Netflix’s VR app is possibly the best reason to consider getting a Virtual Reality device. As another Christmas season has given many the gift of a phone upgrade, we imagine many of you have also received the gift of virtual reality. The movie streaming giant’s VR app is perhaps the first “killer app” across several platforms including Oculus, Samsung Gear, and Google’s Daydream.
The light headsets and ability to use Netflix’s “Void Theater” make watching movies virtually very comfortable. With a screen that can be adjusted to larger than your own field of vision, Netflix’s screen immerses you in the movie in much the same way Imax’s massive screens do. It’s the largest TV you will ever own, conveniently on your phone. Many movies are worth watching in VR, but some make better use of the medium than others. Here are The 15 Best Movies To Watch On Netflix VR right now:
Not everything we do in VR has to be some super immersive battle against an alien horde. The film Comet is the simple romance of two people who find one another at a meteor shower in Los Angeles. Portrayed with charming appeal by Emmy Rossum and Justin Long, the couple plays out the ins and outs of a six year relationship. Comet hops around through the pair’s timeline and into alternative “What ifs?” until you begin to feel as though these might be scenarios playing out in the characters’ heads.
With subtle lighting effects and a disassociated timetable, the movie is designed to play like a dream or memory you can’t recall quite right. The sweet and human comedy isn’t much more than a character study, but the details make it an engrossing experience. The film stands out as a must watch in VR though because of the unique structure and subtleties formulated by the director, Sam Esmail. Esmail is perhaps best known for creating the USA series Mr. Robot, a show with its own unique perspective and very impressive VR experience.
14. NINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR
A massively overlooked martial arts masterpiece, Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear rises high above its ridiculous subtitle to be one of the best action movies on Netflix. Ninja II winks at it’s 80’s action genealogy, but never succumbs to its B-movie roots. Filmed on location in Thailand, the story centers on American ninja Casey Bowman (Scott Adkins) as he attempts to take out the leader of a drug network in Myanmar.
Director Isaac Florentine’s hand held camera work during the movie’s fight scenes sharply pulls into focus why you want to watch this through VR goggles. The tight fights are impressive not just because of Adkins’ amazing abilities, but also for the director’s fluid camera movements and editing that doesn’t cut away from the action. In this instance, the director smartly choreographed his camera into the fight, making it more realistic and visceral, even when actor Scott Adkins is doing something as basic as warm-ups on a wing chun.
13. BLACK HAWK DOWN
With a commitment to military realism and a superb eye for the smallest details, Ridley Scott’s depiction of the Battle of Mogadishu is an epic film no matter what scale you watch it in. In virtual reality, however, Black Hawk Down‘s cinematography and practical battles make for a mesmerizing experience. Starring a who’s who of up and coming actors and seasoned veterans, the performers went through Ranger and Special Forces training respective of their roles in the movie. Almost every shot in this film has a perspective, with no angle wasted in adding to the tension and scale.
Depicting the 1993 attempt to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu, the movie centers on the crash of two Black Hawk helicopters and a squad of Rangers trapped behind enemy lines. Often creating an embedded feel around the subjects, watching the movie in virtual reality gives you the depth of feeling like a nearby bystander. During the pitched battles and convoy sequences, it’s easy to find yourself wanting to dodge RPGs and falling high calibre shells.
Zootopia was a true cinematic surprise for many in 2016. Even from the Disney film’s earliest scenes depicting the history of animals as a school children’s play, viewers would have a sense of discovery as the movie moved though its world. As Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) explores Zootopia we get to see an immense world where creatures of incredibly diverse sizes. The way the movie plays with scale, the massive screen you can create in VR gives the experience an extra dimension.
The spectacular tram ride through Zootopia sweeps you into the detailed world you’ll be visiting. Other scenes that make this a fun VR journey are the introduction of Nick Wilde as he works his daily con, and Officer Hopps’ chase through mouse city. Both scenes have fun with their perspective shifts that highlight massive differences in species’ sizes. The movie is also down right adorable. Once you see the world through a wannabe baby elephants perspective, you won’t ever want to look back.
11. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Julie Taymor has a storied life as a director, having adapted both The Lion King and Spider-Man for the Broadway stage, one a bit more beloved than the other. In between those two career highlights Taymor directed the film Across the Universe, a musical using the work of The Beatles. Much in the same way she tried to be aware of the audience for her Broadway affairs, the director engages the audience in lyrical conversation while also tapping into the emotional memories we’ve tied to Beatles records.
