10 Highest Rated Netflix Movies Of All Time

If you’re looking to spend a night scrolling through Netflix’s wide and deep movie database, it would help to have some criteria in advance so as to narrow down that extensive selection of movies.

With innumerable choices at your fingertips, you have to start from somewhere. Of the many criteria one might choose, a classic saying comes to mind: “the numbers don’t lie.” More specifically to Netflix, one might base her viewing choice off of what is highly rated in the Netflix database; these ratings can come either from viewers or critics.

An example of the star rating (right below the title) in the Netflix interface
An example of the star rating (right below the title) in the Netflix interface

When browsing Netflix, you can see a star rating near the title of the film or TV show you are interested in viewing. This rating comes from Netflix viewers; you yourself can rate the title after viewing it. To get a sense of how the Netflix title was received critically, you can go to websites like Wioflix (“What is on Netflix?”), which lists Netflix titles according to their critical rating based on popular critical aggregators on the web. The two most well-known review aggregators — that is, sites that report a score for film based on a collection of critics’ reviews — are Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, each of which doles out a score based on a specific technique. One cannot treat these sites as identical, because their methodology for rating films is different.

Rotten Tomatoes scores films according to a positive/negative scale; for example, if a film’s “Tomatometer” is at 83 percent, that means 83 percent of critics responded to the film positively. It is important to note that Rotten Tomatoes does not make gradient distinctions between critics within that positive/negative scale; if a film received good reviews from 83 percent of critics but the majority of those critics were only mildly positive about the film, it would appear that the film received near overwhelming positive consensus when in fact most critics liked but not loved the film. In contrast to this positive/negative method, Metacritic gives “Metascores” based on an average score of all critics. Take three reviews of a film: 82, 55, 70. On Rotten Tomatoes, this would be a 100 percent Tomatometer (anything greater than 50 is positive), but on Metacritic this average would result in a Metascore of 69. In short, Rotten Tomatoes answers the question, “Did more critics like this movie than not?”, while Metacritic answers the question, “How much did everyone like/dislike this movie, exactly?”

Netflix is home to many movies that critics took a strong liking to. Below you’ll see a small selection of the critically acclaimed pictures streaming on Netflix — of course, there are many more to be found, as sites like Wioflix reveal.

I guess I can’t live without Netflix because I would have nothing to do. All I do is sit home and watch movies. – Sara Paxton

Moonrise Kingdom (rated PG-13; 94 minutes)

Metascore: 84
Tomatometer: 94
Netflix Viewers: 4.5/5 stars

moonrisekingdom

Director Wes Anderson’s signature whimsy is on full display in this tale of young love between a Boy Scout named Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and the deadpan Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Anderson’s brand of comedy is bone-dry and rife with eclecticism, but the charm of his dollhouse aesthetic is in full force here, as is his daft directorial hand, which is informed by a deep knowledge of cinema history. Both Moonrise and its successor, The Grand Budapest Hotel, found Anderson receiving some of his biggest critical notices yet.

Pulp Fiction (rated R; 154 minutes)

Metascore: 94
Tomatometer: 94
Netflix Viewers: 4.75/5 stars

pulpfiction

What’s the thing in the gold briefcase? What exactly are John Travolta and Uma Thurman doing in that infamous dance scene? “English, do you speak it?” These are but a few of the questions that come to mind when one mentions Pulp Fiction, the film that cemented director Quentin Tarantino as one of 20th and 21st century cinema’s biggest auteurs. To boil Pulp Fiction down to a plot in any linear sense is near impossible; the film is an amalgam of tropes, references, and philosophical musing that forms the groundwork for Tarantino’s later entertainments, such as Jackie Brown and Inglorious Basterds. All in all, Pulp Fiction is a postmodern masterpiece.

Silver Linings Playbook (rated R; 122 minutes)

Metascore: 81
Tomatometer: 92
Netflix Viewers: 4.5/5 stars

silverlinings

David O. Russell has become a favorite director in recent years; his rise began with 2010’s The Fighter, and has continued on with pictures such as Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Silver Linings, based on Matthew Quick’s novel The Silver Linings Playbook, unfolds the complicated romance between angered divorcee Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow suffering from depression. Russell proves himself an actor’s director with this film; the energy radiating from the group acting scenes is palpable, and Lawrence — who won a Best Actress statue for this picture — is a magnetic presence.

The Kids are All Right (rated R; 106 minutes)

Metascore: 86
Tomatometer: 93
Netflix Viewers: 3/5 stars

kidsareallright

Netflix viewers like but don’t love The Kids are All Right; critics, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough. With an all-star cast headed up by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, the film depicts the ever-changing and complex nature of family life in the 21st century. Moore and Bening star as a lesbian couple, Jules and Nic (respectively), whose relationship is thrown into turmoil when Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the sperm donor for both Jules and Nic’s children, enters their life.

Fruitvale Station (rated R; 85 minutes)

Metascore: 85
Tomatometer: 94
Netflix Viewers: 4.5/5 stars

fruitvalestation

Up-and-coming director Ryan Coogler brings to life the tragic story of Oscar Grant, a young African-American man who was unjustly killed by a police officer in 2009 at a BART train station near San Francisco. Michael B. Jordan, who would later work with Coogler on the Rocky reboot Creed, is a revelation as Grant; Fruitvale Station takes viewers through Grant’s final hours, which are all the more tragic for how normal they are. Grant’s final day is much like any other ordinary day in many ways, yet when his horrific final moments begin, Coogler reveals that terror lingers beneath the everyday. At less than an hour and a half, Fruitvale Station is an understated yet undeniably powerful picture.

Mission: Impossible III (rated PG-13; 126 minutes)

Metascore: 66
Tomatometer: 70
Netflix Viewers: 3.5/5 stars

miIII

The third installment in the popular Mission: Impossible series is not by any means a case of overwhelming critical support, but the movie has remained a fan favorite, both for its stellar action sequences and the fantastic performance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as the maniacal arms dealer Owen Davian. Tom Cruise returns to his tried-and-true role of secret agent Ethan Hunt, who is tasked with tracking down Davian before he can go through with a nefarious plan involving a mysterious device called “the rabbit’s foot.” Typically speaking, action movies are rarely the subject of major critical acclaim, but Mission: Impossible III is an example of how a straightforward action picture can be executed with great skill.

Battle Royale (Not rated; 114 minutes)

Metascore: 81
Tomatometer: 86
Netflix Viewers: 4/5 stars

battleroyale

Koushun Takami’s 1999 novel Battle Royale is an update of William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a Y2k freak-out of stylized violence. In the novel, a group of junior high students in Japan are taken to an island, where they are all given a directive: kill each other until only one student remains standing. Escape from the island is impossible, as all students are equipped with metal collars that will explode if a student tries to swim off the island. Students are randomly assigned weapons, including predictable options like guns and cruder implements like a dartboard with darts. A few years after the controversial novel’s release, Kinji Fukasaku brought Takami’s Hobbesian vision to the big screen, with thrilling and disturbing results.

John Mulaney: New in Town (Not rated; 60 minutes)

Metascore: N/A
Tomatometer: N/A
Netflix Viewers: 4.75/5 stars

mulaney

Stand-up comedy films have become a staple of the Netflix lineup, with new specials by John Mulaney, Bo Burnham, Ali Wong, and Hannibal Burress being some of the most popular selections on Netflix. Mulaney’s New in Town is a longtime favorite of viewers both in and out of Netflix; his bits on Ice-T’s role in Law & Order SVU and the oddities of the Home Alone 2 plot are some of the most quotable of stand-up jokes. Mulaney’s stand-up proved so popular that Netflix commissioned a followup special, The Comeback Kid, which continued Mulaney’s rise to prominence in a big way.

There Will Be Blood (rated R; 158 minutes)

Metascore: 92
Tomatometer: 91
Netflix Viewers: 4.5/5 stars

twbb

Daniel Day-Lewis’ towering performance as “oil man” Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s minimalist epic There Will Be Blood ranks among the finest performances not only of that decade (the ’00s; Day-Lewis won a Best Actor Oscar for that performance), but of cinema history as a whole. This film runs close to three hours, but its sweeping range is kept afloat by powerhouse turns by Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, who plays a troubled preacher, as well as a tense score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Aesthetically stark and stunning, There Will Be Blood is a searing indictment of the American dream, and the costs it takes to make it happen.

Short Term 12 (rated R; 96 minutes)

Metascore: 92
Tomatometer: 99
Netflix Viewers: 4.75/5 stars

shortterm12

This quiet and understated drama, with a killer performance by Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson front and center, tells the story of kids who are regularly neglected. The titular Short Term 12 is a group home for teens in troubled circumstances, including kids coming from broken or abandoned homes. Larson’s character Grace, along with her boyfriend/coworker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), does her best to give meaningful guidance and friendship to kids who feel that all is lost for them. Destin Daniel Cretton, who directed the film, made this film based off of his own experience working in short-term housing for young children and teenagers, which is borne out in his  graceful and nuanced approach to the story’s complex and weighty subject matter.

It’s easy to say with any form of art that it’s “all a matter of taste,” but it can happen that one ends up agreeing with the critical mass on a film. When that happens, it’s hardly a sign of drinking the Kool-Aid or going along with the groupthink; when an overwhelming amount of fans and critics like a movie, it’s usually for a pretty good reason. The ten films listed above provide laughs, heart, and insight that have earned them the respect of both established film critics and avid Netflix users. Now it’s up to you to view these films and the other highly rated options in Netflix’s database, and see how acclaimed these pictures truly deserve to be.

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