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There Will Be Blood
Photograph: Paramount Pictures There Will Be Blood

The 30 best movies on Netflix UK right now

Summer classics, sun-drenched horrors and everything in between are waiting.

By Phil de Semlyen, Alim Kheraj and Andy Kryza
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Netlix is a sand trap, one where you can spend hours scrolling through comedies, romances and horror flicks without actually choosing something new. We're here to help. 

We've scoured the depths of Netflix's catalogue and harvested some true gems to suit any taste. You'll find summer blockbusters and slow-burn dramas. We've got Oscar winners and Oscar snubs, action heroes and comic legends. What you won't find is a single dud. Here are the 30 essential movies on Netflix right now. 

Recommended: London and UK cinema listings, film reviews and exclusive interviews

The best movies on Netflix UK

1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Film Drama

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano

Paul Thomas Anderson's magnum opus about a corrupt oil man in the 1800s is an example of what happens when everybody's firing on all cylinders. From Robert Elswit's stunning cinematography to Jonny Greenwood's score and Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis' career-defining turns, everything here is perfectly in sync. It's long. It's often slow, sometimes funny and always invigorating and impossible to look away from. Drink it up. It's a masterpiece.

Photo: Netflix

2. Roma (2018)

Film Drama

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira 

In his deeply personal black and white marvel ‘Roma’, director Alfonso Cuarón dives into his Mexican boyhood with this absorbingly rich tribute to the resilient women who raised him – before expanding to gradually reveal the social and political canvas of 1970s Mexico City.

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ET the Extra-Terrestrial
ET the Extra-Terrestrial
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

3. ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Film Fantasy

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace

Jaws — also streaming right now — cemented Steven Spielberg as the master of the summer blockbuster, all but ensuring kids stay as far away from the water as possible. For those not looking to ruin summer pastimes, ET is the director at his most endearing. The Reese's Pieces-addicted alien still looks great, and the summer vibes here have helped inform everything from Stranger Things to Super 8, though none have topped it. It also pairs beautifully a backyard double feature Spielberg's Amity Island classic.

Jordan Peele's Us.
Jordan Peele's Us.
Photograph: Claudette Barius/Universal

4. Us (2019)

Film Horror

Director: Jordan Peele

Cast: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Tim Heidecker, Elisabeth Moss

With its eerie boardwalk-set opening and its vacation-house siege narrative, Jordan Peele's follow up to his smash-hit Get Out is a stealth summer essential. It's also a funny, stylish Twilight Zone riff whose doppelganger attack gifts audiences two of the best performances of Lupita Nyong'o's career. With its subterranean world, Hands Across America references and wonky character motivations, it's also very much a movie that places style over substance. But, oh, what style it is… just try not to think too much and enjoy the funhouse Peele has crafted.

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5. Spirited Away (2001)

Film Animation

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Miyazaki's first digitally animated feature (the highest-grossing Japanese film ever) initially seems like a ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ fantasy, but rapidly picks up a resonance, weight and complexity that make it all but Shakespearean. Chihiro, a sullen ten-year-old, is moving house with her parents when they stumble into the world of the Japanese gods – where the greedy parents are soon turned into pigs. A truly magical fable unfolds as she navigates this fantastical kingdom.

Marriage Story
Marriage Story
Photograph: Netflix

6. Marriage Story (2019)

Film Drama

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver

Like ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ vs Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’, this marital-breakdown masterpiece has just enough lols to leaven the tears. And there are plenty of those, with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson dazzling in Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical tale. 

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7. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Film

Directors: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Cast: Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones 

The closest that the Coen brothers have yet come to a full-blown horror film, this bleak, violent and nerve-shredding Cormac McCarthy adaptation is as nihilistic as they come. A dusty, music-free chase through the desolate American southwest, the film features one of cinema's most blood-curdling villains in the form of Javier Bardem's smiling, bowl-cutted villain, with Josh Brolin's roughneck cowboy enduring all manner of injury en route to the inevitable. Every moment here counts. And each of those moments is dripping with dread courtesy of filmmakers at the top of their game.

