Conflict is the lifeblood of drama. And while we may not enjoy excess drama in our own lives, it can be quite entertaining to see it play out on screen. This is the genre where viewers can witness intense emotions without experiencing them directly. These are the stories where harshly chosen words can strike a blow greater than any fist. But dramas don’t have to be inherently negative films. We watch for the conflict, but hope for a favorable resolution for the protagonists who have won our hearts. Most of all, we want to be drawn into powerful stories. In that regard, Netflix hasn’t let us down yet. Through a carefully crafted lineup of original movies and films from other studios, Netflix has the perfect drama for any occasion. If you’re looking to dive into the genre, check out our list of the best dramas on Netflix.

Netflix may be a treasure trove when it comes to content, but it doesn’t have everything. Thankfully, we’ve also curated a list of the best dramas on Hulu and the best drama shows on Amazon Prime Video.

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Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station is not a film that viewers are meant to enjoy as entertainment. Instead, Ryan Coogler’s directorial debut is meant to horrify you, because it’s based on the true story of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a Black man who needlessly lost his life when he was shot in 2009 by BART enforcement officers in San Francisco. Coogler worked with the Grant family to create a story about Oscar’s final day, as he tried to mend his personal and professional fences. This makes Oscar more than just a martyr. He was a man with a family who deserved far more justice than he received when he was alive and even after his demise.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Octavia Spencer
Director: Ryan Coogler
Rating: R
Runtime: 85 minutes

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The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

Paul Rudd headlines The Fundamentals of Caring as Ben Benjamin, a frustrated writer whose marriage has crumbled. Ben reinvents himself as a caregiver, and he is soon hired to look after Trevor (Craig Roberts), a teenager suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Despite their shared emotional pain, Ben and Trevor form a bond and take a road trip together. Along the way, they run into a hitchhiker named Dot (Selena Gomez), a young woman who also wants to get away from her life. But while the trip is a fun experience, it also leads the trio to face some uncomfortable truths about themselves and each other.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Stars: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson
Director: Rob Burnett
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Pan’s Labyrinth (2005)

Is Pan’s Labyrinth a fantasy? A young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) has a powerfully realized imagination. But whether her visions are real remains up to the viewer’s interpretation. In Spain during World War II, Ofelia is taken to live with her cruel new stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Soon, Ofelia meets the Faun (Doug Jones), a mythological creature who claims that she is the reincarnation of Moanna, a lost princess of the underworld. He gives Ofelia three tasks to complete in order to return to the underworld, and her perils seem very convincing. And yet they pale in comparison to the danger that awaits Ofelia in the real world.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed The Trial of the Chicago 7, based on the real experiences of anti-war protesters Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), and John Froines (Daniel Flaherty). Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) may not have been among the seven, but he was also on trial, and the film tells his story as well. Together, they took a strong moral stand even as the judge appeared to be hellbent on putting them away.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

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Do The Right Thing (1989)

One of Spike Lee’s finest joints, Do The Right Thing won Best Original Screenplay at the 1990 Academy Awards. Sal Fragione (Danny Aiello) is the Italian owner of a Brooklyn pizzeria. When a neighborhood local named Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito) becomes upset that the pizzeria’s Wall of Fame has only Italian actors, he tells Sal a pizzeria in a Black neighborhood should showcase Black actors. Sal disagrees. As the wall soon becomes a symbol of racism to Buggin’ Out and other people in the community, tensions rise and tempers flare.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Spike Lee
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Shutter Island (2010)

While it may fit more precisely in the thriller genre, Shutter Island is too classically twisty to not include it on this list. Martin Scorsese directs this mystery in which nothing is quite as it seems. After the implausible escape of a brilliant murderess from a fortress-like insane asylum on a remote New England island, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) arrive on the island. The woman appears to have vanished out of thin air, but there are hints of terrible mistreatment and awful living conditions all over the island. But as Teddy’s investigation deepens, he begins to battle with his own paranoia that he won’t make it off the island alive.

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

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Cold Mountain (2003)

This Civil War romance epic earned five Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Renée Zellweger. After sustaining an injury on the front lines, Confederate soldier W.P. Inman (Jude Law) deserts his unit and attempts to travel across the South to return home to his wife, Ada (Nicole Kidman), and their farm. As W.P. journeys through a war-torn country, Ada struggles to keep the family farm functioning and safe from marauders with help from Ruby (Zellweger), a mysterious drifter who is looking for her own place in the world and is determined to find it by proving her value to the farm.

