- In 2019 Netflix released countless original dramas, comedies, and thrillers to varying critical reception.
- The political documentary “Knock Down the House” and the animated film “Klaus” earned high praise from critics.
- Other Netflix originals, like the coming-of-age film “The Last Summer” and the comedy “Sextuplets” failed to merit positive reviews.
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Netflix released dozens of original films in 2019, with some getting better critical reception than others.
Here are 12 of the best and 12 of the worst Netflix original movies of the year.
Note: The scores listed throughout the piece were accurate at the time of publication but are subject to change.
The political documentary “Knock Down the House” was called energising.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Summary: In the political documentary “Knock Down the House,” director Rachel Lears follows the propulsive rise of four women – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin – during a contentious election season.
Critics admired the energetic nature and riveting message of “Knock Down the House,” saying that the documentary transcended political lines.
“Even if your views don’t align with the women in the film, there is something to be admired in all of them,” wrote Lana Stanczak for Film Inquiry. “The film will make you consider if you could take on your district’s most popular politician.”
Critics called “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” show-stopping.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Summary: “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” goes behind-the-scenes for Beyoncé’s memorable 2018 Coachella performance.
A mix of live concert footage and enlightening interviews, “Homecoming” is both a documentary and revealing glimpse into the star performer’s life.
Critics praised it for being an artfully crafted and “revelatory” music documentary.
“If you don’t get why Beyoncé is worshipped as a goddess, this glorious pop spectacle – part concert film, part myth-in-the-making – will fix that,” wrote MaryAnn Johanson for Flick Filosopher. “Enormously entertaining, and absolutely landmark.”
Reviewers hailed “American Factory” as eye-opening.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Summary: The Netflix documentary “American Factory” centres around a Chinese billionaire who staffs a new factory in the heart of Ohio with thousands of working-class Americans. A mix of optimism and hope for success gives way to intricate obstacles for the factory.
Film critics upheld the documentary as a non-biased and fully realised documentary about the nuances of the working-class world.
“It is, in essence, a scholarly, almost sociological treatment of the material, in a way that broadly speaks to the plight of these blue-collar workers, with an empathy that’s personal but not partisan,” wrote Brian Lowry for CNN.
Critics said Eddie Murphy shined in “Dolemite Is My Name.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Summary: Based on the life of Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) the film “Dolemite Is My Name” traces Moore’s career from struggling comedian to larger-than-life character actor as he brings the fictional Dolemite from stage to screen.
Critics praised the film’s take on the blaxploitation era of Hollywood, signalling out Murphy for his career-high performance as Moore.
“Murphy roars back into the cultural conversation and my heart with his flamboyant, exuberant and spectacularly entertaining performance,” praised critic CJ Johnson for Film Mafia. “I could easily take a Netflix series with an episode spent on the production of every one [of Moore’s films].”
“See You Yesterday” was praised for its compelling take on grief.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Summary: In the science-fiction drama “See You Yesterday,” tech-minded best friends CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) believe they’re close to mastering time-travelling technology.
But when CJ’s older brother Calvin is killed in an altercation with the police, CJ and Sebastian must use their unfinished time-travel tech to save him before it’s too late.
Reviews for “See You Yesterday” praised its poignant messaging and refreshing take on the science-fiction genre.
“‘See You Yesterday’ finds a striking-yet-natural balance between genre concept and a harsh reality that is achingly familiar to the people who have to navigate it every day,” wrote AV Club critic Shannon Miller.
“Marriage Story” was called a compassionate masterpiece.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Summary: In the drama “Marriage Story,” a stage director (Adam Driver) and his actress wife (Scarlett Johansson) go through a gruelling, heartwrenching divorce across coasts.
Reviews for the film praised its impressive script and talented cast.
“Johansson and Driver are remarkably, heartbreakingly good in every scene; showing their characters’ journeys to an unflinching camera, letting the gap between them get wider yet unable, for their son’s sake, to completely walk away,” wrote Moira MacDonald for Seattle Times.
Critics loved the drama “High Flying Bird” for its smart script.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Summary: Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the sports drama “High Flying Bird” focuses on agent Ray Burke (André Holland) as he navigates a deal during a pro-basketball lockout. With only three days to pull his deal off, Ray has to stay one step ahead of movers and shakers in the sports industry.
The drama earned positive reviews for its well-written script and slick editing style.
“‘High Flying Bird; is a heady movie, full of political thought about sport, entertainment, race and power,” wrote Jake Coyle for the Associated Press. “Rather than float on production value, it sustains itself on the tension of ideas, exchanged rapid-fire in gleaming office towers.”
Critics were floored by the animated film “Klaus.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
Summary: Netflix’s first full-length original animated film is all about the origins of Santa.
The story of friendship and self-discovery was praised for its stunning 2D animation and director Sergio Pablos’ impressive storytelling abilities.
