35 Best Movies on Netflix New-Zealand You Haven’t Yet Seen

Netflix algorithms try to suggest the movie or show they deem appropriate for your profile, regardless of its quality. This means that within the catalog, the systems will suggest both bad and good movies. This surely not only frustrates you but ironically makes you lose interest in the service.

As an independent platform, we’re more interested in suggesting the best movies and TV shows currently available to you – and let you choose your mood and what kind of good movie is ‘appropriate’ for you. Currently we feature more than a 100 good movies available on Netflix New-Zealand alone, all of which you can find here. Below you will find our users’ selection of the best out of the bunch, these are all must-watch titles. And since we mainly feature films our users haven’t gotten around to seeing, you’ve likely not heard of most of these.

Directed by: Jonathan Levine, 2008

A period comedy set in New York in the summer of 1994, the Wackness is a coming of age story about Luke Shapiro (Joshua Peck), as he deals with family trauma, love and economic hardship while selling pot to his strange psychologist. Rescued from a somewhat typical bildungsroman plot by sharp character acting, a firm directorial hand and an absolutely fitting soundtrack  that evokes the golden age of rap music.

Directed by: Richard Linklater, 2012

This is not what you are looking for if you are not into very slow movies. It ambles along like the East-Texas drawls that populate it, taking its sweet time and letting the story slowly roll out. This true-story-based film is driven by a strong and witty performance from Jack Black –just not the Jack Black you know. A different kind of movie, Bernie is an entertaining mix of true crime and comedy.

Directed by: David Slade, 2005

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it’s a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we’re being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it’s an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there’s less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

Directed by: , 2016

The White Helmets, the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, is a concise but riveting documentation of the titular rescue organization that formed in Syria in 2012. Set primarily in the war-torn city of Aleppo, the film captures the day-to-day efforts of the White Helmet volunteers as they respond to the sites of airstrikes and bombings in order to remove survivors and victims from demolished buildings. Director Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga) clearly put himself in harms way in order to capture remarkable footage of war and ruination, illuminating the unimaginable destruction and death beset upon the Syrian people over the course of nearly 6 years of civil war. It’s a remarkable effort, highlighted in particular by profound one-on-one interviews with members of The White Helmets. They each express their heartfelt desire to save the lives of other human beings, even as they yearn for peace and the safety of their own families and friends. Indeed their official credo from The Quran, as explained in the film, reads “Whoever saves one life, saves all of humanity.”

Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier, 2015

This is the follow-up film by the director of the (also) excellent and intense Blue Ruin. Like that film, Green Room often subverts genre expectations. The basic premise: a lefty punk band winds up taking a show at a skinhead club because they are desperate for cash. The show goes well, but afterward the band accidentally witnesses something they shouldn’t have and are trapped in the club’s green room. This film is brutal and intense, especially because you actually care about what happens to the characters. Bonus: Sir Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the skinhead organization, and gives a subtle yet effectively sinister performance. While some truly horrific acts of violence occur (especially in the back-half of the film) they really do serve the story. Still, there are a handful of scenes that may require more sensitive viewers to cover their eyes. You have been warned.

Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku, 2000

When asked about this film, Quentin Tarantino even goes as far as to say, “If there’s any movie that’s been made since I’ve been making movies that I wish I had made, it’s that one.” Kinji Fukasaku’s cult film follows an alternate present in Japan, in which a random high school class are forced onto a remote island to fight to the death. While it follows the quintessential ‘only one shall leave’ scenario (complete with over-the-top, almost comic murder scenes), the raw emotion and character depth within the film cut far deeper than any traditional action thriller, leaving you almost satisfied with how the plot pans out.

Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013

Emma, a free minded girl with blue hair, influences Adele’s life dramatically, teaching her how to be honest with herself and discover her true desires about love. The film beautifully and realistically portrays the evolution of Adele, from a highschool girl to a grown-up woman, even though the spirit which Emma lighted up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is a very honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink much and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.

