Netflix’s expansion of original movies continues in 2019, with an array of major titles and hidden gems to be excited about. In 2018, Netflix released a massive amount of new original content across the board, from television series to documentaries, to stand-up specials and movies. Yet it was their continued development of their original films that raised so many eyebrows. While the streaming service has managed to dominate the world of television, both critically and commercially, in such a short amount of time, there has remained a great degree of cynicism directed towards their films.
They’ve struggled to break free of that stereotype that Netflix original movies are a step below the output of the traditional studio system, and even when they have breakout titles, there’s still that sense of pessimism around their release. Critics have complained that the streaming service often seem uninterested in their own titles, especially indie productions that may not have the appeal of, say, a Marvel movie. However, the tide seemed to slowly change in 2018. When the Cannes Film Festival announced that Netflix titles would no longer be able to compete for the Palme D’Or, more people in the industry seemed to side with Netflix than Cannes. And then, films like Roma, Outlaw King, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs became event movies, while the service struck unexpected gold with their pivot to romantic comedies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
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Now, they’re leading the Oscar race with Roma, which remains a frontrunner for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars. Furthermore, 2019 looks set to be Netflix's busiest year yet, with big blockbusters on the slate alongside titles by some of the industry’s most respected filmmakers. With that in mind, here are some of the 2019 Netflix original films to be excited about in the coming year (in no particular order). As of the writing of this post, these titles were designated as 2019 releases, but that may change.
14. Velvet Buzzsaw
The last time writer-director Dan Gilroy worked with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo (who is also his wife), they made the brilliant noir thriller Nightcrawler. Now, they have reunited for another thriller, this time with horror influences that's set in the high-stakes world of modern art. Velvet Buzzsaw, which also stars John Malkovich and Toni Collette, centers on a supernatural force that haunts a series of paintings by an unknown artist. Gilroy described the film as having a large ensemble cast akin to the works on Robert Altman.
13. Triple Frontier
The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal has had Triple Frontier, his drama about a group of military veterans who unite to rob a South American drug lord, in pre-production hell for over eight years. Originally, the film was to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow, with Tom Hanks starring, then J.C. Chandor took over directorial duties and everyone from Hanks to Will Smith, to Tom Hardy to Channing Tatum, was attached to the film. Eventually, it went into production with Ben Affleck (but not before he briefly dropped out), Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal.
Jonas Åkerlund is probably best known for directing music videos, including Madonna's Ray of Light and Lady Gaga's Paparazzi, among many others. He's also an acclaimed tour documentary maker, but he's recently dipped his toes into narrative features. Lords of Chaos, his death metal horror film, premiered at Sundance in 2018 and will be released in early 2019, but Polar is his Netflix debut. Based on the graphic novel by Victor Santos, Polar centers on a hitman (played by Mads Mikkelsen) forced out of retirement when an assassination attempt is made on his life. The comic is notable for its minimalist style and lack of speech bubbles, which could make for a striking film by the auteur of music video maximalism.
11. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese’s jump to Netflix felt like a real sign that the times were a-changing in Hollywood. If one of the industry’s most beloved figures, an Oscar winning icon whose work has influenced generations of film-makers, is fine with making a streaming exclusive movie then why isn’t everyone else? But Scorsese’s move was as big a deal for Netflix as it was for him. Not only would the platform give him the money to make one of his long-awaited dream projects (a reported $175 million budget, making it the most expensive film of Scorsese’s career), but they’d support him in getting the movie into film festivals and into the inevitable awards conversation. But separate from all of that noise, The Irishman is still one of the most anticipated films of 2019; it's a biographical mob drama starring Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, the man who claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa. Al Pacino will reunite with his Heat co-star to play Hoffa, while Joe Pesci has come out of retirement to join his Goodfellas director.