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Picture this: You’re curled up on your couch with a cozy blanket and a bowl of popcorn and you turn on Netflix for a movie. A simple flick through the streaming service’s Top 10 list quickly turns into a deep dive into every genre and before you know it, you’ve been aimlessly scrolling for a title for 30 minutes. We’ve all been there. Figuring out the best movies to watch on the streaming behemoth can quickly turn into a challenge thanks to Netflix’s (literally) hundreds of options. But take comfort in knowing that there is the perfect movie waiting for you.
Whatever genre you’re in the mood for, Netflix has a title for you. There’s rom-coms to make you laugh, dramas to make you cry, and even musical movies to make you sing. To make your choice easier, Marie Claire has narrowed down the best of the best movies on Netflix in each genre for your viewing pleasure. So before you find yourself in an endless scroll, turn to this list first to see the best movies that may pique your interest. (And once you're done with your Netflix favorites, check out the best movies on HBO Max.)
Best Rom-Coms on Netflix
'When Harry Met Sally...'
You can’t call yourself a rom-com fan if you haven’t seen this near-perfect film starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. This film answers the age-old question—can men and women ever truly be just friends? The answer may not be all that surprising (at least in the case of Harry and Sally), but the end result is butterfly-inducing nonetheless.
'Bridget Jones’s Diary'
The British humor is on point in Bridget Jones’s Diary with Renée Zellweger at the helm. As Jones, Zellweger is hilariously relatable and shows that life doesn't end for women over 30. Jones's quirky imperfectness coupled with two swoon-worthy love interests (Hugh Grant and Colin Firth) will have you grinning from ear to ear.
'Crazy, Stupid, Love.'
Crazy, Stupid, Love follows Cal, a newly divorced dad hopping back on the dating game with the help of professional ladies' man, Jacob (played by Ryan Gosling, of course). With a stacked cast including Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Gosling, this film will have you cracking up one moment and then bawling like a baby the next.
Sandra Bullock shows she’s got style and grace as Gracie Hart, an F.B.I. agent who goes deep undercover at the Miss United States beauty pageant. Bullock is truly hilarious and heartfelt in what may be one of her most charming roles yet.
'To All of The Boys I’ve Loved Before'
Based on the YA novel by Jenny Han, To All of The Boys I’ve Loved Before is simply a perfect teen rom-com. When Lara Jean’s scheming little sister sends out her love letters, she strikes up a fake romance with Peter to soften the blow. Lana Condor is exceptionally charming in this breakout role, meanwhile, we all collectively fell in love with Noah Centineo, who is now the reigning king of Netflix rom-coms.
Best Dramas on Netflix
If you haven’t watched Titanic yet, drop what you’re doing and stream it now. The tragic love story of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) on the ill-fated cruise ship is a classic for a reason.
'Seven Years in Tibet'
Seven Years in Tibet is the story of the unlikely friendship between an Austrian POW named Heinrich, played by Brad Pitt, and the 14-year-old Dalai Lama. After becoming the Dalai Lama’s tutor, Heinrich learns a few lessons on his own from the young leader as the two become close friends. While I’ll admit Pitt’s Austrian accent is mediocre at best, the film is definitely still worth a watch for the heartwarming moments between Heinrich and the Dalai Lama.
'The Pursuit of Happyness'
Whenever you need a good cry, simply stream The Pursuit of Happyness and it should do the trick. Will Smith stars alongside a young Jaden Smith as a struggling single father determined to make a better life for his son. The film certainly makes you think twice about the struggles a stranger may be facing behind closed doors.
Sure, rap music isn’t for everybody, but Eminem’s moving performance as a young rapper determined to make it big in Detroit is worth a watch for anyone. While movies with musical stars can typically turn out disastrous, (anybody remember Mariah Carey’s Glitter?) 8 Mile does not fall into that category. Eminem proves he’s got acting chops along with his rapping talents in this riveting drama.
Based on a true story, Girl, Interrupted gives a powerful look into mental health institutions of the 1960s. Angelina Jolie steals the spotlight as the charismatic and sociopathic Lisa while Winona Ryder puts up a convincing performance as Susanna, a young woman with borderline personality disorder.
