Thunder Force (2021)
Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer send-up superhero movies as two average women who accidentally get injected with special powers. Don’t expect this to be an awards frontrunner but Melissa and Octavia - plus co-stars Jason Bateman and Bobby Cannavale - know how to milk laughs for all they’re worth. Perfect for anyone who thinks comic book films have gotten a little too serious of late.
The ever-awesome Sarah Paulson (last seen in the Netflix smash series Ratched) stars as the over-protective mother of 17-year old Chloe (Kiera Allen), still guilt-ridden for giving birth to her daughter prematurely. Imagine a mix of Room and Misery, as Chloe desperately tries to escape her mother’s chilling clinginess.
A Star is Born (2018)
Bradley Cooper proves he’s not just a pretty face by directing, producing, co-writing and starring in this latest update of the classic rags-to-riches story. Playing fading rockstar Jackson Maine, Brad’s a brilliantly beardy bundle of insecurities but it’s female lead Lady Gaga who really hit the headlines. As Jack’s muse and lover, it’s a heartbreaking turn from the former Stefani Germanotta which led to an Oscar nomination for her acting and a win for belting out the breathtaking ballad ‘Shallow’.
Sixty Six (2006)
With a cast like this - Helena Bonham-Carter, Eddie Marsan, Catherine Tate - the signs were always good for Sixty Six and it doesn’t disappoint. Telling the story of 12-year Bernie, looking forward to his bar-mitzvah but also knowing it clashes with England’s legendary World Cup final, this is a nostalgic British family comedy full of loveable eccentrics.
Concrete Cowboy (2021)
Strong new Netflix outing from producer/actor Idris Elba, about a teenage boy who leaves his home in Detroit to stay with his estranged father in Philadelphia, falling in with a crowd of city cowboys once he’s there. Sometimes traditional, sometimes surprising (who knew about city cowboys?), this is a great father/son watch about the importance of family bonds and brotherhood.
Love Story (1970)
Over fifty years old it may be, but Love Story wasn’t a cultural phenomenon back in the seventies for nothing. Its Romeo & Juliet-style college romance is impeccably played by retro icons Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal whilst the fashions are still a blueprint for preppy style. If you enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars and The Notebook, this is where it all began.
The Game (1997)
Brilliantly bonkers edge-of-your-seat drama starring Michael Douglas as a lonely millionaire given the ultimate gift by his brother (Sean Penn): to become the star of his own made-to-measure adventure. Questions of what’s real and what’s all part of the game will keep you guessing whilst the film’s moody style makes for an enjoyably nightmarish couple of hours.
Hope Springs (2012)
Deliciously cheeky laugher starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a long-married couple looking to reignite the fireworks in their love life. Enter Steve Carell as Dr Bernie, a relationship therapist ready to help - if they can only open up to him... and each other.
The concept is an odd one - an interplanetary traveller wakes up early from space hibernation and falls in love with one of his still-sleeping shipmates - but with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as the two leads, Passengers patches over its many plotholes with sheer star power and glossy production values. Look out for regular scene-stealer Michael Sheen too, as the spacecraft’s on-board android barman (yes, you read that right).
Molly’s Game (2017)
Another flawless performance from Jessica Chastain headlines this explosive true story. Playing Molly Bloom, a former world-class skier who starts up underground - and hugely illegal - high-stakes poker games for Hollywood celebrities, JC is a force to be reckoned with. No wonder her turn earned multiple awards nods. Kevin Costner, Idris Elba and Michael Cera co-star.
Headline-hitting investigation into marine pollution and over-fishing that uncovers big scandals within the industry. Some of its claims may have been disputed but this is nevertheless seriously eye-opening, understandably earning it a place as the hottest documentary on Netflix right now.
