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TV & MoviesThe 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: March 2021 | #television | #elderly | #movies

The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: March 2021 | #television | #elderly | #movies

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What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves the question, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus, and getting overwhelmed by the constantly shifting trend menus. Netflix’s huge catalogue of movies, combined with its inscrutable recommendations algorithm, can make finding something to watch feel more like a chore than a way to unwind when really what you want are the good movies. No… the best movies.

We’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis, we’ve narrowed down your options to 25 of our favorite current movies on the platform. These run the gamut from the gorgeous, tragic animated feature The Breadwinner to some freshly arrived classics. We’ll be updating this list monthly as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen.


Baahubali: The Beginning

Baahubali: The Beginning - prabhas as baahubali carrying a giant fountain

Image: Dharma Productions

In Western terms, this Tollywood production — the most expensive Indian film ever at the time of its release — is like a biblical epic by way of Marvel Studios, with a little Hamlet and Step Up thrown in for good measure. The Beginning chronicles the life of Shivudu, an adventurer with superhuman strength who escapes his provincial life by scaling a skyscraper-sized waterfall, aides and romances a rebel warrior named Avanthika, then teams up with her to rescue a kidnapped queen from an evil emperor. Exploding with hyper-choreographed fight sequences and CG spectacle (not to mention a handful of musical numbers with equal bravura), The Beginning is 159 minutes of mythical excess. The film goes big like only Indian film can, and rests on the muscular shoulders of its hero, the single-name actor Prabhas. If you fall hard for it, get pumped — this is only part one. The twist leads into Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, another two-and-a-half-hour epic currently streaming on Netflix. —Matt Patches


Bonnie and Clyde

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway rob a bank in Bonnie and Clyde, stylishly

Photo: Warner Bros.

Most people watching Netflix these days won’t remember a time before film and TV routinely glamorized criminals and filled the screen with violence, so it can be hard to understand what a furor Bonnie and Clyde raised on its release in 1967. Its stylish nods to the French New Wave were considered groundbreaking for an American action film, but so were the way director Arthur Penn clearly sympathized with the titular bank-robbers, focusing on their adventuring spirit and daring. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star as real-life heist artists Bonnie and Clyde, who break with their dull lives and end up on the lam together, in a movie both heralded for its thrills and romanticism, and scolded for making crime seem thrilling. Horrors! —Tasha Robinson


Burning

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) wanders through a field.

Photo: Well Go USA Entertainment

A sense of frustration suffuses every part of Lee Chang-dong’s hypnotic adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning.” Focusing on would-be writer Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), whose listlessness is interrupted first by the appearance of his childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), and then her charismatic friend, Ben (Steven Yeun), Burning unfolds at an almost maddeningly deliberate pace as Lee tangles with class, country, and everything in between, turning a three-way relationship into the seed of a mystery-thriller. With a conclusion that could be interpreted in a million different ways — and stunning performances from the three leads, particularly Yeun, who proves utterly unreadable — it’s a film that’s impossible to shake. —Karen Han


The Conjuring

Lili Taylor being dragged away screaming in The Conjuring (2013)

Photo: Warner Bros. Picture

If 2013’s The Conjuring hadn’t been a hit, we’d have way fewer haunted-object horror movies right now. The film stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life “paranormal investigators” Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose many books about their experiences with the supernatural previously inspired The Amityville Horror. Wilson and Farmiga serve as a warm and complicated focus for the story, which is part of what makes The Conjuring stand out from so many other haunted-house movies, but James Wan’s crisp direction and Joseph Bishara’s eerie score do a lot of the heavy lifting too. The Conjuring is one of the few horror movies that really takes the time to clearly establish the layout of its isolated house before things start getting weird, and that adds significantly to the tension as people start trying to escape the unnerving things going on within it. Followed by multiple sequels and spinoffs, but this is easily the best of the lot. —TR


Da 5 Bloods

a group of men kneeling together in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods

Photo: Netflix

On the surface, Spike Lee’s feature film Da 5 Bloods seems to be about the long-term effects of the Vietnam War on survivors and relationships. But the story goes much deeper, and the film’s release couldn’t possibly have come at a more relevant moment. The stars (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Norm Lewis) play a group of friends and combat veterans who served in the same Army unit, where they lost their commander Norman (Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman). It’s an adventure, as they return to Vietnam for Norman’s body and a cache of hidden gold, but more significantly, it’s a series of political statements, about Black consciousness-raising, the lessons of former generations, America’s casual abuse of its Black citizens, and the importance of unity in the face of oppression and opportunity alike. The bulk of the story would be relevant in any era — 1948’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre and 1979’s Apocalypse Now are both prominently referenced touchstones — but the framing places it so squarely in the middle of the present mood and moment, it’s as though the editing was finished yesterday. —TR


Dances With Wolves

Kevin Costner as Lt. John J. Dunbar/Dances with Wolves holding a Betsy Ross Flag in Dances With Wolves

Photo: Tig Productions/Getty Images

Kevin Costner’s directorial debut, Dances With Wolves is a poignant Western examining the final days of the American West through the eyes of one man. The film follows Lieutenant John J. Dunbar (also played by Costner), a wounded soldier who requests to be transferred to the remote frontier so that he may see it before it disappears. Though originally fearful of the indigenous people who live nearby, Dunbar befriends a neighboring Lakota Sioux tribe. After learning more about their culture and way of life — and even joining the tribe in defending their village from attacks — Dunbar eventually decides to leave his former life behind, even if it means facing off against the United States Army. Basically, Dances With Wolves did Avatar before Avatar did Avatar, but, like, in a better and more meaningful way. —Petrana Radulovic


The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight - Batman standing in flames

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

So I wasn’t going to watch this movie, but then I found out that Eric Roberts, the star of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” music video, played a villain in it and I absolutely had to see what that was like. Turns out, he’s great! Roberts really channels that Brightside energy as Sal Maroni, an edgy gangster in Gotham City who has fallen on hard times because a man dressed in a bat suit has been making it difficult for him to make a living. So he hires an independent contractor who dresses like a clown (this movie isn’t just about crime, but also the gig economy, which is kind of the same thing) to solve his problem and it turns out, freelancers actually kind of resent not having good health insurance and paid time off — something the movie is a little on-the-nose about when the Joker (they really call him that! Wild.) threatens to blow up a hospital and some boats, but it mostly works in context.

It’s really surprising how much of a crackerjack movie director Christopher Nolan made with The Dark Knight, considering that no one in it is really having a good time. (Well, one person is, but we are not supposed to relate.) If you’re not sure about checking this one out, I’d gently suggest you reconsider, because you’ll probably enjoy it! It’s true, the “Batman” is a little ridiculous to watch and his voice is tremendously silly but also: that costume is probably extremely uncomfortable! I wouldn’t be very friendly in it either! Something to think about. —Joshua Rivera


Death of Stalin

death of stalin the scene in which stalin dies

Photo: IFC Films

In the waning days of the Trump administration, when his Cabinet members begin resigning after the Capitol riot and reports emerged that his White House staff was mostly frantically engaged in seeking their next jobs, plenty of political pundits compared the situation to the one seen in Armando Iannucci’s 2017 political satire, The Death of Stalin. As Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin dies, his ministers and followers scramble to manipulate the situation, simultaneously trying to perform mourning as publicly and decisively as possible, and garner the support that will keep them alive in a particularly treacherous and lethal regime. That probably doesn’t sound funny, but the performances from figures like Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, and Paddy Considine are surprisingly winning, and the whole bleak comedy moves along at breakneck speeds as they all jockey for position. —TR


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

ferrell and mcadams dressed in dramatic costumes and looking deadly serious

Photo: Elizabeth Viggiano/Netflix

David Dobkin’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is just as ridiculous and entertaining as its title. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as Lars and Sigrit, two musicians who are given the opportunity to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. As we said in our review, “Director David Dobkin doesn’t land every single beat, but he taps into that well of carefree exultation so potently that the movie’s stumbles hardly register.” It’s a joyous, goofy, irreverent film that’s not without its foibles, but nonetheless wins you over with through its sheer absurdity and silliness. —TE


