69 must-watch movies to check out on Netflix this week

James King has the top picks for Netflix films in December

It’s Christmas - a time for peace, goodwill and watching great movies! And you’re spoilt for choice on Netflix this holiday season, with a winning blend of comedies, drama and festive fun on offer. Happy viewing… and happy Christmas!

MORE: 7 must-watch dramas coming to ITV this winter

The Power of the Dog (2021)

Category: Drama

Benedict Cumberbatch claims his place in the upcoming awards race with this mean and moody, Montana-set Western about two very different brothers (Benedict and co-star Jesse Plemons) and the widowed single mother (Kirsten Dunst) who comes into their lives. Bleak, maybe - but with some blistering performances to keep you hooked.

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WATCH: See the trailer for Benedict Cumberbatch's brand new movie

Single All the Way (2021)

Category: Rom-Com

American Pie and White Lotus legend Jennifer Coolidge in a camp Christmas rom-com? Yes please! Single All the Way stars Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie as an unattached gay man who takes best friend Nick to his family Christmas in order to convince his eccentric relatives (including Jennifer as Aunt Sandy) that he’s not single.


Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Category: Action

The second in the monster franchise’s recent reboot (the third, Godzilla vs Kong, came out last year) is more of the same: eye-popping effects and battle scenes, plus a powerhouse cast (Sally Hawkins, Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr) doing their best with some wonky dialogue. Great fun.


Bruised (2021)

Category: Action

The inimitable Halle Berry directs and stars in this impressively gutsy story of a retired MMA fighter drawn back into the world of fighting, whilst also tackling her own personal demons. Awesome soundtrack too.


14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible (2021)

Category: Documentary

Nirmal Purja is a Nepalese adventurer who dreams of climbing to the peaks of the world’s fourteen tallest mountains - all within seven months. Another inspirational true story of courage and dedication in the vein of 2018’s Oscar-winning Free Solo.


A Castle For Christmas (2021)

Category: Rom-Com

An American writer spends her Yuletide in Scotland in order to get away from a scandal back home, falling in love with a grumpy duke in the process (obviously). Lucky for stars Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes, we’re more forgiving of cheesy stories like this during the festive season - plus it’s genuinely great to see eighties icon Brooke back in a lead role.


Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Category: Family

It might have suffered delays after audiences reacted badly to the first trailer but this adaptation of the Sega videogame ended up being a smash hit for stars James Marsden and Jim Carrey, the latter unsurprisingly stealing scenes as evil Dr Robotnik. A sequel is out next April.


Constantine (2005)

Category: Action

With Keanu Reeves back in black on the big screen in the long-awaited Matrix Resurrections, the good folk at Netflix have delved into the Keanu archive and uploaded this under-appreciated action horror that co-stars Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton. As the title character - a hard-bitten, chain-smoking supernatural detective - King Keanu is a blast.


The Whole Nine Yards (2000)

Category: Comedy

It’s easy to forget that Friends star Matthew Perry had a big hit with this tale of a mild-mannered dentist and his new mobster neighbour (Bruce Willis), filmed during a break in his run as Chandler in the late nineties. And whilst it’s no classic, the chalk-and-cheese partnership of Matthew and Bruce still generates a chuckle or two.


Robin Robin (2021)

Category: Animation

A small (30 minutes) but perfectly formed new tale from the minds of Wallace & Gromit creators Aardman Studios sees a baby robin adopted by mice and struggling to prove her worth. Delightful songs and the filmmakers’ trademark attention to detail make this one to watch again and again.


Little Women (2019)

Category: Drama

Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep and a scene-stealing Florence Pugh star in this immaculate and witty adaptation of the classic novel that picked up an Oscar for its costumes - but should have won even more. It’s no mean feat to make a 150 year old story feel this fresh and relevant.

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WATCH: The beloved film is finally coming to Netflix

21 Bridges (2019)

Category: Thriller

The late, great Chadwick Boseman might have made better films but this story of a Big Apple cop on a nighttime hunt for two killers reminds us just how much he could elevate even average movies with his arresting presence. There’s strong support from Sienna Miller too.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Category: Thriller

Unlike the original Swedish film, this American remake underperformed at the box-office, meaning that the remaining books in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy never got their Hollywood makeover. A shame really, since Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara make an excellent Mikael and Lisbeth - the journalist and hacker odd couple out to expose a wealthy family’s disturbing secrets.


