Best Netflix drama movies: stream these top flicks in Australia right now

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
(Image credit: Netflix)

We're serious cinephiles here at at TechRadar. It's not all about Star Wars around here – we enjoy a good tear-jerker, too. 

It probably won't surprise you to hear that there's a vast number of sensitive drama films streaming on Netflix Australia right now, so we've taken the liberty of picking some of the best ones for your enjoyment. 

These are films that approach serious subject matters with a sense of weight and gravitas. Some are based on true events, while others are entirely fabricated. So grab a hanky and get ready for a heavy night in with the best Netflix drama movies.

For everything else, you can check out our full list of the best movies on Netflix in Australia.

Concrete Cowboys

Inspired by the real-life Fletcher Street Stables, Concrete Cowboy is a wonderful coming-of-age film about a 15-year-old named Cole (Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things fame) who is sent to live with his estranged father (Idris Elba) in North Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to Cole, his father is part of an urban cowboy subculture which is facing extinction due to gentrification.

IMDB Rating: 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

Watch Concrete Cowboy on Netflix right now

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Nominated for six Oscars, acclaimed writer-director Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7 is based on true events surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, and the aftermath which saw seven peaceful protestors unjustly placed on trial for various charges. Like all Sorkin scripts, expect equal amounts of witty repartee and dramatic grandstanding, along with tremendous performances from the likes of Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sasha Baron Cohen.

IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix right now

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Featuring the late Chadwick Boseman's final performance, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a remarkable, fact-based drama that retells the events surrounding an infamously tense recording session in which "Mother of Blues" Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) locked horns with her ambitious horn player, Levee (Boseman) and the white management trying to control her. Nominated for five Oscars, including a posthumous Best Actor nod for Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a soulful, music-filled drama that deserves your attention.

IMDB Rating: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Watch Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on Netflix right now

Da 5 Bloods

Arriving at seemingly the perfect time, right in the middle of a paradigm-shifting cultural movement, Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods feels ripped from the headlines, even as it weaves a story about five African-American vets who return to Vietnam as old men. In dealing with the experience of black GIs drafted into an immoral war, Da 5 Bloods get right to heart of issues that are still prevalent today. That it manages to do so while simultaneously acting as an action-packed (and surprisingly violent) film about buried treasure is a testament to Spike Lee's mastery as a filmmaker. Sure, Da 5 Bloods is at times messy and raw by blockbuster film standards, but Lee has never been concerned with perfection – he's a director who aims for emotional truth, with the urgency of someone who will tell you how he feels in pure, unfettered form.

IMDB Rating: 6.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Watch Da 5 Bloods on Netflix right now

Marriage Story

A heartbreaking (and surprisingly funny) film that details a messy divorce from both sides, Marriage Story feels like writer/director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) publicly working through the emotional minefield of his own relationship breakdown as a means of therapy. Featuring a razor-sharp script that feels painfully real, the film is backed by career-best performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, who somehow leave us rooting for both sides and hoping that both parties just find happiness. 

IMDB Rating: 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Watch Marriage Story on Netflix right now

The Irishman

Netflix's original film The Irishman may very well be the most ambitious picture of director Martin Scorsese's celebrated career. In order to tell the story of real-life hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and his interactions with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) over multiple decades, Scorsese employed a team of VFX artists to de-age his cast. More than just another gangster movie, the funereal latter portion of The Irishman indicates an older director and cast pondering their own mortality through the story's doomed characters. If you're put off by the film's length, don't be – The Irishman's three-and-a-half hour runtime practically flies by, and you're likely to be glued to the screen the entire time. It is what it is. 

IMDB Rating: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Watch The Irishman on Netflix right now

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Some people will say that Breaking Bad, which had about as perfect an ending as a groundbreaking TV show can have, didn't need a follow-up. Sure, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie isn't strictly necessary, but we'll gladly spend more time with these characters. In this Netflix Original event from series creator Vince Gilligan, we catch up again with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), who's now on the run following the events of the violent series finale. Yes, you will see a number of familiar faces in El Camino, which essentially plays out like an especially cinematic double episode. In our opinion, El Camino is a fantastic bookend to one of the greatest series of all time, and fans should be more than grateful for the opportunity to revisit this world.

