The Finest Dramas on Netflix Proper Now (April 2021)

Drama, a genre as old as film itself, is usually first in line for Oscar nominations for good reason. These are cinematic works that create impressions that last a lifetime and showcase some of the most beautiful filmmaking and acting we see each year. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you’ll be glad to know that many of today’s greatest drama films are right at your fingertips. Netflix’s massive library can make it difficult to find something worth watching, so we’ve pulled together a list of the absolute best dramas you can currently find on Netflix.

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.

Concrete Cowboy

Concrete Cowboy (2020)

When 15-year-old Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is uprooted from the hard streets of Detroit, the youth is sent to live with his father, Harp (Idris Elba), in Philadelphia. What Cole could never expect to experience in a new city setting is an Old West lifestyle, propagated by his father and a larger band of inner-city Black cowboys. Patrolling the streets on horseback, the nomadic cavalcade acts as a vigilante group for crime-plagued North Philly. Inspired in part by the Fletcher Street Stables and based upon the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, Concrete Cowboy is powered by an incredible script, superb cinematography, and an especially impressive father-and-son dynamic between Elba and McLaughlin.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Stars: Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome
Director: Ricky Staub
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Pianist

The Pianist (2002)

Adapted from Władysław Szpilman’s 1946 memoir of the same name, The Pianist stars Adrian Brody as a fictionalized Władysław. Taking place in 1939, our story begins with Władysław as a radio station pianist. When Warsaw descends into the clutches of Nazi occupation, Władysław and his family are forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, a dense, body-plagued dumping ground for displaced Polish Jews. After being separated from his kin during an execution camp roundup, the young pianist must struggle to survive the onset of World War II, hiding, fighting, and fearing for his life. Winning Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor (Adrian Brody), as well as the Palme d’Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, The Pianist is a visceral and authentic depiction of Poland’s fall to the Nazis, as seen through the eyes of one fine artist.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Adrian Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
Director: Roman Polanski
Rating: R
Runtime: 148 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Sky High

Sky High (2021)

When Angel (Miguel Herrán) leaves the slums of Madrid behind, he becomes smitten with the lovely Estrella (Carolina Yuste). As the youth struggles to prove himself in a newfound life of crime, an unrelenting detective will stop at nothing to put Angel behind bars. A gritty, well-executed drama featuring impressive performances from the main ensemble, Sky High may not get the attention of other Netflix fodder, but it’s a film that definitely deserves to be noticed.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Miguel Herrán, Luis Tosar, Carolina Yuste
Director: Daniel Calparsoro
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 121 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Departed

The Departed (2006)

Powered by an Oscar-winning adapted screenplay and an all-star cast, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is one of the best gangster films in recent memory. Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) runs South Boston with an iron fist, with a hand in everything from the protection racket to the drug trade. To get eyes on the ring, the Boston Police Department sends Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Southie kid, undercover to infiltrate the organization. As Billy rises up Costello’s ranks, Costello’s own mole in the BPD, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) reports on the department’s activities. When both organizations learn they have a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin become engaged in a game of cat and mouse to save their own lives.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Runtime: 152 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Mud

Mud (2013)

Part romance, part Southern Gothic, Mud introduces two Arkansas boys — Ellis and Neckbone — to a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on a Mississippi River island. The man, called Mud, killed a man in Texas and is being tracked by bounty hunters all over the South. But all he wants is to reunite with his beloved Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Ellis is caught up in his own first crush and feels a bit hopelessly romantic, agreeing to help Mud get back to Juniper. It’s a job that’s easier said than done.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland
Director: Jeff Nichols
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 130 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man

Rain Man (1988)

Hotshot car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) discovers his estranged father has died and returns home to Cincinnati expecting to inherit his father’s entire estate. When he arrives, however, he learns that he has an autistic older brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and that his father’s fortune is being left to the mental institution where Raymond lives. Believing he can rewrite the will and get his hands on the money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility to live with him to Los Angeles. On a cross-country road trip, Charlie finds a deep connection to Raymond that he never expected to arise.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino
Director: Barry Levinson
Rating: R
Runtime: 133 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Matt Damon in Invictus

Invictus (2009)

After the fall of apartheid in South Africa, President Nelson Mandela faced a racially and economically divided South Africa. Sport, however, has always served to unite people, and Mandela (Morgan Freeman) cleverly believes he can unite the country through a bid for the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship. Joining forces with rugby captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), Mandela aims to rally a new South Africa toward a common cause.

