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The best drama movies on Netflix (June 2020)

Netflix drama movies
Malcolm X and The Pianist are among the best drama movies on Netflix. Pic credit: Warner Bros./Focus Features

Netflix is home to some of the best drama movies for anyone looking for some thought-provoking cinema.

With its own original films, as well as movies it has licensed over the years, there is something here for everyone.

While browsing the movies available, there are hit dramas from names like David Fincher, Ron Howard, P.T. Anderson, and many more, with several award-winning films to choose from.

There are war dramas, political dramas, romantic dramas, and crime dramas, so no matter what you are looking for, it is almost assured that Netflix has what you want.

Here is a look at the best drama movies available on Netflix as of June 2020.


Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

By 2008, David Fincher had proven himself as one of the best filmmakers working, and most of his movies took the form of hard-edge thrillers, from Fight Club to Seven.

However, with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher took on a straight drama with a curious sci-fi twist.

Based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Benjamin Button was born with the appearance of an old man, and as he grew up, he aged in reverse until his final days where he became a baby and eventually died.

Brad Pitt stars in the lead role of this film, which picked up 13 Oscar nominations.

MALCOLM X (1992)

Denzel Washington as Malcolm X. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

In 1992, Spike Lee and Denzel Washington teamed up to tell the story of African American activist Malcolm X.

The movie tells the story of Malcolm X’s life, touching on several key events, including his incarceration, his conversion to Islam, and his eventual assassination.

Based on the biography by Alex Haley, the movie was seen as a milestone in African American cinema and picked up Washington an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Malcolm X was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010 and is a drama available to stream now on Netflix.


Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will be Blood. Pic credit: Miramax

Paul Thomas Anderson has created some of the most breathtaking indie-style films of the last three decades, and There Will Be Blood might be his best.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Daniel Plainview, an oilman in this loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! In the film, Plainview is striking oil at the expense of towns that he leaves dead in his wake.

He ends up meeting a young evangelist named Eli (Paul Dano), who tries to stand in his way. What results is a battle of wills where one man must fall.

The film, which can be compared to classic horror movies like Dracula, picked up eight Oscar nominations with Day-Lewis winning for Best Actor.


Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. Pic credit: Sony

David Fincher returned in 2010 with another drama, this one based on the true story of the rise of Facebook.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, while Andrew Garfield stars as his partner Eduardo Saverin, the person who wrote the novel on which the film is based.

The drama movie, available to screen on Netflix right now, shows the rise of Facebook while Zuckerberg was a college student and tracks the legal problems when it grew into the top social network today.

The movie picked up eight Oscar nominations and won three of them, including one for Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails for the Best Original Score.


Adrien Brody in The Pianist. Pic credit: Pic credit: Focus Features

One of Roman Polanski’s last critically acclaimed films, before he slowed his filmmaking and went into seclusion, was The Pianist.

The movie starred Adrien Brody as a Polish-Jewish pianist who hopes for a quick end to World War II when Britain and France declare war on Germany. However, the war is long, and Germany takes over Poland.

The film traces his life as the Germans slowly destroy their home, kill his family, and force him into hiding. Thomas Kretschmann plays a Nazi captain who helps keep him safe.

The Pianist won Polanski Best Director, Brody Best Actor, and Ronald Hardwood Best Adapted Screenplay at the 75th Academy Awards.

ROOM (2015)

Brie Larson in Room. Pic credit: StudioCanal

Before she took on the role of Captain Marvel in the MCU and helped save the universe, Brie Larson starred in the critically acclaimed indie drama, Room, which is now streaming on Netflix.

Based on the novel by the same name by Emma Donoghue, Larson stars as a woman who was kidnapped and held prisoner for seven years.

While imprisoned, she has a child, and when he turns five, the two finally find a chance to escape. However, she has to adjust to the real world once again, and her son has to learn how to live around people for the first time in his life.

Larson won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in the movie, which also received a nomination for Best Picture.


Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight. Pic credit: A24

Released in 2016 and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama based on a semiautobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

The movie follows Chiron as a child, as a teenager, and as a young man as he tries to get through life.

Moonlight ended up winning an Oscar for Best Picture, and it was the first time that a film with an all-black cast won that award. It was also the first time a movie with LGBTQ themes won the award.

Mahershala Ali also walked out of the Oscars with the award for Best Supporting Actor.


Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Pic credit: Summit

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was dismissed by many people as just another teen flick when it hit theaters in 2012, but it is so much more than that.

The movie, directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the novel it was based on, is about a young man with clinical depression who meets new friends and tries to come out of his shell.

Logan Lerman stars in the film with Emma Watson and Ezra Miller as his new friends, and the movie takes an unflinching look at clinical depression in teens and is a harrowing look at what can happen if people don’t listen to someone crying for help.

The movie won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.


Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Pic credit: StudioCanal

Released in 2011, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the best, underrated spy movies made in the last decade.

Gary Oldman stars as George Smiley in this adaptation of the novel by Johe le Carre about a British Intelligence agency known as The Circus that might have a mole in its ranks.

The cast is a who’s who of talent, including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Stephen Graham, and Toby Jones.

The movie won Outstanding British Film at the British Academy Film Awards.


Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Pic credit: Netflix

A few years ago, Netflix started producing its own movies with the intention of getting a limited theatrical release to open them up for awards season.

In 2019, the streaming giant produced Noah Baumbach’s film Marriage Story.

The film starred Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a married couple going through a divorce and their child, who remained caught in the middle.

Called a modern-day Kramer vs. Kramer, the film picked up six Oscar nominations and six Golden Globes nominations, but the only winner was Laura Dern at both for Best Supporting Actress.


Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes. Pic credit: Netflix

A second Netflix produced movie from 2019 that was released theatrically for award consideration was The Two Popes.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God), this film starred Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

In the film, Pope Benedict tries to convince the Cardinal to resign his archbishop duties and admits himself that he is ready to abdicate the papacy.

Both Hopkins and Pryce picked up Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, but the drama film failed to win any significant awards.

BLOW (2001)

Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz in Blow. Pic credit: New Line Cinema

Ted Demme directed the 2001 crime drama Blow, and it is available for streaming right now on Netflix.

The movie tells the true story of rising drug dealer George Jung, with Johnny Depp starring in the lead role. The film also shows the rule of Pablo Escobar, played by Cliff Curtis, and has Penelope Cruz star as Jung’s wife.

The film is almost a mix of Boogie Nights and Goodfellas but is anchored by Depp in one of his best roles.


Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness. Pic credit: Columbia Pictures

Will Smith took a break from his high-octane action roles for the drama movie The Pursuit of Happyness in 2006.

Based on the book by Chris Gardner and Quincy Troupe, Smith stars as Chris Gardner, a homeless salesman, while his son Jaden Smith makes his film debut as his son in the movie.

The film shows Gardner’s one-year struggle as a homeless father and his will and determination to make something of himself for him and his son.

Will Smith picked up an Oscar nomination for the performance, and his son Jaden won Best Breakthrough Performance at the MTV Movie Awards.


Frank Langella and Michael Sheen in FROST/NIXON. Pic credit: Universal

Frost/Nixon is a drama movie based on the play by the same name by Peter Morgan.

Ron Howard directs the film, making it look very much like a stageplay.

Michael Sheen plays British journalist David Frost; a man tasked with interviewing the disgraced former President of the United States Richard Nixon, portrayed by Frank Langella.

The film picked up five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Motion Picture, but failed to win any of them.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Pic credit: Miramax

Based on the novel by John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas hit theaters in 2006.

The film is set during World War II and shows the effects of the concentration camps from the point of view of two children – young boys who become friends through a barbed-wire fence.

One boy is the son of a Nazi who works at a concentration camp. The other is a child who is a Jewish prisoner in the camp.

This drama film is a heartbreaker, and one of the harshest looks at the Holocaust on Netflix.

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