Best Movies on Netflix You’ve Probably Never Heard of

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The well-hidden secrets of the Netflix world are numerous, 32 to be exact. This is their countdown in our longest, most complete list as of yet.

Our purpose at agoodmovietowatch is to reference good little-known films so that on one hand you never wonder what to watch, and on the other so that deserving movies that went unnoticed or which didn’t get the exposure they deserve can be introduced to a large audience. You can find all our suggestions here, and only the ones available on Netflix here.

Below meet our best Netflix movies, 32 acclaimed suggestions available to stream on Netflix Instant America.

Lasse Hallström, 2009
32

A college professor (Richard Gere) provides a home for the abandoned Akita he encountered at the train station, against the wishes of his wife (Joan Allen). As a bond develops between dog and master and tragedy suddenly strikes the family, a true act of devotion is displayed by the pup. Based on a supposedly true story which played out in Japan in early 20th century, Lasse Hallstrom’s Hachi finds beauty in its simplicity without being overly cloying and gets empathetic, frankly really strong performance from Gere.

Cary Fukunaga, 2015
31

An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending state of war in Africa. It takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached. As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, and the whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are enthralling.

Edgar Wright, 2007
30

One of the many good movies from director Edgar Wright – if you loved Shaun of the Dead, then this Buddy-Cop Homage will make you double over (and question humanity – or lack, thereof) just as much. Sandford is a small English village with the lowest crime and murder rates, so when overachieving police Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) gets sent there because he was so good he intimidated those around him, he just about loses it. From car-chasing, bone-thrilling, head-blowing action, he graduates to swan-calling, thrill-seeking, sleep-inducing madness. But all that’s about to change – for the worse? For the better? You decide.

An obscenely funny flick that has an intriguing plot and an even greater set of characters, Hot Fuzz wasn’t named the best film of the Cornetto trilogy for nothing, clearly cementing Pegg and Nick Frost as the ultimate action duo of the genre.

Stephen Daldry, 2008
29

The Reader is a German-American drama from 2008, based on the best-selling novel by author Bernhard Schlink. The storyline begins with adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes) reminiscing about his adolescence in post-World War II Berlin and his fateful relationship with an older woman named Hannah (Kate Winslet). 15-year old Michael is beset by Scarlet Fever and helped off the street one day by Hannah. Taken into her care, they soon begin a passionate affair, quickly forsaking family and friends for every opportunity to ensconce themselves in a world of lust and desire. As their time together progresses, Hannah begins urging Michael to read to her daily—to which he draws from many classic novels and delights in their rich interchange.
Hannah suddenly disappears from Michael’s life, however, only reappearing several years later when young law student Michael is stunned to find her facing a World War II war-crimes tribunal. Tied to a real-life series of trials against former Auschwitz employees, The Reader is a strikingly original and exceptionally well-made film that is recommended to those who appreciate sophisticated, emotionally mannered cinema.

Jaco Van Dormael, 2009
28

Based on a beautiful premise, sprinkled with artistic vision, it is an intelligent sit back and relax movie. The film explores the life and times of Nemo Nobody, the last mortal man on earth, as he reflects on the important choices he’s made. Each of these choices are presented as branching pathways of what could have been, utilizing innovative non-linear cinematography. In addition to the film’s winning structure, its soundtrack is considered a masterpiece, perfectly fitting the plot via looping and trilling melodies. The film garnered 6 Margaritte awards, and has slowly been developing into an indie cult classic.

27

“As fragile as she was strong, as vulnerable as she was dynamic, she was African royalty. How does royalty stomp around in the mud and still walk with grace?”. What Happened, Miss Simone? will surprise you no matter how much you thought you knew about the soul singer – not only in its exploration of Nina Simone’s personal life and complexities, but by being both a personal and political documentary. As you discover an original singer with talents that reach all the way to performance art, you will also learn about a Civil Rights activist’s journey and an unstable woman’s struggle. The documentary is not about answering the question of what happened, Miss Simone? – it’s an exploration of why that question is so important.

