Drama is a weighty genre. The movies are marked by in-depth characters, convoluted plotlines, and emotions- a whole lot of them. To a certain extent, drama movies almost coincide with the word grave. And no matter how much drama we attract or evade in real life, there’s some charisma in the cinema industry that pulls us like a magnet.
However, drama movies have significantly evolved over time. The genre has taken many shapes and forms. It is no longer just lengthy pieces with tears and twists. So in this list, we have compiled the best drama movies of all time and types. Dark thriller, comedy, romance, or horror- our pick has it all.
The meticulously handpicked list has films from different ages as well- 90’s classics to 2010’s wonders. So enjoy this bias and spoiler-free ranking, crafted just for you!
Best Dark Drama Movie
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
At some point you’ve got to decide for yourself who you gonna be.
Moonlight is the first LGBTQ+ film and one with an all-black cast to bag the Oscars for the best picture. This accurate and stunning rendition of the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue is unsettling and compelling. Apart from the content, moreover, it is a cinematographic wonder.
Moonlight takes us in the shoes of a boy named Chiron through his youth, adolescent, and early adult phase. Raised by a single mother who is a victim of crippling addiction, Chiron has always sailed the roughest of tides. He struggles further with his sexuality and identity. And the mental and physical exploitation he faces from his mother and peers only makes his life more tumultuous.
The gripping and breathtaking movie is a must-watch, and we cannot stress it enough. The one suggestion we could give is to go in with an open mind. You might be disturbed, shocked, impressed, or revolted- but you will not be disappointed.
Best Docudrama Movie
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris
In 1970, NASA assisted Apollo 13- a mission to the moon, which they had to abort eventually due to technical difficulties. This launch was adapted into a book in 1994. Then in 1995, we were greeted with one of the best movies of all time about the same.
Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise are three brilliant astronauts aboard on the Apollo 13. It is the highly anticipated third Moon landing mission by America. On the third day of the task, an explosion derails their route and threatens their safety. What would have become a historic moment for the USA quickly turns into a survival struggle, and it’s nail-biting.
We’ve seen a significant number of space survival movies in recent times, but the technical accuracy and attention to detail in Apollo 13 puts many of them to shame.
Best Docu-Fiction Movie
Directors: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
Starring: Nick Cave, Susie Bick, Warren Ellis
Nick Cave is a bold, mysterious, creative, and charismatic musical icon. A day in his life, albeit fictional, cannot be anything lesser.
This film is a fictional account of the 20,000th day of Rockstar Cave’s life. It is a typical day in his life- waking up, driving around in his Jaguar, interviews, and much more. The whole thing is in the format of a documentary, but it is entirely artificial. It is intimate and has a curiously seductive feel to it.
The playful yet intimate account is entertaining through and through. It’s not an all-encompassing glimpse into the star’s life. But we think that this glitzy enigmatic version is all the better!
Best Comedy Drama Movie
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet
Though the movie was a solo debut for Gerwig, her skill is at its most glorious display. We only pray that it’s not beginners’ luck. The brilliant direction and production featuring now the household names of this genre like Saoirse and Chalamet make it a hilarious package.
Christen McPherson is a senior at a catholic high school, who voluntarily goes by the name of “Lady Bird.” She wishes to attend a well-cultured and elite school. But there are several odds against her, including her mother’s wishes. This difference in opinion further strains their already shaky relationship. Now, Lady Bird has to navigate school, potential love interests, a disturbed family, and career choices all on her own.
The film won Box Office, several awards, critical acclaim, and much more- we think it’ll steal your heart too.
Best Hyper-Drama Movie
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan
The MCU-DC tiff is a long-standing one. But if there is anywhere the two passionate fandoms meet, it has to be here. Black Panther is the first superhero movie to be nominated for the Best PictureAward, and rightly so. Not only is it cinematically excellent, but it also holds great cultural significance.
Wakanda is a secret city in the middle of Africa shielded to the outer world. Following his father’s death, T’challa is about to be crowned the king of this secluded kingdom. At first, it looks like he can easily slip onto the responsibility. But eventually, he learns that there are a lot of hardships associated with liability. The problems soar up as his throne is challenged by Killmonger.
MCU did not just make a superhero film with fights and action sequences with this one. It is culturally and contemporarily relevant, has a profound message, and is brilliant all over.
Best Light Drama Movie
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna
The Terminal is a feel-good movie about a guy stuck in an airport. It subtly addresses some socio-political issues that are very relevant right now, adding to the likability factor. But above all, it is full of heart and positivity.
