The best movies on Netflix Australia
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’s our ever-expanding list of the best Netflix movies streaming.
The White Tiger
Based on Aravind Adiga Booker Prize-winning 2008 novel of the same name, The White Tiger is darkly funny, beautifully shot and features brilliant performances from Ardash Gourav (in his first leading role), Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao.
It follows the life of entrepreneur Balram Halwai (Gourav), from his days as an academically gifted but poor child living in a rural Indian village, determined to escape servitude and become successful. As a young man, Balram begins working for a wealthy family as a personal driver. As he grows closer to his wealthy employers (Chopra and Rao), it only becomes clearer how corrupt India’s politicians are, and how stark the contrast between the lower and upper classes is.
Inspired by the true story of the 1939 Sutton Hoo excavation, which revealed a treasure trove of priceless Anglo-Saxon artefacts, The Dig stars Ralph Fiennes as the archaeologist who history forgot and Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty, the wealthy, widowed landowner.
Set during the uncertainty and fear of pre-WWII England, The Dig explores the discovery of a ship from the Dark Ages and the fight over who really owns the historic find. Sure, it’s no thriller or raucous comedy, but it’s brilliantly acted, the story achingly poignant and the cinematography flawless.
Pieces of a Woman
TW: Child loss.
Starring The Crown alumna Vanessa Kirby and
actual cannibal Shia Labeouf as a couple expecting their first child, Pieces of a Woman follows the tragic aftermath of a home birth gone wrong. When their baby suffers a cardiac arrest and cannot be revived, the pair enter a deep depression, with the loss taking a toll on their mental health, their relationship, and outside pressure to file a lawsuit against their midwife.
It’s powerful, enthralling and utterly heartwrenching, with Kirby’s performance attracting critical acclaim and even scoring the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice International Film Festival. Keep an eye out for this one come Oscar season.
Call Me By Your Name
Best drama on Netflix
If you haven’t already seen this 2017 coming-of-age Best Picture nominee, you’re missing out on one of the best performances of the last five years. In his breakout role, Timothée Chalamet makes you forget you’re even watching a movie – he’s that good.
Call Me By Your Name is set in the summer of 1983 in rural Northern Italy, where 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) lives with his mother and archeology professor father. When 24-year-old graduate student Oliver is invited to stay with the family to assist with the professor’s academic paperwork, Elio finds himself drawn to him, and it quickly becomes clear the feeling is mutual.
Over the Moon
Best animated movie on Netflix
One of Netflix’s first forays into the world of animation, Over the Moon is a visually stunning musical adventure starring the voices of newcomer Cathy Ang, Hamilton‘s Philippa Soo, the hilarious Ken Jeong and Margaret Cho, and the always amazing Sandra Oh.
The film follows a young girl named Fei Fei who, having recently lost her mother to illness, learns of the legend of the moon goddess Chang’e. Determined to prove the goddess’ existence, Fei Fei sets out to build a rocket to the moon, taking her beloved pet rabbit Bungee and (unknowingly) her soon-to-be step-brother along on what is destined to be an adventure like no other.
It’s not often that we see a movie about the breakup and not the usual rom-com formula of the meet-cute, conflict and almost immediate resolution that leads to happily ever after. 2019 Oscar nominee Marriage Story is about what happens after happily ever after.
Starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as parents grappling over the unexpected consequences of their increasingly messy divorce and custody battle, Marriage Story is both heartbreaking and incredibly heartwarming at once.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
One of the weirdest, most enigmatic movies to ever hit Netflix, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a psychological horror unlike any you’ve seen before. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (the creative genius behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich), it stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, David Thewlis and Toni Collette in her creepiest role yet (yes, even creepier than Hereditary).
It’s a hard movie to describe. You can check out the trailer below, but I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of those flicks that going in blind to is actually an advantage. Just grab yourself a glass of wine, hit the couch and settle in for a mind-bending ride.
The Hateful Eight
If you’re still riding high off the thrilling climax to last year’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Netflix has got your next Tarantino fix sorted. The Hateful Eight is QT’s first real sojourn into the slow-burn with a crackling cast (including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson) that makes every minute electric.
When a bounty hunter (Russell) and his outlaw bounty (Jason Leigh) end up stranded at a snowed-in cabin with a curious cast of strangers, it becomes clear that not everyone is who they say they are. It’s kind of like the live-action version of One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
Paddington 2 (21 March)
Best family Netflix movie
Paddington had absolutely nothing to offer me when it first released in 2014: a CG adaptation of a kids’ show based on a property that was popular well before my time. So needless to say, I had no interest in the sequel when it released in 2017.
But one lazy afternoon, scrolling through the new releases, I took a chance on the fuzzy, pant-less bear and I couldn’t be happier that I did. Paddington 2 is pure, uncut joy from beginning to end. The animation is, frankly, incredible and the humour is the type to tickle everyone’s funny bone, no matter the age. It also features a gloriously over-the-top performance from Hugh Grant as the movie’s villain.
The Big Sick
The Big Sick has done the rounds on just about every streaming service but now Netflix AU subscribers get a chance to check out the standout 2017 comedy.
A biographical dramedy about comedian/writer/lover duo Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick follows the couple’s meet-cute and prompt split after a conflict of cultures. When Emily falls sick with a mysterious illness, Kumail and Emily’s parents form a bond from the hospital waiting room.
The Big Sick is the perfect heartwarming comedy for a hungover Sunday and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for sitcom Dad, Ray Romano.
By Nathan Lawrence
Acclaimed Aussie writer-director David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, The Rover) continues to prove he’s not a one-genre pony with The King. His second collaboration with Netflix after the so-so War Machine, this is a much different look at war. Part historical drama, part Shakespearian recreation, The King ends up boasting the kind of political intrigue, fascinating characters and bloody violence of Game of Thrones in its heyday seasons. A big-name cast, including Michôd alumni (with soon-to-be-Batman Robert Pattinson stealing the show), ensures the dialogue-heavy moments are engaging, while there’s a brutal and believable weight to the heavily armoured action sequence).
By Nathan Lawrence
You need only look as far as comedian duo Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key’s Keanu to see the most logical execution of a snatched-away pet motivating ultra-violence. For Key and Peele, what made sense was to take the mickey out of it.
For Keanu Reeves, though, the loss of a dog as a motivating factor for a high body count is a lot more grounded. And despite the seemingly farcical pitch, it works. Like, really, really works. That’s why the best way to sell the uninitiated on John Wick is to ignore the premise and focus on basically everything else. Reeves is in fine form here, starting out with a typically understated portrayal of titular Wick before exploding like a powder keg.
Then there are the superbly choreographed action set pieces that definitively prove that shaky cam isn’t the only way to show expert speed or adrenaline-pumping intensity. You can also find the sequel on Netflix, but not only does your viewing need to start with the original, but it also happens to be the best of the series (so far).
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.
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.
Best Netflix sci-fi movie
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.
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.
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 a 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.
Best Foreign Netflix Movie
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.
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.
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.
Fyre: The Greatest Festival That Never Happened
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.
Most popular NBN 50 plans
Hoping to stream these movies in glorious 4K? You might want to consider upgrading your NBN speed first. These are the most popular NBN 50 plans in Australia according to WhistleOut’s Broadband comparison engine.