Rotten Tomatoes and Netflix both reign supreme in their respective territories and since there’s such a natural overlap, it might be worth seeing what the first has to say about the second. As it turns out, there are some obscure but worthwhile movies floating around Netflix that have all scored perfect hundreds on the Tomatometer. And not just one style of movie, either, but a healthy mix of fiction and documentaries.
3 Idiots is one of Bollywood’s more influential releases, setting quite a few box office records for India in the late aughts. It’s a dramedy following three friends in parallel times of their lives, the flashbacks being their college years and their present adulthoods. It’s a movie that covers a lot of ground, but does it deftly enough that it never feels like you’re rushing through a contrived plot and you get so invested in the character’s that, by the end, the movie has reminded you why human beings bother to have friends.
A Secret Love
A Secret Love is a baseball documentary along the lines of 1992’s A League of Their Own, which only winked at how gay the female baseball leagues of the 1940s were, and 2022’s A League of Their Own, which fully embraced and displayed how gay the female baseball leagues of the 1940s were. It tells the specific-but-not-unique story of Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, two secretly together women who jointly ran an interior design business for nearly 70 years. The documentary handles a sensitive subject exactly the way you’d hope, by allowing the genuine emotion and inherent moral of it to shine through and showing that these relationships aren’t political, they’re deeply human.
Is That Black Enough for You?!? does a lot of the heavy lifting for film history, putting the Black contributions to film back in the spotlight and showing the give and take between Black filmmakers and white, the latter of whom obviously didn’t credit the former. I’m a huge fan of the film for its honesty. There’s an agenda in these films, yes, but it’s hard to object to an agenda that has an endgame of simply wanting the credit it’s rightfully due.
In the same vein as Is That Black Enough for You?!?, Descendant is a documentary prompted by the discovery of the Clotilda, the last ship confirmed to bring Africans to the United States to be forced into slavery. The ship was found in 2019 in the Mobile River, where it was scuttled when its captain destroyed the evidence of his highly illegal transportation of enslaved Africans. The discovery, and accompanying documentary, ground and personalize slavery in America in a way history rarely can and reinforces that Americans live in a country slavery created, often in direct but obfuscated ways.
His House takes full advantage of fiction’s ability to convey deep emotional truths without having to actually depict reality. For example, His House does a great job of conveying the isolation and ostracization of newcomers, the desire to fit into your adopted home, and the desperation to not lose the cultural touchstones of your upbringing. Obviously, refugees don’t generally have malevolent supernatural entities hanging over them as they try to adjust to their new homes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t feel like they don’t.
Mr. Roosevelt is among the most relatable movies for Millennials. Basically, a young woman comes home to see her dead cat and has to contend with how well everyone else’s life seems to be going, especially her ex-boyfriend. It kind of makes you think if everyone else seems to be doing so much better than us and everyone feels that way, are any of us doing that bad? Or, more pessimistically, are any of us doing that good?
Mixtape skews towards a younger audience than most of the other movies on this list, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided. It’s similar to movies like Eighth Grade in that the main character might be a teen girl, but what she’s going through is a universal experience. You don’t need to have been a 16-year-old orphan to want to connect with your parents as more complex people rather than authority figures. Or, if you don’t particularly like your parents, to have felt the desire to find out exactly who you should consider family—not in a cheesy, gravely Fast and the Furious way, but in a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs kind of way.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
This animated spinoff of The Witcher novels is more faithful to the source material than the Netflix series of the same name. It’s not just the brains behind the Tomatometer that appreciate this one either: in an era of review bombing and general unpleasantness on the part of fans, the audience review sits at a solid 83 percent.
I should say right now that Virunga is not a movie you should watch if you want to feel good about the direction the world is headed. Virunga wouldn’t be made in a society that actually valued the natural world in the way it not only should, but needs, to be valued. The documentary is about a group of soldiers in Virunga National Park who use lethal force to protect critically endangered mountain gorillas from poachers. It’s a war correspondent’s look at the Congo’s national park system as well as forces environmentalists to ask themselves how militant and absolutist they’re willing to be as stewards of the natural world.