75 Things Worth Watching on Netflix Streaming

I consider Netflix streaming to be one of the best bargains out there in entertainment. For $9 a month (assuming you have a home internet connection), you gain access to an enormous libraries of commercial-free films and television series. You can choose what you want and, if your internet connection is fast, you’ll be watching it within a minute or so.

One problem-within-a-blessing with Netflix streaming, though, is that there is a mountain of content on there – and a fair amount of it is awful. You have to dig around to find good stuff on there, but if you can dig a bit, there’s a lot of good stuff.

Which brings us to a reader email. Tom writes in:

You’ve mentioned great finds on Netflix streaming several times on The Simple Dollar. Why don’t you collect all of them into one place, so we can book mark it?

Your wish is my command.

Below are 75 things I’ve found on Netflix streaming that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, from television series to documentaries, from comedies to dramas. I’m positive that somewhere on this list, there are a few things that you haven’t seen that you’ll love. Some of these you’ve seen me mention before. Others are new.

I’ve broken the list down into some arbitrary categories. Also, all television series are linked to the first season of the series – many series have multiple seasons on Netflix streaming. I’m also going to challenge myself to describe each entry in the length of a tweet – 140 characters or less. (You can, of course, click through to read more information.)

It’s also worth noting that this list is current as of early April 2011. Netflix constantly makes small adjustments to the programs they offer on streaming, so inevitably a few of these will disappear over time, while other interesting stuff is added.

Films – Animation
Ponyo: A wonderful coming-of-age story that my two older children absolutely love.
The Iron Giant: This is my all-around favorite animated movie of all time.
Up: If the first five minutes of this Pixar movie doesn’t tear you up, you haven’t experienced deep love yet.

Films – Comedy
Bill Hicks Live: Bill Hicks is my favorite stand-up comedian of all. This provides four vintage stand-up sets from him.
Chicago: A comedy-musical-drama that won the Best Picture Oscar several years ago.
Duck Soup: This is, in my opinion, the vintage black and white comedy.
Fargo: Extremely dark humor all throughout this film.
Groundhog Day: One classic debate I’ve had with my wife is figuring out how many years pass during this film.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: If you’ve ever enjoyed Shakespeare, this is absolutely hilarious. It turns Hamlet on its ear.

Films – Documentary
Capturing the Friedmans: An utterly gripping picture of a family in crisis.
Down on the Mountain: A wonderful summary of bluegrass and Americana music. I’ll turn it on and just listen to the music.
Exit Through the Gift Shop: An amazing (and often hilarious) documentary on the commercialization of art.
Hoop Dreams: A great perspective on the challenges and exploitation in youth sports.
In Debt We Trust: A deep look at the challenge of personal debt in America.
Jesus Camp: Incredibly insightful and polarizing look at the practices at a church camp.
Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery: Beautiful coverage of the discoveries that Lewis and Clark made on their journey.
Man on Wire: A look at how a high-wire walk between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 was pulled off.
Maxed Out: Much like “In Debt We Trust” (above), a great look at personal debt in America.
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan: A musically and artistically rich look at the impact of Bob Dylan on American music and art.
Restrepo: A documentary about life on the ground for a platoon in Afghanistan.
Super Size Me: An insightful and very entertaining look at the impact of fast food on health.
The One Percent: What does the increasing gap between the rich and poor in America really look like?
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price: A look at how Wal-Mart keeps their prices low and profit high through pushing the costs off onto other aspects of business.

Films – Drama
Amadeus: A very entertaining look at the sometimes seedy life of Mozart.
Barton Fink: A very dark look at the life of a writer with an extreme case of writer’s block.
Bonnie and Clyde: A spectacular classic film about the escapades of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.
Charade: One of the best thrillers of all time. The less I tell you, the better.
Everything Is Illuminated: A quirky look at someone coming to terms with their ethnic heritage.
Following: Christopher Nolan’s (Inception) first movie, a dark look at the challenges of writer’s block.
Gangs of New York: A powerful movie about the early days of gangsterism in America.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Jack Nicholson’s performance as a psychiatric ward patient is one of the best things ever put to film.
Precious: A heartbreaking story about personal redemption.
Sling Blade: Billy Bob Thornton is amazing as a developmentally-challenged man in a small town.
The Graduate: One of the small handful of movies I’d call essential viewing.