The Imitation Game (2014)
With heroic 2nd World War code-breaker Alan Turing the new face of Britain’s fifty pound note, now’s the ideal time to revisit this much-loved biopic about his life - and the shocking treatment he received for being gay. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley star.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)
A deserved Oscar nominee this one, highlighting the groundbreaking work of Camp Jened - a New York State centre for young people with disabilities, set up in the seventies. With its hippyish laidback attitude, Camp Jened was at the forefront of equality campaigning in the era, as a host of awesome archive footage shows. Plus the film’s produced by a couple you might have heard of: Michelle and Barack Obama.
Whilst we never did get to see the fourth part of this YA sci-fi series (which would have been called Ascendent but was scrapped for financial reasons) the first three are all available on Netflix and still worth a look. Divergent sets things up - Tris is a teenager in post-apocalyptic Chicago - whilst sequels Insurgent and Allegiant see her battle the authorities and escape her roots. Shailene Woodley stars, with Kate Winslet particularly nasty as cold-hearted leader Jeanine.
Seven Pounds (2008)
Bizarre but watchable Will Smith movie about a mysterious man determined to help seven strangers. Playing it much more subdued than usual, Big Will is charm personified although it’s co-star Rosario Dawson who steals scenes. You’ll have questions for sure, but there’s something oddly intriguing about this story of romance and redemption.
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are chalk-and-cheese brothers who both enter a Mixed Martial Arts contest... and you can probably guess the rest. But Warrior still has plenty to offer. Yes, it’s often brutal yet there’s real human drama at the centre of it all, so even if you don’t cheer at the fight scenes you’ll find yourself weeping at the soppy bits.
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
A magnificent Michael Douglas plays camp-as-Christmas sixties superstar Liberace, a piano-playing heartthrob whose private life was as colourful as his clothing. Both Michael and co-star Matt Damon are acting against type - one is unusually fancy and flamboyant, the other goes blonde for his role as Liberace’s teenage lover Scott. Yet despite being full of the kitsch and comical, Behind the Candelabra is also a heartbreaking love story set in a time without so many of today’s freedoms.
Wild Bill (2011)
Not many people saw this British drama starring Will Poulter and Andy Serkis but that’s their loss. Directed by former actor Dexter Fletcher - who’s since made the smash-hit Rocketman - Wild Bill is an East End gangster pic with strong performances and a big, big heart.
Eighth Grade (2018)
Wonderfully awkward coming-of-age tale from influencer and comedian Bo Burnham, telling the story of young teen Kayla (a superb Elsie Fisher) and her hilariously painful attempts to hang out with the cool kids. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel as if you’re thirteen again.
Cast Away (2000)
One of Tom Hanks’ finest - and that’s saying something - Castaway is the eye-opening epic that saw him stranded on a remote island after a plane crash with only a volleyball for a friend. Altogether now: ‘Wilson!’
Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise deliver the goods in this dark drama about an LA cab driver and his mysterious passenger. Cruise plays the bad guy for once (with grey hair for added shock value) but it’s the late night moodiness of the story, all streetlights and sultry soundtrack, that really wows.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
A cheeky cult classic starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn as rival showbiz queens searching for eternal youth, whatever the down sides. The special effects were groundbreaking at the time and still have the power to dazzle, while the story’s tongue-in-cheek humour is still popular enough to have been honoured in an episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Camp heaven!
An all-star cast - De Niro, Pitt, Bacon and Hoffman - lead this gripping, often gruesome, exposé of life in a New York young offenders’ institute back in the sixties. Flash forward thirteen years and the boys spot a way to get revenge on the guards who once tortured them.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
The late, great Pete Postlethwaite steals scenes even from Daniel Day-Lewis in this true story of four people wrongly accused of a pub bombing back in 1974. Day-Lewis went fully method, of course, to play the falsely imprisoned Gerry Conlon but Postlethwaite’s grit and determination as his father is the heart and soul of the film.
Netflix ups its Shrek game even more by adding the original movie about an ogre with an attitude to its service. And if you can’t get enough there’s Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Shrek Forever After, Shrek the Musical, Shrek Stories and the fabulously furry spin-off Puss in Boots to enjoy too.
