Ask some Netflix users and they’ll tell you that Netflix UK pales in comparison to Netflix US, that America has all the new, good stuff, while British streamers are left with the bargain bin rejects from old Blockbuster stores.
Take a closer look, though, and there’s a whole heap of quality there just waiting to be discovered. Whether they’re unfairly maligned, or just criminally under-seen, here are 25 under-appreciated films on Netflix UK.
(We’ll keep this list updated as things arrive or leave the service to make sure you don’t run of new things to try. Last update: June 2017)
What We Do In The Shadows
Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s horror mockumentary, which follows a group of vampire flatmates in Wellington, is hilariously, relentlessly, brilliantly funny. Rhys Darby’s brief appearance as a rival creature (“We’re were-wolves, not swear-wolves!”) is the icing on the cake, which makes a mid-film dinner scene involving basghetti the icing on the icing. Watch it now.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople
“I didn’t choose the skux life. The skux life chose me.” With Thor: Ragnarok hitting cinemas this summer, have yourself a Taika Waititi double-bill with his equally brilliant comedy about an odd-couple relationship between young city kid Ricky and the grouchy guy in the New Zealand bush who winds up becoming his adoptive father. Going off the track into the wild, they end up the subject of nationwide manhunt, leading to one of cinema’s most gloriously over-the-top pursuits in recent moment. With the sweeping scale of Mad Max and the intimate emotions of a delicate indie drama, that mismatch between big and small makes for an adventure filled with childlike imagination. Majestical stuff.
Ellen Page delivers a remarkable performance in this indie film from writer/director Sian Heder. A veteran of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, it’s perhaps no surprise that she delivers a drama that nudges you to sympathise with every person on screen. That includes Tallulah, a homeless girl who finds herself kidnapping a baby who’s being neglected, her boyfriend’s mother (Allison Janney), who takes them in, and even the baby’s self-absorbed mother, who panics when she finds her child has gone. What emerges is a complex, nuanced study of motherhood that raises questions and tugs at heartstrings with subtle skill.
X + Y
Why hasn’t Sally Hawkins won a BAFTA yet? That’s one of many lingering questions left behind by this delightful tale of a young maths genius (Asa Butterfield) who enters an international contest, only to find himself challenged by everything from romance to bonding with his mum (Hawkins) – but you’ll be too busy crying to think about it. Morgan Matthews’ carefully calculated film follows its formula almost to a fault, but every part of the equation is filled in so well (Rafe Spall as his mentor is amusingly abrupt) that it’s impossible not to be won over.
You know that feeling when you go to dinner with your ex and everything’s really awkward? Karyn Kusama takes that to the umpteenth degree with this highly effective little genre flick, which deftly captures the horrors of uncomfortable social interactions – and slowly turns the dial to something more sinister.
Love & Friendship
“My daughter has taught herself to be cunning and manipulative. I couldn’t be more pleased.” Think you know Jane Austen? Think again. Somehow overlooked even at the BAFTAs, Whit Stillman’s whip-smart adaptation of one of the author’s early, epistolary works is full of catty, sassy wit. That’s mostly courtesy of a fierce Kate Beckinsale as a widow riding out the rumours of a scandalous love life, while trying to raise her daughter to find an eligible suitor. Insults and one-liners fly past at dizzying speed – and one moment involving peas is one of the funniest things you’ll see this year.
Don’t you hate it when you finally invent a machine that generates free energy for everyone, only for bad people with guns to turn up and try to steal it? And, to make matters worse, the machine then makes time loop back on itself so the whole thing happens again? And again? And again? That’s all you need to know about Tony Elliott’s brilliant sci-fi, which combines Chain Reaction and Source Code to dizzying effect. There’s the gradual learning of our scientist, as he figures out how to use the cycles to get one step ahead of his enemy – but there are twists aplenty to unravel along the way, which soon leave everything open to manipulation from everyone, allowing for unexpected detours and unpredictable hijackings. The script doesn’t always land its dialogue and it lacks Edge Of Tomorrow‘s witty humour, but this is thrillingly imaginative stuff.
The One I Love
Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss star in this superb indie gem about a couple on the brink of separation who head to a mysterious retreat recommended by their marriage counsellor. The promise? They’ll come back like a brand new couple at the start of their relationship all over again. Charlie McDowell directs their close-quartered interactions with an eye for the unsettling, capturing their shifts between intimacy and estrangement with a variety of distorting angles – at times, we’re swooning with them in their rediscovered affection, at others, it’s almost like we’re peering in on strangers through the windows. Moss and Duplass’ chemistry is off-the-charts good as they move between emotions with eerie efficiency. The result is a bold, ambitious study of fidelity, romance and time – one that, in barely 90 minutes, manages to tackle more than some features manage with double the length or twice as much money.
