Ranking All the Netflix Original Movies (51-100)
The governing principle behind this website has always been, “Well, I did this, so I might as well document it.”
I think we’ve established by now that I watch ostensibly everything that matters each year (in terms of American feature releases), and a lot that doesn’t. And that now includes an ever-increasing number of Netflix movies. And, as is my credo, if I’m watching them all, why not make you all have to hear about it?
This isn’t a definitive ranking by any stretch. It’s really just how much I like each of the movies and want to recommend them to you. That’s it. Because at this point, there’s so much stuff that’s put out on the platform that unless something truly breaks through, it immediately gets lost under the pile of the newer, shinier stuff. So the goal is to just talk about everything in relation to all the others, so you can gauge what you have seen versus where I’ve put everything and then maybe go, “Oh, what’s this one? This one sounds good.”
I will also say (because it has to be said) — it’s vague as to what constitutes a Netflix Original film. I generally use Wikipedia as a guide, because Netflix has never put out an official list, and it’s impossible to use their site to figure it out. But also, some of the stuff on Wikipedia’s list are foreign films no one in America has heard of, and some other stuff that we all clearly think of as a Netflix movie isn’t. It’s all up for debate, so I just kinda went with what made sense to me. The rules are my own and I’ve decided what I think counts. The point is: shut up and let’s just celebrate the cool movies that are here. Cool? Cool.
(Note: I try to update these articles every few months as we get close to another round number of films. The next update will hopefully be sometime after the Oscars.)
100. The Kissing Booth
One of the pure rom coms Netflix has put out. They seem determined to resurrect this genre, and it’s one of the most admirable things they’re doing.
The premise is — girl and boy have been best friends since they were very young. Now, mid-high school, she finds that she has a crush on his older brother. And because of the plot, she ends up making a kissing booth at the school carnival and thinks that’s the way to finally get him to notice her.
It’s actually quite okay. Maybe it’s just because Joey King anchors it so well, or maybe I’m just a sucker for this genre when it’s not overly atrocious. But this feels perfectly find and the kind of movie I could definitely recommend people watch. As long as you don’t despise the genre, I think it’ll be perfectly watchable for most people.
This is interesting for the subject matter, if an uneven movie overall. It takes an almost wild left turn two-thirds of the way through, in order to try something somewhat radical in the third act (in terms of what it’s saying, not in terms of storytelling).
It’s about a kid coming up in AAU basketball who gets recruited into one of the top teams. So it’s about him coming into his own/dealing with his own academic struggles, while also having something to say about how fucked up the whole athlete recruiting stuff is (grade inflation, the pretense of school, bribes, etc).
It is uneven, but I think it’s a worthwhile movie. It won’t do a whole lot for a good section of the audience, but that’s what this section is for. There’s the “these are terrible,” then the, “Don’t bother unless you’re really into this,” then the “Sure, if you want,” and then the, “I liked these, but they’re not for everyone.” That’s where we are now. This might not be for everyone, but look at the three above this and below this… some of those may not be for you but they will be for other people.
98. Come Sunday
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a preacher who begins to preach that there is no Hell. And of course, all the people who are too into religion can’t stand it. (It’s like when people get too into TV shows, and decide they know what’s best for the characters in the final season.) So it’s about his struggle and ostracizing by his own church for preaching something different.
It’s well-made and Ejiofor is solid, but this isn’t anything more than a run-of-the-mill Netflix movie.
97. The Discovery
Very ambitious sophomore film from Charlie McDowell. His first film, The One I Love, is a fantastic Twilight Zone episode of a movie with only three people in the cast (Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss and Ted Dansen). The less you know about it, the better, and it’s quite wonderful. This movie — incredibly ambitious and doesn’t quite hit the mark, but you can’t fault someone for aiming high.
It stars Robert Redford as a man who has scientifically proven the existence of the afterlife and all the aftermath of that discovery. Jason Segal plays his son and Rooney Mara plays a woman he’s trying to help. And… its gets complicated and by the end you kinda get lost in terms of what’s happening, but I think it’s a very worthwhile movie that may really do it for some people. Definitely one of those that’s worth a watch.
96. A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting
This is a movie for kids. The exact kind of movie I remember growing up with, and the kind of movie the people before me remember growing up with. It’s not quite as ‘adult’ as something like Labyrinth, but it does come from that tradition of not being afraid to do scary and dark things. Which is nice. Though admittedly most adults nowadays probably wouldn’t get too much out of this. The premise is that there exists a secret society of babysitters who protect their children from monsters — boogiemen, etc. And it all takes place without adults knowing. Which is a good concept. And the movie largely maintains fun throughout. It’s for younger people, admittedly, but overall, it’s well done. It doesn’t feel like the worst version of these types of movies. It’s worth your time if this genre is your thing.
95. Win It All
This is a Joe Swanberg movie, and I think the first movie he’s made with an actual plot to it. Which stands to reason that it’s the film of his I think is his best.
