The 101 Best Movies Streaming on Netflix 2014

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We’ve been publishing our guides to the best movies and TV shows on Netflix for three years now, and the selections keep improving. More than half of the movies in our 2014 edition are new from last year, and they pull from a variety of styles—romantic comedies, action flicks, indie dramas, blockbuster sci-fi, documentaries, animated films and more. And if you already know what kind of movie you’re in the mood for, check out our genre-specific guides, as well:

The 50 Best Comedy Movies on Netflix Streaming
The 40 Best Romantic Movies on Netflix Streaming
The 30 Best Action Movies on Netflix Streaming
The 25 Best Horror Movies on Netflix Streaming
The 50 Best Documentaries on Netflix Streaming
The 25 Best Kids Movies on Netflix Streaming

forrest-gump.jpg 101. Forrest Gump
Year: 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Few films infiltrate the collective American psyche quite the way Forrest Gump managed. You’ve undoubtedly heard someone make reference to this 1994 classic—whether it was a classmate sarcastically yelling “Run, Forrest, run!” as you hustled to catch the bus, or someone busting out their best drawl to deliver, “Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates.” The entire film is full of dialogue that’s both moving and funny (my personal favorites include “But Lt. Dan, you ain’t got no legs” and “I’m sorry I had a fight at your Black Panther party”). Forrest may be a simple man, but his story is our nation’s story, and we all are run through the emotional gauntlet as we watch him hang with Elvis and John Lennon, fight in Vietnam and encounter many a civic protest—all while in pursuit of his true love, Jenny. Tom Hanks delivers an Oscar-winning performance, and Gary Sinise is heartbreaking as Lt. Dan.—Bonnie Stiernberg

let-fire-burn.jpg 100. Let the Fire Burn
Year: 2013
Director: Jason Osder
On May 13, 1985, a deadly altercation broke out in Philadelphia between police and a radical organization called MOVE, resulting in 11 deaths and the destruction of several city blocks. First-time filmmaker Jason Osder’s riveting documentary brilliantly re-creates that day entirely through live local broadcasts and a televised city hearing months later that investigated who was at fault. Let the Fire Burn is a found-footage landmark that presents a troubling commentary on race relations in America that remain distressingly unresolved. Perhaps even more impressively, though, Osder’s film doubles as a moving, engrossing courtroom thriller populated with unexpected heroes and fascinating, nuanced insights into how human beings behave in a crisis.—Tim Grierson

spaceballs.jpg 99. Spaceballs
No longer streaming on Netflix
Year: 1987
Director: Mel Brooks
Originally perceived as one of writer/director Mel Brooks’ lesser works, this loving send-up of the sci-fi/fantasy genre (specifically, Star Wars) has, over the years, wormed its way into the hearts of a new generation of fans who caught it on video. “May the Schwartz be with you,” “Ludicrous Speed,” “Mawg”—if these are all terms that mean nothing to you then it’s high-time you checked this movie out and see what all the fuss is about.—Mark Rozeman

safety-not-guaranteed.jpg 98. Safety Not Guaranteed
Year: 2012
Director: Colin Trevorrow
At the last few Sundance Film Festivals, a running joke has developed about the ubiquity of Mark Duplass. It seems like if he’s not writing and directing an independent film with his brother Jay (Cyrus, Jeff, Who Lives at Home), he’s producing and/or starring in another. But while indie film fans may feel like they’ve gotten a handle on Duplass’s hipster vibe, his performance in Safety Not Guaranteed shows that he can be mysterious as well as funny, brooding as well as charming.—Jeremy Matthews

fisher-king.jpg 97. The Fisher King
No longer streaming on Netflix as of Sept. 1, 2014
Year: 1991
Director: Terry Gilliam 
Many of Robin Williams’ characters dangle perilously close to the edge of sanity, but Parry has been pushed right off that cliff in The Fisher King. Terry Gilliam’s Arthurian tale is set in the present, but it still takes a fantastical journey for Jeff Bridges’ disgraced talk-show host and Williams’ homeless widower to find The Holy Grail, sweet Lydia and redemption.—Josh Jackson

mash.jpg 96. M*A*S*H
Year: 1970
Director: Robert Altman
Considering that it became the basis of a beloved (and long-running) CBS sitcom, it’s easy to forget how revolutionary the original M*A*S*H film was at the time of its release. Certainly, more than 40 years after it first scandalized moviegoers, this 1970 black comedy about the exploits of a Korean War-era surgical hospital not only stands as one of the most subversive portraits of war ever put to film but also as one of the flat-out, most hilarious movies ever made. Boasting a script consisting almost entirely of improv, a major comedic set piece centered on a suicide attempt and the first utterance of the word “fuck” in a mainstream film, M*A*S*H redefined the American comedy and promptly secured director Robert Altman’s status as the ultimate actor’s director.—Mark Rozeman

