The 100 Best Movies on Netflix (August 2016)

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The 100 Best Movies on Netflix (August 2016)

Netflix has added a few new films for August that made our Best Movies on Netflix list, including the best movie of 2007, which is headed to the streaming service on August 11. Also added are French teen drama Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Bill Murray comedy St. Vincent and global warming doc An Inconvenient Truth. It’s another good month for movies on Netflix with a broad array of great films.

For extensive guides to the best movies on other platforms like HBO, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Showtime, Redbox, On Demand, YouTube, Shudder and The Best Movies in Theaters, visit the Paste Movie Guides.

You can also check out our genre-specific lists:
The 50 Best Comedies on Netflix
The 60 Best Dramas on Netflix
The 60 Best Action Movies on Netflix
The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflxi
The 50 Best Documentaries on Netflix
The 60 Best Horror Movies on Netflix
The 50 Best Romantic Comedies on Netflix
The 20 Best Animated Movies on Netflix
The 50 Best Foreign-Language Films on Netflix
The 20 Best Martial Arts Movies on Netflix.

Here are the 100 Best Movies Streaming on Netflix in August 2016:

insomnia.jpg 100. Insomnia
Year: 2002
Director: Christopher Nolan
Al Pacino employs blessed few “Hoo-ah!” histrionics in this moody cat-and-mouse game, a solid remake of the bleaker, better (natch) 1997 Norwegian thriller. Stepping into Stellan Skarsgård’s unsteady shoes, Pacino stars as Will Dormer, a sleep-deprived L.A. detective called to the midnight sun-cursed Alaskan town of Nightmute (ooh, irony) to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Director Christopher Nolan winds the tension by splicing in the sensory details of Dormer’s trancelike existence, the casualties of which include his longtime partner (Martin Donovan). Hilary Swank is great as a sharp but wide-eyed local cop in awe of Pacino’s big city veteran, but it’s Robin Williams who quietly steals the show here. In his second villainous role of 2002 (the other being One Hour Photo), Williams, as a writer hip to Dormer’s own story, matches Pacino note for measured note. Their tête-à-têtes, all low-decibel volleys, are riveting. In a cinematic landscape of physical and psychological extremes, Williams’ performance is a reminder of how nuanced an actor he could be.—Amanda Schurr


omar.jpg 99. Omar
Year: 2014
Director:Hany Abu-Assad
More trenchant as a political allegory than a character drama, Omar is more interested in the ideas within this slow-burn thriller than in plot machinations. To writer-director Hany Abu-Assad, maniacal twists and cunning action set pieces would simply get in the way—better that we spend our time thinking about why the characters find themselves in this situation at all. Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Omar stars Adam Bakri as the titular young Palestinian, who must daily scale the imposingly tall security wall that separates him from his girlfriend, Nadia (Leem Lubany). Though very much in love, they haven’t yet revealed their relationship to her brother (and Omar’s good friend) Tarek (Eyad Hourani), who is planning with Omar and another close pal, Amjad (Samer Bisharat), to kill an Israeli soldier. The three friends’ mission is a success—it’s Amjad who pulls the trigger—but soon after, Omar is snagged by Israeli forces, led by Agent Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter). Threatening Omar with imprisonment, Rami promises him freedom if he’ll deliver Tarek, the group’s leader, to them in exchange. What’s most resonant in Omar is that, just as we can’t always gauge the characters, they’re, too, concealing parts of themselves from each other, a byproduct of living in a part of the world where distrust is commonplace and secrecy a necessity. Which is why Omar’s startling ending is both somewhat mystifying and also oddly perfect—we don’t see it coming, and yet deep down, we’re not surprised at all that it happened.—Tim Grierson


cold_in_july_ver2 (Custom).jpg 98. Cold in July
Year: 2014
Director: Jim Mickle
Richard Dane seems like a decent-enough man. Living in East Texas in 1989, he has a wife and child, and when he hears a noise coming from the living room late one night, he goes out cautiously, holding his dead father’s gun tentatively. He didn’t mean to kill anyone. And he certainly didn’t intend to have just about everything in his world change in the moment when he accidentally pulled the trigger. Michael C. Hall plays Richard, not overdoing the character’s regular-hick modesty. Adapted from Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, Cold in July has a steely, slightly off-kilter vibe. Less extreme than the regional portraits preferred by the Coen brothers, the movie soaks up the period details, particularly in Jeff Grace’s wry nod to the synthesizer-driven scores of the 1980s. As in his past films, Mickle demonstrates an impressive degree of tonal control: Cold in July clearly pays homage to a certain style of bygone genre filmmaking, but not at the expense of the characters or the stakes. (Still, not for nothing is a crucial scene set at a drive-in theater.) Consequently, the film has both a giddy, escapist feel and a grim suspense, its self-conscious artificiality melding perfectly with its barebones emotional authenticity.—Tim Grierson


