War movies have often rocked our worlds – not because of the patriotism or the extreme action sequences and the perils associated with them, but because of the reason that they are equally adrenaline-jerking and heartbreaking at the same time. Not all war-based movies are alike though. While the preconceived notion associated with war and military movies is that there’s always a lot of gore and death, most of the war movies I personally have witnessed have a lot of sub-plots and the before or after effects associated with war. ‘Pearl Harbour’ is one such example. War is a mere political tool which has often been used to satiate the inner fascist political ambitions of a select few tyrants, thus leading to large-scale murders, terrorism and deaths. Many-a-innocents have died in vain while having no relationship with the turmoil going around them.
Over the years, war movies have come to us in different colours and tastes – while some have been focussing on the battlefield and have showcased ammunitions and weapons alike, others have been focussed on the families of the soldiers, their personal lives or the aftermaths of a war – which have often lead to even more number of deaths and disturbances than the wars themselves. Early war movies were mostly revolving around the World Wars and the aftermaths of both of the world wars. After 9/11, there was a change in the stance the way war movies have been made so far and the focus shifted to a politically driven agenda – like terrorism, crude oil, nuclear weapons, and the cold war between dominant economies. Nowadays, most of the war movies are made around terrorism, its implications and the way forward. Regardless, this too is going to change very soon.
War movies also include many other movies belonging to various sub-genres – like period dramas, comedy, love stories or horror movies. The best war films are so good that they make you feel like you’re actually there. Besides incredible action scenes, they also have the ability to be emotional and heartbreaking. From Steven Spielberg’s classic ‘Schindler’s List’ to ‘Troy’, you will find a little bit of everything on this list. With that said, here is the list of really good war movies on Netflix. You will also find many of these war movies on Hulu or Amazon Prime. The list includes World War I movies, World War II movies, Vietnam War movies, Korean War Movies and Gulf War movies.
31. Alexander (2004)
A film surrounding the life and times of Alexander The Great, the revered Macedonian general and the King, the movie spans almost his entire lifetime – from growing up and studying as a pupil under Aristotle to assuming the throne and conquering kingdoms in Africa, Asia to his defeat in India. What raises the eyebrows ultimately is his alleged homosexual relationship with his partner Hephaistion. Although the movie did average at the box office and Colin Farrell’s leading role wasn’t very cherished either, the movie stands out as the only venture which has successfully portrayed Alexander’s life in a concise yet comprehensive manner. Also, watch out for the outstanding performances of Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto and Rosario Dawson.
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30. War Machine (2017)
Brad Pitt plays the highly decorated General Glen McMahon who has been sent to Afghanistan to assess how early can the US withdraw its troops from the war-torn nation. Owing to the ground situation and after a careful assessment, McMahon comes to a conclusion that the ongoing war could be easily won if the Government approves an addition of 30,000 troops to the existing force – exactly as opposed to the Government’s directive of withdrawal from the country. Due to the upcoming Presidential Elections in the US, McMahon’s report is delayed for review and amid a lot of other incidents, the report gets leaked. The US approves adding more troops but all in vain, as the operation fails due to a lot of collateral damage. McMahon returns to the US and takes up a private job while his place in the army is replaced by another general. ‘War Machine’ is flawed and doesn’t make for an impactful movie, yet, Brad Pitt’s performance is worthwhile.
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29. Pearl Harbour (2001)
This Michael Bay’s film recounts the horrors of the dreaded attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the Pearl Harbour in the US, thus marking the US’ entry into the second world war. Although the movie begins as a love story, it ends up being a war film through and through. The sequences of attack on the harbour followed by the Doolittle raids have been impeccably filmed and executed. Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in leading roles have done a decent job while Kate Beckinsale is just fine. The romance angle proved to be the ache among critics, with many calling it overdone and that it wasn’t required given the movie’s premise. ‘Pearl Harbour’ still stands out as commercially one of the most successful films made on the subject.
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28. Operation Chromite (2016)
‘Operation Chromite’ was the official codename for the Battle of Incheon, a decisive battle during the peak of the Korean War in the ’50s. The movie revolves around the US and the UN-led coalition which tries to retake the entirety of South Korea from the clutches of North’s army and navy. What ensues is an amphibious battle coupled with clandestine operations led by South Korean Intelligence officer Jang Hak-Soo, who is a former North Korean Army officer along with several other members codenamed X-Ray, who successfully infiltrate North Korea’s army and gather the know-how on their installations and defences. Simultaneously, a battle-hardened General McArthur prepares an offensive on a scale never heard of before. ‘Operation Chromite’ won numerous awards and was one of the popular South Korean movies released at the time.
