25 Best Drama Movies of All Time

Dramatic films are usually a good choice for those who like to immerse themselves in exciting stories and put themselves in the characters’ shoes.

This genre of cinema usually features profound narratives that involve existential dilemmas, bringing tears to the eyes of those who watch it. That’s why we selected recent and old productions that have enchanted the public.

1. Tar (2023)

Tár tells the story of Lydia Tár, a musician who achieved enormous success in her career, becoming the first woman to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic.

She is at the peak of her career as a conductor, but something in her personal life is starting to go wrong, which could ruin everything.

A must-see drama about power, manipulation and secrets revealed.

Where to watch: Claro TV+, Google Play

2. Drive My Car (2022)

This is a drama directed by Japanese filmmaker Ryūsuke Hamaguchi. It is an adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami and tells the story of Yusuke Kafuku, an actor and theater director who, after losing his wife, must deal with grief.

He decides to direct a play in Hiroshima, where he meets a young driver with whom he establishes a delicate and simple relationship.

Where to watch: Claro TV+

3. The Favourite (2019)

Scene from the movie The Favourite

The Favourite is a period film by Greek filmmaker Yórgos Lánthimos and features big names such as Olivia Colman in the lead role, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.

Released in 2019, it can now be included on the list of the best dramas of all time due to its compelling and exciting narrative and Colman’s beautiful performance, which earned her the Oscar for best acting.

The plot takes place in 18th century England and shows Queen Anne weakened by a chronic illness while two women compete for her attention and influence in the kingdom.

Where to watch : Star+

4. Nomadland (2021)

Scene from the movie Nomadland

This film released in 2021 brings an innovative proposal at a certain point, as it presents a fictional story with some experienced actors and also “real” characters, that is, non-actors who are in fact inserted in the context addressed, playing themselves.

Directed by Chinese Chloé Zhao, it premiered in early 2021 and showcases the precarious – and free – way of life of people living in trailers in the USA .

It tells the story of a widow, played by Frances McDormand, who decides to live her grief in a nomadic way and has important encounters with other people along the way.

A beautiful production that won the Oscar for best film and best actress.

Where to watch : Star+

5. Central Station (1998)

One of the most exciting and successful Brazilian films is Central Station . Made in collaboration with France, it was directed by Walter Salles and released in 1998.

The heavyweight cast includes Fernanda Montenegro and Marília Pêra, as well as the young debutant Vinícius de Oliveira.

The feature film was very well received by the public and critics, being considered a masterpiece of national cinema and receiving an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award.

The story begins at the Central train station in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. Dora is a bitter woman who makes a living writing letters to illiterate people.

One day, life puts Josué, a boy who has just lost his mother, in their path. So, the two begin a journey through the interior of Brazil in search of the boy’s father.

A true classic that shows the reality of the Brazilian people in a human and moving way.

Where to watch : Globoplay

For an analysis of the film, read: Film Central do Brasil, by Walter Salles .

6. Me: Daniel Blake (2016)

I: Daniel Blake is a co-production between the United Kingdom, France and Belgium released in 2016 and directed by British director Ken Loach .

Actor Dave Johns plays Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old man who, after a serious health problem, is advised by his doctor to take time off work.

However, Daniel is unable to obtain authorization from his employer for the leave and is denied financial benefits. Thus, the protagonist begins a true saga in search of his rights .

The film was a box office success in the United Kingdom and won the important Cannes Film Festival, taking home the top prize, the Palme d’Or.

Where to watch : HBO Max, Globoplay

7. The Green Mile (1999)

Scene from the movie The Green Mile

Based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, The Green Mile is a 1999 American production directed by Frank Darabont that combines the genres of drama, crime and fantasy.

Starring Tom Hanks, it tells the story of Paul Edgecomb, a former prison employee who witnessed improbable and fantastic situations while accompanying prisoners who were about to be executed with the death penalty.

The plot is impactful due to its potential to awaken empathy in the audience and provide an emotionally intense experience.

The film received several Oscar nominations and other highly recognized awards.

Where to watch : Google Play, Amazon Prime Video

8. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

Fried Green Tomatoes was a hit in the 90s. The North American production was directed by Jon Avnet and stood out for its dramatic and humorous character.

The story is narrated by Ninny, a lady who lives in a nursing home and befriends Evelyn, a housewife in marital crisis.

It is a narrative that addresses several sensitive issues, such as the loss of a loved one and violence against women. But the main theme is friendship between women , today called sisterhood.

9. Marriage Story (2019)

Released at the end of 2019 on Netflix, Marriage Story is directed by American Noah Baumbach and features Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in the roles of Nicole and Charlie, a couple who are going through a painful separation.

This is a film that shows us both sides of a divorce that, at first, would be done amicably, without the interference of lawyers. However, due to the complicated moment and the emotional turmoil, things do not go exactly as planned.

Unlike other romance and drama films, here we can see how love ends between two people who built an important story, had a child and now need to restructure themselves to be able to continue a friendship and raise the boy in harmony.

