Netflix has been releasing original movies on their service and a rapid pace over the last few years. It’s almost hard to believe that there are now more than 100 original films available on Netflix.
With so many movies to choose from it can be difficult to decide what to watch. So we come up with the list of top 9 Netflix original movies.
As usual, instead of using the score from pretentious movie critics, we will count on which movie we enjoy the most.
One of the problems with many “activist” documentaries is they tend to be staid, relying on the expert talking heads and contextualizing B-Roll that serve as more of a Cliff Notes history than a movie. That is decidedly not the case with “Virguna,” a documentary that at times plays more like a Kathryn Bigelow movie, as director Orlando von Einsidel follows incredibly brave park rangers and journalists desperately trying to save the Congo’s oldest national park – and home of endangered gorillas – and expose the corrupting forces looking to profit from the land. While the immediate battle is an insurgency looking to topple the government and seize the land, the real war is over the oil underneath Africa’s oldest national park and the insidious capitalist forces fueling the conflict.
8. I DONT FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE
Netflix didn’t know that Macon Blair’s directorial debut would take home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance when the company bought it, but it just so happened that this delightfully anarchic black comedy became the first festival winner to skip theaters altogether and premiere on Netflix.
A hysterical and hyper-violent morality play for our fucked-up times, “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” tells the story of a squeamish nursing assistant (the great Melanie Lynskey) who teams up with her endearingly psychotic neighbor (the great Elijah Wood) for some vigilante revenge on the people who robbed her house. The result is a wry, Coen brothers-esque adventure that plays like a comic riff on the bruising thrillers (e.g. “Green Room”) that Blair has made his childhood pal Jeremy Saulnier.
rotten tomatoes: 88%
7. “Strong Island”
“Strong Island” proved to be a very smart buy for Netflix — not only is the film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, but it made history when director Yance Ford became the first openly transgender filmmaker to receive a nomination.
The movie, which recounts Ford’s experiences in the aftermath of his brother’s murder, offers an excoriating look at the killing of a young black man at the hands of a white one. In addition to the American criminal justice system that failed him and his family at every turn. Deeply personal and expertly crafted, what begins as an investigation into a murder becomes a painstaking inquiry of grief, memory — and ultimately identity. Guided by the filmmaker’s forthright narration, “Strong Island” follows Ford on a labyrinthine search for answers as he exposes his raw emotions in front of the camera. Through intimate memories, interviews, and family photos, Ford interrogates the painful history of race in America and its indelible hold on him and his family.
6. “The Meyerowitz Stories
A noticeable improvement over Adam Sandler’s previous three Netflix originals — in much the same way that a glass of Manischewitz is a noticeable improvement over drinking one of those ominous puddles that form in the groove of a New York City subway seat .
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” isn’t the wittiest or most exciting movie that Noah Baumbach has ever made, but it might just be the most humane. The film harkens back to the more savage and sprawling comedies that Baumbach made before he teamed up with Greta Gerwig, but this sensitive and hilarious saga about a resentful artist (Dustin Hoffman) and the pain that’s trickled down through his family marks a major departure for Baumbach in one crucial respect: While all of his films have a cutting sense of humor, this is the first that would rather tend to its wounds than watch them bleed. Sandler is the standout.
5. “First They Killed My Father”
Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” is the film she wanted to make. Based on the 2000 memoir of Loung Ung, who was five when the Khmer Rouge forced her family into work camps, it required a $24 million budget, a 60-day shoot, a two-hour, 16-minute cut. The only place Jolie pitched the film is the only place that would let her make it: Netflix. While Jolie’s film may be traditional in some ways, it’s radical in many others. Netflix could have demanded what any studio would: shoot the film in English, cast a Chinese movie star as the mother, cut the script to meet a smaller budget. Instead, at every turn Jolie chose truth over gloss. Jolie and Ung whittled down her story into a lean screenplay, looking for the telling visual details. Unusually, the film is told from a young girl’s wide-eyed, realistic and very uncomfortable perspective. Young Loung Ung learns what it means to be unsafe and abused and starving. Along the way, she loses family members and trains to become a child soldier. And she is eventually separated from both of her parents and all but one sibling. Agile Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s cameras take us close to Ung as she experiences what is going on around her.