Candyman
Candyman
Photograph: TriStar Pictures

8. Candyman (1992)

Film Horror

Director: Bernard Rose

Cast: Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen

With Nia DaCosta's long-awaited followup here, now is the perfect time to revisit this jarring, gory and socially charged classic of '90s slasher cinema. Tony Todd oozes seductive menace as the apparition of a hook-handed slave sowing fear in a Chicago housing project, while Virginia Madsen transcends final-girl frailty as a resilient academic researching urban legends. With its evocative Philip Glass score and campfire-ready lore, it's one of the most overrated horrors of its time, delivering jolts and pathos with the efficiency of a rusty hook to the jugular.

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Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems
Photograph: A24

9. Uncut Gems (2019)

Film Drama

Directors: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie

Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel

The Safdie Brothers’ electrifying and abrasive drama about the week in the 2012 life of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Diamond District dealer is an intense high-stakes triumph.

Photo: Andrew Cooper

10. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

Film Comedy

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Quentin Tarantino's ambling, episodic hangout movie has a way of sticking with you: It's certainly stuck with the director, who recently released a novel and is teasing stage adaptations and a 20-hour miniseries. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are at their charming best in this '60s fantasy reimagining of Hollywood, so much so that you almost don't notice that their washed-up Old Hollywood hangers-on are actually vile conservative blowhards gasping for breath at the end of an era.

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THE WHITE TIGER
THE WHITE TIGER
Photograph: Tejinder Singh Khamkha

11. The White Tiger (2021)

Director: Ramin Bahrani

Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao

Sharp-edge class commentary meets visceral gangland violence in a rollicking Indian thriller that throws rural ingenue Balram (Adarsh Gourav) into the Delhi fast lane as a chauffeur who charms his way into a high-caste dynasty. The themes, as translated from Aravind Adiga's Booker-winning novel, are Shakespearean; the execution seriously visceral and cinematic – and newcomer Gourav is a revelation as the smart, savvy Balram. 

The Forty-Year-Old Version
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Photograph: Netflix

12. The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Director: Rahda Blank

Cast: Rahda Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin

This smart, zippy and meaningful comedy about finding a voice, breaking through and being true to yourself comes from the pen – and real-life experiences – of New Yorker Radha Blank. ‘The Forty-Year-Old Version’ feels fearless, letting all the hang ups hang out when it comes to sex, success and hitting your fourth decade.

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13. RoboCop (1987)

Film Action and adventure

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox

Dutch maniac Paul Verhoeven is currently baskin in the controversy surrounding his nunsploitation film Benedetta, but the dirty mind behind Showgirls, Basic Instinct and Total Recall first turned heads with this explosively violent satire about a zombified cop in shining robotic armor. Far from the '80s trash relic it's assumed to be, RoboCop lampoons '80s corporate greed and corrupt politicians with an enduring relevance. It's a rowdy, hilarious blast from start to finish, and a film that has more on its mind than the splattered bodies onscreen let on. 

Midsommar
Midsommar
Photograph: A24

14. Midsommar (2019)

Film Horror

Director: Ari Aster

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter

Aster's follow up to the instant horror hall-of-famer Heredity — also streaming, if you're feeling brave — proved divisive, and it's understandable. A wildly psychedelic, three-hour slice of folk horror sprinkled with ugly Americans comedy in which the carnage unfolds in perpetual Swedish daylight, Midsommar is abrasive, daring and wholly original in spite of its Wicker Man winks. Florence Pugh — newly minted Black Widow heir — is a powerhouse driving a film that's affirming and stomach turning, often in the same brightly lit shot.

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Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing
Photograph: Universal Pictures

15. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Ossie Davis, Danny Aiello, Ruby Dee, Spike Lee

Spike Lee's breakout remains his most unfiltered masterpiece, and its narrative about racial tension centered around a Brooklyn pizza shop remains as blazing today as the heatwave-plagued city in which it's set. Few films of this era are as iconic and influential, and this cornerstone of the era's indie-film explosion remains as potent now as it was upon its release.

