10 Top Malayalam Films to Watch on Netflix

From courtroom drama to superhero flick, here's a list of Malayalam films you can stream on Netflix ahead of Kalyani Priyadarshan's 'Sesham Mike-il Fathima'
Malayalam Films on Netflix
Malayalam Films on Netflix

Kalyani Priyadarsan's Sesham Mike-il Fathima (2023) is set be out on Netflix from December 15 onwards. The sports drama features the story of a young woman from Malappuram (Kalyani Priyadarshan) who hangs around football fields from a very young age and doubles as a commentator during the local matches. However, things get a little dicey when she dreams of making this a permanent fixture in her life and challenges societal prejudices.

This film directed by debutant Manu C Kumar delves into some weighty themes of female emancipation and following your dreams through the template of a comedy. Sesham Mike-il Fathima also features Femina Goerge, Shaheen Siddique, Parvathi T and Sudheesh rounding up the supporting cast. The film is the latest addition to Netflix's wholesome library of interesting Malayalam films. Here is a list of a few other titles you can stream on the platform.

Jana Gana Mana (2022)

When the narrative conceit of contradicting perspectives and deft diversion devices are applied to a seemingly loud yet well intentioned message delivery system of a legal drama, we get a reactionary outing like Jana Gana Mana. This is not your run of the mill courtroom drama, but an interesting mainstream construct aimed to entertain and educate, in equal measure. The earnestness is refracted through the thunderous central performance from Prithviraj Sukumaran, who is totally in sync with the innate measured theatricality of the material. The film directed by Dijo Jose Anthony, bludgeons and scraps the inner layers of moral passivity in the viewer, and screams and demands to be heard.

Thallumaala (2022)

This Tovino Thomas starrer inverted the age-old put-down associated with works of fiction,the “style over substance” argument and delivers an exuberantly mounted exercise in action storytelling. The smashing of conflicting egos; the sweaty, brutish and borderline animal instincts in hand-to-hand brawls, have rarely been captured with such immediacy in any Indian action film. Khalid Rahman comes up with a relentless sense of temporal rhythm that often comes closer to an Edgar Wright-ish formal design, where carefully thought out, but nonetheless jarring cuts, propel the tempo of routine, disjointed scenes. Any lover of action film can appreciate the mere showmanship on display in this impressively put together genre experiment, where style itself is substance and how!

Tovino Thomas in a still from Thallumaala
Tovino Thomas in a still from Thallumaala

Nayattu (2022)

Policing in our country has been the go-to subject of fascination and myth making in pop culture, especially cinema. Numerous films have taken special care in presenting cops as either larger than life heroes dangling villains in mid air, or the caricaturish shorthand versions of the slimy, bribe loving stereotypes. However, there is a middling reality of the daily worker within the police system, who views the profession as just any other job, a means to an end. 

The plight of this particular subset of the helpless law enforcers with little to no power is examined in Martin Prakkat’s masterfully staged thriller Nayattu, that stays true to its title ‘The Hunt’. The film offers a bleak vision of how the toothless, nameless faces are sucked in by the corrupted system that tramples lives, weaponizing the agency of fringe communities, often exploiting their caste and social identity.

Varane Avashyamund  (2020)

There is this disarming quality to seeing two screen veterans of Malayalam cinema — Suresh Gopi and Shobana — navigating the contours of a goofy yet awkward relationship on screen. Mostly exploring two contrasting relationships through the lens of modern day concerns and odd societal taboos, Varane Avashyamund works like the comfortable blanket that you can wrap yourself in, observing these two characters relish in their innocent attempts at making the first move or confessing the painfully obvious feelings that they have for each other. It's a low key feel-good piece of old school filmmaking that never loses its charm. Plus, you get Dulquer Salman doing his thing!

Varane Avashyamund
Varane Avashyamund

Thrishanku (2023)

Some films work their charm purely on the strength of some dramatically interesting ideas. This Arjun Ashokan and Anna Benn starrer is the most unlikely comedy of a couple, whose attempts at a run away marriage is momentarily stopped, as they are forced to reckon with a minor hassle at home. Thrishanku feels like a modern take on an older, breezier mode of storytelling where any chance for dense plotting is undercut by ludicrously convenient story beats. The supporting performers lend ample levity and comic relief in this road movie that never goes anywhere threatening during its entire runtime. You can’t help but marvel at the simplicity and earnestness on show, that elevates this typically oddball scenario into a fun little joyride.

