This past November, I moved from Orlando, Fla., to Seattle and discovered something magical in the process: winter. For everyone outside the Sunshine State, you have to understand that where I’m from, we have four seasons: December, January, February and summer. So when we left an 80-degree Florida on Black Friday and arrived in Seattle a week later to find a foot of snow settling 20 minutes away at the base of the mountains, my world was rocked.
In the month since, my house hasn’t seen more than an inch of snow stick on the ground. But that’s not the case for the rest of the country (we’re all pulling for you, East Coast). What is there to do when the weather outside is truly frightful and there’s too much snow on the ground to drive to work?
Well, on the eighth day, God created Netflix. So if you’re opening your front door to a winter scene that’s more blizzard than wonderland, get out your Snuggie and settle down in front of the TV. Here are 10 of the best Netflix Instant movies to turn to on those days when your cups are filled with cider, your feet are cozy in socks and your heat is cranked all the way up. For those of you down south … bookmark this page and save it for a hurricane day next September.
The British miniseries about the world’s most famous detective isn’t a movie, per se. But each episode is 90 minutes long, so for snow day purposes, it counts. Here’s the beauty of a miniseries where each episode is the length of a real movie: It’s like having an abundance of cliffhangers leading into sequels that are just as good as the first. Think Toy Story sequels, not Mission Impossible ones. Plus, it’s absolutely possible to finish all three episodes of the first season of Sherlock in one day—and maybe even get to season two and watch all of that as well.
Two words: Liam Neeson. America’s favorite tough guy leads a group of unruly oil-riggers after their plane crashes in The Middle of Nowhere, Alaska. They battle injuries, the elements—oh, and a pack of gray wolves stalking them as they try to keep warm and find shelter. The main thing you need to know about The Grey is that it’s set in the wilderness of Alaska during a blizzard, which basically makes whatever’s happening outside your doors look like the Bahamas. Unless you live in Alaska and it’s storming, in which case, sorry about that.
If you want an escape from the cold white landscape, turn to True Grit. This 2010 western is the second adaptation of a 1968 novel by the same name and was previously filmed by John Wayne in 1969. Mattie, a 14-year-old Arkansas girl, sets out to avenge the murder of her father and hires the toughest and meanest U.S. marshall in town to help her do it. The film is a Netflix treasure—and one of the few Coen Brothers movies you can watch with your parents without them complaining it’s too weird.
Netflix has done as disservice to Hugo by categorizing it under “Children’s Movies” along with The Aristocats and The Wild Thornberrys Movie. The whimsical 3-D film, so named for its title character, stole the Academy Awards in 2011, taking home five Oscars out of a whopping 11 nominations. Hugo follows the adventure of a Parisian orphan boy living secretly within the walls of a train station whose undercover life is put in jeopardy when he befriends the eccentric daughter of the station’s toy booth owner. Hugo’s layers are intricate, and don’t let its label throw you off—Hugo is a must-see film, no matter what generation you belong to.
You know how Hugo won five awards out of 11 nominations at the 2011 Academy Awards? The Artist is the movie that took almost all the other ones. The French romantic comedy was filmed as a black-and-white silent film, earning it the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for star Jean Dujardin, among other accolades. The thought of a silent movie can be intimidating, but what The Artist doesn’t offer in vocal dialogue, it more than makes up for in compelling storyline, wit and romantic bliss.
If you haven’t heard of Melancholia, you’re not alone. The Lars von Trier sci-fi flick opened to limited release in theaters despite overwhelmingly positive critical reviews. The movie isn’t exactly a laugh a minute—it spends its entire plot counting down to the end of the world, when a rogue planet is set to collide with Earth. But for all its tension, Melancholia is a divine work of art that will leave you haunted for days in a way you don’t too much mind.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Hipster movie gold. Material for a thousand Tumblr GIFs. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind makes the case for Romeo and Juliet romance in the middle of a Montauk winter. If this film doesn’t make you want to lie in the middle of a frozen lake with the one you love, nothing will (which actually might not be the worst case, all things considered).
Ride & Fly
There’s at least one documentary on every Netflix Instant list, right? Before you watch this one, go out and buy a toboggan, an inner tube or some kind of sled; you’ll want to be prepared for the rush of inspiration that follows. Ride & Fly documents the pursuits of a group of certified nut-job sportsmen as they invent and perfect a sport that consists of half-skiing, half-paragliding down the side of giant, terrifying mountains. Ride & Fly will do to you what the really impressive parkour and freerunning videos did to hundreds of uncoordinated people on YouTube: make you embarrass yourself horribly trying to do something that awe-inspiring. But at least you’ll have fun in the process.
The King’s Speech
Nothing will make you romanticize miserable weather like a Colin Firth movie set in England. The King’s Speech tells the true story of King George VI of Britain, his sudden ascension to the throne and the eccentric speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch cope with a debilitating stutter and become competent in his position.
Before Jennifer Lawrence was the embodiment of girl power in The Hunger Games and became every woman, everywhere, she was the star of the Academy Award-nominated film Winter’s Bone. And she’s about 100 times better in it. Winter’s Bone is the highlight of Netflix’s independent films section, telling the story of a young woman from the Ozarks of America who must find her meth-cooking father to avoid eviction after dad skips bail, leaving the family on the brink of homelessness. The film was Lawrence’s true breakout performance, and Hunger Games fan or not, Winter’s Bone deserves a spot on your instant queue.
Heather is a writer, editor, Nutella connoisseur and Seattle transplant by way of Great Britain and Orlando. Follow her on Twitter @hdcroteau.