The 50 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

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The sheer volume of films on Netflix — and the site’s less than ideal interface — can make finding a genuinely great movie there a difficult task. To help, we’ve plucked out the 50 best films currently streaming on the service in the United States, updated regularly as titles come and go. And as a bonus, we link to more great movies on Netflix within many of our write-ups below. (Note: Streaming services sometimes remove titles or change starting dates without giving notice.)

Here are our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video and the best of everything on Hulu and Disney Plus.

On the eve of the franchise’s 70th anniversary (and coinciding with the current, popcorn-friendly American iteration of the character), Toho studios released this throwback to the pointed political commentary and sociological subtext of its original entry. In Japan, the “Godzilla” movies were never just about a giant lizard wrecking models of their cities; it was explicitly a story about the effects of the atomic bomb, and here, the writer and director Takashi Yamazaki also connects the events of his narrative to Japan’s mournful national mood in the aftermath of World War II. Both thrilling and thoughtful, “Minus One” keeps “bringing blockbuster brio to heel with a sometimes heavy heart,” our critic wrote. (For more stylish Asian cinema, try “Okja” or “Oldboy.”)

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Netflix’s tilt toward streaming recent and original releases means there’s not much there in the way of big-screen musicals — Hollywood just doesn’t make many of those anymore. But this delightful 2016 picture from John Carney is a welcome addition to that canon, a sweetly nostalgic tale about a wistful Irish kid who imagines that his amateur rock band will get him out of his dingy hometown and into the arms of his dream girl. The performers are likable, and the ’80s nostalgia is well placed. Its centerpiece production number — an imagined music video in which a great song solves everything — is sublime

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Will Smith nabbed his first Academy Award nomination for his masterly turn as Muhammad Ali in this robust biopic. Eschewing the cradle-to-grave approach of too many such projects to focus on the key decade of 1964 to 1974, “Ali” adroitly dramatizes the champ’s transformation from gifted young fighter to political figure as he loses his hard-earned title for refusing to fight in Vietnam and becomes the focus of controversy over his conversion to Islam. The director Michael Mann exchanges his customarily sleek and contemplative style for something earthier and more emotional; our critic predicted, “his overwhelming love of its subject will turn audiences into exuberant, thrilled fight crowds.” (For more Oscar-nominated drama, try “1917” or “Living.”)

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This 2016 romance from Damien Chazelle was a critical and commercial smash (and, notoriously, almost the Oscar winner for best picture) — not always the fate of big-screen musicals in the modern era. But Chazelle’s creation is irresistible, from the sheer spectacular enthusiasm of its song-and-dance numbers, to the heartfelt lead performances of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, to Chazelle’s undeniable and infectious affection for the great musicals of yesteryear.

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When this modestly scaled haunted house movie hit theaters 11 summers ago, few could have imagined that it would not only become exceptionally profitable — returning $319 million worldwide on a $20 million budget — but also spawn a multimovie universe of eight films and counting. But that was all to come; the pleasures of this initial entry are simple, rooted in the authenticity of its ’70s setting, the grounded performances by Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor and the confident direction from James Wan (particularly his execution of one of the single best jump-scares in recent memory). (For more horror, try “The Babadook.”)

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Shot on the fly in real locations with smartphones and a cast of mostly first-time actors, this “fast, raucously funny comedy about love and other misadventures” from the director Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”) is a vibrant and heartfelt story of life on the fringe. The plot concerns two transgender sex workers (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) and their various fortunes and misfortunes over a 24-hour period in the sketchier stretches of Hollywood. Played differently, the material could have been sensationalistic, but it isn’t; Baker is, above all, a humanist, and he loves his characters no matter what kind of trouble they’re causing.