Adaptation
Adaptation
Photograph: Sony Pictures

16. Adaptation. (2002)

Film Comedy

Director: Spike Jonze

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper

Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman's deliriously absurd dissection of writers' block and creative hubris manages to wrest the last truly great comic performance out of Nicolas Cage. He pulls double duty as the cynical Kaufman as well as his excitable labrador of a twin brother, Donald, a character who scored a very real Oscar nomination for the screenplay despite not actually existing. Chris Cooper scored an Oscar as the rugged, toothless orchid hunter at the center of the story, with Meryl Streep throwing herself gamely into the mania (and an alligator).  Once the film transitions from dry showbiz comedy to all-out Ashley Judd-style thriller, all bets are off.

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17. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Film Drama

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Scorsese's opulent, degenerate opus whizzes by despite its 3-hour runtime thanks to the kinetic energy and explosive performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, whose behavior shifts from shockingly funny to monstrous so quickly and so often that you often find yourself complicit in their crimes. At its black heart, this is a horror movie masquerading as a Looney Tunes finance-bro comedy. It's also a knockout, and the film that introduced the indelible Margot Robbie to the mainstream.

18. The Old Guard (2020)

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Released to great fanfare mid-pandemic, this R-rated comic book flick has pretty much everything that the Marvel movies are lacking, including innovation action, front-and-center queer characters and a willingness to go big with its lore without being beholden to 30 other character arcs. It also has Furiousa herself, Charlize Theron, as an immortal axe-wielding ass kicker leading a cadre of unkillable warriors in an effort to keep us mere mortals safe. If only the Fast movies would let Theron rip this much…

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Natalie Portman in Annihilation
Natalie Portman in Annihilation
Photograph: Netflix

19. Annihilation (2018)

Film Science fiction

Director:  Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac

In a rare example of Hollywood sci-fi-horror thoughtfulness, 'Annihilation' has grand concepts in mind, ideas about self-destruction and rebirth. The film follows cellular biologist Lena (Portman) as she ventures to The Shimmer, an anomalous electromagnetic field, to discover the truth about what happened to her husband Kane (Isaac), who visited The Shimmer and returned in poor health and his memory missing. 

The Dig
The Dig
Photograph: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021 

20. The Dig (2021)

Film Drama

Director: Simon Stone

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan

Just as olde-worlde feeling as you might expect when your main characters are called ‘Edith’ and ‘Basil’ (and they aren’t using codenames) – and all the better for it – ‘The Dig’ packs a stealthy emotional punch. Carey Mulligan (Edith) and Ralph Fiennes (Basil) are the wealthy widow and the amateur archaeologist that she hires to investigate the ancient burial site on her land. It turns out to be world-renowned Saxon site of Sutton Hoo, though we’re really here for gently profound musings on mortality and the passing of time. 

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21. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Film Comedy

Directors: Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam

Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle

It may lack the satire-with-a-purpose edge of Life of Brian, but Holy Grail is the sillier, funnier film, packed with goofy laughs rather than hey-I-get-that cleverness. It’s aged better too, less beholden to notions of revolutionary politics and more reliant on slapstick violence, sudden explosions, surrealist wordplay and scatological asides. You’d be an empty-headed animal food-trough-wiper not to tee it up asap.

22. Good Time (2017)

Film Thrillers

Director: Josh and Benny Safdie

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Benny Safdie, Barkhad Abdi

This crime thriller from filmmaking brothers Benny and Josh Safdie is cocky, grubby and electric. It features Robert Pattinson on top form as Connie, a charismatic, quick-thinking chancer who we first meet extracting his mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) from a therapy session so they can spend the morning robbing a bank. Once the Brooklyn bank job goes south, the film stays on the move, running, punching, tumbling, stumbling over 24 hours as the fallout drags us through streets, vehicles, homes, jail, a hospital, a theme park and more. 

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American Factory
American Factory
Photograph: Aubrey Keith/Netflix

23. American Factory (2020)

Film

Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar

2020’s Oscar-winning documentary is a film of two halves: the first records the resurrection of a shuttered Ohio car glass factory by Chinese corporation Fuyao; the second takes us to China to see how the company operates on its own turf. Suffice to say there’s more than an ocean between the two working cultures. Co-directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar take a gentle, non-polemical approach to this uneasy partnership, but there’s no shortage of ouchy moments – as when the Chinese workers are caught disparaging their American counterparts’ work ethic or the Americans gamely try to join in on the company song. An essential watch.

