Video-streaming service Netflix gives you a vast number of films, TV shows and documentaries to choose from – and that can be a problem.
More often than not, you find yourself spending your entire evening shuffling through the selection trying to pick something to watch – before realising that you no longer have time to actually watch a film.
Never fear; we've rifled through the Netflix catalogue to bring you our top picks, from chucklesome comedies to action-packed adventures. Let Stuff be your guide on your cinematic odyssey.
PART 1: NETFLIX ORIGINALS
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
A riotous comedy-drama-thriller loosely based on Hitch-Hikers' Guide... author Douglas Adams' novels, Dirk Gently's... is like nothing else on TV. In fact it's like nothing else in the world - and is all the better for it.
The plot is way too convoluted to go into here, but that's actually the point: as a 'holistic' detective, Dirk Gently simply investigates crimes he happens across randomly and follows the most obscure and seemingly unconnected of leads as he does so. What transpires is a gloriously muddled mess of offbeat diversions, Technicolor characters and bizarre events taking in psychic powers, cats, dogs, homicidal angels, torture, some really lovely leather jackets and Elijah Wood.
Best mainlined in a couple of lengthy sittings - it's too confusing, and too good, to watch piecemeal.
A $50 million film fully funded and distributed by Netflix, Okja was booed by cinematic purists at the beginning of its Cannes Film Festival premiere – only to receive a four-minute standing ovation at the end of said premiere.
We’re not sure it’s stupendous enough to warrant 240 continuous seconds of applause – it takes a lot to get us up off the sofa at the end of a movie, to be honest – but this tale of a giant genetically-modified pig, her devoted tween companion, big business and animal rights is something of a delight, benefitting from a fine cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton and Paul Dano among them), brisk narrative pace and the fantastic visual effects that bring Okja herself convincingly to life.
If this is a sign of the future of filmmaking, the medium has little to fear.
This Brazilian Netflix Original takes the intriguing concept of a world where the lucky few live in an Earthly paradise of gleaming spires and incredible technology, inhabited by beautiful people eating the best food and enjoying free healthcare - while the other 97% of the population reside in slums. Yes, it’s Broken Britain 2017. Ahem.
To enter this paradise the slum dwellers must pass a series of gruelling tests designed to separate the human wheat from the sub-human chaff and it’s this process that the first season of 3% follows. It all quickly goes a bit Battle Royale, with factions forming and alliances breaking as the desperate teens compete to earn themselves a better life.
Concept-wise it might sound a bit young adult fiction, but 3% is a superior take on the genre, thanks to some really well-rounded characters and quite a few genuine surprises. Here’s hoping it gets the second series it deserves.
Only 80s kids will understand this. Actually that’s not true at all, but Stranger Things is a love letter to many of the movies, TV shows and books that children who grew up in that decade will cherish: it’s replete with references to E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goonies, Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons and Poltergeist, and the mood and feel is sure to dredge up nostalgia aplenty.
Take away the retro vibes though, and the show can still stand on its own as a decent sci-fi drama-thriller. And it doesn’t mess about too much – unlike a lot of Netflix Original Series, its episodes are reasonably tight (around 40 minutes each), and there are only eight of them in the entire first season. Expect a second to arrive at some point in 2017.
While there's a growing sensation that Marvel's cinema outings are getting steadily less appealing, its output for the small screen continues to impress, with Daredevil remaining the finest example.
Blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Boardwalk Empire’s Charlie Cox) turns crime-fighter by night, taking on the slum lords and gangsters that populate Hell’s Kitchen – but where the Avengers sketches in its four-colour heroics with a broad brush, Daredevil’s vigilantism is painted in shades of grey.
Murdock’s nocturnal outings sit uneasily alongside his legal profession, while the show’s big villain in the first series (Vincent D'Onofrio) wants to raise Hell’s Kitchen out of the dirt by any means necessary.
Making the most of its extended running time, the show’s able to show the wider consequences of its hero’s actions – not all of which are positive. The second series introduces new Marvel stalwarts to Murdock's murky world in the shape of Elektra and The Punisher.
Making a Murderer
While the filming of this 10-part documentary clearly started a long, long time ago (it's been 10 years in development), one suspects that the success of the Serial podcast is what got Netflix to buy and promote it as much as it has.
The comparisons are almost too easy and obvious, but there are differences and - more importantly - Making a Murderer stands up on its own. Steven Avery served 18 years in prison for a horrible crime that he didn't commit, and the revelations about the police handling of that case could be a 10-part series of their own, but here that's just the start. You see, just two years after his exoneration, he's charged with a new crime: the brutal murder of a young woman. Given the circumstances of the previous case, the local Sheriff's involvement is under serious scrutiny, and to say there are suspicious inconsistencies is a massive understatement.
It's a long, often slow series, but it's also fascinating, deeply troubling, and will send shivers down your spine.
The most critically acclaimed Netflix original series of 2015 (now two seasons strong) tells the bloody story of Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and the man tasked with taking him down. Sounds like a laugh riot, right?
While Narcos lacks much in the way of light-relief, watching American DEA agent Steve Murphy submerge himself in a viciously amoral cesspit is a constant thrill. What could well be a high-minded exercise in true crime melodrama is elevated to nerve-shredding nirvana via some classy performances and the disturbing use of archive footage. Escobar’s brutal legacy lives on through your telebox, and the horror of it all will make you wince in anguish.