The 54 Best Films on Netflix UK Right Now, by Genre

Valentina Valentini, Esquire Editors
·22-min read

From Esquire

The best film on Netflix is the film that you actually end up watching. The streaming giant has so much choice – and so much dreck amongst it – that too many movie nights kick off with 45 minutes of aimless scrolling, 10 minutes of arguing, then two episodes of that TV show you've already watched eight times, because even though you won the debate it was too close to bedtime to squeeze in The Irishman.

Well, search no longer, because this is the definitive guide of the best films on UK Netflix this week, categorised chronologically and by genre, so that you can spend less time searching and more time enjoying the best cinema the internet has to offer. We've selected everything from stone-cold classics to indie movie gems, big-budget blockbusters to the best Netflix Originals. Grab the popcorn, and your remote, and enjoy.

Jump to genre: Comedies | Thrillers | Horror movies | Documentaries | Dramas

Best comedies on Netflix

The 40-Year-Old Version (2020)

One of our favourite films of 2020, This irreverent and funny story about a struggling playwright in New York City is loosely based on writer-director-star Radha Blank’s own creative life. Radha (the character) was a shining star on the scene, but nearly a decade later, not much has happened so she decides to become a rapper.

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Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Rapper-slash-activist-turned-filmmaker, Boots Riley, came out of the gate strong as a first-time writer-director with this mind-bending dark comedy. Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Danny Glover, Terry Crews and Tessa Thompson, it's set in an alternate universe where telemarketer Cassius Green (Stanfield) finds the secret to selling is to speak in his 'white voice' (provided by David Cross). The commission rolls in, but his success also reveals a very twisted secret about the world he's working in. Funny, frightening and thought-provoking in equal measure.

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BlacKKKlansman (2018)

Granted, as comedies go it isn't exactly Airplane!. But as you'd expect from a Spike Lee joint, BlacKKKlansman finds the funny in even the darkest situations.Based on actual events in Seventies Colorado, it won Lee the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. John David Washington stars as detective Ron Stallworth, a black cop who infiltrates the local Ku Klux Klan chapter by impersonating a white man on the phone (and that's not where the similarities with Sorry to Bother You end). His Jewish partner, played by Adam Driver, then has to be his face as they work to foil the KKK.

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This is Where I Leave You (2014)

Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy leads an all-star cast in this dramedy about a Jewish family coming together to honour their late father’s legacy. Bateman co-stars alongside Tina Fey, Jane Fonda and Rose Byrne, in a film that explores where family bickering meets family loyalty and love.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)


Based on the true story of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this audacious, salacious and hilarious take on the con artist’s swift rise to stardom and even swifter fall as his greed leads to corruption and eventual demise. The Oscar-nominated film co-stars Jonah Hill and shows Margot Robbie in her breakout role as Belfort’s no-BS wife.

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Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Starring Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass, Safety Not Guaranteed is a quirky sci-fi indie about Kenneth (Duplass), who puts an ad in the paper looking for a partner to time travel. What follows is a love story between people, space and time.

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The Hangover (2009)

There are a few movies that can be watched multiple times in life, and at different phases, and still make you belly laugh. Filmmaker Todd Phillips has this down pat with Road Trip, Old School and then The Hangover, an outlandish buddy comedy starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms, who get into a lot of trouble at a stag do in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, both of the genuinely upsetting sequels are also on Netflix. Don't be tempted.

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Lost in Translation (2003)

Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winning first feature tells of the unlikely connection between a faded movie star (Bill Murray) and a young woman (Scarlett Johansson), whose new marriage has quickly lost its shine. Set against the neon backdrop Tokyo, Lost in Translation is a bittersweet comedy for bleeding hearts.

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She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Spike Lee’s incendiary dramedy is set in New York City and follows Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) who can’t decide what type of man she wants, so the visual artist dates three different ones while pursuing her burgeoning career. Netflix also has a TV series of the same name which revived Lee’s award-winning film.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

A surreal comedy classic, the Pythons' take on Arthurian legend is still funny, even after being quoted to death by your nephew.

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Jump to genre: Comedies | Thrillers | Horror movies | Documentaries | Dramas

Best thrillers on Netflix

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

One-of-a-kind, Bandersnatch is an interactive film that lets the viewer choose their own journey. With multiple possible outcomes, the mastermind behind Black Mirror’s hit Netflix series, screenwriter Charlie Brooker, lays out the story of a young computer programmer who attempts to adapt a fantasy novel into a video game.

