The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: June 2020

The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: June 2020

What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves the question, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus, then put on The Office again. Netflix’s huge catalogue of movies, combined with its inscrutable algorithm, can make finding something to watch feel more like a chore than a way to unwind. When really, what you want, are the good movies. No … the best movies.

We’re here to help. If you’re suffering from a case of choice paralysis, we’ve narrowed down your options to 25 of our favorite movies on the platform. These run the gamut from spaghetti Westerns (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) to indie thrillers (Moon) to some of the best films produced outside the United States (you saw Parasite, but have you seen Bong Joon-ho’s Okja?). We’ll be updating this list as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen.


The Artist

Photo: Warner Bros.

Half Singin’ in the Rain, half A Star is Born, and all swoony love letter to cinema’s silent era, Michel Hazanavicius’ Best Picture winner The Artist drops Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo into the classic story of a big star on the wane, and a new star on the rise. The black-and-white film — mostly a silent feature, with a couple of sound interludes for specific effect — can be broad and corny, with the big gestures and bigger expressions of old silent movies, and equally big character archetypes. But like so many of the old silent comedies, The Artist plays on easily recognized, universal human emotions — longing, jealousy, embarrassment, and love — to tell a story that’s satisfying because it’s as simple and recognizable as a Punch and Judy show. It’s about acknowledging the bare emotional essentials of what people enjoy in cinema, and stripping away absolutely everything else. —Tasha Robinson


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Tim Blake Nelson is Buster Scruggs in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a film by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Netflix

The Coen brothers’ most recent film tells six stories of the American frontier, all with varying degrees of bittersweetness. Even the most absurd of the stories — a mini-musical featuring Buster Scruggs, or Tom Waits holding a conversation with a pocket of gold — reveal deeper layers. The film focuses on mortality and the capricious nature of life, and while some of the outcomes may seem cruel, there’s always a touch of tenderness, even in the most tragic stories. —Karen Han


Clueless

cher, tai, and dione in all their ‘90s fabulousness

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Since its 1995 premiere, Amy Heckerling’s spin on the Jane Austen classic Emma has become a classic in its own right. Alicia Silverstone stars as Cher Horowitz, a beautiful, rich, popular high-school student who decides to take her school’s “tragically unhip” new girl, Tai (Brittany Murphy), under her wing. Her attempt at making Tai over strains her relationships with her friends, as well as with her handsome former stepbrother, Josh (Paul Rudd). —KH


Da 5 Bloods

a group of men kneeling together

Photo: Netflix

On the surface, Spike Lee’s new feature film Da 5 Bloods is seemingly about the long-term effects of the Vietnam War on survivors and relationships. But the story goes much deeper, and the film’s release couldn’t possibly have come at a more relevant moment. The stars (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Norm Lewis) play a group of friends and combat veterans who served in the same Army unit, where they lost their commander Norman (Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman). It’s part adventure, as they return to Vietnam for Norman’s body and a cache of hidden gold, but more significantly, it’s a series of political statements, about black consciousness-raising, the lessons of former generations, America’s casual abuse of its black citizens, and about the importance of unity in the face of oppression and opportunity alike. The bulk of the story would be relevant in any era — 1948’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre and 1979’s Apocalypse Now are both prominently referenced touchstones — but the framing places it so squarely in the middle of the present mood and moment, it’s as though the editing was finished yesterday. —TR


District 9

Sharlto Copley looking out over a sci-fi Johannesburg in District 9.

Photo: TriStar Pictures

After the comparative disappointments of Elysium and Chappie, it can be hard to remember how writer-director Neill Blomkamp started out: with the strikingly original, distinctive science-fiction film District 9, which channels the stereotypes and prejudices around asylum-seekers into a story about aliens taking up residence on Earth. Blomkamp’s friend Sharlto Copley plays a hapless corporate man working with a race of insectoid aliens stranded on Earth and forced into South African slum districts, where they’re reviled and abused. He starts to gain some sympathy for them, though, when he’s exposed to an alien chemical that starts mutating his human form. District 9 is an open metaphor for apartheid, crafted with insight, sympathy for the victims, and open rage at the brutal effects of racism. But it’s also weirdly funny, and the fast-paced action and dizzying handheld camerawork make it edge-of-the-seat viewing. —TR


