Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (January 2021)

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Trying to find the best movie to watch on Netflix can be a daunting challenge. We’ve all been there. You’ve decided you’re going to watch something. You have the entirety of Netflix at your disposal, including even a pared down list of films you’ve already bookmarked to watch at a future date. But then there’s the choosing. You’ve gotta find something that fits your mood, or something you and your friend/significant other/couch companion can agree on. You spend hours browsing, and by the time you stumble on something you think maybe is the one, it’s too late, you’re too tired, and indecision has won out.

Never fear, though, because we here at Collider have a guide to help you find the perfect Netflix movies available in the U.S. We’ve thumbed through the library and assembled a list of some of the best films currently available for streaming, from classics to hidden gems to new releases and beyond. This list of the best movies on Netflix is updated weekly with all-new choices, so be sure to return the next time you’re looking for something great to watch.

For even more curated streaming recommendations, check out our lists for the Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now and Best Movies on Amazon Prime Right Now and Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now.


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Catch Me If You Can

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Image via DreamWorks

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Jeff Nathanson

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and Amy Adams

Catch Me If You Can is lowkey one of Steven Spielberg’s best films that also boasts one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performances and one of John Williams’ best scores—and all of that is saying something. Based on a true story, DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale Jr., who became a professional con man by the age of 19, earning millions of dollars while trotting around the globe. But at heart, Catch Me If You Can is the story of a father and a son, and is actually one of Spielberg’s most personal films he’s ever made—it was directly influenced by Spielberg learning new information about his father’s divorce. But this movie is also an absolute blast. – Adam Chitwood

The American President

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Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox, Richard Dreyfuss, and Martin Sheen

Before Aaron Sorkin made The West Wing, he entered the political realm with the delightful romantic comedy The American President. The 1995 film stars Michael Douglas as the widowed U.S. president who strikes up a relationship with a lobbyist, played by Annette Bening. The film delights in chronicling how standard courtship behavior is complicated when you’re the President of the United States, and Douglas and Bening are tremendously charming. You’ll also see the origins of the material that would become the backbone of The West Wing, as the film delves into the inner-workings of the President and his staff. If you want a reminder of a simpler time, or just a breezy romcom set in the world of U.S. politics, you can’t go wrong with this one. – Adam Chitwood

Goodfellas

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writers: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese

Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Pesci, and Paul Sorvino

Any director would be happy to make one masterpiece in his or her career, but filmmaker Martin Scorsese has several. Surely Goodfellas is towards the top of the heap, as the director’s 1990 mob drama still stands today as a stone-cold classic. The film tells the true rise and fall story of mob associate Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), tracking his life of crime from childhood up through the 1980s. It’s an epic saga told with vigor—this thing moves, and it’s all thanks to Scorsese’s kinetic camerawork and editing style. The soundtrack is killer, the performances are incredible (Joe Pesci!), and it’s a film that’s been mimicked countless times since. But there’s no touching the original. – Adam Chitwood

Superbad

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Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Greg Mottola

Writers: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Cast: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Stone, Seth Rogen, and Bill Hader

Superbad was pretty much a coming-of-age classic as soon as it hit theaters in 2007, as writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, director Greg Mottola, and producer Judd Apatow crafted a high school comedy that was equal parts heart and humor. While the comedy is indeed R-rated, there’s a sweetness to the friendship between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill’s characters that elevates this above your average raunchy comedy. It’s as much a story about a kid being afraid he’s gonna lose his friend at college as it is a story about trying to score alcohol for a high school party, and the surprising twists and turns make it all that much more memorable. – Adam Chitwood

