As the long, chilly January finally comes to an end, make the most of the long nights with a cup of tea and one of our top recommended Netflix films from our movie expert, James King. From Jane Austen romances to action thrillers, there is something here for everyone...
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Anya Taylor-Joy sparkles in this latest Jane Austen adaptation, playing Regency-era matchmaker Emma in a fun and frothy film packed with eye-catching costumes, witty one-liners and - of course - true love. Co-starring Johnny Flynn, Josh O'Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, and Bill Nighy.
WATCH: Anya Taylor-Joy sparkles in this latest Jane Austen adaptation
Dark laughs at their finest, courtesy of a flawless Steve Coogan as fictional millionaire fashion retailer Sir Richard McCreadie and his muddled attempts to organise his lavish birthday celebrations on the island of Mykonos. There are jokes, yes - but this is comedy with a political punch too.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
One of the most enduring creepy characters of recent years - Annabelle the evil doll - returns for a third outing of terror, with the brilliant Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson once again reprising their roles as psychic investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren.
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Julia Roberts stars as globe-trotter Liz, travelling the world hoping to find spiritual enlightenment and some awesome food. Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel has sold over 12 million copies and creative powerhouse Ryan Murphy (of Pose, Glee and The Prom fame) makes a decent job of translating it to the screen, filling every moment with warmth, light and life lessons.
Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy (2011)
Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kathy Burke and Tom Hardy star in this icy Cold War thriller set in the backrooms of MI6 and based on the best-selling book. It’s a triumph too, laced with backstabbing and paranoia, as well as moody, gutsy, grown-up performances. Thrillers this stylish don’t come along very often.
Munich: The Edge of War (2021)
Jeremy Irons and George MacKay star in the gripping true story of diplomats attempting to deal with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in late Thirties Europe.
War Dogs (2016)
David and Efraim are American arms dealers who sign up with the US Army to provide weapons to Afghanistan. Outrageous - and often hilarious - adventure starring Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas and Bradley Cooper. Based on a true story.
This Robert Downey Jr blockbuster might have had a troubled journey to the big screen (not to mention a confused response to Rob’s Welsh accent) but it’s still overblown and eccentric enough to appeal to young audiences looking for zany thrills. What a cast too: Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen and Jessie Buckley co-star with Emma Thompson, Octavia Spencer, Selena Gomez and Ralph Fiennes on animal voiceover duties.
The Naked Gun (1988)
Classic - and extremely silly - laugher from the eighties that sees the late, great Leslie Nielsen as hapless big city cop Frank Drebin. Over thirty years since it came out and it’s still a riot of dumb jokes and funny faces. Perfect.
Reviews might be mixed for this low-budget, futuristic drama about a young mother escaping a robot rebellion but it’s already a Netflix hit with plenty of room for a sequel. Whatever your thoughts, it’s another powerful turn from lead Chloë Grace Moretz, already the veteran of over forty films and still only 24 years old.
The mind-blowing true story of Tracy Edwards and her all-female crew, looking back to their groundbreaking participation in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race. Not interested in sailing? Don’t worry. This is eye-opening and inspiring enough to keep even the biggest landlubber gripped.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
All three of director Peter Jackson’s Hobbit tales are now on Netflix (the others being The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies), epic adventures set sixty years before The Lord of the Rings and featuring Frodo Baggins’ relative Bilbo (Martin Freeman) on a quest to reclaim land from an evil dragon.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Religious and political allegiances are put to the test in the early days of the Big Apple in this smash-hit historical epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis. Awesome.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
The well-loved Jane Austen story about the Bennet daughters and their search for love got a stylish remake in the noughties starring Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn and a pre-Succession Matthew Macfadyen. The plot might be familiar thanks to umpteen other versions of the classic novel but this take still has serious panache.
It’s Complicated (2009)
Meryl Streep glides through this loveable romantic comedy about a divorced couple who find themselves getting close to one another after years apart. Funny, sweet… and prepare yourself for some serious house envy too. Steve Martin co-stars.
