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The 12 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Sick of scrolling? Make your movie night a great one with these classic films, from ‘Apollo 13’ to ‘The Sting’

spinner image A collage of movies ranging from Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, The Sting and Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Netflix; Photo by Murray Close/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images; Photo by LMPC via Getty Images; Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images; Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

With hundreds and hundreds of older films popping up on Netflix (and new ones arriving every month), it can be overwhelming to pick something when you’re in the mood for a great movie but don’t know where to start. Here’s where to start: Every few months, our critics update this list with 12 guaranteed winners, from dramas and comedies to documentaries. Here are 12 great movies available to stream right now on Netflix.

All Quiet on the Western Front (R, 2022)

Erich Maria Remarque’s unflinching novel about World War I has inspired two Oscar winners — a 1930 black-and-white gem and this gripping 2022 remake that used every modern filmmaking technique to bring you right into the trenches with a group of young German soldiers whose idealism is quickly shattered by the stark reality of the conflict. Edward Berger’s German-language epic nabbed an eye-popping nine Oscar nominations and took home four (for international film, cinematography, score and production design).

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Apollo 13 (PG, 1995)

Houston, we have a classic. Ron Howard’s orbital adventure was the former Happy Days star’s first “serious” film — and he knocked it out of the galaxy with a docudrama that had all the elements of a nail-biting thriller (despite us all knowing the outcome). It boasts a seminal everyman performance by Tom Hanks, 67, who’s backed up by Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon, 65, as harried astronauts.

The Babadook (2014)

You might want to keep the lights on after watching this brilliantly creepy Australian horror film about a widowed single mom and her emotionally troubled young son, who’s been acting out in school and finds no comfort when he stumbles on a macabre black-and-white picture book about a top-hatted ghoul. This is the rare horror film that crawls deep under your skin without buckets of blood or cheap jump scares.

Chinatown (1974)

Roman Polanski’s noirish mystery, set in 1930s Los Angeles, is justly regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. (It earned 11 Oscar nominations, but blame The Godfather Part II for the film earning only one trophy, for Robert Towne’s screenplay.) Jack Nicholson, 86, is in peak form as a scrappy private detective, while Faye Dunaway, 83, shimmers as a femme who proves to be decidedly fatale. John Huston nearly steals the film as the unscrupulous father of Dunaway’s character. (Look out for the art-imitates-life conversation in which Huston accuses Nicholson of manipulating his daughter — at the time, the actor was dating Huston’s real-life daughter, Anjelica Huston, 72.)

Devil in a Blue Dress (R, 1995)

Denzel Washington, 69, steps out of the pages of Walter Mosley’s, 72, best-selling mystery novels as Easy Rawlins, a World War II veteran in 1940s L.A. who’s hired to find a missing white woman (Jennifer Beals, 60) last seen in the city’s Black jazz clubs. What was billed as a quick job soon becomes a nightmare for Washington, who smolders as a good man who gets in way over his head. Director Carl Franklin’s, 74, storytelling is stylish and taut, like the strings on an upright bass.

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Jurassic Park (PG-13, 1993)

It’s hard to believe that three decades have passed since Steven Spielberg’s, 77, megablockbuster stomped into theaters — inspiring generations of paleontologists as well as filmmakers. The thriller still holds up, thanks to Spielberg’s masterful sense of pacing. And you might be surprised by supporting players Wayne Knight, 68 (Seinfeld), and Samuel L. Jackson, 75, as the chain-smoking chief engineer who utters the memorable line “Hold on to your butts!”

L.A. Confidential (R, 1997)

Russell Crowe, 59, and Guy Pearce, 56, were relatively unknown outside their native Australia when they teamed up as cops with different sensibilities in Curtis Hanson’s neo-noir thriller. Kim Basinger, 70, struts off with the film as a high-class call girl made to look like Old Hollywood star Veronica Lake (Basinger won an Oscar for the role).

May December (2023)

Todd Haynes’ new drama was mysteriously snubbed by the Academy Awards despite a trio of terrific performances and a hot-button story. The film imagines a Hollywood starlet (Natalie Portman) preparing for a role by spending time with the real-life subjects: an older woman in the Mary Kay Letourneau mold (Julianne Moore, 63) who wooed a seventh grade boy and later married him.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (PG, 1975)

After nearly a half century, the British comedy troupe’s first full film is not dead yet! The irreverent update of the King Arthur legend is overstuffed with elevated silliness, from killer rabbits to knights who say “Ni!” to swordsmen who won’t quit even after all their limbs have been chopped off.

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

A man forges an unlikely bond with a wild octopus living in an underwater kelp forest off the coast of South Africa in this Oscar-winning documentary — which is unlike any nature film you’ve seen before. Sure, it’s beautiful to look at, and you learn plenty about cephalopods and their ability to survive even after attacks by pygmy sharks. But star/photographer Craig Foster also draws lessons from his sea buddy that apply to his relationships on land, proof of how much we humans can learn from the natural world.

Rustin (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, 69, 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 Rustin also faced blowback within the Black community as an openly gay man.

The Sting (PG, 1973)

Four years after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, 87, reteamed as conniving hucksters in 1930s Chicago — and this time they get away with it! Of course they do. The stars are utterly charming as they mount one big scam in an underground casino — and they get a boost from a stellar supporting cast (Eileen Brennan is a hoot as a seen-it-all brothel owner), the twisty script and Marvin Hamlisch’s boisterous Scott Joplin–inspired score. No wonder the film won seven Oscars, including best picture.

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