Netflix has a high turnover rate for its movie library. Some movies, like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, seem to be caught in an endless cycle of leaving and returning to the service. (The second and third “LOTR” films are currently on Netflix, but the first is not.) And with the Netflix home screen often promoting Netflix Original content above all else, it’s easy to miss the full breadth of movies the service has to offer at any given time.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of excellent movies on the service from the last decade. I skipped recommending Netflix Original Films (such as “Marriage Story” and “The Irishman”) as the service does plenty to advertise those. I also refrained from recommending super popular movies such as “The Matrix” and “Indiana Jones” series, as I figure fans of those will find the movies naturally.
Basically, I strived to recommend movies that will hopefully elicit an “Oh yeah, that movie” response, as these are all movies that earned critical acclaim at the time, but may not be top of mind anymore.
That said, some of the movies in this list were still massively popular and heavily accoladed, so I admit there was no hard rule I stuck to. Or at least, no hard rule except sticking to movies I think you’ll like.
Read on for the list with accompanying trailers and additional info.
“20th Century Women” (2016)
In this comedic drama, a single mother and her younger neighbors help raise a young boy in Santa Barbara, California, during the end of the 1970s.
“20th Century Women” earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Runtime: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Notable Cast: Annette Bening, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat and Lucas Jade Zumann
“The Master” (2012)
In this psychological drama, an aimless war veteran stumbles into a nascent religious cult in 1950.
“The Master” earned three Academy Award nominations: Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).
Runtime: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Notable Cast: Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rami Malek, Joaquin Phoenix and Jesse Plemons
Paul Thomas Anderson directed the movie and wrote the screenplay.
In this drama, a young mother and her son try to escape captivity from the man who keeps them hostage and routinely rapes the woman.
“Room” earned four Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress, which Brie Larson won.
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Notable Cast: Sean Bridgers, Brie Larson, William H. Macy and Jacob Tremblay
In this period drama, President Abraham Lincoln attempts to keep the United States together and bring the Civil War to a close.
“Lincoln” won two Academy Awards ― Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis and Best Production Design ― and earned 12 total nominations. Notable nominations came in the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay categories.
Runtime: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Notable Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jared Harris, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader
Steven Spielberg directed.
“A Separation” (2011)
In this drama, a married couple in Tehran have differing views on leaving the country, an argument that leads to further struggle.
“A Separation” earned two Academy Award nominations — Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film, which it won.
Runtime: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Notable Cast: Leila Hatami and Payman Maadi
“Short Term 12” (2013)
In this drama, a counselor tries to help at-risk teens in California.
As The Ringer wrote about last year, “Short Term 12” served as a breakout movie for many of today’s biggest acting stars.
Runtime: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Notable Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, Kaitlyn Dever, John Gallagher Jr., Brie Larson, Rami Malek and Lakeith Stanfield
In this drama, a gay Black man searches for parent figures and feels he must suppress his identity while growing up in Miami, Florida.
“Moonlight” won earned eight Academy Award nominations and won three categories: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Notable Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Andre Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Trevante Rhodes and Ashton Sanders
Barry Jenkins directed the movie and wrote the screenplay.
“Hell or High Water” (2016)
In this heist thriller, two brothers commit a series of bank heists while an aging Texas Ranger tries to catch them.
“Hell or High Water” earned four Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Jeff Bridges) and Best Film Editing.
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Notable Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster and Chris Pine
“Frances Ha” (2012)
In this comedic drama, a young woman with artistic ambitions matures into an artist and adult in New York City.
“Frances Ha” earned one Golden Globe nomination: Best Performance By an Actress in a Motion Picture ― Musical or Comedy (Greta Gerwig). This served as the first co-writing partnership between Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, who are now romantic partners.
Runtime: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Notable Cast: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Grace Gummer, Mickey Sumner and Michael Zegen
Noah Baumbach directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay with Gerwig.
“The Lobster” (2015)
In this absurdist comedy, a recently single man must find a partner within 45 days or he’ll be forcibly turned into a lobster.
“The Lobster” earned one Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Runtime: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Notable Cast: Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Rachel Weisz and Ben Whinshaw
Yorgos Lanthimos directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay.
“Steve Jobs” (2015)
In this period drama, Steve Jobs becomes one of the most venerated tech leaders in history while ignoring friendships and familial obligations.
“Steve Jobs” earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Michael Fassbender) and Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet).
Runtime: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Notable Cast: Jeff Daniels, Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen and Kate Winslet
Danny Boyle directed the movie, while Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay.
In this satirical thriller, the world has frozen over and only the highly segregated occupants of a train survive.
