The 15 best drama movies on Netflix (April 2021)

The 15 best drama movies Netflix
Fruitvale Station and The Departed on Netflix. Pic credit: The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros

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 on April 3: 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.

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.

Philomena (2013)

Steve Coogan and Judi Dench in Philomena. Pic credit: Fox

Released in 2013, Philomena stars Steve Coogan as Martin, a journalist who lost his job as a government adviser.

He gets a lead at a party to write a story about a woman named Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a woman forced to give up her toddler son 50 years ago.

Philomena was in a covenant when she had her son and the nuns gave him up for adoption after forcing her to sign him away. When he learns that the nuns might have sold the son, along with several other babies, his investigation leads him to the truth.

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.

The Dig (2021)

Image of Lily James as Peggy Piggott in The Dig.
Lily James plays Peggy Piggott in The Dig. Pic credit: Netflix

The Dig is a 2021 Netflix original that was also released into theaters on a limited basis and is an award contender.

The movie tells the story of a land dig before World War II where a woman (Carey Mulligan) and the archaeologist (Ralph Fiennes) she hires find an amazing discovery.

The seemingly basic story, based on the book by John Preston, is a hugely inspirational tale that has a high 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes

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.


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.

Moonlight (2016)

Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight. Pic credit: A24

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

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

Moonlight won 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.

The Two Popes (2019)

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 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.

Shawn S. Lealos

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