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How many times have you complained about or spent inordinately long wasteful minutes trying to figure out what to watch on Netflix? Given the streaming service’s algorithm of suggesting movies based on your preferences, often one doesn’t get to know of cult classics or must-watches that lie hidden in its labyrinths. We combed their entire offerings and came across 34 best movies on Netflix India that you simply must make time for. Bookmark this.

1. The Florida Project (2017)

Set in the shadow of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the film follows 6-year old Moonee who curses, gives the finger, and wreaks havoc with her ragtag entourage in and around the budget motel where she stays with her apathetic mother Halley. The only reason the duo avoid being thrown out is motel owner Bobby (Willem Defoe in the performance of a lifetime) who has a soft spot for them.

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Yorgos Lanthimos’ film is a Greek metaphor wrapped in a commentary on modern society wrapped in a psychological thriller that borders on horror. Starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, we recommend familiarising yourself with Agamemnonas story from Greek mythology so that you don’t miss any of the layers in the first screening.

3. Kicking and Screaming (1995)

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach of ‘Marriage Story’ fame, this film is set in the immediate aftermath of college graduation, and explores the lives of a group of recent graduates unwilling to make the big decisions that would alter their life. All they know is they don’t want to end up like Chet, a professional student who’s been at the university for 10+ years. Sure it’s slow burn, but you’ll love it in the end.

4. Blue Jay (2016)

Former high school sweethearts return to their tiny California hometown years later only to run into each other. Awkward at first, this chance encounter develops into a heartwarming reflection of their past. Fantastic lead performances by Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, this indie gem is for the hopeless romantic in you.

5. 50/50 (2011)

The working title of this film was ‘I’m With Cancer’, giving away the relatively light treatment of a dark subject. Written by Will Reiser, who was diagnosed with cancer at 27, at the urging of his close friend Seth Rogen (who also reprises his real life role in the film), this deeply personal film beautifully essays the age-old metaphor that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

6. Tallulah (2016)

The film is about a homeless girl (Ellen Page) with abandonment issues who steals a baby and turns up at her ex-boyfriend’s estranged mother’s (Alison Janney) house. What follows is an equal dose of comedy and drama as the events unfold. ‘Tallulah’ is a perfect example of how excellent writing and flawless performances can take a Hollywood premise and turn it into a deeply moving human experience.

7. Other People (2016)

In the middle of the worst year of his life, David (Jesse Plemons), a recently broken-up struggling comedy writer, returns to his hometown to take care of his mother who has decided to give up her fight against cancer. Complicating matters is a strained relationship with his father who is unwilling to accept David’s homosexuality. The subject matter may seem depressing but the film is heartwarming and hilarious.

8. Uncut Gems (2019)

This is an Adam Sandler movie that even Sandler-haters must watch. Not in a goofy rom-com this time, Adam Sandler’s ‘Uncut Gems’ is a dark comedy about a jeweller with a gambling addiction. The movie’s fast pace jumps through hoops to meet its inevitable yet satisfactory misadventure. 

9. How High (2001)

The classic 2001 stoner comedy is now streaming on Netflix. Starring Silas (‘Method Man’) and Jamal (‘Redman’), this movie is an absolute hoot and one for the books for those light weekend nights. Also, picture two marijuana stoners getting a scholarship to Harvard — how’d that pan out? 

10. Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003)

When your life is spinning out of control, go to dinner with your best friend and chat up a couple of strangers. Directed by Bob Odenkirk of ‘Better Call Saul’ fame, the film explores how sharing experiences can help widen perspective on life and even lay the groundwork for taking the necessary control.

11. Snowpiercer (2013)

Director Bong Joon-Ho, who exploded onto the scene with his film ‘Parasite’, directs this post apocalyptic film about a revolution against a class system on-board a self-sustaining moving train that houses the only human survivors. Stars Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.

12. Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Once upon a time, a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python (Terry Gilliam) directed an action hero (Bruce Willis) and a pretty face who wanted show off his acting chops (Brad Pitt) in a brilliant post apocalyptic movie involving time travel and a compelling plot that was ambiguous enough to encourage discussion. Yup, you read that right.

13. Side Effects (2013) 

With a stunner cast of Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum, this 2013 psychological thriller needs to be on your binge-watch list. The events unfold in the movie when Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is prescribed an experimental new drug, Ablixa, following her husband’s (Channing Tatum as Martin Taylor) release from prison. 

14. 8MM (1999)

8 MM. Image: Courtesy IMDB

One of the most graphic and disturbing films we’ve seen, ‘8MM’ explores the gritty side of the pornographic film industry by sending its protagonist (Nicholas Cage), a private investigator, to discover whether a snuff film is authentic or not. Joel Schumacher, who directed ‘Seven’, dives deep into the subject matter, extracting exceptional performances from Cage and Joaquin Phoenix.

15. American History X (1998)

An extremely intelligent former neo-nazi skinhead (Edward Norton) out on parole will stop at nothing to prevent his younger brother (Edward Furlong) from making the same mistakes he made. Norton received the Academy’s nod for his performance in one of the finest movies ever made on the subject of race. Warning: One extremely disturbing scene.

16. Fracture (2007)

 

A crafty legal thriller starring Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, and Rosamund Pike, ‘Fracture’ keeps you on edge till the last scene of the film. It swings the moral pendulum throughout when a man, accused of killing his cheating wife, is arrested while engaging in a witty battle with a young assistant district attorney. 

17. Coming to America (1988)

 Heir to the throne of Zamunda, idealistic and naïve Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) breaks tradition and travels to America (1980s Queens to be precise) to find the love of his life – a woman he hopes to respect for her intelligence and will. What could possibly go wrong?

