Netflix continued to dominate the television industry in 2018, coming out on top with 112 nominees at last year’s Emmy Awards, and boasted more than 60 original films released this year (and counting). From comedies to dramas — and its fair share of documentaries — a tidal wave of strong, original content coming from the streaming platform continues to make it more and more difficult for us to leave the couch.
So, for those of you with no reservations about continuously filling in those perfected couch grooves, here is a list of the great original films Netflix released in 2018:
In an unexpected pivot from their usual comedic roles, James Franco and Abby Jacobson play a heroin addict and his loving-yet-enabling sister in this heartfelt drama. Barely feature-length at 71 minutes, 6 Balloons follows the siblings over the course of one night after Katie (Jacobson) finds out her brother Seth (Franco) has relapsed.
Written and directed by Marja-Lewis Ryan, the film is bleak in its deliverance of the grappling truths surrounding addiction, and poignant in its examination of unconditional love between family.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
As surprising as it may be for a teen rom-com to win over film critics across the board, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before did just that.
A big win for diverse leads in films, To All the Boys follows Lara Jean Covey, a half-Korean, half-Caucasian high-schooler in suburban America, as she navigates through the complicated events following the leaking of her secret love letters to five of her crushes. The role is winningly played by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Lana Condor, and offers an honest, endearing, and downright sweet take on the dating rituals of adolescence. In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of the ‘80s classics of John Hughes, but for the digital age.
Roxanne Roxanne is a biopic, co-produced by Pharrell Williams and directed by Michael Larnell, that explores the legendary beginnings of Roxanne Shanté’s career as rap’s first female star at just 14 years old. Coming out of the infamous Queensbridge Projects in Queens, New York, the talented battle-rapper shot to fame after igniting the Roxanne Wars — hip-hop’s first recorded beef — after recording a clapback with legendary hip-hop producer Marley Marl to U.T.F.O.’s hit single Roxanne, Roxanne.
Despite being out of the limelight for many years, the story of the pioneer who paved the way for names like Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, and Cardi B – to name just a few – was worthy of some current recognition; Netflix did just that – and did it in style.
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
This documentary feature by Oscar-winner and 20 Feet from Stardom director Morgan Neville centers around the last 15 years of filmmaking legend Orson Welles’ life, when he was an artist in exile. The film focuses largely on the long and laborious production of his magnum opus, The Other Side of The Wind, which was finally released posthumously this year.
Using more than 100 hours of raw material, this imaginative 122-minute cut is essential viewing for not just Orson Welles fans but any aspiring documentary filmmaker or film enthusiast. The Other Side Of The Wind was semi-autobiographical, and this intoxicating film compliments it perfectly while detailing the life and times of its subject.
The Kindergarten Teacher
Written and directed by Sarah Colangelo, The Kindergarten Teacher is an English remake of the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, a riveting psychological thriller about a disenchanted teacher living in Staten Island who becomes intrigued by a precocious 5-year-old boy in her class after reading his poetry.
Maggie Gyllenhaal shines in the role of Lisa, the self-deluded teacher and budding poet who, in some way, uses Jimmy, the artistic prodigy played by Parker Sevac, to live out her own dreams of becoming an extraordinary poet. The film explores the great lengths in which one will go to nurture the artistic pursuits of a child beyond what is deemed socially or ethically acceptable, as Gyllenhaal unravels and the child’s well-being comes into question.
Masterfully projecting the complexities of life as a struggling woman desperate to be heard, this film is bound to leave you affected. As Rolling Stone puts it, “for the filmmaker and her star, this movie is their poem.”