This is my ranking of the best Netflix Original Movies. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I say that both as a statement of fact and as a preface to a list that you — yes, you — most likely won’t agree with. All quality-based lists are subjective, and that’s okay! The best-ranked lists don’t need to match your own tastes perfectly, but they should offer explanations and arguments while hopefully introducing readers to new titles along the way.
I watch a lot of movies across multiple genres and international lines, and when I do rankings they usually come together based on three factors. My taste is obviously at play, as is the film’s overall quality, but I’m also interested in a film’s re-watchability. There are some fantastic, highly beloved films that I don’t expect to ever watch a second time. That doesn’t make them any less great, but it does affect where they land in a ranking.
And lastly, a quick note as to which films are eligible here. Netflix is a major player in film distribution around the world, but because of differing rights in differing regions not all of their Originals are the same. Uncut Gems (2019), for example, is considered a Netflix Original outside of the US. For this list, we’re only looking at titles labeled as Netflix Originals in the US, and I’m only considering titles released up through the end of August 2020. And no limited series (we already ranked the 50 best Netflix Original Series). Got it? Good. Now keep reading for our ranking of the 50 best Netflix Original Movies.
50. Murder Mystery (2019)
I considered making some kind of self-deprecating comment or joke as to how and why this Adam Sandler film made the cut, but you know what? Screw it — Murder Mystery is good fun. Still the best of the films made under Sandler’s Netflix deal, it’s an entertaining romp that sees him share solid chemistry with Jennifer Aniston as they romp through beautiful Europe. Luke Evans is immensely entertaining too, and come on, it’s from the writer of Zodiac (2007)!
49. Eli (2019)
A boy with a life-threatening illness is kept safe in a special home designed just for his needs, but this is no boy in the bubble drama. Director Ciarán Foy and his trio of writers have instead crafted a chiller that manages some solid horror beats and shifty story turns on its way to a pretty nifty ending. You come to care for this kid which isn’t something most horror movies with children can claim. It won’t blow your socks off, but if you settle in for the thrills on display the reward is worth your time.
48. The Discovery (2017)
Movies built on a thought-provoking “what if” are too few and far between, but director/co-writer Charlie McDowell lands one with his science fiction-tinged drama about the afterlife. A scientist discovers proof that an afterlife exists, but rather than fill people with joy it immediately sends millions towards suicide. A romance set against that backdrop feels odd, but it’s a beating heart of humanity against the cold truths of what’s to come.
47. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019, UK)
Nick Park’s stop-motion animated films have long entertained, and while this entry sees his proteges continue with his characters they do him proud with a funny blend of slapstick, miscommunication, and other antics. The sheep are once again at the mercy of a determined guard dog, but the arrival of aliens in their small farming community sends them all on an playful adventure that leaves plenty of smiles to spare.
46. Cargo (2017, Australia)
As noted elsewhere below, zombie movies are so typically one-note and familiar that films attempting to stretch beyond the norm stand apart from the pack. Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke know that and deliver something fairly special with their tale of a man’s (Martin Freeman) desperate attempt to outrun not just zombies — but also the undead virus racing through his own veins. It’s not himself he’s trying to save but the life of his infant daughter, and his race against time, the elements, and the violent hordes is a suspenseful one.
45. The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Director/co-writer Rob Burnett cut his teeth on David Letterman’s late night shows, but his feature film shows he’s as interested in heart as he is in biting wit. Paul Rudd plays a guy in his own downward spiral tasked with looking after a teen in far worse shape, and together they take a bumpy journey — both physically and emotionally — that might just save both their lives. It’s alternately silly, crass, and raw, but the heart makes it through to the other side.
44. Sand Storm (2016, Israel)
Religion and the men who run such scams make victims of others on a regular basis, but while some churches can simply be left behind others are part of an all consuming culture. This story of two Bedouin women left behind when they’re father/husband, respectively, marries into another family sees them challenged by tradition and expectation. They’re forced by necessity to try and change things for the better, but history isn’t in their favor.
43. Tigertail (2020)
The American Dream is never an easy one to navigate, but it’s a necessary journey for so many who’ve gone on to strengthen this country and its people. Writer/director Alan Yang shares his family’s story from 1950s Taiwan to the United States, and as the film moves between generations the shifting trials and tribulations reveal both the ups and downs of such a transition as well as the change in accountabilities and responsibilities. Our grandparents’ challenges are not our own.
42. Cam (2018)
A cam girl’s life begins to crumble when her doppelganger takes over her livelihood in this intimately grim look at our relationships with our own online personas. Madeline Brewer headlines with the rare lead role and proves she’s as captivating a presence in longer doses as she is in supporting turns, and while the film’s nightmare is specific it’s one most of us can connect with in this unavoidably connected world.
41. The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)
Noah Baumbach delivers gold with last year’s Marriage Story (2019), and while this earlier collaboration with Netflix doesn’t reach those heights it still manages to be a memorably affecting and humorous watch. His cast goes a long way in helping with alternately fun and emotional turns from Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel. The supporting cast is nothing to sneeze at either with Adam Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Judd Hirsch, and more popping in now and then. It’s Baumbach through and through.