The 50 best movies on Netflix New Zealand


Behold, Steve Newall has crafted the definitive list of the best films currently available to stream on Netflix NZ. We’ll update this post each month as films come and go from Netflix.

UPDATED JULY 4

Annihilation

Alex Garland made a big splash with feature debut Ex Machina after writing in the sci-fi genre with Sunshine and Dredd. The former novelist tackles one hell of a tricky adaptation here in the form of the first installment in Jeff VanderMeer’s trippy Southern Reach trilogy, his writing bordering at times on the unfilmable. With a powerful cast of women led by Natalie Portman and an affecting, disorienting Geoff Barrow/Ben Salisbury score, Garland takes us on a psychedelic journey into body horror, transformation, depression and grief, with gorgeous visuals fleshing out Annihilation‘s tendencies towards Lovecraft and Ballard.

See also:
* Everything coming to Netflix
All new movies & series on Netflix
All new streaming movies & series

Atlantics

Set in Senegal’s capital Dakar, supernatural romantic drama Atlantics follows interweaving narratives—construction workers rail against not being paid to build a shining corporate tower above the impoverished city, and teenaged Ada prepares for her arranged marriage. Connecting the two is Ada’s romance with Souleiman, one of the aforementioned workers, who’s among a group of them to set sail in the middle of the night for Spain. Things get odd when illness begins to befall those close to these men, and Souleiman’s said to have made a reappearance. A deft blend of various elements, and a super promising first feature from Mati Diop (also the first black woman to direct a film in competition at Cannes).

The Big Short

While best-known as an outright comedy director thanks to Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, here Adam McKay turns in a brutally succinct takedown of the American greed causing the Global Financial Crisis. McKay distills hugely complex subject matter down to digestible, Oscar-winning form, using every trick in the book—a stacked cast, dramatic heft, the blackest of comedy, Margot Robbie in a bubble bath—to land this true story’s punches, bringing into full view a mix of satirical skills, anti-establishment attitude, and interest in serious issues previously only hinted at on Saturday Night Live (and his underrated cop comedy The Other Guys, of all places—also on Netflix).

Blade Runner 2049

Revisiting Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner universe shoulda been sacrilege—especially in our era of sub-standard sequels and prequels. And yet… 35 years on, Denis Villeneuve ushered us into a new pessimistic future, one that built on Scott’s themes and characters, and also found new, enthralling and moving things to say about humanity and sentience—all while screaming that coming decades would be grimmer than even the 1982 original had predicted.

Boy

Taika Waititi’s second feature saw the multi-hyphenate return to his childhood—geographically (the East Coast’s Waihau Bay), temporally (the 80s), and emotionally (the title). The humour of Aotearoa permeates this pic, as does Waititi’s own creative streak, but there’s no reason to tell you this because you have literally all seen this film and experienced its intimate and heartrending depiction of disillusionment with a beloved parent, one that’s unfit for the pedestal they’ve been put on.

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s drama, filmed over twelve years, follows a boy from childhood through adolescence. Boyhood doesn’t just capture this young man’s physical and personal growth, but also the key figures that orbit him: separated parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke); sister (Lorelei Linklater); and first love (Zoe Graham). While Arquette’s performance is a standout, Linklater conjures emotive, naturalistic performances from all his cast, so as the film works its magic and the years pass by, one can’t help but be captivated by the lives unfolding onscreen.

Captain Phillips

“Look at me. I’m the captain now,” declared Barkhad Abdi in his stunning debut role, facing off against all-timer Tom Hanks in this tense real-life tale of a ship hijacking. Hanks plays Richard Phillips, trying desperately to keep everyone alive as the situation off the Somali coast becomes increasingly charged, another nailbiter from director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy).

Carol

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara lead this measured, award-winning, 1950s-set romantic drama from Todd Haynes, chronicling their deepening connection during a closeted era. Haynes brings Patricia Highsmith’s novel to life in sumptuous fashion—this film is gorgeous—while Blanchett and Mara sell the spark, as well as completely inhabiting their characters. A glamorous society wife and mother and a department store attendant respectively, the stakes are very different for each as they fall in love.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

The debut of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller was a sign of the strain of comedy they’d have in store for audiences in their live-action Jump Street films and the animated excellence of The Lego Movie. There may be other, more critically-praised, animated films on Netflix, but do they have a machine that can turn water into food, gains sentience and rains food items on a vulnerable small town like a buffet turned disaster movie? No sir, they do not.

