The 50 best movies now on Netflix Australia

Critic Craig Mathieson has combed the Netflix Australia archives, writing the definitive list of the best 50 movies currently available to stream.

See also
* All new movies & series on Netflix
* All new streaming movies & series
* The 50 best movies on Stan

’71 (2014)

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Staying alive is just the beginning in Yann Demange’s gripping thriller, which stars Jack O’Connell as a young British soldier separated from his unit and running for his life after peacekeeping duties in sectarian Belfast spiral out of control. Chaotically choreographed set-pieces are matched by grim lessons: no individual can prosper by bestowing blind faith on an organisation.

All the President’s Men (1976)

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Alan J Pakula’s riveting procedural about the pair of young Washington Post reporters—Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman)—whose dogged coverage of the 1972 Watergate break-in eventually brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon, is a study of institutional strength and individual fortitude. Masterful deep focus newsroom shots convey the struggle in striking terms.

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Animal Kingdom (2011)

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A deadly quiet film about the clash between a crime clan and various strands of the Victorian police force, David Michôd’s debut reveals a world where control is an illusion and the only certainty is oblivion. The focus moves between the telescopic and the chokingly tight, with unerring performances from Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville.

Athena (2022)

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Beginning with an audacious opening sequence overflowing with righteous fury, Romain Gavras’ saw-toothed drama about open warfare on a Parisian housing estate and the torn allegiance of the brothers at the centre of it is that rare film: one where technical bravado and emotional clarity go hand in hand.

Atlantics (2019)

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An otherworldly love story for our age of displacement, Mati Diop’s remarkable debut feature is a beguiling mix of social realism and supernatural longing. A young Senegalese couple, Ada (Mama Bineta Sane) and Souleiman (Ibrahima Traore), are torn apart when Souleiman tries to leave for Europe—only to return in a different form.

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

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One of the very first Netflix originals. The savage, scarring plight of African child soldiers—with Idris Elba as their abusive, messianic leader—is captured with vivid strokes and lasting pain in this drama from True Detective (and latest 007 film No Time to Die) director Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Boy (2010)

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In his breakthrough second feature Taika Waititi does an outstanding job of striking a balance between the weight of nostalgia and the wisdom of hindsight that marks any film about childhood. Set in 1984—cue Michael Jackson fantasies—it tracks an 11-year-old boy (an exuberant James Rolleston) whose life is turned upside down by the return of his absent father (Waititi). What you wish for, the movie reveals, isn’t what you think it is.

Bridesmaids (2011)

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Raunchy without being provocative, but never afraid to examine the dynamics between female friends, Paul Feig’s breakout hit turned the cast into comic movie stars: co-writer Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Rose Byrne all shone in a movie where the preparations for a wedding collapse from one mishap to the next.

Cam (2018)

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Daniel Goldhaber’s online reprise of body horror is a bracing example of the genre’s new and instructively weird indie wave. It traces with throbbing unease the psychological fracture of an approval-fueled (and paid) cam girl (Madeline Brewer) when a doppelganger takes control of her video feed.

Cargo (2018)

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For once an Australian genre film—in this case about society’s collapse after a zombie apocalypse—that makes more use of this country than the landscape. On the run with his baby daughter, Andy (Martin Freeman) finds himself in a perilous world starting anew, with Indigenous history and the crimes against it pushed to the fore.

Carol (2015)

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Words unsaid are powerful and mere glances devastating in Todd Haynes’ heart-wrenching romance from the epicentre of 1950s America. With a pulse that brings the grip of plunging desire, a married Connecticut housewife (Cate Blanchett) and a department store clerk (Rooney Mara) create a tender pocket universe that defies the wider world.

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

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In telling the story of a group of black Vietnam War veterans returning to the country, to search both for loot and the memory of their fallen leader (the late Chadwick Boseman, in flashback), Spike Lee serves up a maximal mix of political commentary, time-shifting storytelling, sharp performances and B movie action sequences.

The Dry (2021)

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An outback noir thriller about culpability and regret, Robert Connolly’s box office hit stars Eric Bana as a financial crimes police officer who returns to the hometown he fled as a teenager to investigate a horrific crime attributed to his best friend. Less interested in plot twists than allowing the drought-stricken landscape and its frayed inhabitants to take hold, it’s a masterful Australian genre piece.

