performances, it’s ultimately Steve Carell who steals the show, delivering one the best outings of his career.
Director/Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Leave it to Paul Thomas Anderson to craft a highly enjoyable motion picture about the burgeoning porn industry of the 1970s. While Boogie Nights boasts an incredible ensemble cast, it’s Mark Wahlberg’s energetic performance as the young Dirk Diggler that truly makes this film a force to be reckoned with. And as provocative as the film’s premise is at face value, deep down, it’s ultimately a dysfunctional family drama that’s both entertaining and heartbreaking.
Directors: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba, Nate Torrence, J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer
In a world where Pixar was dominating the animated film market, leave it to Walt Disney Studios to reinvigorate the genre by using the very thing that put them on the map in the first place: talking animals. Zootopia takes the anthropomorphic animal trope to new heights, though, using the diverse and vibrant world of the titular city to tackle real-world issues, most notably racism. This film shows that Disney is willing to step out of its comfort zone, and the end result is a brilliant blend of sophisticated storytelling, tasteful humor, and thought-provoking themes that never compromise the quintessential Disney “fun factor.”
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
Who would have thought that Steven Spielberg, director of films such as Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones, would be the right person to helm a story about Nazi persecution in German-occupied Poland during World War II? In any case, he certainly managed to cast all doubts aside by producing one of the most ambitious, wise, and moving motion pictures in cinematic history. It’s perhaps one of the best big-screen interpretations of the horrors of the Holocaust, and one that greatly rewards its audience for sticking through its tumultuous emotional beats and 3 hour plus runtime. Liam Neeson delivers the performance of a lifetime, but Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes deserve equal praise for their outstanding support acting. All in all, this is a film that does what’s seemingly impossible by turning one of the most terrible chapters in humanity into a story of triumph.
Director: Scott Derrikson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen
The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally embraced the mystical elements of its comic book source material with the release of Doctor Strange, as we witness the first steps in an injured neurosurgeon’s journey from smug socialite to Sorcerer Supreme. Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, and Tilda Swinton deliver enchanted performances, but the true magic is in the trippy, out-of-this-world visuals, with absolutely stunning cinematography and VFX that make this film feel like Fantasia come to life. Coupled with the MCU’s quintessential blend of action and humor, Doctor Strange is a movie that delivers on all fronts, despite its formulaic origin story approach.
Burn After Reading
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, J.K. Simmons
After winning awards for Best Director and Best Picture for No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan – the Coen Brothers – decided to lighten things up with an outlandish comedy/thriller in the form of Burn After Reading. This is a film that makes excellent use of its star-studded ensemble cast – many of whom display comic skill that few would have guessed they had. While some will argue that there isn’t a whole lot of meat to the narrative, you can't help but laugh at the absurdity while watching it all unfold. Burn After Reading is absolutely a movie that gets better and better with each viewing, and a must-watch for any fans of dark comedy and stories that are more than skin deep.
Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Chris Farley, David Spade, Brian Dennehy
Perhaps the better of the two Chris Farley/David Spade-starring comedies, Tommy Boy sees the dimwitted heir to a major auto parts factory attempt to save the family business before the rug is swept out from beneath him by his greedy almost-stepmother and her son. The chemistry between Farley and Spade is electric, and the duo’s cross-country antics as they try to sell half a million brake pads is nothing short of pure comedic gold. This is one of those rare films that, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it, still manages to elicit the same number of laughs, even if you’re watching it by yourself. If you enjoy slapstick comedy, buddy road trip films, and perfectly timed one-liners, Tommy Boy is absolutely for you.
The Thin Blue Line
Director: Errol Morris
Cast: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose
If you enjoyed Making a Murderer and you’re looking to satisfy your true crime fix, look no further than The Thin Blue Line. The story focuses on wrongfully accused drifter Randall Adams, who finds himself on death row thanks to a false testimony and an overzealous prosecutor. The film gets its edge not only from interviews with the real killer, but also from Morris’ excellent use of dramatization, close-ups, editing, and truly mastering the documentary form into his now unmistakable style. Making a Murderer may send you looking for more true crime, but The Thin Blue Line will also have you hungry to find another Morris film.
The Iron Giant
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston
The Iron Giant is a loose adaptation of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man but reimagined as a Cold War-era story of friendship and political paranoia. While it may have been a box-office disappointment at the time, The Iron Giant has since been embraced as one of the best cartoon films of the past few decades thanks to its wondrous animation and gentle tone. Balancing science-fiction with believability, the film tells a story for both children and adults, alike, about how violence begets violence, and most importantly for an animated film geared towards kids, it respects the audience’s intelligence. On top of that, it’s visually stunning, with a gorgeous blend of computer animation and hand-drawn imagery that draws your eye to the beauty of its color and motion, rather than distracting with overly rendered digital set pieces.
Director: Clive Barker
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
This horror classic is perfect for the Halloween season! In Hellraiser, we see a cheating wife come face to face with her reanimated dead lover, who’s being pursued by the ghastly demons known as Cenobites that were holding him captive in their underworld. For the most part, this film is pretty universally praised by horror purists; however, at its core, Hellraiser is a macabre love story riddled with subtext about how love and sex can destroy us. Nevertheless, it’s a movie that will send chills up your spine, and anyone who calls themselves a fan of the horror genre owes it to themselves to add this to their queue.
Directors: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Cast: Leopold Stokowski, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Watching Fantasia today, it's hard to imagine that the film was first released in 1940. With such vivid colors and well-choreographed music, this film absolutely stands alongside Disney films that were released decades later. Using Disney's already world-famous characters, directors Joe Grant and Dick Huemer created a captivating visual world unlike anything seen before, all choreographed to some of the most famous classical music of the time. It's crazy to think Disney would put out a feature whose greatest moment is a retelling of Goethe's Der Zauberlehrling, but even today, it's easy to see why it was bleeding edge for its time.
Donnie Darko (Oct. 11)
Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
Another spooktastic movie to add to your Halloween season watchlist is the cult classic Donnie Darko. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a stellar performance as the titular troubled teen who’s haunted by visions of a six-foot rabbit that coerces him into committing dangerous pranks and crimes. It’s a cerebral, supernatural, and thought-provoking film that benefits from repeated viewings, as there are a number of subtleties and nuances that one is likely to miss the first time around. However, if technically-sound, surreal stories about unlikely heroes pique your interest, Donnie Darko strikes just the right chord.
No Country For Old Men
Director: The Coen Brothers
Cast: Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson
In the Coen Brother’s slow-boil nouveau-Western, Chigurh tracks Llewelyn Moss, a humble rancher who happens upon a drug deal massacre and takes a briefcase full of the merciless man’s money. Before long, the worldly Sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and a cocky, Chigurh-tracking bounty hunter (Woody Harrelson) insert themselves into the action before the conclusion leaves everybody in a place they were hoping not to end up. A departure from their quirkier romps, the Coen Brothers masterfully build suspense and develop a gritty reality with each broken bone, silenced shotgun blast, and beep from a GPS tracker. The film is a middle-distance stare into the Southwest desert brought to life.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Maria de Medeiros, Rosanna Arquette, Bruce Willis
When you think of Quentin Tarantino, it’s hard not to immediately think of Pulp Fiction. After all, this is the film that shot him into the upper echelons of Hollywood, and arguably set the standard for non-linear storytelling, which has since become a staple of both movies and television. Winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Pulp Fiction is an all-around classic, highly influential, and downright fun movie.