The streaming world is changing by the day, but no matter who’s in second place, Netflix remains on top. The king of the streamers built its reputation by offering more movies than anyone else and pioneering the original space. The best movies on Netflix include beloved populist adventures, intense horror nightmares, and prestigious dramas. In short, Netflix has something for everyone.
And 2023 was particularly good for Netflix. The streamer released a great collection of original movies, many of which are sure to leave a mark on the 2024 awards season. From acclaimed efforts from auteurs like Todd Haynes and David Fincher to highly anticipated, big-budget projects from Zack Snyder and Sam Hargrave, the 2023 Netflix slate includes many great films. These 10 Netflix original movies are the streamer’s best of the year, and if you haven’t watched them yet, we don’t know what you’re waiting for.
One of the best LGBTQ+ movies on Netflix, Nuovo Olimpo is also among 2023’s most underrated releases. The Italian romantic drama chronicles the relationship between two young men who meet and fall in love in 1970s Rome. After an unexpected event separates them, they attempt to reconnect over the years.
Although the story is familiar, especially among LGBTQ+ films, Nuovo Olimpo remains a searing and enthralling depiction of love, passion, loss, and longing. Benefitting from the strong chemistry between its leads, a rich visual language, and a strong, tender story, the film rises above its genre’s conventions. Nuovo Olimpo might not break new ground or offer something audiences haven’t seen before, but there’s nothing wrong with a well-told, well-crafted film, especially for fans of the period romantic drama.
Adam Sandler’s relationship with Netflix has produced mostly questionable efforts — from mediocre comedies like Murder Mystery to outright terrible assaults on intelligence like The Ridiculous 6. However, between the animated comedy Leo and the coming-of-age dramedy You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, 2023 proved the comedian is a valuable asset to the streamer. The latter, in particular, is a sweet and surprisingly clever story about two best friends whose Bat Mitzvah plans are derailed when they fight for the attention of the same boy.
The coming-of-age genre is crowded, meaning most films hardly get a chance to shine within its competitive ranks. However, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah offers a clever and refreshing twist, largely thanks to a confident, buoyant performance by Sunny Sandler. Her father’s presence helps, largely because he’s there to make her look better. The gamble pays off, resulting in a charming film that will leave viewers smiling from ear to ear.
Streaming has become a safe space for the action genre, and Netflix has been going head-to-head with Prime Video for the crown. However, the former has a slight edge thanks to films like Sam Hargrave’s Extraction, which saw the release of its highly anticipated sequel this year. Extraction 2 sees the return of Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake and follows him as he is hired to rescue the family of a crime lord from a foreign prison.
The first Extraction is among the best action movies on Netflix, and this 2023 sequel is a worthy follow-up. Hemsworth is in fine form as Rake, a modern-day action icon that could benefit from some big-screen exposure. Even so, Extraction 2 is bombastic in the best possible way, offering thrilling, ambitious, and often jaw-dropping set pieces supported by Hargrave’s confident direction. Like most sequels, Extraction 2 feels the need to be bigger and louder, but its larger-than-life approach thankfully comes with a healthy dose of inspired narrative choices.
Nine-time (!) Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper directs and stars in the biopic Maestro opposite two-time Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan. The pair play famed composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife, Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre, with the film chronicling the couple’s relationship from the time they meet in 1943 to her death in 1978.
Maestro is ambitious, flawed, and uneven, yet undeniably rewarding. Although it takes quite a by-the-numbers approach to what could otherwise be a fascinating story of uncertainty and passion, Maestro thrives on the back of Mulligan and Cooper’s performances. Together, they are commanding, if not necessarily electrifying, as their strongest moments happen individually. Cooper does a lot — too much, in fact — but his reenacting of Bernstein’s iconic performance at Ely Cathedral is bound to be the film’s most talked-about sequence (not to mention his Oscar clip). However, Mulligan is stronger, finding strength in Felicia’s silent moments and delivering a quietly heartbreaking performance that effortlessly rises above Cooper’s noise.
From acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, El Conde is a bitingly funny black comedy/horror movie. The satirical film takes a wickedly humorous approach to one of history’s most infamous figures, dictator Augusto Pinochet, portraying him as a centuries-old vampire who, tired of his life and regretful of his choices, seeks death at last.
A near-perfect blend of sociopolitical commentary and zany, wild humor, El Conde offers a new and invigorating side to Larraín. Enthusiastically led by a hilarious Jaime Vadell, El Conde is full of witty humor and unexpected twists that elevate it above the many horror comedies invading the business. Keen observers will undoubtedly see beyond the facade and right into Larraín’s shrewd observations on Pinochet, which adds another layer of complexity to the film’s irreverent tone. El Conde is among the best horror movies on Netflix, a twisted and absurdist take on the life of the notoriously cruel dictator.
