Over the past few years, Netflix has become one of the largest names in all of entertainment. In 2015, the streaming site released their first original film, and ever since, they have continued to release a steady stream independently distributed content.
Recently, some of the world’s biggest filmmakers have signed on make films for Netflix, and the site’s reputation is becoming greater every day. Netflix Original films have been nominated for Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and have even premiered at Cannes.
Not all of the site’s original content is of the highest quality, but they have produced some exceptional films. With over 80 original films set to release in 2018, it is important to decide what on the site is actually worth watching.
Just to clarify, this list includes films that were distributed by Netflix, and they may not have been produced by them. To make it simple, any film listed on the site as “Netflix Original” was eligible for this list. Without further ado, here are the top ten Netflix original films.
10. Gerald’s Game (Mike Flanagan, 2017)
Gerald’s Game, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, takes an extremely simple premise and turns it up to eleven. The plot follows an older married couple, Gerald and Jessie, who take a retreat to a secluded lake house in a attempt reignite the flame of their marriage. After handcuffing Jessie to the bedpost to spice up their sex life, Gerald dies of a heart attack, leaving his wife trapped to fend for herself.
Gerald’s Game is certainly not the most well made film on this list, but that does not detract from the fact that it is one of the most entertaining and gripping thrillers released in recent memory. Like most Stephen King stories, the concept seems to have been made up before any of the structure, and the film suffers from a lack of substance.
This is made up for, however, by some amazingly tense and entertaining sequences and a quite polarising finale. In the end, Gerald’s Game is an incredibly fun watch for anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
9. Okja (Bong Joon-ho, 2017)
Okja is hard to pin down to a singular category. On one hand it is a action/science-fiction film using the often recycled E.T. format, but it is also a commentary on the current state of consumerism and the treatment of livestock. The former is significantly better executed and more effective, but there is no denying that Okja is more than just an E.T. rip off.
Joon-ho’s film is filled with energizing fun and excitement, and it is hard to remove oneself from the enthralling characters on the screen. The film features fantastic and unique performances from both Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton, but perhaps the performance comes from 14 year old South Korean Seo-Hyeon Ahn, who is delightful as the film’s lead character.
The inconsistency of the film is without a doubt Okja’s biggest weakness, but the highlight is, without question, the creativity of Bong Joon-Ho’s screenplay. The film has a multitude of entertaining sequences and colorful characters that make the film Joon-Ho’s most delightful work to date.
8. Imperial Dreams (Malik Vitthal, 2014)
Imperial Dreams premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, and it was not distributed by Netflix until early 2017. Because of this, the film received very little attention, and it was mostly ignored by the general public. This is extremely unfortunate, because Imperial Dreams is one of the site’s best films, and it deserves significantly more recognition than it has received.
The film follows Bambi, played by John Boyega, who is released from prison and returns home to try and reconnect with his family and son. The highlight of the movie is Boyega’s fantastic performance, and he carries the film throughout. The combination of Boyega’s incredible performance and the excellent cinematography place the viewer into the Los Angeles hood inhabited by the characters, and this makes the film’s especially intimate story especially effective.
Imperial Dreams was possibly only distributed by Netflix to capitalize on John Boyega’s post Star Wars fame, and it is easy to dismiss the film as just this, but this character driven drama contains more depth than most other films the streaming service have to offer.
7. First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie, 2017)
First They Killed My Father is a huge directorial achievement for Angelina Jolie, whose previous efforts have resulted in less than mediocre results. The film tells the story of a young girl struggling for survival during the infamous Cambodian Genocide, and the story is based on the memoir of the same name by Loung Ung.
Without a doubt the strongest aspect of the film is the incredible performance by child actor Sareum Srey Moch, who portrays a ten year old Loung Ung. It is the actress’ first ever film role, and she delivers one of the best child performances of the past decade.
The film is also elevated by the cinematography done by Anthony Dod Mantle. First They Killed My Father might not be an easy watch, and the story takes many devastating turns, but it is essential to understand one of the darkest times in Asian history.
First They Killed My Father is a gripping portrayal of a majorly overlooked period in history, and Angelina Jolie does a fantastic job bringing these events to life in excruciating detail. Jolie has not yet perfected her directorial craft, but this film proves that she has a significant amount of promise if she continues work in the field.
6. On Body And Soul (Ildikó Enyedi, 2017)
On Body And Soul is a slow and gentle film that follows two people who begin experiencing the same dream. The Hungarian film is able to deliver an incredibly emotional and intimate story with this unique yet simple premise, and its charm is derived from realism.
The main couple in the film is just as stilted and awkward as any couple initially is, and almost everyone can relate to the difficulties of starting a relationship, even when put to this extreme. The main characters of the film are not stunningly beautiful people, they are socially awkward and genuine. The incredible realistic and relatable portrayal of love is not common in film, and seeing it handled so well is very refreshing.
Despite the relatively small amount of attention On Body and Soul has received, it is one of the most celebrated films ever distributed by Netflix. The film won the prestigious Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, and it was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.