If you’re like us, you sometimes fire up Netflix and then spend the next 30 minutes scrolling through movies trying to find something that catches your eye. We know it can be tough; there are so many choices, narrowing it down to the exact movie or show you’re in the mood for can be downright impossible. Do you go for a movie you’ve never heard of but is popular among Netflix users, or do you rewatch Mad Men for the seventh time?
Sometimes, the greatest thrill is discovering something that’s been flying under your radar. If you’re chasing that feeling, you’ve come to the right place. There’s so much to discover on Netflix, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again. Let’s take a look at Underrated Netflix gems to add to your must-watch list.
Dolemite is My Name
You might be wondering what Dolemite is My Name is doing on a list of "underrated" movies when the film was a favorite among critics and was nominated for a few awards, although it was most noticeably snubbed by the Academy, not receiving any Oscar nominations. The film is on this list precisely because of the snubs it received. It’s a shame the movie didn’t get more recognition, because Dolemite is My Name is terrific.
It tells the story of Rudy Ray Moore, comedian and Blaxploitation actor known for his Dolemite movies. The movie covers Moore’s life during the period right before he became a star through to when his first film opens in Los Angeles. Eddie Murphy, in a comeback of sorts, does an outstanding job as Moore. According to screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Man on the Moon), Murphy was their only choice, and they wrote the script with him in mind. The three had met way back in 2003 and bonded over their love of Moore.
Not only is Murphy great as Moore but his co-stars are amazing, too. Wesley Snipes is wonderful playing the director of Dolemite, D’Urville Martin, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph is tremendous as Lady Reed, Moore’s long-time friend and confidant. The costumes, by Oscar-winning designer Ruth E. Carter (Black Panther) are also a stand out in this well-made comedy.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is another original film from Netflix that deserves a place on your must-watch list. Actor Macon Blair (Green Room, Blue Ruin) wrote and directed this comedy thriller starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood. The movie is about a woman, recently robbed of a laptop, who joins her slightly weird neighbor in trying to track it down when the police won’t do anything about it. The two are soon in over their heads, and mayhem — as well as a fair amount of disturbing humor — ensues.
Blair’s double duty as writer/director works well here, as he’s crafted a tight little movie that feels like a throwback to the sort of low-budget, quirky independent features so rarely get attention these days. Lynskey performance as Ruth is pretty terrific, bringing life to an "everywoman" who finally has had enough. Wood has, in the past few years, excelled at playing the weirdo, and his role as Tony here is no exception.
The Last Kingdom
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories, the Netflix series The Last Kingdom is a historical drama about King Alfred the Great of what would become the mighty England. The show blends actual events from the 9th century with fiction in order to tell the story of bringing kingdoms together in order to form a united England. At the start, the land has been captured by the invading Vikings, with only King Alfred and his Kingdom of Wessex standing in the way to total domination.
The Last Kingdom tells the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a noble Saxon who gets kidnapped as a slave and then raised by the Danes. Uhtred is conflicted — to whom does he pledge his allegiance? He will be forced to choose between the people that raised him and the land of his birth. The Last Kingdom has everything you’d want in a historical drama covering this time period — brutal fighting, great characters, intriguing story, loads of death, and gorgeous cinematography. The cast is packed with great actors like Ian Hart, the late Rutger Hauer, Matthew Macfadyen, and Jason Flemyng. If you’re in the market for a show full of English accents and good-old fashioned swordplay, The Last Kingdom is for you.
I Am Not Okay with This
Based on the comic book of the same name by Charles Forsman, I Am Not Okay with This is the story of a 17-year-old girl who is trying to deal with high school, the death of her dad, and her newly discovered superpowers. Sydney (Sophia Lillis) realizes that when she has an emotional outburst, as teenagers are wont to do, she is able to move objects. In the beginning, she doesn’t believe she is the cause of strange incidents like food flying off grocery shelves or walls suddenly cracking. Eventually, she realizes she has powers and tries to control them — with mixed results. In addition to finding out she is telekinetic, she is also trying to manage the feelings she has for both of her friends, Dina (Sofia Bryant) and Stan (Wyatt Oleff).
Lillis is terrific in her role as Sydney. Since her appearance in 2017’s IT, the young actress has proven herself in projects like Gretel and Hansel and Uncle Frank, and I Am Not Okay with This is yet another step in her rise to stardom. This seven-episode Netflix original series is sure to be easily relatable to anyone who went through an awkward teenage past.
Filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie specialize in dizzyingly fast-paced and complicated crime sagas set on the fringes of New York starring actors one wouldn’t suspect. Just before the duo made the acclaimed Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler, they concocted Good Time, an innovative and twisty heist film headlined by Robert Pattinson.
The Twilight star plays Connie, who forcibly takes his developmentally disabled brother, Nick (Benny Safdie) out of a therapy session because he needs help robbing a bank. The getaway goes awry, and police nab Nick. Connie, forever protective of Nick, then schemes to bust him out of police custody in a hospital, where he landed after being attacked by another prisoner. The caper also involves, at various turns, a valuable drug stash, an aging Long Island amusement park, the criminal underworld, and mistaken identity. Victor Stiff of Tilt Magazine calls Good Time "a nerve-wracking crime adventure loaded with thrills, sleazy characters, and a distinctly New York flavor."
Coffee and Kareem
Coffee and Kareem is about a clashing, mismatched pair, and the film itself is a clashing, mismatched set of movie styles all ramming into each other to create an extremely entertaining end result that’s full of action, comedy, and even heart. Ed Helms of The Office portrays incompetent Detroit police officer James Coffee, who begins dating single mother Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson), much to the consternation of her 12-year-old son, Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), a street-savvy kid as obsessed with violent rap music as he is with his mother.
To scare off the kind and doting Coffee, Kareem tries to hire a criminal to intimidate the cop, but winds up embroiling them both in a massive, extremely dangerous conspiracy involving drug lords and crooked police officers, requiring them to find common ground to keep safe the woman they both love. A little cliche? Perhaps, but "[director Michael] Dowse and his crew cover the entire movie in a slick gloss of grim and guts — a neat middle finger to ostensible expectations," said Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail.
Not much sleep happens in The Sleepover — it’s a heist movie and a kidnapping caper with a switcheroo in that it’s the kids who need to save the grown-ups. It’s one of those movies like Adventures in Babysitting or Hocus Pocus, where tweens get to stay up all night and go on a grand adventure. It would seem that goofy mother Margot (Malin Akerman) was once an intentional master thief, who quit that life, entered witness protection, and married her dweeby husband Ron (Ken Marino). The past comes back to haunt her when her old team recruits her — by way of kidnapping her and Ron — and forces her to help them steal a precious crown from a dignitary.
When Margot and Ron’s kids come home to an empty house, they figure out their mother’s secret life and potential whereabouts and set out to rescue her with the aid of criminal and spy gadgetry she left behind for just such an occasion. The Sleepover is an "outrageous, silly, family-centered film," according to Sarah’s Backstage Pass, appropriate for the whole family, not just action aficionados.
The movie Stardust is appropriately named for a magical substance, the stuff of fairy tales, because it feels like an age-old bedtime story. It’s actually based on a rollicking adventure novel by Neil Gaiman that dates back only to the 1990s, fully realized in cinematic form by an all-star cast of charming actors. Tristan (Charlie Cox of Netflix’s Daredevil) lives in the small, old British village of Wall, which juts up against the magical kingdom of Stormhold. One day he sees a star fall from the sky, and he aims to capture it (with the aid of a magical talisman from his mother) and present it as a gift to Victoria (Sienna Miller), the woman he loves, so as to secure her hand in marriage. Those plans change when he discovers that the star has transformed into an enchanting woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes).
Tristan, of course, falls in love with Yvaine, and also has to help her escape the trio of witches who wish to restore their youth by eating Yvaine’s heart. As if that wasn’t enough for an eye-popping, imaginative story with something for everyone, Stardust also involves the Caspartine, a flying pirate ship helmed by the gregarious Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). "Stardust is a movie for people who like comedy, sword fights, unlikely friends, transformations, personal discovery and above all, love," according to Tor.com. In short, there’s something for everyone.
Television has been graced with many reality and game shows that pit a group of strangers against each other, requiring a vote to eliminate all but one last-standing champion. Alliances are formed, but it’s ultimately every person for themselves on programs like Survivor, Big Brother, and The Weakest Link. The provocative and frightening 2015 film Circle takes the idea and ups the stakes considerably. 50 strangers, all facing execution, are placed in a darkened room (which looks a lot like the set of a futuristic game show) and made to choose among themselves which one of them shall get to walk out alive.
The sparse film’s sparse 87 minutes fly by as various unnamed, desperate characters passionately argue and bargain on behalf of their own futures while time and chances run out. Of course, they also have to fear immediate eradication by the wicked forces holding them in the room if they so much as move. Circle "keeps suspense alive," says John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter, "building to a final tableau that, silently, says nearly as much about human nature as does all the talk leading up to it."
Only for a while is Elizabeth Harvest an examination of the life of a newlywed couple, Dr. Henry Kellenberg (Ciaran Hinds) and Elizabeth Kellenberg (Abbey Lee), as they delicately adjust to life as married people. Elizabeth moves into the wealthy and prominent Dr. Kellenberg’s large, beautiful, well-appointed home filled with luxuries and creature comforts. In the spirit of their new partnership, Henry allows Elizabeth free reign of his house, and they shall live in wedded bliss so long as she doesn’t go poking around one mysterious room in the basement.
Naturally, Elizabeth hits the forbidden zone, which is when Elizabeth Harvest gets really interesting, for in that room are many perfect clones of Elizabeth. She doesn’t get to the bottom of why, exactly, her husband developed replicas of her, because he makes her pay for her betrayal, but there are plenty of clones left to explore the mystery. Elizabeth Harvest is a dark fairy tale that’s truly concerned with "favorite science-fiction standbys," according to Tasha Robinson of The Verge: "identity, hubris, and humanity’s darkest sides."
As Above, So Below
Some of the best horror movies generate their scares by pulling from real life. Possible terrors lurk everywhere in the world. Even movies as steeped in the supernatural as the Nightmare on Elm Street series work so well because sleep and dreams put people in an extremely vulnerable state. John Erick Dowdle’s 2014 effort As Above, So Below places its characters in one of the real world’s most chilling places: the catacombs beneath Paris, the final resting place of countless, centuries-old human remains.
The premise is also familiar, inviting in the possibility of even more effective dread. Archaeologist Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) thinks that the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which can turn metal into gold and grant eternal life (and which figured prominently in the first Harry Potter novel) is located somewhere in the catacombs. She assembles a crew to venture deep into the subterranean land of the dead… and not everyone from her team may make it out. According to Paula Fleri-Soler of the Times of Malta, As Above, So Below "offers an hour and a half of solid entertainment and a couple of scary moments."
In the Shadow of the Moon
Here’s a wildly different and unpredictable movie that merges together movie genres that often rely so heavily on tropes that they’re overly familiar and predictable. In the Shadow of the Moon is part sci-fi movie, part mystery, and part serial killer story. The film begins in 1988, when Philadelphia police officer Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook), his partner (Bokeem Woodbine), and his detective brother-in-law (Michael C. Hall) desperately try to find and stop a prolific murderer whose victims seem to lose all of their blood at once. They find the suspect, Rya (Cleopatra Coleman), but she evades capture by jumping to her apparent death.
Flash forward nine years, and Rya is killing again. Then another nine years, and more murders occur. Thomas becomes the obsessed detective, researching the case for decades as his quest leads him down the unexpected crime-fighting path of time travel. In the Shadow of the Moon is "never less than engaging, and it’s just about always clever," according to Chris Vognar of the New York Times.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Science-fiction movies don’t have to rely on state-of-the-art special effects or be set on some distant planet in some far-off year. Dialogue-driven sci-fi set in the present day, and produced on a moderate budget, is possible — and it can be spectacular. Such is the case with Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow’s 2012 feature debut, Safety Not Guaranteed. Seattle Magazine writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) pitches an investigative piece about a weird classified ad seeking a companion to travel through time. "You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before," the writer warns.
Enlisting interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), Jeff tracks down the supposed time traveler, grocery store employee Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and Darius poses as an interested time travel companion (hiding her journalistic connections). As it turns out, Kenneth is tragically serious about going back in time, wanting to head to 2001 to stop the vehicular death of his girlfriend. Amazingly, he may not actually be a crackpot. Emma Didbin of The Arts Desk calls Safety Not Guaranteed "a heartfelt and smart-tongued micro sci-fi with a tone and voice entirely its own."
The best science-fiction tales aren’t just about unsure futures and alien worlds — they use new and unfamiliar environs to point out universal truths about the human condition. The script for Advantageous (by director Jennifer Phang and star Jacqueline Kim) is that kind of story. Set in a technologically-advanced New York City of tomorrow, the divide between the rich and the poor is more pronounced than ever and mothers will do absolutely anything to make sure their children get an upper hand in life.