Jake Johnson plays a gambling addict who is constantly losing all his money at the tables. One day a friend of his drops off a bag before a prison sentence, and he is told that if he just keeps it in his attic, never opens it, and gives it back once the guy is out, he’ll make a couple of grand. Naturally, he looks into it, it has a bunch of money, and he can’t help but use it to gamble. Meanwhile, as this is all happening, he meets a woman and falls in love. And it becomes about what good luck and good fortune actually are for this guy.
It’s a nice little character study. Fine performances and just totally watchable. One thing that’s always riveting on screen is a person who can’t help but get in their own way and screw up a good thing. And this definitely has a lot of that.
It’s not a Duplass brothers movie, but it feels like it could have been. It was directed by the director of Blue Jay, which is in spirit a Netflix movie but not officially one. (It’s the black and white romance with Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson. It was officially put in theaters four days before it dropped on Netflix, so it’s not technically a Netflix Original.)
It stars Mark Duplass and Ray Romano, who showed his dramatic chops in The Big Sick and continues to do so here. The two are neighbors and best friends who hang out every day in a very relaxed kind of way. However Duplass finds out he’s terminally ill and decides he’d rather just die than suffer over the next several months. So the two go on a road trip, with Romano an accepting, but disapproving accomplice.
It’s a small movie that you can get a lot out of. If you like the Duplass style, then this is very much for you. There’s a lot here. I’m not gonna say it’s amazing, but I do think it’s way more solid than most of the stuff this platform puts out there.
93. The Last Thing He Wanted
Adaptation of Joan Didion from Dee Rees starring Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe. Not a bad pedigree, right? The result… not too great. It’s watchable, and has some solid moments, but overall it’s kind of uneven and doesn’t really amount to much of anything. So, solid enough, but not particularly noteworthy to really recommend strongly, which is probably why most people don’t know this movie exists.
92 Pee-wee’s Big Holiday
The fourth ever Netflix movie. This was one of the absolute first things they put out, and arguably one of the most perfect things they could put on the platform. Pee-wee is back!
That said, kids today probably have almost no idea who Pee-wee is, and don’t have the affinity for the character that I do. I grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse and watching Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. So I was always gonna be more of a fan of this than others.
This falls in the realm of Mascots — it’s not the best you can see from this director/character, but it’s a good reason to be introduced to them if you don’t know anything about them, and it may get you to go back and see the better stuff.
Pee-wee is the closest thing we have to the Muppets. He exists in his own reality, and speaking to him is like speaking to a Muppet in the sense that pretty soon you forget you’re watching someone performing something and you’re just speaking to the character as a human being. And I always like when a movie can exist within its own reality and be its own thing.
91. I Am Mother
I love a movie with a limited cast. Especially when it makes the most of the cast and the story it’s trying to tell.
This is a movie that stars a girl, a woman and a robot. The robot has parented the girl from birth, saying she is part of a mission to repopulate earth. All the girl knows is the bunker they live in, and that the outside is dangerous. All that changes one day when a woman shows up from the outside, having been shot, and the girl, curious about the outside world, takes her in.
What I like is that the movie slow plays its hand, using everything we see to build toward an eventual finale, even if we’re not necessarily watching it. I expected it to be another movie like Tau, about a girl and an AI having a relationship, with the obvious 2001 references. But honestly, this is a movie that’s doing its own thing, and it feels like a perfect piece for what it’s trying to do.
When you hear about this movie, you expect some cheap thriller. But actually, this is a character piece, with some disturbing AI/dystopian future overtones. I appreciate the turns this movie took and what it ultimately tried to do, rather than selling out for cheap set pieces and action moments. It’s not gonna be for everyone, but I’m a fan of this.
90. Love Wedding Repeat
This is an interesting rom com — it’s essentially all those alternate Wayne’s World endings as a movie. It takes place during a wedding, at one particular table, and follows all the different threads at play. The main character is the brother of the bride and wants the wedding to go smoothly, meanwhile he’s seated with an ex with relationship problems, the bride’s coked up ex who decides he’s gonna profess his love for her at the reception, the male maid of honor who’s more interested in nabbing a film role than helping the bride, and of course the woman the guy has feelings for but can’t seem to find the right time to say anything or do anything about it. There’s a sleeping pill involved and all sorts of chaos ensues. And the film shows a couple of different alternate realities based on where everyone’s seated around the table. And we keep seeing versions of how the events would play out until it gets it ‘right’. It’s — fine. Totally watchable and in terms of a rom com, I’d recommend this over a good deal of more known ones, even though there are also far better ones to be had on the platform. Overall, I’m okay with this one and think you can do just fine with it if you wanted to.