The Piano (1993)

Category: Drama

This nineties arthouse classic saw Holly Hunter bag an Academy Award for her mute performance as Ada McGrath, a 19th century Scot who arrives in New Zealand with her young daughter for an arranged marriage. As haunting as it is beautiful, The Piano also gave future True Blood star Anna Paquin her first role.

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Category: Comedy

The true story of an opera-singing, New York heiress and her wayward husband, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant? What more do I need to say? Here’s something funny, touching and deliciously eccentric - a celebration of following your dreams, whatever the obstacles. Impossible to resist.


Le Weekend (2013)

Category: Drama

Grown-up romance starring national treasures Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a couple hoping to rekindle their marriage in Paris. Bittersweet and full of warmth, plus there’s a role for the legendary Jeff Goldblum too, at his quirky best as family friend Morgan (with It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander playing his son).

Philomena (2013)

Category: Drama

Steve Coogan produced, co-wrote and co-stars in this true story that sees Judi Dench as the title character - an Irish grandmother tracking down the child she was forced to give up for adoption back in the fifties. Despite some liberties taken with the real story, this is still powerfully moving, with Coogan especially impressive as journalist Martin Sixsmith.


Endless Love (2014)

Category: Teen

A remake of the eighties teen film about star-crossed lovers whose passion doesn’t sit well with their parents. Shot in America’s Deep South, this is sultry - and occasionally silly - stuff but it’s nod hard to see why stunning leads Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer can’t keep their hands off each other.


Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

Category: Musical

The remarkable story of late musical theatre composer Jonathan Larson, who sadly didn’t live long enough to see his nineties show Rent take Broadway by storm. Andrew Garfield stars, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda on directing duties. The result is a spine-tingling look at a true stage innovator.

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WATCH: Will you be watching Tick Tick Boom?

The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star (2021)

Category: Festive

Vanessa Hudgens continues her run as the Queen of Netflix Christmas Movies in this latest instalment of the Christmas Switch franchise. The plot this time? Juliette, Margaret and Fiona (all played by Vanessa) must unite to track down a priceless treasure that goes missing during a Christmas party.


Gone Girl (2014)

Category: Drama

The great Rosamund Pike is currently starring in new fantasy series The Wheel of Time over on Amazon but here gives perhaps her classiest movie performance as the mysterious Amy in the blockbuster adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s unputdownable bestseller. Worthy of a re-watch.


Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020)

Category: Documentary

With Taylor back in the news yet again following the release of her reworked Red album (including the Jake Gyllenhaal-inspired ‘All Too Well’, complete with its own short film), now’s the perfect time to revisit this illuminating documentary where she explores her often complex position in the entertainment world.


The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Category: Festive

Back in his action hero days, few people would have thought of Kurt Russell as an ideal movie Santa Claus. Now though, after just hitting seventy, his made the big man his own in not one but two Christmas Chronicles movies (both on Netflix), where young children Kate and Teddy have to give St Nick a hand on his busiest night of the year.


Howards End (1992)

Category: Drama

Oscar-winning literary adaptation of the EM Forster classic starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins as the heads of two very different families whose paths intertwine in Edwardian England. Flawless acting and production values make this a must-see.


The Holiday (2006)

Category: Rom-Com

Cosy down with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in this much-loved story of romance and house-swapping during the festive season. Jude Law, Jack Black and one very cute English country cottage co-star.


Enough (2002)

Category: Drama

Jennifer Lopez - who has just dropped the trailer for her next movie Marry Me - shows off her action side in this under-appreciated and surprisingly involving story of a wronged woman and the lengths she goes to to defend herself from her unhinged ex-husband. 


The Other Guys (2010)

Category: Comedy

Will Ferrell - currently showing off his quirkier side in the Apple TV+ show The Shrink Next Door - is at his loud and goofy best in this hilarious story of two hapless cops who finally get their chance to prove their worth. Mark Wahlberg and Eva Mendes co-star.


Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Category: Family

Ryan Reynolds voices the title character in this bubbly mix of live action and animation set in the Pokémon universe. When his police officer father goes missing, young Henry (Justice Smith) befriends his dad’s former work partner Pikachu to help solve the mystery of his disappearance. Bemusing for anyone over twenty five perhaps, but your children will love it.


Passing (2021)

Category: Drama

A delicately devastating awards favourite starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as 1920s wives, one of who is ‘passing’ as white despite being mixed-race. Shot in haunting monochrome and with a careful, gentle pace, Passing is also acclaimed actress Rebecca Hall’s first film as director. Recommended.


