The best movies hiding on Netflix, according to Rotten Tomatoes

For every “E.T.,” there’s an obscure movie like “The Square.”
For every “E.T.,” there’s an obscure movie like “The Square.”
Image: AP Photo/Universal Pictures
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Netflix may be a leader in TV, but it’s still establishing itself in film. Which ones should you watch?

It doesn’t have the wide breadth of popular movies on Amazon Prime or the deep catalog of niche services like FilmStruck and Fandor. And it doesn’t recommend movies based on critical assessment or reviews either. Recommendations are based on what individual subscribers and others watch or say they like to watch. (Netflix does have subcategories for critically acclaimed and classic movies.)

So even cinephiles may not know the best movies on the platform. These are the 10 best-reviewed, according to review-aggregator Rotten Tomatoes:

That’s based on a Quartz analysis of movies currently streaming on Netflix US that earned positive reviews from more than 95% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes and were “certified fresh”—meaning they consistently scored well in at least 80 reviews for wide-releases and 40 for limited-releases, including five reviews from top critics.

Of the 60 top movies, 25, or 40%, were documentaries, such as Man on Wire, We Were Here, and The Square (a Netflix documentary about the 2011 Egyptian revolution). And another 25% were dramas or more obscure international or arthouse films.

Others include the popular hits Zootopia and Moana, acclaimed indie fare like Boyhood, and classics like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Sunset Boulevard, and Schindler’s List.

That squares with Netflix’s film strategy so far. It doesn’t go for the usual blockbusters, and is stocked instead with documentaries and indies. It brought deep pockets to major film festivals like Sundance and Cannes, at which two of its original films competed for the event’s top award this year. And its documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay, was nominated for an Oscar.

But lately it’s gone for films with broader appeal, too.

It plans to release 80 original movies spanning the spectrum next year, up from around 60 in 2017. It streams the latest Disney films, including Zootopia and Captain America: Civil War (though that deal ends in 2019, when Disney launches its own streaming service). It wooed filmmakers like Martin Scorsese to direct movies for the site. And it’s pivoting into bigger-budget original productions, with War Machine, starring Brad Pitt, and Bright, a sci-fi movie with Will Smith that will be Netflix’s highest-profile release come December.