st-vincent.jpg 97. St. Vincent
Year: 2014
Director: Ted Melfi
The comedy-drama St. Vincent, by first-time feature writer-director Ted Melfi, employs several well-worn story and character archetypes. There’s the retired curmudgeon (Bill Murray) who begrudgingly becomes entwined in the lives of his new neighbors, single mom (Melissa McCarthy) and her precocious son (Jaeden Lieberher). Throw in a Russian hooker with a heart of silver-plated gold (Naomi Watts) and a tough loan shark (Terrence Howard) to complete the portrait. Despite that predictability, there’s an underlying charm and emotion reach beyond the screen. Credit an acting ensemble that underplays the script’s maudlin tendencies and allows the humor to surface. The role of Vincent “Vinlast d” McKenna is tailored to Murray, whom we’ve already seen in similar roles, but Melfi has added a few more layers: Vin’s a grouch, a drunk and a gambler who survives on sardines and crackers—hardly typical saint material. The plot takes several melodramatic turns, revealing numerous secrets and reasons to evoke empathy for Vin. But Murray, who imbues both a sadness and humanity in Vin—making him accessible to the audience despite his shortcomings and rough-hewn style, could have done that on his own.—Christine N. Ziemba


sixteen-candles.jpg 96. Sixteen Candles
Year: 1984
Director: John Hughes
It’s the movie that made Molly Ringwald a star, and rightfully so: as Samantha, the everywoman whose parents forgot her birthday and whose crush doesn’t know she exists, she appeals to the angsty high-schooler yearning to be seen in all of us. Samantha’s undeniably middle-of-the-road—she’s not popular, but she’s not a geek; her home life is messy, but it’s not dysfunctional—and that gives her mass appeal, so much so that her story’s become sort of a modern fairy tale, the American Dream of teen romantic comedies. —Bonnie Stiernberg


exit-through-the-gift-shop.jpg 95. Exit through the Gift Shop
Director:   Banksy
Year: 2010
When renowned graffiti artist Banksy took the camera away from Thierry Guetta, the man shooting his biopic, and decided that the subject would become the documentarian (and the documentarian, the subject), an incomparably zany (and very, very funny) documentary was born. Against all odds, Mr. Brainwash, as Guetta christens himself, puts on the largest and most profitable street art exhibition in history. The film never quite takes a side on the Warholian question of whether Guetta/Mr. Brainwash is actually a legitimate artist or has merely convinced enough people that he is—or whether those are one and the same, or whether it even matters. But the most compelling theme of the film is its cinematic exploration of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: That a phenomenon cannot be observed or measured without simultaneously changing it. Guetta never puts spray can to wood until he’s being documented by Banksy. Does that mean Banksy made him what he is? Destroyed, in some sense, what he was? And is that good or bad, or neither? Banksy’s not saying.—Michael Dunaway


invitation.jpg 94. The Invitation
Year: 2016
Director: Karyn Kusama
The less you know about Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, the better. She slow-burns to perfection. The Invitation is a tale of deep and intimate heartache, the kind that none of us hopes to ever have to endure in our own lives. The film taps into a nightmare vein of real-life dread, of loss so profound and pervasive that it fundamentally changes who you are as a human being. That’s where we begin: with an examination of grief. It’s remarkable for its foundation, for all of the substantive storytelling infrastructure that Kusama builds the film upon in the first place. The film starts in earnest as Will (Logan Marshall-Green in top form) arrives at a dinner party his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), is throwing at what once was their house. He has brought his girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), along with him. But something is undeniably off at Eden’s place, and because Will is the lens through which Kusama’s audience engages with the film, we cannot tell what that something is. There is oh so much more to be said about The Invitation, especially its climax, where all is revealed and we see Will’s fears and Eden’s spiritual affirmations for what they are. Until then you’ll remain on tenterhooks, but to Kusama, jitters and thrills are sensations worth savoring.—Andy Crump


results.jpg 93. Results
Results is a significant departure for Andrew Bujalski. While relatively low-budget, this is the director’s biggest film to date—there’s no shaky camerawork or poor sound quality here, and working, notable actors are seemingly getting working day rates. Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha, in 2002, was one of the first to be coined “mumblecore,” and the awkward but natural performances from its nonprofessional actors became a defining characteristic of the movement. There’s certainly more polish from Cobie Smulders, Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan, but their performances—refined and, admittedly, “professional”—only enhance the lived-in nature of the characters Bujalski’s created. These characters all happen to be rather pathetic, emotionally stunted and odd human beings—but you can’t help but become invested in their lives, each with their own endearing quirks, each amusing in their own way to discover and observe. The film is a series of tiny, revealing moments. —Regan Reid


