With upwards of 3,500 movies on Netflix, it’s rapidly becoming familiar to spend an evening browsing its huge selection of films rather than watching anything at all.
2019 in particular has been a bumper year for films being added to the streaming giant, ranging from popcorn-busting superhero films to Oscar-winning dramas.
To help cut through the noise, we’ve put together a definitive list of what you need to watch on Netflix in 2019 – but be quick, since some of these are only available for so long!
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Director: Jon Watts
Writer(s): Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr
It seems like Spider-Man is constantly getting rebooted, in constant peril not due to Doc Ock or Electro but because of warring legal battles between Marvel and Sony Pictures Entertainment.
So it makes sense that fans were worried about yet another instalment (would Uncle Ben be shot yet again?) but excited for Spidey’s first solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about a thing. Homecoming is original and thrilling, and Michael Keaton turns in another sterling performance as a brooding, winged character.
Tom Holland shines as Spider-Man, and the appearance of Tony Stark makes this essential viewing for Marvel fans.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Writer(s): Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts
Speaking of Michael Keaton and wings, this black comedy was a tour de force that was itself a reflection of Keaton’s Batman days.
Riggan Thomson is a down-on-his-luck actor looking to make a big comeback through theatre, with the narrative of the film taking place during a series of previews before opening night. Amazingly, with one important exception, it appears to have been filmed in a single shot, adding to the claustrophobia and paranoia of Thomson’s life.
Keaton was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance; he ultimately lost out, though the film went on to earn the Oscar for Best Picture.
The Terminator (1984)
Director: James Cameron
Writer(s): James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield
If you’re looking for a classic action flick, it doesn’t get much better than this – except, maybe, for T2, but we’re still waiting for that to drop on Netflix.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the killer robot of the title, travelling through time to stop the man trying to stop the man setting the end of the world in motion. Don’t think too hard about the paradoxes, just enjoy Arnie’s relentless killing machine seeking out its target.
The CGI and practical effects of the film still hold up to this day, and the climactic sequence in the factory is one of the most memorable and thrilling scenes of all time. Unmissable!
The Great Hack (2019)
Directors: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim
Writer(s): Karim Amer, Erin Barnett
Cast: Carole Cadwalladr, David Carroll, Brittany Kaiser
It’s not just feature films on Netflix: there are some amazing documentaries too, and few are as current or as revealing as The Great Hack.
The documentary details the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data scandal that was central to the 2016 UK referendum and subsequent USA presidential election. David Carroll outlines how Facebook manipulates content and tracks your information, supposedly in order to make the user experience as smooth and as relevant as possible, when in fact third-party companies like Cambridge Analytica managed to weaponise data for political means.
It’s heavy stuff, but as we become more deeply connected through our phones and other technologies, the issues discussed in The Great Hack are only going to become more important.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer(s): Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James
In this long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic, Ryan Gosling takes on the role of Blade Runner, ‘retiring’ quasi-human replicants. The twist? Gosling is replicant himself.
Much like the original, it’s a divisive film. While it was positively reviewed, it was generally considered a box office disappointment, making a sizeable but unremarkable profit. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard, a malcontent ex-Runner whom the authorities are still desperately trying to track.
From the disquieting soundtrack to the gorgeous visuals, Blade Runner 2049 is worth a watch for fans of the original and Blade Runner initiates alike.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Director: Sergio Leone
Writer(s): Adriano Bolzoni, Duccio Tessari, Fernando di Leo
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Josef Egger, Wolfgang Lukschy, John Wells, Daniel Martin, Carol Brown, Benny Reeves
Sergio Leone was responsible for some of the most influential Westerns of all time, including the epic Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), and A Fistful of Dollars is an important introduction to the Dollars trilogy.
Leone based A Fistful of Dollars on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), and follows a lone gunslinger (Eastwood) as he becomes entangled in a violent disagreement between two rival Mexican gangs.
Since the film is based on a Japanese production, there is some controversy over who should be credited for the script. Bolzoni and Tessari were sent to watch Yojimbo and take notes, but di Leo claims he also produced a draft.
Director: Alex Garland
Writer(s): Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac
Annihilation is a sci-fi horror film starring Natalie Portman. Unfortunately, for such an interesting and mysterious film, it’s less famous for its content than the storm around its release.
Portman plays Lena, a cellular biology professor and US Army soldier, whose husband (Isaac) disappears. He returns after a year, but can’t explain where he was or why. Lena meets with a Dr Ventress (Jason Leigh) who explains that her team has been investigating a mysterious anomalous zone called “The Shimmer,” but of all those sent to explore it only Lena’s husband returned.
The film was originally due to be released by Paramount, but executives became worried that the film was too strange and unsettling to be given a full cinema release. After lengthy negotiations, it was unceremoniously dumped on Netflix. That does, however, mean the film is gorgeously produced, and you don’t have to pay exorbitant cinema prices for the privilege of seeing it.
Loving Vincent (2017)
Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Writer(s): Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel
Cast: Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner
Loving Vincent, an original story about a young man delivering Van Gogh’s final letter, is a visual experience unlike any other.
Funded by the Polish Film Institute, and in part through a campaign on Kickstarter, the film consists of hundreds of individual oil paintings that have been animated through rotoscoping. It features the work of 125 painters from over 20 countries.
While the film’s narrative has been criticised as relatively simplistic, the sheer spectacle of the film makes it well worth checking out.
Director: Paul Feig
Writer(s): Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd
Marketed as a gross-out comedy – and definitely including some, shall we say, less than clean jokes – Bridesmaids has more heartfelt moments and was critically acclaimed on release.
Annie Walker (Wiig) is a sales clerk in a jewellery store, her bakery having failed in the recession. When her best friend Lillian (Rudolph) becomes engaged, and she’s chosen to be the Maid of Honour, she struggles to cope.
Meanwhile, Annie meets Nathan (O’Dowd), a State Patrol officer who pulls her over for speeding, and an awkward romance begins. Bridesmaids is hilarious, but also full of existential fear about your friends growing older and abandoning you, making it a viewing experience that hits your feelings on both fronts.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer(s): Nora Ephron
Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Speaking of RomComs, it’s worth taking a trip back to one of first big hits of the genre which is finally making its way to Netflix.
When Harry Met Sally is Nora Ephron at her screenwriting best, and is a classic Meg Ryan RomCom. Harry Burns (Crystal) and Sally Albright (Ryan) meet as University of Chicago graduates sharing a ride to New York City, who initially hate each other, but bump into each other every few years. Most famous for its diner scene, in which Sally fakes an orgasm, When Harry Met Sally set a high bar for all future films in the genre.
Carrie Fisher also stars in an under-appreciated supporting role as Sally’s best friend who, despite being brought to a double date to distract Harry, ends up falling for his best friend, brought along for the same purpose.