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From Sofia Coppola to David Fincher: The 10 best drama films on Netflix right now

It’s amazing how Netflix continues to offer its subscribers with new films and TV series on an almost daily basis. Until now, we’ve compiled many best-10’s spanning many topics and genres already—including the award-winning films and the best-animated flicks—but we seemingly cannot ever get enough of the streaming giant.

When we think about drama, it is usually the hard-boiled conversations, fluctuating emotions and rising emotions that constitute the imagery. But in cinema, drama comes in all forms and shapes. For example, while John Cassavetes’ films employed an actor-centred approach which privileged character examination and “small feelings” over traditional Hollywood storytelling or stylised production values, someone like modern auteur David Fincher has much of his work involving a non-linear narrative, with a number of storytelling techniques such as backstories, flashbacks, foreshadowing and narrators, emphasising on the cinematography and sound design to further accentuate the dramatic experience.

All forms of cinema or television that involve fictional stories are forms of drama in the broader sense that their storytelling is achieved by utilising actors often portraying wide-character arcs. In an interview, Fincher explained his fascination of sinister themes for drama: “There was always a house in any neighbourhood that I ever lived in that all the kids on the street wondered, ‘What are those people up to?’ We sort of attach the sinister to the mundane in order to make things interesting. I think it’s because in order for something to be evil, it almost has to cloak itself as something else.”

Whatever be it that you enjoy best, whether they’re the good-old action films or the heart-warming melancholic romances, Netflix has always got you covered. For this month, we looked at the best drama films out there and were pleasantly surprised to see the sheer variety and quantity in-store in Netflix’s huge repository. Naturally, it was quite difficult for us to cut down the huge number of movies to only ten of them. Nonetheless, these ten films are sure to satisfy your quench for engrossing drama offerings.

Let’s check them out!

Ten best drama films on Netflix:

10. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola – 2006)

After the unprecedented success of her previous film Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola decided to follow it up with her re-imagination of the life of Queen Marie Antoinette in this dazzling artistic masterpiece called, er, Marie Antoinette. Featuring some of the best set and costume designs ever put on screen, the film is visually incredible; while Kirsten Dunst holds centre-stage with her magnetic performance.

That said, the film is more than just pretty outfits and dazzling detail, it is a film that attempts to make a historical figure relatable to a modern audience. The parallels between Marie Antoinette’s life of privilege and endless scrutiny is not dissimilar to that of modern celebrities, albeit they court their fame more readily. Yet she is also a 14-year old girl thrust into a world she is ill-prepared for; a world of whispers, rumours and no privacy. Coppola captures this isolation and teen angst very well, which is hardly surprising as she has mined this ground throughout her directorial career.

9. Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven – 1992)

Perhaps most remembered, and inevitably dubbed with controversy due to its overt depiction of violence and sexuality, Basic Instinct starred Michael Douglas as San Francisco detective Nick Curran who finds himself entangled in a passionate love affair with Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell—the girlfriend of, and the prime suspect in the brutal murder of the rock star Johnny Boz.

What Verhoeven adds to the mix is his fearless approach to sex and violence. It wasn’t that common for a thriller to be this explicit and violent as Basic Instinct is and Verhoeven attacked this script without scruples whatsoever. Even knowing how it all plays out, it detracts nothing from watching the skill with which Verhoeven weaves his web to ensnare his viewers.

8. American Hustle (David O. Russell – 2013)

American Hustle is an entertaining and ambitious film that succeeds thanks to its wonderful cast. Christian Bale and Amy Adams gave outstanding performances in the lead roles. Bradley Cooper is also great as the wild and impulsive FBI agent who wants to get to the top as quick as possible. Despite all these impressive performances, no one stands out the most as Jennifer Lawrence. She truly shines in this film, deservedly winning the BAFTA for her supporting performance. She’s unstable and volatile while being very manipulative, and she’s just extremely funny.

Ultimately, it is remarkable well-acted and well-crafted film that serves as an excellent piece of entertainment as well as providing commentary on the dark side of America – which should have felt pointless, but David O. Russell imbues it with a unique style accompanied by the electrifying acting skills.

7. Uncut Gems (The Safdie Brothers – 2019)

With the Safdie’s fresh off the success of their exhilarating 2017 feature Good Time, they continued their tryst with crime-action thrillers with the hypnotically chaotic Uncut Gems. Powered by a career-topping performance from Adam Sandler in an extremely unconventional and challenging role as the charismatic jeweller Howard Ratner, the film treats for more than two hours of extreme panic; and pure, unrelenting anxiety.

