Are you looking for the best dramas to stream on Netflix right now? Netflix has no shortage of films that try to hit you right in the feels. From true classics like Raging Bull and There Will Be Blood to award-winning Netflix Originals like Roma and The Irishman, there’s plenty to choose from on the service. That’s where we come in.
So let’s take a look at the best new releases in Netflix dramas, including many of the top recent films from 2019 and beyond. Our newest additions are marked with an asterisk. And when you’re done here, be sure to also check out our pick for the Best Drama Movie of 2019 or our list of what’s new to Netflix this month.
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Or follow these links for the best of other genres:
- The best sci fi movies on Netflix
- The best comedy movies on Netflix
- The best horror movies on Netflix
- The best action movies on Netflix
- The best horror TV shows on Netflix
- The best anime series on Netflix
Please note: This list pertains to U.S. Netflix subscribers. Some titles may not currently be available on international platforms. This article is frequently amended to remove films no longer on Netflix, and to include more drama films that are now available on the service.
Road to Perdition (2002)*
It’s not a superhero movie, but Road to Perdition is easily one of the best comic book adaptations ever made. Tom Hanks proves he can do more than play affable everyman heroes as he fills the role of a gangster and father desperate to protect his sole surviving son after being betrayed by his boss. The movie is basically Lone Wolf and Cub by way of Prohibition-era mob movies, and that’s definitely a winning combination.
Taxi Driver (1976)*
This classic Marin Scorsese/Robert De Niro collaboration is also currently back on Netflix. Taxi Driver sees De Niro bring to life one of his most iconic and disturbing characters ever – psychologically unstable cab driver Travis Bickle. No less an authority than Roger Ebert described Taxi Driver as one of the greatest films ever made. It’s not hyperbole.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance reunited with star Ryan Gosling for this 2012 neo-noir drama about fatherhood and the far-reaching consequences of fateful choices. The Place Beyond the Pines can be a little off-putting on a first viewing, as it shifts plot, characters and time period at two different points. Ultimately, though, the three interconnected vignettes tell a powerful story full through incredible performances. This is the film that established Ben Mendelsohn as a true force to be reckoned with in the acting world.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis has quite a knack for playing ambitious, obsessive egomaniacs who destroy everything and everyone around them in pursuit of perfection. There Will Be Blood may just be his crowning achievement in that regard. Directed by the always incredible Paul Thomas Anderson, this period piece casts Day-Lewis as an oil tycoon struggling to build his fortune during the oil boom of the early 20th century. Spoiler alert – wealth is not a pathway to happiness.
David Fincher is a true master of crime noir, regardless of whether or not his films happen to be based on real-world events. In this case, Fincher dramatizes the exploits of one of the most feared serial killers in American history. Zodiac isn’t flashy, rather relying on its intelligent script, the abilities of stars Jake Gylenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. and a powerful sense of mood to get its story across.
The Irishman (2019)
The Irishman is classic Martin Scorsese, as the legendary director reunites with frequent collaborators Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (along with Scorsese newcomer Al Pacino) for an epic saga of crime, betrayal and loss. In this case, De Niro stars as hitman Frank Sheeran and Pacino plays infamous teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. The film’s liberal use of de-aging tech is impressive, but what really makes The Irishman resonate is the way it plays like a moving end cap to Scorsese and De Niro’s long, fruitful partnership.
Marriage Story (2019)
Netflix ended 2019 with one of its best original dramas yet. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson both deliver tour de force performances in this heartfelt look at a husband and wife grappling with a long-distance divorce. Thanks to director Noah Baumbach’s steadying hand, Marriage Story avoids being an emotionally manipulative tear-jerker, but rather an earnest drama that finds both humor and heartache in the midst of a collapsing relationship.
Raging Bull (1980)
While Netflix has lately trimmed some of the classic Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro collaborations in its library, at least Raging Bull is still around. Easily one of the greatest sports movies of all time, Raging Bull casts De Niro as tragically self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta. DeNiro’s punishingly physical performance elevates an already compelling story about a boxer’s rise and fall.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
Breaking Bad was already one of the best reasons to subscribe to Netflix, with both the AMC series and its prequel, Better Call Saul, among the best TV dramas on the service. And now Netflix has become the exclusive home to El Camino, an epilogue movie that reveals the fate of Aaron Paul’s perpetually unlucky Jesse Pinkman. It’s a worthy companion to one of the best TV shows of all time.
