While Netflix is good for an afternoon of binge-watching your favorite TV shows, it has a great movie selection, too. With an amazing 83 million subscribers, the streaming service has capitalized on the cord-cutting movement and has recently expanded into offering their own original series and films. Even though the titles Netflix offers change from time to time, they consistently offer up some really great movies. At the time of this writing, these are the best “hidden gems” on Netflix you may not know about. Some are sleeper hits from the last decade, while others are older classics you may not have seen unless you’re a real cinephile. Either way, do yourself a favor and add these to your queue.
The Impossible (2012)
J.A. Bayona’s 2012 biopic The Impossible tells the true story of a family surviving the devastating tsunami that struck the coast of Thailand in 2004. There are a million ways this movie could have been made, but the direction Bayona went brings the film to life with the same combination of gritty realism and glorious visuals that made his 2007 horror film The Orphanage such a treat, all tethered to the indomitable spirit of the family caught in the center of the disaster.
And it’s that humanity that really drives the film, because the cast is absolutely phenomenal. Even as she’s getting blasted through a glass window by a real wave of water, Naomi Watts proves once again that she’s one of the best actors working today. Ewan McGregor’s heartbreaking search for his missing children could tease a tear from a serial killer. And we can’t forget Tom Holland—the newest Spider-Man—in his first feature film role. (Which he nails, by the way.) Although it was an international hit, The Impossible only brought in $19 million at the domestic box office—not as big of a tragedy as the one depicted in the film, obviously, but still unfortunate.
Turbo Kid (2015)
What happens when you roll every post-apocalyptic trope into one movie, mix in absurd violence straight from Quentin Tarantino’s unaired Saturday morning cartoon series, and then add superheroes? Probably something like Turbo Kid, a movie that plays like Mad Max if the production crew could only afford bicycles. Stay with us here. It’s got wastelands, a water war, robots, Soylent Green jokes, and, most importantly, an evil Michael Ironside (the best kind of Michael Ironside).
In the distant future of 1997, a loner kid survives one day at a time in a wasteland, scavenging junk to trade for water. To pass the time, he reads the adventures of Turbo Rider, a superhero with a blaster cannon on his arm. But when he gets on the wrong side of the local warlord, he has to become the hero himself to save his new friend. Don’t expect any deep insights into human nature with Turbo Kid. Just enjoy it for what it is: a goofy romp through the imagination of someone who probably grew up wearing out the scanlines on their RoboCop LaserDisc.
The Beaver (2011)
Jodie Foster’s 2011 low-flying comedy The Beaver is a unique piece of filmmaking. Mel Gibson stars as Walter Black, the CEO of a toy company who has a nervous breakdown, loses his family, and tries to hang himself from a hotel shower curtain. (It is a comedy; wait for it.) On the edge of death, Black snaps completely and allows his life to be taken over by a beaver puppet. Using the beaver to communicate with the world, Black slowly manages to find the broken pieces of his life and put them back together…here comes the comedy part…but still can’t connect to his depressed son who hates the fact that he’s growing up to be exactly like his father. And his wife still can’t stand him. And his employees think he’s lost his mind.
And, well, that covers all the “funny” parts. Dark doesn’t come close to describing the humor. This is blacker than a coal mine after a cave-in, an intimate portrait of depression and mental illness that flows so seamlessly from Gibson’s acting that you can’t help but believe he’s channeling his own personal experiences. With incredible supporting performances from Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence, The Beaver is definitely a hidden gem worth watching, if only once. Although afterward you may need to watch something a little more light-hearted. Like Schindler’s List.