While new streaming services are constantly being launched, Netflix remains the most popular choice for viewers worldwide.
Its depth of original programming has yet to be matched, and while TV series, documentaries, and standup comedy specials make up a large portion of the service, its feature film library continues to grow.
Many Netflix films are now considered modern cinematic masterpieces.
In this list we will look at 25 of the most popular movies on Netflix and why subscribers should add them to their watch later list next time they fire up the app!
Set in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, this extraordinary 2018 film centers around Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker during the 1970s, a period of great political turmoil and social unrest in Mexico. Filmed entirely in black and white, it’s hard not to be moved by this modern classic, which won three Academy Awards.
La La Land
Released in 2016, this tribute to Hollywood’s famous golden era depicts Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), two new lovers trying to make it big in the most challenging place in the world to find fame. The musical numbers, as are the nostalgia-tinged images of modern Los Angeles, are spellbinding.
The third highest-ranking Netflix film on this list portrays two women from very different backgrounds discovering a love for each other in a period where acceptance of such a relationship was hard to find. 1950s New York is stunningly recreated in this film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Call Me By Your Name
Set in 1980s Italy, Call Me By Your Name is the heart-wrenching tale of Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old American learning about life, family, and the classics in his family’s 17th-century Tuscan villa. Audiences loved this coming-of-age drama, partly because of Chalamet’s performance but also due to the romantic aura that Tuscany is known for.
This Martin Scorsese-directed epic, organized crime thriller spans decades and primarily centers on Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his life as a hustler and hitman for some of New York’s most infamous gangsters. The disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa is also a focal point, with roles played by mob movie legends Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci.
Reminiscent of the classic film Kramer vs. Kramer, Marriage Story shows viewers a couple (Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver) going through a bitter, harrowing divorce. With a soundtrack by Randy Newman, this film makes for difficult yet essential viewing.
This cerebral film provides audiences with an inspirational message and a horrific reminder of America’s dark past. Mona, a fashion model, is helped to transport back in time and becomes Shola, an enslaved woman. In her new persona, Mona learns much about her family’s past and the traumatic cost America’s prosperity came at.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
With an equal measure of hilarity and, quite frankly, the bizarre, Monty Python and the Holy Grail loosely depicts Arthurian legend and medieval history. Don’t expect realism or historical accuracy from the Monty Python gang. This 1975 film is the real Holy Grail for anyone passionate about comedy.
This 2020 masterpiece depicts Fox Rich and her struggles to support her family while also trying desperately to free her husband, who is serving time in prison for a crime they committed together when they were young and desperate. A huge shadow is cast over America’s prison-industrial complex in this gut-wrenching film.
In this film from 2021, we see six men each confront sickening events that happened in their young lives at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy and how their new type of therapy would go on to help countless other victims deal with similar trauma.
Post-war 1950s London was a time of reconstruction and fresh, creative vibrancy. The fashion houses at the time epitomized this, and this film follows The House of Woodcock and its enigmatic creator, Reynolds Woodcock, whose world turns upside down when a new muse emerges.
Dick Johnson is Dead
This documentary from 2020 depicts a daughter’s fantastic way of coping with the eventual passing of her psychiatrist father. Kirsten Johnson creates bizarre and darkly humorous ways he could possibly pass, all with the blessing and participation of the patriarch concerned.
The Power of the Dog
A rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch), who appears both famous and infamous simultaneously, is forced to change his ways when love comes knocking at his barn door. At the same time, his brother, his wife, and their son come into the picture to challenge his old ways.
In this 2002 masterpiece, Vincent, who is recently unemployed, struggles to deal with this new reality and wanders around France daily while his family assumes he is working.
A group of Singaporean teenagers made a film in 1992 with the help of their mentor, who then took the footage and disappeared with it. Shirkers follow the now adult women in pursuing the ‘stolen’ footage and examine how lensing is accomplished in films.
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open
This Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers directed film from 2019 portrays two indigenous women in Canada who have very different lives and get brought together by heart-breaking circumstances related to their trauma from domestic abuse.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chicago in the Roaring 20s forms the backdrop for this black cinema masterpiece that depicts a dramatic recording session with songstress Ma Rainey and her band on a particularly high-tension day in the city. Racial and power dynamics are questioned throughout this film, which also stars the late Chadwick Boseman.
Happy as Lazzaro
Lazzaro, a peasant boy, meets Tancredi, a wandering young nobleman one day. They form a bond despite their apparent differences, and Tancredi asks his new friend to help him escape the hell that is his life. This fantasy drama is undoubtedly a tearjerker but an inspirational tale, too.
Slavery’s horrible history and its impact on the modern day is the subject of this film, which focuses on the Clotilde, the last known ship used to transport enslaved Africans to the New World. The film looks at what slavery did to generations of African Americans and how it is still a plague on them today and even tomorrow.
My Happy Family
Set in the country of Georgia, My Happy Family is the story of Manana, a teacher who, on her 52nd birthday, decides to abandon her family for good. Her family is left to ponder and explore the reasons why and come to terms with drastic change.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
In idyllic Upstate New York, not far from a famous hippie epicenter, lay a camp for teenagers and young people with disabilities. It was a place for them to go and experience a wonderful life amongst friends and enjoy a revolution in their method of care that transformed them and inspired a movement. A heartwarming and eye-opening documentary.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story
Scorsese’s love of Dylan’s music is well known and sprinkled throughout much of his library. This 2019 documentary feels like a dedication to their bond. In it, we see Dylan’s 1975 tour across the country on full, glorious display.
Another documentary classic on Netflix is this 2017 story about the murder of a black teacher by a white man. The Ford family had lineage tracing far back to the Jim Crow South and thought that the current generation would be far away from the racism and segregation their ancestors endured in suburban 1990s Long Island.
The Lost Daughter
In this star-studded movie, led by a fantastic performance from Olivia Coleman, we see Leda (Coleman) become obsessed with a mother and daughter while on a seaside vacation. Leda’s trauma explodes in an impulsive act, for which there will be dire consequences.
Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing human existence. Yet, one of the most telling (and consequential) ways it hurts us is in our oceans, particularly coral bleaching. This documentary explores mass coral death and how that process is more than just your regular global catastrophe.
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