The Lady in the Van (2015)

Category: Drama

Deliciously eccentric true tale starring the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd, a spiky OAP who lived in her van on the streets of Camden, London. Co-starring The Crown actor Alex Jennings as writer Alan Bennett, the resident who eventually bonded with Miss Shepherd after allowing her dilapidated yellow home to park on his driveway (and who wrote this film).


Spotlight (2015)

Category: Drama

This uncompromising real-life story about the uncovering of abuse within Boston’s Catholic Church system won Best Picture at the Oscars a few years back - and it’s easy to see why. A gripping mix of sensitivity and tension will keep you hooked whilst gutsy turns from Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci and Bill Crudup are all flawless.


Harriet (2019)

Category: Drama

English actress and singer Cynthia Erivo is hot property in Hollywood right now, recently announced as the star (alongside Ariana Grande) in the upcoming film adaptation of musical blockbuster Wicked. Watch her stirring, Oscar-nominated performance as nineteenth century abolitionist and campaigner Harriet Tubman and you’ll see what all the buzz is about.


Get Hard (2015)

Category: Comedy

Will Ferrell stars as James King (!), a wealthy hedge fund manager who’s about to go to jail and needs lessons in prison life quickly. Enter fast-talking Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), ready to toughen up this pretty boy even if he’s not quite as street smart as he likes to make out. True, it’s hardly Shakespeare but comedy giants Ferrell and Hart deliver plenty of silly laughs.


The Wind Rises (2013)

Category: Family

Animation doesn’t get much better than this smash-hit Japanese stunner, telling the story of an aeroplane designer who dreams of his machines being used for good rather than war. Add in a tragic love story and you’ve got something romantic, educational and entirely beautiful. Prepare for tears.


Love, Actually (2003)

Category: Rom-Com

The festive favourite from writer-director Richard Curtis is probably one you’ve seen before but with so many pitch perfect performances from the ensemble cast - including Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy - it’s as much a comfort blanket as it is a movie. Altogether now: "If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."


The Invention of Lying (2009)

Category: Comedy

The ever provocative Ricky Gervais is co-writer, co-director, producer and star of this cheeky fantasy set in a world where everyone tells the truth. The big chuckles are there, of course, but things also take a surprisingly philosophical turn too, making this a smart comedy for people who like to their brains tickled as well as their funny bones.


Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Category: Family

Dwayne Johnson proves yet again that he can do family flicks just as effortlessly as tough guy action movies with this sequel to the 2017 mega-hit, once more co-starring Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black. The plot this time sees teens Spencer, Bethany, Martha and Fridge return to the alternate world of Jumanji, although things second time around aren’t quite the same as before. The result is a laugh-packed adventure through magical lands (plus a scene-stealing Awkwafina) that sets itself up nicely for the upcoming third instalment.


The Harder They Fall (2021)

Category: Western

Idris Elba leads this gutsy Netflix cowboy pic about a gang of nineteenth century outlaws looking for revenge. Don’t like Westerns? Fear not - this is so stylish and tense you don’t even have to be a fan of stetsons and gun-slinging to enjoy it. Written and directed by Jeymes Samuel, the younger brother of pop legend Seal.

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WATCH: Netflix's The Harder They Fall trailer

Hereditary (2018)

Category: Horror

Halloween may be over but films this good (and chilling) deserve to be seen whatever the time of year. Toni Collette stars as the troubled matriarch of a disturbed family, trying - and failing - to deal with the loss of loved ones. As insightful as it is inventive, it’s also perhaps the best performance of Colette’s already illustrious career.


Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Category: Rom-Com

Remember Rachael Leigh-Cook from nineties teen hit She’s All That? Love, Guaranteed sees her produce and star in the tale of lawyer Susan, hired by a serial bachelor to sue a dating firm who claim a one hundred percent success rate. And when that bachelor is as charming as Damon Wayans Jr, you can pretty much guess the rest. Enjoyably frothy.

MORE: 28 cancelled Netflix shows that need to be brought back

War Dogs (2016)

Category: Drama

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are gun-runners for the US military in this wild and eye-opening action drama loosely based on true events. Is it glamourising or criticising their behaviour? The jury’s still out but with Bradley Cooper and Ana De Armas as co-stars, there’s plenty of reason for you to watch and decide for yourself.


