My 7 favorite new to Netflix movies that you should watch in May 2023

Anna Kendrick as Beca in Pitch Perfect
(Image credit: Universal Pictures / AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo)

The list of new movies on Netflix for this month had me both happy and confused. When we got the May 2023 schedule in, I was a little let down by the lack of critical gems, but was ultimately pleased to see some movies that are worth watching. 

But, then, something weird happened. One of my favorite classic movie I've only recently seen popped up on Netflix out of the blue without warning. That film, combined with six other gems, gave me reason to build this list that complements our super-sized best movies on Netflix roundup.

But while this list is based off my own preferences, I've included the titles' solid (to excellent) Rotten Tomatoes scores, so you can get a vote of confidence. These titles include an all-time action-drama, a family-friendly animated film that parents will actually like and Natalie Portman's breakthrough performance.

Heat (1995)

Al Pacino as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna sits at a diner in in Heat

(Image credit: RGR Collection / Alamy Stock Photo)

This one's weird. I spend a lot of time checking what's coming and going at Tom's Guide. I also love the Michael Mann crime film Heat (which I'll admit I only saw for the first time last year). Yet, somehow, Heat slipped under my radar, just like thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) attempts to in this film.

Appearing on Netflix with no warning, Heat is one of the best cat-and-mouse movies of all time. Neil and his gang are hot off an armored car heist that netted them $1.6 million in bearer bonds, which attracted the attention of the LAPD. Specifically, the street-smart Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) has latched onto the case, and this loud lieutenant doesn't give up easily.

Based on a true story (yes, Neil McCauley was a real crook), Mann's film is filled with taut drama, perfect action scenes and emotional moments for characters to reflect on their mistakes. It's also one of the most influential films of its era, as you'll see shots and moments that you might have thought other films (i.e. The Dark Knight) invented. Plus, let Heat serve as a reference point: it might only be at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's still an all-time classic.

Arrived on Netflix on: Unknown
Genre: Crime drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd
Director: Michael Mann
Watch now

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Natalie Portman as Mathilda in Leon: The Professional

(Image credit: StudiocanalUK via YouTube)

Léon: The Professional was the first film on Netflix's May list that passed my "oooh!" test. Whenever I comb through the list of new movies, I always happen across a few titles that make me open up Netflix on my phone and add them to my list.

The Professional earned that right because it's one of those great movies I haven't thought about in ages. Léon (Jean Reno) is a hitman living in New York City, in a humble Little Italy apartment building where his young neighbor Mathilda (Natalie Portman) has suffered too much by the start of the movie. But when corrupt DEA agents led by Gary Oldman's Normal Stansfield somehow make this kid's life worse, she manages to talk her neighbor into helping her out — by teaching her his tricks.

Despite its odd killer-meets-kid premise, The Professional works on a number of levels. Natalie Portman hits a home run as Mathilda, with natural charisma and vulnerability. And while Jean Reno is superb as the titular hitman, Gary Oldman steals every scene he can as the unhinged villain.

Arrived on Netflix on: May 1, 2023
Genre: Action
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello
Director: Luc Besson
Watch now

Chicken Run (2000)

Chicken Run

(Image credit: Getty)

If the Children's section on Netflix is too neon-soaked for your tastes (and even the best family movies on Netflix can't escape this issue), you better watch Chicken Run right now.

On an unassuming Yorkshire, England farm, Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) and Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth) have found that just demanding eggs from their hens isn't enough. Their alternative is an evil-looking machine that will turn their chickens into chicken pies, as the clever clucker Ginger (Julia Sawalha) discovers. And with the help of Rocky (Mel Gibson), an American rooster who spent time in the circus, these chickens may actually fly the coop.

While some kids might find the threats towards the chickens a bit scary, most audiences will delight in Chicken Run's humor. Not only is the dialogue great, but it runs through far more thoughtful ideas than you might expect given its barnyard story.

Arrived on Netflix on: May 1, 2023
Genre: Animated comedy
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Cast: Julia Sawalha, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson,
Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park
Watch now

Pitch Perfect (2012)

(L to R) Brittany Snow as Chloe, Anna Kendrick as Beca and Anna Camp as Aubrey performing among their fellow cast members in Pitch Perfect

(Image credit: Universal Pictures / AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo)

I think about Pitch Perfect as one of those movies that was too good to be defeated by my expectations. Even though "competitive a cappella" is the kind phrase that would normally sends me clicking away in Netflix, Pitch Perfect managed to surprise with hilarious and sometimes crude antics. 

It all kicks off when Beca (Anna Kendrick) struggles to fit in at Bearden University, and decides to try out for the Bearden Bellas all-women a cappella team. Or at least she makes the choice to do so after insulting the queen bees of the team by dissing their passion. 

While Pitch Perfect gave Rebel Wilson a breakout role as the still-awkwardly-named Fat Amy, it ultimately wins because of how its script is a very solid group comedy where students learn to get along.

Arrived on Netflix on: May 1, 2023
Genre: Musical comedy
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow
Director: Jason Moore
Watch now

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

(L, R) Sarah Polley as Ana and Ving Rhames as Sergeant Kenneth Hall in Dawn of the Dead (2004)

(Image credit: Universal / AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo)

Two years after the excellent British zombie movie 28 Days Later breathed life back into the undead genre, Zack Snyder brought the genre's resurgence stateside with a new Dawn of the Dead. Much like the original, the new Dawn of the Dead puts a group of disagreeable Americans into a mall and forces them to try and unify to survive.

Filled with excellent action and a dark sense of humor, the new Dawn of the Dead declared that zombie movies were back in full. Also, catch a pre-Modern Family Ty Burrell as Steve, one of the less likable or useful survivors.

Arrived on Netflix on: May 1, 2023
Genre: Zombie horror
Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly
Director: Zack Snyder
Watch now

Traffic (2000)

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Helena Ayala, being held back by DEA agents in Traffic

(Image credit: USA Films / Maximum Film / Alamy Stock Photo)

Drug trafficking, as seen through the lens of Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, is just as complex as you'd imagine. Traffic ties the world together through three plots at different levels of the situation. 

In Mexico, police officer Javier Rodriguez (Benicio del Toro) winds up getting hired by a general in order to track down a drug cartel. In Ohio, judge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) is fighting the war on crime at work and at home, as his daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) has been dabbling in everything from cocaine to meth. Over in San Diego, a DEA investigation traces all of the connections of the drug lords working with the cartel. 

All of this would be too much in most directors hands, but Soderbergh deftly threads the needle as he jumps from story to story. It doesn't hurt he has a fantastic cast, and that Stephen Gaghan's script juggles all of these storylines in an almost effortless manner. There's no preachy tones, or simple good vs bad dynamic either: just chaos.

Arrived on Netflix on: May 1, 2023
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Cast: Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzmán
Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Watch now

Flight (2012)

Denzel Washington as William "Whip" Whitaker Sr in Flight

(Image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

I've heard some call Flight corny, or Oscar bait. And while Denzel Washington did earn an Oscar nomination for his performance as pilot Captain Whip Whitaker, Flight is anything but saccharine if you ask me.

Whitaker, who's been using cocaine to stay awake on the job, makes matters worse when he makes himself a screwdriver cocktail on a flight the next morning. Waking up mid-flight to see the plane is in a state of chaos, Whip manages to land the vessel on a field safely enough that there are only six out of 102 fatalities. And that's when he has to deal with the secrets he's been keeping — while being hailed as a hero.

Washington got plenty of deserved applause for his tough performance, and critics raved about the scene in the skies where the plane goes into a total disarray. 

Arrived on Netflix on: May 1, 2023
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Watch now

Other movies that just hit Netflix on May 1, 2023

  • Above Suspicion
  • Airport
  • Airport '77
  • Airport 1975
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  • Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
  • Black Hawk Down
  • The Cable Guy
  • Captain Phillips
  • Cliffhanger
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • The Croods
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • For Colored Girls
  • Girl, Interrupted
  • The Glass Castle
  • Home Again
  • Hop
  • Igor
  • Kindergarten Cop
  • Last Action Hero
  • Legends of the Fall
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Marshall
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Peter Pan (2003)
  • Rainbow High: Season 3
  • Rugrats: Seasons 1-2
  • The Smurfs: Season 1
  • Starship Troopers
  • Steel Magnolias
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • Vampires
  • The Wedding Date
  • The Young Victoria

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.