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Stars: Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Tony Kgoroge
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating:
PG-13
Runtime:
134 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Marriage Story (2019)

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story was one of an astonishing number of Netflix Originals to win Academy Awards in 2019. On the surface, it’s an ordinary movie about an ordinary situation: Man and wife struggle through a divorce. But the depths through which Baumbach explores his characters and gut-wrenching performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver make it hard to look away as these two people who clearly still love each other come to the unavoidable conclusion that they just can’t stay married.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

The Two Popes (2019)

Headlined by tour de force performances from two legendary actors, The Two Popes centers on the transition from Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. A quiet movie that takes place behind the Vatican walls, the two popes could not be more different, but they’re bound by a devotion to the Catholic Church and a shared desire to leave the world a better place. Regardless of your feelings on the Catholic Church, The Two Popes is an entertaining, heartwarming movie about finding common ground through difference. Something we could all learn a little about these days.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 126 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Platoon, on Netflix

Platoon (1986)

Oliver Stone’s epic about the Vietnam War is considered one of the best films about America’s most unjust war. The story follows Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), a patriotic university student who enlists in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967. But when he’s in the middle of the bush, his patriotic verve begins to fade. His unit is split by infighting between the suspicious Staff Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) who believes nearby villagers are harboring Viet Cong soldiers, and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe), who is more sympathetic to the locals. As the two leaders are pitted against one another, it becomes clear the only true enemy is the war itself.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon
Director: Oliver Stone
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Impossible, the best dramas on Netflix

The Impossible (2012)

The Bennett family is enjoying a Christmas vacation in Thailand in 2004 when they’re unexpectedly caught in the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. As the tidal wave destroys the resort, Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor), Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) are separated. When Maria and Lucas awaken later, they’re hurt and can’t find their children anywhere. Meanwhile, Henry, Thomas, and Simon must wade through the chaos and wreckage to reunite with their family.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 114 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver (1976)

One of Martin Scorsese’s earliest hits is available on Netflix. Taxi Driver follows Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro in a career-making performance), a disillusioned Vietnam War vet who takes a job as a cab driver in New York City. The war has stuck with Travis, and as he carouses in the seedy New York underbelly, he becomes enraged by the world around him, the one that so many of his friends died to protect. Travis becomes a narrative conduit between the pimps of child sex workers and the rhetoric of corrupt politicians, propelling him into vigilantism.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

Watch on Netflix

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Daniel Day-Lewis is as electrifying as ever in Paul Thomas Anderson’s grim depiction of the American oil rush in early 20th-century California. Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an aspiring oil baron who will do anything to make a quick buck. So when Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) arrives on his farm and claims there’s oil on the Sunday property, the two men make an arrangement. Daniel journeys to the town of Little Boston with his son in tow and angle to purchase the Sunday Ranch for drilling. But Sunday hasn’t been exactly contrite. There Will Be Blood descends into a hellscape of business clashing with faith and the supernatural, all powered by Day-Lewis’s Oscar-winning performance.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’ Connor
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rating: R
Runtime: 158 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems (2019)

Uncut Gems is a drama for those with extremely high stress-tolerance. The Safdie Brothers’ drama about a gambling-addicted jeweler is a nonstop adrenaline rush. Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a high-end New York City jeweler who is constantly looking out for his next big windfall. So when NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett takes an interest in Howard’s most recent high-value acquisition, Ratner makes a bet on his good fortune. When his bets on Garnett start paying off, Ratner takes his winnings and makes increasingly high-stakes, irresponsible bets that could net him a retirement fund. Unfortunately, he’s in too deep for some people in his life to wait for that payoff.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett
Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Rating:
R
Runtime:
135 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Social Network on Netflix

The Social Network (2010)

David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced chronicle of the origin of Facebook was one of the most highly-anticipated films of 2010, and it delivered. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, a clever, supremely ambitious Harvard student with a flimsy grasp of ethical behavior. The high-octane film follows Zuckerberg’s singular drive and tunnel vision that helped push Facebook from obscurity to the world’s most revolutionary social phenomenon in just a few short years. And how that tunnel vision alienated the many people who helped him build the company and built a culture of deception and backstabbing at the nascent giant.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake
Director: David Fincher
Rating:
PG-13
Runtime:
126 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Irishman, on Netflix

The Irishman (2019)

One of the first Netflix Original Films to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is one of his most ambitious films to date. Scorsese helped establish the gangster genre with films like Goodfellas and Casino, but The Irishman is notably more subdued than those seminal films. The story follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), an employee of legendary union leader and mob boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), as he rises from bodyguard to confidante. But as Hoffa becomes more trouble than he’s worth, the other mafia bosses feel it may be time to move on from him, and Sheeran’s the key to it all.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating:
R
Runtime:
209 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Theory of Everything, on Netflix

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The late Stephen Hawking is often considered the smartest man who ever lived. In The Theory of Everything, you see just how the famed physicist rose to that distinction. Following a young Hawking as he learns that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, through his tutelage at Cambridge University, The Theory of Everything holds at its center Hawking’s relationship with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). Despite the ravages of his disease, Hawking begins an ambitious study of time (which his doctor says he doesn’t have much of). As he and Jane defy the odds to break new ground in medicine and science, their mutual support empowers them to achieve more than either could alone.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson
Director: James Marsh
Rating:
PG-13
Runtime:
123 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Spotlight, the best dramas on Netflix

Spotlight (2015)

There are plenty of films about journalism, most of which are highly romanticized, but Spotlight is one of the few that gets it right. Based on the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the film follows the principal members of the Globe’s Spotlight team as they delve into allegations against various priests in Boston. The team in question is a group of distinct personalities played by an all-star cast, including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. There is no flashy direction nor pyrotechnics here; director Tom McCarthy keeps things simple, focusing on the grim work of the investigators as they move forward inch by inch, connecting the various tiny pieces they need to craft their story.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Tom McCarthy
Rating:
R
Runtime:
128 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Editors’ Recommendations




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Main Menu