From Scorsese to Cuaron: The 10 best Netflix original films of all time
(Credit: Netflix)


From Scorsese to Cuaron: The 10 best Netflix original films of all time

Netflix is the unsung hero of 2020. Trapped in this living nightmare, ravaged by the virus, this streaming platform seems to be our only saving grace. There is a wide range of binge-worthy sitcoms like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Good Place to name just a few, as well as Netflix Original series such as Ratched, Master of None, Elite to choose from. However, if you are looking for a cinematic quickie, Netflix has an extensive collection of original movies to choose from.

From sappy teenage romances to heart-rending dramas and terrifying thrillers, Netflix has it all. Browsing through this online streaming platform is a task in itself; we are all caught in this vicious cycle of not knowing what to watch and we end up scrolling till bedtime.

Despite a brilliant collection of old-but-gold classics and masterpieces, a lot of Netflix Originals have been added in the last couple of years which are equally precious and engrossing. Some of them have won high praises and accolades with the Oscars, Emmys and more respecting their work. Beautifully crafted, these films leave an everlasting impact on the minds of the viewers.

To help you save your precious time, we have compiled a list of ten best Netflix Original movies of all time.

Let’s get started.

The 10 best Netflix Original movies:

10. The Perfection (Richard Shepard, 2018)

The Perfection is a psychological horror-thriller film where one of the protagonists, Charlotte Willmore, a talented cellist, has to leave the prestigious music school, Bachoff, to care for her ailing mother, and is replaced by the young protégé, Lizzie. Years later, Charlotte reconnects with her teachers, Anton and his wife, Paloma at Shanghai, and is introduced to Lizzie. After a passionate rendezvous, they take a trip to explore rural China, where Lizzie falls sick and has to amputate her arm. What follows is a gripping narrative where years of repression and childhood trauma leads to the girls’ exacting revenge.

The film is well-crafted and accurately exposes the abusive cult practices that go on in music schools where they “groom” young children to become adult prodigies. Charlotte and Lizzie’s methods of avenging their slaughtered innocence may at times seem quite far-fetched, the ending is nevertheless satisfying. Brilliant performances and well-designed aesthetics complement the narrative with all its twists and turns make The Perfection a compelling watch.

9. The Ritual (David Bruckner, 2017)

A group of five friends meet at a pub to discuss a group trip. One of them suggests a hike in Sweden but gets dismissed. On a fateful night, the hiking enthusiast gets shot at an armed robbery. Six months later, the rest of the group go hiking along the Kungsleden in northern Sweden to honour the deceased. However, as they enter the unknown, unmanned forest trail, they encounter bizarre, otherworldly phenomena which leave them ruffled to the core.

Although The Ritual could have optimised the creepy setting of the film, they have done a pretty decent job with the unsettling visuals of the gloomy wilderness that indicates the presence of pervasive doom. The friends make a collective misjudgement which ominously predicts their impending doom. Pagan sacrifices and surreal hallucinations pitted in a Scandinavian setting makes the film a visual treat to the eyes; the atmosphere is further haunted by the indie background score. The film is not only supposed to evoke fear but also deal with tender issues like overcoming grief and retaining friends in times of adversity.

8. Gerald’s Game (Mike Flanagan, 2017)

Adapted from the master of horror, Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game begins with a couple, Jessie and Gerald, going on a trip to an isolated cabin in Alabama, desperately trying to salvage their strained relationship. While they indulge in kinky foreplay which later turns out to be Gerald’s sinister rape fantasy, Jessie struggles to free herself.  An enraged Gerald argues with her and suddenly suffers a massive heart attack, and falls on to the floor, leaving Jessie restrained in handcuffs. What follows is Jessie’s harrowing tale of survival amidst hallucinations, dehydration, hunger pangs and claustrophobic inner demons.

It is a violent and disturbing rollercoaster which showcases the confusion and frenzy of the human mind while oscillating between accepting and denying the morbid reality. The film is lucid in its exploration of childhood trauma and abuse which seeps into adulthood and exists as an ugly manifestation and constant reminder of the dreadful past.  Carla Gugino, despite her physically restrained role, is terrific. She does a stellar job in portraying the emotional turmoil, vulnerability, withering sanity and terror Jessie due to isolation. The abuse perpetrated by men in her life at various stages moves the audience. Flanagan is at his absolute best, and as King himself said, the film’s rough cut was “hypnotic, horrifying and terrific”.

