The 50+ Best Netflix Original Movies

netflix original movies

Netflix

The first Netflix original film, Beasts of No Nation, premiered on the streaming platform in 2015. The mere fact that the film was simultaneously released in theaters (through Bleecker Street) and online on Netflix led the four largest movie theater chains in the United States to boycott the film, viewing it as a violation of the traditional 90-day release window for films. However, little did those theaters know that this would quickly become the new normal—and that the streaming platform, which began as a mail-based movie rental business, would have a massive head start in the streaming wars.

Since then, the streamer has made a name for itself with a huge selection of movies, including a slew of originals that fans around the world have fallen in love with. Here, the best fifty Netflix original films you can stream from the comfort of your own home.

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This war drama film by Cary Joji Fukunaga tells the story of a young boy, Agu (Abraham Attah) who becomes a child soldier as his unnamed West African nation descends into civil war. Agu’s battalion is lead by a vicious soldier, “the Commandant” (Idris Elba), a role for which Elba received numerous accolades—including Best Supporting Male at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

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Andrew Garfield stars in this autobiographical musical about playwright Jonathan Larson. Larson, most famous for writing Rent, died at just before his 36th birthday, on the day of the first Off-Broadway preview performance of Rent. Lin-Manuel Miranda directs this film version of an earlier work of Larson’s, which he called an autobiographical “rock monologue.”

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This movie is for NBA fans, Adam Sandler fans, and fans of really good sports films. It follows Stanley (Sandler), a talent scout for the 76ers who discovers Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez), a raw talented player from Spain. Soon, Stanley flies him to the U.S. and begins getting him in shape for the NBA draft.

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Based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen, Passing follows two childhood friends—Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) who take dramatically different paths in life. Both light-skinned Black women, Clare decides to “pass” for white. For her performance, Negga was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

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The Power of the Dog is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a sadistic Montana rancher. At the 2022 Oscars, the film was nominated for 12 awards, and the acclaimed New Zealand-born director Jane Campion became the third woman in history to win Best Director.

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Reunited after 15 years, childhood sweethearts Sasha (Ali Wong), a famous chef, and Marcus (Randall Park), a struggling musician, feel the old sparks of their relationship ignite. Ali Wong is perfect in this romantic comedy, and it’s perfect for a cozy night in.

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Director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is an emotional tale of a live-in housekeeper to an upper middle-class family in Mexico City in 1971. Starring newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, the film premiered to rave reviews, and garnered ten nominations at the 2019 Oscars. At the Oscars, Roma became the first Mexican entry to win Best Foreign Language Film.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal wrote, produced, and directed this adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson. The story is about college professor Leda (Colman), who takes a seaside holiday in Southern Italy. While there, she becomes enamored by Nina (Johnson), who is visiting the shore with her young daughter.

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This 2019 film directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is criminally underrated. Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is a music journalist dumped by her longterm boyfriend Nate (LaKeith Stanfield). Before she moves to San Francisco, Jenny convinces her best friends Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) for one last outrageous adventure in their beloved New York City.

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No list of Netflix original films is complete without Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The epic crime drama, the longest and most expensive film Scorsese ever made, was based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, and starred a trio of all-time great actors: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino.

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This American Western, directed by Jeymes Samuel, follows Black cowboys in the American West in the 1800s. The film features an all-star cast, including Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, and LaKeith Stanfield.

12

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

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Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution follows teens with disabilities who attend a groundbreaking summer camp on their path to activism. As the film’s website explains, “Crip Camp is the story of one group of people and captures one moment in time. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other equally important stories from the Disability Rights Movement that have not yet received adequate attention.” The documentary was executive produced by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as part of their deal with Netflix.

13

The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, this historical drama follows a London writer (Lily James) who travels to Guernsey and learns about a group of residents who formed a “book club” during the German occupation of the island during World War II. Plus, there’s a very good romance plot.

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Okja, directed by Bong Joon-ho (right before he made Parasite), is about a young girl who raises a genetically modified “super pig,” and goes to rescue it after it is sent to the United States.

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This historical drama directed by Dee Rees focuses on two World War II veterans—one white, one Black—who return to rural Mississippi after the war. Rees, who adapted the film from the novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, went on to become the first Black woman to ever be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.