Netflix UK’s documentary line-up is unrivalled, with everything from campaigning crackers to stories that are just, well, crackers. Errol Morris’ Tabloid is the latter – and one of the best of its kind you’re likely to see. The film tells the tale of Wyoming beauty queen Joyce McKinney, who falls in love with a mormon. So she does the only reasonable thing you can do: kidnap him. The ensuing oddity was whipped up into a frenzy by the tabloid press, with everything from religion and brainwashing to clones and magic undies dragged into the spotlight. Romance, kidnapping, disguises and eye-catching headlines? This is strange but true – and hilariously brilliant to boot.
If you don’t already sing the words “drive it like you stole it” to yourself in the shower, stick this impossibly feel-good flick from Once director John Carney on and get ready to have the 80s teen pop tunes stuck in your head for days.
Kung Fu Killer
The bone-crunchingly good Donnie Yen takes the lead in this criminally underseen actioner, which sees a Hahou Mo, a famous fighter (now in jail), offer his help to the cops to help track down a serial killer who is targeting kung fu masters. The result is a cracking mix of CSI and Mortal Kombat, as crime scene analysis gives way to reconstructed battles that inevitably end in brutal bloodshed. The fights built brilliantly in scale, from a highway to a natural history museum, while the charming end credits doff the film’s hat to all the real life martial arts legends who appear in the film or inspired it. Sometimes, you want a heartwarming tribute to fighting legends. Sometimes, you want two people punching each other to a pulp on top of a dinosaur skeleton. Kung Fu Killer has both.
Win It All
Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson team up once again for this hugely likeable drama about a gambler trying to get his life into shape. Given money to look after by an old friend going into prison, he inevitably spends most of the cash, leaving him rushing about to recoup his debt – all the while dealing with his brother (Joe Lo Truglio) and starting a romance with a kind nurse he meets in a bar. Swanberg’s surprisingly structured script makes for his most accessible film yet, but Johnson and the cast elevate a conventional screenplay to make for something as engaging as it is bumbling.
Blumhouse has made its name with a string of promising low and micro-budget horrors, but the peril of that approach is that some can simply go unseen. Exhibit A: Creep, which failed to get a theatrical release and instead went straight to Netflix in the UK. Patrick Brice’s horror follows a videographer (Brice) hired to film a guy, Josef (Mark Duplass), for a day in his home in the woods. What follows is a deft two-hander that relies on the uneasy chemistry between the men to drive up the tension. An impressive demonstration that found footage can still scare, is Josef (with his animal mask and tendency to jump out at his guest) the titular creep? Is it the stranger who’s prowling about with a camcorder? And whose footage have we found anyway?
Get Me Roger Stone
How on earth did Donald Trump become President of the United States? Introducing Roger Stone, a political player, puppet-string-puller and strategical shyster, who was the one to nudge the Apprentice judge in the direction of the White House. Netflix’s new original documentary takes us behind the news headlines surrounding the White House to give us a glimpse of the mechanics behind Trump’s rise to power, revealing Stone’s involvement with every major political event in the US going back to Nixon’s Watergate. Described by one as a sinister Forrest Gump of American politics, it’s an astonishing, eye-opening, important watch – and will make you very angry.
Welcome To The Punch
James McAvoy and Mark Strong go head to head in this action film about a cop and a notorious criminal. While the story of a detective obsessed with taking down his nemesis may not be anything new, the star of the show here is director Eran Creevy, who shoots the action sequences with Hong Kong cool, sliding the streets of the UK capital into a world of blue tints, green sheens and slick, reflective windows. London has never looked so good.
Bad news: Aliens are attacking your village. Good news: You can hide in the pub. Even better news: The aliens are allergic to alcohol. It’s an inspired scenario that gives director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane maximum opportunity for laughs, and stars Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley maximum chance to piss about – literally. At only 90 minutes, this is short, sweet and brilliantly silly.
Under The Skin
Scarlett Johansson delivered one of the best sci-fi double-bills in living memory in 2014, with the release of Lucy and Under The Skin. The former you’ve probably heard of as one of those high-concept Luc Besson thrillers, which sees a drug work its way into Lucy’s system that make her use 100% of her brain. It couldn’t be more different (yet similar) to Under The Skin, which starts with a similarly bizarre sequence that might be a spaceship heading to Earth or could be the birth of a human itself.
