The best dramas currently on Netflix

Want a movie you can really sink your teeth into? Look no farther than Netflix’s drama library, in which a wealth of terrific titles in film and TV await you. Whether you’re craving poignant period pieces, tender tearjerkers, unique crime narratives, acclaimed coming-of-age tales, or a curious case of a dismembered hand on a mission, we’ve got you covered. 

Here are the best dramas on Netflix streaming now.

1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest 

Adapted from the classic Ken Kesey novel, this 1975 asylum-set drama follows the exploits of a charismatic criminal who thought playing crazy would be easier than jail time. However, Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) soon learns this institution is rife with abuse, thanks to the merciless Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Milos Forman directs an impeccable ensemble that boasts Danny DeVito, Will Sampson, Christopher Lloyd, and Brad Dourif. The film’s scorching drama and bold performances not only scored it box office success, but also five Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress (Fletcher), Best Actor (Nicholson), and Best Picture. It was the first film to achieve such a sweep in 41 years! 

How to watch: Netflix

2. Spotlight

Tom McCarthy directs this devastating docu-drama, which covers how a noble team of Boston Globe journalists uncovered conspiracy, corruption, and widespread child abuse within the Catholic church. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci bring a wallop of heartbreak and righteous outrage as a superb ensemble. Critics cheered how a complicated national news story was dedicatedly and delicately unfurled to urge audiences to look to their own communities and complicity. On 2016’s Oscar night, the Academy saluted the film with trophies for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. 

How to watch: Netflix

3. Mudbound

Based on the Hillary Jordan novel, this period drama charts the relationships and racial conflict between two farming families in the 1939 Mississippi Delta. Taking audiences from the brutal battlefields of World War II to the mud-sucking fields of a community on the brink of eruption, co-writer/director Dee Ree’s explosive drama earned plenty of praise from critics as well as four Oscar nominations. Among these accolades were, Best Cinematography,  Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Mary J. Blige, who was also nominated for Best Original Song, “Mighty River.” Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, and Garrett Hedlund were also a part of an ensemble, heralded for their powerful performances. 

How to watch: Netflix

4. I Lost My Body

Animated films often fall into categories of kid-friendly comedies, chipper musicals, or rollicking adventures. This extraordinary French film not only breaks from expectation by being a tender drama, but also offers something scintillatingly strange by making its protagonist a dismembered hand in search of his missing body. Adapted from the Guillaume Laurant novel, this Jérémy Clapin-directed cartoon delivers a riveting journey through the suburbs of Paris, from cozy apartments and dangerous subways to glittering rooftops and a jolting realization. With a sophisticated aesthetic and complex emotional narrative, I Lost My Body won praise on the film festival circuit and a slew of critics’ guilds, as well as the César for Best Animated Feature. If you’re not much for subtitles, worry not! Netflix also offers a meticulous English over-dub. 

How to watch: Netflix

5. Moonlight

Writer-director Barry Jenkins broke through in a big way with this sensuous sophomore effort, which centers on a gay Black man searching for himself on the crack-addled streets of Miami. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes share the role of Chiron, who comes of age in three sharply realized acts that involve violence, kindness, and ultimately hope. Delivering supporting performances that are suitably heart-wrenching and soul-lifting are Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, André Holland, and Mahershala Ali. Dripping in passion, pathos, and a vibrant palette, Moonlight was universally heralded, and ultimately scored Oscars for its screenplay, Ali’s compelling portrayal of complicated father figure, and 2017’s Best Motion Picture of The Year. 

How to watch: Netflix

6. In The Dark

Want a detective drama with some spice and snark? Then check out this CW series from Corinne Kingsbury, which centers on an amateur sleuth seeking justice for her murdered friend. 20-something Murphy Mason (Perry Mattfeld) is a lot like the glowering gumshoes of classic film noir. She’s got a world-weary attitude, a sharp mind, a sarcastic wit, and an insatiable thirst for hard liquor. To her mom and friends, she’s a self-sabotaging screw-up. So, when Murphy claims she’s found a local teen dead in a back alley, few believe her. It doesn’t help her cause that she’s blind and the corpse vanishes before the cops turn up. Thus, it’s up to Murphy to clean up and crack the case, no matter what dark paths she must traverse with her seeing eye dog, Pretzel. Warning: Between Mattfield’s chaotic charisma and the shows’ non-stop twists, this series is downright addictive. 

How to watch: Netflix

7. Wadjda

Writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour made her narrative feature debut with this charming tale of a spunky 10-year-old Saudi girl, who dreams of a shiny green bicycle. Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) wants to race about like the boys of Riyadh, but this is considered unladylike in her conservative community. Undeterred, she sets out to win a Koran recitation competition, planning to use the cash prize to purchase a bike! While gently exploring themes of double standards, Al-Mansour keeps things light by focusing on the hopeful perspective of her indomitable heroine. This approach not only won praise from critics worldwide, but also scored Wadjda a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not In The English Language. On top of that, this 2012 stunner made history as the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film directed by a Saudi woman. 

How to watch: Netflix 

8. Bad Genius

In high school, challenges like envy and SAT exams can feel like life-or-death drama. Director Nattawut Poonpiriya pays tribute to that intensity with an unusual—and uniquely thrilling—crime narrative. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying stars as a brilliant but broke student, who uses her smarts not only to get good grades but also to create a cheating scheme to help out her classmates, who are rich in cash but poor in brains. A crackerjack ensemble cast brings plenty of verve to a familiar premise, which is punctuated with suspenseful scenes of narrows escapes and clever cons. Yet amid the thrall of it all, Poonpiriya offers a thought-provoking theme about the class conflict and how being a genius isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  

How to watch: Netflix

9. Wildlife 

One of 2018’s under-sung gems is this fragile yet ferocious domestic-drama. Ed Oxenbould stars as a boy, living in the remote ranges of Montana, helpless witness to the crumbling of his parents’ marriage. Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal both received critic’s acclaim for their complex and charged portrayals of a couple on the rocks. Real-life couple/co-parents, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan adapted the screenplay from Richard Ford’s novel. Then, as director, Dano guided his excellent ensemble to an aching authenticity that makes Wildlife unforgettably poignant.  

How to watch: Netflix

10. Alias Grace

If you love The Handmaid’s Tale, then you’ll relish Alias Grace. Also adapted from a Margaret Atwood novel, this mini-series delves into historical fiction, exploring the motives of 19th-century murderess, Grace Marks. Sarah Gadon stars as the notorious killer, who journeyed from Ireland to Canada and made a humble life for herself as maid to the farmer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross). So why did she kill him? Sarah Polley’s sensational script unfolds the lyricism of Atwood’s words with an agile ear for dialogue, while director Mary Harron plumbs the depths of the human soul to craft a tale of murder that’s more melancholic than merciless. The result is a mini-series that is restrained yet absolutely riveting. Anna Paquin, David Cronenberg, and Zachary Levi co-star. 

How to watch: Netflix

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