Netflix’s first original film was Beasts of No Nation, released back in 2015. Since then, the platform has expanded its catalogue extensively – so much so that subscribers on the lookout for a Netflix original flick can now pick between plenty of titles from all genres, depending on mood. Netflix likes to experiment, so it invests in different types of content to figure out what works best. As a result, the service offers some truly awful movies (The Do-Over), a bunch of so-bad-they’re-good movies (A Christmas Prince) and, finally, genuinely good films more than worthy of your attention such as The Irishman.
The only downside? It can be hard to figure out which title fits into which category. To help you out, we’ve gathered a few amazing titles you should immediately add to your watch list. Here are some of the best original movies Netflix has to offer.
Cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis
Directed by Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods follows four African American vets who battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader – and the promise of buried treasure.
Ambitious and urgent, the movie will give you a lot to think about. It has a runtime of a little over two and a half hours, but it’s worth the time investment, with plenty to say about war, damage and masculine relationships.
2. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Mikael Persbrandt
This quirky comedy centres on two small-town singers who chase their pop star dreams at a global music competition. There, scheming rivals, high stakes and onstage mishaps will test their bond, but also give them a chance to prove that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.
A lavish production, the movie is both a celebration and satire of Eurovision. More importantly, it’s well-acted and often hilarious, which should be enough to convince you to tune in.
3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend
Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Daniel Radcliffe, Jon Hamm
Netflix offers a new interactive special, this time based on the beloved Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt series. As Kimmy prepares to get married, she realises that the Reverend has one more ace up his sleeve. With a little help from the viewers, she might be able to foil his evil plans.
A choose-your-own adventure experiment that will make you laugh out loud, Kimmy vs. the Reverend is a triumph in interactive storytelling. We all need a touch of whimsy in our life, and this movie delivers big time.
4. The Lovebirds
Cast: Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Anna Camp
While on the brink of breaking up, a couple gets unintentionally embroiled in a bizarre murder mystery. As they struggle to clear their name, they also need to figure out how and if their relationship can survive the night.
The Lovebirds offers a fun story and two charming leads, which should be reason enough to tune in. If you’re into romantic comedies with a twist, this one will be right up your alley.
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda
In the mood for a grueling action flick? You can’t go wrong with Extraction, which follows a black-market mercenary hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. As the mission gets more dangerous, he has to navigate the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers.
Chris Hemsworth is perfectly cast in the lead role, but where the movie truly shines are the well-choreographed fight scenes. If you’ve ever wanted to see a person being killed with a gardening rake, now’s your chance.
Cast: Tzi Ma, Christine Ko, Fiona Fu
A multi-generational drama with plenty of flair, Tigertail was created by Alan Yang, also responsible for titles like Master of None and Forever. The movie follows a Taiwanese factory worker leaves his homeland to seek opportunity in America. Once there, he struggles to balance family with newfound responsibilities.
Tigertail is touching and visually compelling, with well-rounded characters and a complex immigrant story that highlights the everyday struggles associated with making it somewhere new. Pursuing the American dream doesn’t come without challenges.
7. Spenser Confidential
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger
Meet Spenser, an ex-cop better known for making trouble than solving it. He just got out of prison and is planning to leave Boston behind for good, but he’s pulled into the criminal underworld to unravel a twisted murder conspiracy. Mayhem ensues.
Based on the famous Spenser character created by Robert B. Parker, this Netflix movie has action and humour to spare. The plot may be predictable, but there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the ride, mainly thanks to the appealing cast lead by Mark Wahlberg.
8. Lost Girls
Cast: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Oona Laurence
Determined to find her missing daughter, a desperate woman decides to retrace the girl’s steps. As a result, the woman launches a personal investigation that leads the police to the unsolved cases of several murdered sex workers.
Inspired by Robert Kolker’s best-selling nonfiction book of the same name, Lost Girls is a hard-hitting story that has plenty to say about justice, bias and closure. Plus, Amy Ryan is phenomenal in the lead role.
9. To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher
A sequel to Netflix rom-com hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this charming flick sees Lara Jean and Peter together for real, trying to figure out what it means to be in a relationship. At the same time, one of Lara Jean’s former crushes makes an unexpected appearance, resulting in doubts on whether or not being with Peter is what she really wants.
