The best crime movies on Netflix right now – Entertainment Weekly News

There are few things more compelling than crime. Just ask filmmakers, who, since 1903's The Great Train Robbery, have understood the built-in dramatic possibilities of people doing things they should not. But there are all kinds of crime (and all kinds of criminals), some with more reason than others to steal, rob, murder, and otherwise wreak havoc. In this list of the best crime movies currently on Netflix, you'll find home invaders, bank robbers, long cons, and spur-of-the-moment sprees, all for your viewing pleasure.
Crime films have always been central to cinema, providing an intersection for action, social commentary, and outsized character studies, much to the delight of filmmakers and audiences alike. But Arthur Penn‘s depiction of the Depression-era crime spree of lovers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow turned the conventions of American crime films upside down. Famed critic Bosley Crowther was so appalled by what he saw as Penn’s glorification of the real-life bank robbing couple’s violence that he waged a campaign against the film for years. Meanwhile, Bonnie and Clyde looted America’s box offices, returning $70 million on the film’s $2.5 million budget. 
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway make the duo’s increasingly violent capers smolder with romantic chemistry and unprecedented sexual frankness, while Penn’s blend of high-spirited comedy and sudden, jarring violence keeps Bonnie and Clyde consistently startling and alive, even as decades of imitators aped its innovations. A great supporting cast (Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard, and Gene Wilder in his film debut) along with Penn’s New Wave-inspired editing all come together in a still-bracing,  surprising tale of doomed love on the run. 
If you liked Bonnie and Clyde, you might also enjoy: The Highwaymen (2019), streaming on Netflix. 
Director David Fincher rebounded from the disillusioning experience of his studio-mangled feature debut Alien 3 with one of the most celebrated, disturbing, and subsequently imitated horror thrillers ever. Mismatched detectives Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt discover a serial killer dispatching victims according to his interpretation of the seven deadly sins, leading to a singularly dark, visceral, and oppressive police procedural that plays right into the depths of human depravity. Each of the seven crime scenes is a hellish tableau of writer Andrew Kevin Walker‘s imagining, lending a structure to the detectives’ quest that gradually leads straight down into the unthinkable, still-shocking conclusion.  
Se7en felt unprecedentedly bleak upon its release in 1995, and even after scores of lesser pretenders have diluted Fincher’s fiendish, meticulous style (the later Saw torture porn juvenilia being the most tone-deaf), the film’s relentless grimness still makes Se7en a wrenching watch. Freeman, as the world-weariest cop in a truly wearying world, has never been better, and the young Pitt, playing the hotheaded do-gooder the killer sets his final sights upon, has the raw energy he’d later harness in his more recent roles. It’s a testament to Fincher’s achievement that, decades later, choosing to rewatch Se7en still means steeling yourself for the experience. 
If you liked Se7en, you might also enjoy: Zodiac (2007), available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
As we must when enjoying the performance of the actor playing the surprise serial killer of Se7en, sitting down to watch a Luc Besson film in 2022 is an exercise in separating the art from the artist. It’s especially queasy to watch Besson’s tale of a taciturn French hitman (an excellent Jean Reno) forming a quasi-sexual relationship with the 12-year-old orphan (Natalie Portman) he unwillingly takes under his wing, knowing that, at the time, the 32-year-old Besson was in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old actress who’d later bear his child (the director has also faced multiple rape allegations).
And while the sight of the precocious Portman’s Mathilda attempting to seduce a much older man smacks of a pedophile justifying his own behavior in retrospect, it has to be said that Léon: The Professional remains a stylishly affecting, over-the-top action vehicle for Reno, Portman, and a hammier-than-ever Gary Oldman, as the corrupt cop on their trail. 
The burgeoning relationship between simple but deadly Léon and the bright-eyed Matilda ultimately plays out more as a twisted father-daughter one (the original French cuts leans into the sexual aspect much more), with the bereft girl (whose parents were slain by Oldman) learning the hitman ropes under Léon’s strict but loving tutelage. With its mix of flashy, graceful setpieces, Oldman’s deliciously extravagant performance, and the genuinely affecting work of both Reno and Portman, Léon‘s darkly comic action still holds up — if you can set aside its unsettling behind-the-scenes implications. 
If you liked Léon: The Professional, you might also enjoy: Taxi Driver (1976), Streaming on Netflix.
“The days of robbin’ banks and living to spend the money’s long gone,” says an old-timer to Jeff Bridges‘ even older Texas Ranger in this modern-day Western written by Sicario‘s Taylor Sheridan. Still, that’s the plan of brothers Chris Pine and Ben Foster, who’ve devised a scheme to rob branches of the same bank that drove their late mother’s ranch into foreclosure. Black sheep Foster is the hotheaded ex-con, but it’s the formerly-responsible Pine’s scheme, as, in the face of the bank’s predatory lending and merciless repossessing, he seeks to ensure his estranged sons’ legacy. 