Even the title feels a little magical: Okja. It’s hard not to share young Mija’s (Ahn Seo-hyun) adoration for her beloved pet — genetically modified though she may be — in Bong Joon-ho’s film when you hear her say the super-sized swine’s name aloud; it’s also hard to walk away from the film without instantly converting to veganism. Bong has kept us on our toes throughout his career, moving from the creature features (“The Host”) and crime dramas (“Memories of Murder,” “Mother”) of his past to the pulpy joys of “Snowpiercer” before delivering his sweetest, most heartfelt work to the clutches of Netflix just a month after debuting at Cannes. The appropriately out-there performances from the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal are fun, but Okja herself is the real star here.
Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “13TH” was always meant to be readily available to a large section of movie lovers, thanks to the filmmaker’s free-wheeling production and distribution deal with Netflix. Billed as something as a “secret” film, the Netflix deal allowed the “Selma” helmer to make her feature-length look at the American prison system with minimal intrusion over the course of nearly two years. The documentary, which succinctly explains the links between systematic racism and America’s swelling prison system, was kept mostly under wraps until it was announced as the opening night film at the 2016 New York Film Festival, making it the first documentary to ever earn the distinction. While DuVernay’s film does not provide a roadmap for prison reform, it is awash in interviews with luminaries from both sides of the debate (including, somehow, both activist Angela Davis and Newt Gingrich, who admits some hard truths about his role in increased sentencing for drug dealers) who bring their own ideas to the table. “13TH” already proved timely enough when it launched in the fall of 2016, in the midst of the most contentious presidential race in our nation’s history, and that feeling has only increased in the interim.
Based on Hillary Jordan’s book of the same name, Dee Rees’ moving American epic follows two families striving for more in post-WWII Mississippi. Breakout Jason Mitchell stars as the eldest son of the Jackson family (including Oscar nominee Mary J. Blige), a hard-working clan of sharecroppers who hope to eventually own their own land, though circumstances and chance continually keep them from achieving their dream. One of those circumstances: the McAllen family, who take over the farm on which the Jacksons work, with little regard for the toll their continual demands place on them. The film eventually blossoms into a story of hard-won friendship between Mitchell’s character Ronsel and Garrett Hedlund’s wonderfully understated Jamie McAllen, taking race relations down to the bone, and stirring up big emotion with it. It’s one of the more satisfying movies of 2017, but also one of the most painful. In some ways, they go hand in hand. —KE
1.Beasts of No Nation
Cary Fukunaga is a director who pushes past the ordinary toward excellence, and doesn’t seem to mind putting himself in difficult situations to do it. He followed up gritty emotional border drama “Sin Nombre” and gothic romance “Jane Eyre” (starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender) with “True Detective” Season One (starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson). But he went back to the movies with African war movie “Beasts of No Nation,” a $6 million story about boy soldiers with astonishing scale and scope. Fukunaga developed a screenplay about boy soldiers in Africa for years without finding the right angle; then he read a novel by Uzodinma Iweala that showed him the way: follow a young boy into the heart of darkness.
The comparison to Joseph Conrad and Francis Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” is apt, as young Agu (Ghana discovery Abraham Attah) moves from innocent childhood with his family to lost orphan wandering the jungle, where he falls into a military camp where Commandant (an intimidating but vulnerable Idris Elba) takes on the role of a Fagin-like parent/brainwasher, training young boys to take orders, handle guns and kill people. They smoke weed and alter their consciousness with drugs, becoming increasingly disconnected from their hideous reality. Encouraged by Elba, whose mother was born in Ghana, Fukunaga shot in English-speaking West Africa. The cast and crew camped out in the jungle, building a camp for 200 non-pro actors (including former boy soldiers from Sierra Leone and Liberia) who learned creative acting and military training. Netflix bought all world rights to the film for $12 million and made it available to stream at the same time it went to theaters for one-week runs to qualify for the Oscar.