Directed by: Lasse Hallström, 1999

The Cider House Rules is the 1999 adaptation of John Irving’s best-selling novel, about a young man named Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) who is raised in an orphanage in Maine during WWII. Trained from an early age in obstetrics (and abortions) by the kindly Dr. WIlbur Larch (Michael Caine), Wilbur yearns to explore the world and eventually embarks on a spirit quest that finds him working as a day laborer on an apple farm in rural Maine. The cast of characters that Wilbur encounters (utterly superb across the board) and the unexpected challenges that he faces throughout the film really imbue this tale of self-discovery with warmth and heart. It’s incredibly touching and borderline heartbreaking at times, yet never loses its air of utter compassion and humanity. A true must-see.

Directed by: Robert Kenner, 2008

An equally interesting and terrifying must-watch documentary about the state of food in the United States, Food Inc is a sobering tour of where the stuff you eat comes from. Spoiler alert: it’s gross, and should be illegal but that shouldn’t stop you from watching this film, which zealously showcases the food industry’s corruption and vile practices. Don’t worry though, even at its most muckraking, Food Inc manages to mix entertainment with its information.

Directed by: James Marsh, 2008

Man on Wire is a true technical masterpiece. You can almost feel the director telling the cameraman what angle to choose, or thinking about the questions that will generate the most resounding answers. However, this does not diminish the story this documentary tells one bit. It’s one that is glorious, riveting,  and fun. It’s one where you feel like an insider to a world lived on and below wires, with high-stake risks. Hopefully the edge of your seat is comfortable, because this is where the movie will keep you at all times.

Directed by: Jillian Schlesinger, 2013
In 2010, Dutch 15-year old Laura Dekker set out on a mission to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Maidentrip is the beautiful and inspiring documentary film that tells her story as she took on this behemoth task.
The film lets you experience this adventure of a lifetime along with Laura, share at first in her loneliness at sea, and later in her desire to be left alone when surrounded by people. Documenting her thoughts and feelings during this voyage, Laura reveals herself to be wise beyond her years. Yet despite the magnitude of the task Laura has taken in, her teenager self still glows clearly with its distinct child-like quality – simply wanting to do what makes her happy – sailing and seeing the world. The sheer honesty in Laura’s narrative is what makes this story so extraordinary. You will accompany the young skipper against all odds as she follows her dream and in the process, lose and once again find her identity and sense of belonging. Maidentrip will leave you with an itch – an itch to travel, but more importantly, an itch to follow your dreams.
Directed by: Bart Layton, 2012

The impossibly true story of a mysterious Frenchman who claims to be the 16 year old son of a family from Texas that went missing three years prior. This movie is shot so well with a story so unbelievable that I had to look it up to believe that it was a real documentary instead of a fiction film played as true. Expect twists and turns at every corner, with brilliant storytelling from the real life people that lived through the whole thing. If Christopher Nolan created a 48 hour story, it would pale in comparison to this film.

Directed by: Vitaly Mansky, 2015

When Russian director Vitaly Mansky is commissioned by the North Korean government to make a documentary about an average Pyongyang child, he follows their every guideline. Except the end result, Under The Sun, is the complete opposite of what they had intended. For example starting every take earlier than they thought, he makes the documentary about the watchdogs around the child and other mechanisms of propaganda. He uses quiet storytelling to expose just how brainwashing in a fascist regime takes place, and how the people caught in it function. May just be the smartest, most important film you can watch on North Korea.

Directed by: Dito Montiel, 2006

Robert Downey Jr., Channing Tatum, and Shia LaBeouf star in this powerful drama about growing up in 80’s Astoria, New York. It follows the memoirs of the author, director and musician Dito Montiel as he visits his ailing father after 15 years in Los Angeles, away from home. Told via flashback and present-day exposition, as well as several fourth-wall bending monologues,  A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a coming of age film that leaves a deep impact, with two Sundance awards and heaps of nominations to its credit. 

