Netflix continues to be a rock-solid tour de force in the world of modern cinema. Though the screens on which its original series and movies are presented are a far cry from those at your local cineplex, they still hold strong. Day after day, Netflix churns out fresh content at an intimidating pace. It's a company that craves original material, has gained a reputation for giving creative control to the filmmakers it brings on board, and it plans on pushing the film and television industry in new directions.
Naturally, with all of the content it puts out, some misfires are bound to happen. Nobody (and no multi-billion dollar company, for that matter) is perfect. But don't let the misfires fool you. Because when Netflix succeeds, they not only prove their worth among other major film studios, but give the Hollywood elite a run for their money.
People have had their doubts about Netflix. Could it really rival the bigger studios? Could it create content that measures up to the big leaguers? Well, creativity may be just subjective, but according to the critics, Netflix appears to be doing just fine. So, if you're tired of shelling out cash at an overpriced theater, stay home, kick back, and check out one (or all) of the 21 Best Netflix Original Movies (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
18 iBoy, ARQ, The Siege of Jadotville, and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House – 60%
Sitting pretty at a comfortable 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes are four films of considerably distinct styles. One of these movies is iBoy, a sort of science fiction/superhero hybrid that delves into the world of technology and where it might take us in the future. ARQ is another flick that takes a dark look at the future, where the world's resources are in jeopardy. Threaded into this desperate plot to protect the future is a claustrophobic setting, time-looping, and sociopolitical themes that are just as topical in the film as they are today.
The other two films are The Siege of Jadotville and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a war picture and haunted house story, respectively. Jadotville recaps the 1961 Central African siege of Jadotville (and stars Jamie Dornan of 50 Shades of Grey fame), while Pretty Thing revolves around a stay-in nurse who starts to believe that the house in which she's working may have a ghost problem.
All four are fine efforts from Netflix.
17 XOXO – 71%
In XOXO, there are four stories and one focal point: an EDM festival. Add in romantic entanglements, some road trips, and underdog dreamers, and it might just seem as throwaway as any other coming-of-age drama. But to Netflix's credit, it's not. This movie brushes through the lives of young 20 and 30-somethings just trying to find some meaning. Even if that meaning is as fleeting as a romantic gesture.
EDM is all about sensory elevation, and whether or not this sort of movie is your cup of tea, you might appreciate its attempt to bring that same sort of elevation to a visual medium. It gives this confidently modern movie about the goings on of the modern young adult some creative juice — more so than many other coming-of-age movies tend to pull off.
16 To The Bone – 71%
Putting the plight of the human experience front and center, To the Bone is a stark and unsettling look into the world of eating disorders. Lily Collins stars as Ellen, an anorexic girl who feels as though she might be trapped inside her condition. No matter what she does or who she turns to, her health continues to diminish. So, desperate, she seeks new outlets — one of them being a doctor (played by Keanu Reeves) who seems willing to do whatever is necessary to help her get better.
Anorexia is an often overlooked problem, one that's often not treated with the same urgency as other physical ailments. To the Bone attempts to change that, offering a more intrusive perspective into the life of someone dealing with anorexia whose life is literally counting on her ability to overcome.
15 Brahman Naman – 75%
First, there was Porky's. Then, there was American Pie. And now, there is Brahman Naman. But what is that these three films have in common? A group of young men trying their damnedest to get laid.
These characters have devoted so much of their time to burying their faces in books and perfecting their knowledge of information that the average human couldn't care less about, that they've missed out on fine-tuning their ability to woo women. Which has resulted in dire consequences (which is really just a more polite way of seeing that they are hella horny). So, to fix their problems (which seem simple enough at first), these guys do whatever is necessary to find a member of the opposite sex, woo a member of the opposite sex, and hopefully have sex with a member of the opposite sex.
Just keep in mind that secondhand pity is a serious side effect from watching this movie. You know, if you're the empathic type...
14 The Fundamentals Of Caring – 77%
Seeing as Paul Rudd is in just about anything, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he eventually made his way to Netflix. Only, in this particular cinematic venture, he's not exactly the funnyman that he's spent so much of his career crafting. In The Fundamentals of Caring, Rudd's character is based in tragedy. But it's safe to say that said tragedy has a chance at some healing.
In this movie, Rudd plays caregiver to a disabled teen (Craig Roberts), and over the course of the film, these two gents have a shot at self-healing once they take to the road and traverse the US for some far-from-spectacular sight-seeing. They pick up a hitchhiker (Selena Gomez), mend some old wounds, and share some solid chemistry in the process.
13 Pee-wee's Big Holiday – 80%
If Netflix has proven that it can do anything, it's bringing back old favorites. They've breathed new life into Wet Hot American Summer, Full House, and Arrested Development, and in 2016, they brought back Pee-wee Herman.