Read IGN’s El Camino review or watch El Camino on Netflix.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Netflix is rapidly turning into the go-to destination for Quentin Tarantino fans. Now the streaming service has added another essential Tarantino flick in the form of Inglourious Basterds. This WWII ensemble drama features a terrific cast including Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Diane Krueger, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl and a scene-stealing Cristoph Waltz. The film’s five interconnected acts weave a compelling story, and the film winds up offering a lot of insight into why the hyper-masculine world of Tarantino’s filmography is the way it is.
While it didn’t make much of a splash on the awards circuit, Burning is undoubtedly one of the best foreign language films of 2018. This South Korean drama, based on a short story by acclaimed author Haruki Mirakami, stars Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, and Jeon Jong-seo as three friends who slowly become embroiled in an unsettling psychological mystery. The film is a slow burn, but one that steadily builds until it reaches a terrific payoff.
Alfonso Cuaron’s new drama Roma may be the most acclaimed Netflix Original movie so far. It’s the spectacularly photographed tale of Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), a young housekeeper in Mexico who works for a middle-class family and becomes pregnant at a tumultuous political time. Roma’s story may be straightforward but Cuaron amplifies every major plot point with an overtness and eccentricity that rivals Fellini.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2019)
The latest film from The Coen Brothers is a Netflix exclusive, and it’s one of their finest motion pictures. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology film, consisting of weird tales from the wild, unpredictable west. It’s perversely funny, especially in the film’s opening segment (featuring Tim Blake Nelson as a monstrous hero), but eventually Buster Scruggs settles into a melancholy, serious take on the Western tradition, telling one great story after another about the tragic inevitability and absurdity of death in its many forms.
A Most Violent Year (2014)
In A Most Violent Year, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain are just trying to be legitimate business people, but in the midst of a crime wave in New York City, when all their truck drivers are getting hijacked, that might not be possible. J.C. Chandor’s complex drama about moral seesawing gives Isaac, in particular, one of his very best performances (which is saying something), and offers a nuanced perspective on criminality that most movies could never get away with (if they even had the guts to try).
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
Few filmmakers had worse luck than Orson Welles, who spent decades struggling to get films made, only to often have the finished product mangled by studios, or to get screwed out of ever finishing them. One of his most notorious projects is The Other Side of the Wind, which starred acclaimed filmmakers John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich as two acclaimed filmmakers. The film completed principle photography in 1976 and it wasn’t finished until… this year. Netflix is releasing it for the very first time, and it’s an astounding motion picture, capturing all the rage and pomposity of a filmmaker just like Welles, desperately trying to make something meaningful but getting wrapped up instead in backstage frustrations like budget crises, balking producers, ego clashes, and merciless manipulations.
Tom Hardy gets into a car with everything, and over the course of a very long drive in the middle of the night, he loses it all. Steven Knight’s impressive drama Locke really does take place entirely within a single automobile, and it’s a testament to the film’s excellent screenplay and the incredible prowess of Tom Hardy that Locke never feels boring, and is actually one of the best and most involving dramas of the last several years.
The true story of reporter Christine Chubbuck and how it all ended is one of the most shocking in TV history, but Antonio Campos’ incredible film isn’t so much about that tragic event and its aftermath as it is the harrowing emotional journey Chubbuck was on beforehand. Rebecca Hall gives an all-time performance in the title role as a woman stymied by journalistic integrity, rampant sexism, loneliness and medical afflictions whose increasingly overwhelming despair takes hold, and leads to unspeakable tragedy.
City of God (2002)
Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund direct a brutal crime drama set in Rio de Janeiro, where children grow up in, and into, a violent society. City of God is more energetic and thrilling than almost any other crime drama, with a sprawling story filled with memorable, dangerous characters. It earned Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, and it deserved every single one of them.
Dee Rees directs this rich and nuanced adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel, about a white family and a black family farming the same land, whose lives are vastly different only because of the color of their skin. Mudbound features impressive performances and gorgeous, earthy cinematography, and comes to depressing but vital conclusions about the impact racism has on people who have literally nothing else to prop up their egos.
My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
The mother of a neglected child dies, and the boy winds up in a home for abused, emotionally scarred kids. And yet somehow My Life as a Zucchini doesn’t seem bitter. It’s a sincere and honest stop-motion animated drama about the capacity children have to overcome strife and unite over shared emotional pain, and thanks in part to the charming character designs, it comes across as an ultimately hopeful, lovely tale.
How We Choose the Best Dramas on Netflix
While its content lineup is ever-changing, Netflix has always been a great source of film dramas. The goal is to spotlight a wide array of what’s available, including Oscar-winning classics like Raging Bull and There Will Be Blood and key picks from the service’s growing lineup of original dramas. We’ve tried to represent many sub-genres here, from noirs to crime thrillers to historical dramas. The goal is to ensure there’s something for film buffs of all tastes.
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