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In 2015, two of Olfa Hamrouni’s four daughters disappeared into the world of Islamic extremism. The director Kaouther Ben Hania could have told their story as a standard documentary, intermingling talking heads with archival footage and the like. Instead, she stages re-creations and dramatizations of central moments in these splintering relationships, casting actors as the departed daughters to act alongside the two daughters who remain, and with Hamrouni involved in some scenes and directing an actor playing her in others. It sounds gimmicky, but Ben Hania’s approach becomes a powerful method of grappling with the mistakes of the past. (“Procession” is a similarly powerful example of filmmaking as therapy.)

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The director Paul Verhoeven pulled one of the great bait-and-switches of the modern blockbuster era with this sci-fi and action hybrid, which lured in viewers with the promise of laser-toting heroes vaporizing giant bug creatures. It delivered that action, but then surrounded it with a merciless satire, in which a futuristic authoritarian government uses propaganda and jingoism to convince its youth to die cheerfully for the flag. His young, pretty cast — including Denise Richards, Casper Van Dien, Neil Patrick Harris and Dina Meyer — plays the material absolutely straight, which somehow renders it especially disturbing. (For more pulse-pounding action, stream “Conan the Barbarian” or “The Quick and the Dead.”)

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The New Zealand journalist David Farrier has carved out an unusual niche for himself, making documentaries about fringe figures who at first seem to be jokey oddities but later reveal disturbing dimensions and shadowy back stories. His previous feature, “Tickled,” took him into the bizarre world of Competitive Endurance Tickling, and the mysterious figure bankrolling it; this time, an investigation into predatory parking practices puts him in the sights of a con artist named Michael Organ. And that’s when things really get strange. As with “Tickled,” Farrier’s latest begins like a human interest story and turns into something closer to a thriller, as the peculiarities of this unstable personality reveal themselves, often unnervingly. Farrier is a solid anchor for this strange journey, proving unflappable (and capable of finding the gallows humor) in even the most extreme of circumstances.

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Greta Gerwig writes (with the director Noah Baumbach) and stars in this charming chronicle of the struggles of a young woman who is trying to make her way in the big city. It’s a tale as old as time, but Gerwig’s off-center charm juices it with new life while Baumbach’s “Manhattan”-style, black-and-white photography gives the picture a lushness uncharacteristic of New York indies. It’s an approach that mirrors the film itself, which seems lightweight and offhanded but holds unexpected truths about friendship, maturity and finding a true version of oneself. Our critic praised its “swift, jaunty rhythms and sharp, off-kilter jokes.” (Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” is also on Netflix.)

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Pablo Larraín, who directed “Jackie” and “Spencer,” delivers his most unconventional riff on the biopic yet with this stylized hybrid of dark comedy, social commentary and gore-heavy horror. The premise is delicious, positing that the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) was, in fact, a vampire who faked his own death and went into hiding in the country. The razor-sharp script, by Larraín and the Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón, ruminates on the parasitic nature of capitalism with wit and intelligence. The cleverness of the narration (which not only tells the story but wryly comments on it) is topped only by the reveal of who is voicing it. Ed Lachman’s black-and-white cinematography stuns, and Larraín injects the proceedings with genre thrills and bleak laughs.

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Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld) is a fairly typical teen — cynical, bitter, intelligent and mouthy, yet plagued by , awkwardness, a lack of confidence and self-destructiveness. In this “smart, achingly bittersweet comedy,” the first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig tells the story of how Nadine hits bottom (the high school version of it, anyway) and struggles mightily to bounce back with the help of a teacher with the patience of a saint (Woody Harrelson), and a best friend who has made things … complicated (Haley Lu Richardson). Steinfeld plays Nadine to the hilt, crafting a portrait of teenage ennui and social anxiety that’s as recognizable as it is uproarious. (The film’s wit and insight keenly recall “The Breakfast Club,” also on Netflix.)

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This vivid, evocative memory play from Alfonso Cuarón is a story of two Mexican women in the early 1970s: Sofía (Marina de Tavira), a mother of four whose husband (and provider) is on his way out the door, and Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the family’s nanny, maid and support system. The scenes are occasionally stressful, often heart-wrenching, and they unfailingly burst with life and emotion. Our critic called it “an expansive, emotional portrait of life buffeted by violent forces, and a masterpiece.”

