For better or worse, it's no wonder why dramas are so often award-winners. It's true that solid comedies provide necessary humor and endearing romantic flicks can give an escape, but dramas—well, dramas can give permission to feel those dark, loaded feelings that are too easy to tuck away. They may not always fill theaters and they don't often push for frequent re-watches, but dramas are the type of film genre to watch when you're looking to let it out.
We're recommending 10 of the best dramas to watch on Netflix, from recent films that spurred emotion with rich performances like those in Room and The Theory of Everything, as well as older titles with lasting scenes like those from Good Will Hunting and Schindler's List. Obviously, there are many options here that aren't easy to watch, and may perhaps leave you in tears. But maybe that's the point. When films give you the chance to work through tough subjects and experience complicated perspectives, then it's worth all the drama.
It should be said, right out of the gate, that you're probably going to cry watching this movie. And that's okay—it's entirely understandable. The film stars Brie Larsen in an Academy-Award winning role as a woman who was abducted as a teen and kept in a "room." While in captivity, she has a child, played by an equally impressive Jacob Tremblay, and so she creates a whimsical story about their surroundings to protect him. But ultimately, it helps them both survive.
The King's Speech
There are certain comedic aspects weaved into this drama starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who volley plenty of one-liners back and forth between each other like a pair of unlikely friends. It’s a good thing to have those laughs too, because of the otherwise serious plot. Firth plays Prince Albert, who unexpectedly becomes King of England after his brother abdicated the throne. Rush is hired to help Albert with his speech disorder in time to deliver a vital country-wide address at the start of World War II, and many think he won't be able to do it.
Good Will Hunting
Once again, comedy intertwines with drama in this 90s classic, largely because of the Oscar-winning performance by Robin Williams. Williams plays a psychologist who is tasked with helping a young man, played by Matt Damon, embrace his intellect. Damon is a janitor at MIT who solves a difficult math equation that was left for students to decipher outside a classroom. He's then heralded as a genius and put into a position to either realize his potential or continue on a more familiar path.
Carey Mulligan's performance as a sheltered teen in the London suburbs during the 1960s is enough of a reason to watch this drama since she manages to capture the simultaneous naivety and budding wisdom of a young woman that's just about to leave for college. She spends most of her time studying, eager to attend Oxford University, but she meets a much older man played by Peter Sarsgaard who convinces her that there's more to life than schoolwork.
Set once again in England, only this time in the years before, during, and after World War II, Atonement stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as two young people on opposite ends of social circles who are hiding their affection from their families (and in some ways, from each other). When Saoirse Ronan’s character discovers their romance and thinks that it’s something else, the mischaracterization changes their three lives forever.
Inspired by a true story that spans the globe and about 25 years, this film starts when a five-year-old boy gets separated from his older brother and lost on a train in India. Alone, hungry, and tired, the boy is eventually discovered and later adopted by a couple in Australia. When the boy grows up, he decides to try and find his family in India, but the job is far from easy. Prepare to cry while watching this one, too, since it deals with love, loss, and family ties.
The Theory of Everything
Following the early life of physicist Stephen Hawking as an ambitious yet thoughtful student at Cambridge University, this award-winning film is a mix of romance and drama as Hawking meets and falls in love with a fellow student, Jane, played by Felicity Jones. As they begin their lives together, and Hawking becomes more and more invested in his research, the couple grapples with his motor neuron disease and what it means for their personal lives.
Filled with plenty of heart-tugging, longing and beautiful costumes, this 2015 film is worth a watch for its dramatic twists and its gorgeous cinematography. It stars Rooney Mara as a department store clerk who meets Cate Blanchett's titular character as she's shopping for a Christmas gift in the 1950s. The two begin a flirtation that turns into a secret romance, which ultimately threatens Blanchett's relationship with her young daughter.
It's highly likely that you've heard of this oft-lauded film by Steven Spielberg but have yet to watch it because of its overwhelming subject matter. Do yourself a favor and pick it anyway, because even though it's incredibly difficult to watch, it's a story that should never be avoided or forgotten. The film follows Liam Neeson's real-life character Oskar Schindler, a businessman who comes to Krakow, Poland in 1939, just as World War II is underway. He joins the Nazi party and fills his factory with Jewish workers, all in the name of making money.
But when the Nazis begin killing Jews openly and indiscriminately, Schindler uses his factory to protect them and help them escape.
In this 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel set in 19th century Concord, Massachusetts, the women of the March family—Jo, Amy, Beth, Meg, and Marmee—are played by a cast of well-known actresses that capture their bond with a mix of strength and laughter. As the women grow up and try to uncover what they want from their lives, they lean on each other for support through everything from important social events to a life-defining sickness. There's romance, of course, especially considering that a young Christian Bale is also part of the cast, but this story is mainly about sisterhood and friendship.