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The 15 best drama movies on Netflix (January 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 January 1: Every month, Netflix deletes movies from its streaming service when contracts expire, and November 2020 was no different.

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. Once you finish with this list, here are more new drama movies on Netflix: Gran Torino, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Stranger Than Fiction, Hillbilly Elegy, The Midnight Sky, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Chef, and The Grizzlies.

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 starred 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.

Goodfellas (1990)

The cast of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

In 1990, Martin Scorsese made one of his best movies with the mob picture, Goodfellas.

In the movie, Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, a low-level member of the mafia who has strong ties to everyone he works with but then finds himself on the rails when the police bust him and force him to turn over evidence on the men he calls his family.

The movie is based on a true story, as told in the non-fiction novel Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, which tells the story of Henry Hill, from his days as a mobster to his entry into witness protection years later.

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.

Moneyball (2011)

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball. Pic credit: Columbia Pictures

You need to wait until Oct. 14, but on that date, Moneyball is coming to Netflix.

The movie is a sports biography, but it is different than other sports movies as this is based on the book by Michael Lewis about the art of sabermetrics.

For those who don’t know, this is a new form of scouting players that only looks at numbers and tries to create a team based on predicted stats instead of choosing players based on personalities and chemistry.

This is the story of the Oakland A’s and head coach Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt.

The film picked up six Oscar nominations — Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Pitt, and Best Supporting Actor for Jonah Hill.

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 Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

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.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

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 whos-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.

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.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

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

Frost/Nixon is a drama movie based on a 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.

Shawn S. Lealos

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