Django Unchained

King (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx) walk down a muddy street in Django Unchained

Photo: Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained almost feels like a comic book movie in its stylization and how earnestly everything is presented. There’s no question that viewers are meant to find Django (Jamie Foxx) the epitome of cool, even less so when, following an explosion, he materializes out of the smoke to the dulcet tones of John Legend. As he works to secure the freedom of his beloved Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), Django teams up with the bounty hunter King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), and faces off against plantation owners such as Big Daddy (Don Johnson) and Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). —KH


The Florida Project

willem dafoe and brooklynn prince

Image: A24 Films

The title of The Florida Project refers to the original name for Walt Disney World. The park is a faraway dream for 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), even though they live so close to it. The two of them live in a motel run by Bobby (Willem Dafoe), and Moonee spends most of her time on her own or with the other children in the complex. Though Halley does her best to make ends meet, their circumstances grow more and more difficult, making moments of joy all the more magical. —KH


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

clint eastwood in a hat and poncho

Image: United Artists

Clint Eastwood is “the Good,” Lee Van Cleef is “the Bad,” and Eli Wallach is “the Ugly” in Sergio Leone’s famous spaghetti Western. The three gunslingers cross paths as they search for a hidden stash of gold. Bullets fly as they encounter bounty hunters, Union and Confederate soldiers, and other dangers, culminating in perhaps the most famous cinematic Mexican standoff. —KH


Good Time

robert pattinson in good time

Photo: A24

The title of Uncut Gems directors Benny and John Safdie’s movie Good Time is misleading, in that the experience of watching the movie is anything but. Robert Pattinson stars as Connie, a small-time bank robber trying to make bail for his brother. The movie moves at a breakneck pace, and includes everything from a case of mistaken identity to a forced LSD trip, as Connie grows more and more desperate for the money. —KH


The Guest

dan stevens holding a gun in the guest

Photo: Picturehouse

Dan Stevens has gradually become a star, with leading roles in projects from Disney’s depressingly unnecessary Beauty and the Beast live-action remake to the dizzyingly subjective Legion series. But The Guest, directed by You’re Next’s Adam Wingard, was one of the first major signs of the charisma that would draw casting agents to him. Stevens plays an enigma who shows up on a couple’s doorstep with a perfectly plausible story tying his past to the son they just lost in Afghanistan. Then bit by bit, that story falls apart, and tensions rise with the couple’s daughter (Maika Monroe, also doing terrific work). Stylistically, visually, and musically, this film throws back hard to the thrillers of the 1980s, but it’s taut and thoroughly entertaining. It’s a horror movie with a wink, but it’s still a great, well-told story. —TR


Hail, Caesar!

channing tatum and a group of sailors dancing

Image: Universal Pictures

Hail, Caesar! could easily feel like an indulgence, as the Coen brothers basically recreate various types of Old Hollywood movies based on their personal fandom. But they do it with so much love and skill that it’s hard to object. The story revolves around a fixer (Josh Brolin) trying to figure out what happened to a missing movie star (George Clooney). As he looks for clues, he goes from movie set to movie set, dropping in on all different kinds of productions — including a sailor musical featuring Channing Tatum — and bringing an idyllic vision of Hollywood’s past to life. —KH


Lady Bird

Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) in Lady Bird

Photo: A24

Before making 2019’s stellar Little Women, actor Greta Gerwig made her solo directing debut with the even more stellar Lady Bird, a portrait of a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) figuring herself out in relation with other people, particularly her controlling, judgmental mother (Laurie Metcalf). In any other movie, the mother might be a simple villain to overcome, but part of the appeal of Lady Bird is that both characters are equally realized, and Metcalf makes her character feel human — not always relatable or sympathetic, but not one-dimensional, either. It’s a movie meant for people with loving, fraught relationships with their parents, or with their own teen years, early romances, and important life lessons. —TR


Lust, Caution

tony leung and tang wei in lust, caution

Photo: Focus Features

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, based on the Eileen Chang novella of the same name, is an erotic espionage thriller that takes place in 1938, during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. A group of Chinese university students plot to kill a high-ranking member of the puppet government, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), by leading him into a honey trap. Chia Chi (Tang Wei), a student actress, is enlisted to seduce him. As the two of them become close, however, their emotions become a liability. —KH


Moon

Moon - Sam (Sam Rockwell) on the moon base

Photo: Mark Tilles/Lunar Industries Ltd.

