Th best Netflix SA movies feature something for everyone, regardless of whether they're Netflix Originals or third parties. There are plenty of challengers to the streaming behemoth's throne which arguably have stronger feature flicks, like Showmax and the newly launched Huawei video, but Netflix has still been splashing the cash on quality original cinema for years. Now SA viewers have plenty to enjoy.
That means you can sample Oscar-nominated films without having to hoof it all the way down to your local cinema, like Marriage Story and The Irishman. So not all films on there are a hit; for every landmark film from Martin Scorsese or the Coen Brothers you get a Bright or a 6 Underground. However, there's still an excellent selection, especially since we're all basically stuck to the sofa for the forseeable future.
But what should you watch? We're here to help you break down the best Netflix SA movies including kids films, plus dramas, comedies, and more to make sure there's something for you. Here are the 20 Netflix SA movies you mustn't miss.
Spirited Away (and all Ghibli films on Netflix SA)
Studio Ghibli has an unbeatable selection of kid-friendly movies, and almost the entire archive is now on Netflix as of April 2020. Spirited Away, about a girl whose parents are turned into pigs who then goes to work in a mystical bathhouse, is one highlight, but you could pick any of these and have a great viewing experience.
Here's the complete list: Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Pom Poko, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There, From Up on Poppy Hill, Whisper of the Heart, Arriety, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Only Yesterday, The Cat Returns, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, My Neighbors the Yamadas.
They're all beautifully animated and most of them are deeply moving, with more thematic texture than you'd typically get from a movie targeted at kids. A real coup by Netflix SA.
With Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig takes the most quotidian of topics and elevates it into something special. Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is a high schooler that navigates adolescence, boys, and getting into college with an admirably unashamed confidence. Each character, from a brooding, haughty Timothée Chalamet bit-part to Christine's best bud Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein) is authentically drawn, but it's Lady Bird's frequent clashes with her nurse mother, between artistic dreams and down-to-earth pragmatism, that is the troubled glue that holds this heart-warming coming-of-age comedy together.
Leonardo DiCaprio won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in this brutal drama about a man left to die in the wilderness in the 1820s. Surviving a bear attack and other horrors, this is a grim but beautifully shot tale of revenge. Iñárritu's other modern classic, the very different Birdman, is also on Netflix SA.
If you're willing to subject yourself to this impressively stressful two hours of tension from the Safdie brothers, let's just say you're about to become very well acquainted with the edge of your seat. Largely an actor known for a series of unfunny films, Adam Sandler is unrecognisable as a New York City jeweler that risks everything to escape steep debts, and angry collectors. Just remember to breathe out every so often.
The Irishman grabbed headlines for the CG de-ageing process applied to actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in this movie, but when you watch this epic crime drama, you'll understand why this creative decision was so important. Based on a biography of Frank Sheeran, a union official who gets caught up in the illegal activities of the Bufalino crime family, this long but rewarding picture by the masterful Martin Scorsese takes place over decades. The changing faces of the actors underlines the idea that you're watching Sheeran's actual life story play out.
This story of a marriage coming apart isn't as devastating to watch as you might think. It explores the complex mixed emotions that come as part of breaking up with someone you once loved, and how this family's structure is impacted by the decision to divorce. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson put in arguably career-best performances, here.
From the director of Gravity and Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, Roma is the story of a housekeeper Cleo, as she and her family come up against social hierarchy and political turmoil in '70s Mexico. This semi-autobiographical film is said to be inspired by Cuarón’s own upbringing, and has been widely acknowledged as one of the best films of 2018, winning two Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film.
Okja is a fantastic movie that proves Netflix really does know what it's doing when it comes to commissioning films. Made by Bong Joon-ho, who would next direct awards contender Parasite, the film is the strange tale of a little girl and her best friend, a giant animal called Okja. The friendship is threatened when a CEO (a superb Tilda Swinton) wants to take Okja for nefarious means. The whole movie may well be an ode to animal activism but it's such a refreshing movie that you don't mind it preaching to you on occasion.
Netflix picked up the international rights to this movie from Ex Machina director Alex Garland, which was a good call. It’s uncompromising sci-fi that has a smart smattering of horror running through it. Based on the hit series of books The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, the movie focuses on a group of scientists who go into Area X, a quarantined section of Earth where strange things are going on. Natalie Portman is superb as the lead, a biologist who wants to find out what happened to her husband.
Netflix bagged its first Bafta thanks to this stunning documentary. 13th looks at race and the US criminal justice system, showcasing numerous injustices in the way African American people have been treated in the system. The documentary was made by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who also made the superb Selma.
Following Winston Churchill as he becomes Prime Minister and navigates the UK through some of the hardest days of the First World War, Darkest Hour is everything you'd expect from an Academy nominated war film. The most captivating moments are watching a completely transformed Gary Oldman deliver Churchill's famous speeches with the same gravitas.
The Breakfast Club
A cult classic from the 80s, The Breakfast Club is a great watch today, in spite of some problematic moments. The John Hughes film might be his best known and follows five high school students stuck in weekend detention as they bond and realise they are more than just their stereotypes.
This Netflix biographical drama follows Pope Benedict, played by Anthony Hopkins, as he tries to convince Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, played by Jonathan Pryce, not to resign and confides in him his plan to abdicate the papacy. While some is based on verifiable speeches and historical events, much of the personal dissection are speculated but it is likely you will still finish feeling like you've learnt a lot more about the interesting world of the Vatican.
This romantic historical drama set in the 1950s follows an Irish girl as she moves to America to try find opportunities. Saoirse Ronan puts her Irish accent to good use as Eilis navigating an unfamiliar place, far from home. A cute, uplifting story with a brilliant cast and beautiful setting, this Oscar nominated film is great for a feel-good night in.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Based on a memoir by its protagonist, William Kamkwamba's own life and experiences in a village in Malawi, this film follows William as he grows up eventually using his knowledge of physics and engineering to save his family and village from drought by building a windmill to power an electric water pump so crops can be grown again.
Clueless is to the 90s what The Breakfast Club was the 80s. This classic revolves around Cher Horowitz, a vain protagonist who loves shopping and meddling in other peoples lives. Loosely, based on the Jane Austen novel Emma, Clueless has stood the test of time.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
If you're in for something different then this anthology film by the Coen Brothers is for you. Taking the form of six short films all set in the US west, these hilarious oddball skits are everything you'd expect from these eccentric directors.
This coming-of-age drama isn't just for teenagers. Following the experience of the protagonist Kayla who is trying to cope with her anxiety in the age of social media, many people's own experiences with mental health are reflected. The film is writer/director Bo Burnham's own attempt at understanding his anxiety as a comedian.
If Beale Street could talk
Based on the James Baldwin novel, this romantic drama follows a young woman who seeks to clear her lover's name after he is wrongly charged, before the birth of their child. Regina King won Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards for her role.
This multi-generational drama follows a Taiwanese factory worker who, with a newly arranged marriage, moves to America. Cutting between eras, the story highlights how much of our past and decisions define who we become while also tackling the struggles of new immigrants and the space between first and second generation immigrant families.