She was nominated for important awards in several categories, winning the Oscar and the Golden Globe for best supporting actress.

Where to watch : Netflix.

10. Dancer in the Dark (2000)

Scene from the movie Dancer in the Dark

A film that will make you cry your eyes out, that’s the musical drama Dancer in the Dark , released in 2000. The big star of this production is the Icelandic Björk , who presents us with a show of sensitivity and interpretation.

The film is directed by famous Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier and tells the story of Selma, a Czech immigrant who lives humbly in the USA with her son in the 1960s.

The girl works in a factory and hides a serious vision problem that gets worse throughout her life. To prevent her son from developing the same disease, Selma saves money with great effort to pay for surgery for the boy.

The protagonist’s hard life is crossed by hallucinations at every moment, in which people perform choreographies and sing at various moments. The songs are written by Björk.

The feature film was so well received that it accumulated important nominations and awards such as the Palme d’Or, in addition to being marked as one of the saddest and most emotional films in the history of cinema.

11. The Language of Butterflies (1999)

Scene from the film Butterfly's Tongue showing a group of children with an elderly teacher

La lengua de las mariposas is the original name of this Spanish film by José Luiz Cuerda , released in 1999.

It takes place in the interior of Spain in the moments leading up to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

In it, we follow the life of Mocho, a boy whose teacher is a kind and sensitive man who teaches his students important values ​​such as respect for others. Don Gregório, the teacher, is a defender of democracy, as are Mocho’s parents.

Everything is going well in the small town, until fascism takes over the streets and the boy sees his life change.

A moving film that presents political and social issues from a sensitive and childlike perspective.

12. Back (2006)

The filmmaker behind the feature film Volver is the Spanish Pedro Almodóvar , known for his dramatic and intense films.

The production premiered in 2006 and shows us the life of Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), a woman who works several jobs to support her teenage daughter, while her husband has alcohol problems and harasses the girl. The plot also explores other female characters in Raimunda’s family, involving viewers in a narrative full of secrets.

This is another brilliant work by Almodóvar, which addresses issues such as forgiveness and trust between women . All this in the midst of a vibrant and colorful atmosphere, as is the filmmaker’s trademark.

With a warm reception from critics and audiences, the film was heavily attended at several festivals and awards.

Where to watch : Netflix

13. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

movie scene The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption premiered in theaters in 1994 and was directed by Frank Darabont . This is another production based on a book by acclaimed writer Stephen King.

In the feature film, we witness the journey of Andy Dufresne, a young banker who is unjustly sentenced to life in prison accused of murdering his wife and her lover.

The drama is set at Shawshank State Penitentiary, where Andy befriends Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), a smuggler also serving a life sentence.

Even though the film was not a box office success at the time of its release, the reception from the public and critics was positive and it was nominated for seven Oscar categories and also for the Golden Globe.

It is recognized as one of the most relevant films of its generation, gaining prominence among audiences as one of the best dramas ever seen.

Where to watch : Google Play Movies, HBO Max

14. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Released in 2013, 12 Years a Slave is a co-production between the USA, UK and Luxembourg and was directed by Steve McQueen .

Based on Solomon Northup’s autobiography of the same name, the film is a drama that tells the true story of a freed black man in the United States in the mid-19th century, but who is kidnapped and enslaved for 12 years.

The film had a huge impact on the public and was well received by critics. Nominated for nine categories at the following year’s Oscars, it won three, including Best Picture.

Where to watch : Star+

15. The Pianist (2003)

A film by the famous Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski , The Pianist is from 2003 and a partnership between France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland.

The plot takes place in the late 1930s in Poland, when Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman is faced with the invasion of his country and the beginning of World War II.

The film is based on Władysław’s autobiographical book and tells his impressive story of how he faced various humiliations and tortures and managed to escape the war , hiding in ruined buildings in the city.

The film was nominated for an Oscar in seven categories, winning three. It was also shown at other important film festivals and is considered a masterpiece of the dramatic genre.

Where to watch : Amazon Prime Video

16. The 400 Misunderstood (1959)

scene from the movie The 400 Blows

This 1959 French film is a cult drama directed by famous filmmaker François Truffaut .

Originally titled Les quatre cents coups , the 99-minute feature film narrates the life of Antoine Doinel, a 14-year-old teenager who has problems at school , rebelling against the rigidity of the institution and also going against the authoritarianism of his parents.

The film was nominated for an Oscar and won at the Cannes Film Festival. It has become one of the classics of French cinema and brilliantly represents the nouvelle vague , a cinematic style developed in the 1960s.

17. Taxi Driver (1976)

Directed by Martin Scorcese , the North American production is from 1976 and stars Robert De Niro, in one of his best performances.

Travis Bickle is a 26-year-old who served in the Vietnam War and upon returning to New York finds himself lonely and disturbed .

As he suffers from insomnia, he decides to work as a taxi driver at night. Travis wanders around the city and rebels against the injustices he witnesses at night in the metropolis, taking controversial actions.

