Welcome to the latest What’s on Netflix top 50 movies currently streaming on Netflix for January 2020. Our selection covers a mix of the best comedy, action, romantic, sci-fi and animated movies currently streaming on Netflix. We update this list every month with the new movies that have been added to Netflix.
Happy New Year to all our readers. Hope you have a great one. And it’s a new January which dumps us from a great high into the middle of awards season. There are many award winners in our list this month and no less than 21 new entries. Plenty to get your teeth into. Well to watch anyway. Let us know what you think.
50. (-) Siren – 2016
Directed by: Gregg Bishop
Starring: Chase Williamson, Hannah Fierman, Justin Welborn
Running time: 1h 52min
As prequel sequels go (I say tomato) Siren ticks several boxes. There’s plenty of gore, the flow is well thought out and the nods to other films are generous. There’s even nod to Greek mythology! The cast works well together and Siren works fine on an obviously restricted budget. The sense of never ending horror is an entirely appropriate way to start the new year.
49. (-) Free Willy – 1993
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Starring: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen
That Free Willy has something important to say is far beyond doubt. The morality of keeping any majestic beast in captivity is pathetic. The sad thing about Free Willy is that it takes a parentless young boy to recognise the problem. The movie spawned a sequel and that speaks volumes to the popularity and, dare we say, importance of this timeless offering. It remains relevant today.
48. (50) Righteous Kill – 2008
Directed by: Jon Avnet
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Carla Gugino
Running time: 1hr 41min
This rather underrated movie which puts De Niro and Pacino opposite each other again is creeping higher in our list. Were it not for the twist at the end, this would be a pedestrian cop partners movie. But it’s better than that. Well the acting is anyway. If you’re a fan of excessive use of overly dramatic music then this is a must.
47. (-) The Tourist – 2010
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany
The Tourist is an excellent promotional video for Venice. It’s also an easy watch with nice performances from Jolie and Depp. The twists and turns work and the story is credible. The on-going digs at the incompetence of the police provide amusement and derive from a personal crusade – let’s call it revenge – from writer Christopher McQuarrie.
46. (48) Men in Black II – 2002
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn
Running time: 1hr 28min
We had to do it. Best watched back to back with the original, MIIB is a simple continuation of the infinitessimal story. The comedy is gentle and the special effects are fine. And as a retread, it works better than many. The conceit that aliens have been living on Earth for a while and not all of them are bad is a pleasant look at what is almost certainly a true story. Well it just is.
45. (47) Goosebumps – 2015
Directed by: Rob Letterman
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush
Running time: 1h 43min
Off Netflix and almost immediately back again, Goosebumps is a family friendly monsters movie with some nice special effects and quality performances from a largely unknown supporting cast. Jack Black in the lead role is his usual competent self. Based loosely on the series of Shivers children’s books (Black’s character is rather shamelessly called Shivers) which were, in turn, a “rip off” of the earlier series of Goosebumps books. This is the end of a procession of, er, recycled material that actually works.
44. (-) Shrek Forever After – 2010
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy
Even ogres have mid-life crises. Why wouldn’t they? This is the fourth and final movie of the movies. The beauty of Shrek is that the humor works on so many levels. Take yourself back to the fart in the pond at the beginning of the first film and remind yourself just how good this animated creation is. We are suckers for a happy ending and Forever doesn’t fail to deliver.
43. (45) Along Came a Spider – 2001
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Michael Wincott, Monica Potter
Running time: 1hr 44min
From the enormously successful pen of James Patterson comes one of several screen portrayals of his detective Alex Cross. The clue (sorry) is in the word detective. Along Came a Spider is a crime thriller and a good one. There’s plenty of suspense in a very credible story line and the movie moves at a pace. Without trying to offer a spoiler, the twist at the end is most satisfying.
42. (-) Dragonheart – 1996
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Sean Connery, Dina Meyer
Running time: 1h 55min
You can’t beat a bit of dragon slaying. It’s a great way to spend a weekend. We must be careful not to drive them into extinction. Dragonheart was nominated for the visual effects Oscar and no wonder. The dragon voiced by Sean Connery is really very good. This is a family movie with minimal blood and guts. Don’t worry about the cliches.
