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Top Ten Netflix Streaming Movies For Gamers

by Matt Miller on Sep 02, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Whether you watch on 360, PS3, Wii, or PC, these are 10 overlooked films you can add to your instant queue right now.

For a lot of gamers, it’s hard to hop online and not find a few of your friends digging into their Netflix instant queue. Gamer participation has been a big part of the growth of Netflix, and of the streaming service in particular. As a result, the selections on the service thus far seem to be uniquely tailored to the type of viewer who might have one of those consoles.

If you’ve got a Netflix membership, you probably already have your favorites. Knowing that, we’ve tried to compile a strong list of 10 awesome, but mostly low-profile films that can speak to the unique tastes of the gaming crowd. Hopefully, we’ve found at least a few films that you haven’t seen before. It’s hard to know if all the movies we list will remain on the streaming service forever – check the Netflix site for current listings.

Gamers are a pretty broad group of people, so the list digs into all sorts of genres, from children’s animation to psychological horror, sci-fi and fantasy to documentary. We’ve also included trailers for all the movies in question. Take a look at the list, and let us know what you think in the comments below, including your favorite entries that we may have missed.

First up: The action epic that rivals Lord of the Rings, and the only musical on our list

10. Red Cliff

What’s the most ambitious, detailed historical battle movie you’ve probably never seen? Red Cliff is the Chinese epic equivalent of Lord of the Rings, minus the fantasy and plus the kung fu. John Woo got a name for himself in Hollywood in recent years, but his original work in Asia first brought him to the world’s attention. He returned to the Asian cinema scene in 2008 with this sprawling epic detailing one of the great wars of Chinese history. Anyone who has ever played Dynasty Warriors or Romance of the Three Kingdoms will be familiar with the battles depicted, but Red Cliff presents a more historically accurate view of the pivotal conflict.

That’s not to say that the film lacks in action or excitement. Depicting massive battles between hundreds of soldiers, the battles themselves are infused with high-quality martial arts movie maneuvers. Tack in excellent performances from Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and other heavyweights in the Asian film scene, and Red Cliff impresses in both its big and little scenes.

The theatrical version of the film is available on Netflix Streaming. If you’re a completist, then be warned: the longer two-part international version of the film isn’t available to pop into your instant queue. For that, you’ll have to break down and have Netflix send you the DVDs. That said, the theatrical version is a grand and sweeping opus of action, military strategy, and politics – a testament to big production films that fall outside Hollywood’s purview.

9. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

The only musical on our list is the brainchild of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse) and several other creators, including Whedon’s two brothers. Dr. Horrible was created during the 2008 WGA writers’ strike. Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion, this heartwarming tale of a misunderstood supervillain features catchy tunes, witty writing, and a love story gone wrong that any game geek ought to be able to get behind.

The short film was originally produced in three parts to go be viewed as online webisodes, but you can watch the whole thing uninterrupted on your instant queue – it’s just over 40 minutes. Give it a try before rejecting it on genre grounds. Charming and funny, Dr. Horrible hits all the right notes.

Next up: Psychological horror in the arctic, and an animated classic for kids and adults

8. The Last Winter

Fans of horror game masterpieces like Dead Space and Silent Hill should check out this entry on our list. The Last Winter is a 2006 horror/thriller about a group of workers in the far northern arctic. An oil company is building a road into the pristine wilderness, and a team of environmentalists is sent in to monitor the procedure. Under a current of already strained relationships in the desolate and cold wastelend, the characters begin to experience hallucinations, and some go mad. As the story progresses, questions arise about the nature of the hallucinations, with the possibility that angry spirits are trying to halt the despoiling of the land.

The film’s stark environment and tense character relationships serve the eco-themes of the film well. Psychological horror with a message, the film is one of the more intriguing indie scare films of recent years.

7. The Iron Giant

If you’ve never seen The Iron Giant, you’re missing out on one of the undisputed animated classics. Plus, it just happens to be about a giant robot. It’s hard to argue with giant robots. Watch it for the first time and be amazed how well the 1999 film holds up, or watch it again with a child to remember what is made it so great when it first released.

The film deals with a gigantic metal robot that crashes lands in Maine in 1957, and is “adopted” by a young boy. As the government gets involved, the story shifts from one of childhood fantasy to one of fear and paranoia during the Cold War. Evocative art and animation bring the time period alive, and the heartfelt writing and acting would make it hard for even the most jaded gamer or moviegoer to scoff. Directed by Brad Bird, the same man who would later bring us Pixar’s The Incredibles and Ratatouille, The Iron Giant is one of the great storytelling masterpieces in American animation.

Next up: The world’s most entertaining video game documentary, and vampires that definitely don’t sparkle

6. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

The only movie on this list that is actually about video games is also its only documentary. The King of Kong tells the story of Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell as they vie for the title of world’s best Donkey Kong player. Filmmaker Seth Gordon does exactly what any good documentarian does with his subject, finding the human drama at play in the conflict and making the viewer genuinely engage with his subjects.