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27. 6 Days (2017)
Set around the real-life incident of the siege of the Iranian embassy in London by the terrorists originating from Iran, six terrorists led by a man named Salim enter the embassy and take hostages. During a span of six days, they grow more and more desperate and soon they realize that their demands are not being met owing to some political barriers. Negotiations fail, a few hostages are killed by the terrorists and towards the end, the British SAS enters the embassy and flushes the terrorists to free the hostages. Given its gripping sequences set in a war-torn environment, ‘6 Days’ qualifies as a war movie in the backdrop of a chilling hostage drama.
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26. Sand Castle (2017)
The story of a reluctant soldier, Matt Ocre, who has enlisted in the US army for making some extra bucks in the aftermath of 9/11 gets deputed to Iraq. As the war heightens and Ocre gets assigned to a battle group, his methods of evading confrontations by hurting himself seemingly fail. His squad is eventually tasked with repairing and restoring the water supply system in one of the Iraqi villages called Baqubah. While they have to restore the water supply at the earliest, they also need to be wary of the incoming guerilla attacks from the enemy and ambushes they need to resist. ‘Sand Castle’ is an interesting premise but somehow, it couldn’t make to the bigwigs of war films. Still, one can watch it for Nicholas Hoult and Henry Cavill.
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25. Spectral (2016)
A war movie with a difference, as the war is against the vast unknown – an alien race, ‘Spectral’ is one of the thrilling and spellbinding experiences as far as war and military movies are concerned. The movie opens with the Moldovan war, wherein the US army is engaged against the beings which are invisible to the naked eye, are vicious with a humanoid appearance which can kill at the blink of an eye. The army men are issued hyperspectral goggles which would enable them to see their adversary albeit partially and target them as appropriate. As the movie progresses, we get to know what are the alien’s weaknesses and how a cornered group of men and women take on an unknown, unheard-of enemy with all their technological prowess. The movie received mixed reviews upon its Netflix release and seemingly became lost in translation.
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24. Good Kill (2014)
Perhaps one of those rare movies where the conclusion takes away the prize, ‘Good Kill’ is the narrative of Major Thomas Egan, an officer with the USAF who is currently on a reaper drone mission. HIs work involves sitting at an airforce base in Las Vegas and hunt and kill alleged terrorist cells in Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan. While he initially enjoys his job and aces it in his own way, soon he realises the collateral damage taking a toll on his personal life and aiding to his stress. Moreover, on another overwatch mission, he fails terribly and troops are killed and he’s demoted to surveillance missions. His only good kill is the killing of a rapist by tricking his CO and colleagues away. Oops, spoiler alert!
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23. Hyena Road (2015)
A team of snipers in enemy territory get caught in the crossfire between a radical freedom fighter known as the Ghost and the local Taliban presence. Three different men in three different worlds, three different wars – all stand at the intersection of modern warfare. Director Paul Gross aims to show the war at its most personal, whether it’s an act of revenge or an act of salvation. The cast of actors is relatively unknown which is perfect because they seem like real people in a real war. This Canadian war movie is entertaining, emotional and educational. A must watch if you are into war movies.
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22. 1898: Our Last Men in The Philippines (2016)
In Spain’s last-ditch attempts to save one of its colonies in Baler, Phillippines is met with a violent rebellion by the natives. ‘1898: Our Last Men in The Philippines’ is set in the year 1898 where a small force which has just arrived in the town led by Captain Morenas and Lieutenant Cerezo is holed up in a church which is turned into a fortress. Apart from the visible adversaries which are the local rebels, the Spanish soldiers also have to fight the environment, tropical heat conditions and mosquitoes among others. After the Captain’s death owing to a disease, Cerezo takes it upon himself to defend the colony and upkeep the pride of his glorious empire. ‘1898: Our Last Men in The Philippines’ was met with positive reviews by critics and audiences alike.
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21. Sunny (2008)
A film that loosely touches upon the perils of war and the men in uniform, but mostly is a musical love story, ‘Sunny’ follows the story of Soon-Yi, a woman who has an arranged marriage with a soldier, Sang-Gil, who doesn’t love her and cheats on her with his girlfriend instead. Sang-Gil is soon sent to the Vietnam War to fight and as a result, Soon-Yi decides to follow him into the war zone. Given her passion for singing and performing, she joins a musical band and starts performing in front of distressed soldiers, thus slowly gaining the affection of her husband. The movie was the recipient of many national and international awards upon its release – notably for performances, music and direction.
