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The 15 best drama movies on Netflix (July 2021)

Netflix drama movies
Mystic River and The Pianist. 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 and movies that 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.

Updated in July 2021: Every month, Netflix deletes movies from its streaming service when contracts expire.

The good news is that Netflix also had plenty of great drama movies to replace them. Here is our updated list of the best drama movies available on Netflix.

Django Unchained (2012)

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained
Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino was back in 2012 with Django Unchained, the story of a bounty hunter and a freed slave working together.

Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave sold and separated from his wife Broomhiilda (Kerry Washington). While transported by the men who bought him, a bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz frees him with the condition that Django helps him.

King knows Django can help him find his latest targets and promises to also help the former slave find his wife and help free her.

Leonard DiCaprio also stars as a plantation owner named “Monsieur” Calvin J. Candie, the man who holds Broomhilda’s freedom in his hands.

Lady Bird (2017)

The best sad movies on Netflix (June 2020)
Saoirse Ronan and Tracy Letts in Lady Bird. Pic credit: A24

In much the same way that director Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) mastered realistic dialogue and making everyday situations seem extraordinary, Greta Gerwig has done the same for female-centric movies.

In Lady Bird, Gerwig found two great actresses to tell the story of a mother and daughter who just can’t seem to connect. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf both picked up Oscar nominations for their roles.

This sad movie, currently available to stream on Netflix, also picked up nominations for Best Picture, and Gerwig became only the fifth female film director in history to pick up a Best Director nomination.

Mystic River (2003)

Mystic River
Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon in Mystic River. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon star as Jimmy and Sean, childhood friends who grew up to become an ex-convict and a police detective, respectively.

A third childhood friend, Dave, was kidnapped and sexually abused for days as a child and grew up with some serious problems as a result.

When Jimmy’s daughter is murdered, he believes Dave is guilty and sets out for vengeance while Sean is investigating the case, believing that Dave might not be guilty after all.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones
Saoirse Ronan in The Lovely Bones. Pic credit: Paramount

After making three of the biggest movies in the world with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson directed one of the most depressing movies of the decade.

Based on the novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones focuses on a young teenage girl who is raped and murdered by a local man in the town.

When the police are unable to discover what happened to her, the girl (Saoirse Ronan) returns as a ghost and tries to find a way to get through to her father (Mark Wahlberg), who has lost himself in depression and obsession in learning what happened to his daughter.

She also tries to find a way to help anyone find her body and the murderer (Stanley Tucci) so she can pass on to the other side.

The Pianist (2002)

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

Roman Polanski directed the Holocaust movie The Pianist in 2002 and watched as the film won him an Oscar while actor Adrien Brody picked up one as well.

Brody stars as a Jewish pianist living in Poland during World War II. Just when it looks like Britain and France might save Poland when they join the war, Germany overruns the country.

Through the movie, the pianist loses everything, including his family, to the Nazi extermination camps, and has to go into hiding thanks to protection from a sympathetic member of the Jewish Ghetto Police.

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Eat, Pray, Love
Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Pic credit: Sony Pictures

Released in 2010 by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story), Eat, Pray, Love is based on the bestselling novel by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Julia Roberts stars as Gilbert, a woman who has everything she could want, including a husband, house, and career. However, she is missing something.

Gilbert sets out to take a journey around the world, filing for divorce and setting out to find herself by eating in Italy, finding the power of prayer in India, and then falling in love again in Indonesia.

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Pieces of a Woman
Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf in Pieces of a Woman. Pic credit: Netflix

One of the most depressing movies on Netflix right now, but intensely gripping, is Pieces of a Woman.

In the movie, Vanessa Kirby stars as Martha, a woman who suffers a loss when the midwife called in to deliver her baby, resulting in the baby’s death.

Shia LaBeouf stars as her husband Sean, while Molly Parker stars as the midwife, who finds herself facing legal liabilities for the baby’s death.

The movie then follows the deterioration of Martha and Sean’s relationship, her relationship with her mother, who blames her, and the midwife’s trial.

The Departed (2006)

The Departed
Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson in The Departed. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

In 2006, Martin Scorsese won an Oscar for his remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, which he renamed The Departed.

The movie stars Leonard DiCaprio as a Boston cop who goes undercover as part of the mafia, working directly under the mob boss himself, portrayed by Jack Nicholson.

Meanwhile, Matt Damon is a member of the mob sent to the police academy and has gone deep as a mole inside the police. This movie shows both stories, as the two men get very deep into their respective undercover jobs, and both know they might not make it out in one piece.

A Monster Calls (2016)

A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls. Pic credit: Lionsgate

A Monster Calls is a drama movie that tugs the heart as it focuses on a young boy whose mother is terminally ill.

He is only 13 and doesn’t know how to deal with this, but he takes care of his mother every day. However, when he is sent to live with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and is no longer able to care for her, he starts to see a monster coming to visit.

This monster, voiced by Lian Neesom, tells the boy three stories and then asks that he tell him one as well. Through it all, the boy is drowning in terror and has no idea how to make it through without his mom.

Mank (2020)

Gary Oldman in Mank. Pic credit: Netflix

David Fincher is back with his new movie, and it is a Netflix original.

In Mank, Fincher creates a black and white movie that tells the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his life as he works on the script for Orson Welle’s Citizen Kane.

Since Citizen Kane was an unflattering look at real-life media mogul William Randolph Hearst, this was a job that almost ruined Mank’s life.

In December on Netflix, the movie premiered and was one of the top new releases of the month for the streaming giant.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Lee Daniels' The Butler
Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company

After his breakout hit Precious, Lee Daniels created a sprawling epic drama called The Butler.

In this movie, Forest Whitaker starred as Cecil Gaines, an African American man who worked as a butler in the White House for 34 years. This movie shows his life there.

This means that several different presidential terms played out in the movie, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and finishing up with Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman).

Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan and Kevin Durand in Fruitvale Station. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company

On November 12, the movie Fruitvale Station will hit Netflix.

Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) stars in the movie as Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by BART police officers in 2009.

Ryan Coogler, who also directed Black Panther, helmed the movie, which was his directorial debut. He won the Grandy Jury Prize at Sundance and won the Best First Film award at Cannes.

Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray portrayed the BART cops who were involved in the incident. The movie takes place over one day, the last of Oscar’s life.

The Irishman (2019)

A shot from The Irishman
Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were just two of many big names to star in The Irishman. Pic credit: Netflix

Martin Scorsese found it hard to get his latest mafia movie made, so he turned to Netflix. The streaming giant gave him the chance to make his movie and what resulted was The Irishman.

The very long drama movie (over three hours) starred many Scorsese favorites, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, and Harvey Keitel.

The film is a loose retelling of the story of a truck driver-turned-hitman named Frank Sheeran (De Niro) who worked for a crime family and Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

The Netflix original movie picked up 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Director.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

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! Plainview is striking oil at the expense of towns that he leaves dead in his wake in the film.

He meets 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 Best Actor.

The Social Network (2010)

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, 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.

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