Films – Foreign
Amelie: A quirky French romantic comedy. If I weren’t married, I’d fall in love with the main character.
Blind Shaft: A bleak but powerful Chinese film about life in the Chinese coal mines.
Oldboy: An amazing South Korean action film that is best if unspoiled at all.
Seven Samurai: A classic Japanese Kurosawa film upon which the American film “The Magnificent Seven” was based.
The 400 Blows: A French film with a very memorable main character about the challenges that juvenile offenders face in their lives.
Yojimbo: A classic Japanese samurai film about a lone warrior caught between two gang bosses.

Films – Sci-Fi/Fantasy
District 9: A powerful film about loss of identity through the eyes of humans and alien refugees.
Escape from New York: One of my favorite films as a teenager, this is a classic sci-fi action film.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: A gorgeous epic film about the harrowing journey of an individual with a great burden to bear and those who help him.

Series – Comedy
30 Rock: A quirky comedy about the production of a television show.
Archer: An animated humorous take on James Bond style spy movies.
Arrested Development: A wonderfully self-referential comedy about a clueless rich family.
Better Off Ted: A comedy about the challenges of working for a soulless corporation.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog: A short musical series about the emotional conflicts of a supervillain.
Futurama: What will the year 3,000 look like?
Scrubs: A great series about hospital workers… for the first five or six seasons or so.
The Guild: A warped look at the lives of obsessive players of online RPGs (a thinly-disguised World of Warcraft).
The IT Crowd: A darkly comical look at how IT workers deal with life.
The League: An amusing but sometimes serious look at the members of a fantasy football league.
The Office: A great series about professional life at a “typical” office environment.
The Office (UK): The superior (in my opinion) British predecessor of the above series.

Series – Documentary
Cosmos: The best documentary I’ve ever seen. Carl Sagan looks at the universe.
Frontline: Not a single series, but a large collection of short documentaries on various subjects.
God in America: How Religious Liberty Shaped America: A great look at the ties between religion and the history of America.
Ken Burns’ The Civil War: Moving coverage of America’s Civil War, and surprisingly effective at humanizing it.
Ken Burns’ The War: An emotionally (and factually) powerful look at the second world war.
Ken Burns: Baseball: A deep look at the history of baseball and how it’s intrinsically tied to American history.
Ken Burns: Jazz: A look at the history of jazz music and the deep ties it holds to the twentieth century in America.

Series – Drama
Bones: A great series about forensic anthropology and human relationships.
Damages: The single best legal drama I’ve ever seen.
Friday Night Lights: If you think this show is about football, you haven’t watched it.
Sons of Anarchy: A harrowing look at an anarchist motorcycle gang and the conflicts they create.

Series – Sci-Fi
Battlestar Galactica: The single best sci-fi television series I’ve ever seen. If you’ve ever even considered watching one, watch this one.
Doctor Who: A quirky British series about a time traveller who pops up at different points and locations.
Firefly: The second best sci-fi series I’ve ever seen, and a bit more tongue-in-cheek than the first.
Flashforward: A great series about the consequences of being able to see six months into the future.
Lost: A wonderful (and deep) series about isolation, life, death, and hope.
Stargate SG-1: A very fun and light series about humans who visit other planets and cultures.
The X-Files: You couldn’t pay me enough to miss this series throughout the 1990s. This is the grandaddy of modern sci-fi on TV.
Torchwood: A great series about a team that investigates abnormal events.
Twin Peaks: A very quirky series about a strange small town and a murder investigation.

Grab some friends (or your honey), pop some popcorn, and settle in for some low-cost entertainment!

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