Best dramas on IMDb TV

(Image credit: IMDb)

Whether based on a true story or offering a look into a part of life little seen, there are multiple ways to bring a compelling drama to the big screen. IMDb TV has plenty of examples of this ready to watch.

IMDb TV is the free, ad-supported (AVOD) streaming service from the website that bills itself as the Internet Movie Database. Offering some of the best movies and shows around, there’s plenty to enjoy in genres ranging from comedy, action, documentary and more, with new titles being added regularly. 

Here’s a look at some of the best dramas on IMDb TV right now. 

The African Queen (1951)

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, two of the biggest stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, only worked together one time, but it resulted in The African Queen, so they certainly made the most of it.

Directed by John Huston, Bogart stars as a drunken river boat captain who is persuaded by Hepburn’s missionary to attack the Germans during World War I. But the titular boat has more to worry about than Germans as it travels down a dangerous river.

The African Queen is Bogart’s lone win for Best Actor and is listed by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best films of all time.

American Hustle (2013)

David O. Russell had a one-two punch that could rival just about any filmmaker with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. The latter is an incredibly fun ensemble piece based on a real life con job that snagged a handful of government officials in the 1970s.

Christian Bale and Amy Adams star as the con artists who are forced by an ambitious FBI agent played by Bradley Cooper to create a scam at first just to go after some low level corrupt officials, but which quickly snowballs to involve gangsters, congressmen and senators. Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston, Michael Pena and Robert De Niro also star.

American Hustle received 10 Oscar nominations, and while it went home empty handed it remains a joyously rewatchable film.

The Artist (2011)

The Oscar Best Picture glow can fade quickly for some films, with one example being that of The Artist. After dominating the awards landscape in 2011, The Artist walked away with five Oscars, Picture, Director and Actor included. It didn’t take long though for some people to see it as a prisoner of the moment pick. That could be the case in terms of it winning Best Picture, but The Artist is a loving tribute to silent movies that shouldn’t just be considered an Oscar misstep.

Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, director Michel Hazanavicius and the immensely talented Jack Russell terrier Uggie captured the magic of silent films perfectly with the film and made it a box office smash, earning triple its budget with U.S. ticket sales.

Take away the Oscar and the charm of The Artist is still there.

Begin Again (2014)

John Carney is the patron saint of movies about the power of music, be it Once, Sing Street or, available for streaming on IMDb TV, Begin Again. Begin Again is Carney’s most star-studded film to date, with Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld, James Cordon and Adam Levine making up the cast.

The story stems from a chance encounter between a down-on-his-luck music producer and a recently single singer-songwriter whose song reignites his passion. Together they begin a collaboration that not only rocks out musically but puts them both on the right track.

It wouldn’t be a John Carney movie without an accompanying original soundtrack that you could listen to over and over again, including the Oscar-nominated original song “Lost Stars.”

Biutiful (2010)

Biutiful has been kind of lost in director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s portfolio because of his more recent films Birdman and The Revenant, but this foreign language film starring Javier Bardem is a beautiful and emotional film that is worthy to stand right alongside Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning works.

Bardem stars as a man dying of cancer, who tries to end his life as best he can for his family and himself. The actor is fantastic, earning a Best Actor nomination, and the film earned a Best Foreign Language Film nomination as well.

Blue Valentine (2010)

Blue Valentine, from director Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, is the opposite of a rom-com. It is a look at love and relationships that doesn’t hide the difficulties, but accentuates them.

While that definitely doesn’t sound as fun as the opposites attract and live happily ever after storyline you’ll find in a typical love story, Blue Valentine is an intimate and touching story anchored by a pair of great performances from Gosling and Williams.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

David Lean is responsible for some of the most epic movies in history, of which The Bridge on the River Kwai sits comfortably among. The film is not only considered one of the best World War II movies ever, but one of the best films ever made, full stop (it ranks as #36 on AFI’s 2007 Top 100 movies list).

The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the story of a group of British POWs led by Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), who are forced by the Japanese to build a bridge that would prove key in the war efforts. Meanwhile, Allied forces are devising a plan to blow the bridge up.

The film won seven Oscars, including for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Adapted Screenplay. In addition to Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai stars William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa, who would net a Best Supporting Actor nomination as the Japanese colonel.

Detroit (2017)

Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow was behind the camera for this fact-based story of the Algiers Motel incident set during the 1967 Detroit riots, where a group of police officers respond to a complaint call but quickly take the situation too far, killing three Black and beating nine other people.