Jeff Bridges as a crusty and dogged lawman might be typecasting, but he’s never less than brilliant here as his Ranger tries to piece together the brothers’ motives and pattern in the final days before retirement. Then there’s the excellent Gil Birmingham as his half-Native partner who can almost, but never quite, shrug off the salty Bridges’ good old boy racist teasing. 
Director David Mackenzie filters Sheridan’s screenplay through a dusty lens of economic exhaustion and disillusionment (and Texas’ quick-trigger culture), while Foster and Pine’s mismatched brothers play out their desperate but well-conceived revenge through a lyrically profane banter of buried resentments and ugly family history. And if No Country for Old Men mined some of the same thematic and stylistic ground, Hell or High Water stands on its own as a truly memorable portrait of a depleted America, where idled skills are repurposed into criminal plots. 
If you liked Hell or High Water, you might also enjoy: Wind River (2017), streaming on Netflix.
The debut film of then-20-year-old writer-directors the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen), this gritty tale of best friends battling the lures of crime and drugs in their L.A. neighborhood still packs a potent punch. Young co-stars Tyrin Turner (as Caine) and Larenz Tate (O-Dog) are exceptional, channeling the conflicting loyalties of a lifelong friendship as the increasingly unpredictable O-Dog drifts further into a life of unpredictable violence. The shocking crime that spells doom for these characters is a wrenching explosion of ever-simmering racial tensions and suspicions that are as horrifying as potentially inevitable. 
Critics compared Menace II Society to 1991’s similarly themed (and also excellent) Boyz N the Hood, with the lower-budgeted Menace standing out as an even more raw and unfiltered look into what EW called at the time, “a full-scale vision of the madness that is tearing up the Black inner city.” With stellar support from Jada Pinkett Smith, Glenn Plummer, and Samuel L. Jackson (in a stunner of a cameo), the Detroit-born Hughes brothers craft a complex and unflinching look at the way poverty, prejudice, and toxic masculinity trap their characters in a no-win situation of violence, vengeance, and total  destruction. 
If you liked Menace II Society, you might also enjoy: Juice (1992), streaming on Paramount+.
Now that Netflix has cited this Martin Scorsese mob movie as one of the “expensive vanity projects” the streamer will no longer be producing, it’s about time to check out the old-timer filmmaker’s latest, and perhaps last, collaboration with longtime muse Robert De Niro. Based on a biography of supposed Mafia hitman (and self-professed murderer of Teamster head Jimmy Hoffa), Frank Sheeran, The Irishman sees Scorsese once more returning to that specific criminal underworld, legendary stars in tow. In addition to De Niro’s Sheeran, Hoffa himself is played by Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel plays mobster Angelo Bruno, and Joe Pesci (lured out of retirement by De Niro) plays mob boss Russell Bufalino. 
And if you’re wondering how those septuagenarian stars can play middle-aged, 1950’s-1970’s versions of their real-life characters, you can thank that Netflix money. The streamer allowed Scorsese to experiment with groundbreaking (and mostly successful) de-aging tricks as DeNiro’s elderly assassin looks back on his improbably eventful life of crime. So, does The Irishman qualify as a “vanity project?” Possibly. But it’s not vanity when you’re Martin Scorsese, continuing the career-long exploration of the links between power, violence, greed, and the American dream. 
If you liked The Irishman, you might also enjoy: Once Upon a Time in America (1984), streaming on Netflix.
Martin Scorsese has successfully broadened his cinematic palette beyond his best-known world of hoods, mobsters, and gritty New York streets over the years. But, as with his mostly triumphant return to the genre in 2019’s The Irishman, the world of tough guys and organized crime is clearly one of the master director’s main thematic inspirations. To borrow a line from Francis Ford Coppola‘s own returns to the mafia genre, one might imagine the ambitious and eclectic Scorsese complaining, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” 
Adapting Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Hong Kong-set thriller Infernal Affairs as a Boston-based tale of intersecting police and mob corruption was, apparently, yet another siren call for Scorsese, who assembled a stellar cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Kevin Corrigan) and wound up winning his first—and, to date, only—Oscar for Best Director. 
Some might quibble that Scorsese should have won for any of the nine other films for which he was nominated (and lost) for Best Director. Or that the following year’s Ben Affleck-directed Gone Baby Gone represents a far more authentic Boston crime story (The Departed was mostly filmed in Scorsese’s New York City). But there’s no question that The Departed‘s tale of criss-crossing loyalties and betrayals shows Scorsese at his most propulsive and energetic.
If you liked The Departed, you might also enjoy: Gangs of New York (2002), streaming on Starz.
