30 Movies with Great Performances on Netflix UK

Updated September 17, 2023 • Staff

The standard for acting in the UK is especially high; it is, after all, the place that gave us William Shakespeare, and where actors young and old continue to aspire to perform the Bard's texts as a rite of passage. There are many different types of performance, of course, and a well-curated streaming feed can be an invaluable resource for studying actors taking on the unique demands of different films and genres. So for viewers in the UK with access to Netflix, we've prepared this list of the best films led by excellent performances—Shakespearean or not—that should cut through the rest of the amateur work clogging your algorithm.

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30.

Jaane Jaan (2023)

Jaane Jaan is one of those thrillers where you hope that the main characters would get away with murder. Based on the 2005 Japanese novel, the Hindi adaptation still has the cat-and-mouse dynamic between the relentless detective and math genius protecting the suspect, along with their elaborate chess-like mind games. However, the film changes a major plot point from the novel, and without spoiling too much, it turns the math teacher, now named Naren, into a less sympathetic character. Given today’s sensibilities, it’s easy to understand why the change was made. After all, just because someone’s a genius, it doesn’t mean that they’re someone to be admired. Jaane Jaan still keeps up the exciting thrills and suspense of the original novel, but in making its changes, it becomes unclear who the film is rooting for.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Actor: Jaideep Ahlawat, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karma Takapa, Saurabh Sachdeva, Ujjwal Chopra, Vijay Varma
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Rating: R
29.

The Inspection (2022)

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert
Director: Elegance Bratton
Rating: R
28.

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Known for showcasing the grittier side of New York in his films, Martin Scorsese shifts to its upper echelons in The Age of Innocence. Based on the 1920 novel, the film follows society attorney Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he courts and marries the respectable May Welland (Winona Ryder), despite his desire for childhood friend Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Undeniably gorgeous and impressively shot, what ultimately makes the film stand out among Scorsese’s work is how well the three leads embody the complex characters of the novel on multiple levels. Day-Lewis skillfully turns a corrupt, arrogant lawyer into someone who admirably refuses to be anything but himself, while Pfeiffer hides a stubbornness and frustration within Olenska. But it’s Ryder who best portrays her character's complexity, Welland’s wide-eyed gaze concealing secret manipulations. All of them drive this story that not only mourns for lost love, but acts as a mourning for a lost Golden Age.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Alec McCowen, Alexis Smith, Brian Davies, Catherine Scorsese, Charles Scorsese, Cindy Katz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, Geraldine Chaplin, Joanne Woodward, Jonathan Pryce, June Squibb, Linda Faye Farkas, Martin Scorsese, Mary Beth Hurt, Michael Gough, Michelle Pfeiffer, Miriam Margolyes, Norman Lloyd, Pasquale Cajano, Patricia Dunnock, Richard E. Grant, Robert Sean Leonard, Siân Phillips, Siân Phillips, Stuart Wilson, Thomas Gibson, Tracey Ellis, Winona Ryder
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: PG
27.

Bheed (2023)

COVID-19 raised concerns about sanitation and cleanliness, but in a society that just banned discrimination against “impure” castes seventy years ago, these concerns feel reminiscent of previous caste prejudice. Writer-director Anubhav Sinha presents this social inequity through Bheed, a black-and-white drama set in a fictional checkpoint as the lockdown restricted travel between different Indian states. As the people in the checkpoint wait for the updated government regulations, tensions rise between the officers and the travelers, as the stuck migrants worry about hunger, thirst, and infection. While it’s definitely a heavy film to watch, this film doesn’t exploit the pandemic as fodder for drama. Instead, Bheed realistically portrays how a crisis like COVID-19 exacerbates existing social inequity.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Aditya Srivastava, Ashutosh Rana, Bhumi Pednekar, Dia Mirza, Kritika Kamra, Omkar Das Manikpuri, Pankaj Kapur, Rajkummar Rao
Director: Anubhav Sinha
26.

Fences (2016)

There is a chance we will be known as the generation that perfected mixing the two mediums of movie and theater. Think Hateful 8, Horace & Pete, Wild Tales, and Fences! A movie not only packed with Broadway talent, it's also based on a Pulitzer-winning play by August Wilson. The play element is both strong and visible, the movie is dialogue packed, and takes place almost exclusively in the characters' house, not to mention most of the events happen within the span of a few days. The movie element comes through beautiful aesthetics and rich scenery, as well as some of Hollywood's best talent: Denzel Washington (who is also the director) and Viola Davis. They had both actually won Tony Awards for their performances reviving the play back in 2010. Denzel is a black garbage collector who was once a promising baseball player and a victim of racial discrimination. His psyche is as rich as it is determined and he is used to taking out his deep-rooted feelings of anger on his loved ones. His wife (Davis), his son, and his friends are the targets of this hurt and anger, but they also have a lot to deal with on their own. A beautiful if maybe slow play-movie. Do not watch it expecting "things to happen", but watch it to be mesmerized by the acting, the writing, and the underlying tensions it addresses. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Christopher Mele, Denzel Washington, Joe Fishel, Jovan Adepo, Lesley Boone, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, Saniyya Sidney, Stephen Henderson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Viola Davis
Director: Denzel Washington
Rating: PG-13
25.