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The first film adaptation of the beloved 1981 children’s book, this breathlessly energetic family adventure stars Robin Williams as a child trapped for decades in a board game, Bonnie Hunt as a friend who barely made it out and Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce as the contemporary children who help him escape — and must then finish the game. Joe Johnston (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) directs with the proper mixture of childlike enthusiasm and wide-eyed terror, and the special effects (of wild animals and swarms of insects descending on suburban enclaves) remain startlingly convincing. (For more family-friendly fun, try “Paddington” and “Storks.”)

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This tough, wise and somewhat cynical take on the war on drugs is told from the separate perspectives of a street-smart Mexican cop, a newly-appointed American drug czar and a pair of D.E.A. agents. The director and cinematographer Steven Soderbergh gives each section its own look, tempo and attitude, all captured with the energy of a ground-level documentary. The result is a panorama of a film, its variety of styles and aesthetics a masterly match for the geopolitical complexity of its subject. The performances are stunning, with standout turns by Benicio Del Toro (who won an Oscar for the role) as a good cop trying to play both sides of the fence, Catherine Zeta-Jones as a California housewife whose husband’s arrest brings out her inner kingpin, and Michael Douglas as the political expert who discovers exactly how much he doesn’t know. (For more Oscar-winning acting, stream “Places in the Heart” and “Darkest Hour.”)

The director Errol Morris had one of the most commercially successful documentaries of his era with this searing profile of Randall Dale Adams, wrongly convicted in 1976 for the murder of a Dallas policeman. The film was made and marketed less as a documentary than as “nonfiction noir,” using stylized re-enactments, haunting music, colorful characters and striking visuals to create a real-life thriller with the tension and tautness of a Hitchcock picture. Our critic called it a “brilliant work of pulp fiction.” (For more fascinating nonfiction, try “The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson.”)

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In profiling leaders of the Indonesian death squads of the mid-1960s, the documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer invites them to stage elaborate and surreal recreations of their crimes in the cinematic style of their choosing (musical, gangster, western, etc.). In doing so, Oppenheimer directs his subjects to make an upsetting but telling statement on self-deception and the toxicity of power, and on the lies we tell ourselves in order to sleep at night. Our critic deemed it “dogged, inventive, profoundly upsetting and dismayingly funny.” (Oppenheimer’s follow-up, “The Look of Silence,” is also on Netflix.)

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Milos Forman’s adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s stage hit was the big winner of the 57th annual Academy Awards, taking home eight trophies, including best picture, best director and best actor (F. Murray Abraham). The combination of its hardware and logline — a period biography of the classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — makes it sound much more like homework than it is. But “Amadeus” is an all-out entertainment, an “exhilarating” and funny two-hander that approaches Mozart less as a serious musical genius than a punk-rock provocateur, a giggling vulgarian whose bad manners render his unmistakable genius all the more heartbreaking to his jealous contemporary Antonio Salieri (Abraham). (Other Oscar winners on Netflix include “The Killing Fields,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Out of Africa.”)

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Wes Craven went from a genre journeyman to a horror icon — and launched one of the most venerable slasher franchises ever — with this 1984 creeper. Craven wrote and directed this story of suburban teens that find their dreams haunted — often with deadly, real-life results — by the neighborhood boogeyman, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Heather Langenkamp is the resourceful protagonist, while Johnny Depp, in his film debut, is one of the more memorable victims. Subsequent sequels would highlight Krueger with greater prominence but diminishing returns, effectively turning the films into horror-comedies. But this inaugural entry is a lean, mean, scare machine, filled with terrifying images and well-crafted suspense. (For more Craven and Freddy, stream “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”)

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Quentin Tarantino spent six years making his follow-up to “Jackie Brown,” and he ended up shooting enough material for not one, but two movies. They’re best seen together, in old-school, grindhouse double-feature form, allowing Tarantino to spin this globe-trotting yarn about a retired assassin (a fierce and furious Uma Thurman) who hunts down the former colleagues who left her for dead on her wedding day. Paying loving tribute to the exploitation movies of multiple eras and cultures, Tarantino dabbles in kung fu, anime, spaghetti western and blaxploitation, deliriously hopping styles like a movie-crazy kid swapping out VHS tapes. But in all the pyrotechnics, he maintains his gift for quotable dialogue and charismatic characters, ending his blood-soaked saga on a surprisingly warm and human note.