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Okja (2017)

If your first introduction to South Korean writer-director Bong Joon Ho was Parasite, you’ll definitely want to go back and watch his earlier offerings. Although Okja feels like a kid’s adventure movie on the surface, this tale has thriller and political components combining animal activism, social welfare and the deep bonds of animal friendship.

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The Handmaiden (2016)

Think "erotic thriller", think "late-night Channel Five". Not so here. Co-written and directed by one of South Korea’s most celebrated filmmakers, Chan-wook Park, this adaptation of the 2002 novel Fingersmith shifts the setting to interwar Korea, then under Japanese colonial rule, and centres on a handmaiden who's hired to work for a Japanese heiress in order to con her out of her fortune. From there, the narrative starts to slide, wrong-footing the audience in every scene.

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Bridge of Spies (2015)

Steven Spielberg's tense and riveting spy thriller is based on the true story of American lawyer James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), who was tasked with making a prisoner exchange during the Cold War after a pilot’s plane goes down in Soviet territory. Mark Rylance won his first and – so far – only Oscar for his role as the KGB spy, Rudolf Abel.

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Ex Machina (2014)

Alex Garland, who wrote The Beach and 28 Days Later, hopped into the director’s chair for the first time with Ex Machina (which he also wrote as well, earning an Oscar nod for Best Screenplay). This brainy sci-fi film stars Alicia Vikander as Ava, an AI robot whom Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) must assess for human qualities in a groundbreaking experiment run by Nathan (Oscar Isaac). The film also scored the Oscar for best visual effects; watch Ava and you’ll understand why.

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Nightcrawler (2014)

A neo-noir psychological thriller, Nightcrawler follows Lou, a creepy antihero expertly played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Lou’s job as a freelance news photographer – a stringer – in Los Angeles brings him to the edge of darkness as he chases ambulances around the city. Written by The Bourne Legacy screenwriter, Dan Gilroy, it was also his directorial debut and garnered him numerous award nominations and wins for his original screenplay, including an Oscar nod.

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Blue Ruin (2013)

This indie darling was made on a shoestring budget by writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier. The psychological thriller stars his real-life best friend, Macon Blair, and is a gritty and great revenge drama about an amateur assassination gone wrong.

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Ronin (1998)

This action-packed thriller stars Robert De Niro as an ex-US intelligence officer tasked with retrieving a mysterious suitcase that’s about to fall into the dangerous hands of Russian criminals. With a twisting plot and exhilarating car chases around Paris, the film co-stars some heavy hitters including Jean Reno, Natashca McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård and Sean Bean.

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(Find more of the best thrillers on Netflix UK here)

Jump to genre: Comedies | Thrillers | Horror movies | Documentaries | Dramas

Best horror movies on Netflix

His House (2020)

This British horror offers a critique of immigration policy alongside its jump scares. That might not sound thrilling, but Remi Weekes's debut ranks alongside the like of The Witch and Hereditary as a horror film with as much brains as blood. It centres on Rhial and Bol, who've fled violence in South Sudan for a new life in the UK. Unfortunately, they've brought a lot of trauma with them. And it's about to manifest in ways that will have you sleeping with the lights on.

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Annihilation (2018)

Alex Garland's follow-up to Ex Machina is a sci-fi horror movie that explores similar ideas about identity, only this time he ramps up the existential dread. Based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer, the first in his Southern Reach Trilogy, it stars Natalie Portman as a scientist exploring a hinterland, Area X, where her husband recently disappeared. It's light on jump scares, but contains an ursine attack scene that makes The Revenant look like Yogi Bear.

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Hereditary (2018)

Ari Aster's debut was hailed as the new Exorcist on arrival, and the physicality of Toni Collete's performance, as a woman grieving for the loss of a mother who, it turns out, has left her a rather intense legacy, earns that accolade by dint of physicality alone. But Hereditary isn't just about turning your stomach – although it does that with aplomb. It also poses questions about family, identity and genealogy that will haunt you as much as the glee Aster apparently takes in inflicting bad things on people's skulls.