To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You may be less original than the first installment in the series, but it’s just as sweet. Condor and Centineo are marvellous together, proving once again that they have amazing chemistry. As a bonus, the soundtrack for the film is perfection.
10. Horse Girl
Cast: Alison Brie, Debby Ryan, Molly Shannon
Horse Girl won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s a trip worth taking. A mesmerising psychological drama, it follows a shy young woman who begins to have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy following a series of surreal dreams.
Compelling performances and an intriguing narrative will keep viewers guessing as the story unravels. Meanwhile, the conclusion may prompt an immediate rewatch. Thanks to the beauty of streaming, that’s perfectly acceptable nowadays.
11. Uncut Gems
Cast: Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Julia Fox
Uncut Gems is all about a charismatic jeweller who makes a high-stakes bet that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. As a result, he must balance business, family and adversaries on all sides in pursuit of the ultimate win.
An electrifying crime thriller, Uncut Gems lives up to the hype. Starring Adam Sandler, who delivers probably the best performance of his career, the movie is a delight, providing tons of excitement that will keep you glued to the screen.
12. Marriage Story
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern
Highly praised by critics, Marriage Story follows a stage director and his actor wife, who are going through a coast-to-coast divorce. This turns out to be an all-consuming endeavour, pushing them both to their personal and creative extremes.
One of writer-director Noah Baumbach’s best works, the movie wins bonus points for portraying both sides of the messy divorce with compassion, making for a heartbreaking viewing experience. And yet, Marriage Story still finds moments of humour, greatly benefiting from amazing performances from Johansson and Driver. You’ll find it on a lot of Best of 2019 lists, and for good reason.
13. The Irishman
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
A gangster drama directed by Martin Scorsese, The Irishman takes place in the 1950s and follows a truck driver who gets involved with a crime family. As he climbs the ranks, he also goes to work for the legendary Jimmy Hoffa. The cast includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
The Irishman is already universally regarded as a cinematic masterpiece and one of the best films to come out in 2019, so that should count as reason enough to tune in. The movie is quite long and moves slowly, but the payoff is worth the wait. Engaging and thought-provoking, it will be a memorable watch for sure.
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Sheena Kamal, Michael Mitton, Colm Hill
Okja is an action-adventure movie that centres on the special relationship between a young girl, Mija, and a massive animal or super-pig called Okja.
When a multinational conglomerate takes Okja for themselves, Mija embarks on a dangerous rescue mission to bring her best friend home. The movie is directed by the acclaimed Bong Joon-ho and boasts an ensemble cast featuring Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Touching and captivating, Okja is a blend of genres and tones, seamlessly switching from corporate satire to coming of age story to action/adventure epic. For the love of pig, go watch it already.
15. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Cast: Adam Sandler, Grace Van Patten, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel
For better or worse, Netflix doesn’t seem to be getting enough of Adam Sandler as the actor has a lucrative multi-film contract with the streaming service. Yet The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) isn’t an Adam Sandler movie per se. He stars in it, sure, but we’re talking about a much better alternative to critical flops like The Do-Over and The Ridiculous Six.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) follows a group of dysfunctional adult siblings who live in the shadow of their father. Besides Sandler, it also stars Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Elizabeth Marvel. A family dramedy, the flick is quirky, bittersweet and sophisticated, showcasing some tremendous and memorable performances. Think of it as the good Adam Sandler film on Netflix, if you must.
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks
This masterful drama was nominated for four Academy Awards, so you know you’ll be in for a treat. Mudbound follows two families, one black and one white, pitted against one another by a ruthless social hierarchy. However, things start to change when two of their loved ones return home after World War II having forged an uneasy friendship. The movie tackles issues surrounding racism and PTSD, encouraging viewers to challenge any preconceived notions about race and gender.
Mudbound is stunning and powerful. The ensemble cast alone should be enough reason to tune in – the movie stars Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke and Mary J. Blige. But nuanced performances aren’t the only thing you’ll get if you decide to give it a watch. Mudbound also benefits from amazing cinematography and a very compelling story that is both thought-provoking and heartbreaking at the same time. To call it phenomenal would be an understatement.