Duncan Jones’ Moon is one of the most gripping science-fiction films of the last few decades, perfectly capturing the isolation of being in space as well as the terror of being so isolated. As Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) comes to the end of his three-year solitary mining contract on the Moon, his mental health begins to deteriorate. Things get even stranger when it becomes clear that he isn’t actually completely alone. —KH


Moonlight

Juan (Ali) teaches Little (Hibbert) how to swim.

Photo: A24

Barry Jenkins’ tender three-part coming-of-age story Moonlight may ultimately be remembered for the Oscar-night kerfuffle surrounding it — Best Picture presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were handed the wrong winner envelope, Beatty mistakenly announced that La La Land had won Best Picture, and the film’s crew took the stage to start their speeches before they learned that Moonlight had actually won. At least all the surrounding drama and interest focused more widespread attention on Jenkins’ film, an intensely personal three-act story about a gay black boy dealing with his orientation as a child, finding first love as a teenager, and settling into his identity as an adult. Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe offer particularly tender performances as the drug dealers who support him in childhood, but the real star of the show here is the vivid, lovely cinematography, as Jenkins uses intimate images and sharp visuals to suggest an active, aching mind behind the ever-evolving mask the central character presents to the world. —TR


Okja

Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) and Okja, her giant super-pig.

Photo: Netflix

The last movie Bong Joon-ho directed before Parasite was Okja, a South Korean-American co-production about a girl and her super-pig. As with all of director Bong’s films, Okja seesaws between tones, mixing poop jokes with commentary on the cruelty suffered by animals in the meat industry, as well as the importance of language and translation. The film is also a technical achievement — even though Okja the super-pig is a CG creation, it boasts a remarkable warmth and tangibility. —KH


The Other Guys

Mark Wahlberg pulls Will Ferrell’s tie in a screengrab from The Other Guys

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Adam McKay’s buddy-cop comedy never quite hit the comedy zeitgeist like his other Will Ferrell collaborations (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers), which is a shame, because it’s one of their best. The Other Guys stars Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as “desk jockey” NYPD officers who get caught up in investigating a pyramid scheme that goes all the way to the top of Wall Street. In hindsight, The Other Guys can be seen as the fulcrum of McKay’s career, as he’s pivoted away from absurdist comedy to exposing systemic corruption in The Big Short and Vice. —Emily Heller


The Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.

Photo: Orion Pictures

Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar for Best Actor at the 64th Academy Awards with only 16 minutes of screen time. His performance as Hannibal Lecter remains one of the greatest ever committed to film, and is matched beat for beat by Jodie Foster’s turn as Clarice Starling, the FBI trainee who comes into his orbit as she pursues the serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” The Silence of the Lambs is also one of the late director Jonathan Demme’s best (and most well-known) films, and rightfully so, as he balances the incomprehensibly horrific with startlingly tangible, human emotions. —KH


Slow West

Jay (Smit-McPhee) and Silas (Fassbender) ride horses side by side.

Photo: Lionsgate

Coen brothers fans shouldn’t miss out on Slow West, which is … in no way a Coen brothers film. But with its quirky characters, straight-faced humor, and deep sense of understated melancholy around injustice and the inevitability of death, it sure feels like one. John Maclean’s anti-Western stars X-Men: Apocalypse’s Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Scottish traveler who comes to America, following the woman he loves (Caren Pistorius), who fled the country after a fatal accident. His journey to find her leads him to various dangerous characters played by Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, and Rory McCann, among others. Neither a traditional Western nor a neo-style update, Slow West is cynical about the genre, about the power of cinematic love, and a lot of other things, and its ending will certainly frustrate some people. But Coen brothers movies should have prepped certain kinds of movie fans for this particular brand of grim absurdity, and the weird pleasures of such an unpredictable narrative. —TR


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Peni (Kimiko Glen), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) all turn in shock.

Sony Pictures Animation

Like its best comic-book inspirations, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels meticulously and lovingly drawn in every frame. But Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just visually stunning — the story by Phil Lord is one of the most thoughtful superhero origin stories we’ve seen in years. Rather than rehashing Peter Parker’s origins yet again, Spider-Verse focuses on Miles Morales, a teenager who took over the Spider-mantle in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Marvel alternate universe. When the villain Kingpin activates a super-collider, opening a portal to the multiverse, Miles teams up with alternate versions of Spider-Man to destroy the device and close the portal. —EH


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Some of the cast of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy seated around a table.

StudioCanal

I firmly believe Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the greatest movies ever made. Adapted from the John le Carré novel by Tomas Alfredson, it really shows off every aspect of filmmaking, from a beautiful script to camera tricks that heighten tension (the use of a 2000mm lens is particularly great) to musical cues that add to rather than simply accompanying the action (Elgar’s “Salut d’amour,” the National Anthem of the USSR, etc.). Featuring a murderers’ row of a cast, it’s solid through and through, and heartbreaking as Cold War concerns give way to a story that’s ultimately about love and human connection. —KH


Uncut Gems

Howard (Adam Sandler) bargains with Kevin Garnett while Demany (Lakeith Stanfield) looks on

Photo: A24

Adam Sandler’s performance in Uncut Gems is as you’ve never seen him before. As gambling-addicted jeweler Howard Ratner, he’s a force of nature. The film follows Ratner as he attempts to retrieve an expensive gem he purchased in a bid to pay off the many debts he owes, and the Safdie brothers bring in everyone from Kevin Garnett to Idina Menzel as Ratner runs all over New York in pursuit of the gem. It’s a stressful, heart-pumping thriller, especially as Ratner’s compulsions get him into bigger and bigger trouble. —KH


Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

jenna fischer and john c. reilly in walk hard

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is such a razor-sharp lampoon of musician biopics that it should make anyone attempting to adapt a famous musician’s life think twice about the whole endeavor. Largely based on the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, Walk Hard stars John C. Reilly as the fictional rock-and-roll star Dewey Cox. Though his life story brings him face to face with such figures as The Beatles and the Temptations, the film really soars when it’s parodying the biopic genre (Walk Hard includes everything from a group break-up to post-credits footage of “the actual Dewey Cox”) and allowing its cast to perform a startlingly great array of original music. —KH


West Side Story

rita moreno dances in west side story

Photo: United Artists

Here’s a subversive reminder that racial tensions are nothing new in America, and have long been part of America’s identity — an upbeat, colorful, immensely earwormy musical that recasts Romeo and Juliet as a mid-’50s face-off between a white street gang and a Puerto Rican one in New York City. Certainly harder-hitting movies about anti-immigrant violence and prejudice have been made, but the fact that all these things were such a part of American life in the 1960s that they were grist for cheery singalongs is telling. West Side Story’s frank look at racism and the barriers to the American dream still feels daring today, even though some of it has dated poorly, particularly the white actors donning brownface to play Puerto Rican characters. But its open acknowledgement of the shallowness and destructive of racism is still touching, and the songs and elaborate dance setpieces are still winning. —TR


Zodiac

robert downey jr and jake gyllenhaal in zodiac

Image: Paramount Pictures

Based on the book by Robert Graysmith (and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the author himself), Zodiac recounts the search for the infamous “Zodiac Killer.” The film follows Graysmith as he becomes more and more obsessed with the investigation, and co-stars Mark Ruffalo as proto-Columbo Dave Toschi, and Robert Downey Jr. as the journalist Paul Avery. The real-life case remains unsolved, and the film — mildly spicy take incoming — remains David Fincher’s best film. —KH


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