The interior locations are often separated, buzzers and closed-circuit security and locked doors keeping characters whirling, dancing within the energy of their lives, in every direction, the camera barely keeping up. Also incredible sound design and mixing — so much of the tension in this film is built off the way the dialogue overlaps so well and how sudden sounds land like firecrackers. Set right in the midst of the New York City hustle, this film is an experience best enjoyed viewed.

6. Atonement (Joe Wright – 2007)

Atonement is an unfair film. It plays with you, toys with you, and dazzles you with visual and sonic flair. Joe Wright’s compositions become more and more intricate and baroque as the film leaves the comfort of the English country manor while the lies begin to truly pile on.

It is an aesthetically pleasing period piece drama with stupendous cinematography. Knightly and McAvoy exude tantalizing chemistry here. That said, Atonement isn’t for everyone; it’s a slow two hours and again, not a happy film. But for those who like amazing acting, beautiful camerawork and having their emotions stirred, this is tailor-made for you.

5. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach – 2019)

Marriage Story begins and ends with love. There’s anger in between, coupled with rage, confusion, blistering pain, bitterness, grief, and fear. There are moments of friendship that are closely followed with the remembrance of loss; remains of a marriage that once was—but Marriage Story begins and ends with love.

Directed masterfully by Noah Baumbach, the film follows a married couple, an actress and a stage director (Johansson and Driver), going through a coast-to-coast divorce. For his explosively inhabited and riveting performance, Driver received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. While not portraying likeable characters, each actor exemplifies the brutal stress and sorrow of divorce and how it breaks down the soul.

4. American Beauty (Sam Mendes – 1999)

Upon ‘looking closer’ at Sam Mendes’ debut feature: the brilliant satire of American middle-class notions of beauty and personal satisfaction in American Beauty, we inevitably realise that the film can be digested in numerous different way – all leading to distinct interpretations of the script that was initially written by Allan Ball being partly inspired by the media circus that accompanied the Amy Fisher trial in 1992.

An effervescent sleeper-hit throughout the US, American Beauty swept the Academy; winning Oscars for the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of advertising executive Lester Burnham—who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend—was especially praised, along with stunning turns from Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari and Chris Cooper.

Even after twenty years from its initial release, no other movie has influenced people quite like American Beauty has: the pathos, irony, suburban ennui, alienation.

3. Room (Lenny Abrahamson – 2015)

Room begins and ends with two tremendous, tender performances and one evolving relationship. Nothing else matters when the camera focuses on them, mainly because Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay fill every space, whether large or small, with the same loving affection for the story they’re telling and a continuous, truthful intimacy.

The story revolves around a mother and son forced to live in a single, small room while their captor provides them with food and utilities. Creating an entire world in the cramped quarters, the two exist to the best of their abilities until escape becomes a possibility. A potent piece of work whose story and performances raise that work to gripping, fascinating, and heartbreaking levels; it is a smartly assembled and compellingly imagined drama with an impact felt well after the credits roll.

2. The Social Network (David Fincher – 2010)

A college courtroom drama with shades of Citizen Kane and There Will Be Blood in the margins, David Fincher’s The Social Network is one of the most watchable films about power and privilege and temptation and the quiet self-victimization of the “underdog” that is so strongly rooted in men (and women) and drives them to ruin. There are tiny characterisations here and there that don’t hold up to time, but the final frame of this movie is truly an iconic piece of modern cinema.

Not only the ending scene, but every frame of The Social Network is also incredibly impressive and immersive. It’s put together like a finished puzzle, and the very overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and completion is present in every aspect of it. Everyone involved, including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and Rooney Mara are at the top of their game, all colliding and collaborating to make something bordering on perfection.

1. The Florida Project (Sean Baker – 2017)

A candy-coloured, sun-soaked delight from beginning to end, The Florida Project is a euphoric ode to childhood innocence, imagination and the resilience of the American underclass. Director Sean Baker, gracefully and empathetically observing the ecosystem of the impoverished community on the margins of the Magic Kingdom (simultaneously a symbol of American wealth and wonder), tracks a ragtag group of energetic six-year-olds, their well-meaning, week-to-week living guardians, and their motel manager played with seemingly infinite kindness and elegance by Willem Dafoe.

The vibrant cinematography by Alexis Zabe echoes the children’s sense of curiosity, discovering pockets of beauty in just about anything—dumpsters, rundown knock-off concessions, abandoned housing projects all radiate adventure and imagination. It’s a lovely visual sentiment that coincides with the film’s more moving later developments of tacit community contracts and the resourcefulness needed to stay afloat in systems of class-oppression.

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