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Best movies on Netflix to watch right now (May 2021)

best movies on Netflix
Fruitvale Station and Scarface. Pic credit: Weinstein / Universal

When It comes to Netflix, there are a ton of great movies to choose from, but sometimes the choices can seem overwhelming.

When someone is looking for a good comedy, drama, action movie, animated effort, or foreign-language film, there are plenty to choose from.

However, it is a little tougher when looking for something of high quality, whether an award-winning movie or a critically praised film.

We have you covered. From the best Oscar winners and contenders to the movies that sent critics into a state of euphoria, Netflix has the catalog.

Here is a look at some of the best movies on Netflix to see as of May 2021.

Updated in May 2021: Every month, Netflix adds and subtracts several movies from its streaming service. With that in mind, there will be a lot of changes in many months, so we will come in and edit this article in the future to reflect these changes.

Scarface (1983)

Scarface (1983)
Al Pacino in Scarface (1983) . Pic credit: Universal

In 1983, Brian De Palma directed what some consider to be one of the best gangster movies of all time, and one of hte best remakes in cinema history.

Al Pacino came up with the idea to remake the 1932 movie Scarface, Brian De Palma was brought in to direct it, and Oliver Stone wrote the script.

What resulted was a movie that even Martin Scorsese praises.

Pacino is Tony Montana, an ex-convict and Cuban refugee who sets his sights on becoming a major drug lord in Miami.

The Pianist (2002)

Adrien Brody in The Pianist. Pic credit: Pic credit: Focus Features

Roman Polanski directed the Holocaust movie The Pianist in 2002 and watched as the film won him an Oscar while actor Adrien Brody picked up one as well.

Brody stars as a Jewish pianist living in Poland during World War II. Just when it looks like Britain and France might save Poland when they join the war, Germany overruns the country.

Through the movie, the pianist loses everything, including his family, to the Nazi extermination camps, and has to go into hiding thanks to protection from a sympathetic member of the Jewish Ghetto Police.

The Master (2012)

The Master (2012)
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company

Paul Thomas Anderson returned in 2012 with the movie The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.

Hoffman is Lancaster Dodd, who has started his own religion and built a large following. Phoenix is Freddie Quell, a former military man who buys into the new religion completely.

There was some controversy when the movie came out, with many speculating that Anderson was targeting Scientology. However, the film has spectacular acting performances and is wonderfully filmed.

The movie picked up three Oscar nominations, all for acting (Hoffman, Phoenix, and Amy Adams).

My Fair Lady (1964)

My Fair Lady
Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Pic credit: Warner Bros

My Fair Lady was a 1964 musical-drama adapted from the stage musical of the same name by George Bernard Shaw.

In the movie, Audrey Hepburn played a poor flower seller named Eliza Doolittle who has an arrogant professor named Henry Higgins make a bet that he can teach her to speak proper English to make her more “proper” in high society London.

My Fair Lady won eight Academy Awards, named one of the best movies of all time by the American Film Institute.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Pic credit: Paramount Vantage

Paul Thomas Anderson has created some of the most breathtaking indie-style films of the last three decades, and There Will Be Blood might be his best.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Daniel Plainview, an oilman in this loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! Plainview is striking oil at the expense of towns that he leaves dead in his wake in the film.

He meets a young evangelist named Eli (Paul Dano), who tries to stand in his way. What results is a battle of wills where one man must fall.

The film, which can be compared to classic horror movies like Dracula, picked up eight Oscar nominations with Day-Lewis winning Best Actor.

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Dances with Wolves
Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. Pic credit: Orion Pictures

Kevin Costner directed and starred in Dances with Wolves in 1990, based on the novel by Michael Blake.

In the movie, Costner is a Union Army lieutenant named John J. Dunbar who travels to the American frontier, searching for a military post. Along the way, he deals with the Native American tribe, the Lakota.

Dances with Wolves received 12 Oscar nominations and won seven of them, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Stranger Than Fiction
Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction. Pic credit: Columbia Pictures

Will Farrell stars in Stranger Than Fiction, a 2006 movie that was not a typical Farrell comedy but played more like a Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry movie.

Stranger Than Fiction is a dark comedy about existentialism and identity. Ferrell learns over the course of the movie that he is not a real person.

