In the span of just a few short years, Netflix has gone from just a distributor of material from various major studios to a heavyweight provider of original content. With their target of 80 original films to be released throughout this year almost fulfilled, there's no signs that it will be slowing its efforts anytime soon. In that vast library of films already available online, there's a list of 10 Netflix titles that deserve your immediate attention, should you be interested in seeing the best of what the red envelope's streaming service has to offer. Check your popcorn inventory and make the following list your priority for your next Netflix movie binge!
The first of two Stephen King adaptations on their platform, Mike Flannigan's Gerald's Game takes a King tale that not too many people are familiar with and turns it into an exercise in cinematic tension. Told through part real time narrative/part flashbacks, Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star in this story of a wife who, through indulging her husband's kinky sex game, finds herself trapped in a life or death situation. Both her body, as well as her mind, are tested, and Gugino carries this film like a champ, with Greenwood assisting her in a fantastic supporting turn.
Since we started out with a Stephen King adaptation, it feels right to continue down the path and mention that the other Netflix project from that famed author's canon, 1922, is another fine addition to their streaming library. While Gerald's Game is a bit flashier, this project starring previous King collaborator Thomas Jane engages in a slow-burn drama of guilt and the supernatural, as Jane's Wilf murders his wife to take possession of her family's farm. Slowly, Wilf and his son start to see the consequences of those actions manifest in some peculiar ways, leading to an ending that's pretty damned chilling. Your patience will be rewarded if you partake in 1922.
The Fundamentals Of Caring
Paul Rudd is no stranger to drama, comedy or a mix of the two. Perhaps one of his most underrated films is the Netflix original, The Fundamentals of Caring, in which he plays a caregiver to a physically impaired character played by Red Oaks' Craig Roberts. A sentimental friendship forms between the two, which draws laughs and tears from the audience throughout their journey through various tourist traps in the American landscape. Further spiking the chemistry of the group is a character played by Selena Gomez, who Roberts' protagonist develops feelings for, completing the trio that serves as the dysfunctional band of friends that make this movie work as well as it does.
The Cloverfield Paradox
In their ambitious climb to becoming a streaming distribution giant, Netflix has found themselves not only funding their own original productions, but also acquiring projects studios are looking to free themselves of. The Cloverfield Paradox was one such film in the latter camp, and it's a good example of a movie that was born for the platform. On top of redefining how big ticket movies such as this one are sold, it's the film that finally unified the Cloverfield universe, which is either the best or worst thing, depending on how you see it. Ultimately, it's a tight thriller that surprised everyone, and it's easy to go back to again and again to see what you've missed in previous viewings, which is handy for a film that exists solely on a streaming platform.
Being the most recent of the bunch, Like Father had to fight to earn its spot on this list. That being said, any film that can team Kelsey Grammer and Kristen Bell as effectively as this one has deserves all the attention it can get. With Bell's Rachel getting dumped at the altar and Grammer's Harry showing up to be a father for the first time in 26 years, the directing debut of Lauren Miller Rogen turns what could have been a rote romantic comedy into a surprisingly effective family dramedy. It still knows how to laugh, while treating the pain of its characters seriously, and acts as a balance between the more sensational films that have hit the multiplex this summer movie season.
There's one professional triumph that, until this past March, evaded Netflix's production arm: an Academy Award. While the company won their first golden glory with the documentary Icarus, their other hopeful from this past year was Dee Rees' adaptation of the novel Mudbound. Southern racism, the camaraderie of wartime friendship and the friction of family are all explored with a cast that includes Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund and Academy Award Nominee Mary J. Blige. Two of the film's history making nominations belonged to Blige, as her performance in the film nabbed her Best Supporting Actress, while the song "Mighty River" got her a nod for Best Original Song.
Beasts Of No Nation
One of Netflix's first original films to gain a huge head of buzz was director Cary Joji Fukunaga's wartime epic Beasts Of No Nation. Starring Idris Elba as the vicious, but charismatic Commandant and introducing Abraham Attah as child soldier Agu, the film focuses on the young man's rise in the ranks of Commandant's army and the unspeakable acts he's forced to commit to survive and advance. Attah commands the screen in his first film role, and through his performance we see Agu go through many phases of personality development, ultimately identifying with him and hoping against hope he can lead a normal life again.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler are peas from the same pod, in that their comedy work has been both lauded and damned, as well as the fact that when they dip their toes into drama, it tends to work more often than not. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is one of those successes for both men, as they play half brothers whose lives collide and move through a variety of family matters and art fueled aspirations. It made history for helping get Netflix blocked from Cannes, but this Noah Baumbach family dramedy's end product is worth it.
As you can see, quiet personal dramas are just as much a staple of the Netflix library as sharp comedies and shocking/disturbing thrillers that are not totally of this world. Kodachrome has to be one of the quietest dramas that there is for streaming at this moment, as the world of embittered father and son, played out respectively by Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis, doesn't raise its cinematic voice to the point of hyperbole. There's conflict and there's comedy, but this film opts to fight its battles in a more structured manner than most of its ilk. Like a photo album sitting without pretense on your shelf, it's the image that the film paints that packs more punch than the timbre of the dialogue.
If history had played out the way that Duncan Jones had intended, Mute would have been his first film. But destiny, having other plans, shifted things around for him and made Moon his big screen debut. But Jones never gave up on Mute, and almost a decade later, the noir-soaked vision of the future not only found itself birthed into existence, it has Netflix to thank for being brought to the masses. Much like their efforts to complete Orson Welles' final film, The Other Side Of The Wind, it's a marvel just to see Netflix swing their weight around to make a unique vision a reality. Though it also helps that Mute is as entertaining as it is ambitious.