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Noah Baumbach directed Marriage Story, an “incisive and compassionate look at a marriage coming apart and a family staying together,” per Netflix. The film stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as Nicole and Charlie Barber, and Laura Dern as Nicole’s lawyer Nora, a role for which she won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars.

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Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods tells the story of four Black veterans who return to Vietnam decades after the Vietnam War to find their squad leader’s remains—and the treasure they buried while serving.

19

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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The teen rom-com that captured the hearts of America and launched a trilogy is an absolute must-watch Netflix original. Starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, the story is based on Jenny Han’s novel and tells the tale of Lara Jean (Condor) who writes letters to boys she has crushes on. One day, her little sister decides to mail those letters. What results is a charming, romantic film that became an instant YA classic.

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Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance, captured on film. What more could you want? But seriously: this concert film not only celebrated Beyoncé, but the culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and will go down as one of the all-time great concert movies to ever exist.

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Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) forms a surprising friendship with Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) in this film set in Vatican City. It’s based on a true story, and both Hopkins and Pryce, along with writer Anthony McCarten, received critical praise for their work.

22

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an important film for numerous reasons, not least of which that it’s actor Chadwick Boseman’s last performance, as trumpeter Levee Green. Boseman, who is perhaps best known for his performance in Black Panther, died during the film’s post-production and it is dedicated to his memory. The film is inspired by the career of blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and takes place over the course of a recording session in July 1927.

23

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

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Hear us out: Eurovision Song Contest, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as Icelandic singers Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir, is pure fun. It was filmed during an actual Eurovision competition in 2019, and it captures the unhinged energy of the singing contest.

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In Private Life, Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn star as Richard and Rachel, a couple desperate to have a child. The film focuses on the impact infertility is having on their marriage, and their extended family.

25

The Kindergarten Teacher

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In this scary film, a New York kindergarten teacher Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) sees great promise in her 5-year-old student, Jimmy (Parker Sevak). She soon goes to unreasonable lengths to encourage his poetry talents and what she believes to be his prodigy.

26

First They Killed My Father

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First They Killed My Father is based on Loung Ung’s memoir of the same name, about her childhood surviving the Cambodian genocide and being forced to train as a child soldier when her parents “disappeared” under the Khmer Rouge regime. Directed by Angelina Jolie, who adapted Ung’s memoir with her, the film is predominantly in Khmer, starring almost exclusively Cambodian actors.

27

The Trial of the Chicago 7

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Aaron Sorkin’s historical drama follows the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-war protesters during the Vietnam War. The seven were charged with crossing state lines with the intention of inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the film follows their trial.

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In this biographical film, Eddie Murphy portrays comedian and “Godfather of Rap” Rudy Ray Moore, who develops an outrageous character named Dolemite. Portraying Moore was a dream project for Murphy, and it’s clear the actor poured his heart into the role.

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Vanessa Kirby stars in Pieces of a Woman, as Martha, who goes through a traumatic childbirth and loses her child. After the death, she has a strained relationship with her husband, Sean (Shia LaBeouf), and Sean’s mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) who blames their midwife, Eva (Molly Parker) for the baby’s death. Pieces of a Woman was originally a play by Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber, a couple who went through a miscarriage; Mundruczó directed the screenplay off a script Wéber wrote.

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In 1939, on the eve of World War II, a British widow, Edith (Carey Mulligan) hires a self-taught archaeologist Basil (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up “mysterious formations” on her land. He soon uncovers a remarkable find, and brings in archeologist Peggy Piggott (Lily James). It’s based on the 2007 historical novel by John Preston and the true story of the Sutton Hoo excavation, where some of the most important archaeological discoveries in Britain were unearthed

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Bryan Fogel decided he wanted to explore doping in amateur cycling, and he stumbled upon the now famous Russian doping scheme. Fogel’s film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and during his acceptance speech at the Oscars, he said, “We dedicate this award to Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, our fearless whistle-blower who now lives in great danger. We hope Icarus is a wake-up call—yes, about Russia, but more than that, about the importance of telling the truth, now more than ever.”

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Operation Mincemeat “was a deception conceived by British Intelligence to fool the Germans regarding the true target for the Allied invasion of Sicily” during World War II. In this film which takes its name from the wartime operation, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen star as Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley, the two men who plan the operation.