Colossal

Weaving together unlikely subject matter, the Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis-led Colossal is principally about Gloria (Hathaway), who returns to her small American hometown and confronts her unhealthy relationships with men and booze. And then, half a world away, there’s also an enormous monster terrorising Seoul—somehow linked to Gloria and her actions. At turns comic, darkly dramatic, occasionally uncomfortably threatening (and that’s just the non-monster stuff) there’s also room for a superbly evolving, increasingly unsettling Sudeikis performance.

Coming Home in the Dark

Surprised by the sudden appearance of two menacing strangers, a family picnic in the idyllic Aotearoa wilderness becomes something much more terrifying—fear and violence on a collision course with accountability for grim secrets of the past. Daniel Gillies exudes supreme menace in an against-type turn as the frightening Mandrake, Matthias Luafutu draws on his own family history alongside him, while Erik Thomson and Miriama McDowell bring the plight of parents to life in devastating fashion.

Cousins

A complex tale that spans decades and perspectives as it follows three Māori women through three distinctly different time periods—their childhood, teenage years and in their 60s—each setting boasting a different trio of actors chronicling their lives (standouts including Ana Scotney, Tioreore Melbourne, Tanea Heke and Rachel House). With two of the titular cousins trying to reconnect with the missing third in later years, and the impacts of systemic dislocation and colonisation on Māori evident throughout, Cousins is a deeply moving dramatic triumph.

Django Unchained

Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western takes the same pleasure in meting out violent justice upon evil archetypes of history as its predecessor, revisionist WW2 pic Inglorious Basterds. Django Unchained is perhaps the funner of the two—when it’s operating as an odd couple action pic rather than depicting American slavery—with Jamie Foxx a crowd-pleasing charisma machine and Christoph Waltz in Oscar-winning form. Watching them team up against plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) sets the film on a trajectory towards a bloody, fiery, conclusion where, as he did in films before and since, Tarantino turns the cinema into a place of palpable, if fictional, retribution.

Dolemite Is My Name

“Eddie’s back!” was the exclamation heard last year as Eddie Murphy showed he’d lost none of his charm. Murphy stepped into the shoes and extended waistline of comedian Rudy Ray Moore, creator of the character Dolemite—a cane-wielding pimp who recited raunchy comedy routines, and sold a ton of profanity-laden records before setting out to make a 70s blaxploitation film. A celebration of one man’s creative tenacity, and his ability to pull a filmmaking family together (experience or no experience), Dolemite Is My Name is a wonderful against-the-odds tale, with the added bonus of Wesley Snipes flamboyantly chewing the scenery in a waaay over-the-top performance.

Eighth Grade

As much precocious talent is on display in Netflix special Bo Burnham: Inside, there’s little to suggest Burnham had previously made this stunningly empathetic and touching coming-of-age tale. An achingly vulnerable performance by Elsie Fisher brings every nuance of banality, awkwardness, comedy and awfulness to life as Eighth Grade chronicles her character’s horrible last week of a difficult year at middle school. Deeply moving and often squirm-inducing, despite some troubling subject matter Burnham displays a soft touch as director—even when conveying the multitude of horrors encountered every day on social media, the film resists over-sensationalising or finger-wagging, instead just leaving us in the hurt and confusion of growing up.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s fastidiousness in filmmaking took another leap with this painstaking stop-motion Roald Dahl adaptation, one that somehow shows more heart than some of his human-starring efforts. Anderson’s stylistic obsessions and retro inclinations are on full display alongside animated artistry that’s a beauty to behold. Capable of both silliness and seriousness, it’s an adaptation infused with Wes’s sensibility just as much as (more than?) Dahl’s.

Gone Girl

What a combination of A-games Gone Girl is. There’s Gillian Flynn’s novel, which she adapts for the screen here; David Fincher’s grasp of tone from stylish pic to trashy goodness; and the performances of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the ill-matched Dunnes. Affleck in particular is a piece of pitch-perfect casting, drawing on his slimier, less sympathetic qualities as the kind of guy who it’s easy to believe would have actually killed his wife. As her disappearance is investigated, what unfolds is a thrilling sequence of events that doesn’t feel like it runs for anything like its two and half hour viewing time.