pirates.jpg 95. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Year: 2003
Director: Gore Verbinski
Daring to base the central character of a Disney franchise on a notorious junkie-alcoholic walking-corpse rock star like Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was a coup, but even more mind-blowing was how well Depp’s crazy idea worked. Guzzling rum as he bobs and weaves—stumbles, really—through this film delivering hilariously slurred one-liners, he is the consummate goodhearted scoundrel, easily stealing every frame he flamboyantly swaggers across.—Steve LaBate

the-fifth-element.jpg 94. The Fifth Element
Year: 1997
Director: Luc Besson 
The Fifth Element is the ultimate display of what would happen if someone with the sci-fi enthusiasm of a teenage boy wrote a big-budget Hollywood script, which is exactly the case here. Set in 23rd century New York City, taxi driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) gets wrapped up in saving the world with his passenger Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), the fifth and final piece that is needed to protect earth. Entertaining, thrilling, and visually fantastical, The Fifth Element is worth every minute of your time.—Caitlin Colford

let-the-right-one.jpg 93. Let the Right One In
Year: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Vampire stories are plastered all over American pop culture these days (True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries), but leave it to the Swedes to produce a vampire film that manages to be both sweet and frightening. The friendship between Oskar, a scrawny, 12-year-old outcast, and Eli, a centuries-old vampire frozen in the body of a child, is a chilling but beautiful story to behold.—Jeremy Medina

charade.jpg 92. Charade
Year: 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
Cary Grant is the most charming male lead ever. Audrey Hepburn is the most charming female lead ever. Everything else is just bonus in this romantic thriller about a woman pursued in Paris for her late husband’s stolen fortune: the Henry Mancini score, the Hitchcock-ian suspense, the plot twists and Walter Mathau as a CIA agent.—Michael Dunaway

26.TheConstantGardener.NetflixList.jpg 91. The Constant Gardener
Year: 2005
Director: Fernando Meirelles
In The Constant Gardener, diplomacy is overstepped by both those with corrupt intentions and those who see it as a bureaucratic divide to human charity. Combining the oft-convoluted storytelling of novelist John Le Carré and the violently dazzling visuals of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God), its message is emboldened by the failure of its well-intentioned characters to intervene in the robbed lives of others.—Cameron Bird

50.TheTrip.NetflixList.jpg 90. The Trip
Year: 2011
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Two British actor/comedians playing versions of themselves travel the beautiful and bleak north England countryside, stopping to eat at various upscale restaurants, but mostly just talking. And talking and talking. And doing impressions of Michael Caine, Woody Allen, and Liam Neeson, as well as British personalities an American audience might not recognize. But mostly just talking, with overlapping affection and competition. Sound like a good idea for a film? It absolutely is.—Jonah Flicker

days-of-being-wild.jpg 89. Days of Being Wild
Year: 1990
Director: Wong Kar Wai
It’s a crying shame that In the Mood for Love isn’t also available on Netflix, because it would certainly rank near the top of this list. But this film, described as an “informal prequel” is worthy enough on its own as well. It’s also got Maggie Chen and Tony Leung, but the star turn here is from Leslie Cheung as Yuddy, the Lothario leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake. The tone is certainly more on the bitter end of bittersweet, but Wong Kar-wai’s directorial voice, of a man who believes in love, shines through loud and strong.—Michael Dunaway

english-patient.jpg 88. The English Patient
Year: 1996
Director: Anthony Minghella
It wasn’t just Elaine Benes who thought that The English Patient was overrated and boring: Even at the time of its Oscar win, this period romantic epic was being criticized in some quarters for its self-consciously old-school sweep. To which its fans say, “Yeah, so?” A stellar “They don’t make ’em like this anymore” movie, filmmaker Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s novel starred Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas as the most poignantly star-crossed big-screen lovers since Ilsa walked backed into Rick’s life. Beautifully shot, sensitively acted, romantically overpowering, The English Patient is way, way better than Sack Lunch.—Tim Grierson

short-term-12.jpg 87. Short Term 12
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