Watch ‘Vol. 1’ here and ‘Vol. 2’ here on Netflix

The first half of this “excursion from the sad to the sublime by way of the preposterous” is a virtuoso portrait of social awkwardness and inappropriateness, as a bride (a stunning Kirsten Dunst) struggles and fails to overcome her crippling depression at her wedding reception. Her family and friends are an assemblage of human triggers far more distressing to her than the crisis of the second half, in which it’s learned that a rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth, and our protagonist discovers that when you’ve spent your life feeling like the world is ending, the event itself can produce a strange calm. The writer and director Lars von Trier (“Breaking the Waves”) tells this dark story with bleak humor and operatic flourishes, as well as a deep empathy for the women at its center. (For more of Dunst, stream “The Beguiled” and “All Good Things.”)

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John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is now acknowledged as one of the great science fiction and horror mash-ups of all time, but it didn’t connect with audiences or critics upon its 1982 release, forcing Carpenter to try something new for his follow-up. This earnest romantic drama was initially compared to “E.T.” for its story of an alien visitor and the human life he changes. But the stakes are quite different; Jeff Bridges stars as the alien, who lands near a remote cabin and takes on the human form of the dead ex-husband of its inhabitant (Karen Allen). Bridges is terrific as the being not at home in its temporary body — the role is “a fine showcase for the actor’s blend of grace, precision and seemingly offhanded charm,” our critic wrote — and he and Allen generate genuine if unexpected chemistry. (Fans of this genre mash-up may also enjoy “Repo Man.”)

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Robin Williams turns in an “extraordinarily complex performance” as a Russian circus saxophonist who defects to the United States — during a trip to Bloomingdale’s, no less — in this delightful fish-out-of-water story from the co-writer and director Paul Mazursky (“Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”). It’s a gentle tale of a good man making his way in the Big Apple, which Mazursky pitches with both Capra-esque innocence and a pointed perspective; everyone our hero encounters is, in their own way, also not from here, making this warm comedy-drama a tender Valentine to found families and new beginnings. (For more ’80s comedy-drama, try “Birdy.”)

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The raw edge yet soft heart of this wildly funny bad-boy comedy, and the presence of the frequent leading man Paul Rudd, might lead you to assume it’s the work of Judd Apatow. But the roots of “Role Models” go back farther than that — the director is David Wain, one of the minds behind the comedy troupe the State — and several of its members (including Kerri Kenney-Silver, Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino) turn up in supporting roles. Rudd and Seann William Scott star as a pair of irresponsible energy drink salesmen who are ordered to perform community service, and wind up in a Big Brother-type program, mentoring a foul-mouthed kid and a cosplaying nerd. (For more wild comedy, stream “No Hard Feelings” or “The Nutty Professor.”)

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The impressive 1990s run of erotic thrillers was nearly at its end when the director John McNaughton (“Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”) directed his entry into the subgenre, which gleefully revels in the sordidness of its story while also slyly winking at its conventions — he has his sleazy cake and eats it too. Denise Richards became a star via her hubba-hubba turn as a rich bad girl who accuses a teacher (Matt Dillon) of assault, a charge echoed by a tough young woman from the wrong side of the tracks (Neve Campbell, turning her “Scream” image inside out). But that’s just the setup; the clever script is filled with reverses, reveals and double-crosses, resulting in a trashy delight that is equal parts Hitchcock and Cinemax After Dark. (If you love lurid erotic thrillers, try Brian DePalma’s “Body Double.”)