41. (-) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – 2005
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly
Running time: 1h 58min
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the great collaborations between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. The morality tale was first visited with Gene Wilder in the role of Willy Wonker, owner of the said Chocolate Factory, and we have this in our list later. Frankly, this version is one for Tim Burton fans.
40. (-) Hitch – 2005
Directed by: Andy Tennant
Starring: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James
Running time: 2h 10min
Apparently there are professional “date doctors” out there. Hitch is one. He’s not very good at it when it comes to his own relationships and this is the conceit of the comedy here. Beneath the layers of stereotyping, the film actually has a deep look at the vulnerabilities of people and relationships. Stay with us. Hitch is a funny movie with well developed characters and a nice sideways smile at New Yorkers.
39. (-) What Lies Beneath – 2000
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katharine Towne
Running time: 1h 44min
To remind you, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forest Gump were some of Zemeckis early films and speak to his versatility and skill. And in the hands of another director this movie might not have worked. Delivered by a, er, mature Michele Pfeiffer and a, er, maturer Harrison Ford the story is believable and that makes What Lies Belief a perfectly watchable movie.
38. (-) Yes Man – 2008
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper
Carl has challenged himself to say “yes” to everything for a year. What a nuisance he isn’t a bank manager. This is an unashamed rom-com and, unusually, you don’t need to be a Jim Carrey fan to enjoy it. This a Carrey who has shed a lot of the awkwardness of his early performances and so much the better for that. His brand of “what if” movies are not everyone’s taste but this is a good one.
37. (38) Stripes – 1981
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Bill Murray, John Candy, Harold Ramis
Running time: 1hr 46min
Ghostbusters meets Full Metal Jacket meets Bilko meets Shakespeare. Yes, Shakespeare. The premise of joining the army for a bit of fun is, of course, ridiculous; but that’s what you need for comedy. Stripes moves from contrived situation to contrived situation seamlessly and the end result is the sort of easy comedy you’d expect from Reitman, Murray, Ramis et al. Unlike many army movies, there’s no great message here and it’s more the better for that. Hands up everyone who wants an urban assault vehicle.
36. (-) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – 1968
Directed by: Ken Hughes
Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries
Running time: 1h 57min
You probably knew that Chitty Chitty Bang Band was written by Ian Fleming; the creator of James Bond. What does this tell us? If nothing else that the guy could write. The movie is now over 50 years old and as fresh as the day it was born. As children’s movies go, this is an archetype. And it wasn’t made by Disney. Frankly it’s better than a Disney movie. This film is truly scrumptious.
35. (-) Patriot Games – 1992
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Bean, Anne Archer
It needs a rather wooden actor to play a CIA analyst. Well it does. The good news is that in later Tom Clancy novels the Jack Ryan character becomes the President and it’s nice to see an episode on this epic life journey. Without the political complications of other Clancy stories this is a simple tale of good versus bad. It begs the question “what if Trump had any morals or depth”?
34. (37) Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – 1997
Directed by: Jay Roach
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York
Running time: 1hr 34min
Austin Powers is the James Bond we would all like to be. Irreverent, politically incorrect, out-dated and only marginally competent. The humor is nothing if not vulgar but Myers creates another pair of lovable characters against a workable story line. We await mini-me with eager anticipation.
33. (-) Julie & Julia – 2009
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Starring: Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Chris Messina
Meryl Streep hasn’t featured in out Top 50 for a while now and the outstanding work of Nora Ephron (lets not forget You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally…) is well represented here. This is actually a true story from the memoirs of Julia Child and Julie Powell who were remote in real life but joined but that most important of ingredients, butter. Why not learn to bake as well?
32. (35) Kill The Irishman – 2011
Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio
Running time: 1hr 46min
We have another tough Irish thug working for the mob. This time it’s a true story set in Cleveland. Clearly the Irish were important to crime in America over the years. This Irishman was also involved with the unions. This is a a gritty movie which tell it’s story well. In under two hours. Ho hum. The incorporation of newsreel footage from the time is particularly well handled.