The film is about an eastern European guy Viktor Airport stuck at the John F. Kennedy airport. His hometown is suddenly not recognized as an independent country due to the civil war outbreak. Consequently, he has no choice but to stay at the terminal. However, the customs director wants to get rid of him and does everything in his power to do so.
The Terminal is an innocent, funny, and heart-warming account of Tom Hanks living the everyday life in an airport. What’s not to love?
Best Satire Drama Movie
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf Aday, Jared Leto
Fight Club takes some apparent flaws of the times and dramatizes it on screen. It slaps the consumerist, lifestyle-oriented society and, to some extent, the construct of masculinity as well. A couple of critics might have found the movie unappetizing. But the flood of positive acclaims and public love it has garnered over time overshadow those few.
Edward plays an average working man discontented with his white-collar job. His life turns around when he meets a reckless and audacious soap salesperson. Together, they start an underground club. What began as a vent for frustration spirals into something much more intense, and real soon.
We might be breaking the first rule of the Fight Club. But it’s so good- how can we not talk about it?
Best Action Drama Movie
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
Logan is the final installment in the series of everybody’s favorite mutant, the Wolverine. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. It is undoubtedly one of the bloodiest, most-action packed and dramatic X-men movies of all time.
Several years into the future, there are only a few mutants alive. Logan is living his quiet retirement life in a secluded place when Laura, a child mutant, comes to him for help. Eventually, he finds other children who have been a victim of some cruel science experiments. Now, he needs to find a way to save himself and the rest of them.
Logan is oozing with war and action. But defying many norms, it is surprisingly nuanced and thought-provoking. Jackman has given his best to this last, and it is a sad, oddly mesmerizing ending.
Best Crime Drama Movie
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano
Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.
The Godfather is arguably one of the most iconic and best-made movies of all time. Critics put it in their top-five, audiences swoon over it, and everyone is pretty much a loving fan. It changed the cinema industry so much that the movie is now not just a name, it’s an adjective for awesomeness.
The Godfather chronicles the story of the crime family Corleones. It mostly focuses on Michales Corleone, played by Al Pacino- the role that made him THE Al Pacino. It tracks his rise from outside of the family to the position of a Godfather.
Whether Godfather two is better or one continues to be a matter of long debates. But considering the script, visual storytelling, and hundreds of reviews- the 1972 version grabs the top spot in our list.
Best Horror Drama Movie
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam
You don’t even need to wait for the movie to get the horror creeping up. The 6-minute trailer without any shot from the film will pique your interest enough. Unsurprisingly when the movie released, it shocked the world.
It is about a woman named Marian Crane, who embezzled 40,000$ from her employer and fled to the Bates Motel. Worried, her sister and lover come after her. In the motel, they meet Norman Bates, a handsome, charming man tortured by his menacing mother. Taking place in a remote location without any help within reach, it is a perfect horror thriller.
The way Hitchcock builds the suspense in the movie is unparalleled. No film after it can ever do the same again without being compared to Psycho.
Best Fantasy Drama Movie
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones
Pan’s labyrinth is a beautiful dark fairytale that pays homage to old myths and fantasies. And yet, it is entirely original, incredibly gripping, and very creative. It intertwines the two stories of a post-war reality and magic hidden in the woods.
Set in 1944, right after the Spanish War, the movie follows Ofelia. She is a young girl traveling with her pregnant mother to meet her stepfather. Eventually, she discovers a fantasy world hidden in the woods.
Filled with original imagery, folklore, and fantasy traditions, it takes on a journey as violent and cruel, and it is beautiful and compassionate. It is an unforgettable and unique experience where magic and reality combine to create a must-watch.
Best Thriller Drama Movie
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mia Kunis, Vincent Kassel
A recurring theme found in Darren Aronofsky’s movies is looking at how far addiction can take people. Black Swan examines how far one woman will push herself to achieve perfection. Natalie and Mia have given one of their best performances to bring us this sensational psychological thriller.
Nina (Natalie) is a naturally sweet and perfectionist ballet dancer. On her career journey, she is given the once in a lifetime role of Swan Queen. However, she has to play the right white and evil black. Being the perfectionist she is, she has to dig deep and struggle to enact the black swan. Mia Kunis, in the movie, is the exact opposite, and their encounter quickly turns dark and sexual.
The movie experience is slowly watching a perfectly healthy and adorable girl tip into the brink of insanity. The rich symbolism and some squeamish parts will stick with you long after the runtime.