Joshua Oppenheimer, 2015
26

The Look of Silence is an incredible documentary from Director Joshua Oppenheimer, a follow-up/companion piece to his award-winning documentary The Act of Killing. Both films focus on the Indonesian Genocide of 1965-66, where the military government systematically purged up to one million communists. In this film an optician named Adi Rukun meets with various members of the death squad that murdered his brother, under the guise of providing them eye examinations. As he questions them about their participation in the killings, they show little remorse and in fact provide lurid details to the many executions. It’s a stunning and provocative look at the legacy of historical violence, along with the insidious propaganda that provoked it then and continues to justify it to younger generations.

Joss Whedon, 2005
25

Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.

Alexandre Lehmann, 2016
24

Shot in black and white to be the best dialogue-driven, character-study film it can be; Blue Jay stars Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass in a cozy, slow-burning film. Their characters, respectively Amanda and Jim, are former high-school sweethearts who run into each other in their hometown 20 years later. They talk, they get coffee, and then beer and jelly beans, until they find themselves to Jim’s mother’s house. As they familiarize themselves again, and the movie moves forward, it abandons its romantic chops to become a truly heartfelt and real film. A revelation of a movie.

Hong-jin Na, 2016
23

In rural Korea a policeman starts to investigate peculiar and violent events that most of the people in his village attribute to the arrival of a new Japanese resident. As the occurrences keep multiplying, and different perspectives in the film are shown, you start to lose touch with reality in the face of what can only be described as genius film-making. As critic Jada Yuan puts it, the film operates on a level “that makes most American cinema seem clunky and unimaginative”. For this reason, and while The Wailing is a true horror flick with a great premise, it’s also more than just that: it boosts a mind-boggling, interesting plot that will have you thinking about it long after the credits roll. Protip: grab the person next to you and make them watch this movie with you so you can have someone to discuss it with after!

Richard Kelly, 2001
22

Donnie Darko is a cult film by director Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s about the troubled teenager Donnie who lives in a suburb and suddenly faces a person in a giant rabbit costume who tells him that the world is going to end in 28 days. If that didn’t make sense to you, don’t worry – it’s not about making sense. The film is a gorgeous exploration of a bizarre chain of events, a deep rabbit-hole of meaning and expression, fate and acceptance that practically begs for a second, third, or fourth watching.

Tomm Moore, 2014
21

This movie is absolutely wonderful. It’s an Irish animated movie, and the drawings/graphics are so beautiful and different from what you usually see in this genre, that this alone would be a good reason to watch this. On top of that the music is beautiful as well. But what really touched me about this movie is the story – it’s about a boy who, dealing with the loss of his mother, embarks on an adventure into the underworld of feelings in order to save his sister. I found it to be refreshingly original, sometimes quite intense (I cried a lot during this movie), and heartwarming. The details are great. And I love the way the story was interwoven with Irish mythology, making it magical.

Duncan Jones, 2009
20

Moon is a sci-fi movie that doesn’t care that it’s a sci-fi movie. It’s not about space exploration or aliens. It’s about a man struggling to understand what and who he is and the dehumanizing effect of industrialization. Moon leaves you with a pit in your stomach and an incredible feeling of melancholy. It is perfectly acted by Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey. Moon keeps you guessing and deeply enthralled. A true masterpiece I would recommend to anyone, whether they are sci-fi nerds or just movie lovers.

Orlando von Einsiedel, 2014
19

A documentary that is immediate and plays out like a thriller. Beautifully shot in Virunga National Park in the Eastern Congo, the story focuses on the struggles between Park Rangers and a list of adversaries including poachers, oil company goons, and an Islamic revolutionary army. The stories of the endangered gorillas and the people who struggle to protect them will break your heart and at the same time give you hope in humanity. On top of this, the editing is superb and gives the film an intensity that rivals any recent thriller.

Martin McDonagh, 2008
18

In Bruges is a dark comedy about two Irish assassins in a ‘boring’ continental European city. The dark crimes that haunt them and their ineffably vulgar manner of speech contrast gloriously with the quiet beauty of the Flemish architecture and order, like a knife fight in a dollhouse. More endearingly, the relationship between the two killers constantly swings between endearment and distaste. If you liked Four lions or dark comedies in general, then you will love In Bruges.

