Have your say! Vote now for the 2017 Three Empire Awards.
We all know that Netflix is home to many TV gems - here's 50 of 'em, for starters - but it also offers a repository of cracking movies to delve into. We've scoured Netflix UK to pick out (in no particular order) 50 movies worth chilling with. Some are classics, some deeper cuts; all are worthy of your sofa time.
Once director John Carney, a former pupil of Synge Street school in Dublin, heads back to his old stomping ground for this stonking ‘80s-set musical comedy drama, which sees a gaggle of nerdy schoolboy misfits and an aspiring model transform themselves into a eyeliner-drenched New Romantic band. Come for the toe-tapping period soundtrack (Hall & Oates! The Jam! Duran Duran! A-ha! Spandau Ballet) and original songs, stay for the emotional depth and all-round feel-goodery.
The Big Short
A true story about collateralised debt obligations from the guy who directed Talladega Nights? The Big Short was always something of an incongruous proposition. But with effervescent scattershot direction, and dynamite performances from the likes of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and a jacuzzi-dwelling Margot Robbie, it is at once instantly entertaining and extraordinarily disturbing. We follow three groups on the fringes of the financial industry during the mid-noughties as they slowly uncover the house of cards propping up the mortgage industry, just as it’s about to tumble. Comedy, and real-life horror, in the same gold-plated spoonful.
The Theory of Everything
If you’re looking for a deeper understanding of theoretical physics, The Theory Of Everything might disappoint, skimming over most of Hawking’s scientific breakthroughs. Instead, this biopic on legendary British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking (played here by an Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne) focuses on the man behind the glasses, told largely from the perspective of his first wife (Felicity Jones), and the challenges forced on a young family by the debilitating ALS that leaves Hawking paralysed.
Before La La Land, there was Whiplash. After drinking in Damien Chazelle’s whimsical Hollywood musical, this brutally tense drumming drama will hit you like a cymbal to the skull. Miles Teller excels as the percussive prodigy, sent to the edge and over it by psychotic, abusive conductor Fletcher (JK SImmons on a career high). ‘Boy learns the drums’ might not seem the most compelling pitch but this is a performance masterclass that takes you to euphoric highs and crushing lows with equal relish. To quote Gloria Estefan: “the rhythm is gonna get you”.
The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. But apparently it’s okay to stream it into people’s living rooms. David Fincher’s knowing, subversive masterpiece sees Edward Norton as the unnamed protagonist who’s sucked into a vortex of anti-consumerism, bare-knuckle fighting and domestic terrorism by Brad Pitt’s enigmatic Tyler Durden. Poignant, prescient and achingly stylish, this darkly comic satire is as irresistible as it is iconic.
In 2012, a poll of international film critics named Vertigo as the best film ever made. If you ever needed a reason to see Alfred Hitchcock’s peerless tale of obsession, murder, romance, and psychological intrigue, well, there’s one pretty good reason.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi followed up his sublime vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows with this charming and hilarious adventure through the New Zealand bush, which plays like an Antipodean Up, casting Sam Neill as the irritable old man, and newcomer Julian Dennison as the precocious juvenile he learns to love. In 2016, the annual poll among Empire writers decreed it the best film of the year. Isn’t it about time you chose the skux life and saw what all the fuss was about?
It may have become a punchline for cheesy melodrama, but to remain as the second highest-grossing film in history, two decades after its initial release, Titanic has to be doing something right. The plot is corny, the ending is predictable (spoiler: it sinks) and the Jack and Rose romance is as sickly sweet as a gallon of chocolate sundaes but James Cameron is a master of his craft and the end result is not only a disaster spectacle without peer but throws a hefty emotional body-blow as well.
Richard Linklater spent twelve years making Boyhood. The least you can do is find a couple of hours to watch it. A coming-of-age movie where you quite literally see the protagonists come of age, right there on the screen, this remarkable and unique drama goes beyond mere gimmickry to achieve something rare and authentic, a low-key human drama about what it means to be a boy, a man, and an adult.
