the power of the dog

Have you found yourself scrolling endlessly through Netflix again? Do you find it hard to make a choice when the variety is overwhelming? That is why we’re bringing you our list of the 30 best movies currently streaming on the platform (as of January 2021). Happy bingeing!

Heat (1995)

The slick, masterful Michael Mann film follows a criminal (Robert De Niro) who plans to pull off one last job before he retires, and a detective (Al Pacino) intent on stopping him at any cost. The cat-and-mouse tale is made even more enticing by two actors at the peak of their craft, expertly playing off each other. 

Saint Maud (2020)

Director Rose Glass wields such precise control over the atmosphere, pacing and shifts of her story, it’s hard to believe that this is her debut film. Saint Maud is a horror story about a disgraced nurse (Morfydd Clark) searching for salvation but unwittingly digging herself deeper into hell at every turn. The film’s final shot is a thing of genius, vivid in its imagery and shocking in its audacity.

14 Peaks (2021)

The sharp documentary simply thrives on the sheer daring of its miraculous subject, Nepali mountaineer Nimsdai Purja, who sets out to achieve not just an impossible climbing record but also reclaim the lost legacy of Nepal’s mountaineering dominance. 

The Power of the Dog (2021)

Jane Campion’s first film in over a decade finds her revisiting the elements of toxic masculinity, sidelined female artists and desolate landscapes found across her filmography, but from newer perspectives. The Power of the Dog may begin as a story of two brothers whose relationship is fractured when one of them gets married, but it shapeshifts into something much more seductive and beguiling along the way.

Room (2015)

The film that won Brie Larson her Oscar for Best Actress in 2015 is a devastating portrait of a life lived in captivity and fear. Where Room excels, however, is that it doesn’t linger on the sadness, making space for moments of tenderness and joy, sturdily on its protagonist’s side even in moments when she crumbles under the weight of her existence. 

Minnal Murali (2021)

Despite being a superhero movie, the film would work even independently, without the superhero angle. The writing is layered and mature and it rarely needs the crutch of a superpower to stay with the viewer because it is, beneath the dazzle, a film about love and family. 

Tick Tick Boom (2021)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick … Boom! unveils the life of the late musical theater playwright Jonathan Larson in the bohemian and AIDS-struck New York of the 1990s. Larson (Andrew Garfield), “the last of [his] species”, likes to see if he can write songs about anything. Sugar. Heartbreak. Swimming. This musical is both a soaring adaptation of Larson’s stage musical and also a heartfelt ode to the playwright and the madness of artistic genius that is both irresistible to watch and impossible to deal with.

The Lost Daughter (2021)

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is a frank examination of how demanding and thankless motherhood really is, without being padded by any cloying platitudes and instead just girded by unconditional empathy. It features one of Olivia Colman’s best performances as the selfish, unlikeable professor Leda Caruso.

Sir (2020)

Sir, Rohena Gera’s film about a househelp who falls in love with her employer, is a simple tale, but deceptively so. It is an accumulation of small moments that build gradually. It’s interested in the small moments, the rituals of daily life.

Spirited Away (2001)

When the spirits inhabiting an abandoned amusement park turn the parents of 10-year-old Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) into pigs, she takes up a job at the park while trying to figure out how to turn them back. This Hayao Miyazaki film is as warm, magical and comforting as any of his others.

The Prestige (2006)

Christopher Nolan’s tale of rival magicians consumed by greed, envy and a fierce desire to outdo each other is one of his best, backed by staggering performances by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and a truly inspired twist.

The Art Of Self Defense (2019)

The Riley Stearns’ film, about a mousy man (Jesse Eisenberg) who decides to take karate classes after being mugged, is a smart, darkly funny and incisive sendup of toxic masculinity. It’s one of Netflix’s hidden gems.  

Nayattu (2021)

Unlike the usual, glossy thrillers, Nayattu is very rooted. It’s rooted in the elections, the Dalit vote, and the youth that refuse to bow down to cops. Still, like the usual thrillers, this film about three cops who flee after being framed by corrupt officials, is a nail-biter.

Eeb Allay Ooo (2019)

Man devolves into monkey in Prateek Vats’ trenchant satire that turns a documentary premise into commentary on today’s India set in and around the political headquarters of Raisina Hills. Come for the ‘quirky’ set up, stay for the reality check.