Fruitvale Station

A white police officer (Kevin Durand) puts his hand on the neck of 22-year-old Black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) in Fruitvale Station

Photo: The Weinstein Company

More relevant than ever after a year where the news was frequently dominated by protests over police brutality and police killings of unarmed Black citizens, this impressionistic portrait of 22-year-old Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan) launched the filmmaking career of Black Panther writer-director Ryan Coogler. The film captures the events leading to Grant being shot in the back by a policeman while lying prone on the ground during a mass arrest, but Coogler focuses more on Grant’s life and family as he tracks him through his last day. It’s an elegiac movie, focused more on Grant’s humanity than his status as a martyr, and it’s well worth checking out as a Ryan Coogler origin story. —TR


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

hunt for the wilderpeople - julian dennison

Photo: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The truly rare family film that’s safe for kids, funny and acerbic enough for adults, and surprising enough to keep everyone absorbed, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of cinema’s great underseen gems. An authentically refreshing take on the usually cloying “orphan kid melts surly senior’s heart” subgenre, Wilderpeople follows initially sullen foster-system kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) as he blossoms in a new environment, then winds up on the run in the woods with an older man (Sam Neill) who has no idea what to do with him. Waititi’s startling, wryly straight-faced humor in films like Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do In The Shadows is on full display here, and the film starts out sweet and hilarious, then gets recklessly wild. —TR


I Am Not Your Negro

James Baldwin in I Am Not Your Negro

Photo: © Dan Budnik

To describe James Baldwin, the queer African-American author of such books as Giovanni’s Room, The Devil Finds Work, and The Fire Next Time, as one of the most preeminent writers on the nature of race and racism in America feels like an understatement. Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro takes an unconventional approach in exploring the life and mind of an equally unconventional writer. Drawing inspiration from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, the film is a collection of archival footage of various television interviews Baldwin performed throughout his life juxtaposed with contemporary scenes of police brutality and civil unrest, narrated by dialogue from Baldwin’s aforementioned manuscript read by Samuel L. Jackson.

The result is revelatory and bracing experience, it’s heart-aching timeliness even more powerful five years after its release. If the playwright Lorraine Hansberry final words to Robert F. Kennedy during the scene recounting Baldwin’s famous 1963 White House meeting does not give you pause or send a chill up your spine upon reflection of the death of George Floyd last summer, I don’t know what will. —TE


I Am Legend

Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville touting a rifle and walking down a deserted street with his dog in I Am Legend.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Depending on your tastes, you can think of this Richard Matheson adaptation different ways. Action fans might think of this as the movie where Will Smith lives alone (except for his dog) on post-apocalyptic Manhattan, fighting to find a cure for the disease that turned the population into light-fearing vampires. Everyone else might just think of it as the movie where Will Smith tearfully quotes Shrek at great length to Alice Braga. It’s an oddity, but it’s also more emotionally involved than most action blockbusters, and the early exploration of isolation in what used to be a teeming city is eerie and compelling. After watching it, though, do yourself a favor and look up the alternate director’s-cut ending, which is more powerful and more hopeful. —TR


Jiu Jitsu

Nicolas Cage, with long ratty hair, faces off against Alain Moussi as they each grip opposite ends of a staff in Jiu Jitsu

Photo: The Avenue

Director Dimitri Logothetis’ 2020 martial arts action fantasy Jiu Jitsu reads like a mashup of Mortal Kombat meets Predator on paper, following an ancient order or jiu-jitsu warriors led by Nicolas Cage who battle a race of superpowered alien invaders with cloaking tech for the fate of humanity. As we wrote in our review, “Once it kicks into gear, it never feels like a waste of viewers’ time, either. As the film progresses, the alien fighters’ human opponents fall by the wayside as they take on the extraterrestrial killing machine. The set-up owes a lot to the man-vs.-alien classic Predator, and so, at times, does the execution, with our heroes taking on a being capable of camouflaging itself in the middle of the forest. But originality isn’t really the point. And though any Cage-free attempts at comedy fall flat, the action remains exciting, thanks in large part to Logothetis’ steady-handed, no-frills approach.” —TE


