(NEXSTAR) – A movie night in should be simple enough, but then it comes time to actually choose the movie. There are so many choices to stream, it can be hard to sort through what’s worth your time and what’s not.
For help, we turn to the experts at Metacritic, an entertainment review site that consolidates movie critics’ scores from around the internet, gives each score a weight and calculates a weighted average. Basically, instead of reading lots of movie reviews, Metacritic just gives you one aggregated score from zero to 100.
We’ve used Metacritic ratings to compile a list of the best of the best. You might want to consider one of these for your next movie night.
(A quick note on our methodology: We’ve left off movies that are not rated or rated NC-17. We’d rather not write summaries of those movie plots on our work computers. Also, Metacritic omits movies that received fewer than seven critic reviews, so we’ve left those off our list, too. )
Here we go: the best movies of the past 20 years, according to Metacritic.
This drama-meets-western follows Frances McDormand’s character as she embarks on the nomad lifestyle, living out of a van and driving across the country from job to job. Critics called it a moving depiction of the disenfranchised in America. The film won best picture at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
Metacritic score: 93 (based on 54 critic reviews)
It’s hard to place this movie, directed by Bong Joon-Ho, into a genre. Is it a dark comedy? A horror? A drama? All of the above? If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible, so we won’t say anything more. “Parasite” won the Academy Award for best picture and the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Metacritic score: 96 (based on 52 critic reviews)
Beautifully shot in black and white, “Roma” tells the story of a domestic worker in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City and the family that employs her. Director Alfonso Cuaron called the movie a love letter to the area he grew up in and the women who raised him there.
Metacritic score: 96 (based on 50 critic reviews)
2017: “Dunkirk” and “Ladybird” (tied)
These two top-ranked movies would make for quite the diverse double feature on an at-home movie night. Start with “Dunkirk,” the heart-pounding Christopher Nolan retelling of the evacuation of Allied Forces from a beach in Northern France during World War II. Let your heart rate come down to more normal levels by following it up with “Ladybird,” Greta Gerwig’s tale of an angsty teen growing up in Sacramento, California, who couldn’t be more ready to leave her hometown. Both will toy with your emotions in very different ways.
Metacritic scores: 94 (based on 53 critic reviews for “Dunkirk” and based on 50 critic reviews for “Ladybird”)
“Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins, tells a deeply emotional coming-of-age story. It starts with a boy growing up in Miami amid the crack epidemic and follows him through the stages of his life as he struggles with his identity. “It’s a true American masterpiece and one of the best films of the decade,” reads the review in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Metacritic score: 99 (based on 53 critic reviews)
2015: “Carol” and “Inside Out” (tied)
Again we have a tie between two very different movies – one rated R, the other PG. “Carol” is a love story between two women in 1950s New York. “Inside Out” is a Disney-Pixar movie about the personified emotions living inside your head. You can probably already tell which one is more your vibe.
Metacritic scores: 94 (based on 45 critic reviews for “Carol” and based on 55 critic reviews for “Inside Out”)
What makes “Boyhood” a truly unique coming-of-age story is that it was filmed over the course of 12 years, starting when the main character Mason was 6 years old in 2002. The experimental style gives an authenticity to the characters’ stories as they age and navigate new challenges in life. “It’s the selective but cumulative use of seemingly arbitrary but significant experiences that gives ‘Boyhood’ its distinctive character and impressive weight,” said the Hollywood Reporter review.
Metacritic score: 100 (based on 50 critic reviews)
2013: “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity”
“12 Years a Slave” is about a free Black man who is abducted, enslaved and tortured. “’12 Years a Slave’ is to the ‘peculiar institution’ what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a work that, finally, asks a mainstream audience to confront the worst of what humanity can do to itself,” wrote the Boston Globe.
In “Gravity,” Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play a scientist and an astronaut who are left stranded in space during a spacewalk, spiraling and floating in just their space suits with oxygen ticking down.
