10 Modern Masterpieces To Watch On Netflix

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What better time to catch up on the last two decades of Hollywood? Tucked within Netflix’s vast content library are some of the 21st century’s finest films. SLMan trawled the archive to unearth 10 contemporary classics you can stream right now…

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated new film, Tenet, is still scheduled for release this July. In the meantime, his 2017 masterwork Dunkirk can sate your appetite for his trademark non-chronological narratives. Razor-sharp editing – the film comes in well under two hours – and a wonderful score help pinpoint the heroism amid the horrors of a retreat like no other. Having refused CGI, Nolan zeroes in on the individual efforts of some remarkable characters – including Tom Hardy’s Spitfire pilot and Mark Rylance’s civilian sea captain – to create a powerful work of art.

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The Revenant

Speaking of powerful works of art, not many films this century have landed a gut-punch like The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar for this epic 2015 drama from Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman, Amores Perros). Left for dead after a mauling by a grizzly, Leo’s frontiersman must make his way back to what passes for civilisation in 1820s Midwest America. Based on real events, the brutal story unfurls in a beautifully bleak winter landscape that’s populated almost exclusively with malevolent figures such as Tom Hardy’s rival trapper.

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Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino occasionally threatens to retire early from directing, so enjoy him while you can. In a competitive ten-film back catalogue that contains no stinkers, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds is up there with the visionary director’s best. Its five-act story revolves around two plots to assassinate high-ranking Nazis. The first is masterminded by a young Jewish cinema proprietor; the second is devised by a renegade team of Jewish-American soldiers led by Brad Pitt. The result is classic Tarantino: a big, brash and exhilarating homage to the World War 2 action movies of his youth. 

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Spotlight

At the 2016 Oscars, the big prize went to this gripping adaptation of a true story. In fact, you might say this is a gripping adaptation of a series of true stories – each written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Spotlight’ desk at the Boston Globe newspaper. In the early Noughties, the small team overcame institutional opposition to uncover systemic child sex abuse within the city’s Roman Catholic church. Their heroic endeavours are memorialised in a tense, haunting and important film that captures the small, hard-won victories and myriad setbacks involved in doing journalism right.

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Phantom Thread

When Daniel Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson first put their heads together in 2007, they came up with the epic tragedy that is There Will Be Blood. A decade later, they got together again and delivered Phantom Thread. In 50s London, Day-Lewis’s Reynolds Woodcock is a haute couture dressmaker. Charismatic and controlling, he takes as his muse and lover a young waitress (Vicky Krieps) who eventually tires of his bad behaviour. From the daring sound design to the beautiful evocation of a familiar place in a distant time, the attention to detail is exquisite in what must go down as Day-Lewis and Anderson’s second masterpiece.

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The Big Short

Adapted from Michael Lewis’s era-defining book, this is surely the best and most entertaining rendition of the 2008 financial crisis you’ll ever see on film. It zooms in on the misfits and weirdos who predicted the near-collapse of the global banking system, while slicker financiers continued to rinse that same system for all they could get. Director Adam McKay was at the helm for both Anchorman and Vice; here, he hits a tragicomic sweet spot between the two. Look out for some outstanding, educational cameos, including one from Margot Robbie in a bubble bath.

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Lost In Translation

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are a couple of bored, jet-lagged westerners knocking around a Tokyo hotel. They fall into late-night drinking and intimate, free-wheeling conversations punctuated by droll comic sequences in which, of course, Murray excels. But it’s the wildly different yet well-matched pair’s deeper connection that lives long in the memory, alongside director Sofia Coppola’s warm and witty ideas about the transience of life.

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Training Day

Street-wise cop gets lumbered with rookie partner is a familiar Hollywood setup. But in the hands of Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, what follows is an unusually compelling tale of police brutality and corruption that travels a long way very quickly. In the course of a rather busy first morning on the job, Hawke’s trainee narcotics officer is forced to smoke PCP-laced pot and survive a street shootout. We won’t say too much about what happens after lunch. Training Day was released around the time of 9/11 and never built the reputation its fine performances and great story deserve. Give it a go.

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Moneyball

Moneyball is the second film on this list to be based on a Michael Lewis book. This time, both film and book are centred around Billy Beane, the general manager of a distinctly average Oakland A’s baseball team who buys into the data-driven theories of a nerdy Yale graduate. In an early success for data analytics, the previously mediocre A’s put together a 20-game unbeaten streak during the 2002 Major League season – despite being the lowest-paid team in the league. But this story is about much more than stats – and a bit more than sport. Brad Pitt’s Beane is a soulful, melancholic character who’s brave – or desperate – enough to risk humiliation and put his career in the hands of a pudgy young geek (Jonah Hill).

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American Psycho

Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho helped to define the 90s. Patrick Bateman, the serial-killer banker who narrated it, was a new kind of anti-hero. When it came out in 2000, the film had a lot to live up to and Christian Bale had a job on his hands capturing a coke-fuelled psychopath who retained the focus to hold down a serious job – for a while anyway. Twenty years on, the film remains a powerful parable about male rage and, in particular, alpha-dog businessmen.

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The SLMAN Edit: Your Guide To A More Stylish Life.