Following the lives of Jude and Lucy through the turbulent ’60s, the characters of the movie break the fourth wall as Paul and John’s classic melodies lead us through their troubles and triumphs. Using several different visuals styles to support the emotional spectrum of the film, the often whimsical picture is weighed down only by how dour the affair at times becomes. Perhaps be prepared with tissues for… the lenses, anyway. There is no crying in VR.
After seeing City of Lost Children, you would think that Jean Pierre Jeunet would have directed the perfect Alien movie. Alien Resurrection would prove us all very wrong, but still manage to at least look pretty. The director’s follow up would be a magical treat as Jeunet showed his more delightful side in Amelie. Filled with lush detail and quirky highlights, the world Jeunet paints enwraps you, firmly setting his vision through Amelie’s eyes.
The film follows Audrey Tautou’s waitress Amelie as she tries to connect with the world and help others on the way. As she guides us through her Parisian life we meet troves of fun characters and set up complicated schemes to make their lives better. The dreamy, impressionistic view of French life along with layers upon layers of hidden detail make it perfect VR fodder. The movie was already immersive on the silver screen, but on the virtual screen it feels like a stroll through someone’s head.
9. HELLBOY & BLADE 2
Guillermo Del Toro’s film are hyper-stylized, detailed, and shot practically whenever possible, all three things make for engrossing VR movie viewing. Two of the director’s films are in rotation on Netflix at the moment. Both based on comics, Blade II gave Del Toro the clout necessary to get his long dreamed for adaptation of Hellboy off the ground. Because the fanciful worlds the storyteller creates are built practically whenever possible, the cinematic reality almost feels tangible.
Blade II sees Wesley Snipes’ daywalker team up with vampire royalty to hunt down a new strain of monster. Described as a “rather brilliant vomitorium of viscera” by Roger Ebert, the movie’s fight scenes pack an extra punch in a digital theater. Hellboy is equally as visceral, but in its stunning practical sets and props instead of bloodshed. All of this and both films star Ron Perlman, first as a thorn in Blade’s side, then as a hornless hero from World War II fighting the good fight against the supernatural.
8. FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF
Everyone needs a break now and again, so if you don’t have time to take a full day away, slip into VR with John Hughe’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The film is a standard bearer for light hearted mischief and the joys of youth’s lack of accountability. There’s a reason the film stands the test of the time, so much so even books on the future of VR like Ready Player One pay their respects. While the cinematography around scenes involving the fabled 1961 Ferrari GT make for some of the most immersive shots, the strength of the movie in virtual reality is actually in its character.
The fourth wall breaking Matthew Broderick charmingly leads us through a day of baseball games, joyrides, the top of the Sears Tower and even a parade. Ferris is a force of nature and to be caught up in that through this newly intimate technology makes for a deeper experience of a film you think you have memorized. The reason the movie works so well is because of its deep characters. John Hughes explained, “It’s not the events that are important, it’s the characters going through the event. Therefore, I make them as full and real as I can.”
The breakout film of auteur Danny Boyle captured a unique picture of Edinburgh as a group of junkies waste away their days. Narrated by Ewan McGregor’s Mark, the unflinching look at heroin addicts includes some surreal scenes depicting both the literal highs and withdrawal lows of a life on smack. Struggling with getting clean and trying to have a stable life, Mark is the sympathetic protagonist charmingly showing us his dysfunctional attempts to get straight.
With Netflix’s flexibility in screen placement, watching the scenes where Mark is swimming into the warmth of his buzz or convulsing in fear at the approaching manifestation of his guilt in the form of a creepy ceiling-crawling baby while lying down and looking up create a cognitive jerk, where the film has crossed over into an experience. The sequel to Trainspotting is coming to theaters soon, hopefully the experimental Boyle has another VR friendly outing to entertain us with. In the meantime, refresh yourself on the adventures of Mark, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie virtually.
6. KUNG FURY
Time travel, dinosaur cops, and kung-fu action all combine into a wicked short film that will most likely be remade into a full VR world people will want to live in someday. After gaining super powers and defeating giant arcade machine robots, Detective Kung Fury must go back in time to kill Hitler. He ends up in the viking age for a time he’s sent to the proper time to kill Hitler. With some backup from a Tyrannosaurus and a Viking god, Kung Fury faces off against Kung Fuhrer.
