The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: March 2020

The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: March 2020

How many times have you sat down to find a movie on Netflix, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific menus only to give up and 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.

We’re here to help. If you’re suffering from a case of choice paralysis, we’ve narrowed down your options to our 25 favorite movies on the platform. These run the gamut from classic horror (The Wicker Man) to cozy kids movies (Klaus) and everything in between. 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.


American Honey

Photo: A24

Andrea Arnold’s lively road-trip movie follows a “mag crew” — a group of aimless twentysomethings, driving from town to town in a van, scamming the locals into buying magazine subscriptions for a predatory company. During the day, they sell; at night, they party and jockey for social position. The behind-the-scenes stories on American Honey are tremendous; Arnold really did roam around the country, casting non-professionals she found partying in Walmart parking lots and beaches. And they give American Honey a loose, natural, casual feel. The few pro actors — Riley Keough as the ruthless mag-crew manager, Shia LaBeouf as her top seller and cat-herder — fit in perfectly, but newcomer Sasha Lane as a reckless young runaway who throws in with the crew is magnificent. For people feeling claustrophobic and cabin-fever-y, American Honey is a tremendous cure: a movie full of open skies and open roads, outdoor singalongs and late-night boozefests, close personal confessionals and the heady thrill of being young and joyously hedonistic. —Tasha Robinson


Baahubali: The Beginning

Baahubali: The Beginning - prabhas as baahubali carrying a giant fountain

Image: Dharma Productions

In Western terms, this Tollywood production, the most expensive Indian film at the time of its release, is like a biblical epic by way of Marvel Studios, with a little Hamlet and Step Up thrown in for good measure. The Beginning chronicles the life of Shivudu, an adventurer with superhuman strength who escapes his provincial life by scaling a skyscraper-sized waterfall, aides and romances a rebel warrior named Avanthika, then teams up with her to rescue a kidnapped queen from an evil emperor. Exploding with hyper-choreographed fight sequences and CG spectacle (not to mention a handful of musical numbers with equal bravura), The Beginning is 159 minutes of mythical excess, going big like only Indian film can, and resting on the muscular shoulders of its hero, the single-name actor Prabhas. If you fall hard for it, get pumped — this is only part one. The twist leads into Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, another two-and-a-half-hour epic also streaming on Netflix. —Matt Patches


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 of 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’s focus is on mortality and the capricious nature of life, and while some of the outcomes may seem cruel, there’s always touch of tenderness, even in the most tragic stories. —Karen Han


Ex Machina

Ex Machina

Photo: A24

Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller is one of those movies that you want to rewatch immediately after the credits roll. Garland focuses on the Elon Musk-esque tech CEO, Nathan Bateman, (Oscar Isaac) who invites an employee, Caleb Smith, (Domhnall Gleeson) to conduct a Turing Test on Ava (Alicia Vikander), a new AI he’s developed. It’s mesmerizing to watch Nathan, Caleb, and Ava manipulate each other, especially as Caleb starts to learn more about Nathan’s plans to wipe Ava’s memory and “upgrade” her after she passes Caleb’s test. Science fiction has been exploring humanity’s hubris in creating artificial intelligence since Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein created the genre, but Garland’s take on the modern Prometheus is a sleek update for the smartphone era. —Emily Heller


Green Room

Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin, and Callum Turner stand outside of a tour van in a screengrab from Green Room

Photo: A24

Featuring Patrick Stewart as the truly terrifying leader of a gang of neo-Nazis, Green Room is among the tensest 90 minutes ever put to film. Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat star as struggling punk musicians who inadvertently witness a murder backstage at a skinhead club. They manage to barricade themselves in the green room — but with no way to escape. The movie begins almost leisurely, which makes the explosions of violence hit hard and fast. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier manages to make the movie feel as grimy and claustrophobic as the titular green room. —EH


Haywire

Antonio Banderas and Gina Carano share a look over a cafe table in a screenshot from Haywire

