The 50 best movies on Binge

From the latest blockbusters to vintage Hollywood classics, there’s a vast array of movies to be found on BINGE. Craig Mathieson has combed through the selections to pick out 50 of the finest.

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

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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From the dawn of time to a point beyond it, Stanley Kubrick’s ground-breaking science-fiction epic about a secretive mission to Jupiter is concerned with achieving control—from Kubrick’s realisation of hitherto unimaginable visual effects to the alien monoliths that have set humanity on the path to evolution. The movie’s key character, the HAL 9000, is a computer that decides humans are an impediment to its work. That’s the director writ large.

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The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

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Steven Spielberg mixes voice work, motion-capture footage and digital effects to create this rip-roaring adaptation of the much-loved Hergé comic character. There are action sequences here the equal of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Jamie Bell’s boy reporter and Andy Serkis’ salty sea captain taking on Daniel Craig’s globe-trotting villain. Great, great fun.

Aftersun (2022)

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Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells’ debut feature is a quietly audacious invocation of memory, regret, and familial longing that takes the form of a coming-of-age drama where 11-year Sophie (Frankie Corio) holidays in Turkey with her 30-year-old father Calum (Paul Mescal). Their connection is loving but uneasy, as perceptions and time both shift, and the film feels like it’s speaking a cinematic language you’re intuitively fluent in.

American Splendor (2003)

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A biopic that delightfully plays with visual form and narrative structure, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s independent feature gave Paul Giamatti his breakthrough role as Harvey Pekar, a curmudgeonly cultural obsessive and comic book writer who finds a measure of success after a lifetime of disdain. Every scene adds to your understanding of the man, even when the real Harvey meets Giamatti’s version.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

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Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay reached the peak of their American idiot phase with this truly inspired and deeply loopy comedy about a 1970s newsreader whose self-assurance and magnificent hair are shaken by the arrival of a female co-anchor (a note-perfect Christina Applegate). Truly sublime stupidity.

Babe (1995)

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Chris Noonan’s zesty, lovable story of a lonely piglet’s path to acceptance and then glory at a bucolic farm remains a genuine example of that rare creature: the great family movie. With James Cromwell as the stoic farmer, the film captures a storybook sensibility, mixing both the fantastic and the daft, while always maintaining more than a hint of darkness.

Back to the Future (1985)

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If you’ve got a souped-up DeLorean that can travel through time the you’ve got a science-fiction film, but Robert Zemeckis gives you so much more in the one of the finest enduring examples of Hollywood filmmaking where a young man (Michael J. Fox) finds himself back in the 1950s and infringing on his parents’ tentative connection. It remains an inventive delight.

Best in Show (2000)

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Christopher Guest’s mastery of the improvised ensemble comedy, which revealed itself with This is Spinal Tap, peaked again with this deliriously antic piece about the flawed dog owners bringing their charges (and personal foibles) to a storied competition. Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, and Parker Posey are masterful, but nothing can top Fred Willard as an idiotic television commentator.

Beetlejuice (1988)

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Tim Burton’s macabre sensibility met the classic Hollywood screwball comedy in this madcap comedy about a ghostly young couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who invite the titular ghoul (Michael Keaton) into their home to teach them how to scare off the dreadful new owners. The result is fierce, funny, and fearlessly exact.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Joel and Ethan Coen reimagine the contours of L.A. noir through the eccentric lens of a doleful slacker (and ten-pin bowling enthusiast)—Jeff Bridges in his signature role of ‘The Dude’—who ambles through vexingly hilarious set-pieces that loosely link a kidnapping, German nihilists, and John Goodman at his finest.

BlackBerry (2023)

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A Canadian rise and fall corporate tale told with punky directness, clash of culture humour, and, finally, bittersweet understanding, Matt Johnson’s exhumation of the titular mobile phone—a sensation in the late 1990s, forgotten now—draws career best performances from Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton respectively as the gifted engineer and brutal CEO who seize the moment but can’t comprehend when it’s gone.


