Already blitzed through your favourite films, series and documentaries? Fear not self-isolators and social-distancers, we've got you covered with sixteen Netflix hidden gems that you may have missed...
We all know how important it is to be practising social isolation at the moment, and for many of us that involves staying quarantined at home. Obviously there are bigger things for many to worry about, but the fact remains that these long, troubling days can get a little boring. So if you find yourself endlessly scrolling through Netflix categories, unsure whether to watch The Irishman for the eighth time (just me?), we've got you covered with some LeftLion staff picks that you may not have seen yet...
The Stranger (1946)
Director: Orson Welles
Starring: Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young
Running time: 95 mins
Orson Welles’ classic 1946 thriller has found its way onto Netflix, and I couldn’t be happier (mainly because it saves me having to walk the three metres to get the DVD). Arguably the most ‘traditional’ Hollywood-style film from his canon, Welles plays a young professor in a quiet Connecticut town, trying to keep his past as a notorious Nazi war criminal hidden. Some have called it his worst film, but Welles’ worst is still streets ahead of most people’s best, and I love it.
Did you know? The Stranger was the first mainstream American movie to feature footage of Nazi concentration camps following World War II
Being Napoleon (2018)
Director: Jesse Handsher, Olivier Roland
Running time: 88 mins
I stumbled across this while trying to figure out whether Waterloo was on Netflix and, while it’s about as far away from Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1970 epic as you can get, it’s an absolute gem of a film. Covering the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015, what starts as a passionate, intricate look at historical re-enactors becomes a personal battle between two men as to who will get to play the part of Napoleon. Fascinating, sincere and absolutely ridiculous.
Did you know? The 200th anniversary reenactment of The Battle of Waterloo involved over 6,000 military re-enactors
The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)
Director: Chapman Way, Maclain Way
Starring: Kurt Russell, Todd Field, Rob Nelson
Running time: 80 mins
Did you know that Kurt Russell’s Dad used to own a baseball team? Not just any baseball team, but one that took all of the chewed up, spit out has-beens and never-weres of the game and made them into something pretty spectacular? I know absolutely nothing about baseball, and saw this at a time when I was making a sports documentary of my own, and trying to see everything I could get my hands on. But for some reason, this story really stuck with me. It’s a no-frills, classic documentary with archive footage and talking head interviews, but it’s perfectly crafted narrative and fascinating subject matter make it a must-see.
Did you know? The Battered Bastards of Baseball was only the sixth original documentary Netflix created
Creators: Jon Iver Helgaker, Jonas Torgersen
Starring: Kåre Conradi, Nils Jørgen Kaalstad, Jon Øigarden
Running time: 30 min episodes
The opening five minutes of this series is so goddamned goofy that I nearly turned it off. But there was something there that kept me watching, and I’m glad I did. Having skipped past it dozens of times, I finally gave it a go, having finished Vikings and The Last Kingdom, and found myself still craving something Norse-ish. The humour flits between ridiculous, whip-smart and surreal, and is one of the most endlessly binge-able comedy series currently on Netflix. Give it a whirl, you won’t regret it.
Did you know? Each episode is simultaneously recorded in both Norwegian and English
Creators: Bill Dubuque, Mark Williams
Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner
Running time: 60 min episodes
If you’ve blown through Breaking Bad and are searching for another straight-guy-caught-up-in-drug-crime series to get lost in, look no further. Jason Bateman gives a wonderfully stoic performance as Marty Byrde, a financial planner who relocated from Chicago to the Ozarks, after getting involved in a money-laundering scheme gone wrong. Forced to launder a huge amount of cash as a debut to the Mexican drug lord that (temporarily) spared his life, Byrde has to quickly ingratiate himself into the quiet community in order to make as much money, as quickly as possible. With Series Three ready to drop next week, there’s never been a better time to get stuck in.
Did you know? At the beginning of each episode, the title is shown with four symbols inside of an O that foreshadow events from that episode. The symbols also spell the letters Z-A-R-K to form OZARK altogether
Black Death (2010)
Director: Christopher Smith
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten
Running time: 102 mins
There’s never a bad time to watch Sean Bean, but watching him clad in leather and swinging a sword while trying to fight off the plague in 15th century England feels more than a little relevant right now. The grim, creepy and thoroughly bloody film also features a young Eddie Redmayne, and is well worth a watch if you’re feeling up to the carnage.
Did you know? Black Death features four actors that also appeared in Game of Thrones: Sean Bean (Ned Stark), Carice Van Houten (Melisandra), Tim McInnerny (Robert Glover) and Emun Elliott (Marillion)
Black '47 (2018)
Director: Lance Daly
Starring: James Frecheville, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea
Running time: 100 mins
Another grubby, brutal film for those looking for something ferocious to keep them entertained during these long, bewildering days. Set in 1847 Ireland, it’s ostensibly a revenge thriller that follows the battle-hardened Feeney, an Irish soldier who’s deserted from the British army. Returning to his native country, he finds a land ravaged by famine, his mother dead from starvation and his brother executed by the ruthless British, setting him on a relentless quest to seek justice and the end of a musket. It sounds a bit by-numbers, but Black ‘47 is a slow-burning, engrossing thriller that will leave you feeling drained in the best way possible.