“Destined to be added to the yearly holiday viewing rotation, Klaus is worth writing to Santa about,” wrote Courtney Small for Cinema Axis.
Critics said the music documentary “Rolling Thunder Revue” is filled with gems.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Summary: Equal parts a music documentary and a concert film, “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” is a look back at America in the 1970s and Bob Dylan’s place within it.
Assembled by director Martin Scorsese, the documentary features never-before-seen footage from an iconic year in music history.
Critics said “Rolling Thunder Revue” is a thrilling and “unmissable” documentary, even outside of the iconic concert footage.
“Thanks to some truly priceless moments captured behind the scenes and the beautifully restored picture and sound of the concerts, ‘Rolling Thunder Revue’ is essential viewing,” wrote Third Coast Review critic Steven Prokopy.
The documentary “Fyre” garnered critical attention for its take on the disastrous festival event.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Summary: Both a look back at the deliriously disorganized Fyre music festival as well as a take-down on the missteps of the uber-wealthy, the Netflix documentary “Fyre” seeks to disassemble what led to the failure of Fyre Festival from start to finish.
Critics called “Fyre” a stirring commentary on the social consequences of fraud and false advertising.
As Becky Kukla wrote for Digital Fix: “engaging, enraging and utterly absurd – Netflix’s “Fyre” festival documentary is an absolute must see.”
“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” renewed love for the original drama series.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
Summary: An epilogue to the “Breaking Bad” television series, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” takes place in the aftermath of the show.
As Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) tries to create a brighter future for himself, he first has to accept his dark past as a former drug dealer.
Critics showered “El Camino” with praise for reuniting the talents of writer-director Vince Gilligan and the acting power of Paul.
“Ultimately serves as a coiled and heartfelt tribute to Jesse’s powerful trajectory, and Paul’s own chemically active, emotionally reactive brilliance in one of our peak TV era’s defining series,” wrote Robert Abele for The Wrap.
“Beats” won over critics with its compelling leads.
Rotten Tomatoes score:
Summary: In the drama “Beats,” a teenage prodigy (Khalil Everage) forms a bond with a security guard (Anthony Anderson) over their love of hip-hop music. Together, the two try to break into the music scene in the South Side of Chicago.
Critics praised the coming-of-age film for its captivating acting performances, especially from Anderson and Everage.
Film critic Jeffrey Lyles said that “Beats” is like “stumbling onto a new album and just being able to go along for the ride without ever needing to reach for the skip track button.”
Alternatively, “6 Underground” was ripped apart by critics.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 34%
Summary: The Ryan Reynolds-led action film introduces a group of heroes from around the globe who are brought together to erase their pasts while changing the future.
“6 Underground” was ripped apart by critics for its incoherent plot and dull action sequences.
“The film is a pure expression of the id for a filmmaker who thrives on moving at 100 cuts per second; for everyone else, as the expression goes, your mileage may vary,” wrote Marshall Shaffer for The Playlist.
“The Silence” was called uninventive and charmless.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 32%
Summary: In the science-fiction drama “The Silence,” young Ally (Kiernan Shipka) attempts to find safety with her mother and father (Stanley Tucci) as the world is overrun by creatures that hunt their prey by sound. As they wait out the monster invasion, they soon realise the people they’re hiding with seek to exploit their daughter, who is deaf.
“The Silence” earned little praise from critics who felt that the talents of the cast were wasted on a film that lacked creativity.
“Whether you’re a horror fan who enjoys jump scares, gore, monsters, or a sharp social commentary, Netflix movie ‘The Silence’ will satisfy none,” wrote film critic Deirdre Molumby.
Critics said “IO” suffered from a weak script and plodding pace.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 31%
Summary: In the science-fiction drama “IO,” Sam (Margaret Qualley) is one of the last people left on Earth following a global crisis.
Desperate to save the dying planet from itself, Sam begins to change her mind following a chance encounter with fellow survivor Micah (Anthony Mackie).
Despite Mackie’s and Qualley’s best attempts to keep the movie afloat, critics blamed poor reviews on “IO’s” lagging pace and limp script.
“A forced romance, lacklustre execution, and a tendency to pander to its audience makes ‘IO’ come up far shorter than it otherwise could have been,” said David Fontana for Film Inquiry.
Critics likened “Secret Obsession” to a formulaic Lifetime movie.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 31%
Summary: Waking up from a traumatic accident, Jennifer (Brenda Song) can’t recall memories from her former life. Thankfully her husband is there to take her home and care for her, but as the days go by Jennifer becomes convinced that someone sinister is watching her every move.
Critics panned “Secret Obsession” for being formulaic and predictable, but some acquiesced that the film at least seemed self-aware of its failings.
“This is a pretty bad movie, but it seems to be bad in the way it’s meant to be bad,” Linda Holmes said for NPR. “It’s cheerfully trashy, and if that’s up your alley, have at it.”
The drama “Red Sea Diving Resort” fell flat with critics.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 30%
Summary: Loosely based on an inspiring true story, the Netflix drama “Red Sea Diving Resort” follows the harrowing mission of two agents – Ari Kidron (Chris Evans) and Kabede Bimro (Michael Kenneth Williams) – as they smuggle thousands of refugees from Sudan to Israel.
Critics praised the messaging of the story but felt that it got muddled amongst poor plotting and stiff characters.
“The Red Sea Diving Resort is built around a narrative with massive potential, but the movie never quite delivers, reducing it to a film that is merely adequate,” wrote Natasha Alvar for Cultured Vultures.
Critics said the thriller “Rattlesnake” lacked any real thrills.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 29%
Summary: In the suspense thriller “Rattlesnake,” Katrina (Carmen Ejogo) drives across the country with her daughter in an effort to strike out on her own and start a new life.
After Katrina’s daughter wanders into the desert and is bitten by a venomous rattlesnake, a mysterious woman helps heal the child – but the miracle comes at a steep cost.
Critics said the film found a slight ounce of redemption through the effort of lead actress Ejogo, but her rousing performance couldn’t save the film from being directionless and dull.
“Ejogo is an undeniably talented actor who has delivered strong turns in genre fare before, but she’s adrift here, stuck with a character devoid of specificity and personality,” wrote Benjamin Lee for the Guardian.
Critics felt “Otherhood” wasted the talent of its lead actresses.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 26%
Summary: In the Netflix comedy-drama “Otherhood,” three mothers with adult children decide to take Mother’s Day into their own hands after they feel forgotten by their family members. Their spontaneity takes them on a road trip to New York City to forge stronger relationships with their kids.
Critics noted the presence of notable actresses like Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman in “Otherhood” but felt that the film fell short with its script and vision.
“[W]atching ‘Otherhood’ leaves audiences feeling secondhand embarrassment, not only for everyone’s cringe-worthy behaviour on screen but also for these lauded actresses who both starred in and executive produced this subpar film,” wrote Kimber Myers for the Los Angeles Times.
The family film “Rim of the World” failed to inspire critics.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 25%
Summary: Away at a summer camp, four kids find themselves at the forefront of an alien invasion in the action-adventure film “Rim of the World.” The friends realise that the safety of the world is in their hands as they band together to stop a global threat.
Critics noted that the fare was built for younger audiences, but still felt that “Rim of the World” was lazy in its execution from pre-production to post.
Felix Vasquez Jr. of Cinema Crazed described the film as a “grating, painfully awful movie that seems to work against everything that makes movies of this ilk so entertaining.”
“A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby” disappointed viewers who’d been following the franchise.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 25%
Summary: The third film in this series follows Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) as they prepare to welcome their first child while dealing with political problems and ancient curses.
But overall, critics felt that this holiday film lost the charm that its sequels had.
Alicia Gilstorf wrote for Tell-Tale TV, “Don’t expect to be rewarded for making it to the end because the luck and charm that carried the first film to stardom are nowhere to be found by the time the credits roll.”
Critics called “Polar” lurid and poorly directed.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 20%
Summary: In the thriller “Polar,” infamous assassin Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) finds himself being pulled back into the life of contract killing as he tries to leave that world behind. After his old firm places a bounty on his head, Vizla goes head-to-head with younger assassins who try to take him out.
Film reviewers criticised “Polar” for being a chaotic, messy film that is nearly unwatchable.
“‘Polar’ is almost two hours of sensory overload that attempts to be a slick and gritty thriller but comes off as a brash, cluttered and crude film,” wrote Carolyn Mauricette for Cinema Axis.
Critics felt “The Last Summer” failed to add anything new to the coming-of-age genre.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 17%
Summary: After graduating from their senior year of high school, a group of teenagers tries to make the most of their last summer before adulthood sets in. As some mend broken hearts, others fall in love for the first time, all while the reality of their futures starts to take hold.
Overall, critics were unimpressed with the ensemble romantic comedy, citing its lack of charm and originality as its biggest flaws.
“Netflix’s ‘The Last Summer’ is a hodgepodge of better teen movies, failing to say anything new or poignant about the transitionary period to adulthood,” wrote Molly Freeman for Screen Rant.
The comedy “Sextuplets” lacked laughs.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 14%
Summary: In the Netflix comedy “Sextuplets,” Alan (Marlon Wayans) learns that he was born a sextuplet and sets out on a road trip to find his estranged siblings. As Alan learns more about his brothers and sisters, he learns more about himself as well.
Some critics were at a loss for words over “Sextuplets,” with most panning the film for being humorless and mean-spirited.
“Why did Netflix make this?” asked film critic Grethe Kemp for City Press. “Who, besides Wayans and director Michael Tiddes, thought this was a good idea? I cannot answer this, dear reader. I may never be able to.”