Chloe Domont’s erotic psychological thriller Fair Play is possibly the most underrated Netflix original in 2023. Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor star as Luke and Emily, analysts at a cutthroat Manhattan hedge fund. When she gets a coveted promotion, their relationship begins to deteriorate as ambition, deception, and betrayal overtake them.
We are far away from the golden days of the erotic thriller — the time when sleazy, captivating gems like 9 1/2 Weeks, Basic Instinct, and Disclosure came out. However, Domont’s Fair Play is a callback to those days, a seductive, yet discomforting thriller that deftly balances thought-provoking undertones with old-fashioned steam. Smarter and classier than a guilty pleasure, yet as alluring and addictive, Fair Play is equal parts progressive and traditional. It’s a tough balancing act many modern films attempt, yet very few can pull off.
Netflix usually offers one truly great animated film each year — Klaus, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. This year, that movie is Nimona. The plot revolves around Ballister Boldheart, a famed knight accused of a crime he didn’t commit. On a quest to clear his name, Boldheart is aided by Nimona, a shape-shifting teenager who might be the key to proving his innocence — and the monster he’s sworn to kill.
Nimona is one of the best animated movies on Netflix and a triumph of the medium. Gorgeously animated and overflowing with vibrant creativity, Nimona is charming, intelligent, visually dazzling, and genuinely emotional. It checks every box needed to become a truly spectacular animated effort, from the thoughtful, deeply affecting story to the bright and energetic voice cast. Nimona‘s themes and metaphors aren’t subtle, but the film offers enough classic delight to make it a worthwhile, rich, and rewarding viewing experience for audiences of all ages.
John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx star in Juel Taylor’s feature directorial debut, They Cloned Tyrone. One of the best sci-fi films of the year, it follows an unlikely trio thrown into a dangerous government cloning conspiracy after a series of eerie events.
They Cloned Tyrone is among the year’s most original and bold efforts. Pulpy, mysterious, bright, and delightfully odd, the film is a truly inspired satire that makes the best out of every genre it visits. Powered by a trio of stellar and bitingly hilarious performances, They Cloned Tyrone is subversive and just the right amount of zany to still pack a punch with its social themes. Like many recent socially conscious efforts, They Cloned Tyrone expertly handles its thorny themes, wrapping them in a compelling mystery ride that is as poignant and rewarding as it’s entertaining.
Few names command immediate and absolute respect when brought about in conversation: Scorsese, Spielberg, Miyazaki, Cuarón, Coppola, Gerwig, and Fincher. The three-time Oscar nominee’s partnership with Netflix is among the streamer’s most fruitful, producing classics like Mindhunter and acclaimed films like Mank. This year, Fincher came back with the noir thriller The Killer, starring two-time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender. The plot follows the titular character, who embarks on an international manhunt following a job gone wrong.
Clinical, yet never detached, The Killer is a stylish neo-noir, a hectic and gleefully wicked twist on the procedural. Fassbender shines in a role-he-was-born-to-play situation, firmly guiding a straightforward plot, never allowing it to succumb to its own devices. There’s a refreshing aspect to The Killer‘s simplicity; it’s Fincher through and through, but indulges in enough inspired flashes of style to become enthralling and, against all odds, memorable. Unexpectedly and bitingly funny, savage, and offering the kind of electrifying moments that make action movies truly timeless, The Killer is a modern classic in the making.
Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore star in Todd Haynes’ psychological comedy-drama May December opposite Charles Melton. Loosely inspired by the infamous story of Mary Kay Letourneau, the film follows actress Elizabeth Berry, who travels to Savannah, Georgia, to research the life of the controversial woman she is set to play in a movie. The woman, Gracie Atherton-Yoo, rose to infamy 23 years prior when her affair with her then-13-year-old co-worker was discovered.
Unsettling, yet profound and deeply impactful, May December is a discomforting triumph. The film features one of Portman’s most treacherous performances, perfectly complementing Moore’s eerie and evasive take on the manipulative Gracie. For his part, Melton’s Joe is the film’s heart, delivering an astoundingly vulnerable performance that ranks among the year’s best. May December is not an easy watch, and its unique blend of camp humor and uncomfortable themes might be hard to take. However, it’s a tremendous achievement of elusiveness, a layered film that refuses to settle as it openly challenged the audience to interpret it in any way they see fit.
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