The Best New Movies to Watch on Netflix in January 2021

Forget resolutions. You know what the new year really means? New movies. And if the first week of 2021 was any indication, we’re gonna need the streaming self-care! So if you’re looking to do a little relaxing and wondering what to watch on Netflix this month, we’ve got you covered with a handy rundown of the best new movies arriving on the streaming service in January.

As usual, there are a ton of older favorites new to Netflix this month, including one of the best-ever James Bond movies and a double dose of Martin Scorsese classics. In the realm of new releases, folks keeping an eye on the awards race will want to make sure to watch Pieces of a Woman, while folks looking for a good satirical thriller won’t want to miss The White Tiger.

Check out the highlights below. If didn’t find what you’re looking for here, here’s a complete list of everything that’s new to Netflix this month and our go-to guide to all the best movies on Netflix.

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Nicolas Cage in History of Swear Words

Casino Royale

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Image via EON

Available: January 1

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Tobias Menzies

Considered by many to be the best Bond movie of them all, Casino Royale introduced the world to Daniel Craig’s 007 – a gritty, swaggering post-Bourne Bond who can rough and tumble with the best of them. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell returns to the iconic spy franchise, bringing a bit of old school to the new generation, perfectly toeing the line between the classic must-have Bond moments (fast cars, shaken martinis, beautiful women, etc…) while elegantly updating the material at the same time. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is easily one of the most memorable Bond women, afforded a compelling and intimate relationship with the superspy beyond the standard seduction. Mads Mikkelsen’s villainous Le Chiffre is equally memorable (pretty sure some men are still wincing from that torture scene.) The perfect balance of classic and modern, Casino Royale is one of the best spy movies ever made, jam-packed with stunning set-pieces and all the best bits of the Bond legacy. – Haleigh Foutch

The Minimalists: Less Is Now

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Image via Netflix

Director: Matt D’Avella

If you’re into culture and lifestyle entertainment or spend any decent amount of time on YouTube, you’re probably pretty well acquainted with minimalism by now. In that regard, Netflix’s new documentary The Minimalists: Less Is Now, doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the conversation, but at a trim 93 minutes it serves as a short-and-sweet intro to a lifestyle change our hyper-consumerist, fast-fashion culture could definitely benefit from hearing. While this one might have been better served by adopting a series format a la Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, which would allow the hosts to actually provide actionable guides to reducing the clutter – in our space and in our minds – but all the same, Less Is Now is a nice little spark of inspiration to remind you that you probably don’t need whatever it was you were about to hit “purchase” on. – Haleigh Foutch

The Departed

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: William Nicholson

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, and James Badge Dale

The Departed won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, but in truth director Martin Scorsese was really just trying to make a fun, commercial movie after the back-to-back heavy dramas of Gangs of New York and The Aviator. The result is a thrilling, surprising crime thriller based on the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. The story finds Leonardo DiCaprio going undercover as to infiltrate the crew of Irish mob boss Frank Costello (an unhinged Jack Nicholson). Alternatively, Frank assigns one of his own crew members (Matt Damon) to go undercover in the Massachusetts State Police to root out a mole. Twists and turns abound, all while this incredible ensemble cast keeps the screenplay light on its feet despite the dark subject matter. Thrilling and affecting in equal measure, The Departed is a meal of a movie. Adam Chitwood

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Available: December 1

Writers/Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, Lauren Graham, Will Forte

For several years of my early life, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was the only book I cared about. With the inimitable fanaticism of childhood, I adored that goofy little book about feasts falling from the sky, so I was a particularly tough sell when it came to the 2009 animated movie — especially since the new-gen animated art bore so little resemblance to the vaguely creepy illustrations I knew and loved. Fortunately, in the hands of filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, that reinvention is the film’s very strength and an early example of the genre-fusing creativity that has become the hallmark of their film careers.

