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

Best movies on Netflix to watch right now
Drive and Uncut Gems. Pic credit: FilmDistrict / Netflix

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 January 2021.

Updated on January 2: 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.

However, here is a look at movies added in recent months to Netflix that are worth your time when you finish our list: Ocean’s Eleven, The Impossible, Cape Fear, Basic Instinct, Gran Torino, Her, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Troy, Cool Hand Luke, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Longest Yard.

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.

Goodfellas (1990)

The cast of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

In 1990, Martin Scorsese directed the mob movie, Goodfellas, one of the best films of his career.

In the movie, Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, a low-level member of the mafia who has strong ties to everyone he works with.

However, when he finds himself on the rails when the police bust him, he chooses to turn over evidence on the men he calls his family.

The movie is based on a true story, as told in the non-fiction novel Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, which tells the story of Henry Hill, from his days as a mobster to his entry into witness protection years later.

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.

Moneyball (2011)

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball. Pic credit: Columbia Pictures

Based on the book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball is a biopic of baseball manager Billy Beane and his Oakland A’s, as the team tries to use sabermetrics to build a baseball team rather than traditional scouting.

This is met with backlash, due to the technique only using computerized numbers and data crunching and not taking into effect the actual scouting of players and learning their personalities.

Brad Pitt picked up an Oscar nomination for his role as Beane while Jonah Hill picked one up for his role as the computer analyst. The movie was also nominated for Best Picture.

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.

Drive (2011)

Ryan Gosling in Drive. Pic credit: FilmDistrict

Ryan Gosling starred in the crime drama thriller movie Drive in 2011. Nicholas Winding Refn brought his brilliant style of filmmaking into this movie, which is available to stream on Netflix.

Based on the novel by James Sallis, Gosling is The Driver, a Hollywood stunt driver who also serves as a getaway driver for the underworld. When he moves into an apartment and meets a mother whose husband is in prison, he becomes overprotective and ends up putting his own life in peril.

Albert Brooks picked up a Golden Globes nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and the movie won several critics association awards.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

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The cast of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Pic credit: Summit Entertainment

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is available to watch on Netflix and flew over the radar of many film fans when it hit in 2012.

The movie looks, on the outside, like a teen drama, but it deals with situations that are much deeper than hooking up or overcoming bullying. The main character is Charlie (Logan Lerman). He suffers from clinical depression and is suicidal, and that plays a large part in this story of friendship and fitting in.

The movie won several critics’ awards when it was released and was also the winner for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2013.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. Pic credit: Columbia

Martin Scorsese is one of the best movie directors in the history of cinema, and he was also one of the most overlooked when it comes to critical acclaim.

Scorsese picked up nine Oscar nominations, but he did not win one until 2007 for The Departed. In 1976, he released one of the seminal movies of the 70s in Taxi Driver, and never picked up a nomination for it at all.

Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster both picked up Oscar nominations for their acting in Taxi Driver, though. De Niro is a Vietnam vet and cab driver who becomes very protective of a teenage prostitute, played by Foster.

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.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company

By 2012, director David O. Russell had developed a reputation as one of the best filmmakers on the independent scene, as well as one of the hardest to work with.

In 2012, it all came together for Russell with his movie Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley Cooper is Pat, a man with bipolar disorder who is released from the psychiatric hospital and moves back with his parents.

He then meets a girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), with an undiagnosed disorder of her own, and the two try to see if they can strike up a romance and help the other connect.

Lawrence won an Oscar for her performance, and the movie itself picked up seven other Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

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.

Shawn S. Lealos

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