The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)
The novel by Audrey Niffenegger sold millions but this movie version has always been a bit underrated in my opinion. It’s certainly not the easiest story to tell: a man with a rare genetic disorder which allows him to travel through time battles to save his relationship. Yet easy-going stars Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams keep even the most ridiculous plot twists sweetly enjoyable.
A nineties blockbuster classic starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as soon-to-be-divorced storm-chasers, battling a monster tornado - and flying cows! - in rural Oklahoma. You’ll never complain about a bit of a breeze again.
Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and Gary Oldman sparkle in this black and white tale of real-life Hollywood screenwriter Herman J ‘Mank’ Mankiewicz, the troubled genius behind classic movie Citizen Kane. The recreation of 1930s LA is spot-on, whilst fans of old-school film star glamour won’t be disappointed either. A perfect 130 minutes for the cinema obsessive in your family.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Such was the success of this adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s novel there’s not just one but two sequels currently in development. What makes it so special? Watching Crazy Rich Asians is like watching your favourite reality show. It’s all fabulous clothes, flashy houses and fast cars. That might mean that there’s not exactly a lot of depth in this story of poor girl and rich boy but a cast including Constance Wu, Gemma Chan and Henry Golding pitch the laughs perfectly.
From the producers of Girls’ Trip and Night School comes this likeable twist on classic body-swap comedy Big. Regina Hall stars as hard-nosed businesswoman Jordan Sanders, magically transformed back into her 13-year-old self as a way to remind her that kindness achieves way more than bullying.
The Nun (2018)
Another entry in the The Conjuring franchise of spine-tinglers, The Nun goes back to 1950s rural Romania for this chilling tale of a demonic presence in a monastery. Don’t concern yourself too much with the story’s logic - just enjoy the spooky setting (much of the film was shot in actual Transylvania) and creepy performance from American actor Bonnie Aarons as the petrifying title character.
Into the Wild (2007)
Legendary actor Sean Penn is behind the camera for the unforgettable true story of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), a recent graduate who decides to escape the rat race and live as a nomad in the American wilderness. Both inspirational and heartbreaking, it’s easy to see why Into the Wild - both the film and the book on which it’s based - have become cult classics. With a haunting soundtrack by rocker Eddie Vedder, this is pure movie poetry.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Julia Roberts! Dolly Parton! Shirley MacLaine! If that doesn’t whet your appetite for Steel Magnolias, a witty and weepy look at the lives of a handful of Louisiana women, then nothing will. Perfect for Sunday afternoon viewing with a Mint Julep in one hand and a tissue in the other.
The Lucky One (2012)
Zac Efron stars in yet another adaptation of a cheesily charming Nicholas Sparks novel (The Notebook and Dear John were also his), packed with beautiful bodies, tender romance and gorgeous scenery. The Lucky One sees former marine Zac track down the sister of a dead colleague, after falling in love with her from just a photo. Hmmm...
American Pie: Reunion (2012)
The gang’s all back - Jim, Michelle, Jim’s Dad, Stifler’s Mom - in this fun catch-up with the former naughty teenagers, now trying to be responsible adults. Some of the gags might be questionable (although one about the Spice Girls is painfully spot-on) but just like the old days, it’s the charm of the cast that wins you over. With Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge.
The Town (2010)
Before he was Batman, Ben Affleck was carving out an intriguing career as director, including helming this gritty and gripping drama starring Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively and Ben himself. Set in Affleck’s beloved Boston, The Town sees a bank robbing quartet plan one final job at the same time as dealing with a witness who knows their identity.
Yes Day (2021)
Jennifer Garner produces and stars in this Netflix adaptation of the popular children’s book about parents who give their kids twenty four hours of being in charge. What could possibly go wrong? Apparently Jen was so inspired by the story that she’s given her own little ones a few ‘Yes Days’ this past year, although none thankfully none were as eventful as the movie’s. Sprightly, family fun.
Pet Sematary (2019)
The Stephen King classic has already had one movie version, back in the eighties, but this even darker take is far superior. Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz star as a couple who move to a remote house in New England, surrounded by mysterious woods. Big mistake. Cue lots of strange occurrences and weird dreams, plus the legendary John Lithgow. A prequel’s on the way, too.