an-inconvenient-truth.jpg 92. An Inconvenient Truth
Year: 2006
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Al Gore proved himself a better narrator than a campaigner, with an Oscar for a consolation prize after losing the Presidency in 2004. Director Davis Guggenheim laid out a convincing point-by-point case for the reality of climate change and the need to ensure that responsibile development throughout the world. And despite having its scientific conclusions questioned, the film gave the issue of global warming a voice much louder than an audible sigh.—Josh Jackson


DOPE_CHARACTERS_R04_31_FINISH_HALF(1).jpg 91. Dope
Year: 2015
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
At its core, Dope is a coming-of-age story told from the black geek perspective. Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a brainy high school student who’s trying to leave “The Bottoms” of Inglewood, California. This isn’t a straight-up, feel-good comedy—drugs and gangs aren’t easy comic fodder—but Dope satirizes preconceived notions of race and culture. Famuyiwa keeps things entertaining while still posing hard-hitting questions to the characters and audience. Dope’s infectious energy, and Famuyiwa’s tendency to throw genre and stereotypes to the wind, is refreshing. Dope is dope. —Christine N. Ziemba


tinker-tailor.jpg 90. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Year: 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Steeped in the monochrome color palette and noir soundtrack of 1970s espionage cinema, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s classic bestselling spy novel offers smart, nostalgic entertainment for a discerning adult audience. Set in 1973 at the height of the Cold War, the film turns on the suspicion that a double agent has infiltrated Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a.k.a. MI6. Shortly after a botched operation to ferret out the mole ends his career, Control (John Hurt) dies, leaving his investigation in the hands of retired operative George Smiley (Gary Oldman). With grayed blond hair and owlish glasses, Oldman disappears into his role, not only physically but behaviorally. Smiley is a still man, watching and waiting, while his mind whirs, processing and analyzing years’ worth of data, information and memories.—Annlee Ellingson


gladiator.jpg 89. Gladiator
Year: 2000
Director: Ridley Scott
In Gladiator, Sir Ridley Scott shamelessly leans on the glitz of Hollyrome; it’s a shallow, overused trope, but if you can stomach the utter film’s veneer of historical fakery, you’ll be rewarded with some absolutely spectacular bloodshed. Here, too, Gladiator wrestles with issues of accuracy – particularly in its opening fracas – but when swordplay and siege is this well staged, you’re on the wrong side of cinema if you dare reach for your Latin textbooks. Whether on the battlefield or in the arena, Gladiator’s magnificently orchestrated violence will keep you held firmly in its crimson-streaked thrall; you will be entertained.—Andy Crump


philomena.jpg 88. Philomena
Year: 2004
Director: Stephen Frears
Philomena, follows a woman’s search for her son, who was “sold off” by the Irish Catholic church 50 years earlier. Starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the heartbreaking twists and turns of Philomena’s journey are even more jaw-dropping as we learn the story is based on the 2009 nonfiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith. In 1950s Ireland young Philomena (Sophie Kennedy Clarke) is disowned by her family after a tryst results in pregnancy. Sent to Roscrea convent, she works in the laundries to pay for her room and board—and her sins. She and the other young mothers are allowed to see their children for an hour a day. Philomena and her son Anthony adhere to this limited schedule for nearly three years until Anthony is adopted, against her wishes, on Christmas 1955. Nearly five decades later, the elderly Philomena (Dench) reveals the secret she’s been keeping all these years to her daughter. They reach out to Sixsmith (Coogan), a recently fired British government flack and former BBC journalist, to help Philomena search for her lost son. Although talking about “chemistry” is usually reserved for romantic onscreen relationships, it applies here in spades. Dench and Coogan create a believable rapport for their disparate characters. They play with the yin and yang expertly, and we watch as the characters both grow from their experience together in subtle, yet substantial, ways. The bittersweet mystery could have easily strayed into maudlin, tabloid territory, if it solely targeted evil nuns or a Catholic Church coverup. But instead, Philomena adds much-needed moments of humor s it follows the journey for the truth, raising questions about faith, infallibility and family. The steady direction by Frears, coupled with the snappy and substantive dialogue, keeps the film grounded when even the truth becomes hard to believe.—Christine N. Ziemba


