Entertainment Film

The 12 best films on Netflix to watch during self-isolation

If you need help navigating these murky, Sharknado-infested waters, look no further.

In the brave new world of coronavirus, you may find yourself searching for something to watch in the safety of your own home. 

Netflix has plenty of classic films in its catalogue, and in recent years, the streaming service has also produced some superb original films, from the animal rights satire Okja to the Oscar-winning Roma and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story

And yet: for every award-winning drama, there are just as many trashy B-movies (such as the risible romance A Christmas Prince).

If you need help navigating these murky, Sharknado-infested waters, look no further. In this star-rated guide, The Telegraph’s film critics have chosen 92 of the very best.

1. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) 

Genre:Romantic Comedy Dir: Mike Newell Cast: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, James Fleet Cert: 15 Time: 117 mins

In a nutshell: The best of Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant’s romcoms about awfully nice chaps dithering over frightfully pretty girls. Grant plays bumbling Charles, who, ah, er, can’t tell what’s, um, going on between him and the scrummy Carrie (Andie MacDowell), whom he keeps, gosh, bumping into at weddings. It’s aged pretty well and certainly knocks spots off Love, Actually.

2. Birdman (2014) 

Genre: Comedy/Drama Dir: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton Cert: 15 Time: 116 mins

In a nutshell: This miraculous comic drama won four Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. Michael Keaton plays the former star of a superhero franchise taking one last stab at respectability with a self-penned Broadway play, and like theatre (and real life), the entire film appears to unfold in a single, sinuous take. Keaton is better than he’s ever been, with the former Batman star mining the role’s real-life parallels for maximum humour and pathos, while the supporting cast (Emma Stone, Ed Norton, Zach Galifianakis) all somehow shine individually in the whirling chaos. The film defies everything we think we know about film, and makes you think again about what cinema can do, and be.

3. The Wife (2018) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Björn Runge Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Alix Wilton Regan, Elizabeth McGovern Cert: 15 Time: 100 mins

In a nutshell: Glenn Close gives a mesmeric turn in this smooth adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 novel, about a woman in the shadow of her Nobel Prize-winning writer husband (Jonathan Pryce). She knows his darkest secret, but may not be willing to sit on it forever. Max Irons plays their son, a would-be writer caught in his father’s shadow.

4. The Reconquest (2016) 

Dir: Jonás Trueba Cast: Francesco Carril, Itsaso Arana, Candela Recio Cert: N/A Time: 107 mins

In a nutshell: A translator in his early thirties, happily in a relationship, catches up one night in Madrid with an actress who was his girlfriend 15 years ago. One drink leads to another, and to soul-searching: should these childhood sweethearts have tried harder to stay together? Split into three sections, this wonderful film feels like Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy compacted into a single, chronologically reshuffled film. The third part, with perfectly cast younger versions of the leads, is a lost valentine between kids who have no idea where their future lives will lead them

5. Reservoir Dogs (1992) 

Genre: Crime Dir: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth Cert: 18 Time: 99 mins

In a nutshell: Quentin Tarantino’s directing debut became a notable cult success, re-adrenalising the gangster film. Even though it’s heartless and violent, it’s well written and extremely entertaining. A failed robbery has consequences for the thugs who dress like the Blues Brothers and whose colour-coded pseudonyms include Mr White (Keitel), Mr Pink (Buscemi) and Mr Orange (Roth).

6. The Death of Stalin (2017)

Genre: Comedy Dir: Armando Iannucci Cast: Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Whitehouse. Cert: 15 Time: 107 mins

In a nutshell: The death of Russian dictator Josef Stalin throws the Soviet Union into chaos as his hapless ministers manoeuvre to succeed him. Armando Iannucci brings his familiar brand of comic farce to an infamous historical moment, satirising the petty ambitions and casual cruelty of late-Soviet politics.

7. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) 

Genre: Western Dir: Sergio Leone Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch Cert: 15 Time: 99 mins

In a nutshell: Clint Eastwood rides into town with a gun and a cigar to make a few quick bucks, settle some scores and invent a whole new genre of movie. Sergio Leone’s first “spaghetti western” set a high standard (albeit one later surpassed with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) with its sparse direction, epic landscapes and magnetic star. Ennio Morricone’s score is one of the most recognisable in cinema.

8. Darkest Hour (2017)

Genre: Historical drama Dir: Joe Wright Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup. Cert: PG Time: 125 mins

In a nutshell: Winston Churchill faces pressure to capitulate to the Nazis and negotiate a peace treaty. Against the odds, the weathered British prime minister keeps Britain in the war and orders the successful evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk. Tracking Churchill’s rise to power in 1940 to his eventual defeat in the 1945 general election, Joe Wright’s nuanced character study hands Gary Oldman the role of a lifetime – and his first Oscar.

9. Homecoming (2019) 

Genre: Concert film Dir: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter Cast: N/A Cert: MA Time: 137 mins

In a nutshell: Beyoncé’s concert movie, capturing her acclaimed 2018 Coachella festival set, is a musical triumph. Behind-the-scenes footage reveals the work that went into creating the show, while archival voice-overs from Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison (among others) highlight its theme of black pride and celebration. It’s a reminder that Beyoncé is the best in the world at what she does.

10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) 

Genre: Comedy Dir: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin Cert: 12A Time: 91 mins

In a nutshell:The Pythons’ first proper film may be little more than a string of sketches, but when the sketches are this good it doesn’t matter. In this wonderously daft Medieval romp – filmed on a shoestring budget – King Arthur (Graham Chapman) leads his knights in search of the Holy Grail, meeting along the way such such foes as the killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and the Nights Who Say Ni. 

11. You Were Never Really Here (2017)

Genre: Thriller Dir: Lynne Ramsay Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts. Cert: 18 Time:90 mins

In a nutshell: An emotionally traumatised veteran makes a living rescuing young girls from sex traffickers. After being hired to rescue the daughter of a prominent politician, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) discovers the horrifying extent of the network, which goes to the top of government. Lynne Ramsay secures her reputation as one of the most daring and interesting directors in the business with this captivating, but at times difficult to watch, noir thriller.

12. Fiddler on the Roof (1971) 

Genre: Musical Dir: Norman Jewison Cast: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon Cert: Time: 172 mins

In a nutshell: Canadian director Norman Jewison translates this classic Broadway musical into an equally enthralling and time-honoured family movie, following the life of Tevye (Israeli actor Topol, reprising his London stage role) a poor milkman who must juggle the toils of everyday life with the harsh realities of being poor and Jewish in Tzarist Russia in 1905. Poignant and Kosher from start to finish.

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