Photo: Relativity Media

Smack in the middle of a wave of Bourne Identity-inspired thrillers full of cut-up combat came Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, a perfectly simple thriller ready to remind everyone how straightforward and effective onscreen fights could be. Instead of the era’s more common edited-to-the-max impressionistic fights, Haywire centers prominently on MMA star Gina Carano (pre The Mandalorian) as a secret agent whose leadership sells her out and targets her for assassination. It’s a bog-standard plot (will shadowy, two-faced, nefarious organizations never learn that sending a series of agents after their betrayed superstar agent one at a time never works out?), but it isn’t really about the story — it’s about watching Carano battle Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, and Ewan McGregor in a series of punishingly low-fi, impressively choreographed throwdowns as her situation escalates. This is back-to-basics stuff, the kind of purely athletic thrill of an old-school martial-art movie, with a brutality and efficiency those films rarely had. —TR


I Lost My Body

A girl in a hoodie looks at a boy wearing glasses in a screenshot from I Lost My Body

Image: Rezo Films

The dreamy surreal French film I Lost My Body follows a severed hand trying to find its way back to its owner. While that set up itself is enticing, the film also weaves a poignant tale of loss and grief. The animation itself is stunning, but so is the story, which weaves flashbacks into the hand’s current journey to its missing owner. We see scenes in the distant past, ones from not too long ago, and each informs the answer to a grand question: How did the hand get separated in the first place? But once that mystery is revealed, the emotional crux of the movie continues on, as the story has evolved into one about the desperation for connection. — PR


Inception

A man stands in the middle of a building being flooded by water.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Sometimes a certain movie will come along and lay indisputable claim to a song. So it goes with Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien,” which uses the song as a repeated motif. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief who specializes in entering others’ dreams and stealing ideas. His next job, however, turns the formula on its head; this time the aim is to plant an idea. The song becomes an auditory cue to help the job, which requires multiple levels of dreams, from growing out of control. There are, however, other complications, such as the general unpredictability of dreams and the ghost of Dom’s dead wife. —KH


The Irishman

Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa and De Niro as Frank Sheeran across from each other at a bar in The Irishman

Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Martin Scorsese’s portrait of Frank Sheeran, the truck driver union official who doubled as a career hitman for the mob, clocks in at nearly three and a half hours. That’s not a sign of indulgence. With a script by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and the eye of longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, The Irishman weaves together Frank’s stint in World War II, his early days under the wing of mafioso Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), his ascension in the labor movement as a loyalist and friend of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), his grisly milestones as a guy who “paints houses,” and occasional glimpses of the family he’s sworn to protect. By the end, when life comes into full view for the audience and Frank himself, the film rebukes every gangster idolizer with a Goodfellas poster on their wall. Robert De Niro’s Frank is dutiful to a fault, and his often vacant gaze, spanning de-aged smoothness to craggy wrinkles, offers perspective on the poisonous effect of moral failure. Not every scene “speaks” to the plot, but each one Scorsese composes sticks like a memory, taking on more meaning further into the runtime. The same effect will likely deepen The Irishman as we all grow into it. —MP


Klaus

jesper and klaus arguing about something

Image: Netflix

Klaus is the cinematic equivalent of pouring a cup of hot cocoa. Sure, it’s a Christmas movie, but the message of compassion is universal. The lush 2D animation makes the movie as warm as a picture book. It’s funny, but never crass; heartwarming, but never too cheesy. I came into it expecting a typical Santa-origin story, but was absolutely disarmed by how earnest and genuine the message was. Great for family viewing, but the story will resonate even if you don’t have little ones to corral. — PR


The Lobster

Colin Farrell and John C. Reilly seated side by side in The Lobster.