i-am-love.jpg 87. I Am Love
Year: 2010
Director: Luca Guadagnino
The Recchi family, the powerful Italian clan at the core of Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love, is exclusive. Its wealth is nearly immeasurable, if not incomprehensible, and even marrying into it doesn’t warrant an invitation to its inner circle. Although Emma (Tilda Swinton) gave up her life in Russia—with the exception of her Russian accent, which she just can’t keep from tainting her Italian—in order to become a Recchi, she orbits the rest of the family in the Recchi villa, where the sense of propriety is nearly as tangible and cloying as its thick tapestries. I Am Love is a beautiful film, and a lesson in storytelling. It unfolds at a leisurely but lovely pace, taking time to revel in the details of the setting but never shifting focus from its many rich, complex characters. Swinton becomes Emma, her every pore and follicle embodying passion, guilt and grief with equal conviction. Even in its most tense moments, I Am Love is like the many dishes Antonio shows off in the film—painstakingly created and never overdone.—Ani Vrabel


seymour-intro.jpg 86. Seymour: An Introduction
Year: 2015
Director: Ethan Hawke
You could be excused for assuming that the documentary Seymour: An Introduction was just a vanity project for director Ethan Hawke, who has the means and the name to engage in such thing. But if you assumed that, you’d be missing quite a powerful film. Hawke first met composer, pianist and piano teacher Seymour Bernstein at a dinner party, and was immediately taken with him, as viewers will be, as well. As he began spending more time with the octogenarian, he became more and more taken not only with his life story, but also with his views of art and of life well lived. Seymour: An Introduction turns out to be part biopic, part artistic musing and part late-night “meaning of life” discussion, and Hawke shows a deft touch in balancing the three. He takes a remarkable individual who’s influenced his life and thinking, and shares him with the rest of us. It’s a generous—and a moving—piece of filmmaking. —Michael Dunaway


blue-warmest.jpg 85. Blue is the Warmest Color
Year: 2013
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Three-hour movies usually are the terrain of Westerns, period epics or sweeping, tragic romances. They don’t tend to be intimate character pieces, but Blue Is the Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) more than justifies its length. A beautiful, wise, erotic, devastating love story, this tale of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end utilizes its running time to give us a full sense of two individuals growing together and apart over the course of years. It hurts like real life, yet leaves you enraptured by its power.—Tim Grierson


hard-to-be-a-god.jpg 84. Hard to Be a God
Year: 2015
Director: Aleksei German
Aleksei German’s final film is a stark, wild journey through medieval sci-fi filth. Like the drunken bastard child of a dreamy Andrei Tarkovsky epic and a Terry Gilliam yarn, in Hard to Be a God we see hints of Tarkovsky’s pensive takes, as well as his predilection toward existential speculative fiction (he adapted his 1979 film Stalker from a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the same Russian brothers who wrote Hard to Be a God in 1964), coupled with a sort of sensory overload as German’s frames wander through countless intricate details that call to mind Gilliam, another director attracted to obsessive, timeless dystopia. Tarkovsky may have a penchant for surreal confusion, but he anchors his oneiric sensibilities in characters’ motivations, desires, and souls. Here, there’s no real motivation, no real desire, and no real soul, just a crawl through depravity. But if that’s all you’re after, then here you go: This shit is executed majestically. —Jeremy Mathews


short-term-12.jpg 83. Short Term 12
Year: 2013
Director: Destin Cretton
As it progresses, Short Term 12 remains rigorously structured in terms of plot; yet it never feels calculated. In fact, the film serves as a fine example of how invisible screenwriting can be. By allowing his characters’ irrational emotions to influence events and instigate key turning points, Cretton capably masks the film’s finely calibrated story mechanics. And while everything seemingly comes to a head during a key crisis, it’s only fitting that the story ends with a denouement that bookends its opening. Cretton’s clear-eyed film is far too honest to try and convince us that there’s been any sort of profound change for Grace or anyone else. Instead, it’s content to serve as a potent reminder that tentative first steps can be every bit as narratively compelling as great leaps of faith.—Curtis Woloschuk


beverly-hills-cop.jpg 82. Beverly Hills Cop
Year: 1984
Directors: Martin Brest
We might remember Beverly Hills Cop for Eddie Murphy’s one-liners and that perfect microcosm of 1984, “Axel F,” but at its heart, it’s an action movie. In fact, Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone were both attached to Murphy’s role before last-minute re-writes catered the story to the SNL actor. And this was Murphy at his cocky, wise-cracking best—always in complete charge of the situation no matter how much of a fish-out-of-water his Axel Foley might have been.—Josh Jackson


