It’s rare to see prestigious directors get carte blanche to create their passion projects anymore. The mindset of major studios today stems from chasing immediate profits from known properties. Therefore, many established visionaries struggle to get the financial backing they need to form the next addition to their catalog. But hope has been brought back to life by Netflix, willing to give many well-known directors complete creative control and insane amounts of cash to create cinema. By doing this, Netflix can grow its brand into a legitimate studio in Hollywood.
We’ve already seen the benefits of this partnership within the last couple of years. Cary Joji Fukunaga directed “Beasts of No Nation” in 2015, seen by many as the launching point for Netflix. Fukunaga was riding off the high of “True Detective”‘s first season. He ended up making one of the year’s best films. “Beasts of No Nation” also landed several considerations during awards season, including a Best Supporting Actor win at SAG for Idris Elba. With this success, Fukunaga landed “No Time to Die,” the latest James Bond entry coming out later this year.
Ava DuVernay followed up her Oscar-winning feature “Selma” with 2016’s “13th,” a documentary about criminal justice reform. But 2017 was the year Netflix grew its arsenal of talent, debuting new titles from Noah Baumbach (“The Meyerowitz Stories”), Bong Joon-ho (“Okja”), and Angelina Jolie (“First They Killed My Father”). Each project represented a step forward for each director. With their success, Netflix showed they could release just about any story a director wanted to tell.
Building on those triumphs, Netflix took a giant step forward in establishing itself as the home for prestige directors over the last two years. With Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” their vast financial risks paid off with Oscar contenders. Cuarón walked away with three Academy Awards, almost pulling off the win for Best Picture. Though “The Irishman” didn’t receive any Oscars, it’s nomination tally proved the love for Scorsese’s crime epic was strong.
This year showcases new offerings from directors David Fincher, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, and Charlie Kaufman. We’ve already seen the release of Dee Rees’s “The Last Thing He Wanted,” which was her follow-up to her other Netflix film, “Mudbound.” We don’t know if a majority of these films will be on the level of past Netflix originals. But we do know the streamer will continue to be the provider of top-notch content from some of our favorite cinematic creators working today.