The 25 Best Underrated Movies On Netflix Right Now
These movies deserve another look. Fortunately, they’re all streaming on Netflix right now. For this list of the best underrated films on Netflix, we’re focusing on lesser-known films from different genres, and from all around the world, that are worthy of more attention. To be clear: Many of these films were critically acclaimed upon release; they just haven’t found as big of an audience as we think they merit. In this roundup, we’ve included big-screen releases, as well as Netflix originals. We’re covering everything from thrillers to horror, sci-fi to drama, comedies to family and kid-friendly fare.
Here are 25 recommended, overlooked movies you can watch on Netflix right now:Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’ (Open Road)
1. Nightcrawler (2014)
Jake Gyllenhaal has always been great. Perhaps his most stunning big-screen transformation was for the starring role in Dan Gilroy‘s disturbing neo-noir, as a career criminal who becomes involved in salacious, grisly, ratings-hungry local news. There was outcry when Gyllenhaal didn’t get an Oscar nod for his work here, though Nightcrawler was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Winner of the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.
2. Anaconda (1997)
A misunderstood and underrated gory creature feature, Anaconda is a B-movie that knows it’s a B-movie. If that sounds like your jam, there are a lot of pleasures to be had here. Lopez plays a documentary filmmaker exploring the Amazon when her crew is captured by a lunatic, then hunted by a gigantic serpent.
Some critics trashed Anaconda when it came out. Roger Ebert gave it a glowing review, praising it on the grounds we’ve just described. This ain’t Merchant Ivory; it is an is-what-it-is good time.
Related: Best Family Movies on NetflixKrisha Fairchild in ‘Krisha’ (A24)
3. Krisha (2016)
Trey Edward Shults made his debut feature Krisha for $30,000 (for reference, that’s roughly 1/10,000th the budget of Avengers: Endgame) in his parents’ home using his family as actors. Krisha tells the story of a troubled alcoholic who seeks to make amends with her family over Thanksgiving. Inventively using stylistic choices of horror cinema to heighten the drama, Krisha is a tiny movie that will knock you flat. At its heart, this gut-punch of an indie is about family.
Related: 15 Essential Thanksgiving MoviesMadeline Brewer in ‘Cam’ (Netflix)
4. Cam (2018)
Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, this Netflix original is about an adult webcam performer who discovers a sinister presence has taken her place on the internet. Cam has some truly frightening moments, and it examines the subject matter of sex work with appropriate care and thought. Most notably, it showcases a head-turning lead performance by The Handmaid‘s Tale‘s Madeline Brewer, often playing multiple entities on-screen at the same time. Thanks to a perceptive script by real-life former cam girl Isa Mazzei, Cam is often an examination of fractured identity, something that’s definitely not limited to the world of adult entertainment. Cam stumbles a bit at the ending, but it’s full of provocative ideas, and Brewer just floors you.(A24)
5. Green Room (2014)
It’s the feel-bad movie of the decade! Kidding, kind of.
Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) helmed this mega-gory, brilliantly staged, blunt and effective action thriller about neo-Nazis who terrorize a young punk band. Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots and the late Anton Yelchin star.
In case you didn’t hear us the first time, Green Room is GORY, the kind of movie that pushes the limits of what you can get away with before your R-rated movie becomes an NC-17. Green Room is the hardcore violent action movie that makes that other violent action movie you think is hardcore look like a picnic basket full of daffodils. Enjoy!(A24)
6. The Guest (2014)
Writer/director team Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard won over critics and audiences with this ripper of a mystery, centered on a handsome stranger who shows up on a family’s doorstep. Neon-hued, techno-accented nostalgic fever dream The Guest also was breakthrough for stars Maika Monroe and Dan Stevens.
