If you’re seeking a streaming service focused primarily on movies, it’s not Prime Video or Netflix that deserves your attention – it’s Now. Which, yes, used to be called Now TV.
Sky’s cord-cutter service is better served with newer, bigger-name films than either of its main rivals, with at least one new movie being added every day to an already bulging collection.
The sheer size of that library means it’s not always easy to immediately find something to watch though (you know: the paralysis of choice and so on). Which is where we come in. The Stuff team has picked out a selection of must-see cinematic masterpieces both old and new, so the next time you’re settling down for an evening on the sofa, you can conserve your brainpower for picking the right snacks rather than the right movie.
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-winning dramedy takes a look at middle-aged manhood, responsibility and friendship through an unconventional lens: booze. Four friends and colleagues, all teachers at the same school, decide to put an obscure theory – that we’re born with a 0.05% deficiency in our blood alcohol levels – to the test. By keeping themselves permanently lubricated (albeit with strictly no drinking at weekends or after 8pm), they believe they may unlock some secret to social happiness and professional performance. Needless to say, their experiment proves revealing, but perhaps not in the way it was intended.
Don’t get us wrong: we love David Lynch and all. But James Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel has finally got the screen adaptation it deserves thanks to Denis Villeneuve and co. With an all-star ensemble cast, endlessly stunning cinematography and sound design and a riveting story of war, exploitation and family in the far future, Dune is an event movie that manages to be more than just a popcorn-chomper. And it’s just the first part of what the director intends to become a trilogy.
A Quiet Place Part II
The buttock-clenchingly taut thriller about a world invaded by aliens with super sensitive hearing gets a sequel, and while many might dismiss it as unnecessary (and purely a consequence of the unexpected success of the first film), it’s a really enjoyable popcorn movie that balances breathless scares and high tension while developing the original characters further.
We see a lot more of the aliens this time around – it’s a sequel so there’s little point in keeping the creatures a mystery this time – but it hasn’t gone full action-thriller; director John Krasinski has once again made a family drama that just happens to take place in the wake of a disaster. Emily Blunt is in great form once again, but it’s the young actors and newcomer Cillian Murphy who shine here.
From the minds that brought you John Wick comes a very John Wick-style action movie with comedian and Better Call Saul actor Bob Odenkirk playing firmly against type. Odenkirk’s character is the titular “nobody”: a grey-tinged suburban schmo who trudges to a dull office job every day after a near-silent breakfast with his distracted family. But he wasn’t always this way, and after an encounter on a bus his past life comes rushing back to the present, complete with a heck of a lot of guns, snapping bones and broken noses. Who needs originality when the formulaic stuff can be so enjoyable?
Nicolas Cage’s rehabilitation as an actor continues in Michael Sarnoski’s superb and affecting drama. Cage is excellent as a bedraggled, near-silent truffle hunter living in the Oregon forest, alone except for his beloved foraging pig. When the hog is kidnapped, he springs into action to track her down – but anyone expecting a John Wick-style revenge thriller might be surprised at where Sarnoski’s film goes. Instead of leaving a trail of bodies and broken glass, Cage is forced to revisit his past and confront his choices as he reckons with the task at hand.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Sometimes sci-fi is all about spaceships and explosions and men in silly costumes waving giant glow-sticks at each other; sometimes it’s about a vision of the near future, or even a parallel present, that’s close enough to our reality to properly sting.
Eternal Sunshine is mostly a modern love story, the inspired twist being that in this world you can pay to have all memories of a specific person erased from your mind. It’s complicated and clever but ultimately warm and honest; most impressively of all, it’s got Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in it and you don’t want to shoot either of them.
The Matrix isn’t just an entertaining action movie. This film is packed with cultural touchstones and iconic moments, and it still looks amazing more than twenty years after it first emerged from the Wachowski’s febrile minds.
Keanu Reeves has never been better as Thomas Anderson, an office-bound drudge by day and hacker by night who finds himself drawn into a reality-shattering adventure full of flying bullets, mind-blowing martial arts sequences and some early CGI that doesn’t look like absolute rubbish today. Whoa!
