Discovering a truly exceptional movie on Netflix can be challenging due to the overwhelming number of films available and the platform’s suboptimal user interface.
To simplify the process, we have compiled a list of the top films currently streaming in the United States, which we regularly update as titles are added or removed. Additionally, many of our write-ups include links to other excellent movies on Netflix. (Please note that streaming services occasionally remove titles or alter their release dates without prior notice.)
Director Todd Haynes masterfully adapts Patricia Highsmith’s second novel, “The Price of Salt,” in this film, which serves as a companion piece to his earlier acclaimed work, “Far From Heaven.” Cate Blanchett delivers a remarkable performance as a 1950s suburban housewife who becomes infatuated with a free-spirited shopgirl (a captivating Rooney Mara) to the point where she is willing to risk everything to follow her heart, even her comfortable life. According to our critic, the film is both passionate and insightful, intellectual and romantic, leaving the viewer both intellectually engaged and emotionally swept away.
‘Glass Onion’ (2022)
In this enjoyable comedy-mystery, writer and director Rian Johnson builds upon the success of his Agatha Christie-style hit, “Knives Out,” continuing the adventures of the brilliant detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, still adorned with neckerchiefs and a wonderfully Southern accent). Johnson creates a “timeless detective story with a perfect blend of lightness and precision,” exploring the divide between the rich and poor as a group of wealthy friends (including Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista, and Kathryn Hahn) gather on a remote island owned by a Silicon Valley tycoon (Edward Norton). Similar to Ana de Armas in the previous film, Janelle Monáe delivers an outstanding performance as an outsider who is not what she appears to be.
‘A League of Their Own’ (1992)
This uproarious sports comedy, based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, is skillfully directed by Penny Marshall. The film follows the league’s female players as they traveled around the country during World War II, entertaining audiences while the male players were overseas fighting. Geena Davis delivers an outstanding performance as the catcher and standout player of the Rockford Peaches, “Dottie” Hinson, while Tom Hanks is uproariously funny as the team’s alcoholic manager, Jimmy Dugan. Madonna, Jon Lovitz, Rosie O’Donnell, and Lori Petty complete the outstanding ensemble cast, with Madonna’s lively and playful persona generating several big laughs. Our critic described the film as “one of the year’s most cheerful, laid-back, and effortlessly enjoyable comedies.”
‘Bad Boys’ (1995)
Let us revisit the exciting mid-1990s when Michael Bay, a talented young director with a background in music videos and commercials, made his first feature film. Originally written for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, the movie was a buddy-cop flick that went on to become a massive success and confirmed the big-screen potential of then-sitcom actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. In the film, both actors shine as they navigate Bay’s already action-packed scenes with humor and credibility. Téa Leoni’s charming performance as the woman they’re tasked with protecting and Joe Pantoliano’s humorous portrayal of their constantly irritated captain elevate the movie’s predictable antics to a higher level.
‘White Noise’ (2022)
In his latest film, writer and director Noah Baumbach departs from his usual intimate scale and creates a work that verges on spectacle, while retaining his trademark attention to character and dialogue. Set against the backdrop of the Reagan era, the film centers around two intellectuals, Jack (Adam Driver) and Babette (Greta Gerwig), who struggle to maintain their progressive principles amidst a panic-inducing “airborne toxic event” that sweeps their community. Although Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name was published in 1985, the film’s parallels with contemporary events are impossible to ignore, as Baumbach’s characters attempt to navigate a world that feels anything but normal. Our critic describes the film as “frequently funny yet deeply sincere.” Baumbach’s other films, including “Marriage Story” and “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” are also available on Netflix.
‘Friday Night Lights’ (2004)
Peter Berg, the director of the critically acclaimed TV series, adapted Buzz Bissinger’s nonfiction book about the intense emotions and high stakes of Texas high school football into a poignant and elegant drama two years prior. In the film, Billy Bob Thornton delivers a subtle yet superb performance as the team’s coach, delicately navigating the weight of high expectations and the pressures placed on his players, who recognize that their success on the field may be their only means of escaping their small town. Connie Britton also shines as the coach’s wife in the early iteration of her role on television. Additionally, the performances of Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, and Amber Heard as the players and students are all exceptional.
‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996)
Cameron Crowe, the writer and director, received five Oscar nominations for this delightful romantic comedy, which is praised for its “engaging performances, vibrant writing, and genuine kindness.” Tom Cruise delivers one of his best performances as Jerry, a smooth-talking sports agent whose moral crisis leads to a transformation in both his professional and personal life. Cuba Gooding Jr. won the best supporting actor award for his outstanding portrayal of Rod, Jerry’s prized client, and Regina King is exceptional as Marcee, Rod’s pragmatic wife. Renée Zellweger’s heartfelt performance as Dorothy, Jerry’s unexpected love interest, launched her into stardom. Along with this film, “This Is 40” and “Parenthood,” which are equally witty and authentic, are also available to stream.
‘Emily the Criminal’ (2022)
Despite its thumbnail summary (“Aubrey Plaza becomes a thief”), “Emily the Criminal” is not the dry comedy one might expect. Instead, it’s a chilly and confident thriller reminiscent of a Michael Mann procedural, without a hint of irony. To our surprise, the movie works incredibly well, with writer and director John Patton Ford delivering moments of genuine tension and an insider’s perspective on the world of criminals and con artists. Plaza’s portrayal of a temp worker in deep debt who turns to a life of crime may seem like unconventional casting, but her performance is outstanding. For viewers looking for more indie drama, “Leave No Trace” and “We the Animals” are also worth checking out.
‘Inside Man’ (2006)
In this gripping crime thriller, an armed robber (Clive Owen) takes control of a Wall Street bank, taking both the employees and customers hostage. However, this is not just another “Dog Day Afternoon” imitation, as the gunman’s true motives remain a mystery, leaving the brilliant N.Y.P.D. hostage negotiator (Denzel Washington) at a loss. Despite its seemingly familiar premise, director Spike Lee creates a palpable sense of time and place, immersing viewers in a New York City filled with wisecracking cops, jaded bystanders, and savvy power brokers (played by Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer). Lee’s most intriguing character, however, is Owen’s master criminal. With a thrilling finale, this movie is a riveting and dynamic crime drama.