Related: The Sexiest Movies on Hulu Right NowChris Evans in ‘Snowpiercer’ (TWC)
7. Snowpiercer (2014)
Based on a French graphic novel, Oscar-winning Parasite director Bong Joon-ho‘s relentlessly paced action thriller is set aboard a speeding, globe-spanning train, carrying the last remnants of humanity after global warming has turned Earth into an iceberg. Snowpiercer received substantial critical acclaim, and stars Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris. With a budget of $40 million, it remains the most expensive Korean production ever.
Also on Netflix Bong Joon-ho‘s Okja, a Netflix original.Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt in ‘Berlin Syndrome’ (eOne, Netflix)
8. Berlin Syndrome (2017)
So abundant we might as well make them their own genre, movies about kidnapped females generally go one of two ways: It’s either all about the suspense, figuring out how and if she will get out—or there’s the nastier route, the low road, when some movies focus on a woman’s torture and humiliation, turning it into spectacle.
Though Australian director Cate Shortland‘s adaptation of Melanie Joosten‘s novel, about a tourist imprisoned by a handsome teacher after a passionate one-night-stand, is a thriller (quite heart-pounding at times), and much of the woman’s mistreatment is extremely hard to watch, this highly absorbing psychological drama stands out because it’s all about the characters and what’s going on in their heads.
Aussie-born Teresa Palmer of Hacksaw Ridge fame delivers a ripper of a performance as a victim suffering in stages not unlike the stages of grieving. German Max Riemelt (Sense8) keeps up every step of the way as her chilling and multifaceted captor, but this is Palmer’s film, and it gave the dynamite actress long-relegated to playing love-interest side characters a serious calling-card in Hollywood.‘We the Animals’
9. We the Animals (2018)
Justin Torres’ heart-wrenching semi-autobiographical novel, about three young boys living an isolated existence with neglectful, abusive parents in upstate New York, announced the author as a force to be reckoned with in the literary world. Jeremiah Zagar‘s film adaptation mostly captures the wild, dreamy spirit of Torres’ prose, but not its shattering power. After you read the book, you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. The movie, meanwhile, is a respectable and stylish bildungsroman about sexual awakening and burgeoning creativity, that benefits greatly from naturalistic performances by a cast that includes three gifted youngsters: Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, and Josiah Gabriel—as well as Sheila Vand and Looking’s Raúl Castillo.
10. The World is Not Enough (1999)
Handsome, exciting, hilarious–the second-best Pierce Brosnan 007 outing doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The main target for criticism over the years has been Denise Richards as nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones. This is clear-eyed realism compared to many earlier Bond films, and even some of the elements of Fleming’s novels. Richards has a good time in the role, too: funny, likable and extremely good-looking. The Christmas criticisms just don’t add up in context.
Roger Ebert gave The World is Not Enough the highest rating of the Brosnan outings. He called it “a splendid comic thriller, exciting and graceful, endlessly inventive.”
The best part? This picture belongs to Sophie Marceau as oil heiress Elektra King, whose diabolical wickedness reveals itself layer by layer. Elektra is a maniac, the series’ only female big bad to date– and the only woman Bond has killed in cold blood.
The follow-up to The World is Not Enough, 2002’s Die Another Day, is also streaming on Netflix now. It’s terrible, though.Daniel Doheny and Antonio Marziale in ‘Alex Strangelove’ (Walter Thomson)
11. Alex Strangelove (2018)
All at once joyous, raunchy and disarmingly poignant, this Netflix original movie stars Daniel Doheny as Alex Truelove, a deeply closeted high school senior who loves his girlfriend Claire (Madeline Weinstein), but is overwhelmed with confusion when he falls for a handsome, comfortably out boy named Elliot (Antonio Marziale).‘My Life as a Zucchini’ (Praesens-Film)
12. My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
Claude Barras‘ visually breathtaking stop-motion animated feature is more substantial than the title suggests. The comedy-drama about orphans dreaming of a better life is often poignant, even wrenching at times, but My Life as a Zucchini navigates tricky emotional terrain with astonishing grace, and it’s ultimately an ode to human resilience. A Swiss-French production originally written in the French language, uncommon care has been given to the English re-dub featuring the vocal talents of Ellen Page, Nick Offerman, Amy Sedaris and Will Forte.
