The best Netflix movies of 2023

From "Baby J" to "The Killer," "May December," and beyond.

The best Netflix movies of 2023
Composite of images from Netflix Original movies.

Not sure what to watch, stream-king? Have you already blown through everything on your watchlist and now you're pouting on the couch? Well, pout no longer! Streaming giants are always churning out new stuff for you to watch, and 2023 has been a banner year for Netflix.

From sports documentaries and gritty thrillers to cuddly family adventures, fantastical dramedies, and prestige pics full of twists, Netflix has an original crop of new movies to freshen up your queue! All you have to do is press play.

Here are the best Netflix original movies released in 2023.

1. May December

Julianne Moore and Charles Melton in "May December."
Credit: Francois Duhamel / Netflix

On its surface, the latest from Todd Haynes (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) may seem like a thinly veiled reexamination of a true crime tale that had '90s tabloids absolutely obsessed. Screenwriter Samy Burch uses this familiar framework to construct a story that delivers a dishy parody of a melodrama, down to a string-zinging score and comically banal dialogue about hot dogs. She's also built a keen device to evaluate our obsession with true crime, for better or for ghoulish.

In May December, Julianne Moore plays a wife and mother who has a shameful (and criminal) past, which involves how she met her current husband (Charles Melton). When a TV actress (Natalie Portman) wants to turn their lives into a movie, old wounds are reopened. Beneath the blistering domestic drama, Haynes and Burch weave in a sharp and sophisticated humor that invites audiences to bark with laughter, even as their jaws drop in shock.* — Kristy Puchko, Film Editor

How to watch: May December is now streaming on Netflix.

2. Leave the World Behind 

Myha'la, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, and Julia Roberts in
Credit: JoJo Whilden / Netflix

If the world was really ending and communications systems were spotty, the average Joe wouldn’t be in the war room with access to the latest crisis updates. They’d have no clue what was going on — and wouldn’t that be even scarier? That’s more or less the main question running through Leave the World Behind, a patient thriller imbued with an oppressive sense of doom.

Based on the Rumaan Alam novel of the same name and produced by the Obamas’ Higher Ground production company, Leave the World Behind begins with Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke bringing their Brooklyn family to a rental home outside the city for the weekend. Slowly, and with stark, disorienting cinematography, confusing events amass around them. An oil tanker’s navigation fails, and it runs aground at their beach. A blackout forces the owners of the vacation house, Mahershala Ali and Myha'la, to ring the doorbell and ask to come home. Animals are acting strange. The internet is down, and no one can stream Friends! While some have said the pacing is too slow, a steady metronome of dread paired with escalating paranoia will keep you hooked, all the while asking yourself, “What would I do if it were me?” 

How to watch: Leave the World Behind is now streaming on Netflix.

3. Fair Play

Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor in "Fair Play."
Credit: Netflix

Phoebe Dynevor is Emily Meyers, blissfully in love and newly engaged to a fellow analyst at a hedge fund, Luke Edmunds (Alden Ehrenreich). They have to keep their relationship secret, however, since it breaks company policy. That doesn’t stop this lovesick pair — they’ll overcome any obstacle, together! Until Emily gets a promotion and becomes Luke’s boss. That is one obstacle too far for Luke. He goes from supportive to sinister in the blink of an eye, making sly remarks about her wardrobe, withholding affection, and believing sexist rumors that she slept her way to the top. It’s only a matter of time before this breakup gets bloody.

Dark, tense, and stylish, Fair Play puts gender roles firmly in its crosshairs. It’s not saying anything particularly new, but that’s just fine. This Sundance darling is a solid psychological thriller with a splash finish. 

How to watch: Fair Play is now streaming on Netflix.

4. They Cloned Tyrone 

John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx in "They Cloned Tyrone."
Credit: Netflix

With this 2023 release, co-writer/director Juel Taylor pulls plenty of inspiration from Blaxploitation. John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris star as a drug dealer, a pimp, and a sex worker who undercover a nefarious conspiracy that's happening underneath their neighborhood. Taylor and fellow screenwriter Tony Rettenmaier weave in wild twists, fly fight scenes, irreverent humor, and swaggering style for what our critic called "a propulsive comedy-thriller with weight." As bold as it is star-studded, you won't want to miss They Cloned Tyrone. And stay for the credits, trust us.* — K.P.

