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The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: April 2022 – Polygon

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From nail-biting political thrillers to cyberpunk modern classics
Your time is precious, and your options are endless. The good news: We watch it all so you don’t have to. Polygon’s What to Watch highlights the best, the funniest, the scariest, and the most exciting in movies, TV, and everything in between. Stop scrolling, start watching!
What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves the question, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus, and getting overwhelmed by the constantly shifting trend menus. Netflix’s huge catalogue of movies, combined with its inscrutable recommendations algorithm, can make finding something to watch feel more like a chore than a way to unwind when really what you want are the good movies. No… the best movies.
We’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis in March, we’ve narrowed down your options to 25 of our favorite current movies on the platform. These run the gamut from taut thrillers and horror classics to eccentric comedies and the best Netflix originals. We’ll be updating this list monthly as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen.
The sensation that launched a franchise, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street lives on as a horror masterpiece decades later. Teenager Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her friends become the targets of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a deceased serial killer now haunting (and hunting) people in their dreams. As Nancy’s friends start dying in their sleep one by one, she tries desperately to stay awake to survive. A timeless slasher that might also keep you from sleeping, Elm Street and Krueger have staying power for a reason. —Pete Volk
Ben Affleck directs and stars in the 2012 historical thriller Argo as Tony Mendez, a CIA exfiltration specialist tasked with rescuing six former staff members of the American embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. His plan? Travel to Iran under the guise of a Hollywood producer working on a film based on Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, disguise the six hostages as his Canadian film crew, and safely rescue them before anyone discovers otherwise. Affleck’s film takes an unlikely but true story and turns it into a riveting drama powered by confident direction, terrific performances, and excellent editing. —Toussaint Egan
Scott Adkins stars in Jesse V. Johnson’s bare-knuckle crime drama Avengement as Cain Burgess, a prisoner who escapes police custody and embarks on a mission of revenge against his brother (Craig Fairbrass). Accosted daily by a killer sent by his brother in order to silence him, Cain transforms from a competent brawler into a steel-toothed weapon of destruction, honing his skills and biding his time to enact vengeance on all those who betrayed him. Inspired by Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 film Harakiri, Avengement is an engrossing, gut-churning, and viscerally exciting revenge drama with impressive action and well-done performances. —Toussaint Egan
In Western terms, this Tollywood production, the most expensive Indian film at the time of its release, is like a biblical epic by way of Marvel Studios, with a little Hamlet and Step Up thrown in for good measure. The Beginning chronicles the life of Shivudu, an adventurer with superhuman strength who escapes his provincial life by scaling a skyscraper-sized waterfall, aides and romances a rebel warrior named Avanthika, then teams up with her to rescue a kidnapped queen from an evil emperor. Exploding with hyper-choreographed fight sequences and CG spectacle (not to mention a handful of musical numbers with equal bravura), The Beginning is 159 minutes of mythical excess, going big like only Indian film can, and resting on the muscular shoulders of its hero, the single-name actor Prabhas. If you fall hard for it, get pumped — this is only part one. The twist leads into Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, another two-and-a-half-hour epic currently streaming on Netflix. —Matt Patches
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A sleek and sexy thriller that makes hacking look extremely cool, Michael Mann’s unfairly maligned Blackhat stands tall as a high mark in digital filmmaking. It is peak Mann — if you’re not a fan of the Heat director’s work, your mileage may vary. In the film, Chen Dawai (Wang Leehom), a captain in the P.L.A.’s cyber warfare unit, is tasked with getting to the bottom of a computer attack that melts down a nuclear power plant in Hong Kong. While liaising with the FBI investigation, Chen insists on the aid of his old friend Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, who has never been hotter or cooler), an imprisoned genius hacker. When Hathaway and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei), a networking engineer also helping with the case, fall for each other, it adds an extra wrinkle to an already high stakes situation. Viola Davis and Holt McClanahan feature as FBI agents who aren’t super happy to have to rely on a notorious criminal.