Pitch Perfect (2012)
Ten years since it was unleashed onto the world, the hilarious and singalong story of college a-cappella group the Barden Bellas still delivers, with sparkling performances, polished songs and laugh-out-loud gags all round. Anna Kendrick stars but let’s be honest, it’s Rebel Wilson who steals the show.
There’s some serious drama and huge ballads in this glittery adaptation of the hit stage musical about the ups and downs of life in sixties girl group. Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy all wow but nothing can prepare you for Jennifer Hudson belting out ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’.
The Lost Daughter (2021)
Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson star in this exquisitely made mystery about a professor holidaying alone in Greece and the American woman she becomes fascinated by. Unforgettable. Directed by acclaimed actor Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Don’t Look Up (2021)
The Netflix movie that’s got everyone’s talking is a pitch black comedy about how the world might react if we learned a meteorite was just months away from wiping out the planet. The result? A mix of chaos and indifference, as scientists Kate and Randall (Jennifer Lawrence and Leo DiCaprio) have to convince those in power that things have gotten serious. Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill co-star in this uneven but admittedly eye-opening satire.
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The Gentlemen (2019)
Hugh Grant steals the show as a grubby journalist in this twisty, hyperactive Guy Ritchie thriller that boasts an all-star cast: Matthew McConaughy, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell and Henry Golding.
The Nest (2021)
This quiet and moody story of an eighties yuppie struggling with dodgy business deals was a little overlooked last year but Jude Law gives one of his best performances as the ever optimistic Rory, desperate to impress even when his glamorous life is crumbling around him.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence make a delightfully odd couple in this sweet - and Oscar-winning - story of a man dealing with mental health issues and the young widow who helps him back on his feet. A seriously classy rom-com.
She’s the Man (2006)
A cult classic! Noughties tween icon Amanda Bynes leads this bubbly high-school remake of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, pretending to be a boy so that she can play on her new school’s soccer team. Channing Tatum co-stars.
Scream 4 (2011)
There’s a new Scream movie out in 2022 but this sequel from ten years ago also has much to love: in-jokes, big scares and cheeky quips about our addiction to social media. Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell and David Arquette all reprise their roles as key players in the infamous Ghostface murders.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
The legendary - and controversial - eighteenth century French royal gets an unconventional biopic courtesy of American star Kirsten Dunst, brilliantly cast as a young Duchess thrust into the Parisian limelight. With its often playful mood and contemporary soundtrack, this is history with an enjoyably knowing wink.
Acting big-guns Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling slug it out in this gripping legal thriller about a wealthy murderer trying to outwit his young prosecutor. Powerful, if a little predictable.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
A heartwarming - and hilarious - classic from the eighties, with chalk-and-cheese travellers Steve Martin and John Candy forced to share various modes of transport as they attempt to make it back to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving.
Yes Day (2021)
A family try to bond by allowing the children to do pretty much whatever they want for 24 hours. What could possibly go wrong? Jennifer Garner stars in and produces this fun adaptation of the kids’ book of the same name - one of Netflix’s biggest hits of the year. A sequel’s on its way too.
Django Unchained (2012)
An all-star cast (Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L Jackson) are the icing on the cake in this bold (and occasionally bonkers) Western from legendary storyteller Quentin Tarantino.
Magic Mike (2012)
The surprise hit from nine years ago that went on to spawn not just a film franchise but also an eye-popping stage show. Aside from the infamous dance scenes, Magic Mike is surprisingly smart and thought-provoking - a no-holds-barred look at working men hoping to make it big in the world of adult entertainment, as gritty as it is glossy.
The Hand of God (2021)
Italy’s entry into 2022’s Oscars tells the touching story of 80s teenager Fabietto, a loner obsessed with Napoli football icon Diego Maradona - hence the film’s name. A stylish and sensitive coming-of-age tale that’s already won numerous awards.
