Netflix was established in 1997 but first released its original movie (Beasts of No Nation) in 2015. Since then, Netflix releases its original productions every month and while some of them disappoint, others are incredibly good. Its films are now awarded at the most important film competitions and film critics keep on talking about Netflix’s evolution.
But other than the famous Marriage Story and The Irishman, Netflix is also the place where you can find hidden gems from all genres. From historical movies to slow-burn thrillers, these originals prove that Netflix is more than a platform for binge-watching shows, it’s also a great place for discovering thrilling and entertaining movies.
10. Who would you take to a deserted island?
Who would you take to a deserted island?, based on a play with the same title, is a 2019 Spanish movie about four flatmates who in the dawn of their adult life are forced to confront the true nature of their friendship.
Set in Madrid on a hot summer day, the plot follows four friends who are living together but are soon preparing to go their separate ways, closing an important chapter in their lives. Couple Marcos and Marta are moving to another Spanish town for their jobs, Eze is moving to London for the film school and Celeste is still trying to figure out her next career steps. After a night out drinking and celebrating their friendship and youth, Celeste proposes to play “Who would you take on a deserted island?”, a game that transforms their night into a reflection of their friendship with surprising results.
The story, which in the first half has the tone of an emotional coming of age film, suddenly changes into a thrilling rollercoaster of emotions, secrets and conflicts. None of the characters is faultless and their lies, frustrations and insecurities give rise to an intense conflict that reshapes their relationship.
Changing the mood of the film in such a way and managing to keep the engagement of the audience is possible because the screenplay is well written and the actors have great and realistic performances. Who would you take to a deserted island? is in this regard another great example of how Spanish cinematography delivers suspense and twists in low-budget productions.
9. To The Bone
To The Bone, directed by Marti Noxon, is a drama film from 2017 about Ellen, a young artist who is struggling with anorexia.
Ellen (played by Lily Collins) has been under treatment for anorexia for years, a situation that affected her adolescence and youth, transforming her into a scarred young adult with trust issues. Her painful journey in and out of treatment centres has also affected her family who feels unable to offer her the proper care. Her stepmother finds a place at a new treatment centre where Ellen meets the charismatic and empathic doctor Beckam (played by Keanu Reeves). Surrounded by other girls who battle with eating disorders and through her therapy with doctor Beckam, she is forced to face the gravity of her health situation.
Noxon’s film shows both the psychological causes of eating disorders as well as the effects these disorders have on the development of young people and their social life and creates with these psychological backgrounds a story that is touching for a large audience. The psychological portrayal of Ellen is well sketched and offers credibility to the story and young actress Lily Collins does a wonderful job in playing her role.
An emotional story about the pain and frustration caused by eating disorders to those suffering from them and to those around them, To The Bone captures the difficult path of accepting the disease and of treating it and raises awareness about serious issues that impact the young generations.
8. The Man Without Gravity
The Italian film The Man Without Gravity presents the story of Oscar, a boy who is born weightless, defying the laws of gravity, and his struggle to find his place in the world. It is a fantastical story told with emotion and laughter in the characteristic style of director Marco Bonfanti.
The film opens with Oscar’s birth, who is floating from his mother’s belly and continues with his difficult childhood and then adulthood. Caught between an authoritative grandmother and a protective mother, Oscar craves a normal childhood in which he can engage in usual childhood activities. His mother and grandmother keep his strange condition hidden from the eyes of the world, trying in creative ways – that turn to be funny failures – to protect him from flying away. However, the object that keeps him on the ground comes from Agatha, a young girl from the village, who offers him his backpack when she accidentally finds out his secret. He eventually turns into an adult and escapes his isolated life to become the famous flying man, still keeping the pink backpack.
Oscar’s story, although one about a human being with extraordinary power, is the story of a simple boy who craves a normal life. The film combines funny scenes and deeply touching moments that reveal the protagonist’s suffering and isolation but is unfortunately ambiguous when trying to send its essential message: tolerance and acceptance. Even when the essence of the story fades out, the fairy tale style saves the plot, making The Man Without Gravity not only a great choice for a family film but also a relaxing comedy with a touch of tragedy.
7. The Most Assassinated Woman in The World
The Most Assassinated Woman in The World is a French Netflix original from 2018 that mixes reality and fiction in a mysterious tale about Pala Maxa, the French actress who lived in Paris in the 1930s and was famous for being murdered on the theatre scene.
Beautiful and charismatic Paula Maxa opens the film by telling the audience the countless ways in which she has been killed on stage, an act that made her famous, but that had also shocked and brought contempt to the Parisian society. The murders move from the theatre decor to the Parisian streets and journalist Jean starts investigating the curious crimes that are inspired by the fictional murders of the actress, as well as the death threats she receives.
The film tries to develop numerous storylines, portraying Paula Maxa as the victim on stage, the vulnerable actress, the traumatized woman and the public figure who has a moral responsibility for delivering horrific and violent messages. Even if these storylines lead to a chaotic combination of horror subgenres, the vintage atmosphere and the nostalgic horror vibe are the key messages to understanding the film.
Among the dark streets of Paris, the long corridors and the theatre scene, The Most Assassinated Woman in The World delivers the perfect setting for a murder mystery. It is macabre, suspenseful and most of all, a needed memorial for Paula Maxa’s career and for the forgotten theatre world.
6. Horse Girl
One of Netflix’s latest releases, Horse Girl is a brave and peculiar representation of mental illness, directed by Jeff Baena who co-wrote it with Alison Brie, the main actress in the film.
The protagonist is Sarah, a quiet and nice girl, who is carefully doing her job at a craft store and is always kind to her colleague, Joan (Molly Shannon), one of her few friends. In her free time, she spends her time with horses, especially with Willow, a horse with whom she has a special connection, and back home, she watches horror TV shows with supernatural creatures. She is a socially awkward person, but despite being an outsider who decides to spend her birthday on the couch watching her favourite TV series, doesn’t show a glimpse of evilness. But her quiet lifestyle is distributed by strange paranormal events that make her question her sanity, fearing she might inherit the mental illness that her mother and grandmother had suffered from.
In a story that becomes too fragmented but is visually engaging, she embarks on a quest for truth, wondering if she is really going nuts or if she is part of another reality that others cannot grasp. The film doesn’t try to explain much or to find the login behind the curious happenings following Sarah, leaving most of the unexplainable to the interpretation of the audience. While this can be frustrating for the audience, it is also the best way to capture the fights going inside the protagonist’s mind. Just like Sarah, the audience is left to wonder what is real and what is not and this can be interpreted as an act of braveness, but is also the only reliable way to tell a story about mental illness that doesn’t turn into a story that is too emotional or too depressing.