Election (2005)

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Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To masterfully captures the paradoxes that follow a Triad’s contested leadership vote: chaos settles the organisation, violence is an adjunct of procedure, and individuals destroy each other to serve the collective. With Tony Leung and Simon Lam as fractious rivals, the action is explosively sudden and the moral ramifications enduring.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

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A Gilliam-esque visit to the tax office, inter-generational immigrant trauma, hot dog hands, inter-dimensional warfare… It’s easy to say that the latest absurdist comedy from directing duo The Daniels is a lot, but everything in this madcap story has purpose and pathos and it’s delivered with a magisterial lead performance by Michelle Yeoh.

Ex Machina (2014)

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A brittle, telling invocation of masculinity told through the lens of near future science-fiction, Alex Garland’s directorial debut places Domhnall Gleeson’s humble programmer into the isolated world of Oscar Isaac’s tech mogul, where he’s tasked with assessing Alicia Vikander’s humanoid artificial intelligence. The existential queries sing with suggestion and the sleek surfaces reveal increasingly disturbing imagery.

The Favourite (2018)

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With Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara as an instigating force, Greek Weird Wave director Yorgos Lanthimos blew up the royal period drama and put it back together so that the early 18th-century court dynamic between Queen Anne (OliviaColman) and two competing women, Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), revealed grotesque farce, hidden queer history and, finally, tragic negation.

Fight Club (1999)

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David Fincher skewered the cul-de-sac hopes of Generation X, and presented himself as the successor to Stanley Kubrick in terms of coolly executed intellectual outrage with this bleak, blithe comedy about a corporate bureaucrat (Edward Norton) who, with a charismatic nihilist (Brad Pitt), starts a combat-as-bonding ritual movement. The film is serious when the topic is ludicrous and seditious when the going gets philosophical.

Galaxy Quest (1999)

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What starts as a Star Trek satire, with the estranged actors from a long-finished science-fiction series lifted from a convention and taken into outer space by aliens who think the show is real, becomes both a terrific comedy and genuine adventure as the actors have to master their roles and their flaws. Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver star, but the film belongs to Alan Rickman as a Shakespearean actor who despises his catchphrase.

Get Out (2017)

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Few films have better captured the tenor of the times than comic Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, a compelling horror film about the dispossession of African-Americans that stars Daniel Kaluuya as a Black photographer invited to visit the family home of his white girlfriend. Peele memorably turns awkwardness and tolerance into menace and terror, as history threatens to repeat itself.

Hell or High Water (2016)

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The western is brilliantly reincarnated as an end-of-the-line dissection of inequality, as communities collapse, people break, and institutions corrupt. In response, a wary pair of brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) go on a bank-robbing spree to avoid foreclosure, while pursued by an ornery Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges).

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

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Macon Blair’s Sundance Film Festival winner is a comic vigilante thriller with Lynchian trace elements. Common decency motivates the unlikely heroes—Melanie Lynskey’s nursing assistant and Elijah Woods’ nunchucks-wielding neighbour—on an increasingly dangerous quest.

In Bruges (2008)

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The feature debut of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh is a pithy and blackly comic crime drama about two hitmen—a simpatico Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell—hiding out in Belgium after a job goes wrong. It’s a post-Tarantino crime flick, but McDonagh’s writing allows for mordant humour, ludicrously logical conversations, and a kind of spiritual transference, before Ralph Fiennes arrives as the duo’s terrifying boss.

In the Loop (2009)

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Before Veep and The Death of Stalin, Armando Iannucci took the political players from his scathing Whitehall comedy The Thick of It to Washington D.C. as a vastly unorganised coalition prepares for a war in the Middle East that has everything except a reason. Doctoring documents and insulting each other with gusto—led by Peter Capaldi’s scalding adviser Malcolm Tucker—the handlers reveal international policy as a series of office crises.

The Irishman (2019)

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A modern epic of American organised crime told through the ramifications of friendship and multiple generations of severed family, Martin Scorsese’s autumnal gangster tale convenes Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. The digital de-ageing is widespread, but ultimately this is a magisterial film of restraint and regret.