18. The Equalizer (2014)

Former black ops commando, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), who faked his own death to live a quiet life must come out of retirement to save Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl part of a prostitution ring run by the deadly Russian mafia. Great performances, mind-blowing action, awesome twists. And who doesn’t love a good rescue operation?

19. A Cure for Wellness (2016) 

Are you a psychological horror/thriller nut? This one is brought to you by the same guy who directed the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, Gore Verbinski. The plot takes you through a troubling series of events in a sanitarium or a ”wellness centre” in the Swiss Alps. 

20. Private Life (2018)

Delicate subject matter is best treated with humour and grace. Tamara Jenkins writes and directs this drama about a couple who will stop at nothing in order to conceive. The script allows for generous doses of situational humour while Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn lend grace to the film with their exceptional performances.

21. John Dies at the End (2012)

An amazing new street drug called Soy Sauce lets you traverse time and dimensions but some users are not coming back as humans. A silent invasion is underway, and the world needs heroes. Enter college dropouts John and David whose highest qualifications include a flair for not being able to hold down jobs. A thoroughly entertaining horror-comedy.

22. Out of Africa (1985) 

Based on the 1937 autobiographical book of the name same name written by Karen Blixen, ‘Out of Africa’ journeys through a wealthy Danish woman’s peregrinations across the beautiful land in early 1911s. The film is two hours 40 minutes long, but totally worth it, courtesy of Meryl Streep. Despite its slow pace, it grows on you while immersing you in history, travel, and romance. 

INDIAN MOVIES

1. Masaan (2015)

Literally meaning crematorium, Neeraj Ghaywan’s ‘Masaan’ is an intricately woven tale of four lives intersecting in the city of Kashi as much as it is about the certainty of death. Winner of the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at Cannes, and starring Richa Chadda and Vicky Kaushal, it’s one of the best indie films to have come out of Bollywood.

2. 3 Deewarein (2003)

This movie is easily the pièce de résistance of Nagesh Kukunoor’s filmography. The premise about a documentary film-maker interviewing three convicts on death row may seem simple at first, but allow for the story to unfold at its pace and you will be blown away by the climax.

3. Village Rockstars (2017)

10-year old Dhunu wants nothing more than her own rock band. Supported by her widowed mother and surrounded by her gang of boys, will the vibrant and self-assured Dhunu get to play a real guitar someday? Winner of three National Awards including Best Child Actor, the film also boasts of being India’s official entry for the Academy Awards in 2019.

4. Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota (2018)

Long lost love, a one-legged karate teacher with an evil twin, and congenital insensitivity to pain. These vastly diverse characters and premises come together in a hugely fun and entertaining manner in this action-comedy by Vasan Bala (who wrote ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’). We particularly loved Abhimanyu Dassani’s debut performance (he is actor Bhagyashree’s son) and Radhika Madan’s (‘Pataakha’) energy.

5. Super Deluxe (2019)

‘Super Deluxe’ is an amazing Tamil film that you will either love or hate given its uncomfortable subject matter. Masterful storytelling through an unpredictable script hijacks your attention despite the 176-minute runtime as the protagonists of its four stories (an unfaithful newly-wed wife, an estranged father, a priest, and an angry son) face their demons on the same day.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS

1. Shoplifters or Manbiki Kazoku (South Korea, 2018)

Life is as much about the smaller moments as it is about the big ones. In this understated film about a family of shoplifters who take in a girl they find outside in the cold, Hirokazu Koreeda examines the relationship between such moments, always leaving room for viewers to take whatever they want from the experience.

2. Train to Busan or Busanhaeng (South Korea, 2016)

Zombie movies have been done to death, so how is this one any different? Well, it’s about zombies on a train, and its mind-blowing cinematography makes it one of the best films of its genre from the last two decades. Fun fact: A sequel is underway.

3. Pan’s Labyrinth or El Laberinto del Fauno (Mexico, 2006)

Directed by one of the greatest film-makers of our generation, Guillermo Del Toro, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is fantasy set in 1944 Spain about a young girl, Ofelia, who is sent away along with her pregnant mother to live with her stepfather – a sadistic army officer. Once there, Ofelia escapes into another world that is as captivating as it is dark.

4. On Body and Soul or Teströl és lélekröl (Hungary, 2017)

What would happen if two people who share the same dreams, literally, fall in love with each other? Endre, an ageing slaughterhouse manager, and Maria, a shy newcomer, discover their predicament. Will they be able to turn their dreams into reality?

5. Cold War or Zimna Wojna (Poland, 2018)

In this film, a music director falls in love with a singer in 1950s Poland. Coming from different backgrounds with equally different personalities, Wiktor, the music director, believes the only chance of survival for their relationship is if they escape the communist regime and flee to France. Beautifully shot, the film received multiple Oscar nods including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Direction.

6. I Lost My Body or J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (France, 2019)

Based on Guillaume Laurant’s novel ‘Happy Hand’, this Academy Award-nominated French animated film follows a severed hand as it escapes a dissection lab and tries to navigate a treacherous landscape to reunite with its body – that of Naoufel, a young pizza boy. Complicating matters is the hand’s memories of Naoufel’s love for librarian Gabrielle.

7. The Thieves or Dodookdeul (South Korea, 2012)

The Thieves. Image: Courtesy IMDB

A group of thieves end up in Macau after a successful heist and meet up with a former partner who brings his own team into the mix in an attempt to steal a diamond worth $20 million kept safely in a casino. Can this new alliance with an old partner be trusted or will sinister motives get the better of everyone?

All images: Courtesy IMDb

Tanmay Sahay

When he’s not prowling the streaming services for new content, Sahay can be seen hustling his four-year-old daughter in rock-paper-scissors. He writes about travel, TV & film, wellness, and poker.