Starting with a single original production in 2015, Netflix has become a powerhouse of original filmmaking, on par with any major studio. From dramas to comedies to action and more, here are the best original movies to stream on Netflix.
One of the best documentaries on Netflix, the Oscar-winning American Factory chronicles the attempt by Chinese auto-glass company Fuyao to bring jobs back to a depressed Ohio town. What starts out as an example of mutual benefit between the corporation and the local residents gets bogged down in culture clashes and labor disputes.
The filmmakers stand back and observe the complex dynamics at work, never judging either side, only offering a look at the modern global corporate machine in action.
Eddie Murphy stars as 1970s blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore in the biopic Dolemite Is My Name. Murphy is fantastic as the flamboyant, self-confident Moore, who produced and starred in his pioneering independent film Dolemite with no film experience or knowledge, just a dream and a refusal to give up. The movie is a loving tribute to low-budget filmmaking and a warm-hearted comedy about a group of misfits who came together to create an unlikely B-movie classic.
Millie Bobby Brown of hit Netflix series Stranger Things plays the title character in Enola Holmes, featuring the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister. Enola is every bit the master sleuth that her brother is, and she leaves home to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
Despite the disapproval from her famous brother (played by Henry Cavill) and the restrictions placed on women of her era, Enola becomes a capable action hero who remains independent, outspoken, and more than a little snarky.
Prolific, acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh delivers one of his most entertaining movies with High Flying Bird. A basketball movie in which there’s almost no onscreen basketball, High Flying Bird more closely resembles a fast-paced heist thriller.
Sports agent Ray Burke (Andre Holland) works overtime negotiating complex deals for his clients and his agency while the NBA is on the verge of a lockout. Ray’s negotiations come together in a surprising and sophisticated way, and both Soderbergh and Holland keep the audience guessing until the end.
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The winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore stars Melanie Lynskey as a lonely woman who springs into action after her home is burglarized. She teams up with her odd, intense neighbor (Elijah Wood) to track down the thieves, getting herself in way more trouble than anticipated.
Writer-director Macon Blair delivers a darkly funny story about disaffected burnouts fighting back against the cruelty of the world, even if they have no idea what they’re doing.
Although it can be difficult to watch at times, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is one of the most affecting and insightful movies ever made about divorce, from the perspective of both sides of a couple. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star as the spouses who initially think their parting will be amicable, despite disputes over child custody and diverging careers and residences.
Driver and Johansson capture the anguish and frustration of the process, with both characters making selfish decisions, and Baumbach makes the movie surprisingly cathartic even in its bleakest moments.
Animated comedy The Mitchells vs. the Machines depicts the robot apocalypse, but it’s really about one family learning to appreciate each other. The Mitchells head on a road trip to take daughter Katie (Abbi Jacobson) to college, but they’re interrupted by an uprising of super-intelligent machines.
Somehow this dysfunctional family is able to resist the takeover, using their unique skills and relationships to their advantage. The animation is colorful, chaotic, and consistently inventive, the characters are endearing, and the story expertly balances goofy humor with heartfelt life lessons.
With essentially just one actor and one location, director Alexandre Aja’s Oxygen sustains tension and mystery for its entire running time. Mélanie Laurent gives a commanding performance as a woman who wakes up trapped in a futuristic medical pod with no idea of who she is or how she got there.
As she pieces together the details of her life and her situation, Aja finds creative ways to shoot the single small space. The narrative delivers twists and emotional breakthroughs while leaving the main character in the exact same physical spot.
Actress Rebecca Hall makes her writing and directing debut with this gorgeous and moving adaptation of Nella Larson’s 1929 novel Passing. Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are both excellent as Black women navigating complex racial and sexual identities. Both able to “pass” for white, the childhood friends reunite in adulthood and shake up each other’s lives.
Hall captures the story in luminous black-and-white images with an evocative piano-based score. Passing looks and sounds like an old-fashioned drama, while carrying strong contemporary resonance.
Netflix is known for churning out mostly forgettable original romantic comedies, but To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a welcome exception. It’s a delightful rom-com and a smart coming-of-age movie, led by the funny and likable Lana Condor as awkward teen Lara Jean Covey.
Lara Jean is horrified to discover that boys she had crushes on have somehow received the private letters she wrote to them. To cover her tracks, she proposes a fake relationship with popular athlete Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), and of course they fall in love for real.
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