Best Romantic Drama Movie
Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga
I hope it’s okay if I love you forever, Jack.
A Star Is born is the third remake of the original film (1937). In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper has blown the roof away. Additionally, the role feels like it’s tailor-made for Lady Gaga. The incredible storytelling and chemistry elevate this heartbreaking story to a new level.
The movie follows a rock country style singer who is nearing the end of his career because he can’t stop drinking. He comes across lady Gaga’s character singing in a bar one night. He is completely taken away by what she is doing and tries to get her involved in his performances.
A movie with great music, performances, and direction- it promises a highly rewarding career for all the debutants involved.
Best Sci-Fi Drama Movie
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Arrival buzzed with positive reception immediately after its release. To this date, it continues to be one of the best sci-fi movies overall. The fear of the unknown, coupled with dramatic life stories of the characters, makes it truly brilliant.
Several spaceships mysteriously land in different locations of Earth. No one knows why they are there, or whether they are dangerous or not. Amy Adams plays the role of a linguistic expert, and she is on board for the investigation. She, along with her team, has to interpret the strange alien language for the world.
Pre-watch advice? Go in as a blank slate, and pay attention to every single detail from the beginning. The film will just make more sense and becomes that much more excellent when you understand it thoroughly.
Best War Drama Movie
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes
Spielberg is one of the most celebrated directors of all time, and this movie is everything Spielberg. Holocaust is an incredible event. Remembering the event is incomprehensible on its own, forget about interpreting it into such a beautiful film. But Schindler’s list does not shy away for one bit. It is raw, disturbing, and breathtakingly beautiful.
The film tells the story of a German businessman Oskar Schindler who shielded over one thousand of his Jewish workers from the wrath of the third right. Spielberg’s epic vision trails polish jews into the concentration camps. The transformation of Schilder to a hero in the movie is one of the most masterful directions we will probably ever witness.
The movie got Speilberg his first and much deserved Oscar. It is not exaggerating to say that Schindler’s list has changed the discourse of Holocaust movies. The ageless drama is worth watching and re-watching.
These were our top fifteen picks for the greatest Drama movies of all time. But before we wrap up the list, it is essential to give the following masterpieces a noteworthy mention as well.
It is based on the author, who gave us one of the most beautiful fantasy dramas of all time- J.R.R. Tolkien. The movie focuses on the early years of his life through love, art, and friendship. The themes of courage, love, and fellowship are prevalent throughout the film. Despite a few changes natural to this genre, it remains loyal and faithful to the author. The film’s focus on drama is top-notch, making it an emotional and compelling watch.
Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca is one of the films you can hold up high among the examples of Classic Hollywood. It is a popular entertainment flick that is also art but is in no way pretentious. The story revolves around Rick, who owns a gambling den in Casablanca under the Nazi Occupation. His former flame comes around from his past, along with her new lover. Under the strict political climate, Rick has to go to their rescue. Dripping with romance, war, and melodrama, it is genuinely entertaining.
The movie stars Awkwafina as Billy, a young woman who learns that her Grandmother has a short time to live. She finds out that her entire family has decided not to give this news to the Grandmother, however. Instead, they arrange for a grand wedding so that everyone can come for one last visit.
It is quite a touchy subject, but The Farewell pulls it off exceptionally well without being sappy or far-fetched. It focuses on the little everyday details and is very heart-warming.
Citizen Kane is one of the most influential and highly talked about movies of all time. It opens with the death of Charles Foster Kane. This tycoon’s dying statement was “Rosebud.” When a newsreel recounts his fast-moving and scandalous life, that word doesn’t quite fit in place. The investigation brings forward several unheard and conflicting stories.
Orson Welles, who directed and acted in the movie at the young age of 25, created a massive wave in the cinema industry. And we can still feel the ripples today.
It is one of the first legendary movies to brush up on the sensitive topic of Mental Health. It was very controversial when it came out and still manages to unsettle some of the viewers today.
The film follows McMurphy, who does not want Prison Labor. To escape the penalty, he decides to fake madness. Once there, he creates a ruckus by retaliating against the authoritarian nurse.
The Cinema Industry has blessed us with an abundance of great Drama films. With so many sub-genres and movies to pick from, it was difficult to choose a few. We hope that our favorite entertainers keep blessing us with more of this goodness.
After all, like Hitchcock said:
What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?
What do you think? Are there any movies that you think we missed?
Let us know below!