The 30 best things to watch on Netflix right now

Sherlock

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss bring Sherlock Holmes into the present day, in slick, stylish fashion. Benedict Cumberbatch shot to fame on the strength of the title role – but Martin Freeman's performance as the down-to-earth John Watson is just as important to the show's success, with a thousand Tumblrs now dedicated to capturing their interplay in GIF form.

Netflix has the first two series available to view – they may be short at just three episodes each, but those episodes are just as long (and packed with twisty-turny plotting) as any movie. Pace yourself and space them out for maximum enjoyment.

Unbreakable

M Night Shyamalan's star may have fallen somewhat since the risible The Happening and The Last Airbender, but this early effort shows why he once commanded above-the-title billing. Bruce Willis stars as everyman hero David Dunn, who survives a train crash and comes to suspect that he has superhuman powers of endurance.

Pre-empting the recent run of superhero movies, it's a more realistic, grounded take on the comic book genre – and its plot makes vastly more sense than Shyamalan's more lauded The Sixth Sense.

More after the break...

Hard Candy

This taut psychological thriller gave Ellen Page her breakout role; as a teenager who turns the tables on a child molester who's grooming her, she makes for a brilliantly intense vengeful crusader. Director David Slade starts with a simple premise – what if the hunted was suddenly revealed as the hunter? – and piles twist upon twist.

If the plotting gets a little bit hokey, the film's rescued by Page and her co-star Patrick Wilson – it's essentially a two-hander, and could play out equally well on the stage.

Super 8

As JJ Abrams gears up to direct the new Star Wars film, it's worth revisiting his homage to the 1970s cinema that was defined by film-makers like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. A love letter to the era – and to the director's youthful exploits as a film-maker – it follows a gang of kids who inadvertently catch an alien monster on film while they're making a creature feature movie.

Mashing up the wonder of The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. with the scares of Jaws, it's no mere pastiche – this is an exciting adventure story in its own right, and is compelling proof that Abrams is the best choice to take the helm of the Millennium Falcon.

Captain America: The First Avenger

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier hitting cinemas, it's a good opportunity to revisit the original film – a WW2 action-adventure that has more in common with Indiana Jones than Saving Private Ryan. Weedy Steve Rogers is determined to make the grade and fight the Nazi menace – but he's hamstrung by his 4F physique. When he's given the chance of enlisting in the US Army's Super Soldier program, he becomes Captain America – the Star-Spangled Man, taking the fight to the German deep science division, HYDRA.

Director Joe Johnston has a flair for comic-book adventure, having previously directed The Rocketeer – and here, he pays tribute to the derring-do of wartime serials. Hugo Weaving camps it up as hissable villain the Red Skull (complete with Werner Herzog accent), while Chris Evans brings layers to Captain America, making him more than just a flag-waving steroidal freak. This is a more nuanced portrait of heroism than you'd expect, playing on themes of self-sacrifice; in wartime, there are no happy endings.

Comments

Hard candy is not on Netflix.

Can't believe you have Priceless on your list; it's one of my favourite films of all time, yet very few people have heard of it. Yes, it's a bit of a rom-com, but don't let that put you off. It's funny, heartwarming, and stars the delectable Audrey Tautou. What's not to like?

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