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Bird Box (2018)

Remember all those blindfold memes? Sandra Bullock stars in this sci-fi horror about a world where everyone is driven to suicide if they catch sight of malevolent supernatural beings. Bullock’s character must embark on a journey to safety with her two children, eyes shut, before this thing gets them. The movie quickly became one of Netflix’s most popular titles and a sequel has been in the works since mid-last year. Watch back-to-back with A Quiet Place for full sensory deprivation.

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The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Just before he was absorbed by the Marvel Industrial Complex Cinematic Universe, Joss Whedon wrote this meta-horror film that literally rips the genre apart to reveal the scaffolding underneath. If that sounds a bit thinky, then rest assured it packs in enough thrills and chills courtesy of a greatest hits-style ride through everything from slashers to zombie movies to torture porn.

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Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Francis Ford Coppola's take on the OG of bloodsuckers is typically stylish, and the director ramps up the source material's eroticism for a take that's soaked in every other bodily fluid, too. Granted, Keanu Reeves's woodenness feels even more brittle than normal when you've got Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins camping things up as Dracula and Van Helsing, but get past the fact that you think he's going to say "dude" at any moment, and this is a lot of campy fun.

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(Find more of the best horror films on Netflix UK here)

Jump to genre: Comedies | Thrillers | Horror movies | Documentaries | Dramas

Best documentaries on Netflix

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

This meditative documentary will have you in tears and cooing for an animal usually reserved for appetisers and not in-depth retrospectives. Documenting a year in the life of wildlife filmmaker Craig Foster, the story tells of his once-a-day swim to a nearby kelp forest in South Africa as he befriends an octopus and seeks to learn more about himself.

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American Factory (2019)

The first film made by the Obamas' production company, Higher Ground, also bagged them their first Oscar for Best Documentary. Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert return to the former General Motors factory in Moraine, near Dayton in Ohio, where they chronicled the mothballing of part of the American car industry in The Last Truck. It's just been bought and revived by Chinese company Fuyao, and 2,000 American workers are employed again. However, early hopes that the collaboration between East and West will run smoothly gradually give way to tensions as the reality of machine-led revolution and disconnection between management and workers sets in.

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Last Breath (2019)

Back in 2012, a malfunction on the North Sea set a ship, Bibby Topaz, drifting. Unfortunately for Chris Lemons, it started drifting at exactly the time he was on the seabed carrying out some repairs. Tethered to the ship now moving away from him, his umbilical tube from it snapped leaving him without light, heat or oxygen and with help moving slowly away from him. He was left there for a full 30 minutes. It's no spoiler to tell you Lemons managed to survive – the story here is exactly how and why, and it's told through real audio and bodycam footage from Lemons and his crewmates as they attempted to save him.

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Icarus (2017)

What begins as an undercover test of the potential flaws in cycling's anti-doping measures turns slowly into an international race to protect the integrity of sport's noblest and grandest stage, the Olympic Games. Bryan Fogel engages the services of Grigory Rodchenkov, the Russian scientist in charge of his country's anti-doping laboratory, to see if he can bypass controls at an amateur cycling race. The pair become friends, before Rodchenkov drops the bombshell that he's actually in charge of Russia's state-sponsored doping programme. Then everything kicks off: Rodchenkov's life is in danger, and Fogel has to protect him.

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Mountain (2017)

This is less a traditional documentary than a tone poem, a meditation and a sermon all rolled into less than 80 minutes. Willem Dafoe rumbles extracts from Robert Macfarlane's book Mountains of the Mind over the majesty of the world's great peaks, with a soundtrack the Australian Chamber Orchestra. "What is this strange force that draws us upwards – this siren song of the summit?" he asks. "Where time warps and bends and sensations are thrillingly amplified… [It] induces in us forms of insanity and forms of grace." If this all sounds very chin-stroking, we're also privy to gut-dropping moments of peril as mountaineers attempt to go where no human being has any right going. Gripping and gorgeous.

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Supersonic (2016)

Directed by Mat Whitecross and with a hand from Amy makers Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees, Supersonic tells the story of Oasis from Noel writing songs in a shed after dropping a lead pipe on his foot to their Knebworth enormo-gigs of August 1996. It's not a hagiography, but it's happy to indulge the Gallagher brothers' bullishness over their achievements. That's not a criticism: the way they copied the Stone Roses in building their own myth as they went along was half of the fun. Sensibly it stops at the exact point that the band itself perhaps should have stopped, although some footage from the later Be Here Now sessions might have given us some sense of the sheer size of the mountain of cocaine which Noel's since chalked that bloated behemoth's failure up to.