For Gwen, a wealthy cosmetic procedure salesperson who gets fired right as her daughter enters a fancy and expensive school, that means agreeing to be a test subject for a painful procedure that involves having her consciousness transferred entirely into a new body. Complications arise, calling into question whether or not this new Gwen is even Gwen at all. It’s "a quiet and affecting film," according to Kathi Maio of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and "primarily a meditation on human identity and the delicate nature of familial relationships."
Maniac is hard to categorize. It’s a darkly comic, often surreal and lightly dystopian miniseries set in a future world where gadgetry and pharmaceuticals have rapidly progressed, but a 1980s consumer tech flavor permeates the design of day-to-day life. Desperate and guilt-ridden Annie (Emma Stone) and troubled rich family black sheep Owen (Jonah Hill) lock down for a heavily controlled psychological drug trial at Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech, operated by the eccentric Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux). Mantleray is literally and explicitly in love with machinery who lives in the shadow of his mother, Dr. Greta Mantleray (Sally Field), a popular pop psychologist and best-selling author.
That all fuses with journeys deep into the minds of Owen and Annie (and sometimes both at once, when their subconscious realities intersect) who live out their deepest fears and insecurities in disparate ways, such as an exotic animal heist and a Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy. Not only dazzling and challenging, Maniac manages to be "vibrant, ridiculous, and, to varying degrees, moving," according to Willa Paskin of Slate.
War movies are, by their nature, action movies. The best ones re-create true events with emotional honesty and visceral realism that try hard to show viewers an approximation of the often nightmarish world of combat. The Outpost is such a movie, taking place during the Battle of Kamdesh, a major, crucial, and tragically deadly 2009 event in the ongoing Afghanistan War. At the Keating combat outpost, set in a valley of three mountains, outnumbered American soldiers fight an onslaught of well-armed Taliban combatants.
Presented as a series of episodes, The Outpost doesn’t just re-create an epic battle from recent history, but it tells a story which allows the audience to get to know the characters. The members of Bravo Troop 3-61 CAV are mostly just regular, decent people thrust into a difficult and clearly terrifying situation, with everything leading up to the can’t-look-away battle scenes. Matt Fowler of IGN calls The Outpost "a cleverly, and respectfully, crafted war film."
Plenty of scary movies are predicated on the fresh-faced, everything-going-for-them protagonist taking a wrong turn, getting lost, and running afoul of monstrous, crazed murderers or supernatural forces. Rust Creek takes that idea and bases it in reality, which only serves to make it all the more terrifying. Hermione Corfield stars as Sawyer, about to graduate college with the world at her feet when, en route to a job interview, she gets lost and winds up in the middle of deep, dark forest in the middle of winter.
All at once, the biggest issue in her life is to survive, no matter what, as she faces off against nature, the cold, and some off-the-grid bad guys she offended. Getting out of the woods and back on track involves forming a tenuous alliance with a wandering drifter who may not be much better than the criminals in pursuit of Sawyer. As directed by Jen McGowan, Rust Creek "is an impressive example of good storytelling overriding budget and star power," according to Jude Dry of IndieWire.
Fashion designer Tom Ford (of all people) scripted and directed Nocturnal Animals, a twisty, mind-bending, and deeply unsettling thriller in which the plot itself blends, interferes, and gets confused with a story being told by the film’s troubled characters. Amy Adams plays Susan, an icy and unhappily married art gallery owner who receives a fascinating novel manuscript called Nocturnal Animals, written by her vindictive first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal).
The action shifts to depict the book, a horrifying story about Tony (Gyllenhaal again), a man whose car breaks down in rural Texas just before a gang of criminals kidnaps his wife and daughter and leaves him stranded. It’s up to Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), a strong-but-silent type dying of cancer to help Tony exact his revenge. Meanwhile, back in Susan and Edward’s world, audiences learn about the emotional devastation that led to the demise of their marriage.
Nocturnal Animals is "arty and grotesquely gorgeous, but hardly an uplifting tale," says Neil Pond of Parade. "Think No Country For Old Men meets CSI: West Texas, by way of Twin Peaks."
Jason Momoa looks like a superhero in real life, so it’s logical he gets to play Aquaman and larger-than-life figures like Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. In Braven, Momoa gets the opportunity to play a regular guy for once — albeit a regular guy thrust into a stressful situation and forced to do heroic things. In short, Braven is Jason Momoa’s John Wick or Taken.