Blade Runner (1982)

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Whatever the edit, Ridley Scott’s dystopian noir about a former police detective (Harrison Ford) hunting to terminate a group of escaped androids through 2019 Los Angeles is a science-fiction masterpiece. With a beautiful, haunted Rutger Hauer as the artificial antagonist, the movie takes cinematic wonder into inescapable tragedy.

Boogie Nights (1997)

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With one virtuosic set-piece after another, Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature meets the rise and fall story of a budding adult film actor (Mark Wahlberg) and burgeoning industry he joins with rapturous fascination. Cinematic exuberance has rarely been so torrid.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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Francis Ford Coppola’s Gothic masterpiece gives romantic obsession, loving cinematic invention (some of the techniques used are from the dawn of the medium) and full, ripe performances (excluding a miscast Keanu Reeves) to the 19 th century tale of Gary Oldman’s undead Transylvanian Count, who pursues Winona Ryder’s Nina Harker while being hunted by Anthony Hopkins’ Professor Van Helsing.

Boyhood (2014)

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A masterful coming-of-age story that unfolds like extended time-lapse photography, Richard Linklater’s episodic film shot regularly over a 12-year period starting in 2002, allowing the cast to age with their roles. Mason (Ellar Coltrane) goes from six to 18, maturing alongside his divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and a compelling Patricia Arquette). Turning points quietly accrue, and you see lives taking shape as others narrow.

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.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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Calmly measured and cynical about heroism, The Bridge on the River Kwai remains the first and by far the best of David Lean’s epics, telling the story of a group of POWs building a bridge on the Burma Railroad for their brutal Japanese captors during WWII. The flawed military mindset is exemplified by William Holden’s American escapee, who is sent back as a saboteur, and Alec Guinness’ English officer, determined to finish the task to give his men a sense of purpose.

Children of Men (2006)

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Set in a dystopic 2027, where society is collapsing after almost 20 years of worldwide infertility, Alfonso Cuaron’s vivid and imperilled thriller laces humanist filmmaking with remarkable set-pieces—the film is nirvana for single shot aficionados—that bring Clive Owen’s lapsed activist back to the desperate struggles of Julianne Moore as his
former wife.

Chinatown (1974)

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A defining vision of Los Angeles, written by a native (Robert Towne) and directed by an outsider (Roman Polanski), this neo-noir mystery stars Jack Nicholson as a private eye caught up with Faye Dunaway’s widow as the wielding of power—over people and property—is dissected with sun-drenched menace. As a feared patriarch, John Huston gives one of the greatest supporting turns in Hollywood history.

Clueless (1995)

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While the best lines from Amy Heckerling’s knowingly sweet teen comedy live on as memes, the film itself remains a perfectly calculated pleasure, with Alicia Silverstone as the teenage sophisticate who sails through her privileged L.A. high school life while the ageless Paul Rudd waits in the wings.

Collateral (2004)

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Shooting on High-Definition Cameras, so that the Los Angeles nightscape looked like a city shimmering with urgency and ghosts, Michael Mann turned a thriller about a hitman (Tom Cruise) who takes a taxi driver (Jamie Foxx) hostage to ferry him from target to target into an impressionistic meditation on violence and survival, with a stacked supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo and Javier Bardem.

The Dark Knight (2008)

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With Heath Ledger’s Joker—a jittery, nihilistic force who feels like a city’s dread come to life—as the antagonist, Christopher Nolan took the Batman franchise to a new level, grounding the superhero epic in the streets and giving a muscular authenticity to the deeds of Christian Bale’s masked vigilante.

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.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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Steven Spielberg’s paean to the loneliness of childhood begins with a spindly creature from another planet being left behind in the Californian hills, but he soon joins the children who shelter him—yes, that’s Drew Barrymore—in eating candy, watching TV, and sneaking out for Halloween. It’s science-fiction as heartfelt childhood fantasy, directed with wonderment by Spielberg and still deeply compelling.