Directed by: Ted Demme, 1996

With an ensemble cast featuring a young Natalie Portman and a less murderous Uma Thurman, Ted Demme’s “Beautiful Girls” recreates the worries and woes that thrive in the minds of a tight knit group of working class friends stuck in their own small town Massachusetts world. Warm, quirky and filled with champagne diamonds, both metaphorical and tangible, for anybody who’s ever walked the thirty something walk, it’s a film that’ll make you want to remember all the friends you wish you still had and actually still do.

Directed by: Jason Reitman, 2005

As black a comedy as they come. Nick Naylor (superbly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart) is the chief spokesperson for tobacco and shows the world why smoking is as key to protect as any other liberal value. This movie is funny, smart, thoughtful and raises some good questions about the ego, the morale and what we leave behind, from unexpected sides.

Directed by: Christine Jeffs, 2008

Sunshine Cleaning is a great addition to that unidentified genre of grown-up comedies populated by other great entries like Your Sister’s Sister and Enough Said. It is however, less of a comedy than it is a heart-warming emotional tale. Powered by outstanding performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, it ultimately evolves into a character study of failed potential and validation seeking.

Sunshine Cleaning is enjoyable, satisfying to a fault, and provides an interesting peak into the lives of its characters.

Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt, 2012

Two-time Oscar nominee Don Hertzfeldt crafts this provocative film in the most skillful way. With only stick figure drawings and some stock footage, he compellingly walks you through the crumbling mind of a man. It is funny. It is sad. It is unsettling. Unlike most movies – or perhaps any movie – there is no point in the film where you feel safe. Unpredictable. Engrossing. Disturbing. By the end of it, you will not be sure what you’ve just seen, but you will feel as if it has changed you. **Personal suggestion: do not watch alone late at night**

Directed by: Marc Forster, 2006

Will Ferrell plays a well organized IRS agent named Harold Crick who seems to have figured out everything in his life to the dot. Little does he know his life is being run by someone else, a nervous and morbid novelist, famous for ending her works with the death of the main character. As the nature of his life and eventual doom, he decides to lay back and enjoy the ride, breaking all his ingrained and boring habits. While this film is recommended for everyone , Will Ferrel fans, especially, need to watch this to see Will’s acting variety.

Directed by: Richie Smyth, 2016

The Siege of Jadotville is a different kind of war movie, it doesn’t recount famous battles or portray renowned heroes. Instead, it’s about heroes and events that went completely unnoticed. Namely, it’s about The Irish 35 Battalion ‘A’ Company, a group of youngsters who were sent to the Congo on a U.N mission. What was supposed to be a plain positioning quickly becomes one of the most fought-over locations and the battalion of 150 ‘war-virgins” find themselves going against 3000 mercenaries led by experienced French commandants. And what a tribute this film is: it’s well-paced, powerfully shot, and the acting, led by Jamie Dornan on one side and Guillaume Canet on the other, is absolutely perfect.

Directed by: Christopher K. Walker, 2015

At first glance, one may think that Welcome to Leith is a well thought-out fictional thriller of people’s most unwarranted night terrors. But if you squint real hard, you will come to realize that it portrays a scary reality in which violence, fear, and isolation is prevalent and that it could happen to possibly any town with little to no effort, especially these days. Nichols and Walker aim to capture this frightening message in hopes of bringing awareness, using white supremacist Craig Cobb’s attempt at taking over the small North Dakotan town to display objectivity in an otherwise touchy subject.

Directed by: Phillip Noyce, 2002

A true story based film about three girls whose lives become a tragedy shaped by the Rabbit-proof fence, which runs along Australia splitting it to two parts. These girls, daughters of an aboriginal mother and a white father who worked on building the fence and then moved on, get taken from their mother to a so-called re-education camp. This is the story of their escape to find the fence and then their mother, a journey of 1500 miles that they can only do on foot. Tragic, yes, but this is an honest film that sends clear messages without any excessive emotional dwelling.