With sharp digital cinematography and unforgettable set pieces, Blackhat explores our changing global relationship to technology. Mann makes tangible the microscopic computer systems that run the world: An extreme close-up of internal wires leading to a motherboard like a vast interconnected highway; a computer fan that sounds like a jet engine. Events that in other films would be shown as a boring stroke of keys are instead depicted as hypnotic processes happening under the surface of the visible world. —PV
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as Officer “K,” a Blade Runner in Los Angeles whose discovery of a mysterious grave leads him on a search to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner who may hold the key to a mystery whose answer could rock the very foundation of civilization as we know it. Set 30 years after the events of Blade Runner (1982), Villeneuve’s film resonates as powerfully as its predecessor, offering a sober glimpse at a world of dwindling resources and nascent climate catastrophe that feels like the natural outcome of the wanton technological excess of Ridley Scott’s original. Gosling is pitch-perfect in his portrayal of K, a replicant searching for a sense of meaning and purpose apart from the role he was intended for. With extravagant moody set pieces, beautiful lighting, tense action, and memorable performances on part of Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, and more, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy successor to one of the most defining works of sci-fi cinema ever produce and a masterful all its own. —TE
Michael Jai White is a treasure around these parts, and of the many excellent DTV action movies he has starred in, Blood and Bone may be the best. White is Isaiah Bone, an ex-marine martial artist recently out of prison, who meets an eccentric local fight promoter named Pinball (Dante Basco) and starts entering underground fights. When he falls deeper into the world of underground fighting, he learns just how far the powerful people who run the circuit will go to maintain their illegal business. With jaw-dropping fights featuring former professional fighters Bob Sapp, Kimbo Slice, and Matt Mullins, Blood and Bone is an appropriately stellar vehicle for White as a movie star and as a screen fighter. —PV
Johnnie To is one of our great modern directors, equally adept in hard-boiled triad crime dramas and light-hearted romantic comedies alike. 2011’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart falls in the latter category, and is one of the many high marks of the Hong Kong director’s legendary career. Fresh off the end of a long-term relationship, Chi-yan (Gao Yuanyuan) is an analyst for an investment bank who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle. On one side, there’s Sean (Louis Koo), a CEO who works across the street from Chi-yan and yearns for her through the tall corporate glass windows that separate them. On the other, there’s Kevin (the always-dreamy Daniel Wu), an alcoholic former architect who helps Chi-Yan move on and is inspired by her to start creating again. What follows is a sincere, funny, and truly charming romantic time. —PV
An all-time classic for a reason, The Exorcist is just as terrifying now as when it caused a mild national panic on release in 1973. When a young girl (Linda Blair) starts behaving very strangely, her mother tries anything and everything to get her help, leading to … well, you know the title of the film. The realism of a mother’s desire to keep her daughter safe in an uncontrollable world set against a supernatural conflict pulls you right in from the very beginning, and keeps its hold on you far beyond the end of its two hour run-time. —PV
Julia Hart’s 2018 superhero drama Fast Color stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror, Loki) as Ruth, a homeless wanderer with inexplicable powers who returns to her family home after years of hiding from the police. Reunited with her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and her young daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), who both possess the same powers as her, Ruth attempts to regain control over her abilities and reconcile with Lila, all while eluding the authorities who seek to capture and study her. As we wrote back in our review, Fast Color is less a “superhero” film as it is an intimate family drama set in a speculative universe à la 2016’s Midnight Special. The spectacle on display is not the manifestation of Ruth’s powers, but in the masterful trio of performances at its center combining to create a story as poignant as it is exhilarating. —TE
Andrew Niccol has never made a better film than Gattaca, period. The director has dabbled with visually impressive sci-fi dystopias in films like 2011’s In Time or 2018’s Anon, but neither of those have managed to surpass that sheer lightning-in-a-bottle ingenuity of his directorial debut. Set in a future “not-too-distant” from our own, Niccol’s film stars Ethan Hawke as Vincent Freeman, a supposedly “inferior” man born into a society defined by a eugenically-organized caste system who yearns to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut. Defying the institutional roadblocks of his time, Vincent assumes the identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law), a eugenically exceptional athlete in order to work as navigator at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation. When Gattaca’s administrator is mysteriously killed just days before Vincent’s mission to Titan, he’ll have to allude the suspicions of the investigators tasked with solving the murder as well as those of his co-worker Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman). With a brilliantly evocative score composed by Michael Nyman, a powerful animating trio of performances by Hawke, Thurman, and Law, and an impeccably stylish retro-futuristic aesthetic, Gattaca is soul-stirring science fiction. —TE