While a film titled Marriage Story may not sound too exciting, Noah Baumbach’s dive into a couple’s rise and fall is incredibly poignant. The film features amazing performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, both of whom went on to earn Oscar nominations for their roles. Once you see that intense fight scene, it's easy to see why.
Charlize Theron undergoes one heck of a transformation to play the real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. True crime fans will love this close look into the brutal life and crimes of the notorious murderer. Theron delivers such a convincing performance of Wuornos, that she earned the Oscar for Best Actress in 2004.
Set in the 1920s, Tessa Thompson plays Irene, a woman whose life takes a turn when she runs into an old friend who’s passing as white. Each frame, cut, and camera angle feels intentional to show the duality between Irene and her friend, Clare, played masterfully by Ruth Negga. Passing is a must-watch to see director Rebecca Hall’s take on how identity forms society, made all the more impressive given that this is Hall’s directorial debut.
'Catch Me If You Can'
The cat-and-mouse game between Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can is wildly entertaining. DiCaprio charms as 21-year-old con man Frank while Hanks plays the F.B.I. agent obsessed with catching him. Watching Frank’s cunningness come to life and always being a step ahead of the F.B.I. is nothing short of amusing.
A Martin Scorsese classic, Taxi Driver is a must-watch for anyone who calls themself a movie fan. Robert De Niro stars as an unstable loner, Travis, who prowls the night as a New York City cab driver. It soon becomes clear just how unhinged Travis is once he starts plotting the assassination of a political candidate and becomes obsessed with “saving” a 12-year-old prostitute. Travis’s descent into insanity is horrifying to watch and many consider Taxi Driver to be Scorsese’s best work.
'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'
Another period piece set in the 1920s, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom follows the feisty “Mother of Blues” Ma Rainey as she and her band head to a recording session. Starring Viola Davis as the titular singer and Chadwick Boseman in his last on-screen rule as cornet player, Levee, the two deliver powerful performances and would both go on to earn Oscar nominations. As much of a movie it is about the 1920s music industry, it’s just as much of a revealing look into the injustices of black Americans in the past.
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Martin Scorsese, need I say more? When the film premiered in 2019, you couldn’t go on Twitter without seeing a film bro sing praises for Scorsese’s latest gangster flick, and for good reason. Every minute of The Irishman's lengthy runtime (a whopping 209 minutes to be exact!) is jam-packed with emotion, grittiness, and thoughtful humor.
'The Lost Daughter'
Set in a lovely Grecian beach town, The Lost Daughter will give you serious vacation envy. Olivia Colman stars as a woman desperate for an escape, only to come face to face with painful memories from her past. The Lost Daughter approaches the theme of motherhood and all of its intricacies in a thought-provoking way.
Director Tim Burton delves into the tricky relationships between father and son in this drama. Big Fish follows a reporter determined to learn the truth behind his dying father’s fantastical tales. Of course, Burton adds his typical whimsy flair and visual aesthetics, creating a story that's offbeat, funny, and touching all at the same time.
Best Action Movies on Netflix
This adaptation of the famous Trojan War has Brad Pitt at his peak, in my opinion. With his long blonde hair and brooding attitude, Pitt is in his element as the legendary Greek hero Achilles. Did I mention it also stars Eric Bana and a young Orlando Bloom?
'Men in Black'
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are the comedic duo you didn’t know you needed in Men in Black. The two star as the titular Men in Black agents who regulate all alien activity on Earth. With Smith and Jones hilariously bouncing off one another and surprisingly impressive special effects for 1997, Men in Black is a good time from start to finish.
Go back to the beginning to see Tom Cruise in action in what would be the film series that launched him into stardom. After this film’s success, Ethan Hunt became a household name, and the theme song is now instantly recognizable.
'The Hurt Locker'
Before they were Marvel superheroes, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie took on the roles of army sergeants in this gripping war movie. Renner plays the fearless Staff Sergeant William James, the leader of a bomb squad deployed to Baghdad in the Iraq War. Full of tension and action, The Hurt Locker will have you at the edge of your seat.
Best Thrillers on Netflix
This dark tale of two homicide detectives on the hunt for a serial killer may keep you up at night, but it’s worth the lack of sleep. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are at the top of their game as the detectives investigating a string of murders based on the seven deadly sins. Fair warning: The ending is shocking as you finally discover what’s in the box.
