Netflix movies are added and removed from this list on a regular basis. An asterisk denotes new additions.
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Even if the majority of people have already watched a film, the major streaming providers (and/or their algorithms) are typically keen to promote it. Yes, Netflix has both School of Rock and Star Trek, two of the most popular films of all time. They’re all yours, so feel free to watch them again!
Nonetheless, what if you’re on the hunt for anything new? What if you’ve never heard of a wonderful movie until today? Then check out this list: collection of Netflix movies that were never released theatrically outside of New York or Los Angeles and are easily overlooked by the “larger” movies that are pushed to the front of your Netflix page. Nothing on this list is horrible, and we’re ready to wager that at least some of the films on it haven’t been seen by you. The time is here for you to change things for the better. (And if you want to see our full list of the top Netflix movies, go here.)
1. 6 Balloons
Marja-Lewis Ryan’s devastating story of addiction features Broad City actress Abbi Jacobson, who proves she can manage both comedy and pathos. As Katie, the younger sister of Seth (played by Dave Franco), Jacobson gives one of his best performances yet in his career. In an area where Katie has seen him previously, Seth is on the verge of a relapse as a heroin user. Addiction-related films are relatively uncommon, but few recent ones have been as effective in presenting the story of the addict’s loved ones as this one. When this film premiered at SXSW in 2018, Netflix didn’t promote it at all, releasing the film before the festival had even finished and then immediately losing interest. It’s out there.
2. Amanda Knox
While Making a Murderer and The Keepers have received the most of Netflix’s promotion and attention, Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn’s documentary on one of the most prominent murder cases of the past decade has been overlooked. Trust us when we say that everyone who like crime documentaries should take the time to watch this 2016 film about the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher. As soon as British student Meredith Kercher’s flatmate Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were found brutally murdered in their own Perugia, Italy apartment at the age of 21, the Italian police went after them swiftly, despite conflicting evidence. In addition to evidence, the program explores how suspects’ public image and public pressure can affect the course of an inquiry.
3. At Eternity’s Gate
Julian Schnabel’s 2018 biography of Vincent Van Gogh’s final years isn’t a traditional biopic, identifying the aesthetic register of its subject rather than tracing his life’s path chronologically. Willem Dafoe’s performance as a troubled painter, which garnered him his fourth Oscar nomination, anchors the film. For Dafoe, every choice made by the director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a compliment to his performance as Van Gogh. Dafoe is a living legend, and this picture serves as a fitting tribute to his talent.
Filmmaker Mati Diop, the first black female director to compete in a Cannes Film Festival competition, helmed this 2019 critical darling. While it finds something grounded in the rarely seen reality of life on the Senegalese coast and something supernatural in the veracity of the narration, it’s an engrossing and disturbing mix of genres. There is a story here about an Atlantic Ocean dweller who becomes one of a growing number of guys who are attempting to flee the country in search of work. Diop’s filmmaking is personal and bold in a way you won’t see elsewhere on Netflix. He uses primarily unknown performers.
5. The Ballad of Lefty Brown
Bill Pullman’s best later-career work can be seen in Jared Moshe’s Western, which A24 only released in 2017. How do the sidekick characters in Western films fare once the protagonists have ridden away into the sunset? That’s the gist of the film, which follows a man who has spent his entire life as a sidekick and suddenly has to take the reins. Peter Fonda, Jim Caviezel, and Kathy Baker round out an impressive group that includes Pullman.
6. Blue Jay
Despite the film’s ethereal nature, it may sound like something you’ve seen a thousand times before (or hundreds if you go to Sundance). In the midst of a personal crisis, a young man returns to his home town and bumps with an old girlfriend. On screen, Mark Duplass is performing some of the best work of his career and Sarah Paulson is simply outstanding as his ex-girlfriend. As with Richard Linklater’s Before films, Blue Jay is structured in such a way as to let two actors to create three-dimensional characters, and Duplass and Paulson are more than up to the task.
7. Bright Star
What better time to catch up on Jane Campion’s previous feature film, 2009’s bright Bright Star, before she dominates the awards season with her magnificent The Power of the Dog? Actor Ben Whishaw plays John Keats, a famous English poet whose final three years of life are shown in this film by Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne. Andrew Morton’s 1997 memoir inspired this poetic, romantic, and gorgeous play.
