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The Best Netflix Original Movies Of 2018

11) Ali’s Wedding

Netflix

Ali’s Wedding serves as a functional rom-com adapted from star and co-writer Osamah Sami’s memoir Good Muslim Boy, a bright and honest look into the reconciliation of the modern world and Muslim tradition. Desperate to please his father and his community Ali (played by Sami) lies about passing his tests to get into medical school, where he falls in love with Dianne (Helana Sawires, in a moving portrayal), a medical student and the daughter of a Lebanese fish and chip spot owner. In the course of all this, Ali has already been set up in an arranged marriage he’s desperately trying to get out of. Sami and Andrew co-writer Knight make use of all the usual rom-com cliches, but the decisions come with qualitative, selective cheekiness directly aimed at Western filmmakers. In staying true to his roots, Sami has likely helped Netflix attract an international audience and forged a path forward for Muslims worldwide to follow. —Kahron Spearman

12) Forgotten

Jhorge Settler/YouTube

South Korean thriller Forgotten is a slick, twisty yarn. It’s also a blast. Jin-Seok gets caught up investigating his brother’s kidnapping, and each new thing he learns makes him question everything about his own life. Nothing is as plain as it seems, and our protagonist comes face to face with long-forgotten demons. Action master Jang Hang-jun’s film is a well-executed genre exercise that delivers an emotional wallop to go with its thrills and jaw-dropping reveals. —Eddie Strait

13) Layla M.

Layla M./Netflix

Layla M. is about teenage rebellion gone awry. Layla is just coming into her own as a person and realizing that her own beliefs don’t quite line up with the rest of her family and friends. In the search to find like-minded people, Layla leaves home and gets married. Her new life takes her far from home where she finds herself on the edge of terrorism, as her husband’s commitment to their religion is more radical than her own. The movie is a compelling look at a story most audiences haven’t seen before. Even though the film feels like it’s just getting started by the time it ends, it’s worth your time. —Eddie Strait

14) Catching Feelings

Netflix

The South African film Catching Feelings follows thirty-something professor Max and his journalist wife, Sam, as their relationship is tested by a combination of money problems, infidelity, and older white writer, Heiner, who moves into their home. The film is much more than a romantic comedy—it’s a weighty, topical film about a man grappling with racial tension in a post-apartheid society. —Tess Cagle

15) The Skin of the Wolf

MiamiFilmFestival/YouTube

The Skin of the Wolf is gorgeously shot and stark drama about a rough-around-the-edges animal trapper named Martinon (Mario Casas) who lives in an abandoned northeastern Spain outpost. Martinon acquires a wife named Pascuala (Ruth Diaz) to quell his loneliness, and he quickly learns she isn’t built for the rough terrain and inclement weather. After she falls ill, he’s forced to care for her and the unborn child inside. In the course of two short-lived “relationships,” Martinon is faced with life-and-death consequences that abruptly civilize him. As they say, life comes at you fast. —Kahron Spearman

16) Maktub

Maktub/Netflix

Guy Amir and Hanan Savyon, an already-flourishing Israeli TV duo, make the great leap forward onto the silver screen with the serviceable and ultimately rewarding Maktub, a dark hybrid comedy about two low-level mobsters thrust from their thug roles into living guardian angels. Steve (Savyon) and Chuma (Amir) are mob collectors, who as maktub (or fate) would have it, are the only survivors of a terrorist attack after they go into a restaurant bathroom to settle a bet about whether a shirt stain consisted of pomegranate concentrate or blood from a chef they’d just beaten up for money. Maktub‘s leads end up servicing the supporting characters more often than they should, but the plot ends bind together well, mitigating any character shortcomings. Maktub finishes sweet, with Amir and Savyon conclusively nailing their compound of playfulness and gallows humor. —Kahron Spearman

17) Come Sunday

Tina Rowden/Netflix

Evangelical biopic Come Sunday chronicles the fallout of Bishop Carlton Pearson when he is dubbed as a heretic for preaching the gospel of inclusion—the idea that no one will go to Hell because Jesus died for everyone’s sins. Director Joshua Marston does a successful job of making viewers feel like they’re watching events unfold in real life, but his insistence on presenting both sides of the conflict without bias hinders the movie from ever fully delving into any true emotion or character development. Come Sunday lacks compelling storytelling and nuance, but it successfully shines a light on the shortcomings of a modern-day Christianity that lacks empathy. —Tess Cagle

18) Set It Up

Set It Up/Netflix

Set It Up stars Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell playing stressed-out assistants seeking to hitch their powerful bosses, ably played by Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu. Harper (Deutch) works for fearless sports editor Kirsten (Liu) while slowly drowning her journalist dreams. Charlie (Powell) waits on irritable businessman Rick (Diggs) hand and foot, leaving no time to consider his life or tend to his wasting relationship with status-chasing model girlfriend Suze (Joan Smalls). The assistants soon bring their alpha bosses together, and of course, this means they find themselves predictably closer as well. Set It Up doesn’t break any new ground, but its stars’ chemistry and diverse casting make it a win. —Kahron Spearman

19) Sunday’s Illness

Sunday’s Illness/Netflix

In Sunday’s Illness, the raw emotions between a mother and the daughter she abandoned 35 years ago are on full display as they spend 10 days together, showing what could have been and what will never be with painstaking beauty. Mother Anabel (Susi Sánchez) and daughter Chiara (Bárbara Lennie) constantly push and pull at one another even when they aren’t in each other’s orbit. Sunday’s Illness could have taken its concept into a number of directions with the backdrop—and impeccable cinematography—of an isolated house located on a wooded mountain that helps set the tone. Instead, the film goes down a more emotional and sometimes uncomfortable path, climaxing in a profoundly life-changing experience. Like the snapshots we see, we’re left wondering what it might all say. —Michelle Jaworski

20) First Match

First Match/Netflix

Monique (Elvire Emanuelle) is teen from Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood who’s searching for acceptance and direction after being cycled through foster homes. We first meet her while she’s being thrown out of her most recent home, her belongings raining down on her from above. She’s so used to putting up her defenses that we’re not sure what to make of her, but we can see there’s an anger to be channeled. In an effort to define herself in the chaos, Mo joins the all-male high school wrestling team, which dovetails with her reconnecting with her estranged father Darrel (the tremendous Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who has just gotten out of jail and is trying to make ends meet. He used to wrestle too, and their relationship gets a tentative restart once he starts coming to her matches and helping her train. Like Mo, Darrel is a complex character, and Abdul-Mateen plays his many sides beautifully. He ropes Mo into illegal fighting to earn money. She’s hesitant about getting involved but is pulled along by that need for her father and his guidance, however fleeting. —Audra Schroeder

This article first appeared on The Daily Dot.

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