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The best Netflix original movies

Netflix originals
Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Pic credit: Netflix

Netflix knew from the start that they had little control over what movies they allow for subscriber’s streaming enjoyment.

The movies they show are licensed, and with so many other streaming services popping up like HBO Max, Disney+, CBS All-Access, Peacock, Hulu, Prime Video, and more, the options for movies to license are shrinking.

With that in mind, Netflix has been making more and more original movies that they own, so they will never leave their service.

While there have been Netflix originals produced since 2015, recent movies have been getting critical acclaim and have won a lot of Oscars. With that in mind, here are several of the best original movies you can catch on Netflix.

Make sure to check back monthly as we will update and add to this list as more shows hit the platform.

Enola Holmes (2020)

Enola Holmes review Netflix
Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill in Enola Holmes. Pic credit: Alex Bailey/Legendary

Based on the y9oung adult book series by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes is a new story from the world of Sherlock Holmes focusing on his teenage sister Enola.

When Enola’s mother (a wonderful Helena Bonham Carter) disappears, Enola (a brilliant Mikkie Bobby Brown) sets out to find her only to end up investigating the case of the attempted murder of a young Marquess.

By the end, Enola proves to be her brother’s equal when it comes to detective work while evading both of her brothers, who want to put her in a finishing school for women.

This movie deserves to start a new franchise for Brown (who was Eleven in Stranger Things).

The Devil All the Time (2020)

Tom Holland as Arvin Russell
Tom Holland as Arvin Russell in The Devil All the Time. Pic credit: Glen Wilson/Netflix

Tom Holland set the world on fire with his role as Spider-Man in the MCU movies, and now he has a chance to show he can do more than just wisecrack as a teenage superhero.

Robert Pattinson will play the next Batman, and here he gets to chew the scenery in a role that is as far from Batman as a person can get.

Holland is a young man in a small town in Ohio named Arvin, where his dad raised his family until the tragic day his mother died of cancer, and his dad took his own life.

However, he doesn’t know that a chance meeting his dad had years before would cause a series of disasters that could lead straight to Arvin himself.

The Old Guard (2020)

The Old Guard on Netflix
Matthias Schoenaerts and Charlize Theron in The Old Guard. Pic credit: Aimee Spinks/Netflix

Netflix released The Old Guard in July 2020, and it appears to be a new franchise for the streaming giant when it comes to movies.

Charlize Theron stars as an immortal who has been fighting evil and saving innocents for centuries. She has put together a team of fellow immortals, and they go where they are called.

However, the team ends up revisiting an old case and ends up attacked, with several of them captured by a pharma company looking to use their blood and DNA to create new drugs to become wealthy.

Luckily, a new immortal comes to power at this exact time, and the team seeks her out to join in the fight.

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation
The Netflix original Beasts of No Nation. Pic credit: Netflix

The first Netflix original movie arrived in 2015 as the streaming giant picked up Beasts of No Nation for $12 million after it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Netflix then released it theatrically, as well as through its online service. Many theaters refused to screen the movie as a result, but it was a massive critical sensation.

There was no Oscar nomination due to the Netflix controversy, but it still won a SAG Award for Idris Elba – the first movie to win there without an Oscar nom.

The movie is about a child soldier as his country goes through a war.

Tallulah (2016)

The best sad movies on Netflix (June 2020)
Ellen Page in Tallulah. Pic credit: Netflix

In 2016, Ellen Page starred in the Netflix drama movie Tallulah.

In the film, Page stars as Tullalah, a homeless girl who is traveling around America with her boyfriend. When her boyfriend leaves to go back home, she eventually follows.

When she arrives, he is not there, but she develops an uneasy relationship with his mother. When a neglectful mother asks her to watch her child, Tallulah takes the child to raise while hiding from the police who are searching for the missing child.

Gerald’s Game (2017)

Gerald's Game
Carla Gugino in Gerald’s Game. Pic credit: Netflix

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game is a Netflix original horror movie starring Carla Gugino and directed by Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep).

Gugino is Jessie, who goes with her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) to a secluded lake house for a vacation. When the two begin a sex game, things go wrong, and Gerald has a heart attack and dies.

However, Jessie is left handcuffed to the bed with no way to escape. Then, she realizes there might be something outside, hunting, and realizes she has no way to protect herself if it gets in.

1922 (2017)

Thomas Jane in 1922. Pic credit: @Netflix

A second Stephen King movie that hit as a Netflix original was 1922 – a movie based on a short story from the Full Dark, No Stars short story collection.

Thomas Jane stars as Wilf James, a farmer who lives in Nebraska with his wife and son. When his wife wants to leave for the city, he faces the fact that he could lose either his farm or his son.

He then convinces his son to kill his wife, and after they throw her in the well, they move on with their lives. As with all King stories, the dead never remain buried for long.

Bright (2017)

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Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in Bright. Pic credit: Netflix

Will Smith stars in the 2017 Netflix original action sci-fi movie Bright.

This film introduces a world where Smith is a human police officer who is forced to team up with the first orc police officer ever hired by the LAPD.

When the two officers find a young girl with powerful magical powers, they have to protect her from those who want to use her for nefarious purposes and end up with both police and evil trying to kill them.

While critics dismissed it, Bright ended up as one of the most streamed Netflix movies ever.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Tim Blake Nelson in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Pic credit: Netflix

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs saw the Coen brothers arrive on Netflix.