How to watch: They Cloned Tyrone is now streaming on Netflix.

5. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar."
Credit: Netflix

Arch, quirky, and highly choreographed, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a story within a story within a story, and so on. Based on the short by Roald Dahl, the movie opens with Dahl himself (Ralph Fiennes) introducing and then narrating the story of a man, Henry Sugar, who does nothing with his money but gamble. Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch) takes over the narration to tell of the moment he first learned of a doctor who met a man who could see without using his eyes. Within that story is the tale of how this man met a guru who taught him everything he knows. This story-Russian-nesting-doll affects Sugar profoundly; he abruptly changes the course of his life. If you like Wes Anderson, you’ll love this sweet and stylized short film. 

How to watch: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is now streaming on Netflix.

6. Nimona

Ballister and Nimona make a deal in "Nimona."
Credit: Netflix

From his comic book series like Lumberjanes to his Netflix reboot of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, ND Stevenson has cemented himself as a whiz at delivering LGBTQ stories with a fantastical edge. 2023's adaptation of Stevenson's graphic novel Nimona is no different. The film — canceled by Disney, then resurrected at Netflix — is a rollicking fantasy romp about challenging authority and accepting others for who they truly are.

Nimona transports us to a futuristic medieval world where knight Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) is on the run for a crime he did not commit. However, it's his label as a "villain" that brings shapeshifter Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) into his life. More comfortable as a shark than a human girl, Nimona is a delightfully deviant fiend who wants nothing more than to stick it to the all-powerful Institute. She and Ballister make quite the odd pair — she wants to wreak havoc, he just wants to clear his name — but together, they may just defeat an evil lurking in their kingdom.

Between some electrifying fight scenes and its graphic animation style, Nimona is a blast of a viewing experience. But its message and LGBTQ visibility is what truly sets it apart. Not only is Ballister's relationship with knight Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang) a key element of the film, but Nimona's own fluidity and negotiation of her identity calls to mind transness in a meaningful, important way.*Belen Edwards, Entertainment Reporter

How to watch: Nimona is now streaming on Netflix.

7. Love at First Sight

Haley Lu Richardson as Hadley Sullivan and Ben Hardy as Oliver Jones in "Love at First Sight."
Credit: Netflix

Based on a hit novel by Jennifer E. Smith, Love at First Sight is a delightful romance with an airport at the center of its meet-cute. Haley Lu Richardson is a perpetually late, underprepared American student heading to London for her Dad’s wedding, and Ben Hardy is a charismatic Brit who offers to lend out his phone charger at a crucial moment. They fall in love during the flight, but a mix-up at baggage claim prevents the star-crossed pair from sharing their contact information. Will they ever see each other again? Love at First Sight is a champion charmer, but it also packs a more weighty emotional punch than your standard rom-com. Gut-wrenching moments from a particularly unique costume party will stay with you for days. 

How to watch: Love at First Sight is now streaming on Netflix.

8. The Killer

Michael Fassbender is "The Killer."
Credit: Netflix

Director David Fincher has brought audiences some of the most electrifying crime thrillers of the modern age with Se7en, Zodiac, and Gone Girl. This fall, he returns with a tantalizing new offering that promises action, adventure, and assassins. 

Based on the graphic novel series written by Alexis Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon, The Killer centers on a professional hit man who — after a fatal near-miss — goes to war with his former employers. But hey, it's not personal. It's just business, a bloody, bloody business. If this promising premise, plus this heralded filmmaker, aren't enough to excite you, take a look at that cast: Michael Fassbender, Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Sophie Charlotte, and Tilda Swinton.*K.P.

How to watch: The Killer is now streaming on Netflix.

9. Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool

Fans of Mike Birbiglia know that his specials aren’t the usual stand-up comedy fare. They may feature jokes, but they’re also ambitious storytelling shows crafted with theatricality in mind. They’re triumphs, and his latest entry, The Old Man and the Pool, is no exception. 

When his doctor first tells him he seriously needs to do more cardio, Birbiglia balks. Tackling mortality, parenthood, and what it takes to make a change — while traversing decades of his life — Birbiglia’s finely crafted, highly relatable show is a hilarious work of art. 