Director Jonathan Glazer maintains that unsettling blend of existential dread and voyeurism, as Johansson’s mysterious alien travels through Glasgow in a van picking up men and, seducing them into a glossy, black void that… well, what? Is she studying men? Harvesting them? Murdering them? However you interpret it, there are endlessly fascinating layers to process, not to mention a hint of vulnerability, an unspoken longing to be human, and a chilling sense of alienation from the people around her. Accompanied by a haunting score from Mica Levi, it’s the kind of provocative, unsettling, horrifying film that your instincts might tell you to steer clear from. Ignore those instincts and dive right in.
Felicity Jones’ star has shot up in recent years, but before one of Britain’s best young actors landed the lead in a Star Wars film, she starred in Chalet Girl. A film about a girl who gets a job cleaning up after a rich family in a resort? It might sound generic, but this is more sports movie than rom-com, creating a story about a fully-fledged character with agency, humour and sick snowboarding skills. Ignore the badly Photoshopped poster and take to the slopes. Did we mention that Felicity Jones is in it?
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
Snapped up by Netflix at this year’s Sundance, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is the directorial debut of Macon Blair. The film follows polite nurse Ruth (the always-excellent Melanie Lynskey), who, upon arriving home to find her house burgled and the police indifferent, decides to take the law into her own hands.
A regular collaborator with Jeremy Saulnier, the brutal horror of Green Room echoes throughout the bursts of violence, but there’s a surreal, offbeat tone that feels all his own, as the mood shifts from dark to light without skipping a beat – a blend of mundane suburbia and the nastiness lurking beneath. In a strange, foreign world where people no longer seem to care about each other, what emerges is a touching, frequently amusing campaign for empathy amid a quest for revenge that doesn’t quite have the stomach for vigilante justice. “What do you want?” Ruth’s asked halfway through. She pauses. “For people to not be assholes.” And how.
If you’re a fan of Brit Marling, don’t miss her follow-up to Another Earth with director Mike Cahill. A tale of eyes, identity and genetics, the pair once again deliver a sensitive exploration of the supernatural and science and a stirring investigation of the line between faith, reason and hope. Earnest to a fault, if you liked The OA, you’ll love this.
Wet Hot American Summer
Another under-rated movie simply because it’s been seen by so few people, this cult comedy by David “They Came Together” Wain has only arrived in the UK because Netflix added it ahead of their own spin-off series. The original sees stars ranging from Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd to Amy Poehler and Elizabeth Banks play people at a summer camp in the US – despite being way too old for their roles. The prequel series sees them do the same, despite being even older than they were when they originally played them. This surreal, exceptionally silly 97-minute outing is the ideal warm-up – and the best episode of Before They Were Famous in 19 years.
Long takes in cinema are nothing new. We’ve all seen that bit in Tintin, the opening of A Touch Of Evil, or know how Hitchcock did Rope. But how about a whole film in a one take? That’s what director Sebastian Schipper somehow created in this German thriller, which follows the eponymous young girl (Laia Costa), as she finds her holiday hijacked by a cute guy, only to become caught up in drugs, criminals, parties and more. The ride unfolds for two hours, a perfectly choreographed epic that roams the streets of the town without letting up. At one point, we pause just to see Laia Costa play a piano solo. She doesn’t hit a bum note.
Joshua: Teenager Vs Superpower
When China’s Communist Party go back on its promise of giving Hong Kong autonomy, attempting to introduce its state-mandated curriculum to the city’s schools, one teenager decides enough is enough. Meet Joshua Wong, a 14-year-old who begins a campaign that stands up to one of the world’s superpowers, moving from success into a growing movement that attracted media attention from around the world. In the year of Theresa May’s snap general election, and Donald Trump’s inauguration, this is an informative documentary about the workings of a country far removed from our own – and a rousing reminder that young people engaged in politics really can make a difference.
Holding The Man
Neil Armfield’s heartfelt drama, based on a memoir by Timothy Conigrave, tells the true story of two men’s romance – a romance that began when Tim and John met at school during a production of Romeo And Juliet and went on to span 15 years. Armfield captures that length of time with a huge sense of scale and an absorbing attention to detail, from the soundtrack to the performances, as we see the couple grow older in front of our eyes. This is sweeping, universal, swooning cinema.
Snapped up by Netflix for global streaming after Cannes 2016, Sacha Wolff’s film follows a young rugby player who moves from his New Caledonian home to France, after a talent scout spots him on the pitch. That move abroad gives him an escape from an abusive father, but his new home is no more welcoming, as his career goes awry and his hulking shape stands out from the crowd. Newcomer Toki Pilioko is remarkably intense in the lead, without barely saying a word, building to a blistering, moving Haka that sees him unleash all of his pent-up rejection, frustration and anger. A powerful sports drama, even if you don’t like sport.