Happy Gilmore

It may be heading into its late 20s, but Happy Gilmore remains as entertainingly juvenile as ever. Along with the previous year’s Billy Madison, this sports comedy helped establish Sandler as a comedy star, especially in countries that didn’t get to see his run on SNL. Sandler’s a delight to watch as the immature, angry hockey player turned golfer, helped along by one-handed mentor (Chubbs Peterson) Carl Weathers as he tries to best the arrogant Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald in a superb turn as a comedy heel).

Heat

Pacino and De Niro duel as a detective and bank robber who have more in common with one another than any of the civilians in their lives. Sharing just a few minutes on screen together across the nearly three-hour running time, watching the pair orbit each other is a delight and when they collide, riveting. A complex thriller that’s proven highly influential since its 1995 release, not least of all its adrenaline-charged heist scene, the standard by which other action set-pieces have been judged since.

Heathers

Meaner than Mean Girls, high school satire with a bit of John Waters’ view of white middle-class America, the biting Heathers is anchored by a Winona Ryder performance that balances the film’s bleak nihilism with genuine likability—tougher than it sounds. Opposite Ryder is Christian Slater’s OTT Jack Nicholson impersonation, the cast rounded out with spot-on supporting performances. Plot-wise, it’s a surprise some of this stuff ever made it to the screen, but Heathers is all the better for it. Rewatching (and re-quoting) ASAP.

Hereditary

Polarising viewers as either the latest emperor’s new clothes arthouse horror twaddle or an engrossing meditation on grief that never lets up for a moment, Hereditary arrived on a wave of hype that would have seemed over-egged were it not for its strengths. The tale of family tragedy, hidden secrets and the occult was borne up by Toni Collette’s bravura performance as a mother on (and over) the edge, the supreme control exerted by first-time director Ari Aster, and a deeply unsettling tone punctuated by moments of sheer horror out of nowhere. Anointed by our writers as Best Film of 2018.

Hustlers

A crew of strip club workers turn the tables on their Wall Street clients in this crime film set around the 2008 financial crisis, when—for a time—money was being thrown around like it was going out of style (it was, and so was the Baby Phat, Juicy, Ed Hardy, Von Dutch etc fashion seen in the film). A revelation as the scam leader, Jennifer Lopez was herself robbed—of an Oscar nomination, for what is a career-best turn. Speaking of turns… when Usher turns up? Just try and keep the smile off your face (and the bills in your wallet).

In Bruges

Forget the questionable Three Billboards (and definitely the terrible Seven Psychopaths), playwright turned director Martin McDonagh’s best film by far remains his startling debut—a darkly comic crime pic starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as hitmen holed up in the historic town of Bruges after a job gone wrong. The fairytale backdrop is at turns beautiful and claustrophobic, the writing’s sharp, the performances are outstanding, and the overall vibe is tense, moving and hilarious. “That’s for John Lennon, you Yankee fucking cunt!”

In the Cut

Arriving at the tail-end 0f Hollywood’s millenium-straddling erotic thriller boom, In the Cut was maligned by critics upon release, but has had a deserved reappraisal in recent years. Stars getting nude no longer seems newsworthy in an era of anything goes TV, so watching this now takes the heat off Meg Ryan’s “braveness”, allowing the viewer to swelter alongside her in a steamy depiction of New York. There’s a wooziness to Jane Campion’s film, a pulse of attraction and danger, with sex and murder intertwined in a thankfully less masculine fashion than most of the sub-genre. If you’ve ever been thirsty for Mark Ruffalo, and haven’t see this, why the hell are you still reading?

John Wick

Things get a bit convoluted in the Wick sequels (not that we’re about to stop watching). But it wasn’t the worldbuilding that make this breakout action pic such a hit—even if we were bizarrely deprived of a proper cinema release, crazy days!—but instead the lean, efficient plot, a style of action choreography to match, and of course, Keanu Reeves taking on a new signature role decades into his career. Frowning intensity, long take action, and tragic motivation all land wonderfully in his wheelhouse in this all-time classic.

Leave No Trace

This achingly emotional account of parenthood and trauma was Thomasin McKenzie’s breakout film, playing the daughter of a war veteran (Ben Foster), the pair living off the land and off the grid in the forests of Oregon. Director Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) keeps us spellbound, firmly invested in their tale both as a duo in remote landscapes and interacting with others who don’t fit into traditional modern lifestyles. Exceptional performances and restrained direction make for a compelling, haunting, drama.