31. (34) 9 – 2009
Directed by: Shane Acker
Starring: Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover
Running time: 1h 19min
It would be easy to dismiss 9 as animation for animations sake. That would be wrong. While the concept is pretty surreal and the story rather indifferent, the delivery is very good. The bad guys are pleasantly bad and the good guys pleasantly endearing. This one draws you in and holds you. Against the backdrop of some exceptional artwork and great animation, this is probably not one for the kids. And therein lies the message. An animated movie for grown-ups has got be something special.
30. (-) The Ring – 2002
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox
It’s always refreshing when a horror movie keeps it’s feet on the ground. The Ring treats the horror genre seriously and descends into a genuinely creepy story without resorting to over the top shock tactics. Verbinski has a style all of his own and this adaptation of the Japanese novel is a refreshing offering.
29. (32) War Horse – 2011
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis
Running time: 2h 26min
World War II has been brought to the movies many, many times. World War I far less so. Spielberg is no stranger to historical movies and delivers once again. Having said that, War Horse is a good rather than great movie. Looking at the horrors of war through the role of the horse is a fascinating spin and the story is helped by an able cast. We get a taste of the great things to come from Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddlestone. And John Williams delivers another of his huge music scores.
28. (31) Grease – 1978
Directed by: Randal Kleiser
Starring: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing
Running time: 1h 50min
Grease is the ultimate feel good movie. Everyone knows the songs, most of which are perfect ear-worms. Like Hopelessly Devoted. Ha ha. Hate us yet? The movie was adapted from a hugely successful Broadway musical and unusually well adapted. This is a movie you watch 100 times and never tire of it. If you’ve never seen it, we don’t want to spoil anything but Olivia Newton John was actually sewn into those trousers.
27. (30) Layer Cake – 2004
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Daniel Craig, Sienna Miller, Michael Gambon
Running time: 1h 45min
Layer Cake is another of the powerful British gangster movies. The world has changed and the rules are that there are no rules. Retiring from a business that won’t let you retire is the problem. There’s a strange type of humour to this movie but it doesn’t set out looking for laughs. Its just story telling again a dark background done well.
26. (26) John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky – 2018
Directed by: Michael Epstein
Starring: Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, David Bailey
Running time: 1h 30min
We haven’t had a documentary in our list for a while and John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky is a welcome inclusion. This is the story of the making of the seminal album Imagine and it includes a wealth of previously unseen footage and interviews. Imagine was the only piece of solo work that matched the heights of the Beatles after their break-up. Yoko Ono’s influence of Lennon’s creative genius was clearly as strong as Paul McCartney’s in the earlier years.
25. (25) The King – 2019
Directed by: David Michôd
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Gábor Czap, Tom Fisher
Running time: 2h 20min
There’s some odd stuff going on here. Timothée Chalamet, the undoubted star of the movie, the main character and a candidate for Best Actor, is way down the credits. You could be forgiven for thinking that The King has been lifted straight from a Shakespeare play. It’s authentic to the point where some of the 15th century dialogue is hard to follow. But don’t let this put you off. This is money well invested by Netflix. Find the biggest screen you can to watch it.
24. (-) The Talented Mr. Ripley – 1999
Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law
Mr Ripley is talented; very talented. Because this is a story of pretending, those talents are not put to a good use. Except in each situation Ripley finds himself in, he ends up unmasking the pretences of the characters around him. Not bad for a lavatory attendant. This film has layers of depth and is open to many interpretations. Have a look at your own life while watching this one.
23. (24) Gangs of New York – 2002
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis
Running time: 2hr 47min
There was a Gangs of New York made in 1939. Given the length of the intervening period, this is hardly a remake. Nominated fro 10 Oscars, it lost out in every category, mainly to Chicago and the Pianist. Perhaps people were in a musical mood at the time. Daniel Day-Lewis is superb as a soft-spoken, rather effeminate but brutal man who steals the show. It warrants being higher in our list.
23. (23) Saving Mr. Banks – 2013
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley
Running time: 2h 5min
When Walt Disney agreed to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen in 1964 (55 years ago, can you believe it?), his relationship with the author of the book – P.L. Travers – was nothing if not strained. She felt she knew more about the movies than Disney! The Mr Banks of the title is the father of the family and saving him references the fact that the 5 Oscar winning movie was very nearly never made. This true story is, arguably, better than the underlying story.