Instead, he is a fictional character named Harold Crick, an IRS worker in a novel by author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson).

Eiffel is known for killing her protagonists, and when Harold starts to hear a voice narrating his story and realizes he is going to die, he sets out to stop it.

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan and Kevin Durand in Fruitvale Station. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company

Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) stars in Fruitvale Station as Oscar Grant, a man who was shot and killed by BART police officers in 2009.

Ryan Coogler, who directed Black Panther, helmed the movie, which was his directorial debut. Fruitvale Station won the Grandy Jury Prize at Sundance and won the Best First Film award at Cannes.

Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray portrayed the BART cops who were involved in the incident. The movie takes place over one day, the last of Oscar’s life.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange
Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. Pic credit: Warner Bros

Stanley Kubrick directed an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange in 1971.

The film is a dystopian dark comedy that takes place in a Britain that has fallen to debauchery, delinquency, and violence.

Malcolm McDowell stars as Alex, the leader of a small gang he calls the Droogs, as they rape, steal, and kill people without recourse. However, when Alex is arrested, the story changes.

Alex goes through conversion therapy to “cure” him from being evil. When he leaves, he cannot defend himself when people he hurt in the past come to collect receipts, and he is in for the fight of his life.

The Departed (2006)

The Departed
Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson in The Departed. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

The Departed stars Leonard DiCaprio as a Boston cop who goes undercover as part of the mafia, working directly under the mob boss himself, portrayed by Jack Nicholson.

Meanwhile, Matt Damon is a member of the mob sent to the police academy and has gone deep as a mole inside the police.

This movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, shows both stories, as the two men get very deep into their respective undercover jobs, and both know they might not make it out in one piece.

Uncut Gems (2019)

Uncut Gems
Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. Pic credit: A24

Released in 2019, Adam Sandler shocked the world with his performance in the Netflix thriller movie Uncut Gems.

The actor, known mostly for his low-brow comedies, turned in an intense role as a jeweler who gets in too deep with his betting addiction and ends up fearing for his life as he continues to dig in deep to save himself.

Film fanatics shouldn’t have been surprised. Sandler proved he could be great with auteurs, as he showed in Punch Drunk Love with P.T. Anderson in 2002.

This time, he worked with Benny and Josh Safdie, the men who helped Robert Pattinson turn in one of his most critically acclaimed roles in Good Time.

Moonlight (2016)

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The Oscar-winning Moonlight. Pic credit: A24

Moonlight is an Oscar-winning film on Netflix that initially hit big screens in 2016.

However, this is an intense drama that many people missed out on before it picked up its Oscar moms.

Trevante Rhodes stars as the adult version of Chiron and Moonlight tells the story of his life, from his childhood to his teenage years, to his adult years, and how certain things changed the course of his life.

Moonlight picked up eight Oscar nominations, winning three of them, including Best Motion Picture of the Year.

The Social Network (2010)

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. Pic credit: Sony

David Fincher started working on more dramatic films in the 2000s after years of working on genre pics. In 2010, he released the biopic The Social Network.

The movie told the story of the genesis of Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg starred as Mark Zuckerberg, the co-creator of Facebook, while Andrew Garfield starred as Eduardo Saverin, his partner, on whose book the movie is based.

The Social Network picked up eight Oscar nominations, with Aaron Sorkin winning for Best Screenplay and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor winning Best Original Score with his partner Atticus Ross.

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Pic credit: Focus Features

Before the world got to know him as Harry Potter character Newt Scamander, actor Eddie Redmayne starred in The Theory of Everything as the brilliant Stephen Hawking.

The film told the story of Hawking’s amazing life and focused on the relationship between the physicist and his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones).

The movie was a critical darling, with Redmayne winning the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Hawking. The film also picked up four other Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

Lady Bird (2017)

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Saoirse Ronan and Tracy Letts in Lady Bird. Pic credit: A24

After learning under Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig has developed a great career of her own as a director.

Her film, Lady Bird, is now available to stream on Netflix and tells the story of a mother and daughter from different upbringings who can’t seem to connect, and how they finally were able to understand each other.

Both Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf picked up Oscar nominations for their roles as daughter and mother, and Gerwig picked up two nominations herself for Best Screenplay and Best Director, a considerable accomplishment for a female filmmaker.

Lady Bird also won the Golden Globes award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

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