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The fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford made his feature directorial debut with this moving, melancholy (and, unsurprisingly, aesthetically stunning) adaptation of the novel by Christopher Isherwood. An Oscar-nominated Colin Firth stars as George, a college professor and “bachelor,” as gay men in his era were so often euphemistically known. Accompanying George through one long, difficult day — the anniversary of the death of his boyfriend — Ford burrows deep into the tortured psyche of his protagonist, and Firth is up to the challenge, playing the role with what Manohla Dargis called “a magnificent depth of feeling.”

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Spike Lee is the heir apparent to Sidney Lumet as New York’s most reliable hometown filmmaker, so it only makes sense that he would eventually work his way around to a homage to Lumet’s sweaty-city classic, “Dog Day Afternoon.” In Lee’s variation, Clive Owen is a cool and confident bank robber who’s interested in something much more valuable than money; Denzel Washington is at his smooth-talking movie-star best as the brilliant police hostage negotiator who’s trying to beat the criminal and the clock. (Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” is also streaming on Netflix.)

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When this mind-melting hit from the Wachowskis landed in theaters in the spring of 1999, its shock waves reverberated throughout the filmmaking of the new millennium. Adroitly combining elements of dystopian science fiction, Asian action cinema, anime and cyberpunk, it concerns a dissatisfied hacker (Keanu Reeves) who learns that reality is an illusion and the mentors (Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss) who lead him on that journey. It is among the most imitated of blockbusters of the past quarter-century, but none have matched its relentless energy and narrative dexterity. (For more stylish ’90s action, watch “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” or “Léon: The Professional.”)

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The Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin made his feature directorial debut with this brisk and intelligent adaptation of the memoir by Molly Bloom, who ran secret poker games for the obscenely wealthy until she got in too deep with the Russian mob. Jessica Chastain stars as Bloom, and her icy cool demeanor and rapid-fire delivery make her an ideal Sorkin heroine. Idris Elba stars as her lawyer, and the two of them perfect a rat-tat-tat back-and-forth that, at its best, recalls Hepburn and Tracy. It’s an engaging picture, filled with solid performers and smart dialogue.

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Between his debut feature “THX 1138” and the seismic sensation of “Star Wars,” George Lucas made a pit stop in the genre of coming-of-age comedy-drama with this teen-centered smash, which he co-wrote and directed. Set entirely on the last night of high school, circa 1962, “Graffiti” tells several stories of seniors standing on the precipice of “real life,” and not sure where to go next. The prescience of the casting is stunning — it’s filled with soon-to-be-stars, including Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips, Suzanne Somers and Cindy Williams — the period music is delightful and the one-crazy-night vibes are immaculate. (If you like comedy and cars, check out “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Baby Driver.”)

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The set-up is a familiar one: a group of highly attractive and wildly irresponsible young people are isolated in a remote location, where they begin turning up dead, one by one. But the director, Halina Reijn, isn’t just cranking out another “Friday the 13th” ripoff; this contemporary thriller-comedy is less interested in a high body count than a biting satire of contemporary narcissism. Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian’s savvy screenplay has a keen ear for the therapy-speak and personal branding of today’s 20-somethings, while the first-rate ensemble uses its considerable charisma to make their characters fascinatingly repellent; the “Shiva Baby” and “Bottoms” star Rachel Sennott and the “S.N.L.” fave Pete Davidson are the standouts.

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This wild blockbuster launched the film career of John Belushi, the “slobs vs. snobs” comedy subgenre and the mainstream aspirations of the subversive humor magazine National Lampoon. Following a pair of misfit fraternity pledges (Tom Hulce and Stephen Furst) through their first semester at Faber College in 1962, the randy screenplay by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller wonders if perhaps that last year of American innocence wasn’t so innocent after all. A deliriously funny rampage of food fights, toga parties, horse abductions and wrecked parades ensues, with the director John Landis engagingly orchestrating the chaos and Belushi stealing every possible scene as the frat’s resident party animal. (For more classic comedy, try “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert,” “Top Secret!” and “Micki & Maude.”)