The Fugitive (1993)

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When people say Hollywood doesn’t make smart, thrilling mainstream movies for adults, this is what they’re talking about. Harrison Ford plays a doctor framed for his wife’s murder, who gets the chance to escape and search for the perpetrator while being expertly pursued by Tommy Lee Jones’ relentless U.S. Marshall. It’s a film of heroic energy and reckless momentum.

Gravity (2013)

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Alfonso Cuarón’s orbiting survival story follows biomedical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), who on her first space mission, alongside veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), loses the tiny tether they have to safety. Swathed in silence, with a vast blackness looming, the pair try to jump from one temporary way stop to the next while Ryan confronts past trauma. The structure and motivation is straightforward, but the setting keeps changing your expectations—a fire in a zero-gravity environment is entrancing.

Inside Man (2006)

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Spike Lee updates the bank siege dynamic of Dog Day Afternoon, with a group of thieves, led by Clive Owen’s Dalton Russell, confounding the NYPD officers led by Denzel Washington’s Keith Frazier who have them surrounded, while drawing the attention of Jodie Foster’s off the books fixer. It’s all clockwork cool plotting and vivid performances.

In the Line of Fire (1993)

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In Wolfgang Petersen’s taut thriller Clint Eastwood plays a veteran U.S. Secret Service agent pursuing a vengeful Presidential assassin (a malevolent John Malkovich) who torments him at every turn. The film is threateningly tense, but also wise to the pair’s intimate relationship. “You have such a strange job,” the killer tells the bodyguard, “I can’t decide if it’s heroic or absurd.”

Jaws (1975)

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Scared it would bomb, the studio put Steve 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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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 City of Z (2016)

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Writer/director James Gray reworks the historic epic, giving intimate yearning and telling detail to the story of a British explorer (Charlie Hunnam) consumed by his explorations—alongside a sly Robert Pattinson—in an Amazon jungle that comes alive with consumptive breadth.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

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Clear your head of expectations and let this whimsical but deeply genuine mockumentary transport you. A mix of live-action and stop-motion, it’s a tiny window into the world of Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate), a mercurial little shell living with his grandmother shell (Isabella Rossellini) amidst a filmmaker’s Los Angeles home. The movie is in turn droll, ingenious, and heartbreaking.

Men in Black (1997)

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Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld in the creative window where his mordant instincts had a delightful pop of the fantastic, Men in Black sees Tommy Lee Jones school Will Smith in an action-comedy about the human agents who secretly police the alien exiles living undercover on Earth. It’s a film of note-perfect contrasts: Jones’s dryness and Smith’s spark, plus the wild comic book concept and the matter-of-fact execution.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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Wed Anderson returned to form after the insular patchwork of The Darjeeling Limited, using a pair of adolescent runaways on a New England island in 1965 to craft a wry coming of age drama. As stylised as the narrative is, the emotion here is genuine—whether in the children’s hope or the gentle melancholy that circles adults played by Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Bruce Willis.

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

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One of the best—that is deeply inexplicable and hauntingly resonant—movies of this century, David Lynch’s film noir-like journey is a mystery about identity that resides in the subconscious of the filmmaker and his characters, especially Naomi Watts’ new to Los Angeles ingénue.

Paddington (2014)

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One of the best family films of this century, rich with inviting design and repellent of xenophobia, allows the gentle antics of a Peruvian bear new to London (voiced by Ben Whishaw) to save a family, bestow a purpose, and defy Nicole Kidman’s cartoonish villain. An absolute delight.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

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With shades of Spinal Tap, this mockumentary charts the rise, fall and redemption of Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), a hubristic pop star whose solo career comes unstuck (so, so unstuck). The gags in this Lonely Island joint are non-stop, punctuated by scarily catchy tunes and note perfect cameos.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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A before and after line for American filmmaking. Almost 30 years on, Quentin Tarantino’s joyous dive into the mores of L.A. crime, narrative illusion, and actual conversations between men and women still crackles with delectable energy as an ensemble cast that includes John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis enjoy the juiciest of parts.

