The 10 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

A24 Films
A24 Films

With most of their advertising and press coverage focused on their growing library of original films and series, it’s easy to forget that Netflix is still in the business of acquiring current and classic movies from distributors. If you feel a little overwhelmed by their menu options on that front, take a look at our picks for the 10 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. WIND RIVER (2017)

The howling, inhospitable Wyoming territories in winter are the site of this capable thriller about a U.S. Wildlife tracker (Jeremy Renner) who teams with an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) to solve the mystery of a dead body left to freeze in the middle of nowhere.

2. THE FOUNDER (2016)

Michael Keaton helps make this biopic about fast food giant Ray Kroc about something bigger than burgers: It's a look at an obsessive business mind. In the 1950s, milkshake machine hustler Kroc stumbled across the McDonald brothers and their novel idea of fast-service fries. Before they knew what was happening, Kroc was turning their modest ambitions into a national franchise.

3. DON’T THINK TWICE (2016)

A Los Angeles improv troupe (Keegan Michael-Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia) is forced to confront their own insecurities when one is called up to a Saturday Night Live-esque sketch show. Alternately funny and heartbreaking, this independent film largely flew under the radar when it received a brief theatrical release in 2016. It's deserving of more attention.

4. THE WAVE (2016)

“Norwegian disaster movie” might not be a genre you’ve considered, but this well-made thriller might change your opinion. A geologist (Kristoffer Joner) has only 10 minutes to try and evacuate a coastal town—and his own family—after he discovers a tsunami is due to hit with no warning.

5. BOYHOOD (2014)

Boyhood works as a kind of time travel movie, as director Richard Linklater spent 12 years filming the adolescence of a Texan (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to 18. This lengthy production process made it possible for Coltrane to portray the character at various stages, from coming to grips with his parents' divorce as a young child to his high school graduation. In lesser hands, it would be a gimmick. For Linklater, it's a chance to mediate on encroaching independence.

6. LOCKE (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

7. UP IN THE AIR (2009)

George Clooney puts his breezy charm to good use in this adaptation of Walter Kirn's 2001 novel about a corporate layoff specialist who romances a fellow frequent flyer (Vera Farmiga) and trains an apprentice (Anna Kendrick) in the ways of compassionate termination. Clooney received critical compliments for his work (not to mention an Oscar nomination, as did Farmiga and Kendrick), though director Jason Reitman (who earned three Oscar nods for the film) had a back-up plan if the actor hadn't accepted: He would have approached Steve Martin.

8. NATIONAL TREASURE (2004)

There's something for everyone—history buffs, conspiracy theorists, and Nic Cage enthusiasts—in this adventure about a cryptologist (Cage) who discovers a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

9. QUIZ SHOW (1994)

Director Robert Redford takes a look back at the first reality TV craze: the 1950s quiz show phenomenon. Based on a true story, the brilliant-but-not-very-photogenic Herbert Stempel (John Turturro) is pushed out of the way for the slick Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), a contestant on the trivia show Twenty One, who kept advancing thanks to his wits ... and some help from the show's producers.

10. THE GODFATHER (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel has been hailed as the best film ever made. It's certainly the best to feature horse decapitation as a major plot point. While Marlon Brando makes for an indelible Don Vito Corleone, Paramount apparently wanted Ernest Borgnine for the role: Brando was thought to be too unreliable. Coppola insisted, and Brando won an Academy Award for his performance.

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Stranger Things's David Harbour Shared Some Season 3 Spoilers—With Absolutely No Context

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

While Netflix likes to keep the details of Stranger Things a mystery, David Harbour, who plays Detective Hopper, likes to have fun with his fans.

Harbour posted a cryptic image to his Instagram which, while it clearly contains Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers in both the photo and the caption, does not give away any “context,” hence leaving us with very little real information.

Harbour did share that he has wrapped filming on season 3 of Stranger Things—and that we can kiss his mustache goodbye.

The mysterious post raises a number of questions. In the photo, Harbour rocks a hat that supports a local Hawkins business. The hat reads, "Gary's Plumbing & Heating, Warming Hawkins, IN since 1972."

We’re not sure if the hat is referencing the Gary already in the show, as he is the coroner, but we can’t wait to find out.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER