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What’s streaming?: The 20 best movies you probably haven’t seen yet on Netflix Instant

I spend most of my time looking for movies to watch with my girlfriend on Netflix Instant. (She never likes what I have on disc.) Unfortunately, good streaming movies are hard to find, and when I examine bloggers' "Best of Netflix Instant" lists, I find that I've already seen most of the recommended films.

Perhaps you're in the same boat. That's why I'm making my own alphabetical list of recommendations for you. These are not necessarily the 20 best movies that are currently streaming on Netflix, but these are, in my view, the best ones that I think you possibly haven't seen yet.

1. "David Holzman's Diary" (1967): This early mockumentary, one of the first great American independent films, walks a thin line between skewering the arty narcissism of its self-documenting protagonist and embodying it - leaning, admirably, toward the latter tendency. While conveying all the pain of introspection, it communicates the spirit of its time and, simultaneously, speaks almost directly to ours.

2. "The Deep Blue Sea" (2011): One of those period pieces about a put-upon woman who's stuck in an unhappy marriage and consequently ends up in an even unhappier affair. What's great about this one is the thickly drab mise-en-scène by director Terence Davies, who makes the story's misery palpable in postwar London.

3. "Galileo" (1975): One of 14 respectful stage adaptations produced by the American Film Theatre in the 1970s, Joseph Losey's film of Brecht's play is restrained and intelligent and, like the other 13 films in the series, probably does justice to a work I'll probably never get to see live.

4. "Gregory's Girl" (1981): Possibly the sweetest and most charming teen movie ever made. Bill Forsyth will make you feel better about human beings.

5. "I Am Love" (2009): The British actress Tilda Swinton plays an Italian-speaking Russian woman in this Milan-set drama, and that's not even the weirdest thing about it. Lush, over-the-top, and melodramatic, it's perfect for anyone who ever wished Douglas Sirk had made movies in Italian.

6. "Lymelife" (2009): Sort of a blue-collar version of "The Ice Storm" - it feels more authentic for some reason. Features two Culkin brothers for the price of one.

7. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" (1976): A pseudo-classic starring David Bowie as frail alien visitor. Mopey, metaphysical sci-fi, just a year before "Star Wars."

8. "Metropolitan" (1990): I thought this was an established classic, but it somehow has fewer than 5,000 votes on IMDb. If you haven't seen it, stop reading now and go watch it - unless you don't like watching wealthy "WASPs" sit around and banter wittily, in which case you should probably skip it.

9. "My Pal Trigger" (1946): I feel like some perfect blend of American innocence and greedy, we-need-to-make-three-of-these-by-next-week shoddiness went into creating the B-level Westerns of the 1940s: they are storytelling stripped (touchingly) of all complication, half by purity of vision and half by cheapness and haste.

10. "Naked" (1993): Gritty '90s indie cinema - crime, poverty, drugs, misogyny, violence. What sets this grim slice of urban realism apart from its peers, aside from being even grimmer, is its literary bent. Its protagonist's verbose monologues seem preposterously unspontaneous as he delivers them, but ultimately they're what you'll remember about this movie.

11. "Nothing Sacred" (1937): Carole Lombard was the true queen of screwball comedies. This one takes place (partly) in Vermont!

12. "Pina" (2011): I know nothing about modern dance. Still, I found the stark, Beckettian set pieces in this Wim Wenders documentary arresting. It even has a sense of humor.

13. "The Safety of Objects" (2001): One of several overwrought suburbia-is-hell films released near the turn of the millennium. I liked this one the best - it's more disturbing and more humane than "American Beauty."

14. "SLC Punk!" (1998): I'm not sure how this comedy - a memoiristic account of Salt Lake City's irrelevant '80s punk scene - even got made. It's sometimes funny and sometimes idiotic, but most of all it's an incredibly detailed picture of a time and place no one else has ever bothered to document, and that's pretty cool.

15. "Sleepwalk with Me" (2012): This one is a feature-length dramatization of comedian Mike Birbiglia's standup act, which sounds like it shouldn't work but does. It's also just about as honest about contemporary romantic relationships as movies get.

16. "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" (1990): The film that made a star of Antonio Banderas is as insane as its kidnapping protagonist. But this is the reason we admire Almodóvar: the sheer imaginative audacity of his storytelling (and of his color palette).

17. "Tiny Furniture" (2010): Lena Dunham's debut is, I guess, almost the same thing as "Girls," but with amateur charm instead of HBO hype.

18. "What's New Pussycat" (1965): Clive Donner's mishandling of 29-year-old Woody Allen's screenplay was, to the writer's mind, severe enough to convince him to direct his own scripts thereafter - so we owe this film a large debt of gratitude. That said, it's a funny movie, both in classic Woody Allen fashion and in that madcap, slightly less amusing 1960s-ish manner where a bunch of slapsticky people (including Peter Sellers, fortunately) are chasing after each other for no good reason.

19. "A Woman Is a Woman" (1961): This early Godard is a happy marriage between the French New Wave and the classic Hollywood musical, and it's a hundred times more lovable than his far better-known debut.

20. "The Women on the 6th Floor" (2011): Few Americans paid attention to this little comedy about a Parisian stockbroker falling in love with an earthy Spanish maid, but it's better than it looks. Though not as gauche as "The Intouchables," it does, basically, posit that the lives of poor people are livelier and somehow more authentic than "ours" are - yet the movie is really so much kinder and more sensitive than its patronizing premise suggests.

If you've seen all of these, just go to a brick-and-mortar video store. All in all, it's probably better than Netflix Instant. But for those who haven't seen them all these 20 should keep you amused for a while.