Spielberg’s nineties smash asks the question “What if Peter Pan *did* grow up?” The result? He’s now a workaholic lawyer called Peter Banning (played by Robin Williams) who has to reconnect with his magical past when his children are kidnapped by old foe Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). Julia Roberts co-stars in this uneven by enjoyable spectacular.
The Hunger Games (2012)
A pre-megastardom Jennifer Lawrence stars in the brilliant first entry of the blockbusting franchise, based on the book by Suzanne Collins and perhaps the pinnacle of Hollywood’s noughties love affair with YA novels. Support comes from Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson but it’s always been Stanley Tucci’s flamboyant TV host Caesar Flickerman who steals the show for me.
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A little-seen cracker starring Matthew McConaughy, this one. A hermit hiding in his boat out in the swampy Mississippi is discovered by two young boys who agree to help him escape the bad guys looking for him. Touching, tender and featuring one of MM’s most underrated performances.
An Angel at My Table (1990)
The true story of Kiwi writer Janet Frame, who suffered a disturbing and eventful upbringing in the forties before becoming one of her country’s most celebrated novelists. An award-winning classic from New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion (whose must-see films The Power of the Dog and The Piano are also on Netflix).
Back to the Outback (2021)
Bright and bubbly new animation about a group of Aussie zoo animals who plan a daring escape, featuring a host of Antipodean legends on vocal duties: Isla Fisher, Tim Minchin, Guy Pearce, Eric Bana and Kylie.
Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Big Will Smith returns for a third time as slick Miami cop Mike Lowrey, partnered again with joker Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) for another slice of super stylish action spectacle. This time around the boys are investigating a series of murders linked to their past, with added jokes about getting old plus a supporting turn from Vanessa Hudgens.
Kristen Stewart wows again in this true story of sixties star Jean Seberg, the American actress who found herself under investigation by the FBI after getting involved with the Black Panther movement. Margaret Qualley, Anthony Mackie and Vince Vaughn co-star.
The Unforgivable (2021)
Did you watch Suranne Jones in the award-winning mini-series Unforgiven back in 2009? Well, here’s the Netflix remake. It’s bleak but Sandra Bullock makes a welcome return as Ruth Slater, just released from prison and hoping to rebuild her life.
You’ve probably already seen this homegrown classic about Peru’s most famous bear but if anything is worth repeat views, it’s this. Ben Whishaw voices the title character, a well-meaning - but clumsy - new arrival in London, moving in with the eccentric Brown family and fending off the advances of evil taxidermist Millicent Clyde (a terrifying Nicole Kidman).
Dark Horse (2015)
You’ll be fascinated and inspired by this story of a Welsh couple who rally their neighbours together in a bid to fund their dream of owning a race horse. Damien Lewis and Toni Collette starred in an enjoyable recent film adaptation of the story but this original documentary is still a delight.
Nanny McPhee (2005)
Emma Thompson gives a warts-and-all performance (literally) as the hilariously bossy Victorian governess, summoned by magic to help out widower Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) look after his unruly children.
The Ponds (2018)
Are you a wild swimmer? Here’s an eye-opening documentary which meets some of the regulars at England’s most famous open water venue: the ponds in London’s Hampstead Heath. And yes, they even take dip in the depths of winter.
The Power of the Dog (2021)
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.
WATCH: See the trailer for Benedict Cumberbatch's brand new movie
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
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.
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)
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.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
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.
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)
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)
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.
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Little Women (2019)
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.
21 Bridges (2019)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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).
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)
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)
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.
WATCH: Will you be watching Tick Tick Boom?
Gone Girl (2014)
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)
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.
Howards End (1992)
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.
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)
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)
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.
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)
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).
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.
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)
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)
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.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
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)
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)
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.
WATCH: Netflix's The Harder They Fall trailer
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.
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