5 Great Movies You Never Knew Were on Netflix

Looking for something to watch? Quit scrolling and click play on these picks.

Violante Placido and George Clooney in The American. (Image: Focus Features)
Violante Placido and George Clooney in The American. (Image: Focus Features)

Digging through Netflix's menus, I'm almost always surprised by at least a couple movies I've never seen on the site before. If you look hard enough, you'll always find something. The headline of this article is subjective of course. Who knows what anyone is looking at at all?

But people are looking. And chances are, there are dozens of movies you know, or forgot about, or heard of that are in there that you just haven't seen yet. So, in hopes of corralling that idea, this article is devoted to the seldom-watched films of Netflix. The great movies that, for whatever reason, people just aren't finding.

[Editor's note: This article is based off the American Netflix menu. Apologies if any movies aren't available in your country.]

Cinema Paradiso

Starring:  Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano, Salvatore Cascio

For anyone who loves movies, Cinema Paradiso is a must watch. It's been on Netflix for a long time (or it keeps getting added), but, with the combination of the film's subtitles and lack of big names, I'm worried it gets lost in the mix. It's the kind of movie everyone's heard of and no one has really seen. In today's age of nostalgia and more nostalgia, this movie about the concept, about movies themselves, and the place we come from, is a universal truth.

The American

Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido, Irina Björklund, Paolo Bonacelli

Want to see how a director can become a character in a movie with style alone? Watch The American, Anton Corbijn's quiet portrait of a brilliant hit man hiding out and working in a beautiful Italian town. Clooney is the focus of the action, as his character awaits his fate like an old west gunslinger, but Corbijn is the star. Every shot is perfect.

20 Feet From Stardom

Director Morgan Neville won the 2013 Best Documentary Oscar for this rejuvenating film about the unsung stars of the music industry over the past 50 years: the backup singers. Focusing on a talented handful of ladies including Darlene Love, Judith Hill, and Merry Clayton, the film shows how fame can be the most fleeting of things and how careers come to be defined in one of the most cutthroat industries in the world. Interviews with huge stars (Jagger, Springsteen) highlight the stories, but the music is the big reason to see it. The film has been on Netflix since last year, and everyone should see it.

Open Water

Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

Cursed with a garden-variety title and (maybe) lost in a crowd of shark movies and ocean adventures, Open Water seems like an easy flick to skip over on movie night. But it's nerve-wracking, the kind of movie you get uncomfortable watching because you need to know what happens. Based on the true story of two American tourists left behind in open waters when their scuba tour guide screws up the headcount, the low-budget thriller forces us to experience what this couple experienced, lost, and alone in shark-infested waters.

30 for 30: Survive and Advance

Of all the 30 for 30 documentaries on Netflix, and the site has a great selection, Survive and Advance may be the most universally-appealing. If you don't know the story of "Jimmy V" Jim Valvano, you will be weeping by the end. Guaranteed. He's exactly the type of charismatic leader who changes lives, and he did it through basketball. Oh, and he led unheralded NC State to the 1983 NCAA Championship, completing one of the greatest underdog seasons in sports history. And, crushingly, he had cancer.

Senior Editor at Zimbio. I'll take Johnny Clay, the Rev. Harry Powell, and Annie Savoy. You can have the rest.