The 16 Best Movies Released Since 2013 Currently On Netflix Instant
If you want to catch up on great television, Netflix is a fantastic service. It has a ton of great options (here's the 25 best series on Netflix Instant, ranked) that will keep you occupied for months, if not years. The movie selection, however, often leaves something to be desired, particularly when it comes to more recent films. Netflix will often land three or four big movie titles each year, but the rest of their movie selection tends to be a lot of filler, and it's difficult to wade through it to find the best gems. Just because a movie like The Last Stand or Flight has a big name doesn't mean it's a particularly good movie.
We here, however, like to keep a running list of the best, most recent movies on Netflix. Not just the movies that were recently released to the service, but movies that were released in theaters from the past two years. We update this page regularly, so feel free to check back if you're ever searching for a good recent release. At this point, we are only featuring films released in theaters during 2013 or later.
(Our site's two favorite movies of 2013 are now both available on Netflix)
(Last Updated: September 8th, 2014)
The Double (Available September 25th) -- For The Double, Richard Ayoade has invented a fascinating world. Somewhere between our own reality and a dystopian future, it feels like The Twilight Zone's version of what 2014 would look like. It's bleak and dark and vaguely Eastern European. The immediate influences abound. It's like David Lynch and Orson Welles threw a party for Charlie Chaplin. Dostoevsky was invited, naturally, since the movie is based on a novella of his, and he brought along Jean-Pierre Jeunet as his plus one. Still, though the film may immediately remind you of ten different things, it is spectacularly unique.
All Is Lost (Watch Here) -- Roll over The Artist and tell (the middle section of) Tree of Life the news! There's a new piece of wordless filmmaking in town, and it is a supremely confident and entertaining film, full of thrilling set-pieces. Robert Redford gives an impressively physical performance in a movie consistently alive with incident and detail, which announces the arrival of J.C. Chandor, after the promise of Margin Call as a great director.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Available September 27th) -- Knoxville's heady combination of fearlessness and a complete lack of shame may put him on the sociopathic spectrum, but it also makes the Jackass movies one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have in a theater. Granted, I have absolutely dreaded each and every Jackass movie going in (and this is the third I have reviewed), but it never takes more than a few minutes for Knoxville and the gang to kick loose the movie snob from my bowels and elicit paroxysmal, almost lethal laughter out of me. If it's possible, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa may be the funniest Jackass movie yet.
World War Z (Watch Here) -- There are a lot of problems with this movie, as our review suggests, but it also has Brad Pitt, Peter Capaldia, and walls of zombies. It's not a great theater movie, but it's a pretty good Netflix movie.
Out of the Furnace (Watch Here) -- The film's deepest strength is in its twin leads. Christian Bale, in a rangy Southern mode, does some of his best and most compelling work in years, at turns broken down by the hand he's dealt and forcefully resolved to fight back when his family is threatened. Affleck, though, is perfect. As an actor, his best work has been playing men struggling to reconcile the world around them with the version of reality they create for themselves (like his eerie and sad killer in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). His portrayal of Rodney is pitiable but never pathetic, and he realistically inhabits the role of a shaken warrior without resorting to cliche or overacting. He's so good you forget how good he is, and though the film builds -- as it's destined to -- toward a confrontation between Russell and DeGroat, it's the jagged shadow of Rodney that gives the film its real shape.
Short Term 12 (Watch Here) -- Brie Larson's Short Term 12 is more than just an unexpected delight, it has the potential to be the best independent film of 2013. It's an outstanding little movie about the power of emotional processing, about dealing with psychological trauma, and about the ways in which we cope. It is dizzyingly sweet, immensely heart-achey and anchored by one of the most nuanced and beautifully subtle performances in a very long while. Despite the subject material, however, Short Term 12 is not a maudlin film. It is peopled with determined and hopeful characters, and there's not an ounce of self-pity coursing through the narrative. It's my favorite kind of film: Good people who want to do good things, and nothing but kindness, humor, and warmth seep out of every frame.
Mud (Watch Here) -- More than anything, this is a movie about love. It seems cheesy to just say it like that, but it's true. The plot is driven by Mud's love of Juniper. Ellis is a teenager just getting his feet wet in what it means to fall into and out of love, and he's practically compelled to help Mud because of Mud's relationship with Juniper. There's one scene in particular, where Shannon has a conversation with his nephew's friend about this adventure the boys are on. While it's about them staying out of trouble, it's also about how to cope with heartbreak. While the dialogue is delivered in a funny yet touching way, which leads to the funniest line of the whole movie, it's also really the heart of the film. We all love and, sadly, we all have our hearts broken. But we keep at it, because of the hope of the next love.