IMDB Rating: 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

Watch El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie on Netflix right now

The Dirt

If Bohemian Rhapsody was a little too sanitised for your liking, you may want to check out The Dirt, an unflinching music biopic about glam metal outfit Mötley Crüe that revels in the debauchery of the band's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle in the 1980s. Never shying away from Mötley Crüe's more outrageous (and utterly disgusting) antics, The Dirt explores the highs and lows of being a rock star with no sense of self control in regards to partying, women and hard drugs (the film's Ozzy Osborne scene is particularly revolting). Be warned, the film rivals The Wolf of Wall Street when it comes to sex, nudity and drug use, often feeling seedy and exploitative in its portrayal of women (almost every female character in the film is a disposable groupie or horrible person). That said, when viewed as a time capsule of a particularly crazy moment in music history, The Dirt is immensely watchable. 

IMDB Rating: 7.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 42%

Watch The Dirt on Netflix right now

The Highwaymen

Famous bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde have been immortalised in popular culture thanks in large part to the classic 1967 film about their exploits, but what about the lawmen responsible for ending their killing spree? Netflix's new original film The Highwaymen aims to tell their story once and for all. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson star as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, two real-life Texas Rangers who are brought out of retirement with one goal in mind – to find Bonnie and Clyde and put them down for good. Despite being divisive amongst critics, The Highwaymen features terrific performances, assured direction and beautiful cinematography, giving this story the prestige film treatment it deserves.

IMDB Rating: 7.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 53%

Watch The Highwaymen on Netflix right now


An astonishing ode to motherhood in all forms, Roma is the most personal film to date from visionary director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Gravity). On paper, Roma is not the easiest sell – a subtitled black and white film about a live-in housekeeper spoken almost entirely in Spanish and the indigenous Mixtec language, Cuarón's latest is nonetheless riveting from a cinematic standpoint. More a series of vignettes than a traditional three-act story, Roma examines the life of a Mexico City family in the early 1970s during a time of great social upheaval. Described by Cuarón as 90% autobiographical, the film provides some insight into the famous director's early life, although the story is witnessed primarily through the eyes of his caretaker, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who would become a loved member of the family. One of the most gorgeously photographed films of the year, Roma deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. Shot entirely in 65mm, Roma would make for an ideal theatrical experience. However, if that isn't an option, you won't be disappointed by the Roma's breathtaking 4K Ultra HD presentation on Netflix – just make sure you keep tissues on hand, because it's very likely you'll shed a few tears during the film.

IMDB Rating: 8.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%


Your Name

A worldwide phenomenon, Your Name is the highest-grossing anime film of all time — that's right, bigger than any Studio Ghibli film or science fiction blockbuster. That a simple story about a young girl from a rural town switching bodies with a young man from bustling Tokyo hit such a cord with audiences is a testament to the heartfelt writing that helps bring these animated characters to life. Makoto Shinkai's film is the kind that will have you laughing one moment, then crying the next. A joyful and beautiful love story told in a unique and cerebral way, Your Name is one of the true anime masterpieces, sitting alongside the likes of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away and the legendary Akira.

IMDB Rating: 8.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Beasts of No Nation

As Netflix's first original movie, Beasts of No Nation had a lot to prove. The VOD scene had traditionally been associated with low budget indies and D-grade horror films, but with Beasts of No Nation, Netflix managed to convince people that high quality (dare I say, Oscar-calibre) films could be streamed at home and shown in theatres at the same time. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective season 1), Beasts follows the loss of a child soldier's innocence as he's forced to do unspeakable things. The film hits like a sledgehammer, never shying away from the brutality and horror experienced by this young boy (played masterfully by newcomer Abraham Attah). Equally powerful is Idris Elba's portrayal as the boy's remorseless and despicable commander. Though not what you'd call a crowd-pleaser, we hope that Netflix continues to bring us brilliant films like this.

IMDB Rating: 7.8, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%


Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer) is an eclectic filmmaker, and his latest work, Okja, is in a genre all of its own. Is it an adventure film? Is it science fiction? Is it a drama? Is it a fairy tale? Is it satire? The answer is... all of the above. With a style that's somewhere between Spielberg and Miyazaki, the film follows a young Korean girl's quest to rescue her best friend Okja, a super-pig that was created by the multi-national conglomerate Mirando Corporation for the purposes of consumption. Flipping between heartbreaking and joyful at the drop of a hat, Okja is an emotional roller coaster of a film that may well have you reconsidering your dietary choices. 

IMDB Rating: 7.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.