89. The Christmas Chronicles 2
The first one was an absolute delight of a movie that I was not remotely expecting past the inherent ‘Kurt Russell as Santa Claus’ charm. I suspected the sequel would be significantly less of a good movie and less entertaining and more ‘let’s cash in and do the two or three big things again’. And it is. It’s exactly what I would have expected out of a sequel. However, for me, that ‘just okay’ sequel is better than a lot of what Netflix has to offer otherwise. You get Russell back as Santa, you get Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus and you get another musical number with Russell, this time with Darlene Love thrown in. That’s really all I need. Otherwise the plot is basically Santa Clause 2 (or 3, I forget, but it’s just like that. Bad elf, have to save Christmas, yada yada yada). It’s pretty generic as far as the writing goes and you can tell they rushed it to get it out quickly and cash in. Which is fine. You’re only seeing this because you loved the first one anyway, and if you’ve seen the first one, you’ve already done your job and I’m okay with your choices.
88. Between Two Ferns: The Movie
The Funny or Die skits this was based on are very funny. Did this need to be a feature-length film? Not at all. But, it has a lot more of Galifianakis doing interviews, and those are very funny. They decided to build a plot around them to tie it all together, which involves him having to interview a bunch of people before a certain amount of time so he can get his own talk show or something — it doesn’t really matter. You’re here for the cringe-y interviews with celebrities. That’s why we’re here. The rest of the movie is whatever.
Though I will say, this movie also has a line that is so stupid that also made me laugh really hard. The group is on the road at a diner and one of the characters asks the waitress about the fish sticks and asks what they look like. And the waitress goes, “Have you ever seen a chicken strip?” and she responds, “I’ve never seen a chicken wear clothes.”
That’s the level of humor that’s in this movie. So based on that you should decide whether or not it’s for you. But also, I would recommend, if nothing else, watching the clips of Galifianakis interviewing the celebrities. Those moments are really funny.
87. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
This is one of the most admirable movies on the platform. It’s an original Christmas musical with an all-Black cast. The story is original, all the songs are original, and they don’t even try to ‘diversify’ the cast like so many movie would do. It’s a Black cast, and that’s that. And I love all of that. As a pure movie, it’s just okay-to-good. It’s about an inventor whose apprentice betrayed him and stole all his ideas, forcing him into a life of solitude and making him lose his spark. Cut to thirty years later, enter his granddaughter, who helps him regain his spark and finish a long-ago abandoned invention (that his apprentice, now out of ideas, wants to steal for himself). It’s fun. There’s a lot going on here and it’s a bit over-full of stuff, but I just love that they made this. You don’t get movies like this, and when you do, they don’t star Black actors. So good for them for making this, and I think you could do far worse than watching this movie on that platform.
86. The Most Hated Woman in America
This is a biopic of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an activist and atheist who helped usher in a Supreme Court ruling banning Bible readings in public schools and fought for the separation of church and state. The title refers to the fact that she was so outspoken that everyone who came across her hated her.
Melissa Leo plays her, and she’s quite good as she usually is. The film is one of the early Netflix movies, and feels like one of those films that, if not on this platform, would never have found a home anywhere else. The story itself is pretty off-the-beaten path, but also the story of what ended up happening to her is even weirder. I’m glad it ended up here so at least more people can stumble upon it now.
85. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
The Ted Bundy movie. I think most people would tell you to watch the miniseries documentary instead, but I’m not here to talk about documentaries. I’m here to talk about movies. Plus, the same guy directed both, so there’s that.
First thing’s first — Efron is a great choice to play Bundy. Second… I feel like there’s a misconception about what this movie is. It doesn’t show him actually killing anyone. It’s told mainly from the perspective of his girlfriend, because it’s based on her memoir of living with him and not knowing who he was, despite ever-growing evidence throughout all his trials and incarcerations. However, it also does spend a great deal amount of time with Bundy himself as he defends himself and fights for what he claims is innocence.
It’s a bit of a disjointed movie, but I feel like if you accept the fact that you’re not gonna see him be a serial killer (which I guess would be a pretty big reason to downgrade the movie for most people), it’s perfectly watchable. I thought the performances were fine and the film was perfectly entertaining. But, as I said… it’s not for everyone and I think a lot of people would prefer a much more straightforward approach to the story rather than one that could be construed as humanizing a monster. So mark this as “not for everyone, but perfectly solid if you think it may be for you.”
84. Message from the King
One of the earlier Netflix acquisitions. They picked this up once they realized Chadwick Boseman was gonna have some heat for Black Panther.
It’s got a simple premise — African man travels to Los Angeles in search of his missing sister. And he uncovers some shady people who he has to eventually beat the shit out of. No different from a Liam Neeson-style movie. Perfectly solid and entertaining.
This is the kind of movie I recommend just because, if you’re at home with nothing to do, and you want an easy movie to watch you don’t have to think about, this is that movie. Of course, for some people, a rom com is an easy watch. I personally grew up watching movies like this, so for me, this is something I would just throw on. Still, perfectly entertaining if you’re down for the genre.
