Last Updated: September 29th
The Netflix name has meant many things during the company’s relatively short existence: a source for DVDs by mail, a pioneer of online streaming, a network responsible for some of the best shows not on TV, as the first half of the phrase that ends “and chill.” It’s never quite evolved, however, into what some have hoped it would, as the source for must see movies, new and old. When it comes to good films, Netflix’s streaming service isn’t close to being what it was at its height as a DVD-by-mail service: a place to watch anything from anywhere and any time. Looking for something new and indie? Netflix Instant probably has you covered. Looking for something beyond that description? The service is hit or miss. It’s a great place to watch old episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, not so great when it comes to watching Alfred Hitchcock movies.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t great films on the streaming service right now. There are. Narrowing them down to just 20 of the best Netflix films wasn’t easy. Nonetheless, here’s a ranked list of the best movies on Netflix streaming no film lover should miss, all of them just a simple click away. (If the list skews a little toward new films from the last few decades, that’s mostly because that’s how the streaming service skews.)
Related: The 20 Best Movies On Hulu Right Now
20. Carlos (2010)
Olivier Assayas’ film follows the rise and fall of terrorist Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramirez), from his high-profile crimes in the early ’70s to his capture in 1994. It’s a work of sweeping ambition that taps into the chaos of post-’60s Europe, one driven by Ramirez’s charismatic lead performance. Carlos is charming, terrifying, and, in the end, kind of pathetic. The film is available in two forms: a feature-length version that compresses the story and a three-part miniseries version that first ran on European TV. The latter is essentially three individual movies, each with its own tone. The long version’s the way to go. Carve out the time and watch it as it was supposed to be seen.
19. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
What if could erase your most painful memories? That’s the simple question at the heart of this Charlie Kaufman-scripted, Michel Gondry-directed film. The answers, however, are far from simple. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play strangers who meet on a train to Montauk. Or are they? As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that they share a past, albeit one neither can remember — neither the good times nor the bad. Everyone here is in top form and the film benefits from a contrast in sensibilities: Winslet’s naturally grounded acting pulling against Carrey’s manic tendencies and Gondry’s expressive, emotional filmmaking emphasizing the beating heart beneath Kaufman’s heady concepts.