Ava DuVernay, 2016
17

From Selma director Ava DuVernay, 13th addresses the second clause of the 13th amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” A clause that was immediately exploited and for which the consequences and interpretations explain a significant part of the current American societal landscape. What also unfolds is a highly instructive and thought-provoking film that deals with the idea of progress, and justly pays tribute to the horrifying number of lives mass criminalization ruined.

Andrew Haigh, 2015
16

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

David Gelb, 2011
15

This surprising documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old Japanese chef, his Michelin-starred restaurant in the Tokyo underground, and his eager sons. While ostensibly about sushi – and believe me, you’ll learn about sushi and see absolutely gorgeous images of the raw-fish creations – the film’s dramatic impetus is carried by the weight of tradition, the beauty of a labor of love, obsession, and the relationship between father and son. Truly a must-watch.

Lenny Abrahamson, 2015
14

An exploration of the complex and loving relationship between a mother and her son that will take you through a variety of extremely perceived emotions: it’s uplifting, disturbing, provocative, sad, and hopeful among many other things. We don’t get many of these middle-class-budget films anymore, and this one might be its category’s best. A kidnapped girl (Brie Larson) has a son (Jacob Tremblay in an electrifying performance) with her abductor and tries to provide a “normal” environment for the kid in the room where they’re being held captive, until they attempt to escape. Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress in Room, so make sure to also check out Short Term 12, an equally impressive performance by her in an equally amazing movie.

Bryan Fogel, 2017
13

Icarus starts with director Bryan Fogel deciding to inject himself with doping substances and participate in a biking race undetected. By accident, he ends up in contact with a Russian scientist. This man transforms the movie from a personal experiment to a highly relevant political thriller. Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the scientist is at the center of accusations in Russia of a virtually impossible state-sponsored doping scheme. With links to the Russian president Putin himself, the movie keeps getting more and more interesting as the relationship between Fogel and Rodchenkov develops. Aside from all the madness that unfolds, Rodchenkov’s likeable personality makes the story more relatable and humane, and gives an insight into the pressures of working in the regulatory body in a country like Russia. You will be astonished by how much material this movie has. A must-watch.

Wilson Yip, 2008
12

It’s been acclaimed as one the best Kung Fu movies ever made. You are probably wondering why this contemporary movie made that short list when its genre had its peak decades ago: it is visually striking and at the same time surprisingly story-oriented. As you would expect of course, there is quite a fair amount of action scenes, but the characters are also brilliant which is very uncommon in this type of movie. It is an exciting movie, and worthy of any compliment or good rating it may get.

Yōjirō Takita, 2008
11

Death is a weird and scary concept. Ironically, the only way movies have been successful in covering it is through humor (Sunshine Cleaning and Beginners are other great examples). Departures gives this trend a new home, Japan. This film almost never saw the light of day, since at first many distributors refused to release it given the taboos against people who deal with death. Eventually, it received the credit it was due, including an Academy Award. It’s one of those rare movies that will take you on a journey through all of your emotions: it will move from making you laugh, to making you cry, then happy, and finally highly engaged in its subject matter. It’s a beautiful, funny, and compelling movie.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, 2013
10

A striking and revelatory documentary focused on the behaviour of captive Orcas and their treatment within SeaWorld and other theme parks around the world. At the center of the story is Tilikum, a bull Orca that has been responsible for the death of three individuals, and the legal and ethical challenges that have arisen from apparent cover-ups by officials. What happened to Tilikum to make him adopt such behavior? First-hand accounts by former whale trainers and experts deliver fascinating truths about Tilikum and the species as whole, with particular attention on their remarkable intelligence and advanced social behaviors. Blackfish will undoubtedly change your perspective on whale captivity indefinitely. It’s certainly not to be missed by anyone who appreciates top-notch documentary film-making as honest historical record.

Sang-ho Yeon, 2016
9

It’s disaster movie true to the guidelines of the genre, and yet with a little Korean twist it manages to be refreshingly thrilling. While a father tries to take his daughter from Seoul to Busan, the second largest city in Korea, a zombie virus breaks out. Together with other passengers they try to survive until Busan, with news coming in that it’s a safe zone untouched by the virus. The acting is spot on, the set pieces are well choreographed, and most importantly it makes you care about the characters through the father’s struggle to keep the governing principles of humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.