83. Lost Girls
A really solid drama for adults that unfortunately is one of those movies that tonally will never cross over into getting a large audience. It just isn’t. It’s about the plight of sex workers, especially ones who go missing. It’s about a mother who finds out her daughter (who had run away from home years prior and was starting to occasionally check back in) has gone missing in a gated community in Long Island (this is based on real events, by the way). The local police, knowing she was a prostitute, don’t really look into the case at all and don’t seem to care, even though it’s pretty obvious that she was very likely abducted and murdered. And the film is more about the mother, knowing her daughter is likely dead, trying to force the police to do something about it rather than ignoring it (which they do far too often about far too many crimes). And she bands together with the families of other women who have also gone missing and who are also facing the same indifference from law enforcement to try to get some resolution. It’s an important message that the film is trying to get across and the film is a very solid piece of work. It’s quite good, even if it is a bit uneven at times (the ‘Zodiac’ section felt a bit much). But it’s got something to say and highlights a topic that is far too ignored, and that makes it better than a lot of the other stuff Netflix has to offer.
82. Spenser Confidential
Don’t let the fact that it’s Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg confuse you: this is a highly mediocre movie. That said, I grew up with dumb movies like this and firmly enjoy them. So my ranking might be skewed. But, with Wahlberg and Berg, you probably want to stick to the earlier stuff, like Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, because this just feels like everyone going through the motions. This movie almost feels like they didn’t even properly edit it. It’s just sort of aimless. But, Wahlberg and Winston Duke are fun together and you get Alan Arkin. You could definitely do worse, even though you also could do far better.
81. Over the Moon
One of the few non-Disney, non-Pixar animated films that I’m very okay with. Mostly because this one tells a story rooted in Chinese culture, with non-white characters, voiced by actual Asian actors and the film has a lot of heart going for it. You can tell they took care with this one rather than just throwing in dumb stuff for the sake of dumb stuff. The dumb stuff is still there, but it’s definitely not as bad as most other American studio animated fare. I’m guessing the reason this works better than most stuff (and looks quite good, despite being pretty standard CG animation) is because Glen Keane directed it. That dude’s been a great animator for years and has a couple of great shorts to his name (specifically Duet and Dear Basketball). Overall, it’s just okay as far as animated movies go, but for all the reasons I’ve spoken about, I am very okay with this and very respectful of everything they’ve achieved with it.
80. Hold the Dark
This is Jeremy Saulnier’s followup to Blue Ruin and Green Room. It’s… a much different movie than those two. Those two were relatively simple stories about violence. This has a lot more going on.
Jeffrey Wright stars as a writer who is hired to locate their missing son after he goes missing amongst a series of wolf attacks. That’s… really all you need to know to get into it, but know that it’s gonna go other places over its run time.
I don’t think this quite works as well as his other movies, although it does feel very solidly made and acted. I will say that I think this is more likely to not be liked by most, just because it is very slow and takes some difficult turns for most audiences. But I think Saulnier is a very strong filmmaker and it’s his filmmaking instincts that make this worth a watch.
79. Earthquake Bird
Interesting little thriller. Alicia Vikander is an American living in Tokyo who starts daring a Japanese photographer. Then Riley Keough shows up and immediately seems like she’s got designs on Vikander’s boyfriend. Oh, and at a certain point she goes missing and is presumed dead. Which is never a good thing.
Directed by Wash Westmoreland, who also made Quinceañera and Still Alice and Colette. It’s a really solid little thriller.
78. Like Father
This is a movie that I did not expect to go over as well as it did for me. Given the cast, I thought it would be some cheesy comedy that would be awful. But it’s not. It’s more drama than comedy.
The setup is something you’ve seen a bunch — Kristen Bell is a workaholic who is about to get married. She’s planned this out meticulously. Then her fiancé leaves her at the altar. Also during all this, her estranged father, Kelsey Grammar, shows up, even though she wants nothing to do with him. Though the two end up going out for drinks and getting fucked up, and next thing you know, they’re both on the honeymoon cruise she booked. So instead of a honeymoon, it’s her on a boat with her father, patching up that relationship.
It has a lot of scenes you’d expect for something like this, but it’s also got a lot of stuff that feels really well done and actually made me go, “Oh, wow, that’s actually not what I was expecting.” It’s definitely better than you think it’s gonna be.
It’s also directed by Lauren Miller, who did For a Good Time Call…, which I thought was also more solid than other movies of that ilk.
77. All Together Now
A real surprise of a movie. It’s a high school coming-of-age YA movie — all that stuff, you know the drill — and yet there’s real substance here. The main character (very well-played by Auli’i Cravalho) is homeless and spends her nights sleeping on a school bus with her mother, who drives the bus during the day and is an alcoholic who has trouble leaving her abusive boyfriend. She’s one of those type-A students (partly because she needs the money for her and her mother and partly because that’s her nature), teaching night classes, volunteering at an old folks’ home, planning the school talent show, and her dream is to go to drama school across the country, only she naturally can never seem to get the money she needs in order to get there. It’s really not your usual high school movie. And as much as it does traverse in all the tropes at various times, there’s a lot of personality to this and it really is a lot better than you think it’s gonna be going in. Plus, you get Carol Burnett, and how many movies can say that?