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20. Too Young the Hero (1988)
Based on the life of Calvin Graham, the youngest person ever to serve in the US armed forces, the movie revolves around the ambitious 12-year-old who enlists in the navy to fight in the WWII using the forged signature of his mother. After completing his training and serving aboard the USS Dakota during the Battle of Guadalcanal, while returning home, he’s arrested on forgery and is kept in an army prison before his tales of bravery and his acts of forgery are discovered. Turns out, he got enlisted because he looked much older than he actually was. ‘Too Young the Hero’ seems unreal, even for a real-life story, but regardless, makes for an extremely engaging and defining war movie.
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19. Free State of Jones (2016)
Not a war movie through and through, ‘Free State of Jones’ is however set in the backdrop of the American Civil War. The story revolves around a Confederate army deserter and farmer Newton Knight, who leads an “army” of slaves, farmers and locals against the corrupt Confederacy, thus seceding Jones county from the State of Mississippi and thus creating the Free State of Jones. Despite the likes of Matthew McConaughey in the leading role and despite having a staggering budget, the movie was a failure at the box office and was received with a cold response, with critics calling it an earnest effort which failed at the constrained characterizations even for a real-life story.
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18. The Resistance Banker (2018)
A Dutch film based on the real-life story of a banker during the WWII, ‘The Resistance Banker’ is the telltale of Walraven van Hall, a man who, after the Nazi occupation of the Holland in WWII, comes up with the idea of funding the Dutch resistance against the Nazi by creating a fake bank. Slowly, by propagating the idea that he’s going to help Dutch POW’s out of the country in a non-profitable way through the bank, he starts drawing money into the bank through money laundering via the Nazi banks. Ultimately, he succeeds in converting forged bonds into real ones and redeeming them via cash and thus funding the Dutch resistance out of nothing. A pathbreaking action-adventure, ‘The Resistance Banker’ is a story seldom made.
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17. Stripes (1981)
A relatively older flick as far as this list is concerned, ‘Stripes’ is the narrative of John Winger, a distraught cab driver who has been fed up with his job, his girlfriend and loses everything yet decides to join the army for some fun. He also asks his friend Russell to tag along, which he agrees to. While they’re the laggards in the training, they are constantly motivated by Stella and Louise, their crushes and later girlfriends, during the training. While they both are assigned on a testing mission in Italy to test out a new armoured vehicle, their girlfriends are in West Germany, not too far from them. One fine day, they cross into Czechoslovakia inadvertently, thus inviting a lot of problems for themselves and their platoon. ‘Stripes’ is funny and is considered one of the Bill Murray’s acting classics, all in an army and war-torn backdrop.
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16. Camp X-Ray (2014)
Set in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this film is based out and set around in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, the infamous penitentiary for dreaded criminals and terrorists who were once treated in an animal-like manner. ‘Camp X-Ray’ revolves around Amy Cole, a private at the Guantanamo Bay prison and is initially averse of how the prisoners are treated in there. Ali, a prisoner who was picked by the special forces on the day of 9/11 and has been in the bay since. Slowly, Amy and Ali form a bond which they can’t show in public – while Amy can’t violate any of her SOP’s and has to constantly evade the advances of her boss, Ali has to fight a battle within – with his anxiety and his suicidal tendencies. ‘Camp X-Ray’ touches upon a sensitive subject, but as normal viewers, one can’t really tell how much of it is in fact, real.
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15. Defiance (2008)
Not to be confused with the TV series of the same name, ‘Defiance’ boasts of a star cast that includes Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, and George MacKay among others. The movie is based out on a true story based out in Belarus, where four Jewish brothers – Tuva, Zus, Asael, and Aron are trying to evade the clutches of German special forces during the Nazi invasion of their country. They elope to a nearby forest after the murder of their parents by Nazi forces where they are joined by even more refugees and escapees who’re desperate to exact a revenge themselves. While defending themselves, it is shown that out of the four brothers, three successfully manage to raise a colony of Jews in the forest and set up basic facilities, while they later settle in the NYC leading a modest life. Based on a striking real-life story, ‘Defiance’ is one of the most underrated war movies till date.