21. (22) American Psycho – 2000
Directed by: Mary Harron
Starring: Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas
Running time: 1hr 41min
If black comedic, satiric and classy social commentary is your thing, then look no further than American Psycho. Christian Bale delivers a soaring indictment of the world where nothing but material values matter. As he descends into complete depravity, his obvious screams for help go completely ignored. An undoubted problem in modern society. That the movie is approaching it’s 20th anniversary doesn’t matter. It remains entirely relevant today.
20. (-) The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! – 1988
Directed by: David Zucker
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, O.J. Simpson
After the runaway success of Airplane it was almost inevitable that Leslie Neilsen would become the figurehead of an enduring procession of idiotic comedies. Others have tried; and failed. Every line is a punchline and many have entered the language as quotable quotes. Who can forget “nice beaver” or “Cuban? No, Dutch-Irish. My father was from Wales”.
19. (16) The Theory of Everything – 2014
Directed by: James Marsh
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior
Running time: 2hr 3min
The number of biopic movies that have won the best actor Oscar in the last 30 years is disproportionate. Stephen Hawking was an extraordinary man and Eddie Redmayne, an extraordinary actor delivers an extraordinary performance in the story of his life. There’s no great hidden depth or message here; just a story of a life well lived. Inspirational? Definitely. Moving? Very. Will you end up understanding black holes? Almost certainly not.
18. (15) Beasts of No Nation – 2015
Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi, Ricky Adelayitor
Running time: 2h 17min
Beasts of No Nation was the movie that Netflix had in its inventory to change cinema forever. While it didn’t quite cause the revolution they were hoping for, it did leave Netflixers with one of the best movies of 2015. Thought-provoking and moving, the movie starred Idris Elba and followed the civil conflict in Africa.
17. (14) The Hateful Eight – 2015
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Running time: 3h 7min
The Hateful Eight takes over 3 hours to earn its Oscar and that was for the music. As Tarantino movies go, there’s plenty of gore and violence but the dialogue really isn’t up to his usual standard. Also, the story is virtually non-existent; its just people killing other people. The movie was much hyped before its release and the script was leaked adding to the hype. If you’re a Tarantino fan, give it a go. If you’re a western fan, don’t expect a lot of glorious scenery.
16. (13) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 2000
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang
Running time: 2h
Shunned in China and warmly received in the west, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is as much a romantic adventure as a kung fu spectacular. The movie actually panders to west tastes. Director Ang Lee described the film to star Michelle Yeoh as Sense and Sensibility with martial arts. Lee had, of course, directed Sense and Sensibility in 1995.
15. (12) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – 2008
Directed by: Mark Herman
Starring: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend
Running time: 1h 34min
A deeply moving movie about the friendship between two young boys through the wire of a holocaust concentration camp, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an examination of the devastating effect of war on two innocents. The holocaust is one of the indictments of the Germans during this desperate period of their history – “We were only following orders” – but that it should have been imposed on young children who knew nothing of the concept is beyond comprehension.
14. (-) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – 1986
Directed by: John Hughes
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara
Running time: 1h 40min
If ever school was getting in the way of a proper educashun, it was Ferris Bueller’s school. It is right that every kid should bunk off from time to time and visit art galleries, fine restaurants and go on parades. It helps if someone close has a Ferrari. To be fair, that isn’t really the message here but it’s a nice comedy from the brat pack with a reasonably sensible message.
13. (-) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – 1971
Directed by: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum
The original book gave this movie was titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That Tim Burton (see earlier) felt the need to change the focus from Willy to Charlie seems to show that Gene Wilders performance as Willy Wonka could not be beaten. The difficult concept for adults to grasp is that it’s not the children that are odious, it’s the parents who made them that way.
12. (11) The King’s Speech – 2010
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Running time: 1h 58min
When the British knock out a great movie, they don’t hang around. The King’s Speech collected 4 Oscars from it’s 12 nominations. There is an enduring respect if not love for the British royal family around the world and there seems to be and enduring appetite for stories about them. Reference, of course, the Netflix Original drama The Crown. Events surrounding the abdication are well know but this is a nice look at what was going on from a completely different angle.