17. First They Killed My Father
Cast: Sareum Srey Moch, Phoeung Kompheak, Sveng Socheata, Mun Kimhak
Directed by Angelina Jolie, First They Killed My Father follows a young girl as she struggles to survive the oppressive Khmer Rouge era of rule in Cambodia. The movie was written by Jolie and Loung Ung and is based on Ung’s memoir of the same name. We get a front-row seat to witness the horrors of a country gone mad through the eyes of a young child as Ung is forced to train as a child soldier.
First They Killed My Father is raw and honest. Jolie doesn’t shy away from revealing the most gruelling details of those times without exploiting them for cheap dramatics. Instead, the movie stands like more of a tribute to those who were suffering, managing to be both devastating and empathetic. It’s undoubtedly hard to watch, but in the best way possible.
18. Beasts of No Nation
Cast: Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi, Ricky Adelayitor, Andrew Adote
Netflix has come a long way since releasing its first original movie, but Beasts of No Nation remains one of the platform’s best cinematic efforts. It centres on a young boy who becomes a child soldier as his country goes through a horrific war. The talented cast includes Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, David Dontoh, Ama K. Abebrese, Grace Nortey and Opeyemi Fagbohungbe.
The movie tells a traumatic story, but doesn’t fail to deliver some hope as well. It’s also visually stunning and brimming with impressive performances. As far as its original productions are concerned, Netflix set a high bar from the very beginning.
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
The Ritual tells a familiar horror story – the friend group lost in the woods – but it does so in a stylish and exciting manner, which elevates the somewhat predictable plot. Following the death of their friend, four men embark on a hike through the Scandinavian wilderness in his honour. When one of them gets injured, they decide to take a shortcut through the woods. Soon enough, suspicious things start to occur and the four are forced to confront the darkness inside themselves.
The movie benefits from a creepy atmosphere and tons of subtext about survivor’s guilt. To its credit, though, The Ritual doesn’t pretend to be smarter than it actually is. Expect an effective and sometimes disturbing thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, while also delivering a fair amount of scares. It may not be groundbreaking, but it’s a real treat for horror fans.
20. Gerald’s Game
Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game is an arresting psychological thriller not recommended for the faint of heart. It focuses on Gerald and Jessie, a couple who attempt to rekindle their relationship at a remote lake house. A dangerous sex game goes wrong, leaving Gerald dead and Jessie helplessly handcuffed to the bed. Soon, she starts to panic and experience hallucinations, which makes it that much harder for her to cope with her dire circumstances.
Gerald’s Game stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, both great in their respective roles. The movie is very unsettling and atmospheric, which may cause you to watch certain scenes through your fingers. If you’re into that, prepare to be dazzled as King himself called the flick “hypnotic, horrifying and terrific”.
Netflix is no stranger to romantic comedies, a genre Hollywood seems to be overlooking at the moment. Set It Up is one of their best offerings in this department. The charming movie focuses on two overworked assistants who decide to fix up their bosses so they can enjoy some much-needed free time. It stars Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs.
The movie works mainly thanks to the dedication of everyone involved. Deutch and Powell have great chemistry, while Liu and Diggs seem to revel in playing the “bad guys”. Set It Up also benefits from a tight script – although somewhat formulaic, the flick offers plenty of memorable one-liners and funny banter that make it engaging and fun. Rom-com fans, get streaming!
Cast: Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten, Michal Vondel, Mike Birbiglia
Danny and Ellie don’t know each other, but they both get involved in a dubious scheme. When things go wrong, they embark on a quest to recover a mysterious missing briefcase. As they travel together, these unlikely criminals reveal all sorts of half-truths about who they are and find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. The movie stars Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten.
Tramps is a small-scale movie that wins over the audience thanks to its sweetness and humour. Although the premise might suggest danger, the movie lowers the stakes and focuses more on mischief, making Tramps a tale of romance and whimsy. It’s the kind of movie you stream on a lazy weekend afternoon. It may not change your life, but you’ll love every minute of it.
23. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Chris Doubek, Marilyn Faith Hickey, Jared Roylance Jared Roylance
Had one of those days when everyone acted like a prick? You’ll love this one. Ruth’s fed up with the human indecency she sees around her day after day. When her home gets burgled, she teams up with a neighbour to seek revenge. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan and the two finds themselves emerged in a world they know little about. The movie stars Kiwi actress Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a darkly comedic thriller, perfectly balancing humour with gritty violence, to the point where it can be difficult to figure out what genre you’re actually watching. The movie will both confirm and challenge your worst assumptions about humanity, so prepare to experience a roller-coaster of emotions as the action progresses. Lynskey’s magnetic performance is just the cherry on top.
Cast: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee
Behold, the magnificent teen horror comedy we didn’t know we needed! Cole is madly in love with his babysitter Bee – until one night, when he witnesses the unthinkable and discovers that she’s running what looks like a satanic sex club. He must survive the night as Bree and her friends prove to have more homicidal tendencies than your average group of beer-loving teens. The cast includes Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, Andrew Bachelor and Hana Mae Lee.
The Babysitter’s best quality is that it perfectly embraces the tired clichés of the genre to deliver a fresh and highly entertaining narrative. It’s fun, unexpected and unapologetically gory. You can tell from the trailer that this movie was tailor-made to please fans who like their buckets of blood with a side of delicious pop-culture gags and nostalgia. If you’re one of them, buckle up! The Babysitter doesn’t disappoint.
25. Win It All
Cast: Jake Johnson Rony Shemon, Morgan Ng, Edward Kaihatsu
Win It All stars Jake Johnson as a small time gambler who agrees to watch a duffel bag for an acquaintance heading to prison. Things get more complicated when he discovers that the bag contains cash and he can’t help but gamble it away. When his friend’s prison sentence is shortened, our gambler has only a small window of time to win it all back.
At its core a character dramedy, Win It All succeeds thanks to impeccable direction and a winning performance from Johnson. A generic story on paper, the movie will surprise you with its subtle humour and warmth. The stakes aren’t particularly high, but Win It All ends up dealing a surprisingly strong hand.
26. My Happy Family
Cast: Ia Shugliashvili, Merab Ninidze, Berta Khapava, Tsisia Qumsishvili
Three generations of an ordinary Georgian family live under the same roof. Then one night, 52-year-old Manana suddenly decides to leave the family and live alone, without any of her other loved ones – husband and children included. A journey into the unknown begins for Manana, while her family wonders what might have prompted her to make such a life-changing decision. As you might have already guessed, the title of the movie is pure irony.
A nearly perfect drama, My Happy Family is one of those rare flicks about what it means to be human. It’s light on plot, but heavy on emotion. It relies on subtlety and nuance to win over the audience, perfectly balancing scenes of family chaos with solitary silence. Manana is a woman who’s simply trying to find some peace; a struggle we’re guessing a lot of viewers will be able to relate to.
Cast: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Charlotte St-Martin, Micheline Lanctôt
Ravenous is a smart spin on the zombie genre. In a remote village in upstate Quebec, locals are dealing with a zombie-like outbreak that left few survivors behind. Those unaffected join forces and try to flee the infected hordes. However, despite the exciting premise, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill adrenaline-pumping thriller. It’s artful and creative.
Philosophical and oddly funny, Ravenous is unlike any other zombie flick you’ve seen before. Expect long and poetic shots rather than fast-past action scenes meant to keep you on the edge of the seat. It’s more melancholic than riveting, but there’s still an omnipresent sense of threat that will leave viewers uneasy. Consider yourself warned.
After their mother lands in jail, two sisters are left with few options to make ends meet. Naturally, they hatch a plan to start robbing trains in order to pay the bills and bail out their mother. In the process, relationships are tested and the girls discover who they can and can’t trust. Unfortunately, a railroad detective starts sniffing around just when things were looking up.
An off-kilter comedy that effortlessly brings the laughs, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is lively and highly enjoyable. The movie is having a lot of fun with the premise, allowing the audience to unapologetically root for these desperate teens instead of serving up a lesson about the dangers of crime. It’s a crowd-pleaser recommended for the entire family.
Alexandra Plesa writes about Internet TV for Finder. When she’s not re-watching The West Wing for the 11th time, she likes to scour streaming services for any fascinating underrated gems they have on offer. She’ll never say no to a romantic comedy and she’ll press you to watch BoJack Horseman until you finally give in
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