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The impressive haul of Academy Awards accumulated by this indie smash — best picture, best actress Michelle Yeoh, best supporting actor Ke Huy Quan, best supporting actress Jamie Lee Curtis and best directors and original screenplay to Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as the Daniels — make it sounds like some kind of awards-bait prestige picture. It’s anything but; this is a madcap mixture of every genre under the sun, in which a harried laundromat owner (Yeoh) unlocks the “multiverse,” and the various lives she is living simultaneously within it. It’s an “exuberant swirl of genre anarchy,” A.O. Scott wrote, in which the multiverse conceit allows the Daniels to make several movies (madcap comedy, martial-arts extravaganza, tender relationship drama, science fiction dreamscape), well, all at once.

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Spike Lee helped launch the ’90s indie movement and a renewed interest in Black cinema, to say nothing of his own durable career, with this, his feature debut. Lee writes, directs, edits and memorably co-stars as Mars Blackmon, one of the three men vying for the physical and emotional attention of Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), a Brooklyn graphic artist who has decided not to settle for any one suitor. The picture’s low-budget seams occasionally show, and its sexual politics are occasionally out of date (particularly in the third act). But the cinematic energy, fierce comic spirit and unflinching realism of Lee’s best work is already on display in this formative effort, which also inspired a Netflix series adaptation.

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David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, about real estate salesmen and the desperate measures they’ll take to keep their lousy jobs, was adapted into one of the most potent pictures of the ’90s, thanks to the brute force of Mamet’s dialogue and one of the most remarkable ensemble casts of the era: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce and Alan Arkin. It’s something of a profanity-laden counterpart to “Death of a Salesman,” its scorched-earth monologues and inventive insults providing the flashy surface to a melancholy indictment of empty capitalism and toxic masculinity. Our critic called it “a movie for which everybody deserves awards.” (Pacino is also excellent in “The Irishman.”)

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Aardman Animations’s high-spirited and rambunctious sequel to “Chicken Run” (2000) pulls off the tricky sequel balancing act of recapturing the magic of the original without resorting to outright, beat-by-beat imitation. Here, the lives of the chief chickens in the story are disrupted when Molly, the daughter of Ginger and Rocky, slips away from their idyllic island paradise and ends up trapped in the impenetrable fortress of a food factory. “Last time, we broke out of a chicken farm,” says Ginger. “Well, this time, we’re breaking in.” So instead of the escape adventures that inspired the original film, “Dawn of the Nugget is riffing on heist movies, and cleverly; it’s impeccably designed and detailed, the laughs are plentiful and the voice performers are clearly having a ball.

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As with so much of his best work, this “sly, unnerving” latest from the director Todd Haynes positions itself precariously in that hair’s breadth between drama and melodrama, between naturalism and camp. Natalie Portman, gamely satirizing actorly pretension, stars as a TV actress cast in an indie film dramatizing the scandalous relationship between a 36-year-old wife and mother and a seventh grade boy. Decades have passed, and the couple is still together, so the actress embeds in their hometown to observe them up close. Haynes winks at the “ripped-from-a-true-story” aesthetics of TV movies and indies, but he takes these people and their rampant narcissism seriously; between the broad comic beats, he finds moments of stealth, emotional brutality and piercing insight. It’s a sharp, funny, merciless movie. (Haynes’s “Dark Waters” is also on Netflix.)

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The Oscar-winning documentarian Roger Ross Williams adapts the National Book Award-winner by Ibram X. Kendi into a thought-provoking rumination on the myths and realities of American history. Diving into the knotty legacies of Blackness, whiteness, and white supremacy, Williams brilliantly and incisively juxtaposes archival materials with contemporary insights from an array of scholars, authors and activists. The brisk, 91-minute running time leaves little room for throat-clearing; the results are blunt, provocative and pointed. (Ava DuVernay’s “13TH” is a similarly stimulating exploration of these themes.)

