The Best Netflix Movies You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

  • Roma

    Best Overall

    4.5 out of 5 overall
    Watch it
  • Cargo

    Best Horror

    3.5 out of 5 overall
    Watch it
  • Fyre

    Best Doco

    4 out of 5 overall
    Watch it
  • The Meyerowitz Stories

    Best Comedy

    4 out of 5 overall
    Watch it
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In September, Netflix Australia gets wet with DC's Aquaman and pulls a swift one with Chrissy Nolan's The Prestige. Read on for our top 12 picks of Netflix Australia's best movies.
Best Netflix Movies Australia

The best Netflix Original movies

Netflix Original movies don’t have the same reputation for quality as the zeitgeist-dominating TV series the service churns out. Somewhat justifiably. But it’s not all bad news. For every 10 why-does-this-exist Adam Sandler comedies there’s an overlooked gem – even serious Oscar contenders in recent years. Here are the 10 best Netflix Original movies.

1. Beasts of No Nation

Netflix’s first-ever film, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation set a lofty award-bait standard that few Netflix Originals have since aspired. Set in a nameless war-torn nation, it explores in confronting fashion the horrors of African child soldiers.

When young boy Agu’s village is decimated and his family murdered by an invading army, he flees into the exploitative arms of a guerrilla insurgency. Newcomer Abraham Attah is fantastic as Agu, sympathetic in his struggle to cling onto a semblance of innocence from the corrupting influence of Idris Elba’s Commandant. Deeply disturbing, but powerful.

2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

That the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, True Grit) skipped cinemas entirely for a Netflix release is an indication of just how much the streaming giant has turned Hollywood on its head. Less a feature film and more a collection of six short stories set in the old wild west, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would feel discordant if the Coen’s signature quirk didn’t serve as the glue linking the varied vignettes.

The Liam Neeson led tale of a travelling showman exploiting a disabled performer is harrowing, while Tom Waits’ turn as a grizzled gold prospector in a picturesque mountain valley is one beautiful frame after the next.

3. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Best Netflix Comedy

A slightly less quirky but equally heartfelt spin on The Royal Tenenbaums, The Meyerowitz Stories focuses on three neurotic siblings and the source of their neurosis – dad, a once-promising but ultimately frustrated sculptor played with maddening self-absorption by a great Dustin Hoffman. Ben Stiller utilises his straight-guy schtick as Matthew, the only financially successful member of the Meyerowitz brood, a wonderful foil for Elizabeth Marvel’s Jean, arguably the most damaged of the trio. But – and I can’t believe I’m writing this – it’s Adam Sandler’s Danny that steals the show.

Yes, he screams at the camera for comedic effect, but there are genuinely touching moments as he struggles to find the acceptance that has eluded him for decades. You’ll grow fond of these characters as they slowly come together to repair decades of distance. It’s not the funniest movie on Netflix, but it’s the best funny movie.

4. Fyre: The Greatest Festival That Never Happened

Best Netflix Documentary

Schadenfreude levels peaked in mid-2017 when a “luxury music festival” for American trust-fund brats descended into Lord of the Flies for the Twitter age.
Everything went wrong. The advertised opulent condos ended up being disaster relief tents, bands didn’t show up, the festival wasn’t even on the promised island, and, most infamously, in the photo that shook the world, the “gourmet menu” ended up being Kraft Singles on a slice of bread.

For some reason, Ja Rule was involved in it all.

Fyre is not the most important documentary on Netflix, but it is the most entertaining – and yet it still provides a glimpse into what happens when capitalism at its most predatory meets ego at its most incompetent.

5. Roma

Best Netflix Movie Overall

Sedately paced and artfully framed, Roma pulls back the curtain on the intimate moments in the life of Cleo, a live-in housemaid employed by an affluent family in 1970’s Mexico City. As her tale unfolds, the line between being a part of the family and being employed by it are blurred, allowing director Alfonso Cuarón to ruminate on class division and the tenuous connections that keep people together.

This is Cuarón’s most personal work, but he still manages to deploy his best cinematic tricks. Though less bombastic than those seen in Children of Men, a final act tracking shot goes from carefree to unbearably tense to beautifully cathartic with barely a pause in between. It’s masterful stuff. But don’t just take our word for it: Cuarón won Academy Awards for both best director and best cinematography, and Roma itself took out the gong for best foreign-language film.

Roma is the best Netflix Original movie.

6. Mudbound

This tale of two families – one white, one black– as they eke out an existence alongside each other on a muddy farm in segregated 1940s Mississippi is predictably tragic. 

