The 30 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (December 2023)

The 30 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (December 2023)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Photo: EMI Films/Cinema 5 Distributing

This post is updated regularly as movies leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.

With hundreds of films from around the world on the streaming giant that changed the game, how does one even know what to watch when they fire up their Netflix? Start here! We’ve gone through the many films available on the platform and pared down the selection to 30 must-see titles, including acclaimed dramas, action films, comedies, horror flicks, and even stuff for the whole family, with Netflix Originals peppered in throughout, alongside its licensed films. No algorithm nonsense here: Our picks represent the personal favorites of seasoned movie critics, and they’re updated every week and month to include or remove films that join or depart from the streaming service. This list represents the best of Netflix’s movie offerings, and it starts with a new rotating critic’s pick of the week.

Year: 1975
Runtime: 1h 29m
Director: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

During a hiatus between the third and fourth seasons of Monty Python’s Family Circus, the gang of mega-talented comedians decided to make movie history. Inspired by the King Arthur legend, Holy Grail is a timeless comedy, the rare kind of film that will still be making people laugh hundreds of years from now. And while the Monty Python boys were already famous, this film took them to another level, cementing their place in movie history.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Call Me by Your Name.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Year: 2017
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Luca Guadagnino

One of the best films of the 2010s, this drama stars Timothée Chalamet as a boy who discovers his own sexuality when he’s wooed by an older man, played by Armie Hammer. Delicate and moving, this is a remarkable drama because of how true it feels, anchored by great performances throughout, not just from the two leads but the amazing Michael Stuhlbarg too.

Backdraft.
Photo: Universal Pictures/Getty Images

Year: 1991
Runtime: 2h 17m
Director: Ron Howard

People who saw this movie at the right age seem to have continued love for it. Ron Howard brings a grounded, taut craft to ensemble piece about Chicago firefighters trying to track down a serial arsonist. The hit film ($150 million+ for a movie like this is unthinkable nowadays) has a great early ‘90s cast that includes Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Glenn, Robert De Niro, and many more, but it’s the fire scenes that make it memorable. You can feel the heat.

L.A. Confidential.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Year: 1997
Runtime: 2h 17m
Director: Curtis Hanson

Curtis Hanson directed this adaptation of James Ellroy’s epic crime novel of 1950s Los Angeles. Starring Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, and Kim Basinger, it’s a perfect thriller and one of the best movies of the ‘90s. So many films since this one have tried to mimic the tough-talking thrills of it and fallen completely flat. It’s harder than it looks to be this cool.

Photo: Rocket Science

Year: 2023
Runtime: 1h 57m
Director: Todd Haynes

Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman star in the latest from Carol and Far from Heaven director Todd Haynes, a stunning character study of an actress who discovers that some people are impossible to figure out. Portman plays a star who tries to get under the skin of Moore’s character, a woman who raped a child when she was a teacher, and later married that young man. Charles Melton is phenomenal as the now-grown victim, stuck in perpetual adolescence.

The Power of the Dog.
Photo: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Year: 2021
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Jane Campion

The film that finally won an Oscar for Jane Campion for directing is one of the most acclaimed in the history of the streaming giant. Campion helmed this adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, the story of a vicious landowner (Benedict Cumberbatch) who torments the new wife (Kirsten Dunst) of his brother (Jesse Plemons). A drama that plays like a thriller, this gorgeously rendered period piece unpacks themes of toxic masculinity and manipulation in a way that makes it impossible to turn away. It’s not just one of the best Netflix Original films, it’s one of the best, period, of the 2020s so far.

The Social Network.
Photo: Moviestore/Shutterstock

Year: 2010
Runtime: 2h
Director: David Fincher

One of the best movies of the 2010s has returned to Netflix after a brief hiatus to remind people how wildly far ahead of its time this movie was when it was released. With a razor-sharp screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and some of the best direction of David Fincher’s career, this is a flawless movie, one that resonates even more now in the era of constant internet than it did almost 15 years ago.

Saving Private Ryan.
Photo: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Year: 1998
Runtime: 2h 49m
Director: Steven Spielberg

War movies haven’t gone anywhere, a prominent part of film history from its early days through 1917. There are certain tentpoles in that history of war movies that feel like game changers, and one came in 1998 when Steven Spielberg returned to World War II to tell a different story of history, reminding everyone in the world about the sacrifices that were made that day, and the obligation we all have to make them worthwhile.

Whiplash.
Photo: Daniel McFadden

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1h 46m
Director: Damien Chazelle

Chazelle may still be startled by the divisive response to last year’s Babylon, but he can go back to the near-universal praise for the film that really broke him, earning one of its stars an Oscar and getting a nomination for Best Picture. Damien Chazelle’s drama about a perfectionist drummer and his militaristic teacher thrilled viewers from the minute it premiered at Sundance. It was a major piece of pop culture, a film that feels like it’s being referenced more every year.