Casino Royale

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Image via EON

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Tobias Menzies

Considered by many to be the best Bond movie of them all, Casino Royale introduced the world to Daniel Craig’s 007 — a gritty, swaggering post-Bourne Bond who can rough and tumble with the best of them. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell returns to the iconic spy franchise, bringing a bit of old school to the new generation, perfectly toeing the line between the classic must-have Bond moments (fast cars, shaken martinis, beautiful women, etc…) while elegantly updating the material at the same time. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is easily one of the most memorable Bond women, afforded a compelling and intimate relationship with the superspy beyond the standard seduction and Mads Mikkelsen’s villainous Le Chiffre is equally memorable (pretty sure some men are still wincing from that torture scene.) The perfect balance of classic and modern, Casino Royale is one of the best spy movies ever made, jam-packed with stunning set-pieces and all the best bits of the Bond legacy. – Haleigh Foutch

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Image via Sony Pictures

Directors/Writers: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Benjamin Bratt, and Neil Patrick Harris

Before filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller upended convention with wildly entertaining films like The LEGO Movie and the Jump Street films, they wrote and directed the 2009 animated feature Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs—and it is delightful. The film is absolutely in the same vein of Lord and Miller’s other films; a mix of goofy humor, gloriously intricate jokes, inventive visuals, and most importantly genuine compassion. Bill Hader voices a wannabe scientist named Flint who lives in a tiny town called Swallow Falls, which is thrown into peril when one of Flint’s wild inventions starts turning water into food, at which point it literally starts raining all sorts of delicious—and gigantic—treats. It’s a great film for all ages really, and a terrifically science-positive story. – Adam Chitwood

Sherlock Holmes

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, and Eddie Marsan

In the months following Iron Man’s blockbuster success, Robert Downey Jr. doubled-down by filming a very different kind of iconic role: that of Sherlock Holmes. Filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his tough guy sensibilities to this 2009 adaptation Sherlock Holmes, which positions Holmes as a bit of a superhero using slow-motion camera techniques and a punishing sound mix that makes you feel every punch landed by this surprisingly buff detective. The story finds Holmes (Downey) and Watson (Jude Law) investigating a plot to control Britain by supernatural means, with Rachel McAdams proving to be a bright spot as Irene Adler. This one’s fun. – Adam Chitwood

Django Unchained

Django Unchained Jamie Foxx Leonardo DiCaprio

Image via TWC

Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, Walton Goggins, and James Remar

Quentin Tarantino’s most financially successful film to date remains his 2012 Western epic Django Unchained, which is set in 1858 and tells the story of a freed slave’s (Jamie Foxx) quest to save his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of a ruthless plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) – all with the help of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). Django Unchained is tremendously unsettling in terms of providing an unflinching glimpse at the lives of slaves in America (and the cruelty inflicting upon them), but it also has that Tarantino touch that makes it wildly entertaining – a combination that may strike some as odd or in poor taste. However you fall, DiCaprio’s menacing performance is undeniably among his very best, Foxx’s arc is particularly impressive, and it’s hard to argue with Waltz’s Oscar win for his supporting turn. – Adam Chitwood

Easy A

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Image via Screen Gems

Director: Will Gluck

Writer: Bert V. Royal

Cast: Emma Stone, Dan Byrd, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Hayden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Cam Gigandet, Patricia Clarkson, and Stanley Tucci

If you’re looking for a teen romcom with wit and charm to spare, 2010’s Easy A is an excellent choice. The story is partially inspired by The Scarlet Letter as Emma Stone plays a charismatic high schooler named Olive who, on a whim, pretends to hook up with a classmate to help hide the fact that he’s gay. This leads to many other classmates coming to her asking her to lie about hooking up in exchange for gifts, leading to a sullied reputation that she embraces a la The Scarlet Letter. Stone is already a movie star in this early film from her career, and the film is surprisingly smart and engaging at every turn. It also features Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as two of the best movie parents in cinematic history. – Adam Chitwood

Carol

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Image via The Weinstein Company

Director: Todd Haynes

Writer: Phyllis Nagy

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, and Kyle Chandler

Carol is a sumptuous, sensual love story told with elegance and grace. Based on the book The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, the film takes place in 1952 Manhattan, where an aspiring photographer (Rooney Mara) crosses paths with a glamorous married woman (Cate Blanchett), the titular Carol. The film explores homosexuality in the mid-20th century, as Carol has a couple decades more experience as a closeted lesbian than this young woman. The two strike up a relationship that is fraught with fear, lust, and true love, and director Todd Haynes captures it all in a way that never feels exploitative. Cinematographer Ed Lachman shoots the film to look like an old photograph or a half-forgotten memory, and before you know it you’ve been swept off your feet. – Adam Chitwood

