The present study deals with the effects of floating flexible membrane on the instability of a gravity-driven flow down an incline. Linear stability of the flow system is explored using normal-mode analysis. Free surface gravity-driven flow is unstable at much lower Reynolds numbers. Instability of such a flow can be controlled either by changing behavioral of the lower wall or by altering the surface waves at the free surface which is done here by including a floating flexible membrane at the top of the liquid layer. Influence of membrane tension is taken into account in terms of stress jump at the free surface. The Orr-Sommerfeld system of the flow is solved numerically using spectral collocation method. The results displays a destabilizing role of membrane tension for a wide range of parameters. The growth rate of the perturbation waves increases with an increase of membrane tension and the critical Reynolds number becomes smaller. Therefore, it is possible to enhance the instability of the flow system with help of membrane properties, which may be useful in Ocean engineering and coating industries. © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020.