Kappela (2020)

The magic of Kappela, a thriller about a woman who falls in love with the voice at the other end of a wrong number, is that it creates a level of comfort within the viewer, only for all that to be taken away in a second. 

Bulbbul (2020)

Strikingly shot and backed by a mesmerizing central performance by Tripti Dimri, Anvita Dutt’s Bulbbul plays out like a noirish fairytale, beginning with tales of men going missing and a bloodthirsty witch doing the rounds. It maintains its hold even as it delivers its final denouement, making it one of the few ‘message’ movies in Bollywood not to take its audience for fools. 

Passing (2021)

Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut is a skilful examination of race, the fallibility of perception and the rot that jealousy brings. It follows housewife Irene Redfield, whose domestic life and worldview are thrown off kilter when she runs into former classmate Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga), a biracial woman passing as White in 1920s New York. 

American Factory (2019) 

Oscar-winning documentary American Factory is a rare mix of the terse and the tender. The fly-on-the-wall film simply captures life on both sides of a bittersweet cultural clash – quiet Chinese factory workers adjusting to the grit of the American dream.

Mandela (2021)

Mandela starts as a practical critique of our social structures and ends as a moral fable —while keeping you laughing non-stop. It follows a local election contest between two step-brothers, Rathinam (GM Sundar) and Mathi (Kanna Ravi), in which the deciding vote belongs to a villager named Mandela. Director Madonne Ashwin teases out a tentative drama (and a message of hope) out of a farcical observational comedy.

Doctor (2021)

Director Nelson takes a terrific supporting cast of Archana, Ilavarasu and Yogi Babu and treats a family tragedy (a girl’s kidnapping) like a whacky comedy. You get both the tones of a black comedy and a thriller, but in very different shades.

Kadaseela Biriyani (2021)

When a Tamil man is murdered, his three young sons grow up to take revenge on his Malayali killer. Director Nishanth Kalidindi takes this revenge template and subverts it. He has a solid vision, a ear for humour and his narrative keeps you hooked to this film. 

Aelay (2021)

Director Halitha Shameem has a way of taking us so deep into a place that the writing practically becomes an act of anthropology. You don’t just see the place, you discover it — and that’s the case with Aelay, a film that explores a man (Manikandan)’s utter lack of sentiment for his father (Samuthirakani)

Cinema Bandi (2021)

Movies aren’t ever just entertainment. They change the people who watch them and the people who make them. Praveen Kandregula’s Cinema Bandi, about villagers who discover an expensive Sony camera left behind in an autorickshaw, reaffirms this basic truth.

Meel Patthar (2021)

Ivan Ayr’s second feature follows a truck driver named Ghalib (Suvinder Vicky). Without drama, sentimentality or even a background score, the writer-director creates a plaintive character study of a man defined by his job.

The Disciple (2021)

The Chaitanya Tamhane film might be set in the esoteric world of Indian classical music but its concerns are universal. A meditative character study of a Hindustani classical vocalist named Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak), the film is told with great formal rigour.

Palm Springs (2020)

Time loop movies are all the rage, but Palm Springs, about two wedding guests (an utterly charming Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg) who fall in love after reliving the same day over and over, is different because of the optimism infused into its proceedings. Never has the prospect of an endlessly repetitive existence seemed so heartwarming.

The Trial of Chicago 7 (2021)

It’s never an easy feat: for a movie to be both a movie as well as a soul-searching indictment of its own voice. But director Aaron Sorkin is nothing if not sentimental in this film, which chronicles how a group of anti-Vietnam War protestors were charged for inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Dream Horse (2021)

A trueblue crowd pleaser about a Welsh village rearing a racehorse, Dream Horse ticks all the classic underdog boxes. The film rides on some Toni Collete and Damian Lewis magic, an unlikely setting and a winning arc, seemingly content to blend into the Hollywood crowd of human-horse love stories.

The Hand of God (2021)

Paolo Sorrentino’s laugh-out-loud yet heartbreakingly tender semi-autobiographical film follows an Italian teenager (Filippo Scotti) whose life changes after football legend Diego Maradona saves him from an accident.

Found (2021)

Amanda Lipitz’s disarming under-the-radar Netflix documentary continues the modern legacy of examining the human aftermath of China’s controversial one-child policy through three US-based adopted Chinese teens, who discover they’re cousins.

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