Many people think Netflix is only good for original TV shows or a Buffy bender, and it's easy to forget that the site also makes for a great dip into the world of movies, whether that be rom-coms, dark dramas, or scary horror flicks. And while some of these films are a bit forgettable (how many boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-does-a-bunch-of-really-problematic-things-to-get-girl-back movies does the world need?), Netflix's selection also offers some truly odd and, often, enlightening narratives for your viewing pleasure and/or confusion. If you know where to find them, the many weird movies on Netflix may make your stomach churn or brain explode.
While "weird" may be a broad word to describe this underbelly, I'm using it to categorize films that aren't typically family-friendly, feature transgressive sex acts, use violence inventively, experiment with sound and camera, or feature characters with fully-developed yet extremely flawed personalities. It's a large pool to draw from, and, on this list of 21 incredibly strange Netflix movies, there are monsters, apocalypses, drug deals, and Nazi-hunters galore — in other words, perfect fodder for your next night in.
1. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, And Her Lover
Peter Greenaway’s surreal 1989 drama stars Helen Mirren as the unhappy wife of a mobster who recently began his career as a gaudy restaurateur. With an appetite for more than just food, her character falls in love with a bookish regular and, under the protection of the kitchen staff, conducts her affair in the restaurant’s back-of-house. The music, sets, and costumes are just as bold as the cast in this film, but the discussions of scatology and a nauseating climax distinguish Thief from the rest of Mirren’s work and secure this film as one of Netflix’s overlooked gems.
Though the film marked new territory for star Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia is the second grim and stunning addition to the “Depression Trilogy” from Antichrist director Lars Von Trier. The film takes its name from the planet doomed to collide with Earth, and chronicles the lives of two sisters at the end of our world. Inspired one of Von Trier’s episodes of depression, it’s not exactly a fun Friday night flick, but one that tenderly unfolds the meanings of despair.
3. Enter The Void
One might expect a void to be a colorless vacuum, but this movie is a trip. With every scene full of drama and wild behavior, the story, directed by Gasper Noë, follows Oscar, a Tokyo-based drug dealer who experiences his own death at the hands of the cops, as well as the issues surrounding his sex worker sister. It manages to be chilling and psychedelic at the same time.
4. In The Basement
This Austrian documentary investigates the variety of secrets hidden in people’s basements: there’s Nazi propaganda, sex dungeons, and tragic relationships with babydolls, to name a few. Be prepared for small bouts of consensual sexual violence and some problematic gender roles — this documentary digs straight into the bottom level of Western culture.
5. The Life And Crimes Of Doris Payne
80-year-old jewel thief Doris Payne walks documentarians Kirk Marcolina and Matthew Pond through her illustrious career of six decades. It's a complicated depiction of an octogenarian woman on screen — huzzah!
Jane Fonda is the heroine of this strange cult film from the ‘60s. As Barbarella, she zooms through sexual escapades across the universe and is, at one point, attacked by an army of bloodthirsty baby dolls. Panned at the time of its release, the film now has an established following and a queer bar in Austin named after it.
7. Heavenly Creatures
Early Peter Jackson is a heck of lot weirder than LOTR-era Peter Jackson. Case and point: Heavenly Creatures, a gory thriller about two teenage girls and their intense bond. Young Kate Winslet is reason number one why this movie is worth watching — but trust me, don’t see it on your own.
8. The Fury
This 1978 sci-fi flick by Brian De Palma tells the story of teenagers with supernatural powers who are tracked and taken in by the government. It’s up to Gillian, a gal with telekinesis, to save the day.
9. This Must Be The Place
Sean Penn is the king of playing brooding middle-aged men. After starring in Mystic River and winning all the awards for Milk, he took a turn in This Must Be The Place as a Robert Smith-esque rock star retiree who tracks down his father’s Nazi tormentor.
Fritz Lang’s classic movie is the original sci-fi odyssey — it’s hard to believe that this jaw-dropping and deeply political film is from 1927.
11. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Shot in gorgeous black-and-white, this Iranian horror film follows a hijab-wearing vampire who preys on cat-callers and perpetrators of sexual assault. Straight-faced and donning some perfect eyeliner, the anti-heroine of this movie is complex and admittedly delightful to watch.
Blancanieves is a Spanish version of Snow White that is also in black-and-white but totally silent, despite scenes of bullfighting and bloodlust. It’s an amazing take on a usually tired fairy tale.
13. The Fly
Vincent Price. Science experiment. Bugs. Need I say more?
14. The House Of Yes
Parker Posey plays the manic, incestuous sister of Josh Hamilton, who brings his fiancee (Tori Spelling) home to meet his “family.”
15. Dead Man
Jim Jarmusch directs Johnny Depp in this bleak and thoroughly modern Western. Full of trains, guns, and cheekbones, it's a dusty, dry treat.
16. Full Tilt Boogie
This documentary chronicles the filming of From Dusk 'Til Dawn and the aftermath of the campy vampire flick.
17. The Forbidden Room
A submarine crew heads above ground for the first time in months and encounters a woodsman in the critically acclaimed film by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson.
18. 3 Headed Shark Attack
Exactly what it sounds like.
Also exactly what it sounds like.
20. The Brainiac
Thank god that this forgotten treasure from 1961 is on Netflix. A tortured Mexican noble returns three centuries after his death to wreck havoc on the braaaaaaaains of contemporary humans.
21. Bring Me The Head Of The Machine Gun Woman
More female anti-heroines, please!
In the spirit of this list, spend your next night in curled up with a three-headed shark or space invaders — trust me, you won't regret it.