The filmmakers, who have substantial cult hits like Big Lebowski and critical hits like No Country for Old Men, embraced their weirdness for this quirky anthology movie.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs features six vignettes that are all tied together by the classical American frontier. The cast is top-notch, with Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Tom Waits, Brendan Gleeson, and more.

This Netflix original received three Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Song for a track performed by Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson.

Roma (2018)

The cast of Roma. Pic credit: Netflix

In 2018, Netflix finally hit it big with its original series and released its top critically acclaimed series.

Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) signed on to direct his dream project for Netflix when he struggled to get financing for it traditionally.

That movie was Roma, a black and white passion project about a live-in housekeeper for a middle-class family in Mexico City. This was based on Cuaron’s childhood.

Roma picked up 10 Oscar nominations, tied for the most ever for a non-English language film. Cuaron won his second Best Director Oscar as well as the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The Highwaymen (2019)

Bonnie and Clyde's death ca
Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner in The Highwaymen, as they chase Bonnie and Clyde’s death car. Pic credit: Hilary B Gayle/Courtesy of Netflix

Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson starred in the Netflix re-telling of the Bonnie and Clyde story.

While there have been movies about the bank robbers in the past, this time the story focused on the former Texas Rangers hired to track down the notorious outlaws.

This is another movie that had been in development for many years that was never made (it was initially earmarked for Paul Newman and Robert Redford). Netflix swooped in and picked it up.

Also appearing in the movie was Kathy Bates in a head-turning role as former Texas governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Randall Park and Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe. Pic credit: Netflix

Always Be My Maybe was a Netflix original romantic comedy movie that hit the streaming service 2019.

Randall Park and Ali Wong star as childhood friends, Marcus and Sasha, who drifted apart when they had a sexual relationship.

Now, Sasha is a celebrity chef opening up a new restaurant in San Francisco while Marcus still lives there with his widowed father, and the two reconnect and start to rekindle their friendship.

This is also a movie with a fantastic performance by Keanu Reeves in an over-the-top version of himself as a love interest for Sasha.

Murder Mystery (2019)

Murder Mystery
Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in Murder Mystery. Pic credit: Netflix

Adam Sandler signed a deal with Netflix to bring several of his Happy Madison movies to the streaming service.

However, while he has released many movies since signing the deal, including the second Netflix original movie, The Ridiculous 6, very few of them are worth mentioning on best-of lists.

In 2019, he released what might be his best movie so far in the deal with Murder Mystery. Sandler stars as an NYPD detective who takes his wife on a European vacation and ends up in the middle of an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Aaron Paul in El Camino
Aaron Paul in El Camino. Pic credit: Netflix

Netflix has two of the best crime drama series in history streaming on the site, with Breaking Bad and its prequel, Better Call Saul.

Even better, Netflix and AMC co-partnered for a sequel to Breaking Bad with the film, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.

While Walter White died in the series, this movie shows the path that his former student and partner Jesse Pinkman took after the events of the television series.

Breaking Bad’s finale was able to tie up Walter White’s story and El Camino finally gave Jesse the chance to get the ending to his story that the character deserved.

Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy stars in Dolemite Is My Name. Pic credit: Netflix

Eddie Murphy was at one time the funniest comedian in movies, but after some family-friendly movie flops, Murphy almost disappeared into self-imposed retirement.

In 2019, Murphy roared back big-time. On top of a new stand-up tour for the funnyman, he also starred in the Netflix original comedy movie Dolemite Is My Name.

This film was based on the true story of filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, a man who portrayed Dolemite in his stand-up and some movies of his own.

Murphy picked up a Golden Globe nomination for his return, and the movie also picked up a Best Motion Picture nomination as well.

The Irishman (2019)

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

Martin Scorsese was trying to get what he considered his swan song to the mobster movie made for years. However, he couldn’t get financing from major studios.

Much like Alfonso Cuaron and Roma, Netflix swooped in and gave him the money he needed, and what resulted was The Irishman on Netflix in 2019.

The movie checked in at a little over three hours and featured classic Scorsese actors, including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Harvey Keitel.

De Niro is an aging hitman named Frank Sheeran, while Pacino plays Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. The film picked up 10 Oscar nominations but didn’t win any.

Marriage Story (2019)

The best sad movies on Netflix (June 2020)
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Pic credit: Netflix

Noah Baumbach has made his name creating quirky movies about real people involved in basic life moments, but infusing them with life and color.

With Marriage Story, he created one of the saddest movies on Netflix as he told the story of a divorce and the effects it had on the couple’s young child.

Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver portray the married couple, and Baumbach based the story on his divorce from ex-wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, as well as memories of the separation of his own parents.

Laura Dern won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and the movie earned six total nominations, including Best Picture.

The Two Popes (2019)

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

Another 2019 critical darling for Netflix was the movie The Two Popes.

Anthony Hopkins starred as Pope Benedict XVI while Jonathan Pryce starred as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in this film based on the book, The Pope, by Anthony McCarten.

In the movie, the Pope is trying to convince the Cardinal to step down and resign as the archbishop amidst the Vatican leaks scandal, while also letting him know he plans to abdicate the papacy as well.

Both Hopkins and Pryce picked up Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for their roles in the movie.

Shawn S. Lealos has been a freelance writer for 25 years, starting with magazines and newspapers before moving to the internet. He has been published... read more
Shawn S. Lealos

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