Now with a slew of BAFTA nominations to its name, it’s worth giving this energetic and life-affirming British drama another push. Newcomer Bukky Bakray stars as determined London teen Olushola, forced to fend for herself and her younger brother when her mum unexpectedly leaves. Thankfully she’s got a gang of female friends to help her. An electrifying must-watch.
WATCH: Have you watched Rocks yet?
Blinded by the Light (2019)
The inspirational songs of Bruce Springsteen prove a lifeline for teenager Javed in eighties Luton, despite his Pakistani family not being quite so keen on The Boss. The singalong scenes are the obvious highlights in this likeable coming-of-age tale, based on the memoir by Sarfraz Mansoor, but there’s an important social punch too. From filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham.
Trial By Fire (2018)
The peerless Laura Dern plays justice campaigner Elizabeth Gilbert in this true story of Texan father Cameron Willingham (Jack O’Connell), wrongly convicted of killing his family. Another weighty legal drama might not be everyone’s cup of tea right now but there’s an urgency to Trial By Fire that will keep you hooked even in the bleakest moments.
The Sisters Brothers (2018)
A heavyweight cast - Joaquin Phoenix, John C Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal - ignite this enjoyably eccentric nineteenth-century drama about hitmen travelling across the Wild West. Ignore the fact that this flopped at the cinema. The Sisters Brothers is full of emotional moments and thrilling surprises.
From before the days when Netflix made its own romantic comedies, Hitch is big-name Hollywood fluff at its most easy-to-watch. Will Smith is the title character, a so-called ‘love doctor’ who’s great at sorting other people’s love lives, not so much his own. Until, that is, he meets workaholic reporter Sara (Eva Mendes).
Wine Country (2019)
If you’ve enjoyed Amy Poehler’s latest film, Moxie, on Netflix recently then why not give Wine Country a try too? She not only stars in it but directs and produces too, not to mention coming up with the story of a group of friends heading out to California’s Napa Valley to celebrate a 50th birthday. Sweet rather than laugh-out-loud, Wine Country is nevertheless a consistently smart celebration of female friendships, featuring Amy’s real-life pals Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph.
Just Friends (2005)
Another early Ryan Reynolds comedy from before his time as an A-Lister, Just Friends sees the future Deadpool in layers of latex, playing overweight high-schooler Chris who has a secret crush on his best friend Jamie (Amy Smart). Fast forward twenty years and Chris now looks like a superhero - but has he left it too late to woo Jamie? Cheeky, silly and hilarious.
Sparkling new teen film directed by and co-starring Amy Poehler, about high-schooler Vivian and the feminist fanzine that she secretly starts up. Amy is hilariously embarrassing as Vivian’s mom - although she’s not without activist tendencies herself - whilst the highs and lows of teenage life are perfectly captured. Fans of Mean Girls will love it.
Marriage Story (2019)
Scarlett Johansson gives her best ever performance in this relationship drama but be prepared for tears. This highly emotional look at the minutiae of a divorce will likely leave you reaching for your Kleenex. Adam Driver, as Scarlett’s soon-to-be ex-husband, gives an unforgettable performance too although it’s Laura Dern, as a high-heeled lawyer with some serious attitude, that won an Oscar.
Recent Golden Globe winner John Boyega delivers the goods as a security guard caught up in the real life 12th Street Riot in Detroit, Michigan, back in 1967. There might be multiple storylines but the tension never falters for the whole 140 minutes. So whilst this was an unexpected flop when released at the cinema, don’t let it pass you by on the small screen.
Paradise Lost (2006)
Missing your annual holiday? This gory thriller starring Melissa George might change your mind, telling the story of backpackers who think they’ve found their ideal vacation spot in Brazil, only to discover its very dark secret. Not for the squeamish.