How to watch: The Old Man and the Pool is now streaming on Netflix.

10. Nyad

Annette Bening dives in with "Nyad."
Credit: Netflix

Written by Julia Cox and directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), Nyad tells the daring story of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s 2013 attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida — at the age of 64. Adapted from Nyad’s autobiography, Nyad follows the course of Diana’s career, from her first attempt, and first failure, to swim this over-100 mile crossing in 1978, to her subsequent early retirement, and finally to her reentry into the sport at a later age. Annette Bening is unflinching as the bold and brazen swimmer, aided in her quest by her closest friend (and ex) Bonnie, played marvelously by Jodie Foster. Nyad is a capable biopic, an uplifting sports flick, and a touching tale of friendship all wrapped into one. 

How to watch: Nyad is now streaming on Netflix.

11. El Conde

Jaime Vadell as El Conde in "El Conde."
Credit: Pablo Larraín / Netflix

Chilean General Augusto Pinochet was one of history's most notorious dictators and a voracious embezzler, to boot. What if he were "bloodthirsty" in a more literal sense? 

From Spencer director Pablo Larraín, this pitch-black satire reimagines Pinochet (played here by Jaime Vadell) as a 250-year-old vampire, living in exile with a family ready to tear him (and each other?) apart over his vast fortune. Think of it as "Blood Succession," but with a math-whiz nun at the center of it (Paula Luchsinger, who nearly steals the film). 

Filmed in lush black and white, El Conde is a dark, clever, and often gruesome gothic alternative history. It pulls off the feat of offering supernatural chills while never losing sight of the monstrous historical evils it draws upon.*Rufus Hickok, Contributing Writer

How to watch: El Conde is now streaming on Netflix.

12. Leo

Leo is handled by a student in "Leo."
Credit: Netflix

If you’re looking for a perfectly pleasant pick for family movie night, then Adam Sandler’s Leo is for you. Sandler is Leo, a class pet lizard who has spent the last few decades placidly observing fifth graders and wryly commentating with his terrarium-mate, Squirtle the tortoise (Bill Burr). When a new substitute teacher makes the kids bring home their class pets for the weekend, Leo sees this as his chance to finally escape and see the world before he dies. But he keeps getting distracted by the kids who need his help with their problems. Turns out, you learn a few things if you’ve got nothing to do but watch fifth graders from a glass tank for over 70 years. 

Leo is surprisingly sweet for a Sandler movie (thanks to co-writer Robert Smigel!), and the Burr-Sandler banter never fails. It’s chaotic, charming, and frank — which is a refreshing quality for a kids movie. And did we mention it’s a musical? 

How to watch: Leo is now streaming on Netflix.

13. The Mother 

Jennifer Lopez as an assassin in "The Mother."
Credit: Ana Carballosa / Netflix

Taking a break from being the queen of the current romantic comedy revival, Jennifer Lopez is a no-nonsense arms dealer turned FBI informant in this action-packed thriller about the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her child. After leaving the military, Lopez's character gets herself involved with some Very Bad Men, and when they find out she's pregnant, she’s forced to go into hiding and give up her daughter to foster care to protect both of their identities. But 12 years later, when some of these aforementioned Very Bad Men show up and kidnap her daughter, Lopez will stop at nothing to bring the girl back to safety. The Mother, directed by Niki Caro, is a female version of Taken that doesn't skimp on the brutal fight scenes. This mom is single-minded, skilled, and ruthless. 

How to watch: The Mother is now streaming on Netflix.

14. Pamela, a Love Story 

Pamela Anderson with her two sons in "Pamela, a Love Story."
Credit: Netflix

Though Hulu's Pam and Tommy was a buzzy hit that brought Pamela Anderson back into the modern cultural conversation, it crucially did not have her permission to dramatize her story. Seems like that would have been an important detail for a show about how a woman's privacy was taken forcibly from her, no?

In Netflix's Pamela, A Love Story, Anderson is finally in control of her own narrative. With her own personal videos and diaries, she tells her story: the stolen sex tape with then-husband Tommy Lee, consequent legal battles, and the unforgivable way she was treated by opposing counsel, the media, and the country. It's a brutal and poignant watch well worth your time and attention.