76. Coin Heist
One of the earliest of the Netflix movies. It’s about a group of students trying to save their school by robbing the U.S. Mint. Yup. It’s a heist film. It’s basically like if The Breakfast Club were also Ocean’s Eleven.
Modest film with modest returns, but also pretty solid and the kind of movie I want to be promoting off this platform. It’s very fun and an easy watch. And also something I know almost nobody even realizes exists.
75. American Son
This is essentially a play on screen. The entire film takes place in a single room and features a cast of four. Kerry Washington is a woman whose son didn’t come home that night and she goes to the police station to report it. And so she calls her ex-husband, and the film is the two of them waiting in this police station, dealing with cops who seem like they don’t give a shit and also going through their failed marriage and their respective relationships with their son as they await word on where he is.
It’s very theatrical. Washington’s performance is very… big. It’s very much for the stage and can be a bit much for people who are used to more restrained performances. But as far as plays go, I was really engaged by it and thought it was a very effective film. You can see where it’s going and what it’s setting up, but I liked it. I think it’s effective in what it wants to do and you could do far worse for 90 minutes.
Put it this way — this single-location one-act play is better than a lot of the other stuff this platform has put out.
This is the kind of movie that would normally have been bought by a Fox Searchlight and be put out for an Oscar run. It’s very much in that vein. Netflix did buy this for a lot of money and I think was originally intending to do just that, but instead put it out like, mid-year or something.
It’s a father-son road trip movie. They’re estranged, and he’s dying, and they haven’t spoken in years, but the son decides to take Dad on the trip… yada yada yada. It’s like Nebraska but much more adversarial and… Sundance-y. Ed Harris is a famous photographer who is determined to go to the Kodak lab and develop a roll of film before he dies. Kodak has stopped making film and they’re about to shut down the last plant, which is in the midwest. So they have to drive out there. Jason Sudeikis is his music talent agent son who hasn’t spoken to his father in years (because his father is an asshole). So Sudeikis, Harris and Elizabeth Olsen (Harris’s nurse), go on a trip to this factory.
It hits most of the beats you expect it to hit and has all the indie cliches you’d expect. Down to the ending, which I will say, you can probably see coming but still almost manages to land despite that. Which is why this movie ended up where it did. I find that, even though it’s treading very worn ground, it does so admirably and almost manages to make it over that hump into “really good movie” territory. Doesn’t quite get there, but if you’re looking for a very worthwhile Netflix movie, this is one.
Really solid movie.
Aspiring music creator witnesses the death of his sister and has severe PTSD and stops going to school. Anthony Anderson is a school security guard who meets him and bonds with him over their love of music. Anderson is also a fledgling producer who sees real talent in the kid and tries to become his manager.
It’s a weirdly serious movie, but that tone somehow helps it. It’s got some weight to it, and I liked that. Not a perfect movie by any stretch, but Anthony Anderson is great in a dramatic role, and you really do feel the struggle of these people who just want to make it out of this town and not be killed along the way.
This is definitely one of those movies I’d recommend for anyone who thinks they might like it.
72. The Red Sea Diving Resort
The perfect kind of movie for Netflix. A lesser version of Argo that is very watchable with no effort required. It’s about Mossad agents who buy and operate a Sudanese hotel that is designed to help get Ethiopian Jewish refugees to safety after being victims of a genocide by Sudanese troops.
It’s very entertaining and has a good cast — Chris Evans, Haley Bennett, Alessandro Nivola, Michael K. Williams, Greg Kinnear and Ben Kingsley. It’s the right kind of Netflix movie.
71. The Incredible Jessica James
This is by Jim Strouse, who did Grace Is Gone, The Winning Season and People Places Things. If you’ve seen any of them, you know his m.o. — small, character-driven indies that are ultimately pleasant.
This is pretty much the same thing, except with one secret weapon: Jessica Williams, who is a force of nature and delivers the type of performance that makes me shocked that she hasn’t immediately been snapped up for more things. She plays a playwright trying to move forward in her career and get over a bad breakup. She teaches acting to kids during the day, and submits plays at night. And the film is about her trying to make her way as she starts dating a new guy. Lakeith Stanfield plays her ex and Chris O’Dowd plays her new love interest.
It’s a really sweet film, and Williams is absolutely tremendous here. If you’re unfamiliar with her, you should see this, because she really delivers the type of performance and has the kind of natural charm that will make you sit up and take notice.
Andrew Niccol makes yet another high-concept technology movie. This is the man who write and/or directed: Gattaca, The Truman Show, Lord of War and In Time.
The premise is that society has become completely transparent. Everyone knows who everyone else is, and their entire lives are documented publicly. As a result, crime is almost minimal. However, Clive Owen, a detective, finds a woman who is not in the system, right as a series of murders begin taking place by someone who is seemingly hidden from the system. And of course, things take off from there as he goes undercover to try to figure out who she is/root out the murderer.
It’s not the greatest movie ever, much like In Time wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but the high concept nature of the premise allows you to at least consider all the other possibilities for a world like this, which will help get you through the less-interesting scenes of the film.