8. Burning Cane
The Tribeca Film Festival’s Founders Prize was awarded to writer-director Phillip Youmans in 2019. He was the first African American director to receive this honor. Another thing to consider is that Youmans was born in the year of 2000. The festival jury was blown away by the lyrical debut of this talented young filmmaker from rural Louisiana. Karen Kaia Livers plays Helen, a woman dealing with a dysfunctional family, including a self-destructive son and an alcoholic pastor (Wendell Pierce), all of whom are played with devastating impact by the late, great Wendell Pierce of The Wire. Although Youmans is just in his early twenties, these films feel like the debut of a big new talent.
In 1974, the evening news in Florida announced that Christine Chubbuck had shot herself. Rebecca Hall gives her best performance of her career in Antonio Campos’s film on this shocking catastrophe, four decades after it happened. What could have been a one-dimensional depiction of mental illness and depression is transformed by Hall’s fascinating performance. Tracey Letts, J. Smith-Cameron, and Michael C. Hall co-star in this dramatic film that is at times difficult to watch but ultimately gratifying.
10. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Filmmakers Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht had their global premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, winning the Audience Award. It was then released on Netflix in March of the following year. Although it was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category (but lost to My Octopus Teacher), it still feels underappreciated despite the fact that it has the potential to inspire everybody who watches it. There is a lot more to this story of Camp Jened, a summer camp in upstate New York for disadvantaged teenagers back in the 1970s, than what you may expect from a standard exploitative documentary. Camp Jened was the springboard from which many of the campers who would go on to become prominent figures in the disability rights movement rose.
At one point, Clive Owen seemed destined to fill the large, shining shoes of James Bond and become the world’s most renowned spy. While it is improbable that such a dialogue ever took place, director Mike Hodges’ 1998 neo-noir film, “Breaking Through,” does provide some insight into how it might have. Actor Jack Manfred is an underestimated character who becomes embroiled in the underworld of gambling and the eccentric characters it attracts when he accepts a job as a croupier in a casino. An excellent film with an outstanding performance from Owen.
12. Cut Throat City
“Wu-Tang for Life!” When it comes to his work in the movies, RZA of the Wu-Tang never receives nearly enough credit for his acting roles in films like The Dead Don’t Die or his musical contributions to films like Kill Bill. Many of his own films, including this one, which was slated for a SXSW premiere but was canceled because to the pandemic, have been overlooked. Shameik Moore plays one of four buddies in New Orleans whose life is forever changed by Hurricane Katrina in this classic action film with a social conscience. Shameik Moore. They have no choice but to turn to T.I., who plays a crime boss, and agree to take part in a heist. The supporting cast, which includes Terrence Howard, Ethan Hawke, and Wesley Snipes, makes this a tough, challenging, and ambitious film.
13. Girl on the Third Floor
A homeowner rebuilding a house who makes some very stupid mistakes and discovers something more than mold concealed in the walls may appeal to those of us who miss the days of gory body horror. It’s hard not to compare C.M. Punk to Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead in his role as the lead. He portrays Don Koch, a guy who, before breaking down the walls of a haunted mansion, should have thought about changing his personality.
14. The Grandmaster
Wong Kar-wai is a hero to all. Tony Leung stars as Ip Man, the famed martial-arts teacher who would later go on to teach Bruce Lee a thing or two. The film was directed by one of the greatest directors of his day. Harvey Weinstein mistreated this film, and as a result, it failed to gain the recognition it deserved on a global scale. In addition to Wong’s meticulous attention to detail, the film also displays his unique romantic storytelling style.
15. His House
In terms of Netflix original horror films, this thriller from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival stands out as one of the best. It’s a compelling picture that introduced future actors Sope Dirisu of Gangs of London and Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country, and it’s a remarkable combination of refugee displacement difficulties with classic components of the haunted house cinema. An unwelcoming English community is compelled to accept a South Sudanese refugee couple played by the duo. Even if their new house is spooky, Remi Weekes’s film is more about how people can’t get rid of their ghosts and not places, which is more disturbing.