The feature film was received with praise by critics, being nominated for an Oscar and winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Where to watch : Google Play, HBO Max

18. Paris, Texas (1984)

The feature film Paris, Texas is a co-production between France and Germany. Released in 1984, it was directed by Wim Wenders , standing out in the career of the renowned German filmmaker.

The story follows Travis, a man who loses his memory and remains in a psychiatric hospital for four years, until his brother finds him.

Travis is welcomed into his home by his brother, reuniting with his son , who was abandoned by his mother. Thus, the two get closer and set off across the Texas desert in search of Jane, the boy’s mother.

The film is among the biggest hits of the 80s, receiving the Palme d’Or at Cannes, as well as other important awards.

Where to watch : Globoplay

19. Bagdad Cafe (1988)

Scene from the film Bagdad Café shows two women in a desert landscape

Bagdad Cafe ( Out of Rosenheim , in the original) is a comedy-drama by German filmmaker Percy Adlon . Its premiere was in 1988, being well received by the public and critics and becoming a cult film due to its artistic and sensitive character.

Jasmin Münchgstettner is a German woman who has just had a fight with her husband while they were traveling to Las Vegas. She then decides to jump out of the car and abandon her husband, who drives away without looking back.

That’s where her adventure begins. Alone, the woman walks along the dusty road and arrives at Bagdad Cafe, the name of a small, poorly maintained establishment on the side of the road. There she meets Brenda and other people with complicated lives. Jasmine’s presence there gradually changes everyone’s lives and her own.

A highlight of the film is the soundtrack, especially the song Calling You, by Jevetta Steele.

20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Scene from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest featuring Jack Nicholson

A 1975 drama film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a film by Czech filmmaker Milos Forman . The original title is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and was based on the 1962 book of the same name by Ken Kesey.

The plot tells the story of Randall McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a man who, after being arrested, pretends to have psychological problems in order to serve his sentence in a psychiatric institution , instead of doing forced labor in prison. However, his path in the institution follows a path that is not easy.

The production was well received and was nominated in nine categories at the 1976 Oscars, winning five. It also won many awards at the Golden Globes.

Where to watch : Google Play Movies

21. The Invisible Life (2019)

A 2019 Brazilian drama that has won over audiences is The Invisible Life , by Karim Aïnouz .

Adapted from the book A vida invisível de Eurídice Gusmão , by Martha Batalha from Pernambuco, the film is set in the 1950s and tells the story of two sisters who, due to a sexist and oppressive system, end up growing apart.

It is a moving narrative that addresses sensitive issues such as psychological violence , sexual violence in marriage, motherhood, as well as friendship between women and love between sisters.

The film had a good impact and was even nominated for an Oscar in 2020.

Where to watch : Google Play Movies

22. Hurt (2004)

scene from the movie Machuca shows children at a protest

The feature film Machuca was directed by Chilean Andrés Wood and was released in 2004.

It shows the friendship between two boys from different social classes in Santiago, Chile, in the 1970s. Pedro Machuca is a poor boy who gets a place in an elite school and meets Gonzalo there. The two develop a close relationship, despite the social gap that separates them.

This is a film that deals with the terrible past of the Chilean military dictatorship and the transition from Allende’s government to Pinochet’s, retelling its story in a moving way through a child’s eyes.

It received several awards and was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film.

23. Into the Sea (2004)

A sensitive and moving film about life and the right to choose, that’s Mar Adentro , by Chilean-Spanish Alejandro Amenábar .

Released in 2004, it presents a story based on real events as it narrates Ramón Sampedro’s fight for the right to euthanasia .

Ramón is a former sailor who, unfortunately, becomes quadriplegic after diving and hitting his head. So he spends his whole life trying to find a way to die with dignity.

The production was a success and received the Oscar for best film not in the English language and the Golden Globe for best foreign film.

24. Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Scene from the film Cinema Paradiso shows a boy looking at film negatives

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso is the original title of this 1988 French-Italian co-production.

Signed by Giuseppe Tornatore , the film can be seen as a beautiful tribute to the art of cinema and was very well received by the public and critics, winning the Oscar, Golden Globe and Cannes Festival.

The narrative goes through the memories of Salvatore Di Vita, a successful filmmaker who receives the news that Alfredo has died.

Alfredo was the projectionist at the cinema in his small town and was an important figure in his childhood. The two became friends and the boy developed his love for cinema inspired by the projectionist.

Where to watch : Google Play

25. The Hours (2002)

Scene from The Hours features Nicole Kidman

The Hours is directed by Stephen Daldry and is a production made by the United Kingdom and the United States. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham, the 2002 film tells the story of three women who live in different decades and have their lives crossed by the novel Mrs. Dalloway , by Virginia Woolf.

A work that is dedicated to investigating the psyche of totally different women , but who have many aspects in common.

The film won several awards, including the Oscar for best actress for Nicole Kidman, who plays Virginia Woolf.

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