25 Drama Movies on Netflix Canada You Need to Watch Right Now
From Oscar-winning epics to underrated indie fare, these dramas on Netflix Canada are emotional rollercoasters.
Photo: Elevation Pictures
The Nest (2020)
“He was tempted away by the American Dream; luckily for us, he got tired chasing that dream and wanted to come home.” That’s how we’re introduced to British commodity trader and yuppie wannabe Rory (Jude Law) during a lavish house party in the 1980s. What follows is the swift decline of the once exuberant O’Hara family, as Rory convinces his American wife (Carrie Coon) and two young children to relocate from New York City to Greater London in pursuit of untapped riches. A powerful meditation on class, marriage and self-deception, The Nest is Death of a Salesman for Thatcher’s England.
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Let Him Go (2020)
Diane Lane and Kevin Costner—who played the adoptive parents of Clark Kent in 2013’s Man of Steel—reunite in this underrated drama about an aging couple going to great lengths to protect their grandson. In 1960s Montana, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and homemaker Margaret (Lane) mourn the death of their only son, who left behind a wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and infant, Jimmy. Two years later, their daughter-in-law remarries, but the pair fears the worst when Lorna and Jimmy vanish without a trace.
Sound of Metal (2019)
One of the most acclaimed dramas of the last decade, Sound of Metal follows Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict who learns that he will permanently lose his hearing. Over time, he bonds with the housemates of a rural shelter for the deaf, but risks alienating his newfound family when he begins inquiring about cochlear implants. Expertly acted and technically dazzling, Sound of Metal is a humane look at an unfamiliar journey.
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Road to Perdition (2002)
Few mainstream crime dramas are as stone-cold as Sam Mendes’s Road to Perdition, a Depression Era-set tale that pits Irish Mob enforcer Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) against his boss, John Rooney (Paul Newman), and Rooney’s only son (Daniel Craig) after the latter commits an unspeakable act. More than just a beautifully-filmed period piece, Perdition is a poignant meditation on thieves and murderers, haves and have not’s, and fathers and sons.
The Wonder (2022)
“We are nothing without stories,” a narrator says at the beginning of The Wonder. It’s 1862, and a rural Irish village hires an English nurse, Elizabeth (Florence Pugh), for a special task: to simply watch and listen. The devout O’Donnell family have quite the tale, indeed: the young and healthy Anna O’Donnell (a sensational Kíla Lord Cassidy) claims not to have eaten anything in four months except “Manna from heaven,” and it’s up Elizabeth to determine if she’s a fake or a saint-in-the-making. (But as Elizabeth learns, Anna has a story of her own to tell.)
Photo: Universal Pictures
Jane Eyre (2011)
The bleak and moody Midlands of 19th century England provide the setting for one of English literature’s greatest romances. After a cruel childhood as an orphan, 18-year-old Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) becomes a governess at the eerie Thornfield Hall, and eventually falls for the even more mysterious master of the house, Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Jane Eyre has all the ingredients of a powerful adaptation: spellbinding performances, beautiful cinematography, and a central creation by Wasikowska that transcends the title character’s Georgian-era trappings. Charlotte Brontë would be proud.
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Photo: Entertainment One
Sleeping Giant (2015)
In his impressive debut feature, Hamilton, Ont., native—and frequent Schitt’s Creek director—Andrew Cividino returns to the place of his childhood summer vacations: Thunder Bay. In Sleeping Giant, named after the tall cliffs on Sibley Peninsula, bored teenager Adam Hudson (Jackson Martin) strikes up a friendship with troublemaker cousins Riley and Nate. The three spend their days hitting golf balls into the lake, jumping off cliffs and play-fighting, but after Riley learns that Adam’s father is having an affair with a local woman, the trio’s bond begins to unravel. Like 2014’s Boyhood, another stunning film that deals with adolescent aimlessness, Sleeping Giant proves that life’s lessons aren’t learned in a day—or a summer.
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Cold Mountain (2003)
A Confederate soldier (Jude Law) and a preacher’s daughter (Nicole Kidman) struggle to survive—and reunite—in this star-studded war drama, which recalls the romantic epics of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, their journeys bring to life an assortment of vivid characters, including Renée Zellweger’s Ruby Thewes, a self-sufficient mountain girl. The late writer-director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) adapts Charles Frazier’s bestselling 1997 novel of the same name, and the results are captivating.
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Molly’s Game (2017)
In Molly’s Game, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) brings his acerbic wit and trademark rapid-fire dialogue to the world of high-stakes poker. Jessica Chastain plays real-life entrepreneur 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.
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Photo: Columbia Pictures
The Age of Innocence (1993)
In 1870s New York City, aristocratic lawyer Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is engaged to marry May (Winona Ryder), a benevolent but naïve socialite. His loyalty to the strict social codes of the time is tested, however, when he falls for Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer), a soon-to-be-divorced countess—and May’s cousin. At once intimate and visually sumptuous, Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Edith Wharton is a heartbreaking depiction of romantic longing.
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Little Women (2019)
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has been adapted for the silver screen no less than six times…which begs the question, “What is there left to interpret in this classic coming-of-age story?” As writer-director Greta Gerwig—already a formidable presence in American cinema—proves with her 2019 iteration, quite a lot. The highs and lows of the four March sisters—Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)—are more or less the same, of course. This time around, however, Gerwig employs a non-linear device, while playing up the story’s humour and feminism. If only every book adaptation were as worthwhile as Little Women…
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Pieces of a Woman (2020)
The home birth of a young Boston couple, Martha (Vanessa Kirby, in an Academy Award-nominated performance) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf), ends in tragedy when the baby goes into cardiac arrest and dies. Martha’s family believes the couple’s midwife, Eva (Molly Parker), should be held responsible, and a lawsuit is filed; meanwhile, Martha and Sean’s relationship dissolves due to their shared grief. Bolstered by a trio of devastating performances, Pieces of a Woman is often a difficult watch—but it’s impossible to look away.
Photo: Netflix Canada
Lost Girls (2020)
After her 24-year-old daughter disappears and detectives dismiss the case, Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan), a blue collar single mother, promises to raise hell. But when news reports of the Long Island serial killer begin to gain traction, Gilbert is convinced her daughter was one of the victims. Directed by documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus and adapted from Robert Kolker’s best-selling non-fiction book, Lost Girls is a sobering, understated drama that lingers long after its unexpected final scene.
“What is life worth?” writes attorney Ken Feinberg (Michael Keaton, who’s becoming a master at playing real-life figures) on a chalkboard. The question has a double meaning: some time after the 9/11 attacks, Feinberg is put in charge of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, where he must calculate how much money goes to each of the 7,000 victims and, crucially, convince most of them to sign on. It’s rare for a film to make the machinery of bureaucracy feel so compelling and personal.
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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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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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Photo: Netflix Canada
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?
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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.
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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.
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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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.
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Photo: Netflix Canada
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, Moneyball is pitch-perfect drama.
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Photo: Netflix Canada
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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