My Life as a Zucchini was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award (Zootopia won).Narges Rashidi in UNDER THE SHADOW
13. Under the Shadow (2016)
An exquisitely crafted and thoroughly unnerving chiller, writer/director Babak Anvari‘s feature debut blurs the line between supernatural terror and the horrors of the real world like few films you’ll ever see. Set in 1980s Tehran during The War of the Cities—the backdrop of Anvari’s own fear-ridden childhood—Narges Rashidi stars as medical student Shideh who is barred from her studies because of her involvement in revolutionary politics. When her husband departs for the front, Shideh is tasked with protecting their young daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) as the fighting and bombings escalate around them. It doesn’t look like things can get any bleaker, and that’s when Shideh and Dorsa are haunted by an evil genie.
The performances are powerful, and the filmmaking here is impeccable, evoking a war-torn Iran that is almost suffocating to watch. Anvari grew up in a culture where VCR’s and VHS tapes were illegal, and his debut is made with the kind of passion for film that you can’t put a price tag on. The supernatural scares really work, but they’re never quite as frightening as Shideh’s reality, which seems to be Anvari’s point. Esteemed British film critic Mark Kermode named this small-scale powerhouse the best film of 2016, and it is not to be missed.‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ (IM Global)
14. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Here’s a skillfully crafted creep show that’s guaranteed to get under your skin. André Øvredal‘s well-reviewed chiller boasts characteristically strong turns by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox, who play father-son coroners who encounter the supernatural when examining the corpse of an unidentified young woman. Øvredal’s work here caught the attention of producer Guillermo del Toro, who chose him to direct Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.Joel Edgerton in ‘It Comes at Night’ (A24)
15. It Comes At Night (2017)
Hollywood wunderkind Trey Edward Shults‘ followup to his knockout debut Krisha received high praise from critics but didn’t fare as well with audiences, doing only so-so at the box office. This is mostly because of the horror pic’s misguided marketing.
Starring the ever-reliable Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough, It Comes at Night is an unnervingly quiet, contained and claustrophobic drama about an escalating war of fear and suspicions between two families stranded together in a cabin after an outbreak has ravaged the world. So of course some audiences were let down when the trailers clearly promoted a jump-scares-heavy rollercoaster in the vein of Insidious and The Conjuring about a monster in the woods (or something like that).
It Comes at Night was one of the best horror films in a year filled with—well, ruled by strong horror. It’s important to go into It Comes at Night with some idea of what to expect: this isn’t horror that goes boo! a lot; Shults is far more concerned with exploring the horrors of the human heart and mind.
16. Charlotte’s Web (2006)
Tissues at the ready. The beloved, barnyard-set novel by E.B. White gets a worthy, faithful adaptation in this critically acclaimed live-action CGI hybrid starring Dakota Fanning and an all-star voice cast including Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Reba McEntire, Kathy Bates and Steve Buscemi. This is a wonderful, unfussy family film that recognizes the strength of its source material. Seriously, best of luck not weeping.‘Shadow’ (Well Go USA)
17. Shadow (2018)
Successful as both a psychological thriller and as a sumptuous martial arts epic in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, Zhang Yimou‘s Shadow presents both spectacle and suspense. This is an entertaining return to form for one of the most respected Chinese filmmakers of modern times, following the thunderous disappointment of American crossover (and box-office disaster) The Great Wall starring Matt Damon.
Related: Parade.com’s Review of Shadow(Open Road)
18. End of Watch (2012)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are terrific in David Ayer‘s hard-hitting thriller centered on a bromance between two LAPD officers. Roger Ebert loved this film, praising the performances and the action above all. It was ranked fourth on his list of 2012’s best movies. This was his last year-end top ten, as he died in April 2013.(Paramount)
19. Hugo (2011)
Martin Scorsese‘s special effects-heavy, heartstrings-tugging masterwork was hailed by Roger Ebert as the director’s most personal film. Asa Butterfield stars as an orphan in 1930s Paris who becomes entangled in a mystery involving robots, family secrets and the birth of cinema. An adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo won five Academy Awards (it basically swept all technical categories), and was nominated for Best Picture.