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14. Outlaw King (2018)
The latest entrant to Netflix, ‘Outlaw King’ has only Chris Pine as the most striking characteristic if nothing else. Based on a true story, ‘Outlaw King’ describes the story of Robert the Bruce, who, even after swearing his fealty to the English Crown, decides to stage a rebellion against the powerful English army using Guerilla war tactics. The story is set in the early 1300s and aptly describes the English oppression of the Scottish locals and how Scotland needed their own King despite a lot of infighting. After the English allegedly killed William Wallace, the feared Scottish knight, Robert’s rebellion comes to reality and he starts garnering support for himself against the English, followed by a decisive battle of Loudoun Hill, which was won by Robert’s army even though they were heavily outnumbered. Later, in the post-credits, it is shown that James VI, the first King of a Unified England and Scotland was a descendant of Robert the Bruce. Although flawed, ‘Outlaw King’ rekindles the historical aficionado in you.
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13. The Kingdom (2007)
A movie that can be classified as a war movie if we consider the visuals, the gritty action and the fast-paced exchange of bullets, ‘The Kingdom’ begins with a massive attack and bombing of an American facility in Saudi, where many Govt. officials and their families are brutally killed. To investigate the bombing and attack, FBI agent Ronald Fleury, along with a team of three others – Sykes, Mayes, and Leavitt are assigned a task of investigating the bombing and bringing its perpetrators to justice by any means and at all costs. ‘The Kingdom’ has a lot of power-packed action sequences, but the loose premise and somewhat sluggish pace seemed to drag the film behind. Regardless, it makes for a satisfying and worthwhile watch.
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12. A War (2015) [Krigen]
‘A War’ tells the story of a Danish commander, who accused of civil murder in Afghanistan while trying to save his squad. It is like a “Hurt Locker” with Danish accents, another approach to the war in the Middle East. The film excellently portrays the massacres of warfare in Afghanistan through the eyes of company commander Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk). He is confronted with questions about survival, morality, death, and life showing that nothing in war is black and white. “A War” brought Denmark an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Oscars.
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11. Troy (2004)
The legendary epic war film ‘Troy’ needs no introduction, for it is certainly one of the most watched war films of all the time. The film follows a storyline that begins with the eloping of Paris, the young prince of Troy with Helen, the wife of Menelaus, the Spartan King. As Paris, Helen and his elder brother Hector arrive at Troy, King Priam welcomes them and begins his preparations for an upcoming war. Agamemnon, the Greek King, along with Achilles and Menelaus, declare war on Troy. Despite their unflinching attempts, they couldn’t lay a siege on the walled city and crumble under its defences. In the end, they get their best soldiers inside a wooden horse (hence the name – Trojan horse), while other soldiers apparently pretending to be retreating, and as the people of Troy carry the wooden horse inside the city, they are taken aback by the soldiers hiding inside them and the city is taken from within. ‘Troy’ is a masterpiece and to this day, is considered an epic spectacle.
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10. First They Killed My Father (2017)
‘First They Killed My Father’ is the heartbreaking tale of a kid named Loung, who is trained to be a child soldier during the peak of the Cambodia-Vietnam war during the late ’70s. The movie begins with the US’ attack on Cambodia, a so-far neutral country as far as the Vietnam war was concerned. Pa Ung and his seven children including Loung are forced to stay in a refugee camp and perform menial jobs. Later, Pa is abducted by the Khmer Rouge and is allegedly killed, leaving his kids in the mayhem. As it turns out, Khmer needs more soldiers and they pick up Loung to train him in basic combat and warfare, only to be exposed to the perils of war. ‘First They Killed My Father’ is not only made on a unique yet sensitive subject, but its high emotional quotient and its compelling storytelling are also second to none.
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9. Riphagen – The Untouchable (2016)
The story of a dreaded Dutch traitor during the WWII, who, while collaborating with the Nazis during their invasion of Holland, also gave them the information about Jewish hideouts across the country. If that wasn’t enough, he’d often reap his returns in the form of Jewish prized possessions, much to everyone’s dismay. Perhaps, Riphagen has to be one of the most hated criminals in the history of WWII, who successfully managed to eliminate all the resistance being put up against Nazis single-handedly. A film worth your time, this war criminal story might leave you peeving with anger.
