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The Best Netflix Originals You've Missed In 2021 So Far

As the streaming landscape becomes more and more saturated, the big dogs are spending truckloads of cash on original content. Netflix leads the way, as estimates hover around $17 billion for how much they invested in content in 2020 alone, with most of that going to original projects. And that number is expected to continue to grow up to around $26 billion by 2028!

Needless to say, with all that money being spent, Netflix is building up quite the impressive catalog. And even though many people associate the site with original series, they've also released some truly fantastic films. But while some of their cinematic offerings have received a whole lot of attention — like 2019's The Irishman or 2020's Mank — many of their best movies are under the radar, just waiting for audiences to find them. And that includes quite a few 2021 originals that have left us very impressed.

So if you're looking for something that's both awesome and a little out of sight, we've got you covered. From adventure flicks to sci-fi spectacles, here are the best Netflix originals you've missed in 2021 so far.

If you liked Parasite, check out The White Tiger

The rise of the gig economy and constant "hustle" has changed the way people view getting ahead in the world, and The White Tiger plays with those concepts to a masterful degree. The film focuses on a young man named Balram, who grows up in India and decides at a young age that he's destined for greatness. However, India's rigid class system has other things in store for him.

Balram tries to get ahead as best he can with the situation he's put in, working as a driver for a wealthy family. However, opportunities are few and far between. Balram has to do some pretty awful things in order to achieve what he views as his destiny, but actor Adarsh Gourav is so charismatic and The White Tiger is shot so beautifully that it's easy to get caught up in things and handwave Balram's behavior.

Film Companion notes that The White Tiger bears more than a few similarities to Parasite, and like the award-winner, it defies any sort of genre-tagging. With a killer cast, great script, and near-faultless direction, it's a compelling, under-the-radar watch.

Finding 'Ohana is a Netflix adventure for the whole family

It's easy to dismiss Finding 'Ohana as a retread of a movie you've seen a hundred times already. A ragtag group of kids band together to discover clues, find a hidden treasure, and of course, learn more about themselves along the way. It's The Goonies, it's Holes, it's Stranger Things. However, Finding 'Ohana separates itself in a few distinct ways.

For one, it's well aware that the audience knows this song already. IGN's review praises Finding 'Ohana for speeding through the first act and setting up the high stakes once its main ensemble starts hunting for treasure. Even more important is the beautiful backdrop of Hawaiian scenery and culture. Though the concept of children being disappointed about taking a trip to Hawaii is a bit flabbergasting, Finding 'Ohana does a great job of showcasing its breathtaking vistas and unique cultural elements to make the whole film feel new and exciting.

Finding 'Ohana is a family-friendly adventure with enough nostalgia and beauty to keep adults invested, alongside enough adventure and goofiness to win over kids.

The Dig is worth digging into

Unless you happen to already live in the British countryside, it seems likely that a lot of people could use some of that UK scenery in their life. Add to that a fascinating period piece and a couple fantastic actors, and you have what's probably Netflix's highest-profile film of 2021's early going: The Dig.

Based on the 2007 novel by John Preston, The Dig stars Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, and it's set in the late 1930s. Mulligan plays a woman named Edith Pretty, who hires archeologist Basil Brown (Fiennes) to excavate some areas of her property. As Brown gets further along in his dig, he discovers that he may be unearthing the discovery of a lifetime.

The Dig is one of those movies that will have history hounds scrambling once it's finished to learn more about the true story surrounding it. But despite concerning itself with a monumental and historic find, The Dig is mostly a character-centric tale, one full of emotion. Mulligan and Fiennes both give it their all, and reviews from publications like Spectator have applauded the film's subdued pacing and moving drama.

Space Sweepers is a spectacular sci-fi flick from Korea

It could be incredibly easy to just scroll past Space Sweepers, but if you're a fan of sci-fi action, that would be a mistake. This Korean film has been referred to by several outlets as Korea's first "space blockbuster," and it features some great character work, a fun and compelling story, and some surprisingly strong visual effects.

Space Sweepers takes place in a future where Earth is on the verge of being uninhabitable. Select wealthy or powerful individuals are given a chance to live on a space station, but most of the human population is stuck breathing the poisoned air of our atmosphere. In this world, teams of "space sweepers" are essentially sky pirates, cruising through the atmosphere to collect debris and sell it. Our main cast is doing just that when they discover something extremely valuable, both for the ruling classes and the future of the planet.

Space Sweepers is a pretty wild ride and, as Slate writes, it's "a worthy substitute for a new Star Wars or Marvel movie." Give it a watch next time you're scrolling, as it's actually one of the best sci-fi films of the year.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever is a fun romantic comedy from Netflix

Sometimes, we all just want a little rom-com convenience as a pick-me-up. To All the Boys: Always and Forever, the third film in the franchise, is exactly that — high school drama, blown up to the nth degree, with everything working out and wrapping up nicely in the end. Based on the book trilogy by Jenny Han, Always and Forever is a fitting and fun conclusion to the franchise.

The basic story of the trilogy focuses on Lara Jean, a high schooler who writes letters to boys she has a crush on and then locks the notes in her closet. One day, those letters get sent out as a prank, and Lara Jean has to navigate some very awkward situations when the recipients come to ask about the strange letters she sent. Naturally, Lara Jean finds love from her most embarrassing moment.

Always and Forever deals with Lara Jean and her boyfriend preparing for college and the possibility of having to navigate a long-distance relationship. Sure, it's silly, but it's remarkably well-acted and pretty darn charming for a high school rom-com. If you're not really a fan of romantic comedies, let your guard down a bit and give it a whirl –- it's way better than you think.

Concrete Cowboy is a beautiful inner-city Western

What's that? Idris Elba riding a horse? We would watch just that all day, but it turns out there's a whole movie centered on the premise: Concrete Cowboy. It's a really impressive piece of character drama, and it's also based on a real-life group, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, made up of inner-city cowboys who still operate in downtown Philadelphia.

Concrete Cowboy is about a young man named Cole (played by Stranger Things' Caleb McLaughlin) who moves to Philadelphia to hopefully set his life straight through his estranged father, played by Elba. Cole becomes enamored with the urban cowboy lifestyle, but trouble tends to follow him around. It all comes to a head when some of Cole's friends cross paths with a local drug dealer.

McLaughlin and Elba both put on great performances, and their surrounding cast (including Method Man!) also put on a good show. The big draw of Concrete Cowboy, however, is the fascinating culture of the riders and, naturally, shots of beautiful horses. How the story fits in with wider ideas of gentrification also helps make things relatable to anyone who lives in a large city.