Moonlight

a young black boy looks over his shoulder while standing in front of the ocean in Moonlight (2016)

A24

Barry Jenkins’ tender three-part coming-of-age story Moonlight may ultimately be remembered for the Oscar-night kerfuffle surrounding it — Best Picture presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were handed the wrong winner envelope, Beatty mistakenly announced that La La Land had won Best Picture, and the film’s crew took the stage to start their speeches before they learned that Moonlight had actually won. At least all the surrounding drama and interest focused more widespread attention on Jenkins’ film, an intensely personal three-act story about a gay Black boy dealing with his orientation as a child, finding first love as a teenager, and settling into his identity as an adult. Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe offer particularly tender performances as the drug dealers who support him in childhood, but the real star of the show here is the vivid, lovely cinematography, as Jenkins uses intimate images and sharp visuals to suggest an active, aching mind behind the ever-evolving mask the central character presents to the world. —TR


Modest Heroes

Shun Yashima from Yoshiyuki Momose’s 2015 short film Life Ain’t Gonna Lose from 2015’s Modest Heroes

Photo: GKIDS

Modest Heroes is the strongest effort to date from Studio Ponoc, the animation house founded in 2015 by former Studio Ghibli animator Yoshiaki Nishimura. Anime anthologies have historically been a wellspring for some of the most daring and beautiful works to grace the medium, and Modest Heroes is no exception. Yoshiyuki Momose’s Life Ain’t Gonna Lose is a beautiful pastel-rendered story of maternal love and devotion brought to life by a staff of key animators known for their work on such classic anime as Isao Takahata’s My Neighbors the Yamadas and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and Akihiko Yamashita’s Invisible is fantastical take on the isolating effects of depression featuring byzantine industrial background art and a thrilling climax animated by the masterful expressionist animator Shinya Ohira. —TE


Pan’s Labyrinth

A monster with large horns and long fingers crouches down in front of a young girl.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s a war going on, and a little girl is traveling with her mother to meet her cruel new stepfather, a man who is fighting this war. Then something happens: she meets a strange creature who tells her a story, that she is a princess who lost her memories, and that she can have them back if she does three simple things. A fairy tale for adults, Pan’s Labyrinth is the film that garnered Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro worldwide acclaim for his beguiling fantasy, elevating his profile from genre favorite to one of the most beloved storytellers working in cinema. With stunning ease, Pan’s Labyrinth achieves the elusive, contradictory romance of an unforgettable dream: frightening yet beautiful, full of wonder yet impossibly grim, wrought from the real world while looking nothing like it. JR


The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith and Jaden Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness

Photo: Zade Rosenthal/Columbia Pictures

Gabrielle Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happyness, based on the true story of philanthropist Christopher Garderner, was a significant moment for Will Smith’s career back when it was released in 2006. Smith’s portrayal of Gardner in his dogged drive to secure a better life for his son while living homeless and working two jobs earned him his second-ever Academy Award nomination and launched the career of his son Jaden Smith, who portrayed Gardener’s own. The sheer chemistry and love between the two is palpable; resolutely warm and resonating off the screen throughout every scene they share, and the film on a whole is a stirring testament to the vindication of persistence and a faith in love even in the darkest of circumstances. —TE


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

michael cera in scott pilgrim vs. the world

Image: Universal Pictures

Edgar Wright’s 2010 adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comics is the kind of movie you can passively take in for the extremely fast-paced gags and action, or actively mine like a trivia contest. As whiner-slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) pursues his unattainable crush Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and has to contend with her past relationships in violent, symbolic, hilarious ways, Wright packs the screen and soundscape with visual and audio references to past games, to the point where the soundtrack is practically its own referential language. The cast at this point is a remarkable grab bag of famous people in younger days, including Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Schwartzman. But it’s even more a calling card for Wright. He’s continued to make mile-a-minute stories about dippy, immature guys figuring out what they want, but he’s never been quite this joyously demented again. —TR