16. I Am Not Your Negro
Re-emerging in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary about James Baldwin re-emerged as a must-watch resource for understanding where the country is now by reflecting on Baldwin’s insight into where it has been. Peck’s film, based on Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, addresses the history of racism in this country and is available on Netflix. There are flashback scenes of Baldwin’s memories of civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., who is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short Subject (and it probably should have won).
17. The Kindergarten Teacher
Although Sara Colangelo has remade one of Israel’s most talked-about films, Nadav Lapid’s 2014 Israeli feature, it feels like one of those Netflix Original movies that got lost in a service that publishes something fresh every week. This kind of character-driven drama is doomed to obscurity. Investigate the life of Lisa Spinelli, as portrayed by Maggie Gyllenhaal in one of the year’s greatest performances. An adorable little boy named Jimmy suddenly begins reciting exquisite poetry to his kindergarten teacher on Staten Island, and she’s taken aback. Is there a new kid prodigy in the making? Are there any chances that she can save him before society crushes his creative ambitions? A man like Mozart might suffer in the present environment. Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of a character who becomes obsessive over a child achieves the appropriate mix between passion and danger. You won’t be able to put it down.
18. Lingua Franca
Isabel Sandoval, who also stars as Olivia, an illegal Filipina trans woman living in Brooklyn, penned and directed this stunning drama. Alex (Eamon Farren) is Olga’s grandson, and she’s running out of opportunities to become a legal immigrant in Brighton Beach, New York, when she meets Alex and develops a relationship. Sandoval has established himself as a director to keep an eye on with this sensitive and nuanced look at the experiences of immigrants and transgender people in the United States.
This drama from 2016 seems largely forgotten, and that’s a shame. It’s difficult to say that any recent Oscar nominee is underseen. This Jeff Nichols account of the seminal case of Loving v. Virginia, a Supreme Court decision that essentially enabled interracial marriage in the United States in 1967, features two of the year’s top performances. Marriage between people of different races was still outlawed in several places as recently as that date. Richard and Mildred Loving, an unpretentious couple who only wanted to live life in love and peace but had to battle for it, are played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga (an Oscar winner for Best Actress). An intelligent, sympathetic movie that avoids Oscar bait theatrics in favor of presenting two genuinely flawed individuals.
20. Maps to the Stars
There are increasing signs that this could be David Cronenberg’s final film (frowny-face emoji). Bruce Wagner directed this 2014 satire drama, his first since A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and The Fly, all of which were scripted by the legendary director. When it was released, it received little attention from the public, and many of Cronenberg’s ardent admirers dismissed it as an afterthought. Even if that’s true, “minor Cronenberg” is still worth seeing, especially with Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson leading the cast. In the style of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, this is a portrait of Los Angeles up the present day, with Moore turning in yet another outstanding performance. Despite its flaws, there are some intriguing concepts and a stellar cast to recommend this ambitious project.
It’s rare to see a film depicting the American Yiddish experience, and that’s only one of the many reasons Joshua Z. Weinstein’s 2017 indie drama feels so singular. A widowed Yiddish man named Menashe (played by Menashe Lustig) battles for custody of his son Rieven, who has been living with his aunt and uncle due to a rabbi’s judgement that Menashe must remarry in order to be his son’s father once more. This is a fascinating look at a person’s life that many people pass by but never stop to think about.
22. Mr. Roosevelt
There’s a good chance you haven’t seen this SXSW sensation, which Nol Wells wrote, directed, and stars in. Emily Martin, a young woman who returns to her hometown after the loss of her cat, is played by the former Master of None and Saturday Night Live star. Nick Thune’s character, an ex-boyfriend, returns to her life at home. With her kind and hilarious demeanor, Wells is also a talented writer/director, giving her film the honesty and heart it needed to stand out from the crowd. She has the potential to become one of the most prominent independent filmmakers in the world. Before she does, watch this.
