There are thousands of movies on Netflix, and sometimes you can spend so long looking for the right one to watch that suddenly the idea of watching anything at all seems unappealing. With that in mind, here are 8 of the best movies currently available to stream on Netflix, hand-selected by yours truly. All offer something out of the ordinary, from a lesbian drama to a vision of an ice-cold dystopian future. Feel free to comment with suggestions of your own.
The controversial gay film: Blue is the Warmest Color
Allegedly, French director Abdellatif Kechiche shot a casual 800 hours of footage for Blue is the Warmest Color, although for the benefit of audiences with busy lives he generously cut the final film down to a still-fairly epic three hours. Why's it so controversial? Well, it could have something to do with the lesbian relationship between central characters Emma (Spectre's Léa Seydoux) and Adèle, which some critics called out for being a straight male's interpretation of gay female interaction. The sex scenes are explicit, to say the least. But the film is also funny, not to mention gorgeously shot. The film must have done something right, because it was named the best of 2013 by countless critics and awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes.
The one that's not Friends: Cake
Jennifer Aniston was the dark horse of the most popular sitcom in history, proving her comedic chops over the course of ten seasons until Rachel became virtually everybody's favourite Friend. But in the years since, she's struggled to find projects which showcase her talents outside of comedy. It wasn't until last year's Cake that she finally demonstrated her dramatic abilities to their full effect.
Cake is the story of Claire, a woman suffering chronic pain and still grieving the loss of her son. She attends a support class which doesn't seem to be doing much to shake the depression, but it's her relationship with her housemaid Silvana (a very funny Adriana Barraza) which lifts this film above its premise. Although bleak, a streak of black comedy and a small glimmer of hope make Cake an adult drama well worth 90 minutes of your time.
The one with corsets: The Duchess
If historical fiction is your bag, you'll recognise all the elements gleefully assembled in The Duchess: tight corsets, big wigs, grand interiors and a very liberal interpretation of history designed to maximise the drama and gloss over the fact that not everybody in the 18th century was as gorgeous as Keira Knightley or as handsome as Ralph Fiennes. Agent Carter star Harley Atwell also co-stars in the entertaining tale of Georgiana Cavendish, the funny and charming Duchess of Devonshire who becomes embroiled in the politics of her cold and unattentive husband (Fiennes). The most unrealistic aspect? The idea that any man married to Keira Knightley would behave like such an asshole.
The one that got Sony hacked: The Interview
Last Christmas, Sony Pictures got hacked in epic fashion. Emails were leaked all over the shop. Execs were fired. Shit hit the fan. And The Interview got pulled from cinemas amid rumours that North Korea were seriously pissed about Seth Rogen's comedy ripping into their enigmatic leader Kim Jong-un.
Happily for us, the film got released anyway, skipping cinemas and heading straight to Netflix. Either you love Seth Rogen and his juvenile brand of humour or, well, you don't, so you probably already know if The Interview is your cup of Earl Grey, but for my money it's a slick, smart and outrageously funny satire of the East/West divide. Does Kim Jong-un really love the music of Katy Perry? I guess we'll never know, but I like to believe he does.
The disturbing horror: I Saw the Devil
From North Korea to South, this revenge-horror pic plunges the depths of director Kim Jee-woon's twisted imagination. The result is a pacy, visceral thriller as entertaining as any film in which a cannibalistic serial killer preys on young women can be. Fans of Lucy and the South Korean revenge classic Oldboy (one of the greatest films ever made, if you ask me) will recognise Choi Min-sik, this time playing the villain, whilst Lee Byung-hun is the secret service agent on a mission to avenge the murder of his young fiancé. Tracking the killer across city and country, the two men engage in a cat-and-mouse game which promises to end in bloody fashion - but you probably won't be prepared for just how gruesome the story's climax gets. I Saw the Devil is a truly superior thriller.
The quirky comedy: The One I Love
There's a perception that rom-coms are only for women, but this one infuses a dash of mystery and a side of sci-fi, resulting in a movie which isn't easy to define but is highly entertaining. Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Mark Duplass (a bunch of indie flicks) are Sophie and Ethan, a couple on the verge of a split who are sent by their marriage counsellor to spend the weekend at a house in the country. The spark in their relationship is long gone, the things they once loved now the very same things that drive each other crazy, but at the house something insane and seemingly impossible happens. Are they losing it, or could this really be the solution they've been searching for? You probably won't see the twist coming.
The twisty thriller: Side Effects
Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara play opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jude Law in this four-hander thriller from Steven Soderbergh, the director's last film prior to "retirement" (you know he'll be back). The crux of the plot is a new drug called Ablixa, an anti-depressant with some very unforeseen side effects. Unlike the Oceans movies, Soderbergh's visual style here is not so distinct, but the story packs enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, and Jude Law in particular entertains as a psychiatrist with a rather perplexing accent.
The dystopian sci-fi flick: Snowpiercer
There's a hell of a lot of dystopian cinema out there right now, mostly generic and afraid to depart from the genre's conventions, but this very adult sci-fi is nothing like anything you've seen before. Adapted from a French graphic novel by a South Korean director, it imagines a future in which man brought about a new ice age, and only a select number of survivors remain, all living inside the confines of a train which travels the span of the globe and never stops. As you can imagine, a class system is in place aboard the train, and not everybody is too happy about it. Octavia Spencer and Tilda Swinton star, but it's Chris Evans in his post-Captain America breakout role who really commands the audience's attention as Curtis, a lower-class citizen leading an uprising. The spectacular visuals are the icing on a very cold cake.
What movies would you recommend from Netflix's vast library? Share your suggestions in the comments!