A24

“Oh, another movie with this familiar plot?” said no one about a Yorgos Lanthimos film, ever. The director of Dogtooth and The Favourite is known for his unconventional work, but he took a particularly surreal direction with The Lobster, a film set in a world where unpartnered people are turned into animals. Colin Farrell stars as an unpartnered man shipped to a facility where he has 45 days to find a willing partner, or become a lobster. Grimly straight-faced, meticulously crafted, extremely uncomfortable, and frequently startling, The Lobster plays out a metaphor about how society enforces its defaults, including its expectations that people partner up to prove their stability and suitability. But more significantly, it plays out a crisp, endlessly surprising story about a world that has to be discovered by the audience, one weird factoid at a time. —TR


Marriage Story

Nicole (Johansson) and Charlie (Driver) exchanging gifts.

Photo: Netflix

Despite its title, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is about the ugly fallout of divorce. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star as Charlie and Nicole, a couple in the midst of separating. They haven’t stopped loving each other, nor is there some single inciting incident, which is what makes the divorce so difficult. As lawyers are drawn in and boil their lives into too-simple terms for the sake of a settlement, they struggle to keep ahold of their professional and private lives, which were previously so intensely tied together. Baumbach resists the easy route of painting one as the villain and one as the hero, making the breakup all the more bittersweet — and rewarding — to watch. —MP


The Master

Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) processes Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) while smoking a cigarette in a key scene from The Master

The Weinstein Company

If you’re looking for Joaquin Phoenix’s best, most riveting performance, give Joker a courteous nod then move on to The Master. Though Phoenix and his co-stars (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams) are all bona fide movie stars, they disappear into the world of a 1950s cult in the hands of Paul Thomas Anderson. Phoenix plays a World War II veteran struggling to readjust to the world, with Hoffman as the charismatic cult leader who takes him under his wing. Around the relationship between the two men, Anderson builds a tumultuous story about success in America, finding a home, and love. —Karen Han


National Treasure

Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean on the hunt

Touchstone Pictures

Nicolas Cage is, himself, a national treasure. Cage’s performance as Benjamin Franklin Gates is a little more serious and grounded than much of his oeuvre (it is a Disney movie, after all), but it’s a kids movie in which Nicolas Cage plays a treasure hunter who steals the Declaration of Independence in order to keep it out of the hands of Sean Bean, so it’s still absolutely bonkers. —EH


Obvious Child

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child.

A24

“Abortion” and “comedy” aren’t words often found within arm’s length of each other, but Obvious Child is a welcome exception. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, who wanted to remove some of the stigma surrounding abortion, the film stars Jenny Slate as a stand-up comedian who becomes pregnant as the result of a one-night stand, and decides to have an abortion. Obvious Child is particularly remarkable not just for how warm it is given the potentially anxiety-inducing subject matter, but for a refusal to include any explicit political message, and a striving for emotional honesty. —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 in the way his other Will Ferrell collaborations did (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 find themselves 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. —EH


The Platform

The weary-looking, gaunt, bearded protagonist of The Platform peers numbly into the camera in a close-up shot

Photo: Netflix

Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s debut film is an eye-popping wonder, a memorable and horrible metaphor for wealth inequality that also works as a pure science-fiction dystopian yarn. A good-natured scholarly type (Ivan Massagué) wakes up in a concrete cell with a sneering old crank (Zorion Eguileor), but there are no bars or doors holding them in — there’s just an endless stack of cells atop each other, with a yawning rectangular void connecting them all. Once a day, a floating platform holding a sumptuous feast descends through all the levels of the prison — but people in the cells below are doomed to eat whatever the people on the levels above them reject. The kicker: every month, everyone in the system is gassed and moved to a different level, where they might get to the feast earlier or later. Gaztelu-Urrutia spins a lot of horror and surprises out of that simple setup, from grim, hilarious humor to startling violence. —TR