Jaws (1975)

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Scared it would bomb, the studio put Steven Spielberg’s shark thriller into every cinema it could and went big on television marketing. It was a huge hit and the modern blockbuster was born. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw play the trio who eventually confront the menacing great white, but the true star is John Williams’ score; every motif has become part of cultural history.

Lady Bird (2017)

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Before Barbie, Greta Gerwig’s potent ability to get to the heart of a story and see it anew was readily apparent in this jolting, bittersweet coming-of-age feature, where Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf play a warring high school student and her pragmatic mother. The supporting cast is incisive, the autobiographical lessons soulfully real.

The Lost Daughter (2021)

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In tandem with a piercing Jessie Buckley performance as her younger self in flashback, Olivia Colman finds compelling, uncomfortable depths as a lone traveller whose book-laden Greek holiday reveals a growing obsession with Dakota Johnson’s fellow tourist. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s outstanding directorial debut is a psychological thriller that explores not just maternal instincts and power, but the very nature of sympathy.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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The best action film of this century, or of all time? Either way, George Miller rebooted his post-apocalyptic franchise with Tom Hardy as the taciturn anti-hero and Charlize Theron as a feminist rebel for the ages to create a magisterial automotive experience. “Fang it!” screams one of the road warriors—and this movie absolutely does.

Marriage Story (2019)

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Divorce is an institutional act of mutual destruction and a plumbing of personal limits in Noah Baumbach’s east coast vs west coast drama, about the marital division of a Los Angeles actor (Scarlett Johansson) and a New York theatre director (Adam Driver). With Sondheim segues and Hollywood mores, it’s a painfully compelling experience.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

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Who needs Spinal Tap’s mockumentary when you have Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s remarkable rock documentary, in which thrash metal heroes Metallica go off the rails in the making of an album, losing members and gaining a performance enhancement coach whose sessions take over the band’s collective psyche? Every note played here matters.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

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Baumbach’s vision of the artistic family—exasperating, cruelly cutting, and righteously blind to tragedy—finds full expression in this study of a needy, retired New York sculptor (Dustin Hoffman) and his children (including Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler). Each character comes into bracing focus.

Moneyball (2011)

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A sports film ultimately about learning to understand what you’re worth, Bennett Miller’s reappraisal of Michael Lewis’ non-fiction best-seller was a turning point for Brad Pitt. Playing Billy Beane, a baseball team’s manager deploying statistical analysis to buck tradition, the actor brings years of the character’s frustration to just beneath the surface of his performance.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

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A satire of the life of Jesus Christ, organised religion, and the Biblical epic—amongst other targets—Monty Python’s legendary comedy troupe sketches blossomed into a complete and self-contained work with a movie both hilarious and defiant. Is there a better send-off than Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?

Mudbound (2017)

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Nominated for four Academy Awards, Dee Rees’ mighty film is a study of historic divisions set in segregated rural Mississippi in the 1940s. But it has such a poetically tragic sense of the characters—led by Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke and Jason Mitchell—and their limitations that it transcends the period setting.

My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

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One of the many animated masterpieces directed by revered Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki and released by Japan’s Studio Ghibli, this children’s classic about a pair of young sisters going through upheavals in their new country home is joyously specific and universally felt, complete with a memorably tactile titular character.

The Night Comes For Us (2018)

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This is a gift from the action film gods: an unrelenting Indonesian production boasting a bone-crunching connection of R-rated violence and inventive fight choreography. When an assassin, Ito (Joe Taslim), relents on a hit, his triad sends everyone they have to kill him. And they have a lot.

Nightcrawler (2014)

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Ambitious and amoral, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a Los Angeles loner whose corporate ambitions transfer from petty theft to freelance cameraman when he discovers the hunger of local news for freshly shot carnage. He’s a sociopath, and in Dan Gilroy’s remarkable directorial debut there appears to be few limits to what he’s capable of; a dinner scene with Rene Russo’s news director is spellbinding in its implied malfeasance.

