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15 Hidden Gems on Netflix

Look beyond the streamer’s same-old choices on your browser screen to discover buried movie and TV treasures

spinner image actors in netflix shows amaka okofar in bodies jack and michael whitehall in traveling with my father lionel ritchie in the greatest night in pop sandra oh in the chair seo hyeon ahn and tilda swinton in okja background from life on our planet
Clockwise from top left: Amaka Okafor in "Bodies"; Jack and Michael Whitehall in "Traveling with My Father"; Lionel Ritchie in "The Greatest Night in Pop"; Sandra Oh in "The Chair"; Seo-Hyeon Ahn and Tilda Swinton in "Okja"; background from "Life On Our Planet."

Netflix has a huge catalog of movies and TV shows, but its powerful algorithms often favor the streamer’s most recent and most-watched fare, such as the historical drama The Crown, the action thriller The Night Agent and the rediscovered 2010s legal drama Suits. Though many rival studios have clawed back movies and shows for their own streaming services, there are still tons of less popular gems buried on Netflix — from originals such as the sexy Swedish dramedy Love & Anarchy to classic films including Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. Here are 15 buried treasures to add to your queue.

Bodies (2023)

What if four different police detectives — spread out in different time periods over 150 years — stumbled on the body of the same murder victim in London’s Whitechapel? That intriguing premise is at the heart of this eight-part limited series, which adds a time-bending element to the old Jack the Ripper saga.

Watch it: Bodies

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The Chair (2021)

The fictional Pembroke University seems like a fitting avatar for modern academia, with its stubbornly old-school faculty resisting most efforts toward modernization — despite the appointment of the English department’s first female chair. Sandra Oh, 52, in a delightfully flustered performance, faces down both crotchety colleagues and eager-to-cancel students — while nursing her crush on a hotshot colleague (Jay Duplass, 50) who’s been spiraling since the death of his wife. This sadly short-lived series smartly casts David Duchovny, 63, as a celebrity actor-novelist-PhD student who never finished his dissertation (like Duchovny himself) but is recruited as a guest lecturer to boost the department’s visibility.

Watch it: The Chair

The Conversation (PG, 1974)

Between the first two Godfather films, director Francis Ford Coppola shot another, undersung masterpiece: a noirish thriller starring Gene Hackman as a guilt-wracked surveillance expert who’s hired to eavesdrop on a couple and begins to suspect that a murder may be in the works. The tension mounts along with Hackman’s paranoia in a film that feels very much of its time — including the use of the same wiretapping technology employed by the Watergate burglars. (Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming The Conversation TV series, directed and written by J.C. Chandor.)

Watch it: The Conversation

Documentary Now! (2015-present)

SNL alums Fred Armisen, 57, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, 50, and Rhys Thomas created this uproarious series that parodies classic documentary films — and imagines them playing in a long-running public TV series hosted by Helen Mirren, 78, who introduces each episode in the four seasons to date. Hader and Armisen camp it up as aging socialites in a spoof of Grey Gardens, while the Muhammad Ali doc When We Were Kings morphs into an epic battle involving a Welsh version of dodgeball with rocks. The results are equal parts silly and smart.

Watch it: Documentary Now!

Five Came Back (2017)

Did you know some of Hollywood’s biggest directors in the early 1940s — John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler — were recruited during World War II to produce propaganda films and shoot footage of the battlefield? Netflix not only streams the original films but also a three-part docuseries about these Old Hollywood filmmakers, with analysis from contemporary auteurs including Steven Spielberg, 77, Francis Ford Coppola, 84, and Guillermo del Toro, 59. This show, based on the best-selling book by journalist Mark Harris, is a treat for WWII buffs and film fans alike.

Watch it: Five Came Back

Frances Ha (R, 2012)

Pre-Barbie Greta Gerwig plays a struggling 27-year-old dancer in this black-and-white indie gem, which she cowrote with director Noah Baumbach, 54. The film captures all the financial and emotional anxieties of a new generation of creatives in early-21st-century New York City — and features before-they-were-famous performances by future stars Adam Driver (Marriage Story) and Michael Zegen (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

Watch it: Frances Ha

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The Greatest Night in Pop (2024)

Don’t you wish you could have been a fly on the wall during the rushed all-star recording of the 1985 song “We Are the World,” a single intended to raise funds for famine relief in Africa? Well, now you can. Lionel Richie, 74, who cowrote the song with Michael Jackson, leads a series of interviews looking back on how they managed to corral the decade’s biggest stars (and egos) to collaborate on one of pop’s most memorable odes to selflessness. This is a delightful, almost giddy piece of nostalgia.