Directed by: Mark Herman, 2008

You’ve probably watched and heard about enough Holocaust films to expect a formula, but you might want to put all that aside going into The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Bruno, the son of a WWII Nazi commandant forms an unlikely friendship with a Jewish kid his age in his father’s concentration camp. The film is World War II told through Bruno’s eyes, and while you might not get why this movie is so highly praised in its first scenes, the twisting and profound second half will have you recommending it to everyone in need of a moving story well executed, or quite simply a good cry.

Directed by: Gaspar Noé, 2009

In this raw, psychedelic drama, an American drug dealer living in Tokyo with his sister is killed at a night club. His spirit continues to float above the city and past, present, and future are woven together to complete the tale of his life. Taking a page from the Tibetan book of the dead, the film aims to explore one answer to life’s most epic question: What happens when we die? Definitely not for the faint of heart, there is drug use, gore, and challenging themes throughout the movie. Its unique cinematography also captures Tokyo quite well.

Directed by: James Ponsoldt, 2015

A summer’s night, it’s around 2 AM and you’re outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour. The film depicts the story of David Foster Wallace, as played by Jason Segel, and his interactions with then Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, as played by Jesse Eisenberg. It’s like being with two smart friends and discussing your life and theirs in the sense that it is deeply personal, very smart while being simple, and unpretentiously relevant. Performances are nothing short of perfect as Segel completely transforms into the character, and everything is authentically orchestrated with the deft hand of The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt. A rare and important film.

Directed by: Rob Burnett, 2016

The Fundamentals of Caring is an offbeat comedy/drama starring Paul Rudd as Ben, a man attempting to overcome tragedy and looming divorce by becoming the caretaker for a teenager with muscular dystrophy named Trevor (Craig Roberts, Submarine). The two develop an unconventional relationship based largely on sarcasm and profanity, delivering many laugh-out-loud moments, while also slowly exposing the pain each is carrying inside. They eventually embark on a road trip across the western United States, at Ben’s urging, in order for Craig to see something of the world beyond his wheelchair and television. It’s a formulaic yet fun and touching road movie that covers much familiar ground, but also offers a fine illustration of caregiving, personal growth and emotional healing. Paul Rudd is as good ever, and Roberts is utterly superb. One of the best movies on the Netflix Originals catalog, and an undeniable winner, all-in-all.

Directed by: Armando Iannucci, 2009

A hilarious comedy about politics in the UK and US. The secretary of State for Internal Development Simon Foster accidentally backs the plans for a war in the Middle East and suddenly finds he has a lot of friends in Washington. What follows is a difficult to follow maneuvering of pro- and antiwar factions in both governments. The harder it gets to follow what’s going on in the movie the more it resembles our present day politics and the funnier it becomes.

Directed by: Michael Dowse, 2012

Goon is funny, violent, and sweet as hell. You’ll be surprised by how nasty it is but you will not care. What you will want to do, on the other hand, is rip through the screen, hug the main character and smack all the other ones. It is also a great example of a feel-good movie that isn’t solely focused on being a feel-good movie, as well as a great love story, with all its absurdities and high emotional load. The story shines a light on the players who join hockey teams not for the game but for the fights that may erupt. They are called goons. Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is a new goon and this movie is his journey towards success both on the ice and off.

Directed by: Mark Raso, 2014

Though it starts off somewhat slow, I was delightfully surprised at how much I loved this movie. A 28-year-old man ventures through Europe with a buddy, ending in Copenhagen, where he hopes to contact the last of his family. There he enlists a local girl to help him. An interesting relationship unfolds as they take a captivating journey through Copenhagen in search of William’s grandfather. The tag line of the movie is “When the girl of your dreams is half your age, it’s time to grow up” and William really does have to grow up when he’s faced with his own personal tumult.