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What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

Nina Simone was not an artist who you can imagine taking well to be told what she was or was not, but this biography of her manages to give an impression of what made her powerful without explaining her into oblivion. The big draw is the inclusion of rare archive footage, and the chance to see an extraordinary talent blossom from playing in a bar and grill in Atlantic City to nationwide fame, and on to becoming a civil rights figurehead on the side of her New York neighbour Malcolm X.

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Virunga (2014)

This Oscar-nominated and multi-award-winning documentary tells the harrowing story of a group of Virunga National Park rangers and their fight for the protection and conservation of Congo’s endangered mountain gorillas.

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20 Feet From Stardom (2013)


The voices you know, and the stories you don't. Being good enough at singing to make a living on stage and on records is beyond most of us, but some of the most extravagantly accomplished singers of the last 60 years remain near enough anonymous despite working with the greats. This Best Documentary Oscar-winner puts the backing singers' stories front and centre, and considers what leads brilliant singers to melt into the background. Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder and more chip in, but it's the sequences in which Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Mary Clayton and other masters of their art harmonise in the studio that are properly jaw-dropping.

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(Find more of the best documentaries on Netflix UK here)

Jump to genre: Comedies | Thrillers | Horror movies | Documentaries | Dramas

Best dramas on Netflix

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Vanessa Kirby is magnificent in this story of a home birth gone wrong and how, fractured by grief, the characters try to navigate the harsh reality which follows the traumatic event. Like Kenneth Lonergan's crushing film Manchester by the Sea, here is a reminder that life moves on, often cruelly so, after even the most unimaginable horrors have visited your door. Adapted by Kornél Mundruczó from his one act play of the same name, here the majority of the action is confined to just a few spaces lending it a theatrical feeling. The centrepiece of the film is a miraculous and exacting 24-minute single-shot birth scene, a scene in which time both speeds up and slows down around us and we stay with Kirby, unable to look away.

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The Midnight Sky (2020)

It's the end of the world as we know it but all isn't lost as there's a very beardy George Clooney making sure that the last surviving members of the human race make it out alive. Directed by and starring Clooney, the actor plays Augustine Lofthouse, a scientist attempting to travel through the Arctic Circle with a wide-eyed young girl at his side, all in order to stop a spaceship returning to earth after a global catastrophe. There are turbulent sequences through blizzards, shiny spaceship doors swooshing open and unappetising space meals of brown mush and peas. There's also plenty of our very favourite new sci-fi trope: the wife guy in space.

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Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020)

Chadwick Boseman's final film fittingly features his finest performance ever, bringing to life August Wilson's seminal play in this adaptation by playwright George C Wolfe. Focusing on the Mother of the Blues Ma Rainey – One of America's first African-American professional blues singers, and part of the first generation of singers to record their music – the film takes place during one stifling afternoon recording session in Twenties Chicago, where the tensions rise between Ma and her band members. With blistering performances from Viola Davis, Colman Domingo and Glynn Turman, Wolfe brings this timely story of ownership and racial turmoil to life.

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Mank (2020)

David Fincher’s first feature since 2014’s Gone Girl (see above) is a very meta biopic. With a screenplay by Fincher’s late father, Jack Fincher, this black-and-white drama-with-jokes focuses on Herman J Mankiewicz, a powerhouse screenwriter in Thirties Hollywood and the man who, supposedly, penned Citizen Kane and had to fight Orson Welles for the credit (sadly, that take on history isn't quite true). Starring Gary Oldman as the eponymous alcoholic writer, the supporting cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, and Charles Dance, and features Erik Messerschmidt's astonishing cinematography.

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The King (2019)

This historical fiction drama stars Timothée Chalamet as a young King Henry V, newly crowned and eager to lead better than his tyrannical father (Ben Mendelsohn). Drawing on Shakespeare's Henriad plays, and co-starring Joel Edgerton and Robert Pattinson in craft-pushing roles, it’s a dark and damp story written by Edgerton and director David Michôd.

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Marriage Story (2019)

Though it’s described as a romantic drama, Marriage Story focuses more on the death of romance, but also the continued desire to maintain love within a family unit. Writer-director Noah Baumbach is said to have drawn heavily on his own divorce to write this award-winning film, which stars Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern.