7. Mudbound (Dee Rees, 2017)

Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name, Mudbound is a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking film that resonates with the hearts of the audience long after credits roll out. It is a neatly crafted film which shoes two poverty-stricken farmer families white and black) residing adjacently in Mississippi. The sons of the respective families, both war veterans, return and strike an unusual friendship based on common experiences, transcending racial limitations imposed on them. The film ends on a horrifying note as it constantly reminds the audience of the racism prevalent in the United States even today.

Shot on an intimate scale, the film is deliberately slow-paced. The trauma due to the war followed by the rigid racial hierarchy evokes rage and pity. The actors deliver spectacular performances in this brutal and cruel period drama. Menacing and scary, the antagonists’ reek of corruption and white privilege. Rees does an outstanding job at maintaining his composure while projecting an exploitative narrative with high shock-value. With a focus on the horrors of racism and the misery that follows, the film also gives a delicate insight into love, family, friendships and relationships. Rachel Morrison, as the cinematographer, blends in the rich texture of the earth, mud and soil, forming everlasting images in the minds of the viewers. Morrison, for her wonderful contribution, was the first woman to be nominated at the 90th Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, while Dee Rees was the first Black woman to have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

“When I think of the farm I think of mud and crusted knees and hair. I dreamed in brown.”

6. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)

An old school masterpiece, the film focuses on Frank Sheeran, a truck driver-turned-hitman who works in close collaboration with a North-eastern Pennsylvania crime family, headed by Russell Bufalino. Frank begins “painting houses”, a code word for contract killings and is cold and charismatic. Eventually, he is introduced to the fiery Jimmy Hoffa who has ties with organised crime. Scorsese’s brand-new outlook on the gangster genre is phenomenal.

Finely curated, the film boasts of a heavyweight ensemble, including Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and more. Pacino is exhausted and vulnerable yet loud and funny. DeNiro as the cold-blooded killer does not talk much and carries out his orders without breaking into a cold sweat. Pesci is equally compelling and communicates with his mere presence. Reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, the film conveys how the upcoming modernity is changing the ways of the old world. The film ends on a poignant note, and with Scorsese’s name in the credits, it is almost heartbreaking to think of how the golden era has almost come to an end. A brilliant epic, it features the dream team while paying tribute to the dying genre via the inevitable doom that awaits the characters.

“You don’t know how fast time goes until you get there.”

5. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2015)

To quote A.O. Scott, “the line between innocence and evil is as thin as the blade of a machete”. Beasts of No Nation is a violent and tragic film that chronicles the loss of innocence amidst an African civil war. Agu, a young boy separated from his family, is forced and manipulated into being a child-soldier for a guerrilla army, trained by a ruthless and sinister warlord. Subject to the violent abuse and degradation, Agu transforms into a destructive, maniacal beast; his family values are constantly at conflict with his new self.

Abraham Attah as Agu is absolutely splendid on-screen. His involuntary transformation amidst the dreadful conditions of war and economic inadequacy is moving; the atrocities he has to face at such a tender age is often hard to bear. The film paints a very realistic and poignant picture of the condition of children subjected to the war. Abuse, rape and violence are rampant. Idris Elba as the vile and opportunistic warlord is nightmarish and brilliant. He is terrifying and exists as a manifestation of the trauma and loss that sprung from the war. Agu’s horrendous experiences zombify him into a survivor-killer. He is caught in between with neither an adult consciousness nor a childish innocence; he is afraid of himself and the gory violence he was embroiled in, while constantly reassuring himself of his good roots and upbringing. Powerful and engrossing, Fukunaga does justice Uzodinma Iweala’s novel, by delivering a well-crafted masterpiece with stunning performances.

“Sun, why are you shining at this world? I am wanting to catch you in my hands, to squeeze you until you cannot shine no more. That way, everything is always dark and nobody’s ever having to see all the terrible things that are happening here.”

4. The Platform (Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, 2019)

This Spanish sci-fi horror film is set in a huge “Vertical Self-Management Centre” where the residents are switched at the interval of 30 days between the many floors. The film begins with Goreng who gains consciousness to find himself on the 48th floor with another ‘convict’, wise and reserved Trimiagi, for company, who explains their predicament. Food is delivered through a platform which is initially filled with delicacies. As it descends from the top floor to the bottom, the amount keeps dwindling, and the prisoners at the bottom levels get to eat leftovers. This leads to an inevitable conflict which fishes out the destructive and wild, cannibalistic side of the prisoners.