How to watch: Pamela, a Love Story is now streaming on Netflix.

15. Chupa

A small boy plays with a chupacabra in "Chupa."
Credit: Netflix

Do you like your mythical beasts better after they undergo a rebrand? Then Jonás Cuarón's Chupa is the Spielberg-inspired fantasy adventure for you! After the death of his father, 13-year-old Alex (Evan Whitten) travels to Mexico to meet his extended family for the first time and comes across a chupacabra! Except instead of the goat-blood-sucking monster you're picturing, this chupacabra is still a cub, and it is almost too cute to bear. It's like a sweet baby leopard with floppy ears and wings. Alex must now protect the little creature from the government scientists who would do it harm, while getting in touch with his Mexican heritage along the way. Chupa is a lovely, warm family flick that will melt the hardest of hearts. 

How to watch: Chupa is now streaming on Netflix.

16. The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die

A couple embraces in "The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die."
Credit: Netflix

Years after the events of the hit series The Last Kingdom, Seven Kings Must Die finds 10th-century England in a state of relative peace. The Danes now rule Northumbria, the Saxon King Edward reigns over Mercia and Wessex, and the warrior Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) has finally regained his birthright, the land of Bebbanburg, a bridge between the Saxon and Viking cultures. But when Edward falls ill without a clear successor, foreign parties start gearing up to fight. Will Uhtred pick up his sword once more in the name of peace? 

The best part of The Last Kingdom series was Uhtred's constant warring loyalties between his Saxon heritage and his Viking upbringing. This film is a fantastic cap on an already-beloved show. Whether you're into meaty historical fiction, swashbuckling sword fights, or a swoonworthy leading man, there's something for everyone in this scenic action-adventure flick.

How to watch: Seven Kings Must Die is now streaming on Netflix.

17. Still Time

A man dips a woman in "Still Time."
Credit: Netflix

It's Dante's (Edoardo Leo) 40th birthday, and his need to always be working and productive gets in the way of his celebration. The next day, he wakes up to find it's suddenly his 41st birthday, and he has lost a whole year. If Dante doesn't learn to slow down and enjoy his life, it might just pass him by completely. Still Time is an Italian time-traveling dramedy that remains surprisingly simple and grounded despite its fantastical premise. The performances are charismatic and understated; the tone is cheery and heartfelt; and the story will have you hooked from the first scene. A total charmer!

How to watch: Still Time is now streaming on Netflix.

18. John Mulaney: Baby J

John Mulaney on stage in a maroon suit in "John Mulaney: Baby J."
Credit: Netflix

John Mulaney is "Kid Gorgeous" no more. He's grown up. He's made some very public mistakes, and he faces all of it and then some in his new stand-up special, Baby J. Hilarious and merciless, with a withering takedown of his former persona, Mulaney tells a new story here — the story of his addiction. But don’t worry! He's still John Mulaney, so it's easily one of the funniest stand-up specials from the last decade. Baby J has a little more weight than his previous specials, a little more humanity and humility. It's some of his best and most hopeful work yet.

How to watch: John Mulaney: Baby J is now streaming on Netflix.

19. Kill Boksoon

Kim Si-A as Gil Jae-young in "Kill Boksoon."
Credit: No Ju-han / Netflix

Gil Bok-Soon (Jeon Do-yeon) is a single mother who often finds herself at odds with her teenage daughter. She's also a highly skilled and successful assassin. Kill Boksoon is a fantastic action film that sees its main character head straight from a brutal killing to the grocery store so she can get dinner on the table. It's one hell of a hook that sucks you in immediately. The fight scenes are hypnotic and the cinematography ambitious and exciting. It's a gripping thriller that makes plenty of space for the complex emotional reality of its characters.

How to watch: Kill Boksoon is now streaming on Netflix.

