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These films run the gamut from socially conscious sports dramas to satirical art-horror flicks.
It may be early in the year, but a handful of excellent Netflix original movies have already hit the platform. While the streaming giant’s increased emphasis on original content yields some questionable results, these films stand out for their unique concepts and often heart-wrenching emotional impact.
The best new movies on Netflix in 2019 run the gamut from heartfelt sports dramas touching on relevant social issues to satirical horror flicks poking fun at the pompous art world. With 2018’s Roma earning unanimous critical acclaim and racking up 10 Academy Award nominations, look for more top-tier Netflix originals to appear on the platform soon.
The best Netflix original movies of 2019
High Flying Bird tells the story of a sports agent caught in the crosshairs of an NBA lockout who tries to end it on his own. A strong script from Moonlight screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney and a leading performance from André Holland make a potentially insider story compelling, and the film takes on the NBA’s long history of exploiting Black athletes in the process. —Michelle Jaworski
Soni is a movie about a society that devalues women on a systemic and personal level. The film follows two women who work for the Delhi Police: Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan), a young police officer with a penchant for not taking crap from people, and her supervisor Kalpana (Saloni Batra). Both women battle routine sexism and bureaucratic headaches, and the cases they get often involve crimes against women. Despite the Delhi setting, Soni’s observations of inequality transcend borders. It’s like looking in a mirror: You see what’s right in front of you, but also everything around you. —Eddie Strait
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3) Dear Ex
Before dying, Seng Cheng-yuan came out as gay and left his wife, Liu San-lian, and son, Seng Cheng-hsi, so he could live with his boyfriend Chieh. With their lives already upended, Cheng-yuan’s death leaves his family wracked with grief. Dear Ex is a darkly comedic look at three grieving people as they struggle to get their lives back on track. The strong writing, acting, and directing help the movie arrive at some moving emotional truths. —E.S.
4) Paris Is Us
Elisabeth Vogler’s Paris Is Us follows Anna, a young Parisian woman in search of reality, authentic experiences, and anything that will tether her to people and the world. Feeling an increasing sense of isolation, Anna questions everything about reality, from everyday experiences down to whether she’s just living in a simulation. Paris Is Us is pretentious and honest, and it won’t be for everyone. Vogler shoots the film with a floating, fluid camera that creates indelible imagery and puts you in Anna’s headspace. It’s an immersive and unique experience. —E.S.
Paddleton follows Andy and Michael, two best friends who must grapple with Michael’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. The two men stick to their routine, which includes watching kung fu movies and playing their made up game called Paddleton. Mark Duplass and Ray Romano give terrific performances in the leading roles, capturing what it means to be a friend, even if their characters have a hard time expressing themselves. Paddleton is a small, intimate movie that’s both funny and sad without ever becoming overly sentimental. —E.S.
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With a full commitment by the cast, Velvet Buzzsaw embraces its absurdity from the start. Set in Los Angeles’ art world, Dan Gilroy’s satirical horror takes on capitalism and the kinds of people who would try to profit from a dead man, even when it starts to kill them. You might not relate to most of the characters or any of their plights, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off them. —M.J.
Lionheart follows Adaeze, a woman at the helm of her father’s transit company Lionheart, who seeks to prove herself worthy of taking over the company to both her father and society. As Netflix’s first-ever Nigerian film, Lionheart is not only groundbreaking; it’s a lighthearted, feel-good movie about both family values and feminism that’s an enjoyable watch for the whole family. —Tess Cagle
Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, rom-coms, LGBT movies, alien movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh
Bryan Rolli is a reporter who specializes in streaming entertainment. He writes about music and film for Forbes, Billboard, and the Austin American-Statesman. He met Flavor Flav in two separate Las Vegas bowling alleys and still can’t stop talking about it.