23. The Night Comes for Us
For anyone who enjoyed the Raid films but haven’t seen this Timo Tjahjanto flick, you’re doing something wrong with your life. “The Raid on Steroids” is a good analogy. A Triad soldier who refuses to shoot an innocent child may be the focus of the film’s plot, but that’s only the framework for some of the most mind-blowing action scenes you’ve ever seen. Think of a movie where people are fighting with knives, axes, and other sharp weapons instead of their wailing fists. This is a violent, angry mess, but the action choreography has a rhythm and beauty about it that’s inspiring. It’s a film that manages to make gore both beautiful and exhilarating.
24. Our Idiot Brother
If you’re looking for a lighthearted comedy on Netflix, go no further than this 2011 Sundance film. Jesse Peretz’s Juliet, Naked stars Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel as sisters, but its title refers to a character played by Paul Rudd, one of the most likeable actors on Earth. Even though it’s an easy-to-watch comedy about an unruly brother who causes havoc for his more conventional sisters, the film is predictable in many ways.
25. The Outpost
Adaptation of Jake Tapper’s non-fiction book by CNN’s Rod Lurie (The Contender) was directed by When 300 Taliban fighters stormed a U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, it was one of the most destructive attacks in Afghanistan’s conflict. Lurie presents crucial events leading up to the attack in an ensemble style, allowing various members of his brilliant young cast, including Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy, and Will Attenborough, to take center stage. It’s the attack, however, which is horrific in a manner that most war films aren’t.
26. Outside In
Lynn Shelton and Jay Duplass co-wrote this film, and it is their best effort to date. He plays Chris, a 38-year-old recently freed from prison after spending more than half his life in prison. Transparent’s star Because of this, he forms an immediate bond with his former high school teacher Carol, played by the incomparable Edie Falco, who serves as a sort of surrogate mother figure for him while he’s behind bars. This is a subtle, beautiful study of two people who, despite their vastly different backgrounds and experiences, are attracted together. Show this film to anyone who claims that adult dramas are no longer being produced in the same manner as they once were.
Eyes of My Mother, a film written and directed by Nicolas Pesce (Eyes of My Mother), premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and was released in select theaters in 2019. Christopher Abbott’s performance as a serial killer who pretends to be on a business trip in order to satisfy his compulsion to kill in order to return to his family is nothing short of spectacular. Things don’t go precisely as planned for him when he recruits a sex worker, played by Mia Wasikowska, to be his next victim. This is a different kind of two-hander for a pair of outstanding young actors, with a tight and effective structure.
28. The Platform
As events in the globe have exposed more unfairness since its release in early 2020, it has become even more essential to Netflix’s collection. It’s a brilliant idea: a future prison built vertically with a big platform that descends the tower once daily, carrying meals for the prisoners. Naturally, those at the top have everything they need, so rationing would be unnecessary, but this goes against the natural tendency of humans to indulge their own desires for wealth and power. It’s hard to ignore the overarching theme of strife and community in The Platform, a strong and disturbing thriller picture.
In recent months, Pedro Pascal’s work on The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984, and even the casting news that he will feature in HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us has had everyone smitten with him. Take a look at one of his most underappreciated acting roles in this 2018 sci-fi indie film, which had its world premiere at SXSW that year. To gather jewels, a teenage girl and her father (Jay Duplass) travel to an alien moon, where they encounter a menacing man (played by Michael Cera).
This year saw a lot of hype about Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls, which won some honors for Regina Hall’s outstanding lead role. If you enjoyed this film, check out Bujalski’s most recent work, which depicts a similarly unusual workplace. A zhlub who finds himself suddenly wealthy and unsure of what to do with his money or time is portrayed by the irascible Kevin Corrigan. Why not hire a trainer to help you? This choice places him in the company of local gym owner Trevor (Guy Pearce) and his most valuable employee Kat (Jennifer Lawrence) (Cobie Smulders). Here, in yet another Bujalski film that is all about character and never quite what you expect it to be, the star of How I Met Your Mother is fantastic.
Billy Corben’s documentary is part of the “stranger than fiction” category of films. Even if a black comedy about the Biogenesis scandal that shook Major League Baseball is produced in the future, it won’t be as funny as hearing the story from the men who experienced it first hand from those who were there. When it comes to the Florida corporation that supplied athletes with performance-enhancing medications, even if you believe you’ve got all the facts, you’re probably missing out on some of the best ones (especially when it comes to the insane life of Alex Rodriguez, whom you will never be able to look at the same way again).
