BINGE-R #75: The 20 Best Netflix Original Movies
THE 20 BEST NETFLIX ORIGINAL MOVIES
Over the last few years Netflix has commissioned a growing number of movies or splurged at film festivals to snap up new titles. Unfortunately the high-profile features they most often promote to us – such as War Machine, Bright and, most recently, The Cloverfield Paradox – are nowhere near the best exclusive movies they have. So consider this list, which includes the only Adam Sandler Netflix original you should ever watch, a necessary correction that allows you to cut through the streaming service's formatting and the unreliable algorithms.
1922 (2017, 102 minutes): Australian writer/director Zak Hilditch has made one of the sharpest Stephen King horror adaptations going, a slow burn of wounded masculinity set on a Nebraska farm where a father (a malignant Thomas Jane) convinces his son to kill their wife and mother (Molly Parker).
ARQ (2016, 88 minutes): Time-loop thrillers naturally repeat themselves, but it’s a clean resolution they struggle with. This independent science-fiction mystery, with Rachael Taylor and Robbie Amell as an uncertain couple trying to perfect their escape from home invaders, actually pulls it off. It’s a knotty, succinct experience.
Barry (2016, 104 minutes): Set in the early 1980s, when Barack Obama (Devon Terrell) was a law student fresh to New York’s Columbia University, this biopic is about not just finding, but understanding, your place in the world. It relies on telling moments instead of declarative speeches, and is all the better for it.
Beasts of No Nation (2013, 137 minutes): One of the first Netflix originals, where the savage, scarring plight of African child soldiers – with Idris Elba as their abusive, messianic leader – is captured with vivid strokes and lasting pain in this drama from True Detective director Cary Joji Fukunaga.
Casting JonBenet (2017, 80 minutes): A compelling true crime documentary that never shows its real life subjects, just multiple fictional depictions, Casting JonBenet uses the infamous 1996 child murder of JonBenet Ramsey to examine America’s obsession with crime and the unstoppable escalation of conspiracies.
First They Killed My Father (2017, 136 minutes): The adverse reaction to By the Sea, which she starred in with then husband Brad Pitt, lessened perceptions of Angelina Jolie’s directing career, but her most recent feature is a brutal, disciplined child’s eye depiction of Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime. It’s first-rate.
Gerald’s Game (2017, 103 minutes): Another Stephen King adaptation: a couple’s weekend away to rekindle their marriage goes wrong when the husband (Bruce Greenwood) dies while the wife (Carla Gugino) is handcuffed to the bed. What follows is a concise evocation of physical and mental survival, with a terrific performance by Gugino.
I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016, 87 minutes): A moody era-spanning horror film starring Ruth Wilson where the shock of discovery is nothing compared to the final dread-filled moment of confirmation. The technique of filmmaker Osgood Perkins (Anthony's son) is deliciously spare but wholly complete.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017, 93 minutes): Macon Blair’s Sundance Film Festival winner is a comic vigilante thriller where common decency motivates the unlikely heroes – Melanie Lynskey’s nursing assistant and Elijah Woods’ nunchucks-wielding neighbour – on an increasingly dangerous quest.
The Incredible Jessica James (2017, 93 minutes): Former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams gives such a vibrant, emotionally acute turn at the centre of this romantic comedy that the film’s formulaic structure barely registers. It’s a showcase performance, nicely offset by Chris O’Dowd’s wayward counterpart.
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond (2017, 94 minutes): Jim Carrey’s many personas are revealed as being his truest self in this documentary about his immersive method performance as off-kilter comic Andy Kaufman in the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. Carrey’s present day commentary is also a put on, yet it feels oddly truthful.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017, 112 minutes): Noah Baumbach’s vision of the artistic family – exasperating, cruelly cutting, righteously blind to tragic outcomes – finds full expression in this study of a retired New York sculptor (Dustin Hoffman) and his children (including Ben Stiller and, yes, Adam Sandler). Each character comes into bittersweet focus.
Mudbound (2017, 134 minutes): Nominated for four Academy Awards next month, Dee Rees’ magisterial film is a study of historic divisions set in segregated rural Mississippi in the 1940s, but it has such a poetically tragic sense of the characters and their limitations that it readily transcends the period setting.
My Happy Family (2017, 119 minutes): In this expertly observed Georgian – as in the country in the Caucasus – drama, a middle aged schoolteacher, Manana (Ia Shugliashvili), decides to move out of the apartment she lives in with three generations of her family. Anger, love, and recrimination intermingle, each authentically expressed.
Okja (2017, 121 minutes): The South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho makes masterfully thrilling movies about capitalism’s crimes – they can sweep you up, but also scar your soul. Here a young girl, Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) tries to save her genetically modified super pig from its corporate owners amidst heart-fluttering flourishes and cruel realities.
Our Souls at Night (2017, 103 minutes): The movies haven’t always known what to do with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in their later years, but they get to shine in this domestic drama as widowed neighbours who cohabitate for the companionship. It’s too neatly constructed, but these two movie stars shine together.
Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016, 90 minutes): Paul Reubens was 63 when he made his comeback as Pee-wee Herman, but the character remains in a child-like state in this proudly weird road movie where the absurd is always on hand. Bonus points for the rugged actor Joe Manganiello playing a sweet version of himself.
Tramps (2017, 83 minutes): An appealing independent comedy about a pair of barely there adults, tough cookie Ellie (Grace Van Patten) and aspiring chef Danny (Callum Turner), who have to go on the run together when an illicit briefcase delivery goes wrong. Crime flicks rarely have this much charm.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015, 102 minutes): Too many music documentaries are in love with their subject, but the genuine affection in Liz Garbus’ portrait of the gifted African-American pianist and songwriter allows for a genuine understanding of both her greatness and her flaws.
Win it All (2017, 88 minutes): A Chicago gambler (Jake Johnson) gets into trouble minding cash for a loan shark, but Joe Swanberg’s seventies-influenced drama is truly about a practised self-deceiver actually trying to right himself, and Johnson mixes bravado and bitterness with comic ease.
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