A humble family guy named Joe Braven takes his father and young daughter to their cabin in the woods to forget their troubles for a couple of days. They don’t get that rest and relaxation after, though, because they run afoul of some drug traffickers who’ve been using the Braven’s property as a stash house. A violent and bloody standoff ensues as Joe Braven fights to protect his property and his family. "To put it simply and gratefully, Braven is the sort of unpretentious yet thoroughly professional popcorn entertainment that brings out the best in everybody involved," says Joe Leydon of Variety.
A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls sounds like the name of a horror movie, but it’s actually a Spielberg-esque tale of boyhood fantasy. Director J.A. Bayona crafts an allegorical, eye-popping film about all-too real and difficult emotions from the point of a view of a child, which makes it all the more heartbreaking. Yes, A Monster Calls is about grief, but it’s also about a walking, talking, tree creature with the voice of Liam Neeson.
Conor (Lewis MacDouglass) is 13, and his mother (Felicity Jones) is dying. He’s just old enough to know what’s going on, but young enough to have no idea how to cope; he can’t turn to his stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and his father took off long ago. An unlikely and impossible ally arrives just when Conor needs him: He is the Monster, a massive, sentient yew tree (kind of like an Ent from The Lord of the Rings) who offers to tell Conor three grand tales — after that, Conor must share of his own. It’s all a little frightening and also wonderful, and the revelation of where the tree learned his stories will definitely leave the viewer moved and misty-eyed, which is rare for a movie about a giant monster who may or may not be a figment of a child’s imagination. "As a literal visual illustration of the power of creativity to help process life’s woes, A Monster Calls excels," writes Sarah Ward of Concrete Playground.
An elite squad of secret operatives hunting down and punishing those who committed unspeakable acts of terror and violence against their community is a small film genre unto itself — and a good one at that. Among such stories, one can find as much action and drama as cathartic psychology and shocking real-world history. In the vein of Steven Spielberg’s Munich, which told the story of Israeli Mossad agents going after the terrorists who killed 11 athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics, comes writer Matthew Orton and director Chris Weitz’s Operation Finale.
The film details the early ’60s mission of a team of highly-trained, top secret Israeli operatives who hit Argentina in order to bring to justice Adolf Eichmann, the high-ranking Nazi official who masterminded the logistics of the Holocaust, responsible for the deaths of millions of Jewish people. Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, Inside Llewyn Davis) plays real-life Mossad agent Peter Malkin, leading the charge against Eichmann (Oscar winner Ben Kingsley). M.V. Moorhead of Phoenix Magazine called Operation Finale "crisp and absorbing and satisfying, both as a thriller and as a moral drama."
Prison is a common enough movie setting, but incarceration is usually handed in a handful of cliché ways. It’s a scary place where a wrongly convicted man is sent at the beginning of the movie, or it’s the imposing place that the recently-paroled main character is trying to put behind them and start their life anew. Shot Caller does both of these things and then a lot more, focusing on the unique role prison plays in the minds of people who commit crimes and its prominent position in the cycle of crime, too.
Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Jason Harlon, a yuppie stockbroker sent to prison after an intoxicated drive home from a party results in a deadly car accident. Upon arriving at his new home for the next 16 months, he holds his own in a fight, which gets him an invite from the prison’s white supremacist gang, who, in exchange for protection, makes Harlon smuggle heroin and murder a snitch. More murders happen, and with it comes more prison time, and Harlon descends further into the world of prison gangs, which he can’t escape even after his release. Once he’s out, dangerous and violent leaders threaten to kill his family if he doesn’t keep helping the criminal enterprise. Christopher Lloyd of The Film Yap found Shot Caller "a grim, well-acted drama."
The Siege of Jadotville
After expelling Belgian colonialists in 1960, the Congo declared independence and in 1961, the United Nations arrived to help support the newly formed government. U.N. peacekeeping troops soon got caught up in a civil war between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the natural resource-heavy (and industry-backed) secessionist state of Katanga. The Siege of Jadotville tells of a little-known moment in this seven-day conflict, in which 3,000 mercenaries working for mining companies in Katanga attacked the 150 Irish troops serving under the U.N.