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Destroyer (2018)

From the director of Girlfight and Jennifer’s Body, Karyn Kumsama, comes a gritty crime drama starring Nicole Kidman. After an early career undercover assignment that ruined her career, former LAPD officer Erin Bell (Kidman) gets the chance to rectify her past while facing demons both real and psychological in her present.

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Captain Fantastic (2016)

Starring Viggo Mortenson in an Oscar-nominated role, this heart-warming indie drama follows a family of six, who are off the grid in the Pacific Northwestern United States. After decades of living fairly well, the family’s matriarch needs medical treatment, and the father must decide how important his way of life is over how important his wife and family are. The film was a breakout role for George MacKay.

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Beasts of No Nation (2015)

With a breakout role for Ghanaian first-time actor Abraham Attah, and a daring performance by Idris Elba, Cary Joji Fukanaga’s Beasts of No Nation is a harrowing tale of African child soldiers and the wars they're forced to fight.

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Steve Jobs (2015)

Michael Fassbender stars at Steve Jobs, the intensely private genius behind Apple’s meteoric rise. Helmed by Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, this biopic sheds some light on the man behind the myth, with three iconic product launches illuminating his professional and personal life over two decades.

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Selma (2014)

This Best Picture nominee is directed by Ava DuVernay and stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. Though MLK’s life and historical legacy always make for compelling storytelling, Selma focuses on 1965, a particularly dangerous time during the civil rights movement in the United States, and the march from Selma to Montgomery, which acted as a major stepping-stone in the fight toward justice for Black Americans.

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12 Years a Slave (2013)

This epic from director Steve McQueen gave Chiwetel Ejiofor his international breakout role. He plays Solomon Northrup, a free Black man in antebellum United States, who believes he’s up for a job in the South but is instead sold into slavery. Co-starring Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt, it’s based on Northrup’s own memoir.

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The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech won four Oscars – Best Picture, Director, Actor and Original Screenplay – and stars Colin Firth as King George VI, as he ascends to a throne he never wanted and is forced to overcome both his debilitating stutter, and his lack of enthusiasm for the role of monarch. Co-starring Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist and Helena Bonham-Carter as his wife, Queen Elizabeth, in a precursor to her role as Liz's sister, Margaret, in The Crown.

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The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter is based on the true story of half-brothers Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), professional boxers from northeastern Massachusetts. The film won two Oscars – one for Bale’s performance and the other for Melissa Leo’s, as the mother of the two men who look to overcome their struggles (mainly Dicky’s crack-cocaine addiction), to little fruition.

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Fish Tank (2009)

This coming-of-age drama won writer-director Andrea Arnold a lot of awards around the film festival circuit, including the Jury Prize at Cannes. First-time actress Katie Jarvis plays Mia, a socially isolated 15-year-old who ends up in a sexual relationship with her mother’s new beau, played by Michael Fassbender.

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The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson co-star as the love-duelling Boleyn sisters in this Peter Morgan adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction novel, which reimagines Anne and Mary in a life-and-death fight for the affections of the intemperate Henry VIII (a broody Eric Bana).

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Revolutionary Road (2008)

More than a decade after their spellbinding turn in Titanic, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio join forces again in this taut drama. Based on the Richard Yates novel, Revolutionary Road is directed by Winslet’s ex-husband, Sam Mendes, and tells the story of a New England couple who must come to terms with their personality differences as they raise their two children in Fifties suburbia.

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Apollo 13 (1995)

This Ron Howard-directed space docudrama follows the astronauts on NASA’s Apollo 13 mission from 1970. Even if you know the outcome of the event, the ensemble cast of Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise should be five good reasons to tune in anyway.

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The Great Escape (1963)

Co-starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, this classic epic war drama follows Allied prisoners of war as they plan for a mass escape during the second world war. The film is based on the true story of British Commonwealth prisoners escaping from a German POW camp, as captured in Paul Brickhill’s 1950 book of the same name.

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West Side Story (1961)

Shakespeare’s classic love tragedy Romeo & Juliet is reimagined in Sixties New York City, in perhaps the best movie musical ever made. Starring Nathalie Wood as Puerto Rican-American Maria, and Richard Breymer as All-American Tony, their families don’t want them to be together, but it’s only death that will tear them apart (no, that's not a spoiler: the film's 60 years old; the play's 400 years old).

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