Dune.
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Year: 2021
Runtime: 2h 35m
Director: Denis Villeneuve

The directorial king of the smart blockbusters released another one in 2021 in this highly acclaimed adaptation of the Frank Herbert novels, which premiered on HBO Max along with theaters for a brief window on its way to massive worldwide acclaim and success. Timothee Chalamet stars in this sci-fi epic that was actually the most Oscar-winning film of 2021, taking home six trophies. Part Two was delayed until 2024, but the first half of this story is on Netflix to make the pain easier to take.

Gladiator.
Photo: DreamWorks Distribution

Year: 2000
Runtime: 2h 35m
Director: Ridley Scott

The first Best Picture winner of the new millennium was one of the most beloved period action films of all time. Russell Crowe gives his most iconic performance a Roman general named Maximus, who watches his family murdered and his life destroyed by a vicious ruler named Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Forced into slavery, Maximus must become a gladiator, competing in arenas until he can achieve his ultimate revenge.

Heat.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Year: 1995
Runtime: 2h 50m
Director: Michael Mann

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star in one of the best movies of the ‘90s, a stunning cat-and-mouse game between a career criminal and a workaholic cop. The book release of Heat 2 in 2022 brought a lot of people back to this movie, one that has held up remarkably well over the nearly three decades since it was released. It’s a masterpiece.

Jaws.
Photo: Universal

Year: 1975
Runtime: 2h 4m
Director: Steven Spielberg

The movie that ushered in the blockbuster era is often viewed more in terms of how it changed the industry than the fact that it’s, well, perfect. Seriously, you don’t need to change a single frame, line reading, or edit in Jaws, a film that works to raise tension from its very first scene. There’s a reason people are still writing books about Jaws. And they will be for a very long time.

Photo: Murray Close/Getty Images

Year: 1996
Runtime: 1h 50m
Director: Brian De Palma

Do you think Tom Cruise thought he’d still be playing Ethan Hunt over a quarter-century after the first adaptation of the hit TV show about the super spy? He’s basically created his own James Bond with the excellent Dead Reckoning – Part 1 just leaving theaters. Go back to where it all began with a film that looks downright quaint now compared to the sequels but a film that still plays perfectly. Note: The first four films in the franchise are on Netflix, including the great Ghost Protocol.

RRR.
Photo: DVV Entertainment

Year: 2022
Runtime: 3h 5m
Director: S.S. Rajamouli

One of the biggest films in the world in 2022, this crazy action flick really took off in the United States when it dropped on Netflix. It’s hard to put into words just how much movie you get with RRR. It’s kind of all the movies — musical, romance, comedy, action, drama. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s in here. You’ll want to watch it twice.

Snowpiercer.
Photo: RADiUS/TWC

Year: 2013
Runtime: 2h 6m
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho became a household name (at least in cinephile circles) when he won the Oscar for Parasite, but he had a hit before that in this 2013 sci-fi action flick starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt. It’s a brilliant allegory for society as a train has been divided into classes per car, and the peasants form a revolt. Visually striking and narratively ambitious, this is a film that only seems to grow in esteem with each passing year, especially now that Bong is increasingly famous.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Photo: Sony Pictures Animation

Year: 2023
Runtime: 2h 20m
Director: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson

What a gift to Netflix subscribers for this to already be on the service, mere weeks after playing in theaters and landing on Blu-ray. This is how you do a big-budget blockbuster sequel, developing the themes of the first movie and setting up the stake for what now appears will be one of the best trilogies in superhero history. Packed with so much detail and creativity, it’s a film Netflix subscribers will want to watch over and over again. Do so while you still can.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

War of the Worlds.
Photo: Paramount

Year: 2005
Runtime: 1h 57m
Director: Steven Spielberg

The star and director of Minority Report reunited for this phenomenal adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells tale about the end of the world. Tom Cruise plays an ordinary guy who tries to survive the day the enemy aliens arrived in this incredibly well-directed action epic that plays well as escapism but can also be read as one of the first great movies about 9/11. (Really!)

The Woman King.
Photo: Ilze Kitshoff/Sony Pictures Releasing

Year: 2022
Runtime: 2h 14m
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Living legend Viola Davis stars in this retelling of the all-female warriors of the kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. She plays General Nansica, who trains young women to follow in her footsteps, and leads a rock star ensemble of future stars that includes Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, and Sheila Atim. You’ll know all their names soon enough.