'I Am Legend'
Imagine being the only one alive in New York City (and possibly the world) with just your trusty German shepherd and a gun to keep you safe from mutated, flesh-eating humans. That’s the premise of I Am Legend starring Will Smith and it's truly terrifying, made even more so given the fact that its setting is a post-pandemic world. Don’t forget your tissues either as you’re sure to shed a tear or two at the ending.
With video cameras and smartphones, just about anybody can break the news. Nightcrawler dives into the mind of one such citizen journalist/con man, Louis Bloom, who goes to extreme lengths to get the money shot. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a knockout performance as Bloom as he goes from a morally grey character to a downright villain.
If you’re looking for a suspenseful crime drama, look no further than The Town. Ben Affleck proves he has what it takes as a director with this film as you end up caring about the band of robbers the movie is centered on. With a lot of action, a touch of romance, and coupled with an outstanding cast, The Town is a perfect option for thrill seekers.
'The Talented Mr. Ripley'
This thriller will keep you wondering just how far con artist, Tom Ripley, is willing to go to achieve a luxurious life. It’s a little bit sick and twisted, but also incredibly entertaining as Ripley, played by Matt Damon, spins further and further out of control. Plus, Jude Law is breathtaking as the millionaire playboy, Dickie Greenleaf, in the role that would earn him his first Oscar nom.
Best Comedies on Netflix
There’s no other teen movie that changed the pop culture world quite like Mean Girls did in the early aughts. Thanks to the mind of Tiny Frey, who wrote the screenplay, the film will surely stand the test of time with quotes like “so fetch,” “she doesn’t even go here” and “you can’t sit with us,” forever engrained in our minds.
'Sorry to Bother You'
A little bit trippy, a little bit outrageous, Sorry to Bother You is a hilarious satire on American capitalism in a time that seems all too relevant. LaKeith Stanfield stars as Cassius, a telemarketer who climbs the ladder after taking a coworker's advice to talk in a “white voice.” Director Boots Riley somehow is able to put a comic spin on corporate greed and gentrification.
'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'
After watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I desperately wanted to play hooky from school and have an epic day like Ferris and his friends. Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane get up to no good playing tourist in Chicago and the day ends with an epic lip sync to “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles. Ferris and his one-day adventure have become the stuff of teen movie legend.
Best Horror Movies on Netflix
'Right out of the gate, His House sets your nerves on edge and they remain that way until the very end of this unsettling psychological horror. The film tells the story of an immigrant couple hoping for a fresh start in their new home, only to find that their new home has a dark mind of its own. Director Remi Weekes is somehow able to say so much about the immigrant experience while scaring the crap out of viewers at the same time.'
Sometimes the most horrifying things are the things that go unseen, which is the case in the inventive film, It Follows. The horror flick sees Jay (Maika Monroe) receive a fatal curse after sleeping with her boyfriend and the only way to get rid of it is by sleeping with someone new. Think of the film's premise as an STD that haunts. It's a slow-burn scare, but it certainly does the trick.
Best Musicals on Netflix
Anne Hathaway won her first Oscar for her role in this classic musical despite only appearing in the film for just 15 minutes, and it’s not hard to see why. Hathaway packs a powerful punch every minute she is on screen as Fantine, a single mother struggling to survive in 19th-century Paris. Combined with moving performances by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Amanda Seyfried, this gut-punching musical will leave you in your feels.
'tick, tick... BOOM!'
In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut, Jonathan Larson’s heartwrenching story comes to life. Andrew Garfield delivers a career-defining performance as the theater playwright who struggles to come to terms with his life passing by. The film’s message begs the question: What do we do with the time that we have left?
Best Animated Movies on Netflix
'How to Train Your Dragon 2'
Yes, an animated movie can make it onto a “best of” list especially if it involves cute, dog-like dragons. Your heart will surely melt anytime Toothless gives his owner Hiccup a gummy smile or a wag of his scaly tail. With humans and dragons living together in peace, the dynamic between the two is hilarious, making this sequel arguably the best in the series.
Kids of the ‘90s will surely never forget seeing the NBA Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan team up with iconic Looney Tunes characters. Can you expect incredible acting performances? No, but that doesn’t make this movie any less of a nostalgic good time.
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Brooke Knappenberger is Contributing Writer at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.
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