Us and Them (2018)

Us and Them follows two former lovers who reminisce and reassess their decade-long relationship over one night. They both seem to be in better places, certainly financially if anything else, but their shared wistfulness for the past threatens to prove otherwise. 

The film was an immediate hit when it was first released in China, and it’s easy to see why. With just the right balance of realism, romance, and comedy, the movie makes for a simple but deeply moving and involving watch. You can’t help but root for the exes to get back together, even though you know as well as they do how minimal the chances of that happening are.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Reality, Romance
Actor: Andrew Tiernan, Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Jack Roth, Jing Boran, Liu Di, Qu Zheming, Rene Liu, Shi Yufei, Sophie Colquhoun, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tim Bentinck, Zhang Zixian, Zheming Qu, Zhou Dongyu, Zhuangzhuang Tian
Director: Rene Liu
Rating: Not Rated
24.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012)

Adapted from the Lionel Shriver novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of a mother (Tilda Swinton) that never quite bonds with her child, but not by her choice. The son grows up to do a heinous act that begs the question: nature or nurture? This film is an uncompromising view on the development of an unloved child. Silent pain gets voice. Feelings are shown by actions not emotions in an authentic, comprehensible and aesthetic manner. Great work.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Actor: Aaron Blakely, Alex Manette, Andy Gershenzon, Annie O'Sullivan, Ashley Gerasimovich, Blake DeLong, Caitlin Kinnunen, Daniel Farcher, Erin Darke, Ezra Miller, Francesca Murdoch, Georgia X. Lifsher, J. Mallory McCree, J.J. Kandel, James Chen, Jasper Newell, Jeffrey Mowery, Jennifer Kim, John C. Reilly, Jose Joaquin Perez, Joseph Basile, Joseph Melendez, Kenneth Franklin, Kimberley Drummond, Lauren Fox, Leland Alexander Wheeler, Leslie Lyles, Louie Rinaldi, Mark Elliot Wilson, Maryann Urbano, Paul Diomede, Polly Adams, Rebecca Dealy, Rock Duer, Rocky Duer, Simon MacLean, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Suzette Gunn, Tilda Swinton, Ursula Parker
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Rating: R
23.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Director Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical film is a strikingly realistic take on divorce and the turmoil it sets on an already-dysfunctional family. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is a selfish decadent writer who’s splitting with his unfaithful wife Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), are taking different sides that reflect their personality. This separation only reinforces their insecurities as they quickly fall into depression and grow away from their friends. The parents, however, find unconventional lovers just as quickly, Bernard with a student of his, and Jane with her son’s tennis coach. The Squid and the Whale is a funny, emotional, and gripping story that finds a perfect balance in tone despite dealing with bitter divorce and troubled adolescence.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adam Rose, Alexandra Daddario, Anna Paquin, Bobby Shue, Britta Phillips, David Benger, Dean Wareham, Eli Gelb, Elizabeth Meriwether, Greta Kline, Halley Feiffer, James Hamilton, Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Jo Yang, Ken Leung, Laura Linney, Maryann Plunkett, Michael Countryman, Michael Santiago, Nico Baumbach, Owen Kline, Peggy Gormley, Peter Newman, William Baldwin
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R
22.

The Sisters Brothers (2018)

This is a star-packed movie about two brother assassins played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. You might have read the book of the same name, and it is always hard to make a great film out of a great book but the brilliant director of A Prophet Jacques Audiard has done it (again). He is aided by a superb darkly comic script and fantastic acting from the entire cast. Audiard is French, but his take on the American Western is filled with epic violence but also witty dialogue, brotherly love, and male camaraderie.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Western
Actor: Aidan O'Hare, Aldo Maland, Allison Tolman, Andrew Litvack, Carol Kane, Creed Bratton, David Gasman, Duncan Lacroix, Eric Colvin, Hugo Dillon, Ian Reddington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jean-Marc Bellu, Joaquin Phoenix, Jochen Hägele, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, John C. Reilly, Kelda Holmes, Lenuta Bala, Lexie Benbow-Hart, Nick Cornwall, Patrice Cossonneau, Philip Rosch, Raymond Waring, Rebecca Root, Richard Brake, Riz Ahmed, Rutger Hauer, Sean Duggan, Theo Exarchopoulos, Trevor Allan Davies
Director: Jacques Audiard
Rating: R
21.

RRR (2022)

Set in 1920s India, RRR follows two revolutionaries who strike up an unlikely bond and fend off the British regime from their home. In their epic journey to protect their people, they encounter a number of setbacks that prompts them to put their incredible combat skills on full display. 

Despite its three-hour run, RRR never drags, thanks in large part to its breathtaking action sequences and eye-popping visuals. It may contain all the familiar beats of a blockbuster, but RRR is notably grounded in its central, political theme of anti-colonialism, the sincerity of which keeps the film's big heart beating palpably throughout. 

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Actor: Ahmareen Anjum, Ajay Devgn, Alexx O'Nell, Alia Bhatt, Alison Doody, Chatrapathi Sekhar, Edward Sonnenblick, Ivan Kostadinov, Makrand Deshpande, Mark Bennington, N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Olivia Morris, R. Bhakti Klein, Rahul Ramakrishna, Rajiv Kanakala, Ram Charan, Ray Stevenson, S. S. Rajamouli, Samuthirakani, Shriya Saran, Varun Buddhadev
Director: S. S. Rajamouli
Rating: Not Rated

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