Metacritic scores: 96 (based on 57 critic reviews for “12 Years a Slave” and 49 critic reviews for “Gravity”)
2012: “Zero Dark Thirty”
The movie, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, centers on the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden. Even though we all know how this one ends, the drama and tension of the movie lie in the CIA and military operatives’ long, secretive and fraught (by fraught, we mean there’s a lot of torture) manhunt.
Metacritic score: 95 (based on 46 critic reviews)
2011: “A Separation”
The story follows a couple going through divorce in modern-day Iran. Divorce is never simple, and this one is no exception. “Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’ serves as a quiet reminder of how good it’s possible for movies to be,” said the review in Slate.
Metacritic score: 95 (based on 41 critic reviews)
2010: “The Social Network”
This movie takes us back in time to 2003, when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook out of his college dorm room, and follows the conflict that arises as the social network explodes in popularity. Eleven years later, it feels like we need another Facebook movie that (somehow) has an even darker outcome.
Metacritic score: 95 (based on 42 critic reviews)
2009: “The Hurt Locker”
Another war thriller by Kathryn Bigelow that makes the best-of list, “The Hurt Locker” depicts a reckless new sergeant in charge of a bomb disposal team as his subordinates struggle to manage him and stay safe.
Metacritic score: 95 (based on 37 critic reviews)
Yes, it’s a Disney-Pixar animated movie with a G rating. Yes, it will make adults feel lots of feelings. WALL-E is the name of a trash-sorting robot roaming the Earth after humans have made such a mess of the planet that they’ve had to leave it behind. (See? Some pretty serious stuff!) The little robot’s life is turned upside down (in a good way) when he meets a cute robot named EVE.
Metacritic score: 95 (based on 42 critic reviews)
Here we have another G-rated Disney-Pixar special, but this one triggers far fewer pangs of climate anxiety and many more hunger pangs. Remy is a rat with dreams of being a chef, but he’s not welcome in any kitchen for obvious reasons. He teams up with a hapless human cook and antics ensue.
Metacritic score: 96 (based on 37 critic reviews)
2006: “Pan’s Labyrinth”
This dark fairy tale-meets-horror directed by Guillermo del Toro blends genres and utilizes special effects to beautiful results. “‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is a transcendent work of art,” wrote the Boston Globe.
Metacritic score: 98 (based on 37 critic reviews)
2005: “The Best of Youth”
So first things first: This movie is 6 hours and 40 minutes long. That is not a typo. But multiple reviewers wrote that, miraculously, the movie didn’t actually feel too long. It’s an epic tale following two Italian brothers from the 1960s to the early 2000s. You can break up the movie into chunks to watch it over a few nights, but the story is apparently so engrossing, you may have a tough time hitting pause.
Metacritic score: 89 (based on 28 critic reviews)
The movie follows two friends on a wine-tasting road trip. “It is the counterintuitive triumph of ‘Sideways’ … to turn seven days with these scoundrels into a completely satisfying movie that quietly, gently blows you away,” reads the Los Angeles Times review. Winemakers in California credited the movie with causing pinot noir wines to explode in popularity.
Metacritic score: 94 (based on 42 critic reviews)
2003: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
The final installment in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy won every Academy Award category it was nominated in – 11 in total, including best picture. If you never jumped on the bandwagon, take this as your sign to start from the first LOTR movie, knowing there’s a more-than-satisfying end to the series.
Metacritic score: 94 (based on 41 critic reviews)
2002: “Spirited Away”
Hayao Miyazaki’s movie follows a girl who gets trapped in a spirit world and goes on a strange (and at times, scary) journey to get back to her normal life. The New York Post called “Spirited Away” a “cross between ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz.'”
Metacritic score: 96 (based on 41 critic reviews)
2001: “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring”
While the first installment in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy didn’t sweep the Oscars like the third installment did, it was still the best movie of the year, according to Metacritic scores. Watch as Frodo embarks on his mission to destroy the ring, and sucks you into the series.
Metacritic score: 92 (based on 34 critic reviews)