Not the most expected choice, but an ultimately successful one, Pee-wee's Big Holiday pushes the titular character out the door and onto the road, allowing Paul Reubens to flex those zany muscles of his once again. And, oddly enough, it takes Joe Manganiello to give him the push he never knew he needed.
If you're already a fan of Pee-wee, then this is a no-brainer in terms of whether or not you should check it out, but if you're not... you're still in good hands. The physical, over-the-top comedy is a staple in this world, and it's done considerable justice in the hands of Netflix. Assuming you give it a shot. Which you should.
12 Barry – 80%
Before he became the President of the United States, Barack Obama was just a young guy trying to find himself. However, instead of Barry being about how Obama grew up into the man he came to be, from child to chief, it settles on a specific moment in time: Columbia University, 1981.
Barry (Devon Terrell) is beginning his Junior year at Columbia, and even though the audience is well aware where he'll eventually end up, he goes through the same sort of motions that any other student in his shoes might experience. Family drama, fitting in, falling in love... it's the sort of underdog setup that is all too familiar, but equally unique to a man who would one day be head of state.
This is a deep dive into an intimate setting, and instead of tripping over the typical political tropes in other "day in the life" biographies, Barry has a balanced footing and manages to stand its own ground.
11 Spectral – 80%
Militarized ghosts aren't exactly a run-of-the-mill hook, so Netflix deserves some credit for taking a chance on an unusual genre hybrid. In Spectral, soldiers are infiltrating an area, only to find out that it's lethally booby-trapped. With ghosts.
Naturally, the Special Ops team patrolling the place have no idea how to eliminate this threat, and it seems as though no matter what sort of creative attempts they make to fight back, they're continually one-upped by this mysterious band of specters. Which is exactly what you might imagine would happen while fighting an invisible enemy.
This flick is like a cross between Black Hawk Dawn and Ghostbusters, and though it's technically a made-for-TV movie, it has the feel of a classic Hollywood blockbuster written all over it. If major studios never believed that Netflix could pull off big-scale genre pictures, Spectral may have singlehandedly proven them wrong.
10 Tallulah – 84%
You know those stories that start off spiraling out of control and then refuse to stop spiraling out of control? Tallulah is one of those movies.
Living in her van, broke, defeated, and [enter self-destructive life example here], Lu (Ellen Page) finds herself on the hunt for a boyfriend who unexpectedly left her, taking every penny she had with him. Which wasn't a lot to begin with. Then, by a stroke a strange happenstance, she rescues a baby from a socialite who hardly seems fit to parent (even though Lu herself hardly seems fit by anyone else's standards). This pushes her through a parade of complications, where a resolution seems hopeful, but unlikely.
Lu ends up forming a connection with her runaway boyfriend's mother (played by Allison Janney), but only because the mother is under the impression that the baby Lu stole is her own grandson.
9 Burning Sands – 85%
Whether they've experienced it firsthand or not, most people are well aware of how harmful college hazing can be. But Burning Sands strips assumptions to the bone and puts the ill-will of tradition front and center.
Trevor Jackson stars as Zurich Condoll, a Frederick Douglas University student who is preparing to join one of the university's most renowned fraternities. He's well aware that the hazing process is possibly more intense than he can imagine, but considering what he believes this fraternity can do for him in the long run, he dives in headfirst. And takes the hits, so to speak.
What he discovers, however, is an untethered community of violence that does little more than inflict pain and perpetuate fear. What's worse is that this tradition — despite the school's "strict hazing policies" — is still revered by the school's authorities, essentially allowing what ought to be criminal activities to go unpunished.
8 Okja – 85%
If you're a vegetarian/vegan, you're going to weep and nod through the entirety of this movie. And if you're not a vegetarian/vegan, you're going to weep and wonder how the hell you ever allowed yourself to so much as imagine eating meat for as long as you have.
From Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Mother), Okja is as simple as it is complicated. On one hand, it's a sort of coming-of-age adventure about a young girl and her pet. But on the other hand, it's a film protesting the glutton of capitalism. By way of a cuddly pig monster.
It sounds strange, and that's because it is. Okja is a globetrotting road movie that has a very clear message to convey, but it does so in as strange and off-kilter a way as only Bong Joon-ho can. Jake Gyllenhaal's performance might annoy people so much so that finishing the movie seems like a chore, but given that the rest of it is near-perfect, it's definitely worth a go.
7 The Incredible Jessica James - 86%
Breaking up sucks. And if you spend enough time mulling it over, prepare to slip down a rabbit hole of all of your most depressing and frustrating emotions. Then again, if you're Jessica James (as in, The Incredible Jessica James), then the pep in your step might do you some good.