11. (-) Magnolia – 1999
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore
Magnolia is a substantial film of coincidences happening in a 24 hour period. You’ll need your thinking cap on for this one. The biggest thing here is the acting. It really could be a workshop in immaculate performances and you will get involved with each and every character. You will also be convinced and moved by the script.
10. (9) Trainspotting – 1996
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller
Running time: 1hr 33min
The cast alone should be tempting enough to warrant a watch of this movie but in case it doesn’t let’s fill you in. Starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and a lot of other hot British actors at the time, the 1996 movie takes you into the heart of the drug trade in Edinburgh. The movie is directed by Danny Boyle which probably explains why we can’t stop watching this movie two decades later.
9. (-) Catch Me If You Can – 2002
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken
Running time: 1h 51min
Spielberg? DiCaprio? Hanks? Walken? What were you expecting if not a blockbuster? The inventions of Frank are extraordinary. That he gets away with them is even more extraordinary. An most extraordinary of all, this is based on a true story. The best movies often are. Wouldn’t we all like to try a bit of role play now and again?
8. (-) Kill Bill: Vol 1 – 2003, Vol2 – 2004
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah
Tarantino. Gore. Watch both back to back. Nuff said.
7. (8) Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975
Directed by: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle & many more
Running time: 1h 31min
Monty Python and the Holy Grail has been described as one of the funniest movies ever made. Anyone familiar with the Pythons irreverent and surrealistic view of the world can only agree. This is loosely a romp through the history of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Since the story is largely myth and legend, the Pythons have a free rein to shred it. And they do.
6. (7) The Irishman – 2019
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Running time: 3hr 29min
Is the Irishman a movie or 4 mini movies? The debate will rage. The acting, as you would expect from the pantheon of stars is immaculate, the story based in truth is unquestionable, the atmosphere excellent. And yet there some intangible things that niggle. Did the Irishman need to be so long? The story could certainly have been delivered in a couple of hours. Are the killings trivialised? If not trivialised, certainly very off-hand. Is it about the Irishman or Jimmy Hoffa? You decide.
5. (-) American Beauty – 1999
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch
Sam Mendes – sorry Sir Sam Mendes – romped home with 5 Oscars for American Beauty, It was nominated for 3 more. And on the back of a completely mundane topic: mid-life crisis. What is far from mundane is how this crisis affects Lester Burnham and all those around him. The story is told from beyond the grave which makes it even more hypnotic.
4. (6) 3 Idiots – 2009
Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani
Starring: Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Mona Singh
Running time: 2hr 50min
We haven’t featured a movie from the sub-continent for a long while; shame on us. With the word idiot in the title, you can be sure that 3 Idiots is a comedy. This movie is at #83 in the IMDB top 250 which speaks volumes. A romp through a voyage of rediscovery, this is loosely Bollywood because of the songs but it’s a lot more. The nearly 3 hour running time will seem like a few minutes and the hidden depths and poignant moments do nothing but entertain.
3. (5) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Running time: 1h 55min
Archaeology eh! Now there’s a dull subject. Except when the reward is priceless riches and power. Odd since Indiana Jones isn’t particularly interested in either. This a Spielberg adventure with plenty of comedy, action and one-liners which will come round time and time again. Get yourself a whip and a homburg why don’t you?
2. (3) The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions – 1999
Directed by: Lana and Lilly Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Running time: 6h 43min in total
The Matrix trilogy is a trilogy in the truest sense. The story is seamless through the three episodes. And while there were 4 years between the first and the second, the second and third were released pretty much back to back. The concept is nothing if not complicated. It takes a while to work out which is the reality; inside or outside the Matrix. As a philosophical, metaphysical perhaps, debate on the nature of reality, there probably isn’t a better.
1. (-) Inception – 2010
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
And straight in at number 1. is the mind bending Inception. After many viewing this is still a difficult movie to fully wrap your head around. Which is why you must watch it many times. You simply won’t spot the visual effects but then again who cares. The difference between what is real and what isn’t is the whole point of this magnificent film.