The Lost Daughter

A great trio of female actors—Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson—anchor Maggie Gyllenhaal’s strong directorial debut, an uneasy, unsettling drama where the main mystery lies around what lurks within Colman’s outwardly polite exterior. As you’d expect from Colman, there’s an acting masterclass on offer as the film explores her relationship to motherhood, fleshed out by flashbacks where Buckley appears as her younger self. Bonus—those of us with a strong sense of right and wrong will cheer one particular scene where Colman snaps and gives rather more than a “shhh” to the absolute worst kind of people in the world… Yes, movie talkers/interrupters.

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller’s action masterpiece is always deserving of a rewatch (or waiting to be discovered if you somehow haven’t seen it). Since its release in 2015, we can only think of a couple of action films to hold a candle to it, a desert-set spectacle with a tankful of creativity,  craziness and car-related carnage. A strong emphasis on practical effects is bolstered, not replaced, by CGI work, with choreography, world-building and tone doing the heavy lifting in place of minimal dialogue (Tom Hardy’s grunts notwithstanding). A masterpiece, and maybe the first and last of its kind to be made for a major studio at this scale and singular vision.

Marie Antoinette

If you’ve enjoyed The Great, you should definitely take this for a spin. Sofia Coppola’s non-stuffy approach to period storytelling ruffled feathers at the time of Marie Antoinette’s release, but proves essential in this addition to her vital explorations of female isolation. Blessed with an incredible Antoinette in Kirsten Dunst, Coppola is determined for us to understand the emotion and experience of a teenager thrust into the centre of an absurd court to play the role of princess. If the vibrant energy pisses you off and you’d prefer a dry history lesson, well, there are plenty of textbooks.

Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen

Merata Mita, the landmark Māori filmmaker who made status quo-challenging docos on Bastion Point (Bastion Point – Day 507) and the Springbok Tour (Patu!), is honoured in this personal portrait from her film archivist son Heperi. The world’s first indigenous woman to direct a feature film (Mauri), Merata was also an outspoken activist—and for many years a solo mum bringing up her kids. In what doubles as vital Aotearoa film history and a deeply personal tale of family, Heperi engages with Merata’s life on both sides of the camera, revisiting her films and whānau to look back on Merata’s life and her impact on those around her. Essential viewing.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

The most painfully honest and funny insight into the music biz since This is Spinal Tap, Some Kind of Monster perhaps ought to have buried Metallica, being such an unflattering portrayal of a musical juggernaut that had sold 80 million albums and now found itself creatively becalmed. Two years of crisis are captured on screen, from the band’s hiring of a therapist to their struggles with writer’s block, the hiring of a new bass player, James Hetfield’s departure to rehab, and the making of a pretty average album. Pretence falls away (except perhaps in their group dynamics and self-deception) and this document is a classic of doco makers being in the right place at the wrong time. All that and Lars’s dad.

My Neighbour Totoro

Netflix delighted Studio Ghibli fans with the news that they’d acquired 21 classic films from Oscar-winning Japanese animation team Studio Ghibli (“feel free to cry big, globby tears of joy when you read this”, we said). But how to pick a fave, when the work of these animation masters is brimming with perfection? Even though we have ample love for Howl’s Moving CastleSpirited AwayThe Tale of the Princess KaguyaPrincess MononokeLaputa: Castle in the Sky and others you can see on Netflix, let’s appoint My Neighbour Totoro as Ghibli’s ambassador on this list (he’s their mascot, after all).

The NeverEnding Story

Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 fantasy is a stone-cold family classic that we have all cried to (unless it turns out you are not in fact human). Bastian, Artax, Atreyu, Falkor—all have a place in the pantheon of cinematic fantasy characters. Like the best kids’ fare, The NeverEnding Story doesn’t underestimate its audience—dreamlike, melancholic and at times tragic, this is an emotional rollercoaster housed within a captivating and intertwined story-within-a-story narrative. Not to overlook the immediate thrills of flying on a furry dragon, a Giorgio Moroder theme tune, and plenty more elements etched into our cultural consciousness.