8

Full of twists on classic horror themes, this hilarious and gory comedy will have your sides aching, and still you’ll want more. The plot centers on two rednecks who are trying to have a good time while fixing up a summer home. True to horror movie form, a group of college kids set up camp nearby, and naturally evil begins to happen. This well-written, entertaining story even has some heart to it.

7

The story of one of the most influential musicians of recent history, George Harrison, told through the eyes of one of the most prominent filmmakers, Martin Scorsese. Director and producer, Scorsese offers one of the most complete documentaries on any artist – ever. And what an artist he was – successful and talented, yes, but also incredibly inspired and spiritual. Through interviews, home movies, and concert footage, this long and intimate film will allow you to travel through the world of The Beatles, and explore the incredible mind of George Harrison. A heartfelt documentary.

Kief Davidson, 2016
6

As the value of ivory appreciated by the Chinese middle-class, the demand for it has skyrocketed. This brought elephants to a dire outlook: extinction in as early as the next 15 years. “Traders in ivory actually want extension in elephants, the less elephants there are the more the price rises” as one of the commentators in the film says. To bring awareness to this threat, filmmakers went undercover for 16 months and followed the ivory from where it was stolen to where it hits the shelves of Hong Kong. The result is a genuine thriller, far more gripping than you’d expect from a documentary. It portrays the brave and hopeful men and women trying to combat these atrocities, the battle they may be losing, and all the obstacles they face. An extremely important watch.

Alison Klayman, 2012
5

An inspiring documentary about famed artist Ai Weiwei who has been the source of arguably the biggest public confrontation with the Chinese government by any artist. His straightforward attitude is made to provoke and to defend the people of China against the totalitarian regime. The film portrays Weiwei’s very visible struggle for redemption and invoke a sense of accountability from the government. The documentary is also about him as a person, his intimate relationships and his interactions with his family as he prepares for a big exhibition. A rare insight into a fascinating mind.

4

A stylish and whimsical yet delicate look at breakups in particular and relationships in general. It stars Jim Carrey as Joel Barish and Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski. Instead of going to work one morning, Joel takes an unlikely route and that’s when he meets Clementine, together they realize they share a special connection without really knowing how that connection came to be. A tale of memory and regret, love and loss, it’s such a beautiful movie and a beautiful journey. You can’t miss it. If you’ve watched it when it came out you should watch it again – you’ll see the film differently. And if you haven’t watched yet, well, I envy you.

Ildikó Enyedi, 2017
3

On Body and Soul is the impeccably crafted winner of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. Two strangers have the same dream every night, they meet as deer in a forest and eventually fall in love. When they run into each other in real life and search for the love they experience once unconscious, their introverted personalities as well as their surroundings add variables that make it hard to establish that same connection. This unconventional love story is beautifully and passionately made by Hungary’s best director, who had taken an 18-year break from making movies. When you watch it you will realize that her break was probably the only way someone could so creatively and tenderly make something like On Body and Soul.

Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015
2

Five orphaned sister are put under house arrest by their uncle and grandmother after they are seen horsing around with local boys from school. While their actions were purely innocent, their behaviour is viewed as scandalous and shameful by the conservative elders in their small Turkish village. After this incident, their grandmother turns her attention towards marrying off her granddaughters. Each of the five sisters rebel in their own way, but it is the youngest and rowdiest sister, Lale, who is the central protagonist of the film. She watches helplessly as each of her older sisters are married off with an increasing sense of dread and desperation. While this may sound hopelessly depressing, the movie is equal parts beautiful and tragic, and floats across the screen in a dreamlike manner. Not all of the sisters escape their oppressive surroundings or their assigned fate, but the message is clear: it’s crucial to try.

Fernando Meirelles, 2002
1

This movie will punch, kick and slap the crap out of you. Something that will be hard to believe after you watch it – it is based on a true story. Filmed and set in the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro, it follows two young men who choose two opposite paths; one an aspiring drug leader and the other an aspiring photographer. City of God is their story; a movie filled with great performances (from mostly non-professionals), and an experience that is as compelling as it is adrenaline-inducing.