Friends With Benefits (2011)

Category: Rom-Com

It’s a shame that Justin Timberlake doesn’t make more movies since his leading man turn in this likeable romantic comedy has bags full of charm. Mila Kunis co-stars in the story of Dylan and Jamie - two high-flyers in New York who struggle to work out exactly how to define their relationship.


Honey Boy (2019)

Category: Drama

Controversial star Shia LaBeouf wrote and stars in this hard-hitting but strangely beautiful story of a child actor and his troubled father, based on his own unconventional upbringing. It might sometimes feel like a therapy session as much as a gripping story but endearing performances and a magical mood make this something hypnotic and unique.


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Category: Action

Everyone’s favourite retired assassin Mr Wick returns for more revenge in this lean and mean sequel starring Keanu Reeves and Ruby Rose. Expect macho mumbling, eye-watering fights and Keanu looking increasingly exasperated.


The First Wives Club (1996)

Category: Comedy

This cult classic starring Goldie Hawn, Better Midler and Diane Keaton still delivers as a funny and surprisingly wise look at middle-age singledom and the battle of the sexes. No wonder it spawned a stage musical and TV series. Sarah Jessica Parker co-stars.


Hustlers (2019)

Category: Drama

Calling anything “J Lo’s best film in years” might not mean a huge amount (sorry if you’re a fan of The Back-Up Plan) but Hustlers really is something special. Jenny co-stars with Constance Wu in this true story of lap-dancers getting their own back on lecherous customers - and the result is an electrifying tale of female empowerment.  


Argo (2012)

Category: Thriller

A Best Picture Oscar winner this one, directed by, produced by and starring Ben Affleck. He plays real-life CIA agent Tony Mendez, charged with extracting American hostages from Iran in 1979. His outrageous plan? To pretend to be a film-maker looking to shoot a movie in the country’s capital.


Point Break (1991)

Category: Action

Happy 30th birthday to this breathless action masterpiece - still as exhilarating as it was when it first came out. The ageless Keanu Reeves plays rookie LA cop Johnny Utah, sent undercover to capture a band of surfer dude bank robbers. Whoa! Patrick Swayze co-stars.


Falling For Figaro (2021)

Category: Rom-Com

Financial whizzkid Millie (Danielle Macdonald) leaves her job and dumps her  boyfriend so she can head to the Scottish Highlands and learn how to sing opera from ageing diva Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley). Unlikely? Maybe. But Dame Joanna alone makes this an offbeat, breezy treat.

Dark Waters (2019)

Category: Drama

A typically endearing turn from Mark Ruffalo leads this rousing (and true)  drama about a city lawyer who risks his reputation to help a rural community battle corporate pollution on their land. Also starring Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins.


Baby Driver (2017)

Category: Thriller

A pedal-to-the-metal blast from British film-maker Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Last Night in Soho), packed full of breathless chases and intense action that will leave you tingling. Ansel Elgort stars as the title character, a boyish petrolhead working to pay off a debt by helping bank robbers make their getaways. The problem is, Baby’s now had enough and wants out. Lily James co-stars.


LA Confidential (1997)

Category: Thriller

New to Netflix, this moody nineties classic focuses on corruption in the LAPD at the peak of Hollywood’s 1950s Golden Age. An all-star cast includes Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Danny De Vito plus there’s Kim Basinger at her slinkiest, stealing every scene she’s in.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Category: Horror

Deliciously creepy tale starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell as a couple who find the health of their family threatened by a figure from the past. Don’t expect big thrills though - this is a movie made even more effective by its slow pace and surreal twists. Great to see Alicia Silverstone in a supporting role too.


Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)

Category: Drama

Bond star Léa Seydoux steams up the screen in her breakthrough role as punky painter Emma in this raw - and controversial - look at the complex relationship between two young girls in Lille, northern France. There’s a lot of it (nearly 3 hours!) but it’s never less than compelling.


Found (2021)

Category: Documentary

This thoughtful Netflix original tells the story of three American adoptees - Sadie, Lily and Chloe - who discover they are cousins, leading to a trip to China together with the hope of meeting their biological family. The result is something carefully made, seriously moving and thankfully not afraid to ask some big questions.

Office Christmas Party (2016)

Category: Comedy

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston lead an ensemble cast in this riotous story of a hard-up company hoping to impress new investors by inviting them to an unforgettable festive bash. Things, you won’t be surprised to read, don’t exactly go to plan. Big, easy laughs from the team behind Blades of Glory and Borat.


Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Category: Drama

Vanessa Kirby is unforgettable in this raw - but ultimately rewarding - look at a woman trying to cope with the loss of her baby. It’s a tough watch, of course, but there’s nevertheless much to be gained from seeing a character on the edge slowly regain control of her life. Succession’s Sarah Snook co-stars.


Babyteeth (2019)

Category: Drama

A well-deserved awards favourite from a few years ago, this one, featuring Little Women’s Eliza Scanlen as a rich Aussie girl who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks (Toby Wallace) at the same time as facing a shocking medical diagnosis. The set-up might sound all-too-familiar but Babyteeth’s ability to surprise is something special.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Category: Western

Think you’ve seen it all? Then maybe give this anthology of short stories set in America’s Old West a try. Coming from the minds of Joel and Ethan Coen - the brains behind movie classics such as Fargo and The Big Lebowski - you’re in for a crazy ride through dusty frontier towns, full of prospectors, wagon trains and one singing cowboy. Yee-haw!


The White Tiger (2021)

Category: Drama

Priyanka Chopra-Jonas might be the big name in this Netflix adaptation of the best-selling book but it’s the up-and-coming Adarsh Gourav who really wows as young Balram - a servant from humble beginnings in rural India who plans to make it big in business. Think David Copperfield… in Delhi.


Twilight (2008)

Category: Teen

Have you rewatched the Twilight movies recently? Now that Kristen Stewart is an Oscar favourite as Diana, Princess of Wales and Robert Pattinson is the new Batman it’s easy to forget their more humble origins but Twilight still works as a enjoyably moody teen vampire pic, with Kristen especially endearing as awkward, mumbly Bella. The sequels are on Netflix too.


What If? (2013)

Category: Rom-Com

Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan star in this unfairly overlooked romance about Toronto hipsters working out they might be more than just friends. The two leads make for a great match (helped by some smart dialogue) plus there’s able support from Adam Driver and Rafe Spall.

MORE: Marvel's Eternals receives surprising reaction from fans after premiere

Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)

Category: Action

It might now be primarily remembered as the film that first gave us a glimpse of future power couple Brangelina, but Mr & Mrs Smith is still a super-slick, super-sexy romp about a husband and wife who don’t realise their other half is an assassin. And it’s not just Brad and Angelina either: Kerry Washington, Vince Vaughn and Adam Brody co-star.


Shazam! (2019)

Category: Superhero

Young Billy finds himself transformed into grown-up superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi) when he merely says his name. Why? He’s been chosen as someone ‘pure of heart’ by a mystical wizard, of course. The trouble is Shazam now has to battle the evil Dr Thaddeus Sivana (a brilliant Mark Strong) to save the world. Punchy family fun from DC Comics, with a sequel on its way.


Last Christmas (2019)

Category: Romance

Too early to enjoy a Yuletide movie? We don’t think so. This Hello! favourite stars Emilia Clarke as George Michael fan Kate, unhappy with her job at a Christmas store and kicked out of her flat. Enter mysterious Tom (Henry Golding) to save the day. Co-starring Emma Thompson, who also co-wrote the cheesily festive script.


Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

Category: Rom-Com

There might be no Hugh Grant as bad boy Daniel Cleaver this time around but Renée Zellweger’s Miss Jones is as gloriously, hilariously conflicted as ever as she tries to work out who the father of her bump might be. A welcome return for everyone’s favourite singleton, co-starring Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey.


Winter’s Bone (2010)

Category: Drama

Before she was catapulted into the Hollywood A-List, a 19-year old Jennifer Lawrence wowed arthouse audiences with her performance in this gritty, low-budget thriller about a girl in rural Missouri hunting the woods for her wayward father. Hugely impressive.


Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Category: Family

Roald Dahl’s beloved story of a seriously cunning fox is treated to some gorgeously retro stop-motion animation by film-maker Wes Anderson (whose new film The French Dispatch is also a visual treat). Voice talent includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Owen Wilson, plus there’s a fabulous soundtrack too.


The Queen (2006)

Category: Drama

Helen Mirren’s career is hardly short of highlights but this Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II - set in the days following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales - is surely her finest moment. Never afraid to tackle the big questions, The Queen still manages to be a warm and intimate portrayal of a monarch facing a national crisis. Michael Sheen as Tony Blair is flawless too.

MORE: 24 sad films guaranteed to make you cry on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and more


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