barton-fink.jpg 86. Barton Fink
Year: 1991
Director: Joel Coen
While hung up with the intricate plotting of Miller’s Crossing, The Coen Brothers took a break to write a script about a blocked screenwriter (Jon Turturro). Reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch at their most darkly satiric, Barton Fink depicts a self-important New York playwright who struggles to write a Hollywood wrestling picture while residing in a rotting hotel. A jaundiced metaphor for the compromised creative process of show business, Barton Fink delivers the deadpan comedy and quirky performances of the Coens’ trademark, including Oscar nominee Michael Lerner as a bombastic studio chief, John Mahoney as a boozing, Faulkner-esque novelist, and John Goodman as a cheerful salesman with a dark secret. Audiences can obsess over the meaning of lines like Goodman’s “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” but any answers the film holds are unlikely to be reassuring.—Curt Holman

say-anything.jpg 85. Say Anything…
Year: 1989
Director: Cameron Crowe 
In his directorial debut, Cameron Crowe places one of the all-time charming film courtships within that strangely insular time, mid-transition, between high school and college (or career or family). In Lloyd Dobler, the defining role of John Cusack’s career, Crowe presents an appealing, convincing everyman whose pursuit of a girl (Ione Skye), supposedly out of his league, reveals how foolish such handicapping can be in the first place. Though Crowe would go on to create a number of career-launching roles for women (Renee Zellweger and Kate Hudson should thank him, daily), in Say Anything, Dobler rules.—Michael Burgin

cabin-woods.jpg 84. The Cabin in the Woods
Year: 2011
Director: Drew Goddard
For a movie chock-full of twists, perhaps the biggest is that despite all appearances to the contrary, The Cabin in the Woods is a heartfelt love story. Mind you, not between any of the young and pretty college students who tempt fate at the cabin in question. No, this romance is between creators Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and the scary-movie genre as a whole. A ménage à terror, if you will. Like Scream before it, the film is a simultaneous dissection and celebration of all the tropes to which it pays homage, while also managing to be a superb example of the genre in its own right. The script is vintage Whedon—smart, funny and surprising. Thanks to Goddard’s direction and staging, and despite the film’s very focus on the formulaic nature of horror, it still manages to be tense, atmospheric and jump-out-of-your-seat scary. The Cabin in the Woods may very well be the ultimate schlocky little horror movie.—Dan Kaufman

diving-bell-butterfly.jpg 83. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Year: 2007
Director: Julian Schnabel
In 1995, French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a horrific stroke that left his entire body paralyzed in what doctors call the “locked-in syndrome.” In a remarkable testament to the human spirit, Bauby was able to dictate a 132-page memoir by blinking his left eye. Incredibly, ace-auteur Julian Schnabel adapted that memoir into a breathtaking, lyrical, haunting film that is as much his creation as Bauby’s. (Kudos to the Academy for recognizing Schnabel’s brilliance with a Best Director nomination.) The Diving Bell is not only a testament to the human spirit, but to the power of cinema as well.—Jeremy Medina

glengarry-glenross.jpg 82. Glengarry Glen Ross
Year: 1992
Director: James Foley
Surely somewhere on the Internet there’s a catalog of all the potboiler plays that have been turned into lifeless movies; wherein the minimal settings came off as flat rather than intimate or claustrophobic, and the surgically written prose came off as stilted rather than impassioned. Glengarry Glen Ross is the exception and the justification for all noble stage-to-screen attempts since. This adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play about workingman’s inhumanity to workingman still crackles today, and its best lines (and there are many) have become ingrained in the angrier sections of our collective zeitgeist. James Foley directs the playwright’s signature cadence better than the man himself, and the all-star cast give performances they’ve each only hoped to match since. Mamet, for his part, managed to elevate his already stellar material with his screenplay, adding the film’s most iconic scene, the oft-quoted Blake speech brilliantly delivered by Alec Baldwin. This is a film worthy of a cup of coffee and, as we know, coffee is for closers only.—Bennett Webber

talented-mr-ripley.jpg 81. The Talented Mr. Ripley
Year: 1999
Director: Anthony Minghella
Many doubted anyone could do justice to the Ripley novels on celluloid, but Anthony Minghella proved them wrong in spectacular fashion. Lushly photographed, exquisitely art-directed and impeccably timed (not a scene is a moment too long or too short), it intrigues and bewilders like Hitchcock’s best work. Career performances from Matt Damon and Jude Law, plus wonderful turns from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cate Blanchett—and the last time Gwenyth Paltrow was bearable. A frightful—and frightfully overlooked—film.—Michael Dunaway

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