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Bayard Rustin was not the most famous figure of the 1963 March on Washington — that was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered one of the most quoted pieces of modern oratory at its climax — but Rustin dreamed it up and made it happen. He was a fascinating figure, a driven civil rights organizer who was also openly gay (at a time when that was, to put it mildly, frowned upon) former Communist (ditto). “Rustin” wisely takes its cues from Selma, centering on a single, earth-shattering event, rather than attempting to summarize an entire life from cradle to grave. The director, George C. Wolfe, bracingly gets into the weeds, compellingly dramatizing the logistics of organizing, recruiting and raising both money and awareness for an event of this magnitude. And Colman Domingo, a valuable utility player for years now, shines big and bright in the “galvanic title performance.” (Wolfe’s adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is also on Netflix.)

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This wildly out-of-the-box dark comedy plays, at first, like the sly story of an amateur sleuth: Our heroine (Melanie Lynskey), frustrated with the indifference of the police to the crime against her, hits pawn shops and confronts criminals to recover her laptop and her grandmother’s silver. But as she gets in over her head, the film’s tone subtly shifts into a key closer to that of a thriller, particularly when we meet the perpetrators, who are scarily small time (and thus have nothing to lose). Such stark tonal contrasts could sink a lesser movie, but the actor-turned-director Macon Blair never loses control, and the increasingly panicked reactions of the marvelous Ms. Lynskey to her escalating situation keep the story grounded in something resembling the real world. It’s a strange little movie, but an oddly satisfying one.

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What begins as a “Memories of Murder”-style police procedural veers into darker, wilder territory in this unnerving and occasionally stomach-churning horror thriller from the writer and director Na Hong-jin. Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) is a policeman whose investigation of a string of grisly killings is influenced by the gossip around him: “All this happened,” he is told, “after that Japanese man arrived.” When his family is drawn into the investigation, Jong-goo discovers exactly what he’s capable of — and then things get really horrifying. The expansive 156-minute running time allows leisurely detours into character drama and bleak humor, but the picture never goes slack; there is something sinister in the air of this village, and Na builds that sense of inescapable dread with patience and power. (For more South Korean drama, stream “Burning.”)

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It’s a real shame that Liam Neeson had already burned off the good will of his third-act man-of-action career resurgence with too many “Taken” sequels and retreads by the time this taut thriller hit theaters — because it’s far superior to any of his other pictures of the time. That’s partly thanks to the personnel; it’s based on one of a series of crackerjack novels by Lawrence Block, and adapted and directed by Scott Frank (who would later perform the same duties on “The Queen’s Gambit”). But Neeson is also at his best, imbuing cop-turned-private-eye Matthew Scudder with a mixture of soulful regret, unwavering faith and righteous indignation. (For more character-driven action-drama, try Clint Eastwood in “The Mule.”)

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This new twist on the classic tale from the Oscar-winning del Toro (who co-directed with Mark Gustafson) is, to be clear, not for the tiny ones — it’s set in Fascist-era Italy and takes several period-appropriate dark turns, while exploring the running theme of the inevitability of death. But older kids, not to mention imaginative adults, will find much to embrace here. The voice performances are terrific (with Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz and Tilda Swinton the standouts), the set pieces are jaw-dropping (particularly the staggering whale sequence) and the stop-motion animation is gorgeously detailed, an appropriate match of subject and form — the film itself looks as lovingly handcrafted as Geppetto’s woodwork.

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The director Steven Soderbergh reunites with Andre Holland, his co-star from “The Knick,” for this rarest of beasts: a sports movie without any sports. The screenplay by Tarell Alvin McCraney is instead about the business of professional athletics, set during an N.B.A. lockout in which a high-powered agent (Holland) attempts to use the shutdown to turn the entire league — and all of the presumptions and hierarchies of organized sports — upside down. McCraney’s script is rich with historical references and inside-basketball shout-outs; Soderbergh’s direction is reflexively nimble, using on-the-fly photography and interviews with real N.B.A. players to give the film a sense of documentary immediacy. A.O. Scott called it “an exhilarating and argumentative caper.” (Sports movie fans will also enjoy “Slap Shot.”)