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Stars: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger
Director: Anthony Minghella
Rating: R
Runtime: 154 minutes

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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Matthew McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a charismatic defense attorney working out of his Lincoln Continental in this legal thriller. Mick specializes in defending petty crooks and criminals, so when he lands a case defending a Beverly Hills playboy (Ryan Phillippe) accused of murder, it’s the case of a lifetime. But what Mick initially thinks is an easy payday turns dark fast.

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe
Director: Brad Furman
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Steven Spielberg’s true caper about Frank Abagnale, Jr. is as much a comedy as it is a drama, which makes it all the better. Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) worked as a doctor, a lawyer, and a co-pilot for Pan-American Airlines all before his 18th birthday. A true master of deception and forgery, Abagnale became the most successful fraudster and thief in the history of the United States. This movie tells the story of FBI Agent Carl Hanratty’s (Tom Hanks) tireless chase across the globe to catch Frank and bring him to justice.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 140 minutes

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Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Tragedy runs rampant in Kornél Mundruczó’s Pieces of a Woman, starring Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf as Martha and Sean, a Boston couple welcoming their first baby by way of a home birth. When the beautiful moment turns into devastation, Martha slips into a spell of overbearing grief, an emotional bubble that begins to eat away at the young woman and her closest relationships. Featuring one of the most intense first acts in recent dramatic history, Pieces of a Woman is led by a powerhouse performance from Kirby, elevating our sense of grief and pain to whole new levels.

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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A Ghost Story (2017)

The supernatural meets the tear-jerking woes of leaving home and starting over in writer-director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story. C and M (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) are a young couple that has just moved into what we assume is their first home together. Unbeknownst to the pair, there’s an ethereal essence hovering throughout the property and making a racket in the night. In the wake of a tragedy, it turns out that the mystical wanderer is much closer to the couple than they could ever imagine. A searing examination of life, death, love, and everything in between, A Ghost Story will make you question your existence, as well as your appetite for chocolate pie (a notable scene).

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
Director: David Lowery
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clint Eastwood starred in and directed this Best Picture nominee about a veteran LA boxing trainer who builds an unlikely bond with a relentless young female boxer. Malcontent Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) keeps everyone at arm’s length and — as a traditionalist — refuses to train women at his gym. But when Missouri transplant Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) shows up in his gym demanding his training, she slowly breaks him down. When he relents, Frankie discovers something extraordinary in Maggie, forming a close bond that changes them both permanently.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 132 minutes

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress for their powerhouse turns in the adaptation of August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. While neither Boseman nor Davis won, this is a movie that will only add to their respective legends. Davis portrays an iconic blues singer, Ma Rainey, during a contentious studio recording in 1927. The late Boseman plays Levee Green, Ma’s ambitious trumpeter who dreams of having a band of his own. Unfortunately, Levee’s antagonistic personality threatens to destroy all of his hopes in one night. Regardless, Boseman imbues the role with raw emotion and an unforgettable performance.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts
Director: George C. Wolfe
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Mank (2020)

Mank was the passion project of writer Jack Fincher, who wrote the screenplay in the ‘90s. Three decades later, Jack’s son, David Fincher, directed the film for Netflix and earned a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Fittingly, the movie is about the making of one of the all-time great films: Citizen Kane. Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is chosen by Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to write his magnum opus, which was inspired in part by the powerful publisher William Randolph Hearst. In flashback, we learn that Herman has a history with both William and William’s much younger lover, Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). Creating a masterpiece isn’t easy, but it sure is entertaining.

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Stars: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Charles Dance
Director: David Fincher
Rating: R
Runtime: 131 minutes

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Mystic River (2003)

In Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, three lifelong friends are torn apart by crimes three decades apart. When he was a child, Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) was kidnapped and raped before his eventual release. In the present, Dave comes home with bloody clothes and claims that he killed a child molester. However, Dave’s friends, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) and Detective Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), suspect that he actually killed Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum). And when Dave’s answers prove to be elusive, his friends pursue their own brand of justice.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: R
Runtime: 137 minutes

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Concrete Cowboy (2020)

When 15-year-old Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is uprooted from the hard streets of Detroit, the youth is sent to live with his father, Harp (Idris Elba), in Philadelphia. What Cole could never expect to experience in a new city setting is an Old West lifestyle, propagated by his father and a larger band of inner-city Black cowboys. Patrolling the streets on horseback, the nomadic cavalcade acts as a vigilante group for crime-plagued North Philly. Inspired in part by the Fletcher Street Stables and based upon the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, Concrete Cowboy is powered by an incredible script, superb cinematography, and an especially impressive father-and-son dynamic between Elba and McLaughlin.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Stars: Idris Elba, Caleb McLaughlin, Jharrel Jerome
Director: Ricky Staub
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Sky High (2021)

