“Best” is a very subjective term. Best is going to mean different things to different people. You want the best movie on Netflix, among the 41 Netflix films on IMDB’s Top 250? That would be Pulp Fiction, followed by Forrest Gump. You’ve probably already seen those films, or you have no desire to (especially in the latter case).
What about Oscar winners? According to Netflix’s own ratings, Fargo is the highest rated movie in that category, followed by Usual Suspects. You couldn’t possibly go wrong with either of those. Highest rated comedies? Clerks and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The first one is amazing but may not be for everyone, while the second one is simply a perfect film. Best action film? I’d probably go with Skyfall or End of Watch. Best documentary? I’d go with Marwencol or Man on a Wire. Best recent release? Frances Ha is great if you’re into the quirky and Drinking Buddies is a fantastic relationship comedy, but I’d probably go with Safety Not Gauranteed, although Fat Kid Rules the World is a fine hidden gem that you probably haven’t seen. Best sports movie? I don’t care what anyone else says, watch Goon. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
But if I had to choose one single best film currently on Netflix? I’d choose Double Indemnity, which is based on a James M. Cain serialized novel, which itself was based on a similar 1927 crime, in which a married woman convinced her boyfriend to kill her husband so that she could collect on the double indemnity clause (Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice was also based on the same crime). And while I love Cain’s novel, the screen adaptation — written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler — is even better, a potent combination of Wilder’s gift for pitching woo and the same hard-boiled detective language that Chandler brought to his Phillip Marlowe character (who would later be portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep.). John Seitz’s beautiful black and white cinematography perfectly sets the noirish mood of the film, and the performances are unbelievable, though I did find it ironic that Stanwyck’s slightly overwrought performance was the one to elicit an Oscar nomination, while Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson were criminally overlooked. But, then again, the overwrought was intentional — Stanwyck exuded equal parts pathological and campy better than any femme fatale I’ve seen this side of Clytemnestra — she was the original cinematic bad girl. The ‘90’s Sharon Stone could’ve taken a lesson.
But, what’s most remarkable about Double Indemnity is that Billy Wilder’s flick is as fresh and watchable today as it was in 1944. There is more reason to see it than simply to catch a few Simpson’s references — it’s a gripping story of adultery and murder with some really edgy fucking dialogue that will open up your pores and puke out your hair follicles. You won’t just appreciate Double Indemnity for popularizing film noir and bringing the bad girl to the masses; you’ll actually enjoy watching it from the first frame to the last.