25 Drama Movies on Netflix Canada You Need to Watch
From Oscar-winning Hollywood epics to underrated indie fare, these dramas on Netflix Canada are must-see emotional rollercoasters.
Joy (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), live in a shed they call “Room.” Unbeknownst to Jack, the pair are captives of Old Nick, who kidnapped Joy seven years earlier and is Jack’s biological father. When Joy hatches a dangerous escape plan, she realizes her son may not be ready for his most difficult challenge yet: the real world. Based on Emma Donoghue‘s novel of the same name, Room is a wild ride through every human emotion.
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In 1950s Pittsburgh, garbage man Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is haunted by his failed dreams of becoming a major league baseball player—the sport’s colour barrier was broken only after his prime. As a result, Troy takes out his day-to-day frustrations on his long-suffering but loyal wife (Viola Davis) and son (Jovan Adepo), a promising high school football player. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson, Fences is an emotionally devastating look at a doomed working-class family.
Schindler’s List (1993)
By 1993, Steven Spielberg was no stranger to serious drama, but this black-and-white epic, which tells the tale of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German industrialist who saved more than 1,000 Polish Jews during the Holocaust, still caught audiences and critics off guard. As a feat of storytelling, Schindler’s List remains astounding: its union of performances, documentary-style cinematography, and soul-stirring score powerfully conjures one of history’s darkest chapters.
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The Social Network (2010)
Before he was the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was just a Harvard student hellbent on showing off his intellectual superiority. Through a series of depositions, confrontations, failed dates and backroom deals, The Social Network explores the creation of the most revolutionary platform of the 21st century. Incisively written and directed, and led by breakthrough performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, this thought-provoking, often nasty biopic takes a long, hard look at the way we now connect with—and alienate—one another.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
When 20-year-old janitor Will Hunting (Matt Damon) isn’t wreaking havoc with his buddies, he’s solving mathematics equations that have stumped MIT professors for years. Leave it to the late Robin Williams (in an Academy Award-winning role) and a never-better Minnie Driver to set the young punk on the right path. A bona fide ’90s touchstone, Good Will Hunting is a captivating meditation on love, trauma and wasted talent.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis, in his final role) sits atop the world of high fashion in 1950s London, creating lavish dresses for princesses and socialites alike. He seeks total control in both his work and private lives—as a proud bachelor, Reynolds moves from one girlfriend to the next without a second’s thought. His days continue as normal… until a free-spirited new lover, Alma (Vicky Krieps), begins to toy with his carefully crafted routines. Equal parts melodrama and dark comedy, Phantom Thread is a modern classic that will keep you guessing until the last scene.
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The Imitation Game (2014)
In 1952, English computer scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is arrested for “gross indecency,” charges that would later lead to his conviction for the then-criminal offense of being gay. Unbeknownst to authorities, Turing is an unsung war hero: during WWII, he was part of a top-secret operation tasked with cracking the “unbreakable” codes of Nazi Germany’s Enigma machine. Through flashbacks, The Imitation Game explores Turing’s fascinating—and tragic—life.
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This gripping sports drama follows Tommy (Tom Hardy), a former Marine who enlists his recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte, in an Academy Award-nominated performance) to train him for a high-stakes mixed martial arts tournament. Also competing is Brendan (Joel Edgerton), Tommy’s estranged brother—and a man with his own formidable fighting pedigree. With its gritty depiction of family, trauma and redemption, Warrior is an emotionally shattering masterwork.
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The Irishman (2019)
As the director of Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese has often been accused of glorifying the lifestyles of immoral men. With that in mind, The Irishman feels like an apology. Not one second of this 209-minute opus, which charts the life of hit man Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his relationships with mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), could be mistaken for glamorous. After all, where’s the charm in killing your best friend, losing the love and trust of your family, and seeing history move on without you?
Marriage Story (2019)
Boasting career-defining performances by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, Marriage Story is a searing portrayal of divorce and fleeting love. Charlie (Driver), a successful theatre director, and Nicole (Johansson), a veteran actress, have been seeing a mediator to work through their marital issues. One day, Nicole serves him divorce papers, setting the table for a painful custody battle for their son, Henry. Marriage Story may not be the easiest watch, but it’s impossible to look away.
Set in the Colonia Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City in 1971, Roma follows Indigenous live-in maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and the wealthy household she cares for: Sofia, doctor husband Antonio, and their four young children. Soon, Cleo’s turbulent personal life begins to mirror the disintegrating marriage of her employers, while political tensions in Mexico boil over into full-blown violent protests. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is personal storytelling on the grandest scale imaginable.
