20 Movies with A-List Actors on Netflix

20 Movies with A-List Actors on Netflix

March 3, 2024

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Here at agoodmovietowatch, our goal is to lead you to lesser-known but still high-quality movies that might be hidden by your streaming services’ algorithms. One effect of a feed that isn’t curated with real human intention is that some of the weirder, more interesting, or straight-up better performances by well-known actors might not be seen right away. Over the last decade, Netflix has become a prime destination for big-name actors to go—but which films created by or hosted on Netflix really show what these actors are truly capable of? Browse through our list below to get started on discovering a side to the stars you know and love.

11. Paddington (2014)

best

8.1

Country

France, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Paul King

Actors

Alexander Bracq, Alice Lowe, Ancuta Breaban, Asim Chaudhry

Moods

A-list actors, Easy, Feel-Good

In a global movie industry of children’s entertainment that often feels like it isn’t even trying, this little Peruvian bear coming to England is a wonderful reminder that films aimed at younger audiences aren’t inherently limited. If anything, Paddington challenges itself to come up with a far more creative (and effective) way to talk about the lingering scars of colonialism manifesting as discrimination in everyday “civil” society. It sounds like heavy stuff, but Paddington approaches its fish-out-of-water story with the exact counterbalance of silliness, and a riotous cast that’s far funnier than anyone would have expected them to be.

12. Begin Again (2013)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

John Carney

Actors

Adam Levine, Andrew Sellon, Aya Cash, Catherine Keener

Moods

A-list actors, Easy, Feel-Good

John Carney, who directed the critically and commercially successful Once, may be the world’s best captor of charm. Begin Again tells the story of a broken-hearted singer who gets discovered by a failed showbiz executive. Their ideas and love for music are all they have to face their failures and bring their creativity to life. The original songs are charming and from Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo to Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Adam Levine, and Cee-Lo Green, the cast generate sparkling chemistry and portray the story beautifully. Begin again is a sweet and effortless watch, yet far from being your classic rom-com.

13. 20th Century Women (2016)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Mike Mills

Actors

Alex Wexo, Alia Shawkat, Alison Elliott, Annette Bening

Moods

A-list actors, Lighthearted, Lovely

Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and many other big names star in this comedy-drama directed by Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker.) The story spans multiple generations but starts in 1979, where Dorothea Fields (Bening) is finding it increasingly difficult to raise her son alone. She enlists the help of two other women, one her son’s age and the other a New Yorker in her twenties who is very active in the punk scene. The three women, of three different generations and personalities as well as takes on the concept of “only a man can raise a man,” play different roles in this kid’s life. 20th Century Women is based on director Mike Mill’s own upbringing in Southern California.

14. A Ghost Story (2017)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

David Lowery

Actors

Afomia Hailemeskel, Augustine Frizzell, Barlow Jacobs, Brandi Price

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Dark

Twisted yet deep. Sad yet interesting. Slow yet exhilarating. A Ghost Story is an incredible artistic achievement. With hardly any dialog, and breathtakingly long takes in its first half, it manages to bring you in its own creepy world and not let go until you feel completely lonely. Starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a loving couple who are hit with a horrible tragedy, the beginning is slow, and it’s not a plot driven movie, but if you give it a chance it will blow your mind.

15. Love Jones (1997)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Theodore Witcher

Actors

Bernadette Speakes, Bill Bellamy, Isaiah Washington, Khalil Kain

Moods

A-list actors, Easy, Feel-Good

In this romance from 1997, a photographer and a poet meet in an upscale nightclub in Chicago.

They quickly get together and connect on music, poetry, and photography, but Nina, the photographer, decides to go to New York to mend her relationship with her ex-fiance.

It’s so well-acted, funny, and because it’s been enough time that this has become noticeable, a great depiction of big-city life in the 90s. There is smoking inside, riding a motorcycle without helmets, and top-notch fashion.

The producers said they wanted to make “a contemporary film about African-American life that did not deal with guns and drugs,” and probably because they didn’t make compromises, the film was a commercial failure. In recent years, however, it has been quietly growing into a cult classic.

16. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

7.9

Country

d, United States of America

Director

George C. Wolfe

Actors

Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Daniel Johnson, Dusan Brown

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Discussion-sparking

This adaptation of a tragedy by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson might retain the mostly minimal setting of its source material — two rooms in a Chicago recording studio — but the searing performances at its heart more than warrant the translation to the big screen. A ferocious Viola Davis plays the titular ‘Mother of the Blues’, a fiery artist whose diva-ness is powerfully revealed to be a matching of the same transactional energy with which she’s treated by her white managers. 

On a steamy day in the roaring 1920s, one of Ma’s recording sessions morphs into a tinderbox of debate on art, race, and these exploitative power dynamics that exist at their intersection. As her band awaits her characteristically late arrival, its members tease, and then bicker, and finally erupt at one another. The youngest musician, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), is the most hot-headed — in his older band-mates’ eyes, he’s an arrogant young upstart with delusions of grandeur, but Levee’s ambitions are powered by real pain, as revealed in a blistering monologue. The film is unabashedly stagy in many respects, a quality that can work both ways — but, ultimately, the crackling current that runs through Davis and Boseman’s acting gives the movie all the blazing, goosebump-inducing immediacy of a live performance.

17. Two Lovers (2008)

7.8

Country

France, United States of America

Director

James Gray

Actors

Alex Felix, Andrew Ginsburg, Anne Joyce, Anthony Ramos

Moods

A-list actors, Romantic

This is the most practical romantic movie I have seen though many would disagree with its ending. It’s a triangular love story that trades cashable means of storytelling with a much more sensible approach. After a failed relationship, Leonard Kraditor (Joaquin Phoenix) returns to live with his parents only to find himself torn again between an exciting neighbor and a woman his parents set him up with. Phoenix delivers an impeccable performance as it goes without saying but Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw really steal the show as the two love interests. They both deliver honest and very interesting portrayals. All in all, Two Lovers is a complex and very well-acted film that goes as far as examining the notion of love, and what we look for in people, through seemingly a simple story.

18. Carol (2015)

7.8

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Todd Haynes

Actors

Amy Warner, Anita Farmer Bergman, Ann Reskin, Annie Kalahurka

Moods

A-list actors, Discussion-sparking, Romantic

Watching Carol is like reading a really interesting book while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It is one of those movies that you probably heard about during its Oscar run, and have since delayed actually viewing it. Well now that it is on Netflix and other streaming services you have no excuse! It’s refreshingly unique, incredibly charming, and features a kind of story that hasn’t been told very often – a love story between two women. Both characters played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attempt to live true to their own principles while facing unjust yet severe backlash from society. If you are open to it, the love story in this will stay with you forever.

19. Fences (2016)

7.8

Country

Canada, United States of America

Director

Denzel Washington

Actors

Christopher Mele, Denzel Washington, Joe Fishel, Jovan Adepo

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Slow

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. 

20. Nyad (2023)

7.7

Country

Switzerland, United States of America

Director

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Female director

Actors

Anna Harriette Pittman, Anne Marie Kempf, Annette Bening, Belle Darling

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Dramatic

After winning Oscars for their documentary work, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make their narrative feature debut with Nyad. The move to narrative fiction isn’t a monumental jump for the director duo, whose cinematic documentaries (among them Free Solo and The Rescue) play like nerve-shredding action thrillers and intense human dramas. Nor does Nyad’s subject — another extreme feat of human daring and endurance — make this feel a million miles away from their most famous works.

The most obvious departures from the directors’ documentary strengths — Nyad’s flashbacks and hallucination scenes, for example — do sometimes highlight their newness to narrative filmmaking, however. These scenes feel shallow and therefore disconnected from the movie’s otherwise deeper treatment of its subject, just as the performances dip into outsized cliches at times. Mostly, though, Nyad manages to float above the trap of trying too hard to be an inspirational sports drama thanks to its confrontation of Diana’s prickly personality. This flips the film’s perspective onto that of Diana’s team (including her coach and former girlfriend, played by Jodie Foster), who ultimately suffer the consequences of her stubbornness. That refusal to submit to hagiographic impulses gives the film a documentary-like edge of truth, making the rousing moments here feel genuinely earned.

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