A surge of Flixers (yes, we’ve just made up a term) have flourished across the Middle East since online streaming site Netflix launched in the region earlier this year. The site is continually growing, bringing films, documentaries, TV series and the popular Original series to our screens. But in the sea of comedy, horror, drama and children’s TV are some real crackers. Here are 22 that will give you an excuse to grab a blanket and put your feet up.
Director: Albert Maysles
Iris Apfel is a style icon, a businesswoman and a quick-witted real talker. At 83, she’s the face of campaigns for Kate Spade, Other Stories and MAC Cosmetics, and she’s showing no sign of slowing down. Legendary documentary-maker Albert Maysles’ final film brings you into Iris’ kaleidoscopic world and shines a light on the interior decorating career that took her and her husband to ends of the Earth, sourcing furnishings for the famous.
Directors: George Butler, Robert Fiore
Before The Terminator and Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger was just a small-town Austrian boy with a big dream: to become Mr Olympia. This film is soundbite gold, with some epic one-liners. For us, this is Arnie at his best with his youthful naivety, and it will no doubt inspire many to make use of that dusty gym card. One for the #fitspo massive.
Director: Shan Nicholson
Can you dig it? New York action classic The Warriors may be fictional, but the film’s unique style was drawn from a very real source: the inner-city gang members who took their inspiration from the Black Power movement and their illustrated leather jackets, and set about trying to raise a city up from poverty. This documentary is fascinating, uplifting, at times hilarious and at others, heart-breaking. You have to see it.
Making a Murderer
Directors: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos
If you haven’t already, block out a weekend and binge-watch this series about the Steven Avery case. Avery is accused in 2005 of murdering 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach only two years after DNA evidence cleared him of a crime for which he spent 18 years in prison. Making a Murderer turns us into armchair detectives as filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos take us behind the scenes of the investigation and trial.
Director: Steve James
Winner of just about every documentary award going in 1994 – except, bizarrely, for the Oscar, due to a nominations mix up – this near three-hour film about two black Chicago teenagers given scholarships by a largely white private school to enhance their basketball team, is
an extraordinary examination of race, class and social privilege in pre-Obama America. Shot for peanuts, the film went on to be a worldwide smash.
Biggie & Tupac
Director: Nick Broomfield
Broomfield’s ongoing investigation of the rotten underbelly of civilisation, LA-style, finally hits pay dirt, exposing a quagmire of race politics, brute power, instant wealth, glamorised violence, tribalism, murder and denial. Broomfield’s main line of inquiry into the unsolved homicides of gangster rappers Tupac Shakur (in 1996) and Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace (1997) follows the allegations of ex-LAPD detective Russell Poole, who found evidence implicating corrupt fellow officers in both killings through their connections to Shakur’s record label Death Row and its feared boss Suge Knight.
Directors: Kip Anderson, Keegan Kuhn
A groundbreaking environmental documentary goes behind the scenes of the world’s meat obsession and uncovers the incredible damage being done to the planet as well as to ourselves. It’s an exposé on factory farming that doesn’t just highlight the animal plight, but also the lasting impact that the practises of the past 40 years have had.
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hays
Zapping every disaster movie cliché with the cartoon subtlety of Mad magazine may be nothing more than subverted copycatting, but it prompts enough convulsions of laughter in this brilliant spoof from the Kentucky Fried Movie team for you not to notice their dead hand at work. (Just don’t call them Shirley, etc.)
There Will Be Blood
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano
Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is as good as the awards suggest: it’s big, it’s wild, yet it’s also restrained by the sparing talk of his character and framed by a film whose ambitions are bigger than his acting. It remains Anderson’s masterpiece, which is quite something considering his filmography boasts everything from Magnolia to Boogie Nights. Enthralling and intensely satisfying.
To Kill A Mockingbird
Director: Robert Mulligan
Cast: Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck
In Alabama in the early ’30s, Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch, a Lincoln-like lawyer who defends a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), while loony-tune Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) scares Finch’s kids. It looks like a storybook of the Old South, with dappled sunlight and woodwormy porches, and Finch remains everyone’s favourite uncle.
The Shawshank Redemption
Director: Frank Darabont
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Frank Darabont’s adaptation of a Stephen King novella is a throwback to the kind of serious, literate drama Hollywood used to make. Darabont, who most recently created TV juggernaut The Walking Dead, is graced with one of the greatest on-screen relationships of all time in Robbins and Freeman, and lets it play out slowly, to a truly uplifting conclusion.