A laugh-out-loud spoof of UFO obsessives and sci-fi nerds, Paul sees real-life best mates Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as space geeks forced to deal with a foul-mouthed alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) who they discover out in the American wilderness. Less ET - more OMG.
Coach Carter (2005)
Another peerless performance from Samuel L Jackson in this true story of Californian high-school sports coach Ken Carter. What made Carter special? He didn’t just want his basketball team to win games. He wanted them to be disciplined, successful students too. Uplifting stuff with a slick soundtrack to boot, plus early roles for Channing Tatum and Octavia Spencer.
13 Going On 30 (2004)
The internet exploded recently when 13 Going On 30 stars Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo posted a reunion pic on the set of their new movie The Adam Project. We’ll have to wait until next year to see that film but their noughties classic about a young teen discovering what it’s like to be in an adult’s body is on Netflix now - and it hasn’t lost an ounce of its charm.
Fish Tank (2009)
Future Eastenders star Katie Jarvis got her big break in this brilliantly gut-wrenching story of 15-year old Mia and her life on the bread-line. Another Eastenders actor, Kierston Wareing, plays her mum Joanne but it’s Michael Fassbender (as Joanne’s new boyfriend) who went on to a Hollywood career. All are superb though. It’s no wonder that this slice of gritty realism has been included in umpteen ‘Best Of’ lists.
Mother’s Day (2016)
The triple whammy of Aniston, Roberts and Hudson make this heaven for cheesy rom-com fans, even if the plot - and let’s use that term lightly - leaves a lot to be desired. Better news is that this also stars Jason Sudeikis, currently winning hearts (and awards) as loveable sports coach Ted Lasso.
Prepare yourself - this smart, scary and socially aware thriller starring Lupita Nyong’o as a mother and wife terrorised by doppelgängers of her own family will blow your mind. If you manage to take the cushion away from your eyes, you’ll have never seen anything quite like it. From the makers of the equally awesome Get Out.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
Max the Jack Russell and Duke the Newfoundland return in this sequel to the 2016 animated hit about our furry friends and their hidden secrets. New hound Rooster, a Welsh Sheepdog voiced by Harrison Ford, has some great lines and whilst this isn’t as fresh as its predecessor it’s still energetic enough to keep both kids and parents happy.
Another eye-opening documentary from Netflix, this one looking at the life of legendary Brazilian footballer Edson Arantes do Noscimento, aka Pelé. Now eighty years old, the boy from the slums of São Paulo went on to become his country’s leading goalscorer and has been regularly voted the greatest to ever kick a ball. An icon.
Made You Look (2021)
Netflix mix true crime and high art in this gripping look at a nineties scandal. It was 1995 when a gallery in New York purchased what they thought was a previously unknown painting by modernist artist Mark Rothko. What followed was lengthy forgery scam totalling $80 million.
The peerless Tina Fey and Amy Poehler go all out in this wild tale of adult siblings planning one final party in their childhood home before it’s sold. Some of the gags might make you blush but Tina and Amy are so cheeky and charming they can get away with anything. With Maya Rudolph, Dianne Wiest and a scene-stealing John Cena.
An awards favourite from a few years back, Mudbound tells the dramatic (and rain-soaked) story of two families - one black, one white - in post-World War 2 Mississippi. Carey Mulligan is the big name but it’s soul superstar Mary J Blige who really delivers the goods as cotton picker Florence. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she sings the soaring theme tune too.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
Motorbike chase? Check. Helicopter crash? Check. Fisticuffs in a toilet with Henry Cavill? Check. Fallout may be number six in the Mission: Impossible franchise but it’s also the best, star Tom Cruise still fighting longer and harder than anyone else as super spy Ethan Hunt.
It may not be as well remembered as the eighties version of the famous Broadway musical but this more recent, bubbly take on Annie still has a lot to recommend it. The stars - Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx and eleven year old Quvenzhané Wallis - are all impressive whilst the new music by Sia works sweetly with old classics like ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Starring Leo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road feels like two actors deliberately moving on from their Titanic history as much as a careful drama about a marriage break-up in mid-50s. It’s all exquisitely done too; a heartbreaking portrait of a couple struggling with unachievable expectations and broken dreams.
