The 12 best drama movies streaming on Netflix

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It’s time to revisit some of the classics.

What makes a drama worth watching? An antihero? A fraught love story? Joy and pain, sunshine and rain? Netflix has films that check all those boxes. Here are a few to check out.

The best drama movies on Netflix

1) No Country For Old Men

We meet killer Anton Chigurh within the first two minutes of No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel. The first murder we witness sets off a domino effect across West Texas, as dirty money, small-town law enforcement, and a dead-eyed killer engage in a deadly dance.

2) Fruitvale Station

Ryan Coogler’s debut feature film tells the story of Oscar Grant, who was shot by police outside a Bay Area Transit Station on Jan. 1, 2009. Michael B. Jordan plays Grant, as we follow him on the last day of his life, and watch events unfold through his eyes.

Best movies based on true stories on Netflix: Fruitvale Station Screengrab via Screen Time/YouTube (Fair Use)

3) A Teacher

For some reason, this film also shows up under romantic comedies on Netflix, and it’s neither of those things. Hannah Fidell’s 2013 film follows the slow descent of a high school teacher (played by Lindsay Burdge) into obsession with her student. What starts out as a flirtation, built upon furtive glances and secret meetings, gradually shifts the power dynamic between the two. Burdge is especially deft at balancing normality and self-destruction, even as we know she’s veering towards the latter.

4) The Discovery

The discovery here is one of an afterlife, and the consequences it has on society. Robert Redford is the scientist who made the fateful discovery, which has led to a surge in suicides and drawn in a cult of obsessives. It also explores what that afterlife looks like, and whether we really want to know. Director Charlie McDowell explored similar themes of duality in his 2014 film The One I Love.

list of netflix drama films : The Discovery Screengrab via Netflix US & Canada/YouTube

5) The Big Short

Adam McKay pivots from comedy features to direct this drama about the 2008 housing crisis. Christian Bale stars as Martin Burry, the hedge fund manager who foresaw the crisis and is prone to drum solos; Steve Carell is stone-faced as ever; and Ryan Gosling is a smooth-talking trader. Yes, you’ll get really angry about 2008 again.

great dramas on netflix : The big short Screengrab via Columbia Pictures/YouTube


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6) Girlhood

Forget Boyhood. Céline Sciamma’s 2014 drama explores the lives of black teens growing up in a Paris housing projects with sharp focus. Karidja Touré plays Marieme, an introvert who’s drawn into a girl gang that liberates her a bit from her daily home and school life. And Rihanna’s “Diamonds” scores an unforgettable scene that revels in that liberation.

top dramas on netflix : Girlhood Screengrab via UniFrance

7) Turner & Hooch

Not sure why Netflix categorizes this as a drama, but this 1989 film about Tom Hanks and a lovable, slobbering Dogue de Bordeaux might bring tears to your eyes. The movie was piloted as a 1990 TV series, but it suffered the same fate as Poochinski.

dramas netflix : Turner and Hooch Screengrab via Vandalia Vandallien/

8) Waking Life

Richard Linklater’s 2001 animated film draws on a dream—or maybe it’s reality. Much like his early film Slacker, Waking Life is a string of conversations, sometimes about dreams, sometimes about life. And much like a dream, we’re never quite sure if we’re awake or not.

drama netflix : Waking Life Screengrab via Berlin Film Journal

9) Pariah

Dee Rees’ 2011 film is anchored by the astounding Adepero Oduye, who plays Alike, a young gay woman struggling to come out to her parents. We see her trying to assert herself, find physical connection, and comb the layers of her friendships.

good drama movies in netflix : Pariah Screengrab via Movieclips/YouTube

10) Don’t Think Twice

Comedian Mike Birbiglia’s second feature film explores the lives of members of an improv troupe. Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher are inseparable on stage and off, but when one of them gets a big break, jealousy, resentment, and narcissism come into the mix. You don’t have to be an improv nerd to relate to the theme of arrested adulthood.

drama netflix : Don't Think Twice Screengrab via Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films/YouTube

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11)
Christine

If you know the name Christine Chubbuck, it might be because of how her life ended: on air, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. But Antonio Campos’s Christine explores the inner life of the Sarasota, Florida, reporter as she strives to move up and get noticed, and Rebecca Hall imbues her with a steadfast mix of ambition and self-doubt.

best drama on netflix: Christine Screengrab via Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films/YouTube

12) The Sixth Sense

M. Night Shyamalan’s original twist, The Sixth Sense gave us a Haley Joel Osment catch phrase and the second highest-grossing movie of 1999. If you’ve still managed to avoid the ending of this modern ghost story, congrats. People still love debating it online.

netflix drama : The Sixth Sense Screengrab via FilmTrailersChannel/YouTube

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance

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