Netflix has a huge catalog of movies and TV shows, but its powerful algorithms often favor the streamer’s most recent fare. (Good luck trying to find movies that opened in theaters before the year 2000 — especially since so many studios clawed back their catalogs for their own streaming services.) Still, there are tons of gems buried on the service, from Netflix originals such as the sexy Swedish dramedy Love & Anarchy to indie film gems including Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Here are 15 Netflix buried treasures to add to your summer watching queue.
Begin Again (2014)
Writer-director John Carney followed up his Oscar-winning Once with another charmer about an aspiring musician, this time a folksy singer played by Keira Knightley, who gets discovered in New York City by a down-and-out music label executive (a decidedly rumpled Mark Ruffalo, 55). The film, which also includes meaty roles for Catherine Keener, 64, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and Hailee Steinfeld (as Ruffalo’s daughter) never got the attention it deserved — despite an Oscar nod for the lovely ballad “Lost Stars.”
Watch it: Begin Again
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, 51, in a delightfully flustered performance, faces down both crotchety colleagues and eager-to-cancel students, while nursing her crush on a hot-shot colleague (Jay Duplass, 50) who’s been spiraling since the death of his wife. Plus, this sadly short-lived series smartly casts David Duchovny, 62, as a celebrity actor-novelist-failed-Ph.D.-student (like Duchovny himself) who’s recruited as a guest lecturer to boost the department’s visibility.
Watch It: The Chair
Documentary Now! (2015 – present)
SNL alums Fred Armisen, 56, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers 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, 77, 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 Steven Spielberg, 76, Francis Ford Coppola, 84, and Guillermo del Toro, 58. This show, based on a best-selling book by Mark Harris, is a treat for WWII buffs and film fans alike.
Watch it: Five Came Back
Frances Ha (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, 53. The film captures all the financial and emotional anxieties of a new generation of creatives in early 21st century New York City — and features a bunch of before-they-were-famous performances by future stars including Adam Driver (Marriage Story) and Michael Zegen (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).
Watch it: Frances Ha