2022 was a roller-coaster year for Netflix packed with all-time highs and all-time lows. Amidst concerning news that the streaming service plans to roll out a new password-crackdown strategy, the future seems as uncertain as ever when it comes to its distribution tactics. Though its business model often relies on quantity at the expense of quality, you can always count on the giant platform to keep its loyal subscribers engaged by constantly churning out new content every week.
With so much content being added on a regular basis, it can be difficult to keep up and find movies actually worth a watch in Netflix’ algorithm-driven catalog. Just so you don’t have to spend your time scrolling through its never-ending collection of titles, we have rounded up 10 great original films you can watch right now — from prestige awards contenders that got heavy Oscar buzz this season to underlooked gems that slipped through the cracks and deserve a second look.
10. All Quiet on the Western Front
Based on the same novel as Lewis Milestone’s 1930 Best Picture winner, Edward Berger’s German-language remake provides a gruesome depiction of war through the lens of a naive teenager (Felix Kammerer) filled with romantic dreams of heroism who is tricked into enlisting in the German Army, where he later experiences first-hand the mind-numbing horrors of WWI.
The movie opened to positive reviews, becoming a major awards contender with an impressive accolade haul including 9 Oscar nods, though gushing comparisons to superior anti-war fables like ‘Paths of Glory’ or ‘Come and See’—the latter being the 1985 Soviet masterpiece Berger rips off wholesale here—does it exactly no favors. Those viewers expecting a faithful adaptation, or anything beyond surface level commentary of its delicate subject matter, are setting themselves up for disappointment. From a purely technical standpoint, however, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a stunning achievement that boasts top-notch production values, solid camerawork, and stirring battle sequences.
No scene managed to grab our attention and knock us back in our seats with such potency and effectiveness as Athena’s unbroken 11-minute-long camera shot — a bravado, electrifying cold open sequence that undoubtedly ranks as one of the most memorable moments in film of 2022. Beginning with a press conference outside a Parisian police station before spiraling into madness when a group of young protesters raid the station, the opener not only sets the tone for the rest of this modern Greek tragedy but is deliberately designed to startle viewers by plunging them deep right in the middle of the cops-vs.-citizens mayhem.
If nothing else, “Athena” proves that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, with Romain Gavras following in the footsteps of his father and legendary Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras with a hard-hitting political thriller of his own. Though much higher in style than substance, “Athena” purposefully weaves its social commentary with pulse-pounding violence that by the time it’s wrapped up, will take your breath away and outrage you in almost equal measure.
8. White Noise
In Noah Baumbach’s family-slash-disaster drama, a pitch-perfect Adam Driver plays a neurotic college professor who teaches Hitler Studies and wrestles with life’s biggest questions after an apocalypse-level air contamination accident forces his entire family to evacuate the only home they’ve ever known.
The fact that any streaming giant — let alone Netflix — decided to hand a $120 million check to the “Marriage Story” director to adapt a 1985 Don DeLillo novel is all but a minor miracle. However, despite its reputation as an oft-deemed unfilmable novel for its dense prose and off-beat comedic edge, “White Noise” hasn’t lost a single ounce of its power. In fact, it could be argued that the source material’s witty exploration of suburban malaise, consumer culture, and global pandemonium cuts deeper than ever and should resonate relatively well with today’s audiences. Though it never had much of a chance securing a broader audience when put alongside Netflix tentpole titles, the film’s muted reception should not scare any potential viewers away.
7. The Wonder
An unfortunate aftermath of the infamous saga surrounding Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” — a nauseating discourse magnet that constantly dominated headlines and online chatter during its seemingly endless press tour — is the fact that a much-better Florence Pugh-led period drama from last fall’s festival circuit regrettably went unnoticed through no fault of its own.
“The Wonder” centers around 19th century English nurse Lib Wright (Pugh), who is dispatched to a remote Irish community in order to determine whether 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy, in a star-making turn) has truly survived for four months without eating. Sebastián Lelio’s film grapples with ideas about religion, mythmaking and superstition — using its intriguing set-up and a full-on fourth wall-breaking introduction to deftly remind us of the deceptive artifice of cinema and storytelling at large. At once subtle, concise, and surprisingly subversive, “The Wonder” sticks with you for long after the credits start rolling.
In a strong year for biopics where larger-than-life icons from Elvis Presley to Whitney Houston to even Steven Spielberg himself all had their stories re-told in the big screen, Netflix’s much-anticipated Marylin Monroe biopic stirred up controversy and became one of the most polarizing and talked-about releases of 2022.
Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ eponymous, if also widely disputed, 700-page novel, ‘Blonde’ trails the legendary actress’ well-trodden fall from grace — from her troubled childhood, meteoric rise to stardom, and tragic death. On many fronts, “Blonde” succeeds in exposing the tortured soul behind the divine sex symbol alter-ego, providing a clear-eyed statement on Hollywood’s seedy underbelly and the toxic dynamics of the entertainment business that ruthlessly exploited Monroe throughout her illustrious career. Much has been debated about the film’s dubious artistic license and harsh treatment of the blonde bombshell, though Ana de Armas near-universally praised performance in the titular role won the Academy voters’ heart, earning the actress a much-deserved first Oscar nod. Your mileage may (and will) vary, but if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, “Blonde” might be worth seeking out.