This is the film which nearly started World War III; which enraged a dictator and broke down already-frosty diplomatic relations between two major countries; which cost the jobs of several high-profile executives at a major Hollywood studio; which, at the very least, prompted a few people to update their computer’s anti-virus software. Talk about mountains out of molehills: The Interview is a fun, goofy, mostly childish stoner comedy, rife with as much geopolitical commentary as it has madcap action and dick jokes. Watch it, if only to really irritate Kim Jong-un.
Yes, you read that right: Die Hard has come to Netflix. The film that shot Bruce Willis into the stratosphere, carved out its own subgenre and, dare we say it, stands as the greatest action movie ever made. Bruce Willis’ finest hour and the greatest action film ever made is now available for your streaming pleasure. Watch it for Alan Rickman, watch it for the endlessly quotable dialogue, watch it because it’s Die Hard. Why are you still here?
The King’s Speech
For a stuffy English period drama, The King’s Speech plays like a bombastic American sports drama: King George VI (Colin Firth) is the star quarterback down on his luck – or, in this case, stuttering monarch, unable to speak in public – and Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) must coach him back to success. The final act triumph is as thrilling as any Super Bowl victory.
The first in Tim Burton’s extremely-unofficial ‘Big’ series (along with Big Eyes, though there’s a chance we’re reading too much into this), Big Fish sees the Gothmaster General tone down his usual greys and blacks in favour of something more colourful and whimsical. There’s bank robberies, werewolves, circus acts, and giants, but it’s ultimately a story about storytelling, and familial reconciliation through the medium of tall tales.
Under The Skin
An A-list Hollywood star like Scarlett Johannson roaming the streets of Glasgow is akin to an alien visitor, so it makes sense that she does indeed play an alien in Under The Skin: an extraterrestrial seductress who lures unwitting Scotsmen to a gloopy doom. Jonathan Glazer’s long-gestating arthouse sci-fi is a disturbing, affecting, intoxicating watch, brilliantly buoyed by Mica Levi’s eerie electronic score. The scene in which a baby is left alone on a beach, presumably to die, will likely live longer in your memory than you might prefer.
The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Coming-of-age films tend to focus on male misfits. Here was a brutally frank and frequently funny tale of a 15-year-old female, reaching sexual and emotional adulthood ahead of time, in bohemian 1970s San Francisco. Marielle Heller’s dramedy pulls few punches in its depiction of the adolescent experience, and at its centre, there is a brave, bold, and bare performance (figuratively and literally) from newcomer Bel Powley.
Before Scary Movie, before Austin Powers, before even The Naked Gun, there was Airplane! – a film which set the template for spoofs and parodies, with a relentless machine-gun ratio of visual gags and razor sharp puns. The writing-directing team of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker bought the rights to forgotten 1957 disaster B-movie Zero Hour! and effectively rewrote it entirely, adding jokes every thirty seconds or so. We’re serious when we say that this is one of the best comedies ever made. And don’t call us Shirley.
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Ain’t nothing like Guardians Of The Galaxy, ‘cept Guardians Of The Galaxy. When Disney announced that the next expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe featured a machine gun-wielding raccoon and a talking tree from an obscure comic that most punters had never heard of, eyebrows were raised, critics were incredulous, shareholders were perturbed and a little nervy. But the result – an irreverent space romp with a fuck-you attitude and an achingly cool soundtrack – was too likable to fail. If you haven’t already, get hooked on this feeling.
James Stewart breaks his leg, and is confined to a wheelchair in his Manhattan apartment. One stormy night, he witnesses what seems to be a crime in the opposite apartment. Cue two hours of glorious Hitchcockian paranoia, as Stewart (putting in one of his finest performances in a career full of them) grows increasingly desperate to be believed, unable to act from his immobility. Among its many achievements? It inspired Bart Of Darkness, one of the all-time great Simpsons episodes.