The girl is played by Frederikke Dahl Hansen, who gives an exceptional naturalistic performance, which adds even more to the abundance of charm in this film.

Directed by: Jared P. Scott, 2015

On par with the best documentaries of the 21st Century thus far, “Requiem for the American Dream” is essential viewing for the discerning viewer in search of a more complete understanding of how American society has evolved to such a dramatic point of polarization, and how both politics and big business have played such an inextricably role in this process. In his introductory remarks to the film, celebrated intellectual and linguistics professor Noam Chomsky expounds: “Inequality has highly negative consequences on society as a whole, because the very fact of inequality has a corrosive, harmful effect on democracy.” At his rational and coherent best, Chomsky spells out his perspective regarding the modern political machine and the downfall of democracy, with a keen eye to the historical decisions and influences that have sabotaged the “common good” and shaped America’s current political, financial and social landscape.

Directed by: Rory Kennedy, 2014

Last Days in Vietnam is a 2014 documentary that recounts the final weeks of the Vietnam conflict in 1975, as North Vietnamese forces surged toward Saigon and U.S personnel anxiously awaited word of an evacuation plan. At the time, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin was reluctant to accept defeat, and delayed a U.S. withdrawal in his (rapidly diminishing) hopes that a solution could be reached. Once the fall of Saigon became imminent and Congress denied emergency funding for the evacuation, however, U.S. diplomatic, military and intelligence personnel were left piecing together a bare bones plan to escape via military helicopter support. The moral dilemma they soon faced was the harsh reality of leaving behind so many South Vietnamese citizens who had supported the American effort—many of whom faced likely imprisonment and/or death. Featuring remarkable archival film footage and first-hand accounts from many involved, the film recounts those final days of chaos and confusion in stunningly dramatic fashion. Director Rory Kennedy has put together a gripping and emotionally compelling film that balances broad historical exposition with concise detail related to the evacuation’s complexities—all of it punctuated by remarkable examples of bravery and heroism. Not to be missed. 

Directed by: Aaron Schneider, 2009

Robert Duvall…Bill Murray…need I say more? This popped up in my Netflix feed as a suggestion. Almost skipped over it, but my husband and I were up late and took a chance. WHOA! The acting is superb and what we thought would be a movie about revenge is unexpectedly about redemption. Robert Duvall is a hermit, looking forward to death. Bill Murray is a funeral home director looking for someone to bury. It’s subtle, very subtle, comical and heartbreaking. Y’all will love it.

Directed by: Morten Tyldum, 2012

A nasty little chase film with dark humor and balls to the walls action sequences. It is slightly insane, has some brutal fights in it and is completely beyond belief. The thing that keeps it going is its sheer pace; often circumstances shift so quickly the whole film seems a little surreal, which is part of its charm. The only point at which the film does slow down is when it hits incredibly suspenseful moments, which are stretched to near infinity. As it’s from the continental tradition, expect all the raw colors, emotion and slightly off kilter characters reminiscent of a violent Lars Von Trier.

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn, 2004

Featuring a Pre-Bond Daniel Craig, Layer cake can be described as a mix between Lock Stock, Two Smoking Barrels and Scarface—a darkly funny and incredibly violent film. It features great acting from Craig and the rest of the cast, action that will keep you on the edge of your seat once it gets moving and a complex and deep theme that can make you reconsider your worldview. This is a true action movie for the thinking man (or woman).

Directed by: Rian Johnson, 2005

Elizabeth:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a high schooler trying understand his girlfriend’s disappearance. Film noir style with excellent dialogue.

Ian:

Murder mystery from the perspective of an oddball kid in high school. All of the evidence seems to point him back to one person in town.

Karch: 

A new-age noir film follows a high-school detective trying to unravel what happened to his ex-girlfriend through the mysterious underground drug ring at his school.

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