Look no further than Zhang Yimou’s latest, a film that was released in the United States only a few months ago yet has already grossed more than $100 million around the world. It’s a return to action-packed historical drama from the filmmaker of Hero and House of the Flying Daggers. For the most part, it’s not a picture you’ll like for the story, but rather for its adventurous visual aesthetic, which transforms action choreography into something akin to ballet or performance art. Awe-inspiring and breathtaking.
Following a shipwreck, Jennifer (Kiersey Clemons) washes up on a deserted island with her buddy dead and the rest of the passengers in the water. As she battles the elements on her own, she’s figuring out how to make it through. In the course of her investigation, she realizes that she is not alone. It’s a terrific indie horror gem that needs a wider audience because it’s a mix of monster movie plot lines, commentary on gender, and a survival story. Make sure you see it before your best friend tells you that you should.
34. Sword of Trust
In 2020, Lynn Shelton unexpectedly passed away, although her final film is still available on Netflix. When Shelton cast Marc Maron in an ensemble that also included Michaela Watkins, Toby Huss, Dan Bakkedahl and Jillian Bell, she gave him his biggest film role yet and made the performance all the more tragic because of it. General Sherman is rumored to have wielded the same sword in the Civil War that a couple inherited. Pawn shop owner Maron is entangled in the scheme to sell it for a significant sum of money. An amusing and insightful look at the human condition.
Rock stars Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead Their most ambitious project to date, Spring and The Endless premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 as a sci-fi action picture. As two New Orleans paramedics, Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie play a duo caught up in a new street drug that happens to offer time travel as one of its negative effects. It’s unlike anything else you’ll see on Netflix in terms of complexity and ambition.
36. Take Me
Pat Healy, a native of Chicago, has established himself as one of the best character performers of his time, playing in both big-budget and small-budget films (Cheap Thrills). Working nonstop, he’s saved up enough money to direct his first feature film, a witty screwball comedy with himself and Taylor Schilling from Orange Is the New Black. Ray (Healy) has a unique company where people can hire him to abduct them for a highly severe intervention. In order to get him to change his ways, he absconds with a man who cheats on his diet on a daily basis. For the first time, Anna (Schilling) pushes the boundaries when she hires Ray. If there is such a thing as a “screwball thriller,” then this is it. There is, of course.
In this case, Netflix has done an excellent job of burying it. People would have noticed if this romantic dramedy had been released in theaters, even in major cities. It’s witty, clever, and has a pair of outstanding young actors. In April 2017, Netflix buried it and no one is talking about it. When Danny (Callum Turner) and Ellie (Grace Van Patten) discover a mysterious briefcase in the middle of the night, their lives are forever changed. However, despite the film’s ludicrous plot, the infectious energy of its two characters keeps this caper thriller going strong.
38. The Water Man
The Water Man, a 2021 family drama directed by Selma star David Oyelowo, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020 to mixed reviews. However, Oyelowo refuses to talk down to his young adult audience, creating a film that feels more like the 1980s Amblin adventure films than today’s trendy kids movies. At age 11, Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) and his mother have relocated to rural Oregon, where their mother is ill (Rosario Dawson). When it appears that she will not recover, he sets out to find an urban legend who can save her life.
39. What Happened Miss Simone?
Nina Simone’s life is examined by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus in this Netflix original that was released early on in the streaming service’s rise and may have been overlooked by its millions of users subsequently. A documentary on the life of singer and activist Simone de Beauvoir aired at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and it depicts the narrative of a woman who was more than just a powerful performer. Garbus pays homage to Simone’s life and legacy by combining never-before-seen archive material with interviews with the artist’s daughter and close associates.
40. Whose Streets?
When George Floyd was shot and killed in 2020, this 2017 documentary about the rebellion after the shooting of Michael Brown became even more relevant. In the days following the shooting death of Michael Brown and the subsequent violent demonstrations, this book provides a stunning on-the-ground view at life in these communities and around the world. Seeing through the eyes of the individuals who were there, frequently utilizing their own footage of riots and protests, and focusing on the men and women fighting for civil rights in their own neighborhoods, is what gives the film its power.