The best movies to watch on Netflix — if you’d rather have a quiet New Year’s Eve

The midnight kissing and open bar and sparkly dresses of New Year’s Eve are all well and good. The problem is none of those things involve sweatpants. After the 2017 we’ve had, we’re pretty sure we’re entitled to a low-key evening in, and with the amazing lineup of movies available on Netflix right now, there’s really no reason to put real pants on until 2018 is well underway.

Of course, there are plenty of must-watch shows you could be watching on the streaming platform, but this *is* New Year’s Eve. Live it up a little. With awards season speeding into full-swing (the Golden Globes are January 7th), what better time is there to get yourself in a cinematic mood? Whether you’re feeling an empowering animated adventure, a sweet retro rom-com, or a compelling documentary to inspire you into a new year of activism, you’ve got options.

And popping a bottle of celebratory New Year’s Eve bubbles goes just as well with a bowl of popcorn and your couch as it does with a fancy ball drop. We promise.

1Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is currently blowing up the box office with its understated humor and fantastically feminist spirit, but if you haven’t made it to the theater yet (or have and just have a hankering for more intergalactic action), there is a Star Wars offering right in your Netflix library. Rogue One is wedged in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope timeline-wise, so we’re talking quite a bit before the events of Last Jedi, or even 2015’s The Force Awakens. It, of course, follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of an Imperial scientist, and her band of rebels as they plot to steal the plans for the Empire’s greatest weapon: the Death Star. And needless to say, it’s awesome.


Director Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) rightfully earned an Emmy, a Peabody Award, and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature for her searing examination of black criminalization and disenfranchisement in the century since slavery was abolished. The titular 13 refers to the 13th Amendment, which freed the slaves but said “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” 13th explores all the ways that “as a punishment for crime” has set up black Americans to continue to be enslaved in the prison system, by police corruption, and the war on drugs.

3While You Were Sleeping

How this 1995 movie never made it to full-blown romantic comedy classic status is still a mystery. Sandra Bullock is at her charming best playing a shy train token-taker in Chicago who saves the life of the man she’s been crushing on from afar (Peter Gallagher, long before his Sandy Cohen days on The O.C.) when he falls on the tracks. After a mix-up at the hospital, the now-comatose man’s family is under the impression that Lucy (Bullock) is his fiancée and things transpire delightfully from there. The fact that Bill Pullman, who plays said comatose man’s brother Jack, never made it to full-blown romantic comedy dreamboat status from this movie is also a mystery.

4Sing Street

If you’re the kind of person who judges a movie by its soundtrack, you’re going to be a big fan of this feel-good coming-of-age story. Set to the music of Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, and The Clash, Sing Street introduces you to Conor, a 14-year-old in 1980s Dublin who’s adjusting to a new school and some family drama at home. His plan to start a band to impress a mysterious girl feels familiar, but the heart, music, and punk-rock style of this movie puts it on an entirely different stage.


Until the live-action reboot hits theaters in November 2018, we’re totally okay with honoring the 1998 version. In case it’s been a while since you treated yourself to this story of bravery and strength and figuring out when will your reflection show who you are inside, Mulan is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, a woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in the army. Add in an endlessly belt-able Disney soundtrack, some forbidden romance, and a magical dragon sidekick voiced by Eddie Murphy, and you’ve got yourself an animated gem.


This Netflix Original has gotten a ton of buzz, and for good reason. It stars Mary J. Blige (who earned a Best Actress Golden Globe nod for her part), Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and Jason Mitchell, and tells the story of two World War II vets — one black, one white — who return to rural Mississippi and deal with racism and the psychological aftermath of war.


If you fell in love with awards season darling The Florida Project like many did (seriously, go see it), this groundbreaking film from the same director, Sean Baker, is probably a good bet. Tangerine made a lot of headlines when it came out in 2015 because it was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, but it’s also notable for its beautiful storytelling about a transgender sex worker who finds out her boyfriend and pimp has been cheating on her.

8E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Long before the relatable innocence and honesty of the Stranger Things kids and the mysterious being they found took the world by storm, there was E.T. The Duffer brothers have actually cited the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie as a major inspiration for Eleven and her crew, and it’s easy to see why: Elliott, Gertie, and their weirdly adorable alien friend will make you feel all the feels (including hunger, because Reese’s Pieces are delicious and prominently featured).

9The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

This quiet family drama is the unexpected treat you didn’t know you needed. Adam Sandler brings his A game as a dad struggling with divorce and his daughter leaving for college, on top of a strained relationship with his own dad and siblings. It’s frustrating, funny, and refreshing.


There are so many things to love about this 2016 instant hit. The music, by Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda, is infectious. The animation is breathtaking. The Rock is hilarious. The story is about a badass young female chief-in-the-making who sets out on an ocean voyage to save her island and its people and, for once, there’s no silly prince distracting her. It’s what Disney movies should be in 2017 and TBH, it gives us a lot of hope for *how far we’ll all go* in the future. Plus, Auli’i Cravalho, the real-life 17-year-old who voices Moana, is basically our hero.


This one is heavy, but worth it. The Best Picture winner that came out in 2015 tells the true story of the Boston Globe‘s investigative Spotlight team and their reporting that uncovered the massive sex abuse scandal within the Catholic church. Like Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks’ upcoming newspaper thriller The Post, this movie showcases the vital role journalism plays in holding those in power accountable — at a time when we need it more than ever.

With that, Happy New Year (of streaming)!

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