Funny and oddly mesmerizing in the way of a classic underdog sports movie, the film vacillates between amusement at the seemingly absurd nature of the competition and a serious study of rivalry, one-upmanship, and fame. Fistful of Quarters emerges as a truly engaging film for gamers and non-gamers alike.

5. Let the Right One In

Hailed by some as one of the greatest vampire movies ever made, Let the Right One In stands apart from its genre brethren by mixing childhood innocence, romantic tension, and chilling horror sequences into a masterpiece of drama. The Swedish language film has been remade for an American re-release this fall under the title Let Me In, but you owe it to yourself to check out the original. The Swedish film is based directly on the novel of the same name, and the book’s author, John Ajvide Lindqvist, also wrote the screenplay.

A young bullied boy meets the new neighbor in his Stockholm tenement building, and quickly forms a friendship with the strange girl. Strange deaths in the area herald that something is profoundly unusual about his new friend. Creepy and strangely romantic, the movie ultimately revolves around issues of power, manipulation, and control in relationships, while at the same time capitalizing on its moody locations and emotionally vulnerable characters.  The film’s terrifying climax is not to be missed – one of the most understated but scary moments we can recall in a film. 

Next up: Modern fantasy meets indie film, and the latest, greatest zom-com

4. Ink

The 2009 modern fantasy Ink came out of left field as a profoundly original and fascinating independent film. Directed by new creative voice Jamin Winans, the surreal dreamscape style of the film dominates the viewing experience. Hazy camera views, surprising cinematography and editing, and unusual costumes and visual effects combine to make the film quite unlike any movie you’ve seen.

The movie is best seen without any setup of the plot or characters; a lot of the fun comes from figuring out the strange nature of the world. You may even want to skip the trailer on this one. It’s enough to say that the movie focuses on a little girl in a coma, and a strange dream world that exists behind our normal perceptions. Daring and original, it’s an ideal film for anyone who enjoyed the strange subconscious narrative of Inception, the grotesque imagery of Pan’s Labyrinth, or the dark thematic storytelling of Dark City. Gamers who enjoy urban-meets-fantasy vibes will undoubtedly find a lot to enjoy.

3. Zombieland

It’s definitely not as low profile as some entries on our list, but Zombieland is too good to be ignored. Starring a World of Warcraft player turned zombie slayer, the film perfectly melds the action and gore of the best zombie epics with a healthy dose of dark humor.

The movie’s hero lives by strict rules of survival in the post-zombie apocalypse world, but finds that he has a hard time sticking to his guns when he befriends other survivors. Some incredible visual effects, makeup, and set design make the zombie-infused world frighteningly believable, while smartly written and delivered dialogue elicit the chuckles. Woody Harrelson shines as the older, but not wiser, buddy. Emma Stone simmers as the out-of-touch love interest. And one of the greatest cameos ever steals the show halfway through. Well deserving of its R rating for violence and language, Zombieland shines with the luster of a gore-coated set of teeth.

Next up: Old school sci-fi from a modern filmmaker, and the greatest action flick you’ve never seen – in French

2. Moon

Our list wouldn’t be complete without a top-notch sci-fi mindbender. Enter Moon, the brilliant science fiction tour de force for actor Sam Rockwell. Directed by Duncan Jones, Moon tells the eerie tale of a lone man tasked to mine the surface of the moon over a lengthy three-year assignment. After he is injured, strange experiences start to tell him that something profoundly disturbing is happening to him. Finding out exactly what is going on with this character is a big part of the charm of the film. Like Ink, we’d recommend skipping the trailer and going right into the movie for the best experience.

Borrowing from classic sci-fi flicks like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running, Solaris, and Alien, the film is anchored by the captivating performance of Rockwell, who unfold a fascinating portryal of the trip from reason into irrationality and fear. Kevin Spacey, as the attentive robot attendant, provides the perfect foil to Rockwell’s deteriorating psyche. Along with some “how’d they do that?” cinematography and the use of old-school models instead of digital animation for many of the exterior shots make the visual experience as entertaining as the excellent performances.

Word is that Jones is hard at work to do two follow-up projects set in the same sci-fi future. Get in on the ground floor.

1. District B13

If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed, Mirror’s Edge, Prototype, or any other game about free running, then you’ve played a game that’s at least partially inspired by this fantastic French action movie called District B13, directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Transporter). Also called District 13 in some regions, the movie tells the story of a futuristic Paris in which sections of the city have been walled off from another. The titular district holds the dregs of society, and keeps them isolated from the well off, law-abiding members of the public.

Of course, that set up is really just an excuse for some awesome parkour chases and more than a few absurdly fast fight scenes. The movie has a frantic pace that keeps perfectly with the free-running antics of its protagonists. Plots and scenarios fly by with lightning speed, but the characters and their motivations manage to remain coherent and understandable. By mixing the highly choreographed style of Hong Kong action movies with the bravado of American action flicks, Besson creates a style all his own. The movie lies near the root of the growing popularity of parkour, and one viewing will tell you why. District B13 even stars one of the founders of the sport/movement – David Belle. Check out the trailer above. Alternately, just watch the first chase of the movie. You’ll be hooked.