This film mirrors the current society; the levels being the ladder of social hierarchy. As one descends, poverty and deprivation loom large along with a growing resentment for the ones at the top. The film forces the audience to introspect. It is a gruesome and realistic portrayal of issues that plague society. Diving deep into the desperation, madness and depravity of the human psyche, the film is jarring and disgusts as well as terrifies the viewers. The dystopian aesthetic with pervasive darkness provides a perfect setting for the crisis that threatens humanity. The actors are vivid in the portrayal of murderous, violent urges, and the anguish and distress of the human mind at the brink of catastrophe and class conflict.

“Hunger unleashes that madman in us. It’s better to eat than be eaten.”

3. Okja (Bong Joon-ho, 2017)

Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is a heart-warming action-adventure film which focuses on the life of a young South Korean girl named Mija lives with her grandfather and a super pig named Okja. However, her idyllic life with her beloved companion is cut short when a multinational company named Mirando Corporation kidnaps Okja and takes her to New York where a self-proclaimed ‘environmentalist’ and narcissistic CEO, Lucy Mirando plans to exploit her dearest friend and use her for the superior quality of meat. Determined to rescue her friend, Mija sets out on a harrowing journey to rescue her despite not having a set plan.

A poignant commentary on environmentalism, capitalism, commercial hybridisation, greed and dwindling compassion, Okja touches hearts and breaks it at the same time. Innocent and vulnerable, Okja is the victim of consumerism. Selflessness and love reign supreme, contrasted with selfishness. The film ends on a realistic note and does not bend to audience expectations. The film mirrors the present society with a sense of hopelessness and despair looming large. The CGI effects used to create Okja were brilliant and realistic. Humans are more grotesque than ever; disturbing images of concentration camps, slaughterhouses and forced mating haunts the viewers till the very end. Incredible performances from the actors add to the success of this emotionally taxing yet endearing film.

“Shoulder blade! Loin! Spare rib! Hock! Got it? This is what will happen to her. This is Okja’s fate!”

2. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)

“You and I both know you chose this life. You wanted it until you didn’t.”

Baumbach’s film is a stinging tale of rocky marriages that end in divorces and how it affects the life of the couple as well as the child. Theatre director Charlie Barber is in an estranged marital relationship with his wife, Nicole. Following disagreements and heartbreaks, the couple decides to part ways, sharing custody of their son Henry. The legal world of divorce and separation is, however, extremely filthy, and threatens the sanctity of their friendship.

In what is supposedly one of the most realistic films to date, Baumbach elaborates on how the process of going through a divorce is an isolated experience. It celebrates the end of an era shared in close proximity by two people who find it difficult to fill in the gulf created in their respective lives after respective departures. It is a tender commentary on the uncoupling of a marital union and sharing the custody of the child. Detailed and tastefully balanced, Marriage Story is devoid of the usual melodrama that dominates the screen in such movies.

Through the growing anxiety, tension and heartache, the film preserves the precious moments that follow legal as well as emotional separation. Both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are phenomenal in the balanced script; they play their roles, as two individuals who love each other yet cannot be together, with effortless ease. Their chemistry is undeniable on-screen, as is their emotional anguish for having to deal with contentious divorce proceedings. The film is a precious masterpiece that via its calm, composed pace and heart-rending narrative make the viewers want to re-evaluate themselves as well as their relationships.

1. Roma (Alfonso Cuaron, 2018)

The first Mexican entry to win Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Best Cinematography and Best Director awards at the 91st Academy Awards, Alfonso Cuaron’s slow, artistic and emotionally resonating masterpiece, employs intimacy and clever use of shadow and light to affect the viewers deeply. Set in 1970-71 Mexico, ridden with the horrors and hardships of student massacre, the film chronicles the life of an indigenous housekeeper, Cleo, who lives a simple life, caught between her duties as a devoted nanny and anxieties of impending motherhood.

Roma is an intricate combination of slapstick comedy and personal hardships. The camera pans leisurely as it captures Cleo and her surroundings via an intimate lens. Cleo is content with her humbled existence; she has pure love and affection for the children she tends to. Tragedy strikes in her own life when her daughter is stillborn; it is interesting to note how nobody is able to save Cleo’s daughter, however, Cleo risks her lives to save the kids from drowning. A poignant commentary on the class and power dynamics that existed in the society, the film focuses on the humble acceptance of fate and disempowerment by the indigenous people. Cleo is an epitome of grace; she adds on to the emotional atmosphere of the film that makes it a wonderful cinematic experience.  Shot in a stunning monochrome, it reflects on the artistic mood, memory and monotone of a 1970s Roma.

“We are alone. No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone.”