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Miramax Films

The 19 best-reviewed movies on Netflix right now

Netflix and Metacritic are two of the most useful tools in existence for film fans, but they're surprisingly difficult to use in conjunction with each other. When scouring critics' most beloved movies on Metacritic, there's no way of filtering out ones that you can stream instantly on Netflix (though there is a checkbox for Amazon Prime; see the top of this table). And when browsing Netflix, there's no top-rated-by-Metacritic category or scores attached to any of the movies. So as a small public service, here are the 19 best-reviewed films that are currently available for streaming on Netflix.

  1. Best Kept Secret

    Metacritic score: 100

    Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

    To be fair, Best Kept Secret's perfect score is a product of only four reviews, but critics who've seen the 2013 documentary are rapturous. The film tracks Janet Mino, a Newark public school special education teacher whose class of teen boys on the autism spectrum is about to graduate into a world loath to give them a chance. "Best Kept Secret is an exemplary documentary: It spotlights an important issue yet never seeks to squeeze the truth into an easily digestible narrative frame," the New York Times' Miriam Bale writes.

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  2. Hoop Dreams

    Metacritic score: 98

    Length: 2 hours, 51 minutes.

    Hoop Dreams follows two black Chicago teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they attend a heavily white suburban Catholic school with an excellent basketball program in hopes that it will propel them to the NBA. Released in 1994, it's one of the most universally acclaimed documentaries ever made. "A film like Hoop Dreams is what the movies are for," Roger Ebert, one of the movie's early champions, wrote. "It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  3. Virunga

    Metacritic score: 95

    Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

    As with Best Kept Secret, the score of 2014's Virunga was helped by a relative paucity of reviews, but the film's portrait of rangers at the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park enduring poachers, Western attempts at exploitation, and civil strife won admiration among those who saw it. "Showcasing the best and the worst in human nature, Orlando von Einsiedel’s devastating documentary Virunga wrenches a startlingly lucid narrative from a sickening web of bribery, corruption and violence," the New York Times' Jeannette Catsoulis writes.

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  4. Pulp Fiction

    Metacritic score: 94

    Length: 2 hours, 34 minutes.

    This one should require no introduction, but I highly recommend reading some of the reviews from 1994 Metacritic pulls together, reflecting a time when Quentin Tarantino's aesthetic was startling and novel rather than copied to death. The negative ones are especially fun. "The way that this picture has been so widely ravened up and drooled over verges on the disgusting," the late Stanley Kauffmann wrote in the New Republic. "Pulp Fiction nourishes, abets, cultural slumming."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  5. We Were Here

    Metacritic score: 94

    Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

    We Were Here, released in 2011, documents the profound damage the AIDS epidemic did to San Francisco's gay community in the 1980s, but also the incredible way in which the community came together to fight the plague. "We Were Here is above all a film about love," the New York Times' Stephen Holden writes. "Not romantic love but the kind that really matters, in which people selflessly show up and keep on showing up for one another in the worst of times."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  6. Carlos

    Metacritic score: 94

    Length: 2 hours, 45 minutes.

    Carlos the Jackal was the preeminent terrorist of the 1970s, a sort of guerilla consultant who hopped from sponsor to sponsor.

    Olivier Assayas' 2010 biopic — starring Édgar Ramírez as Carlos — is both an outstanding action movie and a devastating chronicle of a man whose lust for glory wound up preventing him from helping the causes he professed to care about. By the time he's caught, he's "already been exposed as the politician he is, willing to sacrifice any life for the revolution except his own," as the Chicago Reader's JR Jones writes.

    Click here to watch on Netflix. If you can, make time for the full six-hour miniseries upon which the film is based; it's well worth the investment.

  7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

    Metacritic score: 93

    Length: 2 hours.

    Like Pulp Fiction, Crouching Tiger is a pretty well-established classic at this point, so much so that it's easy to forget just how purely enjoyable a spectacle it is.

    Upon its 2000 release, Ebert dubbed it "the most exhilarating martial arts movie I have seen … There is a sequence near the beginning of the film involving a chase over rooftops, and as the characters run up the sides of walls and leap impossibly from one house to another, the critics applauded, something they rarely do during a film, and I think they were relating to the sheer physical grace of the scene."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  8. Gideon's Army

    Metacritic score: 93

    Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

    Another low-review-count, highly praised documentary, 2013's Gideon's Army tracks three young public defenders in the Deep South, trying to uphold standards of justice with barely any money, enormous caseloads, and clients they occasionally find reprehensible. "Gideon’s Army is a bare film with no narrator and a minimal soundtrack," the New York Times' Holden writes. "That’s all it needs to grab you by the throat."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  9. Days of Heaven

    Metacritic score: 93

    Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

    Terrence Malick's 1978 classic, his last feature before taking a 21-year hiatus from filmmaking, concerns a couple in 1916 (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams) that flees Chicago after Gere kills a man, and settles in West Texas to work as migrant laborers.