With a snappy, clever script, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of an oddball inventor (Bill Hader) who devises a machine to convert water to food in order to save the town of Swallow Falls, but when his invention unleashes a destructive avalanche of tasty treats, he has to find a way to save the town from (way) too much of a good thing. Riffing on familiar disaster movie classics, with a voice cast that keeps things cracking, lively, and laugh-out-loud funny, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a quirky and creative animated gem that’s genuinely entertaining for all ages. – Haleigh Foutch

Catch Me If You Can

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Catch Me If You Can Leonardo DiCaprio

Image via DreamWorks

Available: January 16

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Jeff Nathanson

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and Amy Adams

Catch Me If You Can is lowkey one of Steven Spielberg’s best films that also boasts one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performances and one of John Williams’ best scores — and all of that is saying something. Based on a true story, DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale Jr., a man who became a professional con man by the age of 19, earning millions of dollars while trotting around the globe. It’s fun, flighty, and surprising in equal measure, but at heart Catch Me If You Can is the story of a father and a son, and is actually one of Spielberg’s most personal films he’s ever made — it was directly influenced by Spielberg learning new information about his father’s divorce. We take Spielberg for granted, and while Catch Me If You Can may not have the level of recognition of Jurassic Park or E.T., it is unmistakably one of the filmmaker’s best films – and by extension one of the best films of the 21st century. – Adam Chitwood


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Image via Warner Bros.

Available: January 21

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writers: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese

Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Pesci, and Paul Sorvino

Any director would be happy to make one masterpiece in his or her career, but filmmaker Martin Scorsese has several, and sure Goodfellas is towards the top of the heap. The director’s 1990 mob drama epic still stands today as a stone-cold classic, telling the true rise and fall story of mob associate Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), tracking his life of crime from childhood up through the excess of the 1980s. It’s an epic saga told with vigor and bombast — this thing moves, and it’s all thanks to Scorsese’s kinetic camerawork and editing style. The soundtrack is killer, the performances are incredible (Joe Pesci!), and it’s a film that’s had a lasting impact on a number of filmmakers and the art of filmmaking in general. There are many Goodfellas-esque movies, but there’s only one Goodfellas. – Adam Chitwood

Sherlock Holmes

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Image via Warner Bros.

Available: January 1

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, and Eddie Marsan

In the months following Iron Man’s blockbuster success, Robert Downey Jr. doubled-down by filming a very different kind of iconic role: that of Sherlock Holmes. Filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his tough guy sensibilities to this 2009 adaptation Sherlock Holmes, which positions Holmes as a bit of a superhero using slow-motion camera techniques and a punishing sound mix that makes you feel every punch landed by this surprisingly buff detective. The story finds Holmes (Downey) and Watson (Jude Law) investigating a plot to control Britain by supernatural means, with Rachel McAdams proving to be a bright spot as Irene Adler. This one’s fun. – Adam Chitwood

Pieces of a Woman

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Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman

Image via Netflix

Available: January 7

Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Writer: Kata Wéber

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Ellen Burstyn, Shia LaBeouf

A grueling but occasionally gorgeous portrait of grief, Pieces of a Woman follows a couple (played by Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf) who suffer a devastating loss when their infant daughter mysteriously dies soon after a seemingly healthy home birth. Helmed by White God director Kornél Mundruczó, the film features a flashy but phenomenally effective long-take birth scene that runs more than 20 minutes and puts you through the devastation that frames the rest of the film first-hand. Kirby is deservedly an awards frontrunner for her performance as a woman caught in the grips of unfathomable grief and paralyzing depression, and with Ellen Burstyn turning in a great supporting performance, Oscar enthusiasts are going to make sure they have this one on their watchlist – just brace yourself for the brutal emotional impact. – Haleigh Foutch

The White Tiger

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Image via Netflix

Available: January 22

Director/Writer: Ramin Bahrani

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao, Adarsh Gourav

From Chop Shop and 99 Homes filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, Netflix’s The White Tiger shares the same fascination with resourceful underdogs and ethically dubious social climbers, reframed as a sharp satirical thriller Balram (Ardash Gourav), who narrates the story of how he came from nothing and rose to become a wealthy entrepreneur. A black comedy molded around the inherent absurdity and empathetic flaws of the caste system, The White Tiger pokes and prods at soulless concepts of success with a venomous streak of humor and a tight grip on dramatic thrills. – Haleigh Foutch

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