The Night Comes For Us

Surely the most over-the-top action you’ll find on Netflix, this Indonesian pic shares thrilling choreography and key cast members with The Raid, but gleefully embraces the gory end of action. Director Timo Tjahjanto serves up a massive body count, and relishes coming up with as many different ways for a human to kill another human as he can, broken cattle bones in a freezing works being among our favourites (along with plenty of other shooting, breaking, and chopping manoeuvres). There’s probably a story in there somewhere but it escapes us just now—doesn’t stop this slice of splatter action from being incredibly entertaining.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Sure, the original is tough to beat—but hey, it’s not currently on Netflix, and this sequel rules. Wes Craven co-writes, truly establishing Freddy Krueger here as the sadistic quipper that we came to know and love (even via inferior sequels), with some horribly creative nightmare deaths. But what makes this a real blast to watch is the extremely likeable crew fighting back against Freddy—a gang of young psychiatric hospital inmates who use lucid dreaming skills to try and kick his badly-burned arse. The Nightmare mythology grows sustainably, the action ups, and Patricia Arquette and Heather Langenkamp team up wonderfully (bonus points for an appearance by “Larry” Fishburne—and Zsa Zsa Gabor?!).

Out of Sight

Steven Soderbergh’s Elmore Leonard adaptation mercifully allowed George Clooney to put Batman & Robin behind him and steam up the screen with Jennifer Lopez (who earned rave reviews as a U.S. Marshal pursuing Clooney’s career crim). The pair’s chemistry was evident and Leonard’s source material a winner, with Soderbergh masterfully fusing the elements at his disposal into a sophisticated and sexy mainstream caper pic. Out of Sight also marked the first of what would be a number of Soderbergh collaborations with Clooney—as well as with soundtrack maestro David Holmes.

Paddington

If you have even one shred of a functioning heart, be prepared to be won over by this extraordinarily adorable talking bear in an extraordinarily British pic that abundantly illustrates a family-friendly film’s seldom-realised potential to enrapture all ages. In Paddington, adventuring and amusement are never lagging as the titular bear proves a loveable comic disruption to his adoptive family (Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin), and finds himself going up against an enjoyably OTT villain in the form of Nicole Kidman. The results? So adorable you just want to squeeze something to bits.

The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion’s mastery of tone shines through this Oscar-winner, as the director goes about developing strong characters and setting in motion a chain of events that chillingly reveals itself in hindsight. Much less of a revisionist Western than some have billed it as, Campion nevertheless weaves a tale that hinges on performative masculinity, repressed emotion, and the weaponisation of desire. Patiently constructed, but not lagging, this is a period family drama with a sting in its tail that lingers.

The Prestige

Christopher Nolan’s best film—yeah, I said it—bottles magic with this period tale of rival magicians, narrative trickery, affecting tragedy and an exploration of the lengths that people possessed will go to in order to get what they want. In this case it’s a pursuit of the perfect illusion and the secret behind it as Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale lock themselves into ill-tempered competitiveness, one in which no stakes are too high. They’re both great, and Nolan’s dance of misdirection and mystery with the audience is the most enjoyable balanced it’s been, before or since.

Scarface

Brian De Palma’s 1983 gangster remake built around an iconic Pacino performance. This Oliver Stone-penned and Giorgio Moroder-soundtracked coke-fuelled tale of the rise and [spoiler] of a Cuban refugee in Miami has left an indelible mark on pop culture, thanks to oft-quoted lines of dialogue, a huge influence on the hip hop world, and serving as the key inspiration for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The film also launched the career of the then-unknown Michelle Pfeiffer—so thanks, Scarface!

Shirkers

A documentary tracing the making of a pioneering independent film shot in Singapore in 1992, Shirkers is a fascinating blend of autobiography, cinema history and mystery. A trio of young women with a shared love of indie film, zine culture and alternative music set out to make an indie film, with the assistance of an older American ex-pat mentor. Production commenced, film was shot—and then the footage disappeared. In Shirkers, the film’s screenwriter and lead actor Sandi Tan tells the story of how their film came to be, and tries to find out what happened to it.