The Truman Show
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Jim Carrey, Natascha McElhone, Ed Harris
Truman Burbank is beginning to wise up. People seem to listen to him, but they never really connect; he feels trapped in a job he doesn’t care about, a marriage he doesn’t believe in, and a small island community he’s never been able to leave. It’s as if his life has been pre-programmed from the start: as indeed it has, for Truman is the unwitting subject of television’s most audacious experiment, a real-life soap following one man from birth to death.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson
Remember when the term Tarantino-esque hadn’t quite cracked the lexicon yet? Surprisingly, the video-store-geek-turned-auteur’s opus still feels fresh, despite the legion of awful clones it’s since spawned. Accept no substitutes and relive ’90s cinema glory days once more. Zed ain’t dead.
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer
Investigating a bold armed robbery, which has left three security guards dead, LA cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), whose devotion to work is threatening his third marriage, follows a trail that leads him to suspect a gang of thieves headed by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Trouble is, McCauley’s cunning is at least equal to Hanna’s, and that makes him a hard man to nail. It’s painstakingly detailed with enough characters, subplots and telling nuances to fill out half a dozen conventional thrillers.
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
We're breaking the first rule of Fight Club (“you do not talk about Fight Club”), but this uncompromising cult classic broke all the rules in the first place. A depressed insomniac (Norton) meets obnoxious soap salesman Tyler Durden (Pitt) and the two of them form a strict underground club, which is essentially filled with bored, white-collar drones attempting to find a distraction, and meaning, in their colourless lives.
Films you might have not seen, but you probably should
Beasts Of No Nation
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah
Beasts of No Nation is a humane and uncompromising portrait of one boy’s experience as a child soldier in an unnamed African country. Tough to watch, it is violent and pulls no punches. You want it to be hard to imagine but, actually, it’s everything you would imagine: civil war, family break-up, isolation, indoctrination and murder.
Director: Jeff Orlowski
We should no longer need convincing that sea levels are on the rise, but for sceptics – or the insufficiently alarmed – the collapsing glaciers in Jeff Orlowski’s documentary should do the trick. The movie’s real-life hero is James Balog, a landscape photographer whose
time-lapse tableaux compress geologic eons for short attention spans. The result is dramatic evidence of crumbling ice shelves and receding glaciers, including one that shrinks by the height of the Empire State Building in a span of years.
Gone Baby Gone
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman
This Ben Affleck-directed movie is a beautifully observed piece of South Boston regionalism filled with tough talk and uneasy stare-downs. In the moments when its missing-child drama simply aches with expressions of loss or confusion, the film suggests the emotional acuity of The Wire or Mystic River – two other projects that novelist Dennis Lehane has been involved in. The movie leans hard into thick accents and compromises of career and love – we think all cop films should feel this lived-in.
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
It’s summer 1987 and James (Jesse Eisenberg) is all set for a character-building European adventure, until the shock revelation that his parents’ financial blunders have hoovered up all his travelling money. Strapped for cash and trapped in his Pennsylvania hometown, James signs on at the local amusement park, uncovering a world of emotional intrigue, indiscretion and frustrated ambition.
I’m Still Here
Director: Casey Affleck
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Antony Langdon, Carey Perloff
Director Casey Affleck has since admitted that he and Joaquin Phoenix were putting us all on with this terrifying, near-brilliant exposé in which the Oscar-favourite’s public and private unravelling became a national sport. Launched at the time by Phoenix’s infamous faux appearance on Late Show With David Letterman (the host wasn’t in on the gag), the resulting movie sees him as a bloated, Belushi-esque gasbag, in assembled footage presented as a documentary capturing Hollywood’s excess at its most embarrassingly flatulent.
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy Céline (Julie Delpy), an easy-going
Parisian, is on her way back from Budapest to study at the Sorbonne. Jesse (Ethan Hawke), a young American, is at the end of a Eurorail tour. They meet on a train just outside Vienna; by the time they reach the station, they’ve hit it off well enough for Jesse to propose that Céline spend the next 14 hours wandering the city with him, until his flight leaves for the States. Intrigued, she accepts. And so begins an unexpected and profound adventure of the heart.
Directors: Robert Nixon, Fisher Stevens
Cast: James Cameron, Michael deGruy, Sylvia Earle
This documentary follows the amazing career of legendary oceanographer, marine biologist and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, from the 1960s, when she became the first woman to board a submarine, until 2014, when the ocean is a very different place than she remembers. We see the difference in the reefs she visited in her youth, and learn about her campaign to create a global network of protected marine sanctuaries (Hope Spots).