Friday 15 February 2019

Scroll no more: 20 hidden movie gems you didn't know were on Netflix this Christmas

We've trawled Netflix for the best films to watch now - the ones that got away, the ones that deserved better, and the ones waiting to be rediscovered

Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo star in Nightcrawler (Handout/eOnel/PA)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo star in Nightcrawler (Handout/eOnel/PA)

Chris Wasser

You know the score. It’s Christmas, you’re looking for a great film, you switch on Netflix and, before you know it, you’ve wasted half the bloomin’ day trying to find something decent. Yep, it happens to everybody.

But fear not, because those days are over (for a while at least). Basically, we’ve decided to round up some of the best hidden gems on Netflix, just in time for your Christmas holliers. These are the films you might have missed in the cinema – the ones that got away, the ones that deserved better, and the ones that are waiting to be rediscovered. And, they all have one thing in common: they’re all pretty special. So, what are you waiting for? Happy viewing, folks…

Pete’s Dragon

American film-maker, David Lowery (The Old Man & the Gun, A Ghost Story) directs the hell out of this, his first major-studio picture. A glorious “re-imagining” of the 1977 original, what we have here is one of the loveliest summer blockbusters of the decade – a smart, sweet and surprisingly slick adventure that does everything a Disney dragon flick is supposed to. It is, essentially, a great, big hug of a film and, truth be told, you’d be mad to miss it. Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard co-star.

 

Loving Vincent

The life of Vincent van Gogh gets the biopic treatment. Sort of. Put it this way: The Academy Award- nominated, Loving Vincent, is the world’s first fully-painted animated feature film, and it took four bleedin’ years to make. It is every bit as interesting as it sounds. Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’Dowd feature.

 

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

The clue is in the title, as the great Werner Herzog (what a voice) turns his attention to the internet in this compelling and, occasionally, terrifying, documentary. What more do you need to know?

 

Wind River

Screenwriter and director, Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water), presents a blistering contemporary Western/murder mystery, set in the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen take the lead. It’ll stay with you for days.

 

Elle

The inimitable Isabelle Huppert received an Oscar nomination here, for her startling portrayal of a businesswoman who, after being raped in her home by a masked stranger, decides not to report the crime to the police, but instead, to take matters into her own hands. Oddly enough, Elle boasts a deliciously dark sense of humour. Paul Verhoeven directs.

 

20th Century Women

Annette Bening runs a boarding house for a group of disillusioned hippies and artists (Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning) in 1970s California. Everyone is superb in Mike Mills’s enchanting dramedy.

 

Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal plays an unhinged freelancer with a video camera, who spends his nights legging it around LA looking for bad things to record and sell. Gyllenhaal should have received an Oscar nomination for this one.

 

Good Time

Robert Pattinson is a thief on the run in New York, trying to protect his mentally disabled brother, in this rough yet remarkable, low-budget crime feature. The score is ace.

 

A Monster Calls

A giant, talking tree (Liam Neeson) visits a young boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougall), whose mum, Lizzie (Felicity Jones), is terminally ill. Sigourney Weaver is in there, too. I’m not entirely sure I’ve sold this one, but let me just say one thing: J A Bayona’s A Monster Calls is a beautiful, beautiful film.

 

Stronger

Jake Gyllenhaal (yes, him again), takes the lead in David Gordon Green’s heart-breaking, real-life drama, based on the memoir by Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. Gyllenhaal is exceptional, as always.

 

Chef

The talented Jon Favreau writes, directs and stars in this splendid dramedy about a chef who quits his fancy restaurant job so as he can run a food truck with his young fella. Make sure you have some snacks prepared for this one. Sofía Vergara and Scarlett Johansson feature.

 

All Is Lost

Robert Redford is lost at sea for 100 minutes. You’re just going to have to trust us when we tell you that this extraordinary display will knock you sideways.

 

Only the Brave

An emotional fire-fighting drama, based on a harrowing true story, Only the Brave bombed at the box-office around this time last year – which is a shame, because it really is a remarkably well-made film. Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly and Andie MacDowell feature. What a cast.

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Travis Knight’s sublime, stop-motion fantasy features Matthew McConaughey as an anthropomorphic beetle. Alright, alright, alright. Sold.

 

Bleed for This

Miles Teller has never been better in this entertaining boxing picture, based on the life of American world champion, Vinny Pazienza, and his incredible comeback from a horrific spinal injury. Aaron Eckhart provides solid support.

 

Breathe

Andy Serkis’s lovely directorial debut, based on the life of the late Robin Cavendish, a British advocate for disabled people, who became paralyzed from the neck down, after contracting polio in his 20s. Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy co-star.

 

God’s Own Country

A young, Yorkshire sheep farmer falls in love with a Romanian migrant worker in director Francis Lee’s compelling British drama. Josh O’Connor and Alec Secăreanu feature.

 

Brad’s Status

Have you ever noticed how Ben Stiller is always at his best when portraying someone who’s caught in the grips of a mid-life crisis? Brad’s Status is no exception. Watch out for Michael Sheen, who almost steals the show.

 

Indignation

A college film with a twist, this thoughtful 1950s-based drama is worth your time, if only for the lengthy, exquisite sequence in the middle, when our wandering protagonist (Logan Lerman) ends up in the dean’s office. You’ll see what we mean. A cracking adaptation of the 2008 novel by Philip Roth.

 

A Most Violent Year

Not much actually happens in this peculiar crime drama, set in 1980s New York. But, japyers, the performances are something else. Jessica Chastain is excellent. Oscar Isaac has never been better. Stay with it.

Read more: Paul Whitington’s 20 best films of 2018 (and five flops)

Paul Whitington's top 20 movies and TV shows this Christmas 

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