A Quiet Place (2018)

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Jim from The Office—who knew? John Krasinski launched a blockbuster horror franchise with this impeccably assembled tribute to escalating risk and insidious circumstances as alien creatures that hunt by noise pursue a family, with Emily Blunt and Krasinski as the parents, hiding out on a farm in a post-apocalyptic America. The simplest of stakes, merely staying quiet, assumes life and death risk.

Schindler’s List (1993)

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The best film to date of Steven Spielberg’s already extensive career, adapted from a novel by Australian author Thomas Kenneally, Schindler’s List was a compelling depiction of the Holocaust, told through the eyes of an unscrupulous businessman (Liam Neeson) whose exposure to both the historic crimes against humanity and his threatened Jewish employees turns him into an unlikely saviour.

Scream (1996)

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Writer Kevin Williamson took the teenage VHS cassette horror experience back into the multiplex with this self-referential horror reboot, expertly crafted by veteran director Wes Craven. A slasher film that explicitly acknowledges the genre with a new masked murderer in Ghostface, it put Neve Campbell at the centre of a high school killing spree that begins with Drew Barrymore’s now iconic cameo.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Equally committed to pub culture and the movies of George A. Romero, Edgar Wright’s very British and very amusing zombie apocalypse comedy finds Simon Pegg and Nick Frost negotiating the shuffling return of the undead with droll technique and genre-defying bursts of comic mayhem.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)

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Aardman’s stop motion animation hit moved from TV to cinemas with this expressive adventure in which the crew from Mossy Bottom Farm, led by the irrepressible Shaun, go to town. Mostly free of dialogue, the narrative is driven by all-ages gags, silent movie techniques and genuine empathy. It’s a delight.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

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Perhaps the best—and certainly the truest—comic-book adaptation, this animated addition to the world of the New York web-slinger captured both the emotional spirit of the Spider-man franchise and the wondrous visual possibilities. It is bright, exhilarating and alive to teenage hopes and fears. Plus Spider-Ham!

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

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The Empire Strikes Back of animated superhero movies—a deeper, darker exploration of the first film’s ethos, with a compounding rise in technique and sensation. Panel by panel, the continuing adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) across a diverse multiverse that actually matters offers hyper-kinetic visual expressionism and a coming-of-age tale based on refuting the expectations of others.

The Sting (1973)

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Before Ocean’s Eleven there was this Depression-era conman thriller, which cleaned up at both the box-office and the Academy Awards, and cemented the legendary screen partnership of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The duo play grifters out to swindle a violent crime boss (a memorable Robert Shaw), with an intricate scam orchestrated with elan by director George Roy Hill.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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Posthumously narrated by the dead screenwriter memorably featured in the opening scene, Billy Wilder’s acidic love letter to Hollywood is more scathing than any movie the movie industry has made about itself in the many decades since. William Holden plays the struggling hack, who finds refuge with a reclusive silent movie star, Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond. Self-loathing, delusion, and cruel truths fight it out.

TÁR (2022)

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In her remarkable career, where the most thrilling parts feel less like performances than the deepest of inheritances, Cate Blanchett may never have a role 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.

Unforgiven (1992)

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Everything Clint Eastwood has learnt about the western, including the comfort it takes in its many myths, was brought to bear in this elegiac, end-of-the-trail tale. His ageing gunslinger embraces his past sins when he takes up a contract for murder in a town run by Gene Hackman’s uncompromising sheriff.

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

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A telling glam rock version of Citizen Kane, Todd Haynes uses the mythic shape of David Bowie’s contrary life and work in the 1970s and 1980s to create a fascinating examination of the creative process and the transformative powers of sexuality. Set in a grey, corporate 1984, Christian Bale plays the American reporter whose pursuit of Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ missing rock star unearths both his subject’s past and his own abandoned desires.

Zodiac (2007)

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An immaculately recreated period piece about the killer who terrorised San Francisco in the early 1970s and wrote to the public, this masterful David Fincher movie is a procedural where the trail of the killer goes cold, but those who’ve gazed on the crime scenes and read the letters keep going. Characters Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal are each gripped by the case. As obsessives, they’re all Zodiac victims.