20. Luther: The Fallen Sun

Idris Elba looks grim in "Luther: The Fallen Sun."
Credit: Netflix

Luther was a highly addictive British series about a cop who plays by his own rules, not to mention an iconic Idris Elba role. This new feature film installment, Luther: The Fallen Sun, sees the brilliant and brash officer finally facing some consequences for his years of flouting the law in the name of the greater good. He's now in prison, which leaves him with limited options when an old case of his starts to heat up again. Or does it? It’s a twisty, gripping thriller that will keep you guessing. While it may not be a wholly necessary addition to the Luther legacy, it's certainly a welcome one. We'll take any chance to see Elba's reckless detective take on the world once more. 

How to watch: Luther: The Fallen Sun is now streaming on Netflix.

21. The Magician's Elephant

A boy hugs an elephant in
Credit: Netflix

A young orphan turns to a fortune teller in the hopes of finding his long-lost sister. She gives him a cryptic clue: Seek out a magician with an elephant. And with that, the adventure begins. Based on the Kate DiCamillo children's book of the same name, The Magician's Elephant is a whimsical animated family film jam-packed with heart. Thanks to its stellar voice cast (Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin, Brian Tyree Henry, Natasia Demetriou, Benedict Wong, Miranda Richardson, and Aasif Mandvi), it's sure to leave you feeling transported. 

How to watch: The Magician’s Elephant is now streaming on Netflix.

22. Bill Russell: Legend

Bill Russell, member of the University of San Francisco basketball team, shows how he scores baskets on Feb. 23, 1956. The 6-foot, 10-inch center, ranked one of the best, has helped his team win 20 straight games during the current season.
Credit: AP Images / Courtesy of Netflix

This new, two-part documentary from director Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI) embraces Bill Russell's multifaceted legacy as a civil rights icon and unstoppable force who earned 11 championships for the Boston Celtics. Pollard wants Russell, who died in 2022, to be remembered both for his basketball career and his influence off the court as well. With interviews from some of the greats, including Shaquille O'Neal, Stephen Curry, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, we learn about how Bill Russell faced racism throughout his career, protested war alongside Muhammad Ali, and much, much more. Bill Russell: Legend will certainly be a hit for sports fans, but its message makes this a slam dunk for a wider audience. 

How to watch: Bill Russell: Legend is now streaming on Netflix.

23. A Tourist's Guide to Love

Scott Ly as Sinh and Rachael Leigh Cook as Amanda in
Credit: Sasidis Sasisakulporn / Netflix

After an unexpected breakup, travel agent Amanda Riley (Rachael Leigh Cook) tries to "bounce back" by traveling to Vietnam as a secret shopper for a potential partner tour company. Is the first person she meets in Vietnam a handsome and charming tour guide who might have more to teach her than is on the tour itinerary? You bet, baby! This is a sweet and silly romantic comedy that certainly doesn't break the mold, but it has a fantastic cast (Missi Pyle, Ben Feldman, Scott Ly) and will hit just right when you're in for a mindless romp around the world.

How to watch: A Tourist's Guide to Love is now streaming on Netflix.

24. True Spirit

Teagan Croft as Jessica Watson in "True Spirit."
Credit: Netflix

In 2009, Australian teen Jessica Watson attempted to sail solo around the world. In 2023, Netflix released this dramatized retelling of her journey. Expect all the hallmarks of a sailing movie: dangerous storms, unyielding sun, massive waves. It's hard not to cheer on Watson (played deftly by Teagan Croft) as she strives for this incredible achievement, facing loneliness, depression, and the unflinching brutality of the sea without assistance. It's a testament to the power of the human spirit, hence the film's title! An inspiring and exciting watch that also stars Cliff Curtis and Anna Paquin.

How to watch: True Spirit is now streaming on Netflix.

25. Murder Mystery 2

Jennifer Aniston in "Murder Mystery 2."
Credit: Netflix

OK, is Murder Mystery 2 the best movie that's ever been made? No, certainly not. It's not even a good movie. But it's a fun, ridiculous movie that makes for the perfect background complement to making dinner or doing the laundry. It's a fluffy adventure with some of your favorite actors — and sometimes that's exactly what you need. 

Nick and Audrey Spitz (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston), years after the events of Murder Mystery, are now private investigators trying to get their business off the ground. To drum up some new clientele, they accept an invitation to a wedding on a private island where, as luck would have it, someone is immediately murdered. Looks like the Spitzes are going to have to solve the case, again! 

How to watch: Murder Mystery 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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