It’s the end of April and you’ve almost done it – you’re almost done with classes! You can almost taste the anticipation in the air. But standing between you and a glorious four-month break are dreaded, terrible finals. But no matter how many exams you’re stressing over, everyone needs to take a break once in a while. And what better way to spend a study break than to head over to Netflix and treat yourself to a movie? With all of the choices though, it might get difficult to distinguish the cinematic masterpieces from the duds. To make things a little easier, here are ten of the best films available to watch instantly on Netflix. So grab a snack and get comfy – you’ve earned it!
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012, dir. Colin Trevorrow)
While you might initially hear “romantic comedy” and “time travel” and recoil, Safety Not Guaranteed not only makes this combination palatable, but genuinely warm and engaging. A young magazine employee, played brilliantly by Aubrey Plaza (also known as April Ludgate to the Parks and Recreation fanatics out there), accompanies two of her colleagues (Karan Soni and New Girl’s Jake Johnson) to cover a story on a man (Mark Duplass) convinced that he’s capable of time travel. In covering this unusual story, each character goes through an unexpected self-discovery as it becomes more and more likely that time travel is possible. Built on human connections and lovable characters more than science fiction jargon, Safety Not Guaranteed is one of the most overlooked cinematic gems of the past year.
Bachelorette (2012, dir. Leslye Headland)
After high school friends Regan, Gena, and Katie learn that Becky, the friend they used to pick on behind her back, is getting married, the three head to New York to celebrate at her bachelorette party – while also coming close to ruining the entire wedding. With scenes in a strip club, racy language, and a LOT of drug and alcohol use, think of this movie like Bridesmaid’s trashy, foul-mouthed younger sister. Beyond the great casting – Kirsten Dunst as the high-strung Regan, Isla Fisher as clueless alcoholic Katie, Lizzy Caplan as vitriolic loser Gena, and Rebel Wilson as the sweet and unassuming Becky – the crass storyline has its share of sincerely heartfelt moments of love and friendship. Plus it gives you the chance to make a list of what not to do at your friend’s wedding (hint: leave the cocaine at home).
Drive (2011, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
Drive is an action film starring Ryan Gosling. ‘Nuff said.
Clueless (1995, dir. Amy Heckerling)
For those of you who have neglected to watch this classic cinematic masterpiece even after all of this time, now is your chance! Starring Alicia Silverstone as the lovably ditzy Cher Horowitz, Clueless is a parody of Jane Austen’s Emma. With her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash), Cher skillfully navigates the world of her Beverly Hills high school, playing matchmaker to her teachers, learning to drive (kind of), looking for a boyfriend, and taking the new girl under her designer clothing clad wing. BONUS: this film also features an adorable 90s Paul Rudd, looking exactly the same as he does now. Will that man ever age?
Tiny Furniture (2010, dir. Lena Dunham)
Love her or hate her, it’s hard to deny that Lena Dunham has an impressive list of accomplishments at just 26 years old. Tiny Furniture is included on that list, a feature that she directed, wrote, and starred in, much like her HBO show Girls. Also like Girls, Tiny Furniture follows a recent college graduate who is struggling assert her independence after moving back in with her family played by her real life mother, artist Laurie Simmons, and her real life sister, Grace Dunham. Tiny Furniture is also just as outrageous and unapologetic as Girls, but also offers some tender family moments and grown-up realizations that Hannah Horvath and company are all too often lacking.
Evil Dead (1981, dir. Sam Raimi)
This ain’t your grandfather’s horror movie! Well, technically it is, being the earlier, tamer forefather to the recently released remake of the same name. But that doesn’t make it any less great! The first of a trilogy directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell as Ashley “Ash” Williams, Evil Dead is your classic tale of evil, flesh-possessing demons released from a spell read aloud from an ancient book. While this older version still has its fair share of gore (so squeamish beware!), the film’s low budget makes the buckets of blood and severed limbs seem almost comical. Perfect for the iron-stomached, cult film lover in all of us!
Young Adult (2011, dir. Jason Reitman)
If you only watch one movie that makes you feel better about yourself this year, make it Young Adult. Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, an alcoholic ghostwriter for a popular series of young adult novels who is recently divorced and decides to return to her small hometown where she once reined supreme in high school. Attempting to win back her high school boyfriend who is now married with a child and befriending a former classmate disabled by a beating he took in high school, Mavis starts to take stock of her life in a new light. Charlize is brilliant as usual, and comedian Patton Oswalt effortlessly takes on the role of the handicapped Matt Freehauf. From the same writer-director team behind Juno, Young Adult is a fresh, hard-to-watch-but-can’t-look-away take on the more traditional coming of age story.
Big Fish (2003, dir. Tim Burton)
For those searching for a more adult fairytale, look no further than Big Fish. Told through flashbacks, the story follows Will Bloom, played by Billy Crudup, in his attempt to make sense of his dying father Edward Bloom’s illusive and fantastic past. Featuring everything from giants to circuses to Siamese twins joined at the waist, Big Fish is a sweetly melancholic tale of the relationship between father and son cloaked in a world of wonders. The film also has an all-star cast headed by the ridiculously handsome Ewan McGregor as a young Edward Bloom.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, dir. Blake Edwards)
You can’t get any more classic than Audrey Hepburn. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, based on the wonderful novella by Truman Capote, follows the budding relationship between the elusive and beautiful socialite Holly Golightly (Hepburn) and her new neighbor Paul Varjak, played by the suave and handsome George Peppard. Hepburn and Peppard are delightful onscreen together, helping to cement this film as the quintessential romantic comedy.
Trainspotting (1996, dir. Danny Boyle)
Long before the award winning and critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle made Trainspotting, the hilariously tragic story of a group of friends tied up in the Edinburgh, Scotland drug scene. Through creative camera work and the transcendent acting of Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, and Robert Carlyle, Boyle offers a glimpse into the disgusting, crime-filled, and manic lives of these heroin addicts that is equal parts hilarious and heart breaking.
Honorable mentions: The Hunger Games (2012, dir. Gary Ross), Lars and the Real Girl (2007, dir. Craig Gillespie), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, dir. John Hughes), True Grit (2010, dir. Joel & Ethan Coen), James and the Giant Peach (1996, dir. Henry Selick), Lost in Translation (2003, dir. Sofia Coppola), Submarine (2010, dir. Richard Ayoade), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, dir. Michel Gondry)