Pain & Gain (Watch Here) -- That's not to say that Pain & Gain is a great movie, but it is a remarkable entry point into these lurid, fantastical, outrageous events, and at times, it can be outright entertaining. In fact, I've seen several people suggest that Pain & Gain is Michael Bay's best film since Bad Boys II, and while that's not particularly high praise, like the events depicted in the film, it is also true."
Star Trek Into Darkness (Watch Here) -- Star Trek Into Darkness is both a fantastic space action film, and an excellent Star Trek film. The two are not necessarily coterminous, and they could easily be mutually exclusive. There are battles, a mystery to be unravelled, Benedict Cumberbatch utterly nailing the role of both villain and sympathetic foil to Kirk, a scattering of comic relief, and repeated call backs to the previous films of the franchise. And those call backs work most deeply because they are not simply references but partial reconstructions of scenes such that the new and old resonate like tines of a tuning fork."
Don Jon (Watch Here) -- There's a lot going on in Don Jon, and while not all of it works, that's also part of its appeal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is clearly on fire to try something here, and he's written and directed an ambitious and awkward and occasionally clunky and often powerful movie about the way we lie to ourselves and what it takes to be honest with someone we love. It's not a new topic, but that's precisely why it's so strong. He's found a fresher way to get at something that pesters all of us, and in wrestling with ideas of authenticity and human connection, he's continuing on the path he's laying for himself one hard-carved brick at a time. Gordon-Levitt is determined to find new ways to forge relationships with the audience, and Don Jon is both a reflection of that desire and a solid execution of same. He has things he wants to say, and I want to listen.
Blue is the Warmest Color (Watch Here) -- At just under three hours, the French film Blue is the Warmest Color would seem, from the outside looking in, to be a journey into the sleepy realms of slow-cooked cinema. Not the case! Offering a surprising lightness (surprising because it's oftentimes melancholy), the film makes the time investment here well worth it, a finer relationship film you're unlikely to see all year.
Drinking Buddies (Watch Here) -- Drinking Buddies, starring Jake Johnson, is a screenwriters' nightmare, the complete opposite of the major studio screenplay-by-committee schemes. There was no script for Drinking Buddies. In fact, much of the cast -- which also includes the beautiful and crass Olivia Wilde, the charming and winsome Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston -- were only discussing the idea of doing the movie when the director, Joe Swanberg, shot them an email asked them to show up for filming a few days later. Credit the insane chemistry of the actors, their deft improvisational skills, a smart, original outline from Swanberg, and the inability of the actors to overthink the process for Drinking Buddies' ability to transcend not only conventional romantic comedy tropes but most mumblecore offerings and capture something real, relatable, and genuine. It is a magnificent film.
Frances Ha (Watch Here) -- Frances Ha is one of those bolt-of-lightening films, something so modern and tangible, you're utterly surprised to see that someone has managed to capture the feeling of being alive, right now, so exquisitely. Written by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, the film is remarkable through and through. Though it does get a bit boring half way through, it picks up again and makes a case for itself. What an exceptionally delightful time to be a woman with something to say.
Dead Man Down (Watch Here) -- Dead Man Down drops you right in the middle of a mystery, with a cold-blooded murder and a killer who loves to send clues to his upcoming victims. What follows is nearly two hours of solid story, fast paced action, tepid romance, and adequate acting, all of which adds up to an unexpectedly good movie. A perfect appetizer to the blockbusters of summer, Dead Man Down presents us with a reliable, no-frills thriller that works no harder than it has to, arriving exactly where you think it might, just when you hope it will.
The Iceman (Watch Here) -- Buyer beware, there's lots of stabbings, shootings, bloody messes all over the place, gross out moments upon sickening nasty imagery. While The Iceman is certainly not Oscar-worthy, and at times feels only like a high-class version of a sensationalized Lifetime film, there's still plenty to like about this creepy little movie, mainly Michael Shannon's endless reserve of calm, threatening low-level horror.
Side Effects (Watch Here) -- There are some good ideas and moments in Side Effects, most of them built around Law's character. The film continues Soderbergh's habit of taking a man known currently or formerly as a sex symbol (George Clooney, Tatum) and stripping them of their sexual power while forcing them to slowly lose their ability to persuade/seduce those around them. Part of this has always been a nod to the actors' off-screen personas; Soderbergh's been getting cuter with this since Ocean's 11, which not coincidentally used "introducing Julia Roberts" in its closing credits. Yet though these metafictional riffs are apparently a big part of the charge for Soderbergh, he's not just goofing around. He remains convinced, and rightly so, that sexuality and the human body are merely the entryway to much darker and more interesting ideas. Law's charm and charisma here become some of the tools of his own downfall, tools he doesn't even know he's wielding against himself until it's too late. In other words, Soderbergh's interested in people as people, not merely as objects that fit each other.