Purple Rain

Few movies gush with libido, sweat, and pure genius quite like the rock musical Purple Rain. Prince stars as “The Kid,” the frontman of a rock group that’s currently sweeping the Minneapolis. But romance and professional ambition clash when The Kid’s girlfriend Apollonia joins a musical group competing for his same slot at the local nightclub. From there, the movie strings together now-iconic tracks with a melodramatic premise, but the logic behind the movie is simple: Put Prince on stage and let him rip. The musician set out to make the ultimate star vehicle for himself and, in true Prince fashion, delivered something beyond legendary. —MP


The Ring

Teens Katie (Amber Tamblyn) and Becca (Rachael Bella) watch television on Katie’s bed in a screenshot from The Ring

Image: DreamWorks Pictures

Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, based on the Japanese movie Ringu (which was in turn based on Koji Suzuki’s novel of the same name), kicked off a trend of English-language remakes of Asian horror movies. But even after The Grudge, One Missed Call, The Uninvited, and all the others, The Ring stands out as the best (and scariest) of the lot thanks to Verbinski’s spooky, shadowy visuals and a moody score by Hans Zimmer. The plot is simple: a cursed VHS tape causes whoever watches it to die in seven days. Naomi Watts investigates. But the image of a nightgown-clad girl with soaking wet hair climbing out of a TV surely scarred a generation. —EH


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 comic book inspirations, every frame of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels meticulously and lovingly drawn. But Into the Spider-Verse is not 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


Springsteen on Broadway

the boss at work

Netflix

In his intimate Broadway residency concert, a recording of which was released on Netflix, Bruce Springsteen weaves reminiscences from 50 years of superstardom with acoustic arrangements of 15 Springsteen hits. The Boss’ fascinating blend of working-class roughness and emotional rawness is distilled to its purest essence in this intimate concert. Bruce sits alone on a bare stage, accompanied by only a piano, guitar, harmonica, and occasionally his wife, Patti Scialfa. It’s almost like going to church. —EH


Spy Kids

Troublemaker Studios

Remember the sheer joy of watching the scene where Carmen Cortez puts a foil packet into that microwave and it becomes a full-ass McDonalds meal? You can relive that. You can relive the absolutely zany, wild excitement that is Spy Kids. The third movie is also on Netflix — yes, that’s the 3D one where Elijah Wood appears for ten seconds — but for some reason, the second (with the iconic line of “Do you think God stays in heaven because he, too, lives in fear of what he’s created here on earth?”) is nowhere to be seen. That’s okay though. Spy Kids is not bound by logic such as “chronological order” or “continuity.” — Petrana Radulovic


There Will Be Blood

Dillon Freasier stands next to a seated Daniel Day Lewis in a screenshot from There Will Be Blood

Photo: Miramax

Paul Thomas Anderson’s turn-of-the-century epic stars Daniel Day Lewis as a ruthless oil baron, Daniel Plainview. Paul Dano plays twin brothers, Paul and Eli, who find oil on their property and sell Daniel the rights to drill there. (Fair warning: the twin thing gets confusing. Another actor was originally cast as Eli, but Anderson asked Dano to step in and play both brothers, rewriting them as twins, after filming had already started.) The promise of that title — There Will Be Blood — keeps things pretty tense for the entire two-and-a-half-hour runtime. —EH


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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

StudioCanal

I firmly believe that 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 is ultimately about love and human connection. —KH


The Wicker Man

Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) raises his arms in front of the wicker man

Photo: British Lion Films

It’s still hard to get Nicolas Cage streaming “How’d it get burned!” and “Oh no! The bees!” out of our collective heads. But even the most memorable moments of his laughably awful 2006 Wicker Man remake can’t wipe out the horror of the original film, and particularly its indelible ending. The 1973 version of Wicker Man is an all-time suspense classic, a purity procedural about a stuffy, judgmental Christian cop investigating a child’s disappearance on a private island that still adheres to old pagan rituals. It’s mesmerizing and haunting in its own right, but it’s also well worth watching just to see how many horror films it’s influenced over the decades, prominently including Midsommar and Netflix’s The Apostle. —TR

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