Wonder Woman.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Year: 2017
Runtime: 2h 21m
Director: Patty Jenkins

Ignore the disastrous Wonder Woman 1984 and go back and check out the phenomenal 2017 Patty Jenkins original, the best non-Nolan film in the modern DC Universe. Gal Gadot stars in the title role and really anchors what’s an old-fashioned adventure film, one that owes as much to serial action flicks of the ‘40s and ‘50s as it does to movies with Batman and Superman.

The Big Lebowski.
Photo: Gramercy Pictures

Year: 1998
Runtime: 1h 57m
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Well, that’s just like your opinion, man. Joel and Ethan Coen followed up the biggest hit of their careers win Fargo with the story of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, unforgettably played by Jeff Bridges. In one of his most iconic roles, Bridges captures a kind of lazy L.A. style that turned this flick into a comedy classic, a movie that’s being quoted somewhere in the world on every minute of every day.

Lady Bird.
Photo: A24

Year: 2017
Runtime: 1h 33m
Director: Greta Gerwig

The Barbie director’s last Best Picture nominee is one of the most personal and striking coming-of-age films in years. Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular character, a young Californian who longs for someplace cooler than her own hometown. It’s a heartfelt and very smart film, buoyed by great performances throughout, including Ronan, Tracy Letts, Timothee Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, and Laurie Metcalf, who was robbed of that Oscar.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Photo: Universal Pictures

Year: 2010
Runtime: 1h 52m
Director: Edgar Wright

Michael Cera stars in Edgar Wright’s vibrant adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel, a movie that feels like it could come out exactly the same way today, almost 15 years after its release. Wright’s style is perfect for this material, capturing the tone and structure of the source material with his razor-sharp editing and wit. Note: Netflix has returned to this world with the animated series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Black Swan.
Photo: Fox Searchlight

Year: 2010
Runtime: 1h 48m
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Natalie Portman won her only Oscar for her fearless performance in Aronofsky’s study of commitment and madness. She plays a ballerina who will go to whatever lengths necessary to nail a new production of Swan Lake, even as she fends off the competition of a new dancer, played by Mila Kunis. Unforgettable and terrifying, it’s a true horror film that captures how dedication can be pushed far enough to tear apart reality.

Gerald’s Game.
Photo: Netflix

Year: 2017
Runtime: 1h 43m
Director: Mike Flanagan

Before he helmed The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan co-wrote and directed one of the best Netflix Original horror films in this adaptation of Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name. Carla Gugino is phenomenal as a woman who gets handcuffed to her bed by her toxic husband…and then he has a heart attack. As she tries to figure out how she will survive, she accesses the trauma of her past.

Pinocchio.
Photo: Netflix

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 56m
Director: Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson

The Oscar-winning director took his visionary skills to stop-motion animation with this instant classic, a retelling of the beloved fairy tale about the wooden boy who longed to be real. With spectacular voice work, this version reimagines Pinocchio during the period before World War II, allowing del Toro to explore his themes of innocence and violence again. It’s a deeply personal, beautiful film.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

The Karate Kid.
Photo: Columbia Pictures/2012 Getty Images

Year: 1984
Runtime: 2h 7m
Director: John G. Avildsen

After the massive success of Cobra Kai on Netflix, the streamer finally now also offers fans the original trilogy of films about the kid who learns karate from Mr. Miyagi. The 1984 original is still, by far, the best, starring Ralph Macchio and the great Pat Morita. Less successful are the 1986 and 1989 sequels, but no one would blame fans for wanting to watch the whole trilogy. Note: The Jackie Chan remake is also on Netflix.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
Photo: DreamWorks

Year: 2023
Runtime: 1h 42m
Director: Joel Crawford

No one would have predicted that the presumed-dead Shrek franchise had another spin-off sequel of this caliber yet to be released, but December 2022 saw the critical and commercial success of arguably the best film in the entire series. Using a style more reminiscent of Into the Spider-verse than typical DreamWorks, The Last Wish is a gorgeous and surprisingly moving story of the title character dealing with something he never expected to face: mortality. It’s funny, clever, and memorable.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Wendell & Wild.
Photo: Netflix

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 46m
Director: Henry Selick

The director of A Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline finally returned this year with this clever and twisted tale co-written by Oscar winner Jordan Peele. The comedian also co-stars as one of the title characters, the literal demons for a girl who blames herself for the death of her parents. Selick is a master of stop-motion animation and this project allows him to stretch his visual prowess in new, gross ways. It’s a new Halloween classic (that can be watched any time, of course!)

If you subscribe to a service through our links, Vulture may earn an affiliate commission.

TV Shows Critics Loved and Got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes in 2023 Previous post TV Shows Critics Loved and Got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes in 2023
Man in 20s dead, 3 other men injured after serious crash in Hamilton Next post Man in 20s dead, 3 other men injured after serious crash in Hamilton