20. Swimming Pool (2003)
Francois Ozon‘s labyrinthine thriller is a modern-day tribute to Alfred Hitchcock that works, starring a resplendent Charlotte Rampling as a crime novelist who begins living one of her lurid stories (or does she?). For its North American release, some of the film’s nudity and sex was edited to avoid an NC-17 rating. Here’s a funny example of how different cultures can be: Swimming Pool was released theatrically in France uncut with a U rating, meaning suitable for all ages.
Roger Ebert loved this movie, giving Swimming Pool his highest rating of five stars. He wrote:
“François Ozon, the director and co-writer (with Emmanuèle Bernheim), understands as Hitchcock did the small steps by which a wrong decision grows in its wrongness into a terrifying paranoid nightmare.”
21. Uncut Gems (2019)
Adam Sandler was, frankly, robbed of an Academy Award nomination for this. The oft-critically-maligned megastar delivers his best performance to date, as towering presence Howard Ratner, in Ben Safdie and Josh Safdie‘s riveting crime caper about a compulsive gambler who puts everything on the bet of a lifetime. Idina Menzel delivers a killer supporting turn as Howard’s long-suffering wife. Masterful Uncut Gems is so suspenseful and high-stakes it might give you a nervous breakdown; it is essentially a two hours-plus anxiety attack. At its heart, this is a picture about an addiction; Howard cannot, will not stop until he’s ruined everyone’s lives, and until he is stopped. The hat trick of Sandler’s performance is making this disaster of a man just barely sympathetic enough to make the story register as great tragedy.Kristen Stewart in ‘Zathura: A Space Adventure’ (Sony)
22. Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
Set in the world of Jumanji and based on a book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg, Iron Man director Jon Favreau‘s family-friendly sci-fi is a pleasure for a wide audience. Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Kristen Stewart, Dax Shepard and Tim Robbins star in the adventure picture about siblings transported to outer space through a video game.
23. Set It Off (1996)
This action crime drama directed by F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton) was a landmark moment in the careers of Latifah and co-stars Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise. It’s a thriller focused on four LA friends who plan a bank robbery. Over two decades later, Set It Off holds up as superior genre filmmaking with memorable, well-developed and sympathetic characters. Many have even compared it to Thelma & Louise.
Set It Off was referenced with a wink in the uproariously funny dance-off scene in Girls Trip, which reunited Latifah and Pinkett Smith.
24. I Am Jonas (2018)
Some stunning eye candy (those cheekbones on star Félix Maritaud!) punctuates this powerful, acclaimed coming-of-age drama. Young gay love is part of the plot, so is devastating tragedy. Like the bodies on display, this plot is a beauty, told in non-linear fashion with some suspense and surprise. To ruin it would be a disservice. Just watch it already.Gong Yoo in TRAIN TO BUSAN
25. Train to Busan (2016)
A slam-dunk mash-up of genres from South Korea, Sang-ho Yeon’s Train to Busan is the freshest zombie film in at least a decade. Yoo Gong stars as a selfish workaholic who becomes trapped aboard a speeding train along with his estranged daughter and several strangers during an outbreak. No need to be wary of the subtitles, once Train to Busan gets warmed up, it never relents. Though the film is scary, gross, funny and sad–everything you want a zombie flick to be–it perhaps works best as an action film. Yeon stages set piece after thrilling set piece with kinetic energy and inventiveness that put several American summer blockbusters to shame. The biggest reason the movie clicks is the attention to character; this is a touching and well-acted father-daughter story, only with a lot of blood and guts as an added bonus.
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