By now Netflix has proven itself in the television landscape, being responsible for a plethora of shows that we not only love, but have been able to easily binge-watch in a weekend thanks to their full season release method. It’s safe to say the streaming service has revolutionized how we consume TV – in multiple ways.
The same can be said for specials and live comedy, but besides the odd standout film in it’s small repertoire of Netflix original movies so far (Beasts of No Nation we’re looking at you) no one has really come to the platform for its original film content. That is, until now. It’s evident the giant has quality film output set in its sights, with a Best Picture Oscar firmly (although distantly) in its sights.
Until now they’ve been fairly low key when it comes to Netflix original movies, but 2017 is the year they’re going to (at least attempt to) dominate the film world. From big buys at Sundance to standout directors (David Ayer, Bong Joon-ho, David Michôd) and superstar acting talent (Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Will Smith), Netflix is giving the big studios and distributors a run for their money. With some films garnering theatrical releases on top of streaming ones, the future of movie releases is here. Welcome to the revolution.
Director: Gerard McMurray
Release Date: March 10
What’s it about: A classic tale of fraternity hazing gone awry, a freshman is torn between speaking out or honoring the code of silence.
Why it’s worth your time: College hazing stories are nothing new, but Burning Sands offers a fresh take on the moral dilemma highlighting for the first time, black fraternities. A strong breakthrough performance from Trevor Jackson and Moonlight‘s Trevante Rhodes both offer heavyweight acting chops, while Netflix’s signature cinematic visuals shine.
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Director: Sydney Freeland
Release Date: March 17
What’s it about: Two sisters turn to train robbery in order to support themselves and their family, after their mother is arrested and put in jail.
Why it’s worth your time: Premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Netflix picked up the female-led film, adding to its already strong focus on female-driven content. Newcomers Ashleigh Murray and Rachel Crow offer lighthearted comedic relief, which the movie does well, never taking itself too seriously. It’s a fun romp through the realities of universal financial woes that most of us can undoubtedly relate to.
Director: Charlie McDowell
Release Date: March 31
What’s it about: Set in a near-future where the afterlife has been scientifically proven to exist, a couple navigate their time as more people are increasingly turning to suicide.
Why it’s worth your time: Yet another Sundance buy from the streaming service (Burning Sands was another), The Discovery has an intriguing plot that is only adding fuel to the recent speculative fiction fire (The OA, Stranger Things, the upcoming The Handmaid’s Tale). Reviews aren’t all hot, but the premise, talent attached – Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jason Segel – and burning questions we’ve got are enough to get us hooked.
Writer: Tsutomu Nihei
Release Date: May 20
What’s it about: Based on the classic anime by Nihei, Blame! follows human protagonist Killy, as he navigates a futuristic machine-built landscape known as The City, in search of a potentially extinct human genetic marker.
Why it’s worth your time: Anime is heating up for Western audiences, with Ghost in the Shell just one of the first Hollywood remakes lined up, but as with anything, the source material is always the purest. Creator Tsutomu Nihei is co-writing the script, while Polygon Pictures is in charge of animation, resulting in some slick visuals that should impress new and OG fans alike.
Director: David Michôd
Release Date: May 26
What’s it about: Based on late journalist Michael Hastings’ non-fiction book The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, it deals with the author’s travels with General Stanley McChrystal and his team in April 2010.
Why it’s worth your time: War Machine is a satire on America’s involvement in the War in Afghanistan, centered on “rockstar” Gen. Glen McMahon, played by Brad Pitt. It plays out as an absurdly funny take, but the underlying darkness comes from the fact it’s a true story and Hastings was somewhat suspiciously killed in a car crash last year, giving rise to many conspiracy theories. A big name cast and Animal Kingdom director David Michôd means it won’t disappoint.
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Release Date: June 28
What’s it about: A young girl does everything she can to save her best friend, a fantastical giant animal named Okja, from a mega-corporation.
Why it’s worth your time: Korean director Bong Joon-ho has been one to watch for some time, seamlessly melding reality with fantasy thanks to stellar CGI and an eye for its direction. Okja is a touching story that most of us can identify with, and is more important in today’s age of conglomerates than ever. Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and newcomer Ahn Seo-hyun bring the story to life alongside the animated Okja.
Director: David Ayer
Release Date: December 2017
What’s it about: A cop and an orc team up in a dystopian L.A., to find a highly sought after weapon.
Why it’s worth your time: Fury and End of Watch director (lest we bring up Suicide Squad) David Ayer is at the helm, so we can expect solid cinematic action. Rising writer Max Landis wrote the script, which is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre, jumping to a world where mythological creatures and humans co-exist. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton as leads alongside Noomi Rapace seals the deal.
If TV is more your thing, check out these 6 new original Netflix series you’ll be binge-watching next.