When Ronsel, the oldest son of the farmhands family returns from the war in Europe, a theatre where he was hailed a hero and treated as liberator, he’s confronted once again by the systemic racism deeply embedded into the American heartland. The nagging sense that this isn’t going to end well does little to soften the blow when it finally comes. Confronting and powerful, if not exactly a fun night out. 

This is Cuarón’s most personal work, but he still manages to deploy his best cinematic tricks. Though less bombastic than those seen in Children of Men, a final act tracking shot goes from carefree to unbearably tense to beautifully cathartic with barely a pause in between. It’s masterful stuff. But don’t just take our word for it: Cuarón won Academy Awards for both best director and best cinematography, and Roma itself took out the gong for best foreign-language film.

Roma is the best Netflix Original movie.

7. Cargo

Best Netflix Horror

The first Australian Netflix Original movie, Cargo is based on directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling’s 2013 Tropfest short film of the same name. A melancholy spin on the zombie genre, Cargo layers on the gloom by showcasing Australia’s desolate landscape and delaying the onset of the infection. 

Andy (Martin Freeman) has been bitten and has only 48 hours before he turns into a snarling beast. He needs to use that time to find somewhere safe for the titular bundle: Rosie, his adorable baby. Creepy and upsetting rather than outright terrifying.

8. Okja

Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho delivers a confronting examination of GM foods and the mass-market meat industry via the medium of a giant CGI “super pig”.

Okja, the uber swine, has been raised in the idyllic Korean wilds by Mija, a young farmhand. But when the creators of the super pig, the comic-book-evil Mirando corporation, take Okja back to New York for its always-intended propaganda and meat purposes, Mija sets off to the rescue. Tilda Swinton is compellingly off-putting as the head of Mirando, and the CGI pig is just cute enough to give the relationship with Mija real heart. E.T. for vegetarians. 

9. Annihilation

Natalie Portman’s Lena leads a group of scientists and soldiers into “the Shimmer”, an eerie expanding zone radiating out from the site of a meteorite crash. Within the Shimmer, plants and animals begin mutating, seemingly at a DNA level, taking on alien characteristics.

Netflix has an abundance of high-concept weird sci-fi Originals, but most are only interesting conceptually – reading the blurb is more satisfying than watching them. Annihilation is the exception, with enough craftsmanship that it actually manages to be a compelling movie.   

10. Manhunt

John Woo’s brand of balletic ballistics batshit isn’t for everyone – and I’m still holding an unreasonably personal grudge about Mission Impossible 2 – but there’s a distinct lack of action in this list and Manhunt does better than most. When a lawyer is framed for murder he is forced to flee for his life and prove his innocence.

What begins as a Chinese-Hong Kong Cinema take on The Fugitive (there’s even a monstrous pharmaceutical company at the heart of the conspiracy), ends up in a much stranger place. Manhunt has all the spectacular schlock you’d expect from Woo-helmed on-the-lam film. It’s drowning in police procedural clichés and melodrama, but enjoyably so.   

11. Aquaman

Okay, okay, so the DC Extended Universe went all kinds of wrong with Justice League and Batman v Superman is all kinds of divisive. But what DC started getting right with Wonder Woman continues impressively with Aquaman.

What Aquaman lacks in smarts it more than makes up for in epic, visionary storytelling from Australia’s own James Wan. While Wan’s strength is usually horror, he offers us a submerged adventure story in a vibrant underwater world that wouldn’t be possible without a heavy dose of CG.

Still, Jason Mamoa’s swagger and his chemistry with Amber Heard help carry the movie that’s far more interested in making you laugh than conjuring tears. While Aquaman was absolutely one to watch in cinemas, the under-this-world visuals look positively out of this world on the right 4K TV.

12. The Prestige

When people rattle off Christopher Nolan’s impressive portfolio, it usually includes the big stuff: The Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar, to name a few. But people forget that what Nolan started with the small-budget mind-bending thrills of cult-classic Memento is thematically continued in his between-Batman-movies The Prestige.

While Nolan’s signature disrespect of linear time is less prominent here, The Prestige still weaves a deviously clever tale of a stage-magician rivalry where the real magic trick is performed on the audience. That is to say, the solution to the twist is basically been fed to us from the start.

No spoilers here for those who haven’t seen it, but the lengths that duelling druids Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Borden (Christian Bale) are willing to go to in order to exact revenge has to be seen to be believed and is well worth a repeat viewing for those who already know how the trick plays out.

Most popular NBN50 plans

Hoping to stream these movies in glorious 4K? You might want to consider upgrading your NBN speed first. These are the most popular NBN50 plans in Australia according to WhistleOut’s Broadband comparison engine.