The sci-fi romantic drama Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, an introvert who falls in love with an artificial intelligence operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Set in an uncanny future only partially removed from our present, Spike Jonze’s cinematic ode to the intersecting forces of love and technology is a humorous and affecting experience whose poignant clarity will stick with you long after it’s over. —TE
The entire How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is rock solid from front to back, but there is something particularly special about the first one. The epic fantasy series follows a group of vikings, who, in the first movie, are locked in constant battle with dragons. Misfit Hiccup finds a wounded dragon and, instead of killing it, he begins to train the spunky creature and bonds deeply with it. It’s a story of outcasts finding each other and proving generational prejudices wrong, against all odds. The soundtrack is phenomenal, the story a perfect blend of funny and heartwarming, and the character designs are amazing — especially the dragons. Dreamworks could have made these creatures look the same as every other dragon out there, but they’re all so distinct and fun to see in action. Of course, Toothless is still the best boy of them all. —Petrana Radulovic
Andrew Dominik’s pitch-black 2012 neo-noir Killing Them Softly stars Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan, a mob enforcer tasked with restoring order in the wake of three small-time crooks’ attempt to rob a Mafia poker game. Set in Boston on the euphoric cusp of Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States, Killing Them Softly is a bitter, bleak, and blistering crime thriller with a climactic final speech whose words will stay with you long after the credits roll. —TE
This French crime thriller executes a simple premise to absolute perfection. Lino (former stunt man Alban Lenoir) is an expert mechanic forced to work for dirty cops. When he’s framed for a murder he did not commit, he has to find the one thing that can prove his innocence: a lost bullet in a missing car. With high-octane action sequences and great car stunts, this is a 92-minute thrill ride through-and-through. —PV
The Night Comes for Us just fucking whips, okay? Why waste time on subtlety and preamble; the film certainly doesn’t! Indonesian action thrillers have been enjoying a renaissance period ever since Gareth Evans’ 2011 film The Raid kicked the door down and mollywhopped everything else in sight. Timo Tjahjanto’s 2018 film certainly follows in the footsteps of Evans’ own, with The Raid star Joe Taslim starring here as Ito, a gangland enforcer who betrays his Triad crime family by sparing the life of a child and attempting to flee the country. Fellow The Raid star Iko Uwais shows up here as Arian, Ito’s childhood friend and fellow enforcer, who is tasked with hunting down Ito and recovering the girl. The action comes fast and frenzied here, with kinetic choreography and dazzling handheld cinematography that makes every punch, fall, and stab count. If you need to get your adrenaline pumping, throw this one on. —TE
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the neo-noir thriller Nightcrawler as Lou, an unscrupulous hustler who muscles into the cut-throat world of freelance crime journalism. As his reputation grows, Lou resorts to ever more malicious and unethical means to stay on top and one step ahead of his competition. The unambiguous portrayal of Lou’s sociopathic tendencies is a key focus of the film, with his aforementioned behaviors being directly linked to his success as a so-called “nightcrawler.” With beautiful night-time cinematography, tense action, and a career-best performance by of Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler is a stunning and unsettling film that will stick with you long after its over. —TE
Quoc Bao Tran’s Kung-fu action comedy stars Alain Uy, Ron Yuan (Mulan), and Mykel Shannon Jenkins as the eponymous Paper Tigers: three former martial arts prodigies who, after a lifetime of strenuous training and hard fighting, have grown into beleaguered middle-aged nobodies. But when their master is murdered, the three swear an oath to avenge his memory and bring his killer to justice. If that sounds serious, please know this falls into the Apatowian camp of Dumb Man comedy. —TE