ParaNorman

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Image via Focus Features

Directors: Sam Fell and Chris Butler

Writer: Chris Butler

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Alex Borstein, Leslie Man, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, and Tucker Albrizzi

If you’re looking for a fun family movie that’s also genuinely spooky and has a surprising message, I urge you to check out ParaNorman. The stop-motion animated film hails from LAIKA, the same studio behind Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, and it’s absolutely one of their best films. It revolves around a young kid named Norman who has the ability to see and speak with the dead, which comes in handy when his small Massachusetts town is overrun by terrifying ghosts. The story draws heavily from iconic 80s movies like The Goonies and E.T. but never feels derivative, and actually carries with it a surprising and emotional message about bullying and anger, and the complexity of emotions that kids can sometimes feel. It’s also just a ton of fun. – Adam Chitwood

Enola Holmes

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Photo by Alex Bailey/Legendary

Director: Harry Bradbeer

Writer: Jack Thorne

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Louis Partridge, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, and Helena Bonham Carter

Enola Holmes is one of the best and most charming Netflix original movies released thus far. Based on the book series of the same name by Nancy Springer, the period mystery follows Millie Bobby Brown’s titular character, who is the youngest Holmes sibling and has been raised nearly in solitude by her single mother. But when she awakes one day to find her mother is missing, she takes matters into her own hands and sneaks into London to solve the case. The film is tremendously fun as Enola fearlessly follows leads and hunts for clues, but it’s also a surprisingly touching mother-daughter story with legitimately feminist themes. The script actually takes time to consider what it means to be a woman in a man’s world in a way that’s organic (and important) to the story at hand. It’s one of Brown’s best performances, but Henry Cavill is also a delight as Sherlock Holmes himself. Once the movie ends you’ll be begging for Netflix to make many more sequels. – Adam Chitwood

Mank

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Image via Netflix

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Jack Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Tuppence Middleton, Charles Dance, and Tom Burke

Acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher’s first Netflix movie is catnip for cinephiles, as it charts the true-history behind the inspiration and writing of the screenplay for Citizen Kane. The film follows Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) through his trials and tribulations as a charming and in-demand script doctor, but also a few years later as he develops and writes the first draft of what would become Citizen Kane. Mank chronicles the true-life inspirations for the characters and story of Kane, with Oldman delivering a towering performance as a beleaguered man who sees a shot at greatness and takes it. The execution is tremendous, as Fincher crafts a lush black-and-white feature that’s made to look (and sound) like it was released in 1941. Amanda Seyfried shines as actress Marion Davies and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross deliver a lush throwback score that underlines the entire affair. – Adam Chitwood

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Image via The Orchard

Director/Writer: Taika Waititi

Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, and Rachel House

Before Taika Waititi made one of the best MCU movies to date, and before he won an Oscar for Jojo Rabbit, he made a delightful New Zealand adventure movie in which a grumpy Sam Neill is forced to team up with a foul-mouthed child when the two are the target of a manhunt throughout the New Zealand bush. It’s based on an existing book, but in tone and execution Hunt for the Wilderpeople oftentimes feels like an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book we never knew about. It’s delightful and whimsical and a little terrifying, with Waititi’s playful anarchy filling the whole thing out for good measure. This movie is guaranteed to put you in a good mood.

Lady Bird

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Image via A24 and Merie Wallace

Director/Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush

I’m so glad Lady Bird exists and that it functions as an announcement that Greta Gerwig is not only a major talent, but also a talent that can go beyond herself. My fear going into Lady Bird was that the movie would be too autobiographical and Gerwig would have unintentionally created a parody of her mumblecore roles. Instead, she provided a film that was personal and specific. It’s a movie that relishes its lived-in relationships while never being exclusionary.

