Netflix is keeping a secret: Netflix’s movie backlist is vast (3,700) but not full of top-notch cinema. The Netflix recommendations wall is full of popular TV shows and originals that hides the best films. This makes it difficult for movie fans. Be assured! We’ve found 20 movie gems hidden from the list after careful scouring it.
Blaze Foley is a gentle, shaggy-dog music biopic. Blaze who? Ethan Hawke directs the film with a keen ear for tall tales and enough grit not to lose the emotion.
Concrete Cowboy (2020)
Did you know that there were Philadelphia’s urban cowboys? I found out when I saw this drama about the Fletcher Street stables, and the descendants of 19th-century African American horse drivers and hostlers. Although the story is prefabricated, Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things), a rebellious teenager learns to control his anger by controlling a bronco. However, Idris Elba (who produced) is a magnificent actor and the glimpse into a subculture fighting against gentrification are deeply moving.
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Is it comedy? Yes. But it is satire of the highest order. It’s sharply crafted by Armando Iannucci, director and cowriter of Veep. The film begins with the death of the dictator, which kicks off a rugby scrum. A variety of sadists, patsies, and idiots merrily stab each other in the back. This is where Python territory is reached by Michael Palin as Molotov. But it’s Iannucci who makes Stalin sting because he knows that tragedy and comedy are two sides to the same coin.
Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)
This documentary is one you’ll either love or hate. Kirsten Johnson, a filmmaker, deals with the decline of her father, a psychiatrist, by engaging him in a series of hilarious and realistically-looking “deaths.” It’s about how parents and children prepare for the inevitable. This movie is a lot deeper than it seems.
The Dig (2021)
Carey Mulligan portrays a widow of upper class in England. She is on the brink of World War II and wonders what history lies beneath her estate. Ralph Fiennes plays Carey Mulligan as an archeologist who hires her to find it. This Netflix original seems to have fallen through programming cracks. But, how can you resist such a cast? The story is based on the true story about the Sutton Hoo excavations. You’ll have to see it to find out what they discovered — I’m not going to reveal.
Dolemite is My Name (2019)
This movie is about making a movie better than the movie it was. Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, a two-bit comedian who reinvented himself as a badass pimp character and created the endearingly terrible 1975 blaxploitation/kung-fu classic Dolemite (on Amazon Prime). This is Murphy’s best role in years. He conveys both the joy of Moore’s hustle to achieve success and the frustration and anger behind it. This is a funny and insightful movie.
Echo in the Canyon (2018)
Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon’s music of the mid-1960s set a musical standard whose echoes we still hear 50 years later. The folk-rock revolution was sparked by Bob Dylan. It began with the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield. Today, every singer-songwriter can be found streaming their music. Andrew Slater’s documentary provides the foundation for the movement’s inception. For the rest of the picture, check out 2019’s David Crosby – Remember My Name (on Amazon Prime).
The Founder (2016)
Michael Keaton plays the role of McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc. If you don’t think this movie is an ironic corporate hagiography then you are probably wrong. Kroc is a restaurant salesman who discovers the McDonald’s fast-food methods and then steamrolls them to their megafranchise glory. This is a beautiful portrait of a great American shark. It’s half comical and half harrowing.
Free Fire (2016)
In 1970s Boston, an illegal arms sale is taking place. All the players, especially the IRA soldiers are paranoid trigger-happy. While a director might take this seriously, Ben Wheatley is able to make it seem like a bedroom farce, with bullets flying and doors slamming. It’s a great way to see some excellent actors have a lot of fun playing very stupid people who shoot themselves in the foot. Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and Armie Hammer.
Get on Up (2014)
Many mourned Chadwick Bozeman’s death a year ago. His career had been booming after he made a few biopics. But have you ever seen those biopics! They are quite good. Bozeman is completely transformed into the man. It’s no surprise that he didn’t receive the credit he deserved.
A Ghost Story (2017)
This art-house version of Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore — it is slower and more contemplative than the original and doesn’t have Whoopi Goldberg. David Lowery’s muted drama, however, is haunting as a parable. Casey Affleck lingers in bedsheets long after his character’s passing and waits for closure that he can’t even begin to guess. Rooney Mara plays the role of his widow, and there is a scene where she eats a condolence cake that is both infinitely long and sublime.
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
The Coen brothers’ hilarious comedy of studio chicanery, dim-bulb actors and studio chicanery will be a delight if you enjoy classic Hollywood movies. This movie will feel more like an inside joke if you don’t know who Louella and Hedda were. It’s your loss! It would be so easy if it were that simple.
High Flying Bird (2019)
Steven Soderbergh did his professional a favor by agreeing to make movies on Netflix. High Flying Bird is a sports drama that would have vanished without a trace in theaters but now has a long tail watching on Netflix. It isn’t even a movie about sports, but rather a movie about sports business. The story of André Holland (a young and clever agent) who works a complex con during the NBA contract lockout. He wants his players to be paid and respected. This is a very clever tale about how to tell the difference between black and white.
This film is a foreign-language film that was shot in Brooklyn, America. It focuses on the title character (played by Menashe Lustig), a widower who does everything he can to keep custody of his son. He lives in a community that prefers him to remarry first. The dialogue is mostly in Yiddish but the story is universal. It is the heartbreaking drama of an individual who struggles to fit in in a society that values conformity.
Midnight Run (1988)
Netflix has very few classics, meaning movies that were made before the 21st Century. Most of these are warhorses such as Chinatown. This hilarious comedy is about Robert De Niro, a bounty hunter who hires an accountant to embezzle — which sounds like an easy job but turns into a more difficult cross-country trek. It’s worth seeing, even if it’s just to remember Charles Grodin who made the accountant a brilliantly funny and neurotic schemer.
Judi Dench gives a quieter, but still very rewarding, performance as a retired nurse. She enlists the help of Steve Coogan (who also cowrote the screenplay), to discover the fate of the boy she had to adopt decades ago from Ireland’s “Magdalene Laundries”. This movie is based closely on a true story and will provoke both righteous anger at the cruelty of an institution and genuine tears at the forbearance shown by one woman.
The Runaways (2010)
This is a scrappy, fun and outrageous rock biopic about the band that gave birth to Joan Jett (who also produced), Lita Ford (who plays heavy metal guitarist) and other musicians. Dakota Fanning is a fine lost-girl singer Cherie Currie. Michael Shannon is his eyeball-spinning rock impresario Kim Fowley. He created an underage girls group to drive grownups insane. Kristen Stewart is the surprise: she’s direct, gruff and as lascivious Jett.
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
This is Aubrey Plaza’s best-known star vehicle. His dark-cloud charisma can sometimes be difficult to show. This is a light comedy about a young journalist who goes on a mission to find out the truth about Mark Duplass, a rural eccentric who claims to have invented time machines. It’s a time-travel movie that is so short on cash, it takes place in the present. However, it’s about the human desire to rewrite history. It’s a charmer.
The Single Man (2009)
The first attempt at directing a movie by Tom Ford, fashion designer and director of the Ford Fashion House is pretty successful. The adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel is about a gay professor who mourns his lover in a closed era. The movie’s star Colin Firth is what makes it special. His performance is so powerful that every emotion felt real. The King’s Speech, which Firth was nominated for an Oscar in the following year.
This heartwarming, nervy, little film is the first ever shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. It tells the story Waad Mohammed, a 10-year-old girl who plans to buy a bicycle in a country that bans women from driving cars. Haifaa Al-Mansour had to sometimes direct the movie from a van in order for viewers not to be disturbed by a woman ordering around a group of men. It’s about the world that the adults give them, just like all great movies about children.