Did you know? The term 'Black 47' refers to the summer of 1847, when the Irish potato famine was at its height and hundreds of thousands of people died from starvation
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-hyun Ahn
Running time: 120 mins
Before sweeping the Oscars with Parasite, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho made himself known to English-speaking audiences with this exceptional Netflix Original feature. The film follows a young girl trying to free her genetically-modified pet “superpig” from being slaughtered by a powerful American meat company and excels in how it successfully balances an eclectic mix of tones, topics and wacky characters. Prepare to be left with a lot to think about.
Did you know? The Animal Liberation Front is actually a real organization that strives to free captured animals while economicaly harming 'big companies' that profit from the abuse
Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Wes Studi, Adam Beach
Running time: 134 mins
This 2017 Western is among Christian Bale’s lesser-known films, but is by no means a forgettable watch. Themes reminiscent of The Searchers echo throughout as we see a morally-conflicted veteran go through a personal transformation when tasked with escorting a Native American chief to the other side of the States. Amidst its unwavering brutality, there’s some beautiful scenery and a powerful message of reconciliation and healing.
Did you know? All of the roles in Hostiles were written specifically for the actors who were eventually cast, other than Timothée Chalamet, who was the only actor who had to audition
Hot Rod (2017)
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Starring: Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane
Running time: 88 mins
At a time where everything seems to be going wrong, watch a movie that makes it all feel alright. This slapstick comedy, from talented trio The Lonely Island, is ridiculous but thoroughly entertaining. Featuring a star-studded cast, hilariously absurd set pieces and an amusingly brutal fight sequence between Andy Samberg and Hollywood legend Ian McShane, Hot Rod provides the perfect antidote to the current state of the world.
Did you know? During the filming of the opening scene, where Rod attempts jumping over the bus, the stuntman playing Rod actually broke his leg
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson
Running time: 86 mins
This heartfelt comedy-drama is more uplifting than its title would have you believe. It follows three journalists as they attempt to interview a man who is seeking to invent time travel and escape the present day (I feel that), and sets up an original romantic tale between Aubrey Plaza’s Darius and Mark Duplass’ Kenneth. It’s one for the more soppy among us, but also has some great comedic moments.
Did you know? Although the entire film was shot in four weeks, Mark Duplass had to film his scenes in just two due to scheduling conflicts
Begin Again (2013)
Director: John Carney
Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine
Running time: 104 mins
If you’re one of the many, many, many people that thought Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley would have delightful chemistry on screen, then this is the one for you. Wait, you’ve never thought that? Well for some reason director John Carney did, and he made a good call - the duo work really well in this realistic yet optimistic tale of never giving up. With one of Ruffalo’s best performances and a delightful soundtrack, this movie somehow works when it really shouldn’t.
Did you know? Needing to learn how to play the guitar for the role, Keira Knightley turned to her husband, musician James Righton for lessons. However, she described the experience as almost leading to "divorce and murder"
Five Feet Apart (2019)
Director: Justin Baldwin
Starring: Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias
Running time: 116 mins
Five Feet Apart, released in 2019 but still available to watch on Netflix, is a romantic film about two young patients with cystic fibrosis who try to have a relationship despite always being forced to stay a certain distance away from each other. This film brought tears to my eyes but I couldn’t stop watching it.
Did you know? The film partnered with Claire's Place Foundation, a charity providing emotional and financial support to families struggling with Cystic Fibrosis. The actors and director worked closely to accurately depict cystic fibrosis in the film
Ice Guardians (2016)
Director: Brett Harvey
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Chris Chelios, Bobby Hull
Running time: 88 mins
If you are a fan of the Nottingham Panthers and ice hockey, you will love this documentary film about ‘ice guardians’ - the players who fight the opposition on the ice to defend their teammates. It’s a fascinating watch that raises the question of whether physical violence is just part of the game, or something that needs to be banned.
Did you know? Ice Guardians was named as Sports Illustrated's Best Film of 2016
Director: Eric Summer, Eric Warin
Starring: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Carly Rae Jepsen
Running time: 89 mins
One for the kids, Ballerina it is an animation about a poor orphan girl, Félicie (voiced by Elle Fanning), who dreams of becoming a ballerina and gets a chance to audition for the celebrated school of the Paris Opera Ballet. It’s a fun film that the whole family can watch.
Did you know? Although the U.S. version of this movie was originally distributed by The Weinstein Company, and still credited as such in the version of the film that was theatrically released, the company's and Harvey Weinstein's executive producer credits do not appear in the home media version due to the bankruptcy of the company