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8. Hostiles (2017)
Set in 1892, with Christian Bale appearing in a leading role, ‘Hostiles’ is mostly set in a hostile environment of West America back in the day and follows the story of Captain Joseph Blocker – a decorated war veteran who has successfully thwarted many attacks by the Commanche, Apache and other American Indian tribes over the past two decades. His final assignment, however, is to transport and safely escort a Cheyenne war chief named Yellow Hawk to Montana. Apparently, Yellow Hawk is his one of the most hated enemies and Blocker has to protect himself and the war chief from attacks of belligerent soldiers who’re on a prowl against the tribals. ‘Hostiles’ was hailed as “stunning” and “visually appealing” while everyone praised Christian Bale’s performance in a leading role.
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7. The Siege of Jadotville (2016)
My personal favourite on this list, ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ is yet another movie which remains underrated to this day, like its real-life characters were, for a long time. The movie is an actual historical account of the Irish Army and its unsung heroes who defended Jadotville, a bordering place near Katanga – which had declared itself free from the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Congo crisis of the ’60s. It was a strategically important place owing to the rich ore deposits and Irish army commandant Quinlan is asked to lead a company of men at Jadotville against the Katangese rebels, who’re backed by French mercenaries. Despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned, in a historic battle that follows, none of the Irish soldiers dies, while killing more than 300 enemies. Spectacular, stunning and groundbreaking, ‘The Siege of Jadotville’ is a road less travelled.
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6. Lincoln (2012)
In what could be called as Spielberg’s yet another masterpiece, ‘Lincoln’ was also widely appreciated for the power-packed, character-driven performances – especially that of Daniel Day-Lewis in the titular role and Sally Field as Mary Lincoln, his wife. The movie follows the time when the US was at the brink of its civil war, slavery was spreading like a disease and Lincoln has to struggle in finding a fine balance between his cabinet members to help abolish slavery – once and for all. The movie concludes with the tragic assassination of the 16th US President, accompanied with some eternal dialogues and never-seen-before visuals. ‘Lincoln’ is nothing short of legendary.
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5. Only the Dead (2015)
A gripping documentary which is the actual, official account of Australian journalist Michael Ware during a decade of the Iraqi war, ‘Only the Dead’ comprises of disturbing and heartbreaking visuals, scenes of raw perils of war, and the tale of sheer courage of journalists and special forces, especially of Ware who is chosen by a dreaded terrorist leader to convey a message to the western politicians. The aftermath of a war from the eyes of a camera in a real ground situation is terrifying. ‘Only the Dead’ shouldn’t be missed.
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4. Atonement (2007)
Briony (Saoirse Ronan) witnesses something she doesn’t understand and tells a lie that sends her sister’s boyfriend Robbie (James McAvoy) to prison (and eventually the army). The film mainly follows how Briony’s claim ruins her relationship with her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novel is a rich drama with remarkable performances and stellar direction. It can be considered a war movie since the war really influences all the characters. This is not a fast-paced film, it is rather a character study with a plot that slowly unravels allowing you to be immersed in its atmosphere without even realizing it.
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3. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
This drama follows the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country. Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iwela, director Cary Fukunaga managed to create a beautiful film by using an incredible colour palette. Fukunaga took huge risks by making battle sequences very down to earth, which some may call “action poetry”. Despite that, “Beasts of No Nation” is brutal and harrowing. First-time actor Abraham Attah, playing young Agu, has the best performance by a child actor that I’ve ever seen. Idris Elba also has a powerful performance, granting him a nomination in the Golden Globes of 2016.
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2. Brothers In War (2014)
“Brothers in War” recounts the combat experiences of the men of Charlie Company – one of the last American combat infantry companies to be trained and sent to fight in Vietnam. It does so through gripping first-person accounts and archival footage, including the soldiers’ own home movies and personal audio tapes. National Geographic created an outstanding, well-researched documentary that people of all ages should see. It brings to life a time many of us have long forgotten or chose to forget. It is stunning and moving, one of the best documentaries on Netflix.
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1. Schindler’s List (1993)
Perhaps the greatest film from the kitty of Steven Spielberg, ‘Schindler’s List’ is the narrative of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who was rather infamous for his greed and self-centeredness during the Nazi rule in Germany. In a strange turn of events, as the Jews are regularly gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp, he takes it upon himself to save a lot of Jew men, women and children by offering them refuge in his factory and helping them escape the clutches of fascism. It has been said that he successfully saved more than 800 Jewish people. Liam Neeson has given the performance of his career, and so has Ralph Fiennes. Easily, ‘Schindler’s List’ is the best war-based film you can stream on Netflix today.
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