Log into Netflix, and you’ll often find yourself spending a feature-length amount of time scrolling through the seemingly endless catalogue of available titles – many of which can ultimately let you down. But for every Sorority Girl’s Revenge, there are several hidden gems and rough diamonds. You just have to know where to look.
Joel Draba-Mann does the sifting so you don’t have to. Here are ten stand-out features to add to your Netflix queue.
Dir: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, 2013
There aren’t many more awe-inspiring images than the famous Orca performances at the world’s sea parks, yet seemingly, behind the scenes of these popular destinations, there is something inherently darker going on. A documentary exploring the treatment of these majestic giants, with particular focus on SeaWorld’s resident male, Tilikum – notorious for purposefully killing a number of people whilst in captivity. Shocking, heartbreaking and truly eye-opening, this film showcases how little humans understand nature at all, especially these exceptional and sentient creatures.
Die Welle (The Wave)
Dir: Dennis Gansel, 2008
A social experiment gone wrong is the focus of this true-story based drama. In present day Germany, high-school teacher Rainer Wenger begins a social experiment to teach his class about totalitarian government, by instilling small forms of discipline and social structure. Soon however, the experiment forms into a fully-fledged and inherently violent Fascist movement, with Rainer as dictator and his ever-increasing amount of followers as foot-soldiers – willing to die for their dear leader.
Dir: Morten Tyldum, 2011
A Norwegian thriller telling the tale of a respected headhunter, Roger, moonlighting as a notorious art thief. However, the heist of a particularly expensive painting lands Roger in real trouble – as he is relentlessly chased by a mercenary (Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Glengarry Glen Ross
Dir: James Foley, 1992
A surprisingly lesser known film considering its all-star cast and Oscar-nom. A group of out-of-luck real-estate salesmen hatch an elaborate plan to save their jobs in the midst of a new set of seemingly unachievable sales targets. It’s a brilliant character study sporting stellar performances from the leading men, and a screenplay full of quotable dialogue. Just wait for Alec Baldwin’s astonishing opening monologue.
The Raid: Redemption
Dir: Gareth Evans, 2011
Perhaps the most criminally underappreciated action film of recent times, The Raid is brutal, electrifying and downright exhilarating. A mission gone wrong leaves rookie cop Ramo trapped inside an office block brimming with the city’s most dangerous criminals. He must then fight his way through the building by any means necessary. The young Indonesia-based Welsh director Gareth Evans single-handedly rejuvenated the action genre with some of the most incredible fight scenes ever filmed.
The Thin Blue Line
Dir: Errol Morris, 1988
Not to be confused with Rowan Atkinson’s ’90s spoof, and definitely not in the same vein, this documentary examines the story of Randall Dale Morris: a man wrongly convicted for a murder he did not commit. The film acts as Morris’ defence, and eventually led to its central character being freed from prison almost ten years after sentencing.
Dir: Cary Fukunaga, 2009
True Detective‘s Cary Fukunaga helmed this celebrated breakout piece – a brutal gangster-tale that aims to capture and exhibit the horrific nature of Mexico’s infamous drug cartels. The film follows a pair of very different teenagers, Sayra and Caspar; one an immigrant, one a gangster, both trying to escape the injustice of their dangerous lives.
The Man From Nowhere
Dir: Jeong-beom Lee, 2010
Imagine ramping Taken up to 11, if that were possible. A retired special forces officer forms an unlikely bond with his lonely young neighbour and vows to return the girl to her family when she is kidnapped by a notorious criminal organisation. An overtly violent and fully enjoyable Korean action romp.
Sleepwalk With Me
Dir: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish, 2012
This comedy about a down and out stand-up with a severe case of sleepwalking is very much an autobiographical piece for first-time director Mike Birbiglia. A genuinely funny story with an endearing heart, you can’t help but root for Birbiglia’s loveable everyman just looking for his one chance at redemption.
The Good, The Bad and The Weird
Dir: Kim Jee-Woon, 2010
A bounty hunter, a notorious bandit and a bumbling train robber are engaged in a chase across 1930s Manchuria in search of a map which promises endless riches. Other than themselves, the trio also have to contend with a group of Asian bandits and the Japanese army. Brilliant fun and ludicrous set-pieces galore fill this Korean reimagining of Sergio Leone’s celebrated spaghetti western.