Okja (2017)

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As Parasite made clear, the South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho makes masterfully thrilling movies about capitalism’s crimes. They can sweep you up, but also leave scars. Here a young girl, Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) tries to save her genetically modified super pig from its corporate owners—dual Tilda Swinton roles—amidst heart-fluttering flourishes and cruel realities.

Outside In (2018)

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Lynn Shelton was a totemic figure in American independent filmmaking, framing a movement with Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister. One of her final features, Outside In, stars Jay Duplass, Edie Falco and Kaitlyn Dever in the story of a man returned home from 20 years in jail whose reckonings are captured with great empathy.

The Platform (2019)

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Inequality assumes a vertical axis in this dystopian Spanish-language horror movie, which is equal parts existential theatre work and science-fiction allegory. In a vast concrete prison inmates are randomly assigned levels visited by a vast banquet that travels downwards. Those at the top initially feast, those at the bottom eventually starve. Left furious by the cruel reality, one newcomer tries to make a difference.

The Power of the Dog (2021)

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Jane Campion’s first feature film in 12 years is a riveting psychological drama that makes you look anew at every scene you’ve already succumbed to. A never-better Benedict Cumberbatch is the 1925 Montana rancher who treats domineering cruelty as his pleasure, only to lose his bearings when his brother brings a widow and her teenage son into his masculine realm.

The Prestige (2006)

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My favourite of Christopher Nolan’s many films, and the most heartbreaking—a Victorian-era puzzle-box mystery about the death wish rivalry between Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale’s obsessive magicians. Bonus attraction: David Bowie as Nikola Tesla.

Private Life (2018)

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As a downtown Manhattan couple trying to have a baby on the difficult side of 40, Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti’s characters provide bittersweet experience amid the piercing observations of Tamara Jenkins’ domestic drama. Lives get messed up and worn down, until you reach the enduring bedrock of the couple’s connection.

The Quick and the Dead (1995)

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You do not get Hollywood studio films like this anymore: a baroque revenge western from Sam Raimi rifled through with Evil Dead camera techniques as Sharon Stone’s gunslinger takes on Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. High noon takes on a whole new meaning.

Roma (2018)

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Titanic as an act of social memory, intimate as personal memoir, and shot in exquisite black and white, Alfonso Cuaron’s depiction of an indigenous maid (Yalitza Aparicio) and her relationship with the 1970s Mexico City family that employs—and implores—her is magisterial piece of filmmaking.

The Shining (1980)

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In a way every title from the final decades of Stanley Kubrick’s career was a horror movie. But when he fully committed with an adaptation of the Stephen King story about a writer falling insane at an empty holiday resort, the result was a terrifying tale of exemplary technical control and unhinged risk. Jack Nicholson’s plagued protagonist was the scary extreme of his wolfish cool writ monstrously large.

Space Sweepers (2021)

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With Kim Tae-ri as the coolest ship’s captain a space opera has seen since Han Solo, this orbital South Korean adventure fizzes up familiar elements—ragtag crew, a very special child everyone’s pursuing, a lippy android and hull-scraping chases—to provide an irreverent but impeccably composed update of the sci-fi blockbuster.

TÁR (2022)

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In her remarkable career, where the most thrilling roles feel less like performances than the deepest of inheritances, Cate Blanchett may never have a part as exquisitely precise as Lydia Tár: an acclaimed symphony conductor and wielder of withering power whose privilege unwinds in this psychological thriller where writer/director Todd Field scrupulously reveals the character’s every malignancy. A stone-cold classic.

Uncut Gems (2020)

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A pair of excellent Adam Sandler performances make this list; please do not watch any other of his Netflix originals. With its echoes of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, this pressure cooker thriller, made with signature style by siblings Josh and Benny Safdie, stars the comic as a hustling NYC jeweller constantly raising the stakes of his own bets.

Under the Shadow (2016)

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Set in 1980s wartime Tehran, Babak Anvari’s horror film about a menacing spirit nightmarishly mixes ancient myth and contemporary political repression to terrifying effect.


This guide is regularly updated to reflect changes in Netflix’s catalogue. For a list of capsule reviews that have been removed from this page because they are no longer available on the platform, visit here.