Since the release of its critically acclaimed war movie Beasts of No Nation, Netflix has built a strong library of movies and shows in every genre, from comedy to horror. However, the best dramas on Netflix have brought critical acclaim and audience respect to the streamer, preserving its impressive subscriber count and securing its place as the king of the streaming world. Now, multiple Best Picture nominees later, Netflix can afford to attract top talents like Killers of the Flower Moon‘s Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón, Jane Campion, and David Fincher. The streamer has a remarkably strong dramatic library, boasting original, Oscar-nominated efforts and acquired beloved classics.
However, because of Netflix’s wide and diverse collection of quality films, it might be difficult for you to choose just one, especially because they’re not all as high-quality as others. To save you some time and effort, we’ve compiled a list of the best dramas on Netflix right now.
Netflix may be a treasure trove when it comes to content, but it doesn’t have everything. Thankfully, we’ve also curated a list of the best dramas on Hulu and the best drama shows on Amazon Prime Video.
Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor star in Chloe Domont’s erotic thriller Fair Play. The plot centers on a young couple working at a hedge fund firm. When one gets an unexpected promotion over the other, their relationship slowly unravels. A glorious return for the long-dormant erotic thriller genre, Fair Play offers the same psychological thrills as classics like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. Rising on the strength of its well-matched leads and Domont’s wicked screenplay, Fair Play is a biting, engaging, and steamy thriller that will keep audiences on edge.
Four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening and two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster star in the biographical drama Nyad. The directorial debut of Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the film is based on Diana Nyad’s biography and chronicles her efforts to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Featuring a traditional crowd-pleasing narrative elevated by the considerable talents of its two leads, Nyad is an uplifting sports drama that paints its real-life subject in a decidedly positive light. The film has stirred controversy and reignited doubts about Nyad’s real-life swimming feats, adding another fascinating layer to this story.
Russell Crowe his first and so far only Oscar for his portrayal of general Maximus Decimus Meridius in Ridley Scott’s historical epic Gladiator. The film follows Maximus, a general forced into slavery after being betrayed by the new emperor, Commodus. With his family killed and his reputation ruined, Maximus becomes a gladiator and rises through the arena’s rankings on his quest for revenge. Even now, 23 years after its release, Gladiator still holds up; the Oscar-winning epic is a riveting and rewarding revenge epic, deftly guided by Crowe and perfectly antagonized by a wickedly unforgettable Joaquin Phoenix.
David Fincher’s Oscar-winning biographical drama The Social Network stars Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The film chronicles Facebook’s beginnings and the subsequent lawsuits over its creation and ownership. An instant classic that marked the millennial generation, The Social Network is a modern masterpiece and one of the most influential films of the past decade. Thanks to Fincher’s ambitious filmmaking, Aaron Sorkin’s insightful screenplay, and a cast of stellar performers, The Social Network is a revealing and intelligent exploration of one of the 21st century’s most important creations.
Two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star in J. A. Bayona’s 2012 disaster drama The Impossible. Based on María Belón’s experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the film chronicles her family’s struggle to survive and reunite following the disaster. The Impossible marks Tom Holland’s film debut and features a harrowing performance from Watts that earned her an Oscar nomination in 2013. Tough to watch but undeniably rewarding, The Impossible does justice to its incredible real-life story.
A large ensemble led by Spider-Man himself (Tom Holland) proves a major draw for Antonio Campos’ Southern Gothic thriller The Devil All the Time. Also starring Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, and Robert Pattinson, the film is set in the years following World War II and continues into the 1960s, following several storylines of revenge and violence in two Ohio towns.
Although harrowing and violent, The Devil All the Time provides a worthy showcase for its impressive cast and a suitably engrossing decades-spanning mystery. The film’s constant descent into darkness might be too much for some, but its storytelling approach, engrossing atmosphere, and excellent ensemble are reason enough to press play on this gothic nightmare.
Academy Award nominee Timothée Chalamet stars in the 2019 historical drama The King. Drawing from several Shakespeare plays, the plot centers on the young King Henry V of England, chronicling his rise to power and his handling of the war against France. Featuring a stellar supporting cast, including Robert Pattinson as the Dauphin of France, The King is a riveting tale of court intrigue for fans of period pieces. It might not be a faithful retelling of history, but it features enough lush scenery and outstanding production values to satisfy viewers.