Riders of Justice
Watching the trailer above, you might think this Danish film is just another revenge flick, with Mads Mikkelsen’s soldier picking up an arsenal of weaponry and going H.A.M. in true Neeson/Statham/Reeves style on the gang of evil goons that killed his wife. But there’s so much more to Thomas Anders Jensen’s movie than that: it’s surprisingly funny, often sweetly heart-warming and occasionally brutal, not to mention a deconstruction of the entire concepts of revenge, loss, grief and (as the title hints) justice. An arthouse movie wrapped in the garments of an action-thriller, then, and well worth a watch for anyone bored of either genre.
Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise plays an arrogant, cowardly desk jockey officer forced to fight on the front lines against an alien invasion in this ingenious and underrated sci-fi action movie. With no combat experience, he lasts just a few seconds in battle – only to find himself waking up again and repeating the experience, only slightly differently. Yep, he’s only gone and got himself trapped in a time loop, which always ends with his death. How the heck is he going to get out of it? By saving the world, perhaps?
With great performances from Cruise and Emily Blunt, killer visual effects and a clever hook, it’s strange that Edge of Tomorrow didn’t prove a bigger hit. The bland title didn’t do it many favours (it’s often known as Live Die Repeat, which would’ve been a much bolder name to market it under), but despite its lacklustre box office performance it’s proved something of a slow-burn hit – so much so that a sequel is currently in development.
Directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, this 2011 Indonesian action film has already reached certified cult classic status and spawned a decent sequel.
A showcase for the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat, it features electric fight scene after electric fight scene as one plucky cop takes on an entire apartment block full of ruthless criminals in an attempt to reach the vicious drug lord on the top floor. It’s a beautifully simple premise, but the heart-pumping action sequences are bolstered by a pretty great and emotional story, too. Quite simply a must-watch for martial arts fans (although they’ve probably seen it 50 times by now) and highly recommended for anyone else.
Michael Mann decided to remake his own TV movie LA Takedown, resulting in this sprawling star-studded action-thriller, and one of the best films of the 90s.
Screen titans Robert De Niro and Al Pacino hog the limelight as a meticulous bank robber and the fixated cop driven to hunt him down, but there’s much more to admire here besides their (admittedly excellent) performances: the effortless style with which Mann directs everything from quiet conversations to immense shootouts; a supporting cast stacked with some of Hollywood’s finest character actors; the clarity with which its themes manifest themselves on screen.
Pedants will moan that Pacino’s performance is a bit OTT, or that at least a few of Mann’s myriad subplots would have been better left on the cutting room floor, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong – but you should ignore them and watch Heat anyway.
Keanu Reeves does his best Keanu Reeves impression as John Wick, who was once a very bad man – a tattooed assassin for the nastiest of nasty gangsters and “the guy you send to kill the boogeyman”. But then he found love and hung up his arsenal of high-calibre weaponry.
Inevitably, his quiet life goes horribly awry, culminating in the murder of the cute puppy left to him by his late wife. Cue nasty, vengeful retaliation in the form of some of the finest balletic gunplay committed to screen since Reeves himself starred in The Matrix. They don’t make many action movies like this anymore.
DreamWorks’ beloved CGI series started over 20 years ago with this wonderful fairy tale adventure about a curmudgeonly green ogre (voiced by Mike Myers “doing Scottish”) who falls in love with a beautiful princess. Sending up various fantasy and fairy tale tropes along the way, Shrek is a children’s movie that gives adults plenty to enjoy too. Packed with clever references and in-jokes, it’s spawned a long-running series – but do yourself a favour and start at the beginning.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger’s balletic brawls began a trend for super-stylised martial arts films that also gave us the beautifully shot Hero, but Ang Lee’s Oscar winner is a treat for the eyes in more ways than one.
The fighting is choreographed by the same chap who worked on The Matrix, although the bad outfits and cod philosophy are replaced by stunning scenery and breathtakingly graceful dust ups, which often defy gravity over roofs and treetops. Strangely enough, at its heart it’s a love story (or rather two love stories), but even if you don’t get too interested in its themes and plotline, the action sequences and score will draw you right in.
Mad Mad: Fury Road
Screeching steel, battered chrome, scorching flames, shattered glass, choking sand, blazing sun and broken bones make up the mood board for veteran director George Miller’s 2015 return to the character he first put on screen back in 1979.