Watch it: The Greatest Night in Pop

Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father (2017-2021)

Travel shows about mismatched couples have never been quite as different as this one: Jack Whitehall is a millennial British comedian with an edgy sensibility despite his posh upbringing. His father, Michael, 83, is a longtime theatrical agent (with clients including Dame Judi Dench, 89) who favors absolute propriety and insists on dressing in a suit, tie and pocket square just about everywhere he goes. Over 18 episodes, the two embark on hilarious road trips to Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the American West in which they lovingly push each other’s buttons — and expand their personal boundaries as well.

Watch it: Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father

Leave the World Behind (R, 2023)

Sam Esmail, best known for creating Mr. Robot, directed and co-adapted the unsettling bestseller about a family of four (led by Julia Roberts, 56, and Ethan Hawke, 53) who rent a ritzy vacation home on New York’s Long Island — only to be interrupted by a man and his daughter (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la) who turn up, claiming that the house is really theirs and that a cyberattack has forced them to seek shelter in a familiar place. Prepare to be unnerved in all the right ways.

Watch it: Leave the World Behind

Life on Our Planet (2023)

Executive producer Steven Spielberg and the creators of Our Planet teamed for a docuseries using the latest CG technology to imagine the very origins of life — from dinosaurs to woolly mammoths to the first amphibians crawling out of the sea. The series includes spectacular imagery that recalls Sir David Attenborough’s work on the multi-season Our Planet shows, also worth seeking out on Netflix. If only the fittest survive, this show looks to be a Darwinner.

Watch it: Life on Our Planet

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Love & Anarchy (2020-2022)

Sofie is an unhappily married consultant hired to revamp a struggling book publishing house in Stockholm. From the moment she arrives, she strikes up a curious relationship with the early-twentysomething IT guy — they dare each other to perform stunts (walk backward for a day, dress like Cyndi Lauper) that escalate into a full-blown romance. This Swedish series (dubbed for American audiences) is steamy and smart, with a darker psychological undercurrent that’s more fully developed in the second season.

Watch it: Love & Anarchy

Okja (2017)

Almost three years before his Korean-language film Parasite won a surprise four Oscars, including best picture, Bong Joon-ho, 54, released this provocative and decidedly offbeat English-language fable about a young girl and her pet pig, the Okja of the title. As in other films by director Bong, there’s a lot more just beneath the pigskin: sharp critiques of the food industry and blinkered environmental groups, as well as some gonzo performances by Tilda Swinton, 63, Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano.

Watch it: Okja

Rush (R, 2013)

If you’re looking for a pure adrenaline rush, it’s hard to beat the propulsive car-racing sequences in Ron Howard’s underrated film. Howard, 69, captures the real-life rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 legends James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), a cocky English playboy who seems to swagger even behind the wheel, and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), an ice-cold Austrian with the mind and temperament of an engineer. Their contrasting styles generated plenty of headlines back in the day, and Howard captures all of that with pulse-racing energy.

Watch it: Rush

Rustin (PG-13, 2023)

Bayard Rustin, one of the most overlooked figures in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, gets the spotlight in a biopic from award-winning director George C. Wolfe and executive producers Barack and Michelle Obama. Colman Domingo, 54 (Fear the Walking Dead), earned an Oscar nod for his performance as Rustin, who took the lead organizing the historic 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech — but who faced blowback within the Black community as an openly gay man.

Watch it: Rustin

Wormwood (2017)

Frank Olson was a scientist for the U.S. government who died in 1953 under mysterious circumstances — a death that was first ruled an accident but then declared a suicide. (It emerged that he had been covertly dosed with LSD by his CIA supervisor.) In this unique docuseries, filmmaker Errol Morris, 76, combines documentary-style interviews (with folks including Olson’s son) with dramatic reenactments (featuring Peter Sarsgaard, 52, as Olson). The goal is to reopen an ice-cold case — and to question our ability to piece together anything close to the truth when so many parties still have an interest in keeping any investigation under wraps.

Watch it: Wormwood

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