On my first viewing, I found the movie to be a very good example of the coming-of-age dramedy. Upon a repeat viewing, I see it as one of the best examples the genre has to offer. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are both amazing as they relish both the highs and lows of their mother-daughter relationship, and watching Lady Bird’s rocky senior year of high school, complete with all the honest missteps a teenager makes, turns Gerwig’s debut into an unforgettable feature. – Matt Goldberg

13th

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Image via Netflix

Director: Ava DuVernay

Writers: Spencer Averick and Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay follows up her acclaimed film Selma with a searing documentary that looks at the mass incarceration of minorities following the passage of the 13th amendment. As the documentary points out, it’s not just ingrained cultural racism that results in the widespread incarceration of African-Americans and other minorities.  There’s a financial incentive as well, and it’s good business to lock people up.  13th systematically goes through the decades following the passage of the 13th amendment to show how black people were targeted by the media, by the government, and by businesses to create a new form of slavery.  It is a movie that will infuriate you, depress you, and hopefully spur you to action against a system that done egregious harm to our fellow citizens.  – Matt Goldberg

Rango

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: John Logan

Cast: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, and Timothy Olyphant

After brilliantly bringing the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy to life, meticulous filmmaker Gore Verbinski tried his hand at animation – and won an Oscar in the process. Rango ostensibly follows a pet chameleon who gets lost and stumbles upon a down-on-its-luck Western town populated by other talking animals, where he portrays himself as a tough drifter. The desperate townspeople plead with Rango to become their new sheriff, and hilarity ensues. The animated film features incredibly cinematography by legend Roger Deakins and stunning visuals, pulling heavily from the Western genre. – Adam Chitwood

Midnight Special

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, and Jaeden Martell

If you’re into grounded, indie sci-fi movies you’ll want to check out Midnight Special. This underrated 2016 film takes place in Texas and follows a father (Michael Shannon) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Jaeden Martell) when it turns out his son has special powers. Chased down by both the government and a cult, the bond between father and son is tested in various ways. Adam Driver plays an NSA communications analyst who has his own vested interest in the boy, and while this sounds like the plot of a superhero movie, Nichols approaches the material in an extremely realistic and grounded manner. It’s a Sundance movie with stunning performances and minimalist visual effects, putting a heavy focus on character over plot twists or giant set pieces. And Shannon gives a deeply soulful turn as the boy’s father. – Adam Chitwood

Wildlife

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Image via IFC Films

Director: Paul Dano

Writers: Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, and Bill Camp

The 2018 directorial debut of actor Paul Dano is a handsomely crafted and emotionally overwhelming chronicle of a marriage falling apart, all seen through the eyes of the couple’s young boy. Based on the book of the same name by Richard Ford, Wildlife takes place in 1960 and follows a couple (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) and their teenage son as they move to Montana. Shortly after arriving, the father loses his job and is forced to take the only work he can – going off and fighting wildfires, leaving his wife and son behind to fend for themselves. Mulligan gives a quietly devastating performance as a single mother doing her best, and Gyllenhaal brings a seething intensity to the role of a man trying to hide his shame. Dano directs the whole thing with the care and confidence of a veteran auteur (his handle on shot composition is truly stunning), and the screenplay by Dano and Kazan is assured and poetic. This is a deeply emotional and mature family drama that proves Dano is the real-deal behind the camera, and it’s also lowkey one of the best films of the last few years. – Adam Chitwood

The Departed

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: William Nicholson

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, and James Badge Dale

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime drama The Departed is the film that finally won him the Best Director Oscar, but he was simply trying to have a good time. After serious epics like The Aviator and Gangs of New York, Scorsese admitted he opted to make a commercial film, choosing to remake the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs with an all-star cast. The result is a tremendously entertaining crime drama packed with stellar performances, and led by one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best turns ever. The film not only won the Oscar for Best Director, but also Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. – Adam Chitwood


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Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Synopsis Is Officially Revealed

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