After a painful breakup, Jessica (Jessica Williams) refuses to let go of her slightly unrestrained personality. And in fact, that's exactly what seems to be helping her get through her current rough patch. In this moment of self-discovery, she explores the city in which she lives and even has a go at dating, which isn't really working out the way she hoped. Until she meets Boone (Chris O'Dowd). But even then, true satisfaction isn't completely certain.
And no, this is not a spinoff to Jessica Jones. In case you were wondering.
6 I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore – 88%
Ever get to a point in your life where you can't contain your frustrations anymore? It feels like the world is out to get you, and nothing you do doesn't seem to make a damn difference. Well, that's exactly how Ruth (played by Melanie Lynskey) feels after someone breaks into her apartment and steals her grandmother's silverware.
So, with the help of her neighbor, Tony (Elijah Wood), she takes matters into her own hands and retraces the burglar's steps to hopefully find them, her silver, and an apology. But things don't exactly go according to plan.
This is a dark comedy revenge picture, and it's perfectly content exposing a brutal truth of this world that some people (most people?) aren't nearly as decent as you'd hope they'd be.
5 Imperial Dreams – 91%
It was only a matter of time before John Boyega got the chance to take whatever project he could ever want after starring in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His current filmography has him starring in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit and his next big blockbuster (not counting The Last Jedi) is the epic sequel to Pacific Rim. But in between, Boyega also starred in the Netflix original film, Imperial Dreams, where he plays a ex-con trying to start a better life for himself.
His character, Bambi, describes the life that he lived before prison as a prison itself, making his quest to be better than he used to be that much harder to achieve. And with a son to take care of, he's that much more desperate to pave himself a new path.
4 Beasts Of No Nation – 91%
Civil war is raging in a West African country. Blood is being spilled, families are being separated, and children are left with no choice but to train and fight as guerrilla soldiers. One of these children is Agu (Abraham Attah). After his family is killed, he flees for safety, only to be found by a group of rebels led by the Commandant (Idris Elba, who everyone bet an arm and a leg on being nominated at the Oscars, but was snubbed regardless). The Commandant isn't just a powerful leader, but a monster. He forces Agu to submit to him and serve him, and with no other options at his disposal, Agu obliges.
Beasts of No Nation isn't exactly an easy watch, but the acclaim that it's received is a testament to writer/director Cary Fukunaga's vision. It's a raw and jarring trip, but a necessary watch for all film aficionados. Even those who swear that Netflix will never live up to its ambitions.
3 Win It All – 93%
When a criminal asks you to hold a duffel bag filled with money, and you just so happen to be an addictive gambler who has a knack for losing, then either A) politely turn him away, or B) padlock the bag and throw away the key. In Win It All, Eddie (Jake Johnson) simply can't himself, and once the inevitable temptation gets the better of him, he treats the money like it was his own. Which leads to obvious consequences.
Eddie is the kind of guy who assumes the best, but also ends up with the worst, but in his current predicament, screwing up could easily land him six feet under. Thankfully, though, Johnson, Keegan Michael-Key, and Joe Lo Truglio, among others, allow a solid amount of comedy into the mix to lighten things up while Eddie tries to figure out how he'll replace the money he spent and lost.
2 Deidra And Laney Rob A Train – 94%
Deidra and Laney are two high school girls in a bit of financial trouble. But that's putting it lightly. Their mother is in prison, they have zero income, and all they want is a good for life for themselves. Sadly, the prospect of getting into college, let alone affording their electricity bills, seem too far off to fathom.
Until they get an idea. A train passes through their back yard every day. And they're going to rob it.
Hardly textbook criminals, these young girls are desperate and creative — which makes for an interesting combination. Together, they create an elaborately detailed plan to quite literally rob the train and then sell whatever items the train is hauling for cash. Which is exactly what they do, managing to pull in money that they could have never even dreamt of.
But therein lies the problem. Where there are criminals, there are police, and if they're not careful, all of that train robbing may have been for nothing.
1 Tramps – 95%
To make some quick cash, the plan is simple: Danny and Ellie (played by Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten, respectively) need to make an exchange. Swap one bag for another. Only, Danny screws up and swaps his bag with the wrong person, forcing the two of them to travel through cities and suburbs to replace the bag, fix the problem, and make their easy money. What ends up taking precedence is the relationship that begins to grow between the two of them.
Tramps is all about young love, young mistakes, young desperation, and young ideals, which is basically another way of saying that it's all about screwing up on a regular basis. Which is kind of encouraging in a way, seeing as imperfection is often more than a little relatable. Not unlike this movie.
Have you seen any of these Netflix Originals? Would you ever dare bingeing them all in a single sitting? Let us know in the comments!
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