The best movies on Netflix that you've never seen

Updated May 01, 2018

Netflix is one of the many examples of how technology is freeing us from schedules. Where we once had to dutifully wait on the sofa at the right time to catch a film, with digital recording devices and services like Netflix we now expect to be able to sit down whenever we want and watch whatever we want. But like all technology, the freedom that comes with our ability to open up Netflix and select from a huge catalogue of movies at will brings unique problems along with it too. Most notably, what the hell do you watch when you have more options than you can even remember? Well, here are some of the best films you can find on the UK Netflix that you probably haven’t seen before:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

A classic John Wayne western, directed by John Ford and also starring James Stewart, this movie finds itself on IMDb’s top 250 films list and in the Netflix UK catalogue. The film tells the story of Senator Ransom Stoddard (Stewart), who returns home for the funeral of a nobody, Tom Doniphon (Wayne). When questioned on the topic by a journalist, he tells the story of the start of his career, when he became the man who shot Liberty Valance.

The Bicycle Thief / Bicycle Thieves (1948)

The Italian-made “Bicycle Thieves” received a special Academy Award for “Most outstanding foreign film” before the category had been created, stands at number 86 in IMDb’s top 250 films list and is roundly hailed as one of the best movies ever made. It’s a neorealistic story about a man who finds a job hanging up posters in the depressed economy of post WWII Italy, but has a bike stolen on his first day of work. He needs it to continue working, so he embarks on a quest to find the thief and prove his guilt, learning valuable lessons along the way in a movie which examines the state of post-war Italy.

El Mariachi (1992)

Robert Rodriguez is better known for the later films Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the character got his start in the budget-produced “El Mariachi.” Made with just 7,000 dollars, the movie sets up the character that later became so well known on the big screens in the sequels. It might not have the same punch as the bigger-name blockbusters; the spirit of the trilogy first took root here, so it’s well worth a watch for fans.

Oldboy (2003)

A South Korean revenge movie that spawned a Hollywood remake, Oldboy is a story about a man who was kidnapped without explanation. Trapped for 15 years before being released, the hero is given five days to get revenge for what happened to him, and then the movie gets a little hammer-happy and violent, creating a unique and enjoyable film you won’t regret taking a chance on.

Indie Game: The Movie (2012)

On the surface this is just a documentary film about some indie game developers working on big projects and discussing their vision, but the angst and emotional energy the creators invest makes for a gripping set of stories about what it takes to get a game out there. Even for non-gamers, the story offers an interesting glimpse into the creative process, and what people will endure for the sake of their art.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Ranked number 63 on IMDb’s top 250 and nominated for seven Oscars, this classic 40s film tells the story of Walter Neff, an insurance salesman who has an affair with one of his clients’ wives. Together, they plan to murder her husband, and using his insurance know-how, Walter comes up with a way to double their takings through a double indemnity clause. But Walter’s friend and colleague Barton Keyes doesn’t buy the story.

The Raid (2011)

Indonesian action film “the Raid” isn’t one to watch in the mood for a cerebral topic, subtle characterisation, or, you know, much of a plot, but it’s a ridiculously enjoyable, chaotic ride non-the-less. A SWAT team in Jakarta raids an apartment building operated by a certifiably insane drug lord and gang, and they fight each other. That’s it; non-stop action, carefully-choreographed fight scenes and relentless fun.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

This is a critically-acclaimed film which tells the story of a Romanian woman looking for an illegal abortion under the country’s communist regime of the late 1980s. Gabita and her friend and roommate Otilia find a male abortionist, but he requests sex and unobtainable amounts of money as payment. A bleak, livid portrait of oppression and desperation.

Rushmore (1998)

Directed by Wes Anderson (known for “the Royal Tenenbaums”) and starring Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, “Rushmore” tells the story of Max Fischer, a 15 year old private school student who falls in love with an elementary school teacher. This wouldn’t be such a problem if his new friend Herman Blume didn’t also like her. The love triangle develops, alongside Fischer finding himself on academic probation at school.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

This is a light-hearted film about a hit-man, played by John Cusack, who finds himself taking a contract in his old home town at the time of his high school reunion. Under the advice of his psychiatrist, he considers attending, and becomes re-acquainted with a girl he abandoned on the night of their prom. Being chased by federal agents and another hitman (played by Dan Aykroyd) throughout, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill plotline turned into a good movie with the injection of plenty of fun.

Battle Royale (2000)

“Battle Royale” is like the direct ancestor of “the Hunger Games,” set in a futuristic Japan, the government regularly rounds up a class of students and forces them to compete in a three-day kill-fest. They’re all randomly assigned a bag – which, if they’re lucky, will contain a useful weapon – and they’re made to fight until only one of them is remaining. Some are devious, whilst the heroes try to survive with their morals intact.

Punch Drunk Love (2002)

This is a relatively serious film starring Adam Sandler, who in his ordinary typecast role plays a highly-strung (translation: borderline maniacal) everyman thrust into a ridiculous situation, but the story is so unique and interesting that it’s rescued from anonymity. It’s definitely a film you’ll enjoy more without much of an idea of what’s coming, but if you’re in the mood for something odd with the occasional laugh, you'll like it. Even if you normally hate Adam Sandler.

Project Nim (2011)

This is a documentary story about a chimpanzee that was raised as if it was a human child, in order to show its ability to learn language and communicate. The story forces you to confront the surprising similarities between humans and our nearest biological relatives, and tells the story of a Nim the chimpanzee and all of the people he touched during the course of the experiment.

Related: 13 Most cringe-worthy plot holes in classic movies

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About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.