We all have Netflix, or at least have worked out some arrangement to...borrow...someone else's password. But with thousands of titles at our fingertips, we're often paralyzed by infinite choice. Hopefully this can help. Since the purpose of this list is for recommendations rather than historical record, I've exempted a few titles. These "all-timers" are so universally ingrained into modern culture, so necessary for cultural literacy, that they're almost above evaluation. You've almost certainly seen them already. If not, doing so is practically a requirement. My initial plan was just to rank a top ten, but when I began the exercise of putting this list together, I found that Netflix had 40 or 50 titles that passed my threshold for recommendation. So I've expanded the list to 20, and can almost guarantee that you won't regret sitting down to watch.
The All-Timers: The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, Dead Poet's Society, Schindler's List, The Dark Knight, Jurassic Park, Boogie Nights
The Top Ten
1. Se7en: Simply put, this is (arguably) the best movie from the library of (arguably) the best filmmaker of the last 20 years. No argument in my mind! The doom and gloom of David Fincher has never been better. It deserves to be on the "all-timers" list, except that seemingly every time I mention it with someone they say they haven't seen it. So much about this movie is iconic: Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman's buddy cop routine, the way they reveal the incredible villain, and of course the entire "what's in the box!" scene. 2. L.A. Confidential: A modern take on classic noir, set in the glorious corruption of 1950's Hollywood. The vibe of the world is the real draw, but it's filled unforgettable characters (top notch Russell Crowe) and memorable moments. I could watch this movie a thousand times and it would never get old. 3. Spotlight: If there ever was a more perfect Serious Movie, I haven't seen it. Serious subject matter, serious ensemble cast, seriously tight script. Though it might not be super ambitious, it's practically flawless filmmaking. 4. Moonrise Kingdom: If you've never been exposed to the mastercraft of Wes Anderson, this is a great place to start. Every line of dialogue, every set design, every camera angle in his films is so precise and clever. Just don't expect to find the doldrums of realism here. 5. Ex Machina: A nearly perfectly-executed chamber drama posing as a thriller, feeling claustrophobic and tense in the best possible way. I love the way this movie withholds information. If you're a fan of plot twists, a stunning random dance sequence, one of the best acting performances in recent years from Oscar Isaac, or possibly the most brilliant opening sequence in any movie ever, you're going to love this. 6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: A romantic comedy that is not particularly romantic or comedic, this high-concept melancholia is really strange. But it will hit you right in the feels. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are superb in this emotional rollercoaster ride. 7. Her: I'm not sure if I'm revealing a "type" here or not, but Joaquin Phoenix is simply phenomenal in this man-with-technology twist on a rom-com. It captures loneliness and longing better than any movie I've ever seen (bring your tissues). 8. Lion: Ok, this is getting out of hand. Three sad movies in a row? I apologize. You will DEFINITELY cry watching this tale of identity. Don't make me get into all the "perseverance of the human spirit" mumbo jumbo, otherwise I might start crying again. Suffice it to say this movie is powerful, and beautiful, and you should watch it. 9. It Follows: Even though The Conjuring is a much scarier movie, there was no question which should be the horror entry on this list. A great example of going an inch wide but a mile deep, squeezing the most out of a simple concept, a small cast and a limited budget, and exploring the horror and dread of inevitability. 10. Burn After Reading: Am I ranking this several spots too high in order to sneak in a plug for the Coen Brothers? It's possible. But this list also desperately needed a comedy, and while this is far frrom the best movie the Coens have ever made, it does provide some quality laughs. And, as is their signature, plenty of quirky, memorable characters. The Next Ten
11. Wind River 12. King's Speech 13. The Informant! 14. Place Beyond the Pines 15. Quiz Show 16. Inside Man 17. Defiance 18. Drinking Buddies 19. Heat 20. Dallas Buyers Club Honorable mentions (in no order): Okja, Out of Sight, The Game, The Hateful Eight, Blood Diamond, Gone Baby Gone, Full Metal Jacket, The Imitation Game, Troy, Trading Places, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Boyhood, The End of the Tour Also, in looking through the Netflix library, I ran across a handful of other movies I haven't seen yet but that looked good. If you've seen any of them, it's your turn to be the recommender! Let me know! We Own the Night, The Village, A Most Violent Year, Obvious Child, Milk, Aviator, Frances Ha, Half Nelson, Kicking and Screaming (1995)