Moneyball
Moneyball
Photograph: Columbia Pictures

24. Moneyball (2011)

Director: Bennett Miller

Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright

Like an out-of-form batter, sports films can be hit and miss. Baseball movies, though, are steady performers – and in this case, much better than that. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a journeyman MLB player who became a watchword for the analytics-based innovation that revolutionised not just baseball, but other sports too. Sound dry? There’s barely a spreadsheet in sight, just crackling Steven Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin-scripted dramatics as Beane turns his sport on its head with some help from Jonah Hill’s stats genius.

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Rocks
Rocks
Photograph: Altitude

25. Rocks (2019)

Director: Sarah Gavron

Cast: Bukky Bakray, Anastasia Dymitrow, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Ruby Stokes, Kosar Ali, Tawheda Begum 

This tough, authentic and heart-swelling coming-of-age drama is London’s answer to ‘The 400 Blows’ – only with extra Snapchatting, can-kicking, trash-talking energy. It’s the story of Rocks (newcomer Bukky Bakray), a British-Nigerian teenager whose mum vanishes, leaving her and her adorbs younger brother to make their own way in a daunting city. Luckily, she has resilience and a posse of pals to help her along. One of the best films in cinemas in 2020, it’s now one of the best movies on Netflix too.

Coming to America
Coming to America
Photograph: Paramount Pictures

26. Coming to America (1988)

Film Comedy

Director: John Landis

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall

At the height of his comedic powers, Eddie Murphy took a break from action comedies for this certified classic about an African prince who ships off to Queens, New York (of course) to find his bride. This is perhaps Murphy's most good-natured effort, and the joys of watching his endlessly cheery royal endure the harshest New York stereotypes with a smile on his face are limitless. 

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Hunger
Hunger
Photograph: Film4

27. Hunger (2008)

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham

Steve McQueen’s debut drama tells the story of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), an IRA prisoner whose hunger strike at Belfast’s notorious Maze made him a cause célèbre in 1981. It’s a deliberate, unblinking depiction of a man trying to wrestle his demons to the floor that’s worth seeing just for its stunning, 17-minute single-take scene between Sands and his priest (Liam Cunningham). Although there’s a lot more to it than that, not least Fassbender’s commanding performance. 

Photograph: Peter Mountain

28. The Two Popes (2019)

Film Drama

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce

The title makes it sound like the world’s most unlikely buddy movie, and that’s essentially what this talky but endlessly likeable and thought-provoking adaptation of Anthony McCarten’s play is – like ‘The Odd Couple’ set in the Vatican. Welsh acting legends Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce share the screen for the first time as Pope Benedict XVI and the more liberal cardinal who might end up replacing him, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Watching the two of them shooting the shit (our words, not theirs) is a pure pleasure, as their uneasy respect blossoms into an unexpected friendship. 

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News of the World
News of the World
Photograph: Netflix

29. News of the World (2020)

Film Drama

Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Bill Camp

A world-weary Civil War veteran-turned-travelling news reader (Tom Hanks) and a traumatised girl (Helena Zengel) embark on a The Searchers-like odyssey across Texas in this restrained, poetic Paul Greengrass film. There’s all the shootouts, horse-y havoc and dusty corrals a western fan could wish for – and a lot of soul, too, in its exploration of two wounded people finding comfort in one another.

ENOLA HOLMES
ENOLA HOLMES
Photograph: ROBERT VIGLASKI /LEGENDARY ©2020

30. Enola Holmes (2020)

Director: Harry Bradbeer

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

Proving that her Eggo-scoffing breakout turn in Stranger Things was no flash in the pan, Millie Bobby Brown single-handedly turns this Sherlock Holmes spin-off into a giddying, galloping delight. She’s Enola, the brainy but belittled sister of the great detective (Henry Cavill), who heads off a crime-solving escapade of her own to find her missing mum (Helena Bonham Carter) and demonstrates that strong-willed genius runs in the family. The dame is afoot!

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