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Post-apocalyptic horror plus Sandra Bullock? Why not! Bullock stars as Malorie, a mother who tries to protect her two children from entities that cause people to die when they look at them.

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Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th looks at the prison-industrial complex. It takes its name from the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It features numerous politicians, scholars, and activists, including Angela Davis (pictured). Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the documentary experienced a surge in viewership.

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This historical drama stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, a.k.a. Robert I, a 14th-century King of Scots who launched a war against the English army. Taking place from 1304 to 1307, it follows Robert I’s mission to establish an independent Scotland.

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“Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” is the seventh track on Taylor Swift’s seventh album, Lover, and this documentary takes its name from that song—following Swift over a few years of her life, including her time on the Reputation Stadium Tour and the release of Lover. It was praised for Swift’s discussion of mental health, and for finding her voice in politics.

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Yes, this campy Christmas film starring Vanessa Hudgens deserves a spot on the list of best Netflix original films. Hudgens stars as two people who look identical to each other: Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro, and Stacy DeNovo, a baker from Chicago.

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Paolo Sorrentino’s È stata la mano di Dio (It was the hand of God, a.k.a. The Hand of God) is an autobiographical drama film about Sorrentino’s coming-of-age in Naples.

39

The Incredible Jessica James

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The incredibly charismatic Jessica Williams stars as the incredible Jessica James in this rom-com. Playwright Jessica (Williams) is getting over a breakup and agrees to go on a blind date with Boone (Chris O’Dowd). The two have a rough start, but hit it off.

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Based on the Broadway play of the same name by Christopher Demos-Brown, American Son takes place one night in Miami. Kendra Ellis-Connor (Kerry Washington) is waiting in a police station to learn about where her son, Jamal, is. Officer Paul Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) can’t help her, and says he has to wait for Lieutenant John Stokes (Eugene Lee). Soon, her estranged husband, FBI agent Scott Connor (Steven Pasquale) arrives at the station—also demanding to know where his son is. What results is an explosive, tensely plotted film about police brutality.

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Another Broadway play-to-Netflix adaptation, Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band is set at a birthday party for Harold (Zachary Quinto) hosted by Michael (Jim Parsons). The film stars the cast from the 2018 Broadway revival, all actors who are openly gay.

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Filmmaker Craig Foster forges a friendship with an octopus in South Africa in this fascinating documentary, which won Best Documentary Feature at the 2021 Oscars.

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Mank, directed by David Fincher, is a biographical drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, focusing on his time finishing Citizen Kane. Starring Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, Mank earned ten nominations at the 2021 Oscars.

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Based on several plays from William Shakespeare’s Henriad, The King stars Timothée Chalamet as Hal, the Prince of Wales—who becomes King Henry V. It doesn’t stick too close to Shakespeare’s plays or to history, but that doesn’t take away from the power of the epic film.

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After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress set up the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and put lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in charge. As he recounts in his memoir What Is Life Worth?, he had to determine how to payout victims. A tearjerker film all about how grief functions.

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Inspired by the Black horse culture in Philly—specifically, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding ClubConcrete Cowboy follows Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) who is sent to live with his estranged father, Harp (Idris Elba).

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Rosamund Pike stars in this satirical comedy about a con woman who acts as a court-appointed legal guardian with the intent of defrauding her older clients. Yet, she soon meets her match in Jennifer (Dianne Wiest), a wealthy retiree.

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Set in Imperial Courts, a housing project in Watts, Los Angeles, John Boyega stars as Bambi, a 21-year-old released from prison who returns home. Interestingly enough, Netflix purchased the rights to this film at Sundance in 2014, but didn’t release it for three years.

49

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

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Three adult siblings (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel) return to New York City to grapple with the legacy of their sculptor father (Dustin Hoffman) in this 2017 Noah Baumbach film. A touching film about family, it was the second-ever Netflix film to compete at Cannes (after Okja).

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In Adam McKay’s divisive 2021 film about climate change, two astronomers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) go on a media tour to warn humanity of a comet that is hurtling toward earth, but is being ignored by the president (Meryl Streep). The apocalyptic comedy features an all-star cast, which includes DiCaprio, Lawrence, Streep—and Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, Ariana Grande, and so many more. After its premiere, Don’t Look Up set a new record on Netflix for most viewing hours in a single week.

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