Shadow

Jingzhou (Deng Chao) using the Pei kingdom’s weaponized metal umbrella in Zhang Yimou’s Shadow

Photo: We Go USA Entertainment

Wuxia master Zhang Yimou (Hero) is known for capturing color, from the crimson wash of Raise the Red Lantern to the eye-popping landscapes of House of Flying Daggers. In Shadow, Zhang dials back the gradient to black and white, and the result is a politically tinged martial arts epic as mesmerizing and complicated as a Rorschach. After basically condensing the entire run of Game of Thrones into the first hour, Zhang goes on to stage blade-wielding combat and royal court clashes on par with his early work. Devoted fans will know what to expect, but unsuspecting newcomers may melt over the sheer vision on display in this contrast-heavy return to form. —MP


Snowpiercer

snowpiercer: back of train residents conspire as a group

Photo: The Weinstein Company

Before he pulled off the coveted Oscar hat trick of winning Best Director, Best International Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture with his black comedy thriller breakout Parasite at the 92nd Academy Awards, Bong Joon-ho introduced western audiences to his taste for trenchant commentaries on class warfare with his 2013 sci-fi action film Snowpiercer. Adapted from Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette’s French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, the film stars MCU leading man Chris Evans as Curtis, a working-class-passenger-turned-revolutionary aboard the Snowpiercer, a high-speed train hurtling across a planet-spanning rail system as the sole remaining bastion of humanity in a desolate frozen world. —TE


Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

Jack Black lights a microphone on fire with his voice in Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny

Photo: New Line Cinema

Liam Lynch’s Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny bombed in the box office back when it released in 2006, but in the years since, the fictionalized epic of Jack Black and Kyle Glass’ real-life comedic musical duo riffing off such films as This Is Spinal Tap and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has become something of a cult classic in the years since. Channeling the same feel-good slacker comedy energy of Black’s previous work in Richard Linklater’s School of Rock, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny is as ridiculous and chuckle-worthy as its title would imply and a solid entry in the canon of “just throw it on and vibe out” comedy movies. —TE


There Will Be Blood

Dillon Freasier stands next to a seated Daniel Day Lewis in a screenshot from There Will Be Blood

Photo: Miramax

For a while, Paul Thomas Anderson’s mesmerizing story about the rise and fall of an oil baron was best known for an unfortunate milkshake meme. But it’s been 14 years since its release, surely by now we can let go of that particular gag and get back to appreciating Daniel Day-Lewis’ typically intense performance and the film’s particularly uncompromising severity. It’s a severe-looking film, all cracked, dry surfaces and angry desperation, and the clash between Day-Lewis’ viciously competitive oilman and a struggling young preacher (Paul Dano) is just as severe. This is not a film about moderation or kindness, and the end is pure Grand Guignol, but it’s a hell of a ride to get there. —TR


Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger grimaces as memories are implanted in his head — or not?!? — in Total Recall.

Photo: TriStar Pictures

Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story sits beside 1987’s Robocop and 1997’s Starship Troopers as the middle installment, and arguable peak, of the director’s trio of stone-cold sci-fi action classics. The film squeezes larger-than-life movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger into the denim jeans of Douglas Quaid, a mild-mannered construction worker who emerges from a fake-memory-implantation procedure to find that his whole life is a lie. After narrowly escaping with his life from cadre of mysterious agents, Quaid is thrust on a journey to rediscover his suppressed past and his role in a sinister conspiracy that spans the length between Earth and Mars. As Polygon’s own Matt Patches so elegantly puts, “It’s a prismatic, often funny marvel, and everything that the ‘gritty,’ grey remake was not.” — TE


Training Day

Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in Training Day

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day is one of the most iconic crime thriller films of the early 20th century. Ethan Hawke stars as Jake Hoyt, an idealistic LAPD narcotics officer tasked with shadowing Detective Sergeant Alonzo Harris, played by Denzel Washington in his first Academy Award winning performance. If you’ve somehow never seen Training Day, and Denzel’s quote-worthy final speech, drop everything and make plans to watch this one. — TE

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