After the Wedding (2019)
When Isabel (Michelle Williams), co-founder of an orphanage in Calcutta, is invited half way across the world to the wedding of a wealthy businesswoman, Theresa (Julianne Moore), she believes she may have found a long-term benefactor. Isabel gets more than she bargained for, however, when she discovers her former lover (Billy Crudup) is now Theresa’s husband. After the Wedding is an electrifying showcase for its talented actors.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
The second entry in director Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy, Born on the Fourth of July dramatizes the real-life story of soldier-turned-activist Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise, in an Academy Award-nominated performance). After leaving his small town behind and joining the Marine Corps, the patriotic Kovic learns the true cost of war when a wound from battle leaves him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Ostracized from his family and abandoned by the country he once loved, Kovic sets his sights on anti-war activism.
Leave No Trace (2018)
This hidden gem, the second-most reviewed film to receive a 100 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, tells the story of Will (Ben Foster), an Iraqi War veteran suffering from PTSD who lives in a public park in Portland with his 13-year-old daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie). One day, they’re spotted, arrested and given food and a home by social services. Faced with this opportunity for a fresh start, Will struggles to overcome his demons and adjust to regular life, while his daughter feels her father is holding back her true potential.
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Stand By Me (1986)
Adapted from the Stephen King novella The Body, this classic coming-of-age tale follows four friends—whip-smart Gordie (Wil Wheaton), born leader Chris (River Phoenix), rebellious Teddy (Corey Feldman), and unpopular Vern (Jerry O’Connell)—as they go off in search of a local boy who has gone missing. At once nostalgic and full of regret, Stand by Me has lost none of its power.
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Donnie Brasco (1997)
In this underrated Mob drama, FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone (a wonderfully understated Johnny Depp) goes undercover to infiltrate New York City’s Bonnano crime family in the late 1970s. Adopting the persona of jewel thief “Donnie Brasco,” Pistone strikes a friendship with Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), an aging low-level gangster who sees in “Donnie” the son he never had.
Five-year-old Saroo is separated from his older brother and finds himself trapped in a decommissioned passenger train that takes him to Calcutta more than 1,500 kilometres away. Now orphaned and unable to remember the name of his hometown, Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Years later, Saroo, now a college student (Dev Patel) in Melbourne, is determined to find the family he left behind.
Molly’s Game (2017)
In Molly’s Game, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin brings his acerbic wit and trademark rapid-fire dialogue to the world of poker. Jessica Chastain plays real-life figure Molly Bloom, a former professional skier who later ran an exclusive poker game for a celebrity, banker and gangster clientele. Idris Elba shines as her by-the-book lawyer, as does Kevin Costner as her therapist father, but it’s Chastain who steals every scene as she charts Bloom’s unbelievable rise-and-fall.
In 1968 and ’69, an unidentified man killed five people in the San Francisco Bay Area, all the while taunting authorities by sending letters, cryptograms and bloodied clothing to local newspapers. Zodiac depicts the complex manhunt surrounding the case and follows Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle who becomes obsessed with finding out the killer’s identity. Superbly acted, meticulously crafted and often very gruesome, Zodiac lingers long after its haunting final scene.
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After fighting abroad in WWII, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), a white man, and Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), a Black man, return to the Mississippi Delta farm that their families both share. Traumatized by their experiences in battle and frustrated with the racism of the place they call home, the two strike a meaningful but uneasy friendship. Boasting astonishing cinematography and strong performances, Mudbound is a powerful reminder of the brutal realities of the Jim Crow South.
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On July 15, 1974, 29-year-old reporter Christine Chubbuck drew a revolver during a newscast and shot herself—it was the first suicide ever caught on live television. Rebecca Hall stars as Chubbuck, a brilliant journalist whose skill in the workplace masks her tumultuous private life and disintegrating psyche. Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Tracy Letts (Lady Bird) co-star.
Aiming to secure equal voting rights for Black Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) leads three protest marches in 1965 along the highway from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery. The Oscar-winning Selma dramatizes this dangerous campaign, which culminated in President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act.
Private Life (2018)
Middle-aged couple Richard (Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) have been trying to have a child for years—they have faced multiple failed attempts at artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, while a teenager whose baby they hoped to adopt has stopped contacting them. Things are looking hopeless, until the couple’s 25-year-old niece, the bohemian Sadie (Kayli Carter), agrees to provide a donor egg to Rachel. Wonderfully acted and remarkably written, Private Life is a poignant look at the desire to start a family.
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Fed up by his team’s mediocrity and tight budget, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) realizes he will have to outsmart richer clubs in order to succeed. To accomplish this, he joins forces with Yale economics grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and begins using complex statistical data to recruit cheap—but effective—players. Both a loving tribute to baseball and a scathing critique of its glaring flaws as a business, Moneyball is pitch-perfect drama.
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The Two Popes (2019)
In the aftermath of a scandal exposing alleged corruption within Vatican City, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), the archbishop of Buenos Aires, travels to Rome to deliver his resignation. Instead, he’s summoned by Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins), who confides in Bergoglio that he plans to abdicate the papacy and name Bergoglio his successor. Behind closed doors, the two men must confront their fears, doubts and pasts to guarantee the future of the Catholic Church.
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