Tom Hardy takes on the title role in what amounts to a two-hour car chase/fight scene interspersed by a few on-foot brawls and some post-apocalyptic musings. As a piece of filmmaking Fury Road is absolutely breath-taking, with the vast majority of its action scenes based on practical effects and stunts rather than CGI. There’s nothing quite like it out there, so buckle up and get on the road.
Dragged Across Concrete
S. Craig Zahler’s films (which also include Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99) are not for the faint of heart – if you like your cinema gutsy and brainy (i.e. with plenty of both splattered around), these artfully made B movies are probably right up your street.
Dragged Across Concrete, which stars Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn as disgruntled cops seeking an off-the-books payday, while perhaps a little less gore-drenched than Zahler’s previous films boasts the same naturalistic neo-noir style – think long takes, restrained acting and hard-boiled dialogue – punctuated by outbursts of extreme violence. It doesn’t always make for a pretty watch, but as dark, gritty thrillers go, you won’t find many better.
Christopher Nolan is sometimes derided as “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person” and watching Tenet, his big budget “it’s not about time travel, actually” movie it’s easy to see why. The tenor is Very Serious – but break it down to its core and this is a silly but enjoyable sci-fi film with some cracking set-pieces, a mind-bending plot and a solid cast headed up by John David Washington and Robert Pattinson. With scenes in which time flows both forwards and backwards at the same time, there’s some visually impressive stuff here – even if you might be wondering what it all means by the end of it.
Tenet is undoubtedly a film built for the big screen, but watching at home has one advantage over the cinema: you might actually be able to understand the words that are coming out of the characters’ mouths. The muffled dialogue issue left many cinemagoers miffed and confused about key plot points, but at home you’ll be able to rewind (no pun intended) at your leisure.
Mistake this as merely another so-called chick flick at your peril. Yes, at its core it’s a romantic comedy focused on the awkward interactions between Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd, but there’s so much more going on here. Masterfully executed toilet humour and offbeat distractions provided by the likes of Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson make for some genuinely hilarious moments, and the film’s gentle exploration of the themes of friendship, love and marriage are nicely handled by director Paul Feig.
Almost three decades after its release, Jurassic Park remains a near-perfect film. Steven Spielberg’s mastery of pacing, camera, editing and sound is on full display here, as the living attractions in a dinosaur theme park take advantage of chaos theory to turn on their captors. The dreary, uninspired sequels have shown that there’s much more to making a great movie than a great idea (what if dinosaurs and humans could interact?) and great special effects; this is a rare occasion when a mega-budgeted box office-breaking blockbuster feels full of heart.
Denzel Washington received a well-deserved Best Actor Academy Award for his searing, unforgettable performance as crooked narcotics cop Alonzo Harris in this tense thriller, in which (the also Oscar-nominated) Ethan Hawke’s rookie detective Jake Hoyt must endure a fraught 24 hours under the grizzled veteran’s cynical tutelage.
Harris’ law enforcement methods, naturally, can’t be found in any dusty old rulebook, and Hoyt quickly finds himself dragged not only into LA’s terrifying criminal underworld but a wide-ranging conspiracy among the cops charged with keeping the city safe.
Promising Young Woman
Emerald Fennell’s Oscar-winning screenplay is just one fascinating aspect of this stylish, genre-bending movie, in which the superb Carey Mulligan plays a coffee shop worker who spends her nights teaching creeps a lesson about consent.
Is Promising Young Woman a black comedy? A rom-com? A revenge thriller? A post-Me Too polemic ? A cautionary tale about how holding onto anger and resentment can consume you? It’s all of the above, and all the more captivating for it.
Forget the tame Colin Farrell-led remake: this is the Total Recall you should jack yourself into. Paul Verhoeven’s characteristically lurid sci-fi romp, loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who has recurring dreams of walking the red deserts of Mars, now colonised and on the verge of a civil war between exploited workers and a corporate overlord backed up by a militarised police force. The thing is: he’s never been to Mars. Or has he? When he visits a company that implants fake memories in customers’ heads – a sort of alternative vacation service – it unlocks something deep within his brain and turns his mundane life into a deadly adventure.