Overall, I think it’s the kind of movie that works on a platform like this, because it’s much easier to come across it than if it were just randomly out on DVD, looking like all the other generic versions that are out there.
This is Gareth Evans’ followup to the two Raid movies. This is, very much not those movies. So be prepared for that going in.
It takes place in colonial times, as Dan Stevens goes to a town in search of his missing sister. And he happens upon a religious cult that runs this small town, and all the secrets the town (and the cult) hold. It’s really solid. Michael Sheen plays the cult leader, and the film does some interesting things with his and Stevens’ relationship. Also one of those movies where you don’t really know where it’s gonna go, and it takes a turn that you really wouldn’t expect.
Definitely not for everyone, but it’s really solid filmmaking in an area that I am fascinated by.
68. The Land of Steady Habits
This is Nicole Holofcener, who seems like a filmmaker who is perfectly tailored to the Netflix model. She makes very small, character-driven indie movies that barely make any money at the box office and only really get seen by a niche group of filmgoers, often because of the casts she attracts. This way, she can get her movie seen by more people and doesn’t have to worry about numbers.
It stars Ben Mendelsohn (which is already great, any time he gets a lead role) as a finance guy who chose early retirement and divorce and is now bored as hell. So he spends his time banging middle-aged women and doing drugs which his son’s drug addict friend. It’s really solid stuff.
This is where we get into the “definitely worth a watch” territory for Netflix. Not the greatest movie ever, but also really good stuff that’s worth it for the people involved.
This movie surprised the hell out of me. Also written and directed by a Black filmmaker with a largely Black cast, which is wonderful. And there’s real honest themes here, which is nice. It’s about a kid who dreams of becoming a sommelier, yet is destined to take over his father’s barbecue restaurant. And so it’s that whole ‘my dream vs. your dream’ thing, but a lot of it is this guy studying to become a sommelier. And somehow watching someone study wine is utterly fascinating to me. I know nothing about wine, but watching them throw out all these facts and things and be able to identify specific tastes to it based on a single smell and sip and even know what very specific region it was grown is impressive as hell. I just really like this one and think it’s one of those really solid movies that really deserves a proper audience.
66. 22 July
This is Paul Greengrass’ fourth movie about a terrorist attack. The man hasn’t met a tragedy he didn’t want to make a movie about, apparently. I guess technically one of the four is more of a pirate attack than a terrorist attack. But you know what I mean.
This is about the Norway attack in 2011, where a man opened fire and killed 77 people at a campground. I will say up front that I have major issues with this movie, mostly because it feels like it’s giving the perpetrator a voice for his views, which is what he wanted in the first place when he committed the act. But Greengrass is a really good filmmaker, and the way he shoots the actual event is terrifying. The rest of the movie is more about the aftermath, so you have a good hour and a half of people dealing with trauma, grief, and then the whole trial of it all, which is the part I really question why they showed. Still, it is a solid movie, even if I would recommend several other Greengrass movies over this one. As far as Netflix movies go, you could do so much worse than this.
65. The Prom
It’s just a pure, over-the-top fun musical. Based on a stage show (and it shows), and loaded with actors who sing — it’s just colorful and enjoyable and just doing its thing. Plus it’s got a nice story — about a high school student in a conservative midwest town who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom and starts a giant media circus in her town. It’s basically gay Hairspray, of sorts (well.. Hairspray is gay Hairspray, but you know what I mean). There’s the conservative mother and head of the PTA trying to stop all this progressiveness from happening, the whole thing. Only here, the side plot is a bunch of egotistical Broadway actors, needing positive press after their last show flopped, coming in and deciding, “We’re gonna solve everything just with our presence!” So there’s that too. It’s not the greatest thing ever made, but it’s enjoyable, and that’s really all that matters.
64. The Laundromat
Steven Soderbergh meeting Netflix is kind of a perfect development. Because his films never really did well theatrically and were always tough sells for the mass audience. But this way, they can just be out there and people can give them a shot and maybe some people who wouldn’t go for them on paper can maybe enjoy themselves.
This one’s about the Panama Papers, detailing all sorts of bank fraud and vast corruption that involved offshore money laundering. The film takes a Big Short-esque way of explaining it, with Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas as the two men in charge of the operation explaining how it works, while we also see a side story with Meryl Streep as a woman fleeced out of the life insurance claim she was entitled to after her husband’s death in a boating accident investigating all of this and helping uncover everything that’s going on.
It’s a very interesting, if uneven film that is trying to do a lot and only partially succeeds in doing so. But it is an interesting movie that feels perfect for this platform.
63. Roxanne Roxanne
An interesting biopic about Roxanne Shante, famous for delivering the freestyle “Roxanne’s Revenge” at age 14. The film deals with her tumultuous upbringing and all the factors that went into (or didn’t) her famous verse.
It starts with a really awesome scene of her mother taking her to a rap battle (because, remember, she’s as child) where she proceeds to demolish the other competitor. That was a really awesome opening. It then goes to some dark places, specifically with her relationship to Mahershala Ali, a much older (and not particularly nice) man, but also some cool ones, such as her repeating interactions with a younger aspiring rapper who turns out to be someone everyone knows.