Lest anyone think that crime is restricted to the impoverished classes, this gripping white-collar thriller follows a man whose entire job involves covering up the misdeeds of the wealthy and powerful. A never-better George Clooney is Michael Clayton, a lawyer who’s become his high-powered firm’s designated “fixer,” using his smarts and connections to enable and erase the crimes of the firm’s most valuable clients. Himself drowning in debt, the increasingly dispirited Clayton is tasked with shoring up the defense of a chemical company accused of poisoning hundreds, a job complicated when the firm’s top litigator (Tom Wilkinson) stops taking his meds and starts telling the truth. 
With an Oscar-winning turn from Tilda Swinton as the corporate executive prepared to do literally anything to protect the bottom line, and the late Sydney Pollack as the firm’s managing partner urging Clayton to bury his inconvenient misgivings, Tony Gilroy‘s Michael Clayton is an icy and methodical portrait of the genteel banality of corporate evil (while also showcasing the most chillingly efficient pair of well-dressed corporate hitmen since Hal Hartley’s Amateur). If poverty is often portrayed in film as the root of all crime, movies like this one make the compelling case that the greed of the monied is much more deadly. 
If you liked Michael Clayton, you might also enjoy: Margin Call (2011), streaming on Netflix.
Sure, this sequel film following Jesse Pinkman’s struggle to leave his criminal past behind (after escaping those neo-Nazis in the Breaking Bad finale) might be little more than another few episodes of the hit series. But who’s complaining about that? Especially as Aaron Paul returns to his career-making role, and series creator Vince Gilligan returns as writer and director. As Gilligan has proven with his equally show-stopping spin-off series Better Call Saul, he’s as adept at fleshing out his characters’ pasts and futures with equal skill. 
Returning shattered to an Albuquerque reeling from his meth-cooking work, Paul’s Pinkman is as weighed down by guilt over his actions as he is by the gathered forces hunting him. Seeking out old allies and accomplices (among others, this marked the last on-screen appearance of Robert Forster as criminal “disappearer” Ed Galbraith) as he plots his next move, Pinkman must contend with the damage he’s done to himself and everyone in his life, all while contemplating whether he deserves a fresh start at all. Paul has never been better than as the tortured Pinkman, whom EW’s critic praised for “impressively juggles multiple eras of Pinkmania: ‘Yeah, bitch!’-ing meth student, wuvvy romantic, wrecking ball of soul-scabbed vengeance.”
If you liked El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, you might also enjoy: I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017), streaming on Netflix. 
Jake Gyllenhaal lost 20 pounds to play Louis Bloom, the ghoulish sneak thief-turned-freelance crime scene journalist, in this alternately gripping and skin-crawling drama. A socially maladjusted scrounger with a headful of self-promoting corporate speak and no morals whatsoever, Gyllenhaal’s Bloom stumbles into an occupation ideally suited to his character. After a chance encounter with Bill Paxton‘s established “nightcrawler,” who sells his gory footage of crime scenes and accidents to local news executives like Rene Russo‘s ratings-hungry producer, Bloom throws all his monomaniacal energy into making himself the number one, semi-legal newshound in L.A.
Helped as much by his amoral willingness to trespass on active crime scenes as by his clueless and conflicted intern (Riz Ahmed), Gyllenhall’s Bloom soon graduates to staging, and eventually causing, the mayhem he turns into cash and power. Nightcrawler unsubtly hammers home “if it bleeds, it leads,” matching the amorality of the news business (with a side of Russo’s explicit desire to scare white viewers with images of minority crimes). But the film is jolted alive by the ever-present Gyllenhaal, who haunts every frame of Dan Gilroy‘s film just as his Bloom can always be found stalking around the periphery of every sordid locale. 
If you liked Nightcrawler, you might also enjoy: Nocturnal Animals (2016), streaming on Netflix.
With the one-two gut punch of the recent passing of stars Ray Liotta and Paul Sorvino, a home rewatch of this all-time classic Scorsese mobster drama is absolutely in order. Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s memoir of actual (semi-)retired mafia figure Henry Hill, Scorsese’s film stands out as the best and most assured pure-mob film in the director’s illustrious career. Featuring a cast including Lorraine Bracco, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci all turning in career-best performances, GoodFellas truly is as good as its hard-won reputation. 
Famously, Scorsese noted that he wanted his organized crime film to “begin like a gunshot” and then only get faster from there. He succeeded, with the rise and inevitable fall of wannabe gangster Hill driving through scene after scene of impeccable acting, sudden, shocking violence, and Scorsese’s never-more lyrical and assured direction. Also a primer on how to incorporate popular music to mark the passage of time, GoodFellas flows through its two-plus hours of meticulously authentic and lived-in mob drama. The director also noted how he imagined GoodFellas as “a two-and-half-hour trailer,” with the film’s immaculately assembled standout scenes indeed functioning as a full-length advertisement for the brilliance of everyone involved. 
If you liked GoodFellas, you might also enjoy: Scarface (1983), streaming on Peacock.
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