“Snowpiercer” served as director and writer Bong Joon-ho’s American breakout. He would later go on to create “Parasite,” which is currently nominated for multiple Academy Awards at the upcoming ceremony.
Runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Notable Cast: Jamie Bell, Chris Evans, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, Kang-Ho Song and Octavia Spencer
Bong Joon-ho directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay.
“The Little Hours” (2017)
In this comedy, nuns in a convent break religious rules and cause havoc.
“The Little Hours” has a long cast of comedy stars from the 2010s.
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Notable Cast: Fred Armisen, Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Jemima Kirke, Kate Micucci, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, and Molly Shannon
In this speculative dramatic comedy, a newly single man in a futuristic city falls in love with a Siri-like operating system.
“Her” won one Academy Award and earned four nominations. The movie won for Best Original Screenplay and notably received a Best Picture nomination.
Runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Notable Cast: Amy Adams, Bill Hader, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Pratt, Kristen Wiig and Olivia Wilde
Spike Jonze directed the movie and wrote the screenplay.
In this animated superhero movie, a young, Black Spider-Man discovers the existence of other universes (and other Spider-Men) that will come to help him save his own universe.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won the Best Animated Feature category at the Academy Awards just last year.
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Notable Cast: Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Kimiko Glenn, Kathryn Hahn, Brian Tyree Henry, Jake Johnson, Zoë Kravitz, Shameik Moore, John Mulaney, Chris Pine, Liev Schrieber, Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin and Lauren Vélez
Phil Lord co-wrote the screenplay.
“Obvious Child” 2014
In this comedy, a struggling comedian has an accidental pregnancy that forces her to reckon with her life in New York City.
“Obvious Child” served as a breakout role for comedian Jenny Slate.
Runtime: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Notable Cast: David Cross, Gaby Hoffmann, Richard Kind, Jake Lacy, Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate
In this comedy, a man learns he has tumors in his spine and a doctor tells him he has a 50% chance of survival.
“50/50” earned two Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture ― Comedy or Musical (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Best Motion Picture ― Comedy or Musical.
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Notable Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Philip Baker Hall, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen
“The Edge of Seventeen” (2016)
In this coming-of-age comedy, a high school junior must find a new place in the world when her best friend starts dating her brother.
“The Edge of Seventeen” earned one Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture ― Musical or Comedy (Hailee Steinfeld).
Runtime: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Notable Cast: Woody Harrelson, Haley Lu Richardson and Hailee Steinfeld
In this action drama, a Hollywood stuntman also works as a getaway driver for violent criminals.
“Drive” earned one Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing.
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Notable Cast: Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ryan Gosling, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman
Nicolas Winding Refn directed.
In this psychological mystery drama, a young man in South Korea stumbles into a deceptive situation of complicated friendship.
“Burning” made President Barack Obama’s list of favorite movies from 2018.
Runtime: 2 hours, 28 minutes
Notable Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo and Steven Yeun
“Green Room” (2015)
In this horror thriller, a punk rock band accidentally witnesses a crime by a white power skinhead group and subsequently becomes the new targets of the skinheads’ violence.
“Green Room” established Jeremy Saulnier as one of the best contemporary horror directors.
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Notable Cast: Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin
Jeremy Saulnier directed the movie and wrote the screenplay.
“Personal Shopper” (2016)
In this psychological thriller, a personal shopper to a supermodel thinks she might be getting text messages from her dead brother, who said he would give her a sign from the afterlife.
“Personal Shopper” won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Notable Cast: Lars Eidinger and Kristen Stewart
“Ex Machina” (2014)
In this science fiction thriller, a programmer tests the capabilities of a beautiful robot developed by his company, but learns the robot may be more powerful than intended.
“Ex Machina” won one Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Runtime: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Notable Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander
“Other People” (2016)
In this comedic drama, a gay comedy writer moves back to his conservative household to help take care of his mother, who is dying of cancer.
Former “Saturday Night Live” co-headwriter Chris Kelly wrote this movie, which helped him make the wonderful Comedy Central show “The Other Two.” That show also stars Molly Shannon.
Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Notable Cast: Maude Apatow, Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon and Bradley Whitford
“Don’t Think Twice” (2016)
In this comedy, an inseparable improv group has to come to terms with individual members achieving differing trajectories of success.
Ira Glass co-produced the movie. “Don’t Think Twice” also has a cast of critically acclaimed comedic actors.
Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Notable Cast: Mike Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate Micucci and Tami Sagher
Birbiglia directed the movie and wrote the screenplay.