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The best original streaming movies on Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and more
Streaming services have invested huge sums in building their own libraries of original streaming movies. As the home-viewing market keeps growing, so do streaming-only film libraries. Virtually everyone’s getting in on the action. The old guard (like Netflix and Hulu) and newer players (like HBO Max and Apple TV Plus) are producing and acquiring some impressive titles. And they’re working with top filmmakers.
So, where to start? Which are the best films on Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video, and other major streaming platforms? What’s just filler? Read on for a breakdown of the best original streaming movies arranged by the streaming services where you can watch them.
Best original streaming movie: Da 5 Bloods
Featuring one of the late, great Chadwick Boseman’s final performances, Da 5 Bloods follows four Black Vietnam veterans reuniting in Vietnam in the present day. During the war, the unit stashed some gold they’d found. Now, they plan to collect the remains of their beloved squad leader’s remains and find their treasure. Spike Lee directs this richly layered war epic, which cuts back and forth in time to explore the lasting wounds of racism in America, the legacy of military imperialism, and the complicated bonds that form in wartime.
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Infectiously charming, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sees a shy teen suddenly thrust in the spotlight when her former crushes receive love letters she secretly wrote to them.
- Cam: When camgirl Lola loses control of her video channels to a mysterious doppelgänger, she has to figure out who’s doing this to her and how to regain control of her life and livelihood in this Hitchcockian mystery.
Best original streaming movie: Luca
Pixar’s Luca almost didn’t qualify for this list. The coming-of-age fantasy feature was all set for a theatrical release. Disney reassessed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Luca was released as a Disney Plus original streaming movie in June 2021. The film follows a young sea monster named Luca who takes human form when on land. Despite warnings from his parents, Luca, with his new friend Alberto, explores the nearby town of Portorosso on the Italian Riviera. Something of a re-telling of The Little Mermaid, with clear influences from Hayao Miyazaki, Luca is a heartwarming story and one of the best original streaming movies out there.
- Black Is King: Entertainment icon Beyoncé directs this stunning visual album that reimagines The Lion King as the story of a young African prince, exploring themes of Black culture and the African diaspora.
- Hamilton: You can watch a recording of the Tony Award-winning Broadway phenomenon — blending hip hop, jazz, and R&B to tell the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton — on Disney Plus.
Amazon Prime Video
Best original streaming movie: You Were Never Really Here
Director Lynne Shelton followed up her brilliant 2011 film We Need to Talk About Kevin with this Amazon Prime Video original film in 2017, an easy choice among the best original streaming movies. You Were Never Really Here follows a brutal contract killer who goes off-mission to rescue a young girl who has been sold into sexual slavery. Joaquin Phoenix is an absolute knockout in the main role as a man struggling with his troubled past and putting his grim skillset to good use in a disturbing, dark underworld.
- One Night in Miami: Academy Award-winning actress Regina King makes her directorial debut in this smart and powerful true story about a night when Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Malcolm X came together to discuss their successes amid the growing Civil Rights movement.
- The Neon Demon: A teen model is thrust into a seedy LA world where youth is worth killing for in this twisted fever dream from the director of Drive.
Best original streaming movie: No Sudden Move
When a simple robbery goes wrong in 1950s Detroit, a group of gangsters has to figure out who’s pulling their strings, how to get paid, and what the booming automotive industry has to do with it. No Sudden Move tackles corporate corruption, racial tensions, and honor among thieves in a stripped-down and gritty way. It boasts a stacked cast, including Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Craig Grant, Julia Fox, Frankie Shaw, Ray Liotta, and Bill Duke. Behind the camera are writer Ed Solomon and director Steven Soderbergh, who collaborate beautifully on one of the best original streaming movies on any service.
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League: A frankly bizarre bit of filmmaking (and marketing), Snyder’s extended director’s cut could really only ever have existed in the streaming age. And it’s frankly a huge improvement on the bland theatrical cut of The Justice League.
- Let Them All Talk: A famous author seeks to reconnect with old friends on her way to an awards ceremony in the UK in a film shot over two weeks on location aboard the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner.
Best original streaming movie: Palm Springs
You’d think the premise of Groundhog Day, where characters have to relive the same events again and again until they find a way to break the cycle, would get old. Miraculously, films and shows like Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, and Russian Doll have shown that there are, perhaps fittingly, endless ways to repeat the formula. You can add 2020’s Palm Springs to that list. This comedy, in which two strangers find themselves trapped at a wedding in Palm Springs, is a hilariously clever spin, with Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti bringing humor and heart to the increasingly chaotic nuptials.
- Minding the Gap: This deeply moving documentary follows three young skaters as they navigate their volatile home lives while on the precipice of adulthood.
- Happiest Season: Abby is excited to propose to her girlfriend Harper while they spend Christmas with Harper’s family. The only problem is Harper’s parents don’t know she’s queer. They think she’s just bringing a friend home for Christmas.
Apple TV Plus
Best original streaming movie: Wolfwalkers
The third part of Thomas Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” following 2009’s The Secret of Kells and 2014’s Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers isn’t just one of the best original streaming movies. It’s one of the very best films of 2020. New to Ireland, a young girl named Robyn befriends a Mebh, a free-spirited girl with the ability to release her spirit from her body in the form of a wolf. As Robyn learns to become a wolfwalker too, she’s suddenly at odds with her father. The gruff widower brought them to their new home to help hunt and kill the local wolf population. That could include Mebh, her mother, and now even Robyn.
- Greyhound: Tom Hanks leads a fleet of Allied warships in World War II, doing his best to fight off German U-boats while he waits for much-needed air support.
- Beastie Boys Story: Spike Jones directs this documentary, in which Beastie Boys Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz recount the history of the band, from their earliest days to the passing of bandmate Adam Yauch and beyond.