With the fate of movie theaters and production companies still in limbo due to Covid-19, it’s comforting to know that streaming services like Netflix are continuing to churn out regular content for us to enjoy from home. It might not be the same as going to the theater the way we want to, but for now it’s the safest — not to mention a thriving — option.
Streaming services disrupted the entertainment industry long before Covid interrupted our lives, and the invention of the bingeable television show has brought with it endless opportunities for original films as well. While not every Netflix Original is a hit, some of them have gone on to tell gripping stories and even win Oscars.
Here are some of the best Netflix Original movies currently on the platform.
The Trial Of The Chicago 7
What do you get when you mix clever writing and a dynamite cast with a shocking true story? A six-time Oscar nominee with the power to make your jaw drop several times over. Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed The Trial of the Chicago 7, a historical legal drama about a group of protestors charged with inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The courtroom scenes in this film are acting masterclasses and feature especially good performances from Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Frank Langella. It’s a story you have to see to believe, all the way through to the end credits when the film reveals the fates of its real-life subjects.
If you were being held captive in Bangladesh by your drug lord father’s rival, Chris Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake is exactly who you’d want to come rescue you. This is not some beer-bellied Thor we’re talking about here—this guy is a beast, unafraid of getting dirty or slaying anyone in his path in order to get the job done. Extraction is a brutal and ultimately emotional story of fathers, sons, and the lengths we’re willing to go to protect the ones we love. Hemsworth’s performance is one of his best yet, and the stunts and action sequences are so insane that you’ll wonder how the Russo Brothers and director Sam Hargrove made it all look so real.
The Old Guard
With films like Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Fate of the Furious under her belt, Charlize Theron has proven that she’s a bonafide action star. She takes her chops to the next level in The Old Guard, where she plays the leader of a team of immortal mercenaries that has been protecting the world for hundreds of years. Everything changes when they uncover the existence of a fellow immortal and discover that their well-concealed cover might finally be blown. Like Extraction, The Old Guard has a sequel in the works, and deservedly so. It’s an action-packed ride from start to finish with a satisfying journey for its characters. Keep an eye out during the end credits for a hint of what’s to come.
This action-adventure mystery, perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes and Stranger Things, is a total delight thanks to its star, Millie Bobby Brown. She plays Enola, Sherlock’s bright younger sister who must piece together a series of clues left behind by her missing mother in order to find out what happened to her. Along the way, Enola meets as many new friends as she does foes and must use what her mother has taught her about observation and self-defense to solve the mystery. The film is ultimately a mother-daughter tale about the importance of charting your own course in a world that would prefer you to do otherwise.
I Care A Lot
Cautionary tale or feminist manifesto? You’ll have to decide for yourself since the internet is still pretty torn about the dark comedy I Care a Lot. Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a legal guardian who entraps elderly clients and drains their bank accounts to fill her own. She meets her match in Dianne Wiest’s Jennifer Peterson, who doesn’t play into Marla’s plan as easily as previous clients have. What ensues is a wild, twisty ride through morality and human nature with an ending that will make you question everything you just watched. Fans of Gone Girl will love Pike’s deliciously evil (or is it unapologetically badass?) performance.
What if you could take a pill that gave you superpowers for five full minutes? What if you had no idea what those powers were until after the pill was already in your system — and one hit might kill you? That’s the premise of Project Power, a gritty and inventive sci-fi thriller starring Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dominique Fishback. Anyone who ever dreamed of having super strength or the ability to throw fire as a kid might think twice after seeing what happens to the characters in this film. On the bright side, its theme of following your dreams against all odds adds an inspiring flavor to this otherwise dark film.
We don’t know what we did to deserve another movie musical led by our queen Meryl Streep, but we’re thanking our lucky stars regardless. Adapted from the Tony-nominated Broadway show of the same name, The Prom tells the story of four washed-up Broadway performers who travel to a bigoted town in Indiana to help a high school girl take her girlfriend to the prom. It boasts an all-star cast including James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Keegan Michael-Key as well as an upbeat soundtrack you’ll want to play on repeat. Best of all, it preaches a timely message of LGBTQ inclusion that’s both educational and uplifting.