I really liked this one. It was one of the earlier Netflix movies, and there are some really terrific scenes interspersed among some of the more tedious ones. Overall, I think this is a biopic worth checking out.
62. The Babysitter
This, in its own way, is a perfect Netflix movie. Boy has a crush on his babysitter. Boy sneaks out after bedtime to get a glimpse of the babysitter and her friends doing “adult” stuff. Turns out, they’re performing a satanic ritual and now he’s in trouble.
It’s a fun concept, and the execution is perfectly in line with what you would expect out of Netflix. Well worth seeing, and entertaining in a “I saw this on cable and was amused” kind of way. And honestly, as time has gone on, this has become one of the more solid things you can see on the platform. Along with its sequel, which…
61. The Babysitter: Killer Queen
This sequel is arguably better than the first film. Because the first one is, kind of like the first Purge movie, based on the premise. So it’s small, tells its story and is ultimately enjoyable in a ‘small risk, small reward’ kind of way. This one just said, “Fuck it,” and shot for the moon. They go wild here, with all sorts of fantasy sequences and fun fourth-wall-breaking flashbacks. At one point there’s a straight up musical number for when the two leads have sex for the first time. It’s just fun as hell. And this is exactly the type of enjoyable B movie that this platform should exist for. The plot is totally irrelevant and you’re just there for all the fun stuff they do because everyone knows what the deal is going in, so they might as well give you your money’s worth. This is truly one of the better things you can see on the platform.
60. The Highwaymen
This is an admittedly flawed movie, but the prestige factor is high.
It’s about the Texas Rangers who caught (well… “caught”) Bonnie and Clyde. It’s directed by John Lee Hancock, who did The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks and The Founder, and stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.
It’s a neo-western. Takes place in the 30s, so it’s a post-western western. And while the movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, the product is solid on its own. Personally, I’d have wanted it to go the more meditative route, which it sets up while introducing Costner’s character. And it seems like both actors think they’re in The Assassination of Jesse James. But the film is trying to be more mainstream, and putting in more action sequences than are really necessary.
So, yeah, it’s the kind of movie that could have went a dozen spots higher on this list, but if you just take it as it is, it’s worth seeing and well done.
I was not expecting this movie to be good at all. It’s an origin story of Santa Claus, made with the animation style of other, cheaper animated films that are also on the platform. And yet, it’s totally charming.
The story revolves around a spoiled mailman, played by Jason Schwartzman, whose father has a postal empire. He’s been living off his father’s wealth and has no ambition of his own. So his father sends him to the furthest possible place he can (essentially the North Pole) and tells him he has a year to get a post office up and running there or else he’s cut off. And of course no one up there sends mail and it’s this town of feuding families who hate one another. But Schwartman finds an in with an old woodsman who has a secret stash of toys, which he starts distributing to the uncorrupted kids of the town, telling them that if they want more toys, they have to send letters and tell the man that they’ve been good. And so on and so forth.
It’s actually quite charming. It’s one of those movies you have no expectations for and come out going, “Wow, that was actually pretty good.”
58. Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
This was one of those Netflix hidden gems for me in the earlier days when there weren’t a whole lot of options on the platform in terms of Originals.
It’s about two girls whose mother is in jail and they have to fend for themselves. The older girl is preparing for college and has to take care of the younger girl so foster care doesn’t take her away, maintain her valedictorian status and pay the bills. She’d also like to bail her mother out of jail. So, in order to do that, she starts robbing trains. Sounds crazy, but it’s not. Totally works, and the tone is light and fun.
Definitely one of those movies I recommend. Simple movie with simple pleasures, but these are the best ones to find. They don’t require you to be in a mood to watch them, and you’re almost certainly gonna enjoy them.
57. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
This is a sequel to the show with a lot of flashbacks that take place between the episodes of the show. I’ve never seen the show, and I suspect those who have are the ones who would get the most out of the film. But, considering I know almost nothing about it and still enjoyed this movie should tell you that you don’t need the show to enjoy it.
It feels like the exact type of movie that is perfect for the Netflix platform. It’s not quite theatrical and not quite TV movie. This way, you can binge the show and then throw on the movie and supplement it with this. But, even without the show, I found it entertaining, so I think it’s just a decently solid movie that you don’t have to feel the pressure of the show to watch.
56. War Machine
David Michod started his career with two really awesome films — Animal Kingdom, which is amazing, and The Rover, which is a nice little gem with a fantastic Guy Pearce (and a solid Robert Pattinson) performance. He aims higher with this, a political satire that’s about the futility of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Basically about the cycle of — one general can’t get anything done, is replaced with another one who is more gung ho, who eventually can’t get anything done, fucks up and has to be replaced by the next guy. Think of it like a string of head coaches on a perennially terrible sports team.