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 historical drama Phantom Thread follows the story of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), an irascible haute couture dressmaker in 1950s London whose carefully cultivated lifestyle is upset by his ongoing love affair with his muse Alma (Vicky Krieps), a strong-willed woman with ambitions and desires of her own. His final film role to date, Day-Lewis is unsurprisingly masterful in his portrayal of Woodcock as an artist whose capricious infatuations and fastidious inflexibility proves unbearable to all except Alma, who discovers a … let’s say, unconventional way of leveling the power dynamic in their relationship. Top that with exquisite score by Jonny Greenwood and beautiful costume designs by Mark Bridges and you’ve got what is undoubtedly one of Anderson’s finest films to date. —TE
The early 2000s were a fascinating time when studios were spending tens of millions of dollars on horror blockbusters. Among the best of these is the American remake of Ringu, a Japanese movie about a haunted videotape that kills the viewer seven days after they watch it’s strange montage of images. While the remake lacks the empathy and scares of the original, The Ring is a wholly unique and worthwhile experience on its own and feels completely different from the horror movies of any other era. With the blockbuster budget and gorgeous direction from Gore Verbinski, this remake is somewhere between a ghost story and a mystery-thriller and relies more on its world’s excellent sense of haunting dread than direct scares. —Austen Goslin
Boots Riley’s 2018 black comedy Sorry to Bother You follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a telemarketer from Oakland dispirited by his thankless job pitching products to predominantly white customers over the phone. Things quickly take a turn for what at first seems the better when Cassius learns to use his “white voice,” propelling him to success as he shoots up the corporate ladder to the venerated position of “Power Caller.” Absurd, hilarious, and unapologetically political, Sorry to Bother You is an unabashedly unique film filled with twists that’ll have you scratching your head as frequently as you’ll be shouting at the screen. —TE
A satirical adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 novel of the same name, Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 biting sci-fi film Starship Troopers takes place in a far off future where the Federation, a fascistic military organization that rules the Earth through a planet-wide system of mandatory conscription, instigates a full-scale war against a fearsome race of giant alien insects. Though derided when it first released, the film has since experienced a reappraisal in the decades since to such a point that it’s now championed as one of the best and most perceptive science-fiction films of its era. Would you like to know more? —TE
Cab Passenger: [after Raphael jumps over the cab hood] What the heck was that?
Cab Driver: Looked like sort of a big turtle in a trench coat.
[pause]
Cab Driver: You’re going to LaGuardia, right?
Delightfully silly and overwhelmingly ’90s (for better and worse), the original TMNT is a fun time for all ages. The movie follows intrepid TV reporter April O’Neill (Judith Hoag) as she works with the turtles to stop a crime ring taking over New York City. The suits — designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, one of the Muppet master’s last projects — look incredible, and bring a real tangibility to this appropriately comic book-like adaptation. The use of real suits also allowed for talent specialization (different performers were used for puppetry, voice acting, martial arts scenes, and skateboarding stunts), allowing the production to swap in different people under the suit without breaking audience immersion. Produced by legendary Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest and distributed by New Line Cinema, TMNT was a surprise box office smash hit, holding the record for highest-grossing independent film until Blair With Project. It’s also got a very young Sam Rockwell in a minor role! —PV
2019’s Uncut Gems is a contemporary crime drama shot through the frenetic rhythm and terror of a heart attack. Adam Sandler, far from just a simple case of stunt casting, delivers an electrifying performance as Howard Ratner, a New York jeweler and gambling addict who comes into possession of a rare black opal that might finally settle his outstanding debts once and for all. The only catch is that Howard’s worst enemy is himself, and his habitual attempt to fleece and manipulate everyone from his family, friends, and acquaintances in search of his next big score imperils both his life and the lives of those around him. With a powerful orchestral EDM score courtesy of Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), dazzling performances by Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, and Kevin Garnett as himself, Uncut Gems is an unforgettable film that plays out like a pulse-pounding Greek tragedy set in 2010s New York. —TE
Quality sports dramas are a rare thing in Hollywood. In Warrior, two estranged brothers — one a former Marine and one-time wrestling prodigy (Tom Hardy), the other a former MMA pro-turned-high school physics teacher (Joel Edgerton) — compete in a massive MMA tournament, with more at stake than just the big cash prize. Gavin O’Connor’s heartfelt siblings-destined-to-collide story features terrific central performances, terrific MMA fight scenes (second unit director J.J. Perry is a modern action legend), and a strong tournament narrative structure that holds the whole thing together. —PV
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