Laura Dern won an Oscar for her work in Marriage Story alongside Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, who each churn out compelling performances as a couple at the end of a decade-long marriage and the beginning of a messy divorce. The depth of their humanity is a testament to both the actors’ performances and writer-director Noah Baumbach’s script, which becomes an engaging character study that delves into the highs and lows of who we become when faced with life’s greatest challenges. There are many memorable moments in this film, at turns tender, funny, and devastating, much like life itself.
Set It Up
Sometimes true love just takes some assistants. In this romantic comedy from Booksmart’s Katie Silberman, Harper and Charlie want to spend less time in the office and more time enjoying what’s left of their twenties. In an attempt to clear up their busy schedules, they hatch a plan to set up their workaholic bosses, played by Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu. Nothing will go wrong and the assistants will definitely not fall for each other. With bubbly performances from Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell as the matchmakers, Set it Up is the perfect choice for a Netflix and chill date night.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
High school is hard enough without everyone knowing your most intimate secrets, so when Lara Jean finds out that someone has mailed her private love letters to each of her five crushes, her entire world is turned upside down. Navigating love, loss, and the rollercoaster that is high school, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a touching dramedy about finding love when you least expect it. Lana Condor and teen heartthrob Noah Centineo star, and if you think this film has a lot of boys in it, wait until you see its sequels, which are also available to stream on Netflix.
As the title character states, “Things get messy when you make a deal with the devil.” If The Suicide Squad was your jam, then you’re going to love The Babysitter. Every young boy dreams of having a hot babysitter, but when Cole’s turns out to be the leader of a satanic cult hell-bent on killing him, his night becomes a mad dash to stay alive. The Babysitter is a campy, bloody spin on the typical horror tale that will make you laugh out loud and gasp in equal measure. If you’re thirsty for more after finishing the film, you’re in luck: Netflix has also released The Babysitter: Killer Queen, which takes place two years after the original.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman will live forever in our hearts, immortalized by his brilliant performances in films like Black Panther and his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He won a posthumous Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the trumpet-playing Levee opposite Viola Davis’s crooning Ma. Based on the play by August Wilson and directed by George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey examines the tensions between the title blues singer and her band as they try to record an album of Ma’s most famous songs. The film is a celebration of Black culture, the blues, and a gifted actor gone far too soon.
The Two Popes
Inspired by true events, this drama takes place in Vatican City in the wake of the Vatican leaks scandal and finds Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) revealing to Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) that he intends to resign from the papacy. This launches a pivotal transfer of power that affects the entirety of the Catholic Church, making it one of the most significant events in modern religion. Hopkins and Pryce have been praised for their performances, as has writer Anthony McCarten, who adapted the film from his play The Pope.
Pieces Of A Woman
If you’re in need of a good cry, you can expect some gentle sobs during Pieces of a Woman, brought to stunning life by Oscar nominee Vanessa Kirby. In the wake of a devastating home birth, Kirby’s Martha experiences profound grief that will alter her life and the lives of everyone around her. Alongside Shia LaBeouf as her husband Sean and Ellen Burstyn as her mother, Kirby’s performance has been praised as the best of her career. Stream this anytime you’re in the mood for a meaty drama with the power to shatter your soul.
The Kissing Booth
Rule #9: Don’t fall for your best friend’s brother. Elle and Lee have always had an easy time following the rules of their friendship — so why is she suddenly having a hard time following this one? Based on the 2012 novel originally published on the social story-sharing website Wattpad, The Kissing Booth follows Elle’s journey as she tries to decide between adhering to the rules or following her heart. If you can’t get enough of Jacob Elordi towering over Joey King in this one (seriously, the guy’s a giant), never fear! Two more Kissing Booth films have been made and are also available to stream on Netflix.