John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, Jack Reynor, Samira Wiley, Kaitlyn Dever and Jason Mitchell headline the ensemble cast.

Detroit was overlooked at the box office when it was released (certainly not the happiest of movies), but it is a searing telling of the events.

L.A. Confidential (1997)

L.A. Confidential is the type of film that we don’t get a lot of any more — the $20-$40 million adult picture. L.A. Confidential is a prime example of what a shame that is as the film is a taut, entertaining, well-acted and well-directed crime thriller.

The film is an adaptation of the James Ellory novel of the same name and follows three 1950s Los Angeles police detectives each with their own style (strait-laced, tough and sleazy) investigating a series of murders involving corruption, prostitutes made up to look like movie stars and more.

Guy Pearce, Russell Crow, Kim Bassinger, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Danny Devito and David Strathairn star.

Lion (2016)

Based on a true story, Lion tells the story of a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost far from his home and is eventually adopted by an Australian family. As an adult, he takes on the challenge of trying to find and reconnect with his lost family.

Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, both Oscar nominated for their supporting roles (weird since Patel plays the adult version of the main character), star alongside Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Sunny Pawar. Garth Davis directed.

Get your tissues ready because there are plenty of tear-inducing moments in Lion.

Memento (2001)

If we’ve learned anything from Christopher Nolan’s filmography, it’s that he loves to play with time. His breakout film, Memento, is a prime example of this, as he tells the story backwards.

Memento follows Leonard, a man who has lost the ability to keep short term memories, as he tries to put the pieces together to find the man who killed his wife and gave him his condition. Of course, as a Nolan movie, expect a few more twists and turns along the way.

Christopher Nolan takes big, bold swings with his movies as much as anyone these days. Comparatively, Memento is a smaller film, but it still holds up and is considered among the director’s best works. 

Monster (2003)

Before Patty Jenkins successfully brought Wonder Woman to the big screen, she made her feature directing debut with Monster, an biopic on Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer that murdered seven men in 1989 and 1990. While at times sympathetic, Jenkins and company do not hold back in showing the darker side of Wuornos’ story.

Charlize Theron stars as Wuornos in a nearly unrecognizable performance that won her an Oscar for Best Actress. Christina Rici and Bruce Dern also star.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

One of the most beloved film adaptations of Jane Austen’s work, Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility is a beautiful rendition of the Dashwood sisters Elinor (Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet) as they attempt to navigate life and love in their own distinct ways following the death of their father.

Sense and Sensibility was Ang Lee’s first English-language directing job, and he had a great collaborator in Thompson, whose script would win an Oscar. He also had a cast that included Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Imelda Staunton, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Jones and Hugh Laurie.

Walk the Line (2005)

The music biopic genre was so prevalent in the mid 2000s that led John C. Reilly to effectively parody it with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. But that shouldn’t be a slight against the films it riffed on, including perhaps its most obvious connection, the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Cash and tells his journey from breaking into the music industry to his battle with addiction, through all of which he formed a deep connection with his future wife June Carter, played by Reese Witherspoon in an Oscar-winning turn.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? (1993) 

Legendary musician Tiny Turner got the biopic treatment with the film What’s Love Got to Do With It, which saw Angela Bassett play Turner and Laurence Fishburne star as Ike Turner. The film was directed by Brian Gibson.

What’s Love Got to Do With It tracks Turner’s rise to stardom and how she eventually was able to break free from the abusive relationship she had with Ike. This really makes it a film that relies heavily on the performances of the leads, and Bassett and Fishburne delivered, each earning Oscar nominations for their work. 

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Martin Scorsese has made a career of having gangsters and other seedy characters as his protagonists, but the stockbrokers of The Wolf of Wall Street may be his most deplorable group of anti-heroes in this excessive but hilarious movie. 

Leonardo DiCaprio, in what is arguably his best role, stars as real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who lied and schemed his way to a life of luxury, drugs and debauchery before the federal government works to bring him down. Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Jon Bernathal, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Cristin Milioti  and Matthew McConaughey also star.

Even as he was 71 at the time of The Wolf of Wall Street’s release, Scorsese proved that few can handle despicable characters like him.

Woman in Gold (2015) 

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds star in the based-on-a-true story tale of a Jewish refugee who fled Europe during World War II and the American lawyer who attempts to reclaim a piece of artwork that belonged to her family after it was confiscated by the Nazis.

Woman in Gold is a simple but well-made film featuring the charming pairing of Mirren and Reynolds retelling an interesting bit of history. 

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.