What movies to watch on Netflix

Netflix started out as a home delivery movie service. It eventually evolved into a video-on-demand (VOD) streaming service, and its affinity for movies began to expand. Now, Netflix not only provides new releases, popular classics and cult favorites, but the streaming giant also produces its own films. 

Appearing on HBO was once the sign a comedian had made it. That rite of passage has changed hands, and now Netflix is the place to go for comedy specials. It gets movies — and compared to other streaming services, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who does it better. The only content Netflix is missing is live broadcasts, along with licensed movies and series that pass through its catalog. So if you’re looking for a library with more classics, then Amazon Prime Video may be a better option. 

Netflix surprised the world with its first film, Beasts of No Nation, showing that a streaming company can compete with the likes of major Hollywood studios. As of late, Netflix originals have been frequent contenders in the Academy Awards, and the company has even released a few titles in theatres. The Irishman alone received 10 Oscar nominations. Whether you’re new to streaming or just looking for a service that provides top-tier movies, this guide will shine some light on the best movies on Netflix. 

Movies that are original to Netflix 

The Meyerowitz Stories 

The Meyerowitz Stories follows a group of siblings and their successful artist father. The film examines the idiosyncrasies of the adult children, which directly correlate to their unique and contentious relationships with their father. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 72%
  • Genre: Comedy, Drama
  • Length: 112 minutes 
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Featured actors: Adam Stiller, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Candice Bergen and Rebecca Miller

Marriage Story 

An intimate glimpse into the tortuous divorce of an actor and a stage director, Marriage Story tells a personal and uncomfortable narrative that’s balanced with a keen sense of humor and multiple touching moments. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 85%
  • Genre: Drama
  • Length: 136 minutes 
  • Rating: R
  • Featured actors: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Julie Hagerty

The Irishman 

As elderly union boss, Frank Sheeran, recounts his life, we follow his days as a meat truck driver after serving in WWII. He soon finds a more lucrative job working for the Bufalino crime family. He crosses paths with Jimmy Hoffa, and the two develop a close friendship. But the story takes a sinister turn as Hoffa’s infamous disappearance is seemingly solved. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 86%
  • Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
  • Length: 209 minutes 
  • Rating: R
  • Featured actors: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Cannavale and Anna Paquin 

Dolemite Is My Name 

Eddie Murphy steps into the shoes of legendary actor Rudy Ray Moore and his infamous and hilarious alter ego, Dolemite. Dolemite Is My Name takes a closer look at the Blaxploitation phenomenon of the 1970s. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 91%
  • Genre: Drama
  • Length: 118 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Featured actors: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps and Craig Robinson

Documentaries

American Factory

When a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an old General Motors plant in a working-class Ohio town — employing two thousand American workers — cultural and social tensions emerge. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 79%
  • Genre: Documentary 
  • Length: 115 minutes 
  • Rating: NR 
  • Featured actors: Junming ‘Jimmy’ Wang, Robert Allen and Sherrod Brown 

Icarus 

What starts out as a documentary about doping in professional sports makes a 180-degree turn as the filmmaker accidentally uncovers an even bigger story — an Olympic cheating scandal. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 94%
  • Genre: Documentary 
  • Length: 110 minutes 
  • Rating: NR
  • Featured actors: Grigory Rodchenkov and Bryan Fogel

Amanda Knox 

A true-crime documentary that takes yet another look at the Amanda Knox story. Knox, who became infamous in the headlines as an exchange student in Italy convicted of murdering her roommate, is interviewed years after the incident. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 71%
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Length: 92 minutes 
  • Rating: NR
  • Featured actors: Amanda Knox, Meredith Kercher and Raffaele Sollecito 

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

This documentary captures rare and intimate behind-the-scenes moments recorded during the filming of the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. From the silly to the straight-up cringeworthy, the documentary gives you special insight into Jimmy Carrey’s plunge into the role of a lifetime. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 88%
  • Genre: Documentary 
  • Length: 94 minutes 
  • Rating: NR
  • Featured actors: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito and Milos Forman

Movies based on a true story

The Laundromat 

A drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Laundromat brings to life the story behind the Panama Papers. As a widow looks closer into a case of insurance fraud, she discovers that the world’s financial system is being abused by a Panama City law firm and the super-wealthy. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 42%
  • Genre: Comedy, Drama 
  • Length: 96 minutes 
  • Rating:
  • Featured actors: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Melissa Rauch and Jeff Michalski

Lion 

Lion follows the life of a boy separated from his family on a train in India who is subsequently adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, as an adult, he uses modern technology to find his lost family. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 91%
  • Genre: Drama 
  • Length: 120 minutes 
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Featured actors: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Sunny Pawar

The Two Popes 

Before he was Pope Francis, he was Cardinal Bergoglio, a discouraged critic of the Catholic church’s direction. Pope Benedict summons the unhappy cleric to Rome, where the two begin spending time together. Bergoglio’s interactions with the then pope lead to a secret that impacts the future leadership of the Catholic church. Although the men sit on opposite sides of the ideological table, they find common ground in their pasts. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 89%
  • Genre: Drama 
  • Length: 125 minutes 
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Featured actors: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Juan Minujin and Sidney Cole

Beasts of No Nation 

Netflix’s first film, Beasts of No Nation, is an ambitious accomplishment. Set in West Africa, the events depicted in the film are based on the life of a child soldier fighting in a civil war. 

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 91%
  • Genre: Drama
  • Length: 120 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Featured actors: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye and Kobina Amissah-Sam

The takeaway

Netflix constantly bolsters its catalog with new, licensed and original movies. These also include children’s films, comedy specials, Sci-Fi, thrillers and more. After you sign up, thousands of movies will only be a click away.  Netflix offers a 30-day free trial, so you’ll have ample time to peruse the Netflix movie list.

Zack Kulm

Zack Kulm is a writer and contributor of soda.com. He covers a variety of topics from entertainment and gaming technologies to pop culture commentary. Kulm received a degree in English from Penn State University and Film Studies from Pittsburgh Filmmakers Institute. He also produces award-winning documentaries.