Nev Schulman and his brother Ariel are a couple of prototypical New York hipsters working in the Manhattan media. When Nev strikes up a relationship with a woman over Facebook, it seems like a fairly innocuous 21st century tale of romance. Then some uncomfortable truths start to emerge. The ‘twist’ to this 2010 documentary is so jaw-dropping that many have questioned its veracity; believe what you want, but its impact has led to “Catfish” entering the popular lexicon (though to give its definition would be something of a spoiler).
Annie Hall is Peak Woody Allen; the zenith of the filmmaker’s career, at the mid-point between his earlier, zanier comedies and his later more sober, philosophical work. All of the usual Woodyisms are in there: a postmodern treatise on romance; Allen’s nebbish, Jewish protagonist pseudo-intellectualising; and Manhattan looming large in the background and foreground. Roger Ebert once called it "just about everyone's favourite Woody Allen movie", and that is no accident.
There was a time when folk scoffed at the idea of a seventh film in the Rocky series, quickly dismissing it as a cash-in. What a happy surprise to find this was actually one of the most thoughtfully-calibrated reboots in memory: affectionately doffing a cap to the spirit of the original, while ploughing its own muscular, confident furrow. Creed is smart, surprising, entertaining, joyful, emotional, and has important, timely, powerful things to say. Get in the ring before the mooted sequel arrives.
In 2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary profiled the orca named Tilikum, kept in SeaWorld Orlando and ultimately responsible for three people’s deaths. The message here was clear: SeaWorld was committing animal cruelty on an industrial scale. Following the film’s release, attendance to the park began to fall; revenues began to fall; sponsors wary of bad publicity ended partnerships; and in 2015, SeaWorld announced it would phase out its orca shows. This is cinema as genuine, tangible, real-life change.
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
Peter Sellers warned us not to fight in the war room. But he didn’t say anything about laughing until our sides split during Stanley Kubrick’s hysterical political satire. When General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) declares nuclear war on the Soviet Union without telling anyone, said war room descends into a state of unadulterated panic. As Joint Chiefs of Staff President Merkin Muffley (Sellers) and General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) rush to stop the B-52 bombers reaching their target, a whole bunch of wild, infectious characters (including Sellers’ titular former Nazi) get caught in the crossfire. Kubrick at his absolute best.
Battle Royale (2000)
Katniss and her fellow tributes had it tough, but the annual Hunger Games aren’t a patch on the Battle Royale Act. Shipped off to a deserted island, a bunch of Japanese high-school students face a fight to the death with only a randomly selected weapon and their wits to get them through. If you like your films emotional, action-packed and foreign, this should be top of your list. (We recommend you swerve the dire sequel, though.)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
William Gates and Arthur Agee dream of the NBA big leagues in this Oscar-nominated documentary. Both from dilapidated areas of Chicago, the pair are scouted by a private school in Westchester, Illinois. School work and injuries threaten to get in the way, but the boys' dreams never falter. Winning the Audience Award at Sundance and filmed over five years, if you’re ever in desperate need of a jolt of inspiration, look no further.
It’s terrifying to think there’s a generation who were introduced to Al Pacino via Adam Sandler and Sky Broadband adverts. But journey back four decades and you’ll find Serpico, earning Pacino his first lead actor Oscar nomination after being up for Best Supporting in The Godfather the previous year. Pacino is the titular police whistleblower in Sidney Lumet’s true life crime drama, a man who puts his life in danger by threatening to expose the corruption of his fellow New York policemen.
The Look Of Silence (2014)
If you’ve not seen 2012’s The Act Of Killing, return to this when you have. Seen it now? Good. Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to his critically-lauded and genuinely harrowing documentary is just as acclaimed and just as painful. This time Oppenheimer’s focus turns to a specific family who were affected by the 1965 Indonesian communist genocide and now live their life in silence. Not for the easily upset.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Unconditional love towards son Kevin (Rocky Duer, Jasper Newell, Ezra Miller) proves difficult for Eva (Tilda Swinton) as the youngster becomes increasingly volatile - and we’re not talking the odd tantrum before bed. Fans of the book will know what’s ahead, but that doesn’t stop Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation from being as hard-hitting as Kevin is unpredictable.