Beneath the ultra-violence, sex and corny one-liners Total Recall is, like most of Verhoeven’s movies, awash with interesting and subversive ideas. But even if you don’t want to think, it’s more than entertaining enough for us to recommend.
The Green Mile
Like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile sees Frank Darabont adapt a prison-set Stephen King tale for the screen – but here things move well into the fantasy genre thanks to the miraculous powers of enigmatic death row inmate John Coffey, a gentle giant seemingly blessed with the ability to heal the sick and infirm. Tom Hanks plays the guard who grows to respect and seek to protect his charge against not only the electric chair but the depredations of fellow inmates and cruel corrections officers. Moving stuff that’ll likely have you blubbing like a baby by the final reel.
Cameron Crowe’s paean to the early 1970s glory days of American rock and roll – based heavily on his real-life experiences as a teenaged Rolling Stone journalist – remains a diverting, funny and affecting watch almost two decades after it was released, even if the sexual politics of the time seems even more brutal and bizarre now than it did in 2000.
Focussing on the complex triangular relationship between Patrick Fugit’s naive Crowe-substitute, Billy Crudup’s mercurial lead guitarist and Oscar-nominated Kate Hudson’s free-spirited groupie, Almost Famous brilliantly conjures up the mystical, tense and crazed life of a touring band better than any other movie we can think of.
No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men always felt like the most screen-adaptable of Cormac McCarthy’s novels, and with the Coen brothers at the helm it would have taken some kind of disaster to stop this movie from becoming an instant classic. And it is, thanks to not only the source material and its sympathetic treatment by America’s finest filmmaking pair of siblings, but due to killer performances from Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones and, most memorably, Javier Bardem as a philosophising, seemingly unstoppable mass murderer with a criminal haircut. If you like your thrillers as contemplative and lyrical as they are nail-biting, look no further.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The first (and we think best) Indiana Jones film is a globe-trotting blockbuster that has set the standard for all Hollywood adventure movies since. A throwback to the flicks of Spielberg and producer George Lucas’ childhood, it sees Ford’s bullwhip-brandishing archaeologist travel to Egypt in an attempt to locate the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the Third Reich, who plan to use the ancient artefact’s powers to place the world under Nazi rule.
The visual effects and, er, ‘cultural depictions’ have aged noticeable since 1981, but this is mainstream filmmaking at its purest – a broadly entertaining, fast-paced and iconic movie that it’s almost impossible not to get swept up in.
If you haven’t already seen this stupendously well directed, impeccably acted, perfectly soundtracked and unforgettably scripted gangster yarn, what on earth are you waiting for? Close this page now, fire up Now TV and get settled in for two hours and twenty-five minutes of filmmaking at its very finest.
Martin Scorsese may have claimed his first Best Director Oscar for the decent crime thriller Departed, but Goodfellas – an epic, heady plunge into the realities of life as a New York mobster in the 50s, 60s and 70s – deserved the shiny gold chap so much more. At least Joe Pesci picked up the Best Supporting Actor gong for his turn as pint-sized psychopath Tommy DeVito, one of the great characters of 90s cinema. As for Goodfellas, is it one of the best movies ever made? Fuggedaboudit.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of the even more epic fantasy novel is not without its issues (I mean, how many endings does a film need?), but the director’s achievement in wrangling such an uneven, weighty and wide-ranging tome into three enjoyable blockbuster movies should not be overlooked.
You likely know the story already: a young hobbit must travel from his peaceful, bucolic corner of the world to the hellish realm of Mordor to destroy a powerful ring. Along the way he’ll encounter dangers, make new friends, take part in an apocalyptic war and much, much more. This trilogy is action-packed, well-acted and visually arresting – and capable of generating plenty of emotion at times, too.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
John Hughes’ beloved movie about a wily suburban teenager bunking off school to spend a day with his two best friends is, like Ghostbusters, one of the true must-watch 1980s comedies – a film that does its darnedest to represent a whole era.
It helps that it’s an entertaining, engaging watch packed with memorable moments and performances, from Matthew Broderick’s career-best turn as fourth wall-breaking Ferris to Alan Ruck as his hypochondriac pal Cameron, all of which invest it with a universal appeal that’ll chime with free thinkers of all ages.