When Angel (Miguel Herrán) leaves the slums of Madrid behind, he becomes smitten with the lovely Estrella (Carolina Yuste). As the youth struggles to prove himself in a newfound life of crime, an unrelenting detective will stop at nothing to put Angel behind bars. A gritty, well-executed drama featuring impressive performances from the main ensemble, Sky High may not get the attention of other Netflix fodder, but it’s a film that definitely deserves to be noticed.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Miguel Herrán, Luis Tosar, Carolina Yuste
Director: Daniel Calparsoro
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Rain Man (1988)

Hotshot car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) discovers his estranged father has died and returns home to Cincinnati expecting to inherit his father’s entire estate. When he arrives, however, he learns that he has an autistic older brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and that his father’s fortune is being left to the mental institution where Raymond lives. Believing he can rewrite the will and get his hands on the money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility to live with him to Los Angeles. On a cross-country road trip, Charlie finds a deep connection to Raymond that he never expected to arise.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino
Director: Barry Levinson
Rating: R
Runtime: 133 minutes

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Marriage Story (2019)

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story was one of an astonishing number of Netflix Originals to win Academy Awards in 2019. On the surface, it’s an ordinary movie about an ordinary situation: Man and wife struggle through a divorce. But the depths through which Baumbach explores his characters and gut-wrenching performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver make it hard to look away as these two people who clearly still love each other come to the unavoidable conclusion that they just can’t stay married.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

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The Two Popes (2019)

Headlined by tour de force performances from two legendary actors, The Two Popes centers on the transition from Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. A quiet movie that takes place behind the Vatican walls, the two popes could not be more different, but they’re bound by a devotion to the Catholic Church and a shared desire to leave the world a better place. Regardless of your feelings on the Catholic Church, The Two Popes is an entertaining, heartwarming movie about finding common ground through difference. Something we could all learn a little about these days.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 126 minutes

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There Will Be Blood (2007)

Daniel Day-Lewis is as electrifying as ever in Paul Thomas Anderson’s grim depiction of the American oil rush in early 20th-century California. Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an aspiring oil baron who will do anything to make a quick buck. So when Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) arrives on his farm and claims there’s oil on the Sunday property, the two men make an arrangement. Daniel journeys to the town of Little Boston with his son in tow and angle to purchase the Sunday Ranch for drilling. But Sunday hasn’t been exactly contrite. There Will Be Blood descends into a hellscape of business clashing with faith and the supernatural, all powered by Day-Lewis’s Oscar-winning performance.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’ Connor
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Rating: R
Runtime: 158 minutes

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Uncut Gems (2019)

Uncut Gems is a drama for those with extremely high stress-tolerance. The Safdie Brothers’ drama about a gambling-addicted jeweler is a nonstop adrenaline rush. Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a high-end New York City jeweler who is constantly looking out for his next big windfall. So when NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett takes an interest in Howard’s most recent high-value acquisition, Ratner makes a bet on his good fortune. When his bets on Garnett start paying off, Ratner takes his winnings and makes increasingly high-stakes, irresponsible bets that could net him a retirement fund. Unfortunately, he’s in too deep for some people in his life to wait for that payoff.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett
Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Rating: R
Runtime: 135 minutes

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The Irishman (2019)

One of the first Netflix Original Films to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is one of his most ambitious films to date. Scorsese helped establish the gangster genre with films like Goodfellas and Casino, but The Irishman is notably more subdued than those seminal films. The story follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), an employee of legendary union leader and mob boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), as he rises from bodyguard to confidante. But as Hoffa becomes more trouble than he’s worth, the other mafia bosses feel it may be time to move on from him, and Sheeran’s the key to it all.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Runtime: 209 minutes

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The Theory of Everything (2014)

The late Stephen Hawking is often considered the smartest man who ever lived. In The Theory of Everything, you see just how the famed physicist rose to that distinction. Following a young Hawking as he learns that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, through his tutelage at Cambridge University, The Theory of Everything holds at its center Hawking’s relationship with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). Despite the ravages of his disease, Hawking begins an ambitious study of time (which his doctor says he doesn’t have much of). As he and Jane defy the odds to break new ground in medicine and science, their mutual support empowers them to achieve more than either could alone.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson
Director: James Marsh
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 123 minutes

Watch on Netflix

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