Led by commandant Pat Quinlan (played in the film version by Jamie Dornan of Fifty Shades of Grey), the defense held its ground, pushing back the thousands of attackers while suffering no casualties, and waiting for reinforcements to arrive. The Siege of Jadotville is a harrowing, high-stakes drama, loaded with military action and almost unbelievable acts of courage and tactical brilliance. "The battle scenes alone make this solid and well-paced film worth watching," wrote Paul Whitington of the Irish Independent.
Vampires vs. the Bronx
On one level, Netflix subscribers know exactly what they’re getting when they click on a movie called Vampires vs. the Bronx. It is indeed a messy, violent tale of creepy bloodsuckers (hailing from Eastern Europe, in the classic vampire movie style) in a modern-day urban setting, specifically in one of New York City’s most crowded and interesting boroughs. But Vampires vs. the Bronx is so much more than that — it’s a socially conscious celebration of Bronx culture, the story of a bunch of smart and capable kids coming together to save the day, and a deeply satirical horror-comedy.
The vampiric real estate agents at the center of the story represent wealthy individuals and businesses that want to gentrify older neighborhoods, and a scrappy bunch of young people have to stop them before nothing and no one is left. Vampires vs. the Bronx is "a witty and likable horror-comedy that manages to put a stake to the heart of some real issues while it tickles your ribs," says Ben Travis of Empire.
A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting
Based on Joe Ballarini’s series of gently spooky kids novels of the same name, The Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting is one of the few family-friendly projects directed by Rachel Talalay, a cult filmmaker best known for her work on Ghost in the Machine, Tank Girl, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and the films of John Waters. Ballarini and Talalay were the ideal combo to make what could be a kid’s first horror-comedy, a dark, funny, and supernaturally twisted take on the ’80s classic Adventures in Babysitting.
Teenage babysitter Kelly (Tamara Smart) gets a gig looking after a kid on Halloween night. That’s a bummer in and of itself, made worse when the child is kidnapped by the literal and actual Boogeyman. Into the night of frights Kelly goes, helped along the way in her fight against monsters, goblins, and pure evil (headed by Harry Potter‘s Tom Felton as the wicked Grand Guignol) by a heretofore unknown secret society of elite and well-equipped babysitters.
The Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting promises "gorgeously imagined settings, a great cast, and an exciting story that hits the exact sweet spot between funny-scary and scary-funny," according to Nell Minnow of Movie Mom.
The 12th Man
The 12th Man is a war movie, a survival movie, and a one-man-greatly-outnumbered-by-the-bad-guys-who-want-him-dead movie. Amazingly, it’s also a true story. Jan Baalsrud (played here by Thomas Gullestad) worked for the Norwegian resistance during Nazi Germany’s occupation of his country during World War II. Trained as a commando by the British military, Baalsrud attempts an escape to neutral Sweden following a sabotage mission gone wrong. To get to freedom, he has to face the punishing weather of Scandinavia in the winter. The Norway-based Nazis, however, notice almost immediately that Baalsrud has disappeared and give chase the icy mountains, where conditions are so severe that frostbite and hypothermia may claim him first.
"The 12th Man proves consistently engrossing and suspenseful, with its lead performances further enhancing its impact," wrote Frank Sheck of The Hollywood Reporter, while Chris Hunneysett of The Daily Mirror said the film’s last act is "superbly staged and finger-chewingly tense."
The best horror movies consist of a lot more than just a few jump scares and some terrifying form of bone-chilling menace — the good ones reflect and comment upon the everyday things that trouble human beings. Little Evil is that kind of movie. It’s a horror-comedy about an eager-to-please guy (Adam Scott) who marries a woman (Evangeline Lily) who has a son from a previous marriage. He’s desperate to connect with the inscrutable little guy so his relationship can thrive and they can all come together as a happy, blended family. That’s a difficult task, as the kid (Owen Atlas) is actually the spawn of Satan and he’s not afraid to unleash pure evil and terror on his well-meaning new stepdad. And that’s where the horror comes into play; that, and with a creepy goat puppet named Reeroy. "Little Evil is [The] Omen by way of Shaun of the Dead," said Amanda Sink of The Hollywood Outsider.
Quality thriller films don’t have to have a novel or complicated premise — all they have to do to keep viewers interested and excited is tell a compelling story with some unexpected twists that slowly reveal a mystery. Red Dot is an action movie broken down into its most basic elements. It’s about two people in an unfamiliar environment being chased by an unknown party trying to kill them for unknown reasons.