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When the remains of the Clotilda, the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to the United States, were discovered off the shore of Mobile, Ala., in 2019, it was physical evidence of a long-told piece of local lore — an illegal operation, long after such ships were outlawed, five years before emancipation. So this amounted to the excavation of a crime scene, prompting a giant question for the descendants of those victims: What does justice look like? Margaret Brown’s spellbinding documentary asks that question, which opens up many more thornier conversations about history, complicity and legacy. Our critic called it “deeply attentive” and “moving.” (Documentary lovers will also enjoy “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “Sr.”)

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The writer and director Rian Johnson follows up his Agatha Christie-style whodunit hit “Knives Out” with this delightfully clever comedy-mystery, featuring the further adventures of the world’s greatest detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, still outfitted with neckerchiefs and a deliciously Southern-fried accent). Johnson constructs a “classic detective story with equal measures of breeziness and rigor,” again focusing on the haves and have-nots, as a gang of rich pals (including Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista and Kathryn Hahn) meet up on the isolated island of a Silicon Valley millionaire (Edward Norton). Janelle Monáe, not unlike Ana de Armas in the original, steals the show as the interloper who’s not what she seems. (Johnson’s “Looper” is also on Netflix.)

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The thumbnail summary — “Aubrey Plaza becomes a thief” — conjures up a bone-dry comedy in which her deadpan persona creates ironic friction with the criminal underworld. But “Emily the Criminal” isn’t that movie at all; it’s a “chilly, assured thriller,” a Michael Mann-ish procedural with nary a wink in sight, and it absolutely (albeit surprisingly) works. The writer and director John Patton Ford creates moments of real tension while also giving what feels like an insider’s view of this world of thieves and hustlers. And if Plaza’s turn as a deep-in-debt temp worker trying her hand at life on the margins sounds like novelty casting, think again — she’s spectacular. (For more indie drama, try “To Leslie.”)

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Of all the films that would have been sleeper hits, had they not been released in 2020 when a theatrical push was off the table, it’s hard to top this, the debut feature from the writer and director Channing Godfrey Peoples. Nicole Beharie stars as Turquoise Jones, a Texas single mother whose 15-year-old daughter (Alexis Chikaeze) is about to compete in the local Miss Juneteenth pageant that Turquoise won, once upon a time. Peoples’s screenplay sensitively explores poignant questions of opportunities lost and gained, and the mother/daughter dynamics are convincing and compelling. But the real takeaway here is Beharie, whose marvelous, lived-in performance is both inspiring and shattering.

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The writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson reunited with his “There Will Be Blood” star Daniel Day-Lewis for this strange, beautiful, darkly comic romantic fable. Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a fictional fashion designer in 1950s-era London; Vicky Krieps is Alma, his latest mistress and muse. He meets her as a waitress and believes her to be yet another disposable lover — only to find that he has, at long last, met his match. Gorgeously rendered and thrillingly acted, “Phantom Thread” initially seems like another portrait of a great and tortured artist, only to curdle into something more insightful (and peculiar). A.O. Scott deemed it “funny, wrenching, full of large and small surprises.” (For more period drama, queue up “A Passage to India” and “Mudbound.”)

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Documentary filmmakers have long been fascinated by the logistics and complexities of manual labor, but Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s recent Oscar winner for best documentary feature views these issues through a decidedly 21st-century lens. Focusing on a closed GM plant in Dayton, Ohio, that’s taken over by a Chinese auto glass company, Bognar and Reichert thoughtfully, sensitively (and often humorously) explore how cultures — both corporate and general — clash. Manohla Dargis calls it “complex, stirring, timely and beautifully shaped, spanning continents as it surveys the past, present and possible future of American labor.” (Documentary fans should also seek out “Dick Johnson Is Dead.”)

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