Watching an indie movie about jazz drumming might not sound like the most riveting way to spend an evening, but trust us: Whiplash is no ordinary movie about jazz drumming.
Miles Teller plays a music college student determined to become one of the skin-bashing greats. The only problem? He’s never quite good enough to impress his insanely demanding band conductor, played in Oscar-winning form by J. K. Simmons. Simmons’ monster of an instructor dominates the film right through to the unforgettable final reel. We doubt you’ve ever seen a music movie with so much blood, sweat and tears.
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone set aside the Dollars trilogy’s crowd-pleasing antics to create two and half hours of cinematic history with this scorched-earth homage to the gritty realities of homesteading on the new frontier.
Expertly paying homage to practically every film in the genre, Leone helps the everyman Henry Fonda find his dark side while giving Charles Bronson his own theme tune (supplied, of course, by long-term Leone sidekick Ennio Morricone). It’s beautiful, brutal and iconic stuff – and a must-watch for any would-be cinema connoisseur. This is the spaghetti Western – gourmet style.
Quentin Tarantino’s western (or, more accurately “southern”) takes its cues both from Sergio Leone and the blaxploitation genre. Set mostly in the Deep South, Django Unchained pits Jamie Foxx’s titular freed slave against the plantation owners, traders and overseers who’ve separated him from his wife.
He’s joined on his quest by German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (an Oscar-nominated Christoph Waltz) but equally impressive are Leonardo Dicaprio as Calvin Candie, who cloaks the barbarity of his gladiatorial slave fights beneath a veneer of civilisation, and Samuel L Jackson as Candie’s house slave (and éminence grise) Stephen.
Foxx plays Django as a modern Man With No Name – though in his case his silence is more the result of tightly-wound righteous fury than stoicism, and when he eventually unleashes bloody vengeance on his oppressors it’s spectacularly cathartic.
The Godfather trilogy
Look, if you haven’t seen The Godfather and The Godfather Part II by now, stop reading this and just go watch it. And then maybe watch the third one just to round things out, even though it’s a bit of a dud by comparison.
Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia epic spans a generation, weaving the tale of a Sicilian immigrant who becomes a powerful mobster and his son, who strives to turn his father’s “business” into a legitimate concern but finds it impossible to keep his two families together without getting his hands dirty. With fantastic performances all round and a true sense of scale and grandeur that no later mob movie has ever matched, the Godfather trilogy (or at least the first two thirds of it) can rightly be called one of the greatest feats in cinematic history.
Saving Private Ryan
Ex-schoolteacher Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) sets off across France to find Private Ryan – whose three brothers were killed during D-Day – and y’know, save him. It’s Steven Spielberg’s take on the classic “men on a mission” movie, a grand epic rich with the sort of masterful camerawork, thrilling action and touching sentimentality that tend to be associated with the director.
It’s worth watching for the intensely terrifying opening scene of the Normandy landings alone, one of the most pioneering bits of filmmaking in recent history. Spielberg deliberately aped the look of vintage newsreels during the 20-minute sequence, fiddling with the shutter timing on the cameras and treating the film to desaturate the colours.
The Shawshank Redemption
Banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) gets a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit – and in the grim confines of Shawshank Penitentiary, he’d be forgiven for giving in to despair. But a series of small victories against the soul-squeezing bureaucracy, the mentorship of old lag Red (Morgan Freeman in one of his career-defining roles) and an interest in geology help to chip away at the walls that threaten to crush him.
Frank Darabont’s adaptation of a lesser-known Stephen King short story failed to set the box office alight but – appropriately, given its theme of persevering against the odds – it’s since found a strong following on home video. Its story of hope in the face of impossible odds – and a slow-burning style that recalls the classics of the ‘30s and ‘40s – has won it a place at the top of countless best films lists. You owe it to yourself to watch this one.
Martin Scorsese’s much-lauded exploration of isolation, obsession and mania is certainly one of the best classic movies available on Netflix, and anyone who considers themselves a fan of cinema and hasn’t already watch it should drop everything, fire up their Netflix app of choice and settle down for 113 minutes of masterful moviemaking, as Scorsese’s camera follows increasingly unhinged Vietnam veteran and cabbie Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro in one of his defining roles) as he navigates the sleazy streets 1970s New York.