It Happened One Night
There’s a reason this screwball road-trip romance was the first film to sweep all the major Oscar categories. The set-up has Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable running rings around each other as a sharp-witted socialite and a vinegary hack whose early antipathy slowly gives way to love, but not before they’ve insulted each other across America. Oh, and that reason? It’s bally well marvellous.
Before Alejandro G. Iñárritu was tearing up the 2015 and ‘16 awards races with Birdman and The Revenant, 2006’s Babel was duking it out against The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine. Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Iñárritu’s third film features four stories that all revolve around a single gun. It’s worth it just for Rinko Kikuchi’s incredible Oscar-nominated performance.
Beasts Of No Nation (2015)
Cary Joji Fukunaga assembled a cast of mainly non-actors for this Netflix Original Film set in fictional, war-torn West Africa. A harrowing tale of growing up before your time, Beasts Of No Nation follows young Agu (Abraham Attah) as he is torn from his family and enrolled into child soldier ranks under Idris Elba’s Commandant. Boasting two central performances that will stay with you long after the credits, Beasts proves Netflix aren’t just serious about their original television content: they want to dominate film, too.
With two series of FX’s Fargo done and dusted, now is as good a time as any to catch up with the source material. As Jerry Lundegaard’s (William H. Macy) plan to get rich quick falters at every turn, he soon finds himself pursued by the very persistent – and very pregnant – police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). Sublime.
A Bronx Tale (1993)
Robert De Niro directs himself and Chazz Palminteri in this tale of crime and shifting loyalties. As Lorenzo’s (De Niro) son C (Francis Capra, Lillo Brancato) finds himself taken under local gangster Sonny’s (Palminteri) wing, the youngster struggles to veer away from inevitable tragedy. You’d have to wait until 2006 for De Niro's second directorial rodeo, The Good Shepherd.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
This Boston-set drama stars Matt Damon as MIT-janitor-turned-accidental-advanced-mathematics-student, Will Hunting. Damon and BFF Ben Affleck’s Gus Van Sant-directed screenplay earned them an Oscar, with Robin Williams receiving his fourth and final Oscar nomination (and only win) as Will’s therapist, Sean Maguire. How do you like them apples?
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Dun dun dun-dun, dun dun dun-dun… Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) first mission was to clear his name after being blamed for a failed mission that claimed the lives of his spy associates. This instalment may be pre-Benji (Simon Pegg), but Ving Rhames’ Luther is along for the ride.
Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
King of the spaghetti Western Sergio Leone turned his gaze to the Lower East Side for this adaptation of Harry Grey’s novel. Spanning decades, we follow a group of Jewish gangsters (played by Robert De Niro and James Woods) who ultimately face their demons after a life of crime. Performances and Ennio Morricone score aside, Once Upon A Time In America is Leone’s final film, sadly dying five years later.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might just miss it.” Wise words, Ferris. Matthew Broderick is the rebellious teen hell-bent on rubbing his principal up the wrong way in this John Hughes classic. Epic street parades, Ferraris, Charlie Sheen: bunking off has never been so fun.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Oh look, it’s Jared Leto! And John Travolta! And John C. Reilly! Terrence Malick’s war epic may have left Bill Pullman, Mickey Rourke and Billy Bob Thornton on the cutting room floor, but the final version can be discovered on UK Netflix. Nominated for seven Oscars and complemented by a stellar Hans Zimmer score, Malick’s third film after a 20-year absence was well worth the wait.