    "The dialogue is minimal, and Malick's fixation on the natural surroundings sometimes threatens to overwhelm the plot and actors. A wren rivals star Richard Gere for screen time," Keith Phipps writes at the AV Club. "But it's Malick's particular genius to make viewers feel like they're seeing the world, with all its beauty and danger, for the first time."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  10. Amadeus

    Metacritic score: 93

    Length: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

    Milos Forman's 1984 adaptation of Peter Shaffer's play about the rivalry between the young, preternaturally talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) and the harder-working but under-achieving Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) in late 18th century Vienna swept the Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay for Shaffer, and Best Actor for Abraham (beating Hulce, who was also nominated).

    "The movie's success is partly explained," Ebert wrote, "by its strategy of portraying Mozart not as a paragon whose greatness is a burden to us all, but as a goofy proto-hippie with a high-pitched giggle, an overfondness for drink, and a buxom wife who liked to chase him on all fours."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  11. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

    Metacritic score: 92

    Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes.

    Julian Schnabel's 2007 film recounts the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby (played by Mathieu Amalric), a French journalist who was left nearly completely paralyzed by a stroke (what's known as "locked-in syndrome"), able to communicate only through blinking his left eyelid. "The film is a masterpiece," New York Magazine's David Edelstein writes, "in which 'locked-in' syndrome becomes the human condition."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  12. There Will Be Blood

    Metacritic score: 92

    Length: 2 hours, 38 minutes.

    Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 tale of Daniel Plainview's (Daniel Day-Lewis) ascendant oil empire and the resistance he faces from the charismatic young pastor Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), was hailed as a classic nearly from the moment it was released.

    "Anderson has set up a kind of allegory of American development in which two overwhelming forces — entrepreneurial capitalism and evangelism — both operate on the border of fraudulence," the New Yorker's David Denby writes. "Together, they will build Southern California, though the two men representing them are so belligerent that they fall into combat."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  13. Out of the Clear Blue Sky

    Metacritic score: 92

    Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

    The September 11 attacks destroyed the headquarters and killed more than two-thirds of the employees of the financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald, and this 2012 documentary (which, like many on this list, received few but favorable notices from critics) documents the depths of that loss and CEO Howard Lutnick's efforts to keep the company alive. The New York Times' Catsoulis praises it as "a fascinating study of a man, and a firm, deeply changed by catastrophe."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  14. The Triplets of Belleville

    Metacritic score: 91

    Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

    This 2003 French animated film, which follows a grandmother as she tracks down her kidnapped cyclist grandson with the help of an aging singing group (the titular triplets), won surprising acclaim at the Oscars for a foreign film, garnering nominations both for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song ("Belleville Rendez-Vous").

    "Chomet’s astonishing imagination conjures images you could swear you’ve seen in your dreams," New York Magazine's Peter Rainer writes. "It’s impossible to watch this movie without gasping at its graphics, and yet we’re so drawn into Chomet’s way of seeing that, after a while, his genius erases the distinction between animation and live action."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  15. Stories We Tell

    Metacritic score: 91

    Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes.

    In 2013, for her third film as director and first documentary, Sarah Polley turned her attention to her own family, in particular her mother.

    "Let’s just say that what begins as an apparently winsome memoir of her late mother, an effervescent and outgoing casting director and sometime actress named Diane, grows steadily deeper and opens the doors to ever more hidden rooms," Salon's Andrew O'Hehir writes. "Polley is trying to do something exceptionally delicate here. She is recapturing possible visions of a past that some living people still remember, while acknowledging that memory and truth are not the same and that what her mother knew and felt can now only be imagined … Don't miss it."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  16. Patton

    Metacritic score: 91

    Length: 2 hours, 51 minutes.

    An Oscar winner for both Best Picture and Best Actor for George C. Scott (the first actor to ever refuse the award), this 1970 biopic tracks the famed World War II general in the North Africa campaign, through the invasion of Sicily, to his final charge through France into Germany. The film, Ebert writes, "was a hard-line glorification of the military ethic, personified by a man whose flaws and eccentricities marginalized him in peacetime, but found the ideal theater in battle … The movie sees the war as Patton saw it, as Patton's story. Well, it's one way of looking at it."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  17. The Crying Game

    Metacritic score: 90

    Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes.

    Neil Jordan's 1992 thriller is best-remembered for its big twist (one which has aged very poorly for reasons that should be obvious if you've seen it). But its story of an IRA terrorist in Northern Ireland who falls for the girlfriend of an English soldier that the group's holding hostage earned considerable critical acclaim quite apart from that plot point. "It really has more esoteric matters on its mind: the strength of political commitment and the role-playing of life's fugitives," Vincent Canby writes in the New York Times.

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  18. It's Such a Beautiful Day

    Metacritic score: 90

    Length: 1 hour, 2 minutes.

    Compiled from three short films by animator Don Hertzfeldt ("Rejected"), It's Such a Beautiful Day tracks a stick figure man named Bill as he deals with memory loss and inner strife. Time Out New York's Tom Huddleston calls it "one of the great outsider artworks of the modern era, at once sympathetic and shocking, beautiful and horrifying, angry and hilarious, uplifting and almost unbearably sad."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

  19. United 93

    Metacritic score: 90

    Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes.

    Paul Greengrass's account of United 93 — the one targeted flight on 9/11 that was downed by passengers before it could reach its intended target — came out only five years after the attacks, used a mostly unknown cast, and featured largely improvised dialogue. Edelstein called the result "brilliant, tightly focused, and momentous."

    Click here to watch on Netflix.

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