Andy is a film junkie, who routinely binge watches Netflix and makes frequent trips to the movie theater.
While the movies are always changing on the service, here are eight films that you have probably never seen that are currently on Netflix. Each one is severely underrated and worth investing the time in to watch.
Note: I’m referencing the original Korean one here, stay away from the Spike Lee-directed American version starring Josh Brolin, please!
Park Chan-wook’s thriller is one of the most harrowing and shattering movies in recent memory. The plot is centered around the bumbling Oh Dae-Su who gets kidnapped and imprisoned in a hotel room for fifteen years. After he is mysteriously released from his imprisonment, he goes on a quest to find the person responsible. This is not your typical psychological thriller though as the story takes so many twists and turns that you are always left guessing. What makes this movie great is the excellent combination of Hong-Kong style action scenes mixed in with expertly shot drama that raises more questions than answers. Make no mistake though this is a film noir at heart and it only gets darker the farther along you get, and the final plot twist at the end of the movie is one of the most soul-crushing of all time.
2. Mr. Nobody
Directed by Jaco Van Dormael, Mr. Nobody is one of the most fascinating movies available on Netflix. Starring Jared Leto as Nemo Nobody, the last mortal on a futuristic earth where cell renewal has rendered humanity virtually immortal, the story revolves around a series of life decisions he made at age 9, 15, and 34. These periods correspond to three critical moments/ages in his life: when his parents divorced, when he fell in love, and when he was an adult. This is one of those alternate-reality movies wherein Nemo recalls the different ways his life would have unfolded if he had made a different choice. It’s an exciting plot element and one that certainly brings up one’s feelings about decisions that we made over the course of our lives that severely affected our future. With superb visual style and great acting across the board, the movie is both emotionally gripping and entertaining.
Disclaimer: this movie gets hard to watch at specific points, so it is not for the faint of heart.
The French horror film Raw is simply one of the best genre movies ever to be picked up by Netflix. The plot is simple, or so it seems: Justine, a lifelong vegetarian, begins veterinary school and is forced to eat meat in a hazing ritual. As one could guess, she develops quite the taste for meat, and not just the run of the mill beef or chicken… What makes this movie is great is the way director Julia Ducournau creates such an unsettling air of malice and darkness. The sets are grimy as is the lighting, so the whole film has this lived in, edgy flair to it. While there are plenty of disturbing scenes, it never feels like an entirely outlandish horror film that is just out to scare you with cheap thrills.
4. The Little Prince
One of the most beautifully animated works on Netflix, The Little Prince rivals any Pixar movie in its brilliance and execution. Utilizing a blend of stop-motion and computer-generated 3D, The Little Prince is an adaptation of the classic novel of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and tells the story of a nameless little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) who lives next door to a mysterious man known as the aviator (voiced by Jeff Bridges). The girl has her whole life seemingly planned out for her, but she longs for adventure instead of the nonstop studying imposed on her by her mother (voiced by Rachel McAdams). The little girl goes on an adventure to find the mysterious Little Prince, whom the aviator met long ago. The animation alone makes this film worth watching as you become engrossed in the world, particularly during the stunning stop-motion pieces. If Netflix continues to invest in creating original animated movies like this, they will rival any other big animation studio out there.
A dark comedy, and by dark, I mean really dark, Heathers is a vintage 80’s movie complete with great turns from Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The plot follows Veronica Sawyer, one of the most popular girls in high school, along with three girls all named Heather. Sawyer longs to go back to her nerdy ways and reconnect with her old friends instead of continuing to keep up appearances in the popular clique. After a mishap at a party, one of the Heathers vows to ruin her reputation which causes Veronica to seek the services of the brooding J.D. What happens next is a series of comical yet dark plot turns that are equally funny and disturbing. While the film did not do well upon its initial release thirty years ago, it has aged remarkably well. Between Ryder and Slater, there is plenty of on-screen chemistry and the film keeps you engaged throughout. The movie goes against establishes teen movie tropes so well that it is hard not to like it.
6. Sing Street
This musical coming of age tale is set in mid 80's Ireland with a disaffected youth starting a new wave rock band to impress a girl he meets while walking to school. While the plot may appear simple, the excellent direction of John Carney and some great performances from a host of young unknown actors makes this a great watch. The music blends plenty of 80’s staples along with just the right amount of original material, which sounds fantastic. The film works in familiar coming of age tropes but changes things up just enough to keep things interesting. It’s hard to not fall in love with the characters, especially the protagonist Robert Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) whose teenage angst and big heart carry many of the scenes. Moreover, the movie is just fun, and it is a pleasure to watch due to all of these factors.
I know what you’re saying: hey this has a bunch of big-name stars and it is directed by one of the most critically acclaimed directors of the past twenty years. But Zodiac has fallen through the cracks over the years and typically does not get brought up when people talk about the best acting performances of Robert Downey Jr or Mark Ruffalo or Jake Gyllenhaal. A take on the notorious San Francisco Bay Area killer known as the “Zodiac” the film follows a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, an SFPD Inspector, and a journalist as they attempt to piece together the cryptic letters the Zodiac sent to the Chronicle and figure out the killer’s identity. The length of the movie plus the subject matter makes it difficult to just watch on a Sunday afternoon, but it is one of the best thrillers of the past 15 years. The pacing builds the tension up, with plenty of excellently acted and shot scenes that draw you in and never let go. David Fincher has a way of shooting scenes that put you directly into the action and making you feel as if you’re a part of the world in the film. Zodiac is a long movie, and it demands the attention of the viewer, so it is probably not the type of thing to watch if you’re looking to kill a couple of hours. However, if you want to be held captive on the edge of your seat by one of the best movies of the past fifteen years, give it a viewing.
8. The Music Never Stopped
While the casual movie fan may only know of J.K. Simmons as the intense and menacing Fletcher in Damien Chazelle’s 2014 movie Whiplash or as the ridiculous insurance guy in Farmers commercials, he is capable of far more than just those two extremes, as is the case here. The story, adapted from The Last Hippie by neurologist Oliver Sacks, is centered around the relationship between Henry Sawyer and his son Gabriel. Gabriel has returned from years of living on the streets and has a brain tumor which prevents him from forming new memories and remembering old ones. Henry attempts to connect with his son through music, hoping that the songs of his favorite artists will bring back some of his memories. The movie reaches so many different emotions, but it is the interplay between Henry and Gabriel that tugs at the heartstrings. Woven in between flashbacks and the present day, the film gives you a great understanding of their complicated relationship.