Do you ever feel like you watch too many films? Sometimes sitting in front of the box for too long can prove mighty handy. At least, it does for the group of adolescents who utilise what they’ve learnt from the horror genre to fend off a masked serial killer on a stabby rampage. Wes Craven’s slasher is undoubtedly to blame for the insane amount of terrible parody films released each year, but none come close to this original genre spoof.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Giuseppe Tornatore’s Oscar winner takes place in Italy - at the Cinema Paradiso, to be precise. Young Salvatore (‘Toto’, played by Salvatore Cascio) finds himself bewitched by the local picturehouse, falling under its spell and all it has to offer after losing his father in the World War II. A celebration of cinema and love, it’s also an ode to the dying art that is film projection.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
For Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and 'Red' Redding (Morgan Freeman), prison is a place for friends as well as enemies. Thought of by many as the greatest film of all time (calm down Citizen Kane, we said ‘thought of’…), Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption demands your immediate attention if you are one of the lucky few yet to see it for the first time.
Another list, another great Philip Seymour Hoffman performance. Hoffman’s first and only Oscar was for his spookily accurate portrayal of writer Truman Capote. As a story about the murder of a Kansas family turns into his most famous book (In Cold Blood), Truman finds himself fascinated by one of the men responsible. You only need one incentive to add this to your watchlist: Philip. Seymour. Hoffman.
Into The Wild (2007)
Sean Penn directed this true-life tale of 24-year-old Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) as he gives up his worldly possessions and heads into the wilderness. Along the way, he encounters a wild Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart and Catherine Keener. Tautly directed and incredibly emotional, this begs the question, ‘Why isn't Emile Hirsch a massive star?’
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Racially-divided Alabama is rocked by lawyer Atticus Finch when he defends a young black man accused of rape in this adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Finch’s young children Scout (Mary Badham) and Jem (Phillip Alford) find their childhood bliss turned on its head in a film that earned more than ten times its budget and made Atticus Finch one of cinema's greatest characters.
The Warriors (1979)
It’s all-out street war in New York City as The Warriors are blamed for killing the leader of rival gang, The Gramercy Riffs. And all leader Cyrus wanted was gang unity... So much for that. As The Warriors attempt to journey home without being slaughtered one by one, the night kicks off in spectacular fashion. It’s fair to say that Walter Hill’s cult film makes West Ham and Millwall fans look like happy families.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)
Paul Newman and Robert Redford – Butch and The Kid, respectively – abscond to Bolivia after one too many US train robberies bring them to the attention of the law. Leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, the pair are actually very cordial, despite their profession. As the authorities close in on them, the duo find themselves in a bit of a sticky situation. Possible side effects include having Burt Bacharach’s Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head stuck in your brain for a fortnight.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Did a young man stab his father to death? A 12-man jury have the ability to save him from certain execution if they can come to a different, unanimous conclusion. Henry Fonda stars in Sidney Lumet’s crime drama, facing quite the moral quandary as Juror eight out of 12. Whilst those around him view the young whippersnapper as guilty, Fonda tries to find a different approach. Taking place almost entirely within the jury room, high stakes and big performances are the order of the day.
Escape From Alcatraz (1979)
A fictionalised version of the 1962 prisoner escape on Alcatraz, Donald Siegel’s film casts Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan and Jack Thibeau on the island. As Eastwood’s Frank Morris attempts to bust out of the most secure (and apparently unbustoutable) prison on the planet, he and his fellow inmates hatch a plan involving flowers, spoons, and papier-mâché. Honestly, it’s like something off of Blue Peter. Escape From Alcatraz also marked Danny Glover’s film debut, fact fans.
Natural Born Killers
Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis wreak havoc across America as serial killer lovers, Mickey and Mallory Knox. Swept off her feet by Mickey (who in turn rescues her from an abusive father), the pair drive into the sunset - a sunset that involves mass murder, prison time, and Robert Downey Jr.’s tabloid journalist, Wayne Gale. With a story from Quentin Tarantino and breathtaking performances from its central duo, Natural Born Killers is one ride you do not want to miss.