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese takes a psychological thriller into the same horror territory seen earlier in his career with Cape Fear. DiCaprio stars as Teddy (in his fourth starring role in a row for Marty) alongside Mark Ruffalo, the pair playing cops investigating the disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane in the 1950s. Teddy soon starts to suspect there’s more going on behind the scenes, and as the island gets shut off from the mainland by a violent storm, finds his sanity going wobbly in wonderfully watchable fashion.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Not only the best Spider-Man multiverse film, this Oscar-winner is also the most audacious, entertaining, stylish, and yeah, just the best of the whole Spidey bunch, actually. Infusing a great tale with the visual spirit and aesthetic of comic books, Into the Spider-Verse sets a new animation bar, one we expect/hope to see raised again in upcoming sequels—as if this wasn’t already crammed full of creativity. The gravity-defying web-swinging is thrilling, the physics-shattering dimensional crossover beautifully trippy, and as you can see above, this multiverse is about a lot more than just some familiar faces… All that and a super-strong introduction for Miles Morales, a young man with his own struggles ahead of him (and about time, after a string of Peter Parkers).

A Sun

AKA the film that no-one seemed to know was on Netflix for a good stretch of time—including Netflix. Taiwan’s entry for the 2021 Oscars lived up to the late hype, a family drama of sweeping novelistic scope that deftly balances estrangement, criminality, tragedy, and shame to moving dramatic effect and finds time to dish out moments of humour throughout its two and a half hours.

Sweet Country

At times exploiting the Western genre’s conventions and at others gently subverting them, Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country sees an Aboriginal stockman and his wife flee across the Outback after committing the cardinal sin of killing a white man in self-defense. Among their pursuers, Bryan Brown is a mean bully, prone to erupting in spittle-flecked fury while Sam Neill only sporadically emerges from myopic thrall to the Bible. An often searing portrayal of colonial racism and rage at a time when today’s cultural paradigm coalesced—a continent ruled by arrogant invaders, who’ve dispossessed the indigenous people’s connection to culture and country.

Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is in top form in this anxiety-inducing drama, frantic and self-destructive as he does a high-wire act under the weight of the multiple gambles of his life (literal gambling, high-risk gem deals, debts to unsavoury characters, juggling mistress and family relationships). Filmmakers the Safdie brothers populate their film with a great cast as we follow Sandler’s character through increasingly high stakes, with Uncut Gems also managing to be funny and tender around the pulse-pounding. Maybe the most intense movie you’ll find on Netflix, and yes, THERE IS QUITE A LOT OF SHOUTING.

The Unknown Saint

A treat from NZ International Film Festival 2020 (making our top ten of the fest). This Morocco-set caper pic follows a thief released from prison only to find a major obstacle to regathering his stashed loot. His hiding place has been mistaken for a saint’s grave, and a shrine and village now stand between him and his ill-gotten gains. What happens next is a gentle delight for people to discover on Netflix, infused with a dry comic sensibility sometimes reminiscent of the Coens.

The Wandering Earth

What do you do when a suddenly transforming sun is confirmed to expand to the point that it will engulf the Earth in 300 years and render us extinct with rising temperatures long before that? This Chinese blockbuster’s solution lies in the title—fly the bloody planet out of the solar system and to safety (a bit more ambitious than Armageddon, no?). Based on the novella by Chinese sci-fi great Cixin Liu (The Three-Body Problem), the film brings hard sci-fi and a fresh perspective to bear on its Emmerich-like solar threat, intriguing in its depiction of humanity taking up the incomprehensible challenge, as well as what happens when things inevitably don’t entirely go to plan.

Widows

A heist goes wrong, a bunch of crims are blown up, and their mourning romantic partners are left with a $2m debt to mobsters in one hand—but plans for a $3m heist in the other. Luckily this gang of amateurs (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo) have a typically take-no-shit Viola Davis to spur them on—while behind closed doors, Davis reveals only to the viewer the immense stress and emotional toil of her situation. Packed with interesting choices by director Steve McQueen and a sharp Gillian Flynn screenplay, this is a superior thriller that’s far more than “a thriller but for women”. Oh yeah, and the supporting cast? Carrie Coon, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Jacki Weaver, Liam Neeson—I mean, come on!

The Witches

If you slogged through Robert Zemeckis’s 2020 adaptation, my commiserations. Quite why anyone would think they could top Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 Jim Henson-aided effort is beyond me. Anjelica Huston was born to play the Grand High Witch, somehow sexy even when transformed into something less-than-glamorous, while the practical effects used in the film are a disgusting joy to behold. Sure, Roeg changed Roald Dahl’s ending (earning his ire), but The Witches remains one of the very best adaptations of his work—and captures the author’s knack for terrifying children more than wussy contemporaries (trusting correctly that being this scary is the perfect amount).