RDX (2023)

Action films are a rarity in Malayalam cinema these days, especially the kind that owes its existence to the cinematic grammar and beat-to-beat blueprint of the populist adrenaline plumbing biggies from Tamil, Telugu and Kannada Cinema. However, there have been a few films that have been able to capture their quintessential stylistic flourishes and RDX is one among them. The multi starrer featuring Shane Nigam, Anthony Varghese Pepe and Neeraj Madhav in leading roles is a conventional action film with easy setups that mirror the beats of a revenge fantasy. The conviction of its filmmaking coupled with the withheld momentum in the backstories in its writing, makes this a worthwhile watch. There is no holding back in this mode of filmmaking, where there is an emphasis on drawing out the most mundane of exchanges with the narrative charge of a heightened melodrama. 

A still from RDX
A still from RDX

Iratta (2023)

Two Brothers. Two Personalities. One Mystery. This police procedural featuring Joju George in a one-of-a-kind dual role,  playing two identical twins is a dense, bone chilling character portrait of a troubled man with an even more troubling past. The debutant filmmaker Rohit M G Krishnan equates the gloomy atmospherics of films like Dennis Villenevue’s Enemy (2013) and TV Chandran’s Kathavaseshan (2004), which also examined similar themes and a anarchic protagonists, respectively in both cases, but in an entirely different metaphysical realm. Iratta is a much more stripped down unearthing of some uncomfortable truths that probe the meaning of identity and what we inherit from our parents. There is no way to get around the central mystery of this tone poem of a film, that relies on mood to drive the narrative forward. Nothing about this experience leaves a good aftertaste other than the exquisite craft chopping away at our expectations, one shocking revelation at a time.

Malayalam Films on Netflix
A Spoilery Chat With Iratta Writer-Director Rohit MG Krishnan

Angamaly Diaries (2017)

This modern day riff on the gangster epic is a rooted examination of machismo and gang wars in the backdrop of Angamaly. Chemban Vinod Jose, the actor-turned-screenwriter hinges the film’s conflict on the conceit of a seemingly harmless ruffian gang, who gets embroiled in a high-stakes issue that fizzles out of their reach. The film starring Anthony Varghese and a host of new actors on screen is the cinematic equivalent of a full course meal of action and all things fun and games. The movie manages to delve into the daily grind of gangster life and the ones around them who get dragged into meaningless brawls. Lijo Jose Pellissery infuses the film with the kinetic energy and tonal fluidity of a no-holds-barred thriller that moves quickly between plot points and character moments with the swiftness seldom seen in Indian gangster films.

A still from Angamaly Diaries
A still from Angamaly Diaries

Sudani From Nigeria (2018)

Soubin Shahir and Nigerian actor Samuel Robinson form the most unlikely of relationships in Zakriah’s sports dramedy Sudani From Nigeria, where football, brotherhood and humanity transcend all barriers. This lovely little film frames the coming-of-age arc of a curmudgeonly self-centered coach of a low-stakes football club in Malappuram, a small place in Kerala where football is viewed akin to a holy practice. The grounded and lived-in writing lends believability to the day-to-day hassles faced by the hero and guides us along life in the sidelines, with no one but each other to fall back to. Sudani From Nigeria is a fun tale of friendship that overcomes boundaries, and is sure to leave you with a tinge of gratitude for the little things in life. 

Minnal Murali (2022)

A Malayalam iteration of the superhero story, this film juxtaposes a village comedy within the genre beats of a superhero flick, seamlessly. Minnal Murali ‘s effectiveness lies in its cheeky sense of self-awareness, probing the gimmicky moral binaries and recontextualizing the villain’s point of view, something that's relegated into the background in such films. Basil Joseph expertly maneuvers between the fantastical elements of the screenplay and infuses the film with a groundedness that tweaks expectations. There is so much fun to be had in this desi reworking of the superhero story.

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