Months after its launch, Disney+ Hotstar still feels like the shiny new OTT platform in town. And while most of us still associate Disney+ with being a one-stop-shop for the world’s biggest movie franchises such as Marvel and Star Wars, or Disney and Pixar classics, the platform also has a strong movie library littered with hidden gems. So from biopics to space movies to Oscar-winners, here’s our list of the best dramas of the last decade from Hollywood and Bollywood currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
No one does angry quite like Frances McDormand. She magnificently spearheads Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-winning drama about a woman’s relentless quest for justice after the police fails to find her daughter’s killer. Not only does McDonagh manage to weave in moments of sharp, black comedy into delicate subjects such as grief, violence and racism, he also plays with your loyalties and has you empathising with the ‘bad’ guys and condemn those you’re rooting for. Three Billboards is a layered, emotional tale of revenge and redemption which will also have you laughing in the face of uncomfortable situations.
Bad Education tells the true story of Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) – a district superintendent of schools who got himself entangled in one of the largest thefts of school funds in history. The politics of education and misappropriation of public funds are hardly sexy subject matter, but here it’s just great storytelling that keeps you invested in every beat. That, and maybe a career-best performance from Hugh Jackman who is terrific as the likeable but deeply manipulative Dr Tussone. Throw in a cast of heavy-hitters like Alison Janney and Ray Romano and what you get is a film with all the spirit and power of a great Oscar drama without the showy smugness of drawing too much attention to itself.
At a time when space movies have started to take themselves far too seriously, Ridley Scott’s The Martian proved you can make one that’s accessible, upbeat, surprisingly funny but no less gripping and emotional. Aside from making botanists look cool, Matt Damon soared as an astronaut stranded on Mars for four years, forced to survive through ‘science-ing the shit out of it’. Combining the classic survival drama with the wonders of space travel, The Martian manages to be greatly enjoyable without ever losing sight of its emotional centre or the sheer terror of its stakes.
Ford Vs Ferrari
The Oscar-nominated underdog tale tells the true story of when the Ford Motor company took on reigning champion Ferrari during the 24 hours Le Mans race in 1966. But outside the exhilarating race sequences, James Mangold’s film is first a crackling human drama centred on the bromance between gifted engineer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and racing maestro Ken Miles (a wonderfully kinetic Christian Bale). Ford Vs Ferrari grabs hold of you from the first moment and never lets go, bringing the thrills of blockbuster-style filmmaking to a touching real-life drama.
Hidden Figures is a fine example of an inspiring true story made for the big screen. The feel-good drama follows the tale of 3 African American mathematicians who were instrumental in NASA’s success in the early 1960s despite battling segregation and sexism. Led by the formidable trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures is a well-conceived biopic which presses all the right buttons to tell a story which is as inspiring as it is uncomfortable.
Ram Madhvani’s captivating hijack drama swallows you whole and keeps you in a state of constant panic and uncertainty before packing an emotional final wallop that’s hard to shake off. Following the remarkable true story of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot (a career-best performance from Sonam Kapoor) who saved the lives of countless passengers in the face of a terrorist hijacking, Madhvani’s film launched the careers of many associated with it such as Jim Sarbh and DOP Mitesh Mirchandani. Neerja is the rare Bollywood ‘biopic’ which focuses on the historic event itself without feeling the need to package it in a more palatable way.
The Shape Of Water
Guillermo del Toro has now become synonymous with bringing sensitivity to the typical creature feature, empathising with the unknown and treating monsters as misunderstood. Nowhere was that better captured than his Best Picture-winning The Shape Of Water. The unlikely love story between a mute cleaning woman and merman-monster-creature held captive in a government lab is both hopeful and fantastical. Powered by a fantastic Sally Hawkins, The Shape Of Water is one of the most touching romantic dramas in recent memory…which also just happens to star a weird fish man.
Written by Varun Grover, Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut film follows four intersecting lives in Varanasi. The FIPRESCI winner in Canne’s Un Certain Regard section, Ghaywan’s film brought a harrowing intensity to stories of young love. It explored the idea of the two Indias like few films before it. Masaan was the clutter-breaking, breath of fresh air amongst a sea of excess that proved that quiet and ordinary can be just as cinematic.
It’s rare to find a film as introspective and existential as Ad Astra that’s also mounted on such a lavish scale. I’m not quite sure at which point Hollywood space movies became synonymous with daddy issues, but none have done it quite like Ad Astra. Brad Pitt is Clifford McBride, an astronaut who sets out into space to find answers regarding his father’s mysterious disappearance. Despite being set almost entirely in space, James Gray’s brave film values complex characters, loneliness and family over fancy set-pieces and is all the better for it.
Nishikant Kamat‘s Hindi remake of the beloved Malayalam film starring Mohan Lal, was a worthy adaptation that successfully captured the essence of the original. The gripping drama sees Ajay Devgn as the family man who must go to any length to protect his family after his daughter is tied to the murder of a boy from a powerful family. Aside from delicious twists and turns and the thrills of watching the everyman hatch the perfect plan to keep the police spinning in circles, Drishyam played with the idea of morality in a world where justice is a privilege only afforded to some.