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Best films on Netflix UK: The 10 best movies on Netflix

28 Nov 2016
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This is our pick of the best movies you can find on Netflix UK – and yes, Die Hard and Scrooged are on the list

Navigating the minefield of Netflix’s movie section is something of a dark art, not least because the streaming giant has a habit of, well, let’s generously say filling out its catalogue with some lesser titles. But there are real gems to be found, and here are ten to get you started: a mix of classics, hidden treasures, and films just worth digging out and watching all over again…

The best films on Netflix UK

1. Das Boot

It’s cinema lore that if you set a film on a submarine, the movie at the end will at least come out alright. In some cases, quite exceptional. The granddaddy of the modern-ish submarine film though is the staggering Das Boot, an accessible German film (edited down from a TV series) by director Wolfgang Petersen (who would go on to direct Hollywood hits such as In The Line Of Fire and Outbreak). Das Boot follows the crew of a German U-boat in World War II, and is a gripping, tense mix of thriller and drama. Ideal for a long winter night.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

Even a month or two before its release, many were questioning Marvel Studios’ logic of backing Guardians Of The Galaxy, regarded as its riskiest venture to date at that stage. But director James Gunn fashioned a wildly fun space opera, with an ensemble led by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and a talking tree. Witty, quippy, and gleeful fun, Guardians Of The Galaxy also has rewatch potential pouring out of it. A sequel follows in April 2017, and that makes now an opportune time to revisit the first film, and salute Marvel’s seemingly unstoppable box office charge. Lots of Marvel movies are also on Netflix too, incidentally.

3. The Shawshank Redemption

We’re at the time of year when Hollywood turns its attention to awards, so it’s worth considering that Frank Darabont’s modern day classic The Shawshank Redemption was beaten at the Academy Awards by Forrest Gump. Yep. That said, time and Netflix has no truck with that, though, and arguably the best ever screen adaptation of a Stephen King story (a short story, in this instance), is waiting to be rewatched. At heart the story of a friendship between Red and Andy, playing by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in never-better performances, The Shawshank Redemption never comes close to disappointing.

4. 12 Angry Men

Lots of reasons why a modern audience would steer clear of this one. Firstly, it’s old. Secondly, it’s in black and white. Thirdly, it’s set almost exclusively in one room. Yet in 96 minutes, the classic thriller 12 Angry Men puts so many modern movies to shame. It’s gripping from the off, as we meet a jury of – yep – twelve, seemingly convinced of the guilt of an 18-year old boy. At least until one of their number starts talking. We never see the trial, we never see the crime: we just meet a bunch of characters bringing their own sense of right and wrong to the table. A genuine classic, this.

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5. The Big Short

Netflix’s film catalogue is often a lot more modern than it’s given credit for, and The Big Short has landed on the streaming service less than a year after it premiered in UK cinemas. The Oscar-winning drama tells the story of how a group of people foresaw the financial meltdown on the late 2000s, and bet against the banking system to make their fortune. Seemingly aware of how dull and depressing this could be, The Big Short – from the director of Anchorman – attacks the subject with comedy, segues and some quite leftfield explanations, one of which involves a bathtub. Christian Bale leads the ensemble cast.

6. Oddball and the Penguins

Head into the kids section of Netflix, and your senses are soon battered by a round-robin of grating modern animations that never end. Try and seek out, then, the little-seen (in the UK at least) family flick, Oddball & The Penguins. It’s a real charmer this one. A nature reserve is under threat as its penguin population diminishes, and thus a chicken farmer’s dog – Oddball – is the unlikely solution to the problem. The resultant movie is that rarest of beasts – a family movie with something for pretty much everyone. Hence, barely anybody watched it.

7. Die Hard

Well, it’s just great, isn’t it? One of the most iconic Christmas movies of (fairly) recent times, Die Hard remains the pinnacle of Bruce Willis’ big screen career. Ignore the later sequels that basically became fan tribute films, and go back to the first story of New York cop John McClane, arriving at his wife’s Christmas party, only to find it being gatecrashed by terrorists. There’s so much to love in Die Hard, but, of course, the standout will always be the late, great Alan Rickman as villainous Hans Gruber. “Ho, ho, ho….”

8. The Lives Of Others

This Oscar-winning German movie has been taken off Netflix once before, so it’s worth trying to seek out before it disappears again. Set in East Germany in 1984, it’s an incredible, moving, tense and quite brilliant piece of work, as a secret police agent listens in on the conversations of a writer, gradually becoming drawn into his work. Quite feasibly one of the best movies of the 2000s to date, its director would follow it up with the limp Angelina Jolie-Johnny Depp vehicle, The Tourist. Don’t let that distract you, though, from just how majestic The Lives Of Others is.

9. The Dark Crystal

Jim Henson is rightly lauded for the likes of The Muppets and Labyrinth. Occasionally, his visually stunning 1982 fantasy movie The Dark Crystal is allowed to fall through the cracks, though. This should not be the case. Henson started designing The Dark Crystal without really much of a story or script in place, but it gradually all began to come together as he finally put the movie into production. The resultant film – which certainly has a few problems – tells of Jen, the last of the Gelflings, who has to heal the Crystal Of Truth. To tell that story, Henson and co-director Frank Oz deploy wizardry of puppetry that few have ever come close to. A mini-masterpiece, this one.

10. Scrooged


Finally for now, one more Yuletide-related recommendation, this one with some very, very welcome Bill Murray snark: Scrooged. A very loose take on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Murray stars as a hard-nosed, borderline-evil television executive, who gets the inevitable visit from three spirits. Naturally enough, Murray’s not for easily turning, and you end up with a PG-rated comedy with real spite, spark and edge. Make sure you sit through the end credits for the sing-song too, and remember those of us who actually sat in a cinema when the movie came out and played along…

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