A great dramatic movie can come in any package. What defines a drama is not as clear-cut as the definition for something like comedy or horror. Great dramas do have a few elements that unite them, though. They have great, thoroughly drawn-out characters, and they often involve situations that are grounded in some form of reality.
Great dramas also feature sharp scripts and great directing, even when that directing isn’t as flashy as some of what you might see in a great action movie. Above all else, these drama movies are dramatic without being saccharine or schmaltzy. They create real stakes and then execute them beautifully. Of course, it goes without saying that this list left plenty of great dramas out, as any list with only five entries will.
It’s only three years old, but Portrait of a Lady On Fire has more than earned its spot on this list. The movie tells the story of two women living in relative isolation as one attempts to paint the other’s portrait, the movie is about the tender love and bond that forms between them. It’s a love story and a quietly revolutionary one that creates a deep yearning in the viewer for the kind of deep, real love that this movie centers on.
The first Godfather is great, of course, but its sequel is Francis Ford Coppola operating at the very peak of his powers. The movie’s narrative is split between Michael Corleone navigating his control of the mafia in the present and his father, Vito Corleone, arriving in America decades earlier. That split narrative builds beautiful parallels and shows us the way that American rot has always incentivized crime, especially among those who are marginalized.
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