Brad Pitt stars as the general, and he’s doing his best “trying to be George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove.” Only the movie, as is the case with a lot of satires, is very uneven and tonally can’t find its footing. It still kinda works and is very entertaining and has some terrific moments, but now we’re in that realm of “approaching really good” Netflix territory. And this is one where, you can see it and you’ll probably be okay with it, but it’s not in that top tier of what you need to be watching off this platform.
Still, if you’re looking for something, it is very amusing.
55. Unicorn Store
This is a movie for everyone who has not let their inner child die.
I understand that it is and will continue to be a very divisive movie, but I stand by my ranking because… if your inner child still exists, you’ll get something out of this movie.
It takes a minute to get into it. The style of comedy and writing is very particular and is something you need orient yourself to. But once you get into it, you realize this is a movie about believing in the magic of the universe.
Brie Larson plays a woman who has really never grown up or “gotten her shit together” in the adult sense who is back living with her parents and taking a job as a temp at an agency. Though despite the forced growing up she has to do, she gets a mysterious, Hogwarts-style invitation to the titular unicorn store, where she is told that she can get her very own unicorn. That is, if she earns it.
It’s… it’s a movie about believing in yourself and being yourself, and not letting that inner child die. I think it’s wonderful.
54. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Noah Baumbach movie. We’ve been working our way up the list of “indie auteurs” who have found a platform to get their movies out there without the worry of having them perform at the box office despite only being in like, 200 theaters max.
Baumbach here makes what could be his best movie. As someone who generally dislikes most of his output, that’s a huge compliment from me. (I’m still a big Frances Ha fan, but this is probably the only other one I’d say I don’t openly dislike in some way.) So yes, do know that I’m generally biased going in, but as a film, this had some moments I really enjoyed.
It’s the… not saga… but story of a family. Dustin Hoffman plays the patriarch and Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller play his sons, while Elizabeth Marvel plays his daughter. Grace Van Patten plays Sandler’s daughter, and Emma Thompson (with far too few screen time) plays Hoffman’s wife. Hoffman is about to have a show put on (he’s an artist) celebrating his work as a sort of lifetime achievement thing. And the family all gathers together in the wake of that, despite not really having talked or seen each other outside of the usual pleasantries for a while.
Hoffman is good, as per usual, Stiller is actually quite solid, and Sandler reminds us of the kind of work he can do when doing drama and not the dumb comedies. Elizabeth Marvel is the real scene-stealer here, and there’s a terrific scene where she opens up about something that happened to her and her brothers… let’s just say, get their “revenge.” It’s a very funny moment.
This feels like one of the prime examples of what Netflix as a platform can offer people, and while it’s not necessarily my favorite movie, I do appreciate what it is and what it means for the sanctity of the Netflix Original.
I will first say what I must say — it is a completely unnecessary movie. The Hitchcock version exists and is a perfect entity and you never needed to adapt the novel ever again after that. Yet, as far as a pure movie goes… perfectly solid. The casting is quite good (Armie Hammer as Max de Winter, Lily James as the Second Mrs. de Winter and Kristin Scott-Thomas as Mrs. Danvers. All perfectly suited to their roles), the film looks good, it’s a perfectly well-rounded adaptation of the novel. Once you get over the fact that they didn’t ever need to make it and that the other version is significantly better and the one you should see if you’ve never seen either, this is an absolutely reasonable film, and arguably because it’s on Netflix, the stakes are lower and you can be more okay with it than if they tried to force you into a theater to watch it.
A really terrific film that I wish did more. That’s my review of it. I wish they went so much deeper into the backstory and the characters’ relationship, all of it. More meat on the bone. Because the premise is basically — “Hey, you know how a lot of children of immigrant parents have a bit of a distant relationship to them and don’t really know who they are? Well, this is that. And in my version, I’m pretending my father’s past was kind of like In the Mood for Love.” In the present, the father is widowed and very distant from his daughter, never really engaging with her as a person. And then we flash back from that to the past, where we find out that before he left Taiwan, he was in madly in love with another woman who didn’t ever desire to leave, despite his desires to start a family in America. So he left her and came to America and was arranged to be married to someone else, who he spent the rest of his life with, perfectly happy but not as in love with her as he was with the first woman. And that’s the film. It’s really well made, but as I said… I do wish we got more of everything. But there is a very solid film here that is very much worth seeing
51. The Devil All the Time
This is one of those movies that you know immediately was adapted from a novel. It’s got that omniscient narrator, it’s talking about the history of a town/area over a number of years and switches between a number of different characters. And that means that at times, you will feel like they took what is probably an unwieldy novel meant for the page and tried to cram it into 130 minutes on the screen. So you don’t necessarily feel like all things are perfectly characterized or fully fleshed out or even necessarily serve a definitive purpose. Yet it’s all really solid, starting with the cast, which includes Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgard, Haley Bennett, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Harry Melling, Eliza Scanlen and Mia Wasikowska. There’s a lot to like here, even if it never fully comes together into ‘great’.
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See the rest of the Netflix Rankings:
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