wet-hot-am-sum.jpg 81. Wet Hot American Summer
Year: 2001
Director: David Wain
A cult film that’s long since surpassed that status, Wet Hot American Summer is a lot of things: It’s hilarious; it’s perfectly cast; and it’s a clear demonstration that Christopher Meloni has more range than simply playing a dour sex crime detective. But what makes it so brilliant, 15 years later and with a Netflix series on lock, is that it’s so painfully, relentlessly nihilistic. We could trade quotable lines for days (my personal favorites being what Jon Benjamin’s can of vegetables admits he’s acrobatically capable of, and then Paul Rudd bluntly refusing to make out with Elizabeth Banks’s character due to her burger flavor), but the key to the movie’s endurance—past its timelessness grounded in a specific brand of ’80s sex romp flick—is the way in which it treats nostalgia. Like Wain, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black’s Stella series, Wet Hot American Summer, which takes place over the course of Camp Firewood’s last day, exists in a bleakly amoral world. Here, bad things happen to good people—and really only to good people. Wain takes innocence and obliterates it, punishes it, gleefully destroying all nice memories anyone would ever hold dear about long lost summers, first loves and youth. Without a shred of wistfulness, Wet Hot American Summer surpasses its origins in parody and becomes something more: It earns its comedy. Taunting our very explicitly American tendency to let everything we touch devolve into sentimentality, the film proves that when we obsess over remembering ourselves at our best, we might as well be celebrating us at our worst. —Dom Sinacola


the-big-short.jpg 80. The Big Short
Year: 2015
Director: Adam McKay
The Big Short, Adam McKay’s kaleidoscopic look into the months leading up to the 2007 financial meltdown, is an angry film. And rightfully so—the amount of callous thievery characters uncover here is enough to make any rational person’s blood boil. It’s also, unquestionably, a funny film, tempering its acerbic leanings by highlighting just how blatantly surreal the whole ordeal truly was. McKay looks to counteract the inherently dry, impenetrable subject matter on display with boatloads of vibrant, cinematic style. The Big Short may not always succeed, but it stands as an essential film nonetheless.—Mark Rozeman


heaven_knows_what_poster.jpg 79. Heaven Knows What
Year: 2015
Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Harley (Arielle Holmes) is a young woman who’s as addicted to heroin as she is to her brutally apathetic boyfriend, Illya (Caleb Landry Jones). Aesthetically, the Safdies’ have made a picture of urgent, abrasive beauty. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams captures Holmes and her excellent supporting cast through a combination of tight close-ups and long shots that lend the film an air of removed intimacy. Ultimately, he’s almost as much the star of Heaven Knows What as Holmes, who matches up well with Jones, the film’s most notable professional actor. Cinema lets us engage with difficult subject matter through a veneer of security. But something like Heaven Knows What pierces that veil. By its very nature, it pushes the boundaries of our personal comfort. It’s clear we need more films like that. —Andy Crump


breatheposter.jpg 78. Breathe
Year: 2014
Director: Mélanie Laurent
Nothing’s more effective at shaking a teen out of their monotonous high school routine than the arrival of a new student. That’s the stuff actress/director Mélanie Laurent’s sophomore film, Breathe, is made of: mystery and allure, with generous dollops of adolescent rivalry, sexual awakening and verbal abuse spooned on top. Think of Breatheas a distant European cousin to the fraught teen movies of Larry Clark as well as Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen, stories of imperiled youth, loneliness and volatile sentiment. —Andy Crump


phoenix_ver2.jpg 77. Phoenix
Year: 2014
Director: Christian Petzold
Rarely in recent memory has the insoluble mystery of other people been so potent a driving force as it is in Phoenix. Here’s a drama that starts off with a seemingly simple conceit but eventually grows more and more troubling—and fascinating—into a critique of collective moral blindness and an up-close examination of marriage. The latest from German filmmaker Christian Petzold, Phoenix works best for all the answers it doesn’t provide, honoring the mysteries of everyday life rather than explaining them away.—Tim Grierson


scrooged.jpg 76. Scrooged
Year: 1988
Director: Richard Donner
We learn all we need to know from Bill Murray’s modern day Ebeneezer in his introduction: After viewing the latest promos for his television network, Frank opens his desk drawer, catches his reflection in a small mirror, smiles, fixes his hair and then closes it. In case it’s not clear: Frank Cross has a drawer in his desk devoted to a vanity mirror. While the rest of the film sometimes devolves into over-the-top nonsense, it’s Murray’s committed touches like these that make Frank Cross so memorable.—Greg Smith

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