The film starts out with Nadja (Nanna Blondell) and David (Anastasios Soulis), a couple expecting a baby but otherwise disconnected, who embark on a hiking getaway in snowy northern Sweden. After some awkward and unsettling encounters with locals, Nadja and David soon find themselves desperately trying to survive brutally violent and surreptitious attackers, essentially alone in an icy, isolated forest. Eventually, the deadly game of human hunting all makes sense, but viewers will enjoy putting together the tragic pieces. Jadę Budowski of Decider says Red Dot is "tense, disturbing, and well-made."
There are many different kinds of crime dramas, like character studies about why people turn to a life of drug-dealing or working for the mafia, or exciting heist thrillers. They’re not usually like Small Crimes, a small crime movie about people on the fringes of society who have seemingly resigned themselves to life on the edge. It’s an interesting and unsettling take on the genre.
In Small Crimes, a movie that would’ve been a perfect vehicle for Sylvester Stallone or Charles Bronson decades ago, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays a fallen-from-grace police officer just emerging from prison after serving six years for attempted murder. He wants to get his life on track and redeem himself with his family, but they don’t want much to do with him, which helps to send him headlong back into a world of corruption, organized crime, casual violence, and other seedy elements. "If the film came across as jaded and cynical, it might well be hard to take. Instead, it seems weary and defeated, as if some people are simply born to fail," said Mike D’Angelo of The AV Club.
What Lies Below
What Lies Below begins innocently enough. Liberty Wells (Ema Horvath) is a quiet, slightly awkward teen who’s just finishing up a spell at summer camp when she heads back to meet her mother at an idyllic lake house. But mom Michelle (Mena Suvari) has some news: She’s got a new boyfriend, and he’s at the lake house, too.
At first, the only thing that seems truly off about the hunky "John Smith" (Trey Tucker) is his mysteriously generic name. But as Liberty gets to know him, he emerges as a truly and alarmingly weird guy. He hangs out at the lake all year, engaging in some kind of cryptically explained research about various "species," and he can also sleepwalk into a lake — into a glowing light under the water — and come out totally dry. His oddness grows ever the more sinister and life-threatening — to Liberty, at least. Her mother can’t see that John Smith is dangerous, and it’s up to the teenager to unravel and expose what’s really going on … before someone ends up dead.
Drew Tinnin of Dread Central says that What Lies Below "really works as a sexy, sci-fi thriller that definitely has a will to be weird." So if you’re in the mood for some creepy science fiction, head on over to Netflix to find out what truly does lie below.
Guillermo del Toro is a masterful writer and director, specializing in fantasy and horror and where those two imaginative genres intersect. A double Oscar winner for his work on The Shape of Water, del Toro also made emerging classics like Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. But in 2015, he directed a lesser-known fright fest called Crimson Peak, a gothic tale that didn’t get much love when it came out. However, we’re here to tell you this haunted house story is definitely worth a watch.
In 19th-century Victorian England, a young American woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) marries the dashing Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and goes off to live in his sprawling mansion in the English countryside. But something doesn’t feel quite right about the home or Sir Thomas’ creepy sister (Jessica Chastain). And when Edith’s abilities to speak with and see the dead manifest, she learns the truth behind her spooky visions, the house’s ghoulish happenings, and the family into which she probably shouldn’t have just married. Film writer Richard Crouse called Crimson Peak "bloody and by times bloody terrifying," while Trace Thurman of Bloody Disgusting said that "you’ll be mesmerized by what you’re seeing on screen."
The Clovehitch Killer
Serial killer movies are terrifying and unsettling, and mystery thrillers are scary and unnerving in their own way. "The Clovehitch Killer" takes both of those concepts and turns them over and around a few times, building up the frights and tension and then adding an even more sickening and almost unthinkable angle.
Tyler (Charlie Plummer) is a regular teenager living in a small Kentucky town that’s still reeling from a series of unsolved murders a decade prior. The so-called "Clovehitch Killer" strangled at least 10 women before his reign of terror stopped, the suspect apparently having moved away. But then Tyler discovers some evidence that undeniably links his dear, dorky, doting father (Dylan McDermott) to those heinous crimes. It’s up to Tyler to find justice for the victims and stop the murderer — his own father — before he strikes again, all while reconciling that information in his head with living under the same roof as someone of pure evil.
"With an exceptional cast and tension that never lets up, ‘The Clovehitch Killer’ is a gripping and often heartbreaking serial killer horror," says Jimmy Donnellan of Cultured Vultures.