Andrea Riseborough stars in Michael Morris’ 2022 drama To Leslie. The plot revolves around Leslie, a single mother struggling with alcoholism who starts working in a motel after squandering the money she won at the lottery. To Leslie might be more famous for the controversial Oscar campaign that resulted in Riseborough’s much-discussed Best Actress nomination. However, the film is a haunting, poignant portrayal of addiction powered by Riseborough’s committed, passionate performance. To Leslie‘s plot is conventional, but Riseborough’s work is worth the price of admission.
Charlie Kaufman’s surrealist, genre-bending 2020 film I’m Thinking of Ending Things stars Oscar nominees Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons. It follows a young woman on a trip to visit her boyfriend’s parents. The story is intercut with scenes of a school janitor at work, adding to the film’s layered and challenging narrative. I’m Thinking of Ending Things will leave audiences scratching their heads, as it offers multiple questions and no answers. However, the film is also among the most daring and thought-provoking Netflix originals, making it required viewing for fans of intricate and slightly frustrating narratives.
Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan and Harry Potter‘s Ralph Fiennes star opposite Lily James in the 2021 historical drama The Dig. The plot dramatizes the real-life story of Edith Pretty and Basil Brown and his 1939 excavation on her land in Sutton Hoo. Although the plot might not sound like a prime source for a compelling drama, The Dig is a rich and gorgeously-shot story about friendship, legacy, and the importance of the past. Mulligan and Fiennes are at their usual best, while Mike Eley’s cinematography perfectly captures the lush vistas of the English countryside.
Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 drama Prisoners is among the best thrillers of the 2010s. Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman star as a detective and a desperate father looking into the disappearance of two young girls in Pennsylvania. With a stellar supporting cast, including Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano, and Villeneuve’s assured hand behind the camera, Prisoners is a challenging and riveting mystery. The film benefits from a lingering sense of dread dominating every scene, with Jackman delivering a career-best performance in service of a thrilling and twisting story.
Sebastián Lelio’s 2022 period psychological drama The Wonder stars Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh. Based on the eponymous 2016 novel, the film follows an English nurse sent to a rural village to observe a young girl who has seemingly survived for months without eating. Led by a remarkable turn from Pugh and benefitting from Lelio’s atmospheric approach, The Wonder is a fascinating look at faith and prejudice that ranks as one of Netflix’s most ambitious original efforts.
Academy Award winner Viola Davis leads an impressive ensemble cast in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic The Woman King. Davis plays General Nanisca, the leader of an all-female group of warriors, the Agojie, tasked with protecting the kingdom of Dahomey.
As Nanisca trains the next generation of warriors, a foreign threat forces the Agojie to defend their kingdom and way of life. The Woman King received praise for its cast and action sequences, with many considering it among the best films of 2022. Unfortunately, it received no recognition from the Academy, with Davis’ snub in the Best Actress category being particularly controversial.
Acclaimed director Todd Haynes united Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar nominee Rooney Mara in the sweeping romantic drama Carol. The film follows the blossoming romance between Carol Aird, a mature woman going through a divorce, and Therese Belivet, an aspiring photographer, in 1950s New York.
Carol received universal acclaim from critics, who praised Haynes’ direction, Blanchett and Mara’s performances, and the film’s screenplay and production values. Carol often ranks among critics’ best movies of the 2010s, cementing its place as a modern classic.
Dee Rees directs the 2017 historical drama Mudbound. Set in World War II, the film centers on two veterans dealing with severe PTSD returning from the war as their families struggle with poverty in rural Mississippi. Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and Mary J. Blige star. Mudbound received acclaim from critics, with the cast attracting near-universal praise. Blige earned considerable praise, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Original Song for the film’s theme, Mighty River.
Jeymes Samuel makes his feature directorial debut with The Harder They Fall, starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, and Lakeith Stanfield. The plot centers on an outlaw who reunites his gang upon realizing his long-time enemy will soon get released from prison. The Harder They Fall is among the few Westerns with an all-Black cast, with characters loosely based on real-life figures from the American West.
Spike Lee directs an ensemble cast including Delroy Lindo — robbed of an Oscar nomination — Jonathan Majors, and the late Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods. The plot follows a group of four aging Black Vietnam veterans who return to the country to retrieve the remains of their squad leader and the gold treasure they buried during their war days.
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