What Men Want (2019)
The great Taraji P Henson from Hidden Figures stars in this gender swap reimagining of the old Mel Gibson rom-com What Women Want. As sports agent Ali she’s a female in a male world but a sudden ability to hear men’s thoughts changes everything. Some fun co-stars (Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, comedian Tracy Morgan and basketball hero Shaquille O’Neal) plus some decent laughs make this an enjoyably easy watch.
WATCH: Films coming to Netflix in 2021
The Meg (2018)
Sometimes only a dumb Jason Statham movie will hit the spot. And with The Meg you don’t just get The Stath at his snarliest, there’s also a prehistoric giant shark that pops up from the floor of the Pacific (obviously). Don’t watch it for scientific logic. Just enjoy the campy action.
Definitely Maybe (2008)
A cast that would go on to big things (Ryan Reynolds, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks) lead this charming romance from the makers of Notting Hill. Reynolds plays Will, an ad man telling his young daughter all about his past loves - and it’s up to us to decide which of them might be her mum. It’s a long way from Deadpool but even back then Ryan had some serious charm.
28 Days (2000)
Sandra Bullock really gives it some in this under-appreciated story of an alcoholic writer who goes into rehab. It’s not heavy-going though, boasting that lightness of touch that you’d expect from Sandy, not to mention co-stars Dominic West and Viggo Mortensen keeping what could have been a depressing film full of charisma.
Now You See Me (2013)
Eisenberg! Harrelson! Fisher! Ruffalo! If the all-star cast doesn’t get you interested then the film’s plot - about a group of brilliant magicians pulling off jaw-dropping heists - should whet your appetite. It’s all ridiculous, of course. But it’s ridiculousness done with some serious style.
Jennifer Lawrence earned an Oscar nod for her role as real-life shopping channel entrepreneur Joy Mangano in what’s surely one of the more eccentric mainstream hits of recent years. That’s not to do it down though. J-Law once again radiates star quality while Joy’s rags-to-riches tale is an inspiring one.
Indecent Proposal (1993)
A real water-cooler movie from the naughty nineties this one, asking the big question ‘Would you sleep with a stranger for a million dollars?’ In this case it’s Robert Redford as the moneybags willing to stump up the cash, while Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson are the hard-up couple mulling the offer. Watching today, Indecent Proposal feels far from ‘woke’ but as a glossy snapshot of another era it’s irresistible.
The Green Mile (1999)
A Tom Hanks classic from the team behind The Shawshank Redemption. The running time might be an epic three hours but there’s so much going on in this story of a death row prison officer and the strange run of miracles he witnesses. Magic, mystery, love and spirituality - it’s all here. Unforgettable.
AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
The legendary Steven Spielberg wows again with this futuristic fantasy about a child android (Hayley Joel Osment) and the family who adopt him. The effects are jaw-dropping, of course, but it’s a flamboyant turn from Jude Law and the story’s warm heart that really stick with you.
News of the World (2021)
The ever-reliable Tom Hanks hits Netflix with the premiere of this moody Western about a Civil War veteran returning a long lost girl to her family. The great man is suitably heavyweight as Captain Jefferson Kidd of course, but it’s co-star Helena Zengel - just twelve years old and hailing from Germany - who’s already picking up the awards nominations. Majestic stuff.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
Lana Condor returns in the third and final part of the addictive teen trilogy, with her character LJ now facing up to life after high-school. A worthy conclusion to the series that’s turned Condor from a former ballet student into a ten-million-follower Instagram sensation.
Finding Ohana (2021)
If you grew up watch The Goonies then you’ll appreciate this new Netflix adventure that’s clearly influenced by the Spielberg classic. Plus, Hawaii’s island of Oahu looks stunning. Newcomer Kea Peahu and YouTuber Alex Aiono play the New York brother and sister rediscovering their roots in the South Pacific whilst also trying to track down hidden treasure.