A pastiche of different video game elements and popular tropes of the 80’s, Kung Fury has a retro-future appeal that complements VR streaming well. Visually exciting and creatively shot, the movie is a prime example of the how nostalgia can be tapped to make something fun and new. Bouncing through genre and pop-culture reference is likely where you’ll see cinema and VR bleed together.
We may not have gotten a holographic shark that eats you in the streets as predicted by Back to the Future II, but we have reached a point in our technological evolution to be able to watch that same fake looking shark eat people in VR. Steven Spielberg’s story of shark versus sheriff has held a special place in cinema lovers hearts since its inception. It’s in a virtual theater that Jaws continues to deliver the fun. With the booming of the score’s bassline in your headphones and first person view of the shark’s movement, the film has you hooked from its opening kill to its final explosive end.
Shot on location in Martha’s Vineyard, the fictional Amity Island was filled with cooky inhabitants in deep denial about their plight against a great white shark terrorizing their beaches. The rich characters, attention to the minutiae of the world the movie takes place in and great visual perspective at critical moments all combine to make one of the best films ever made, let alone watch in VR.
4. WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE
Nightmare on Elm Street was lauded for its articulate antagonist, inventive dream scenarios and compelling hero. The series is a framework from which countless other supernatural slashers and survival horror films get their complexity and cleverness. Robert Englund crafted a fantastically visceral villain in Freddy Kreuger and while any of his misadventures make for compelling VR viewing, one claws its way above the rest.
Wes Craven would return to the franchise he helped create with A New Nightmare. The self referential & reverential movie sees Heather Langenkamp as “Last Girl” Nancy Thompson return to face a much more menacing Freddy than seen in the series’ past. The conceit of the film being the Freddy was using Wes as puppet to get through to the real world. The themes of the film would get revisited again in Wes’ follow up Scream series, but the movie within a movie device works on a deeper level when it’s Freddy invading your dreams to create a virtual nightmare.
3. JUNGLE BOOK
The “live action” adventures of Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera wowed at the box office as the splendor of Jon Favreau’s Indian jungle tale unfolded on screen. The rich world Disney’s Jungle Book was created in stunning detail with the same tech that James Cameron used to make Avatar. The environments created for Jungle Book were semi-rendered virtual spaces where he could find a camera angle he wanted within the 3D world. The young actor playing Mowgli would act the scene out on blue screen with the CG scene being lined up in the monitor. This is after they’ve already filmed the entire movie once before in motion capture. The result is a feeling of depth in the film that is far beyond what any other movie on this list has going for it. Favreau said on set that the environments could be turned into fully realized virtual worlds, though that’s not where he sees himself pursuing stories.
2. FANTASIA & FANTASIA 2000
The next time we get a Fantasia film, I wouldn’t put it past the forward thinking people at Disney to make at least one segment of their signature symphony series a virtual experience. For now though, we get to experience the animated masterwork and its follow up in Netflix VR. The orchestrations and stunning visuals are perfect for a short respite in a digital hiding place. While the classic “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is featured in both movies many of the other segments are what make these movies compelling virtual entertainment.
In 1941’s Fantasia, the opening segment brings the orchestra into unique life as they perform Bach’s “Tocata y Fuga”, but the film’s climactic battle against the Chernabog in “Night on Bald Mountain” is the highlight of the film in VR. Utilizing newer animation technologies, Fantasia 2000 also has several pieces that stand out as required remote viewing. The “Pines of Rome” features a pod of humpback whales on the rare night they can fly. The film’s finale, “The Firebird Suite”, is an epic feast of sight and sound as the spirit of a volcano is awakened by a forest sprite. Both films prove that there is a place for hand drawn animation in the virtual world.
1. ENTER THE VOID
Shot entirely in first person, Enter the Void is currently the best film on Netflix with which to experience in VR. The film was developed by Gaspar Noe as a “psychedelic melo-drama,” but it also fantastically serves as a first person virtual movie. The film follows a drug dealer as he journeys to his past, present and future in an out of body experience after he’s shot by police. The surreal trip his spirit takes sees him go from floating above Tokyo to the first moments of life. Featuring Paz De La Huerta as the incorporeal protagonist’s sister, the movie takes its concept to some heavy and somewhat disturbing places. While controversial in its initial release, the movie finds a natural home in virtual reality that many may one day find quaint. Even for its flaws, the film cleared a path for more to come; films like first-person actioner Hardcore Henry, which is set to raise the bar on virtual film experiences when it eventually sees release on a VR streaming service.
These are just what’s available to stream on Netflix now, what movies do you want to see in Virtual Reality?