Netflix is now one of the biggest powerhouses in the entertainment industry and is taking some serious market share away from the networks. Even just a few years ago, nobody thought that Netflix would be NEARLY as powerful as it is now. They have even begun to win prestigious prizes at major awards shows for some of their own unique content, something that will likely continue in the future.
With the massive and increasing success of Netflix, there is some fantastic original programming on the platform, and that is exactly what this article will look at. These are the 25 best Netflix Original shows to-date, so read on and see where your favorite’s landed among the ranks and what shows are worth checking out, if you haven’t had a chance to watch them all yet.
Even if you have no interest in pro wrestling, past or present, it’s still worth watching GLOW, the dramatized story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Back in the 80s, during the boom of Hulkamania, GLOW was a real-life wrestling promotion that featured an all-female roster. Although it only ran for a few “seasons” (as opposed to the never ending style of today’s WWE storylines), GLOW was fondly remembered for its colorful characters and over-the-top comedy. Of course, putting attractive women in tight, revealing outfits certainly helped too.
The Netflix series isn’t necessarily historically accurate, as many details were changed to make GLOW a better TV series. Starring the always-great Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and comedian Marc Maron (who is exceptional in his role as grumpy director Sam Sylvia), GLOW is a hilarious nostalgic throwback to the 80s, complete with neon lights and the biggest of big hairdos. Critics and fans alike loved the series, as proven by its high scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. A second season is on the way.
24. Big Mouth
Based heavily on Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg’s tweenage years, Netflix’s Big Mouth will remind you, in the most disgusting way possible, that experiencing puberty can be one of the most embarrassingly confusing moments of your life. The animated comedy follows best friends Nick (Nick Kroll) and Andrew (John Mulaney) as they experience everything for the first time; their first kiss, first crush and in Andrew’s case, first unwanted guest. The Hormone Monster, which is also voiced by Kroll, is a brooding and inappropriately amusing (to some) monster that pops up whenever Andrew becomes aroused, which is a lot in 7th grade. Better yet, like the movie Drop Dead Fred, only Andrew is capable of seeing him.
While it may be hard to believe, hidden under all the dirty jokes and bodily fluid, Big Mouth’s dry humour is remarkably, as the kids say, ‘woke.’ It’s clear that Kroll and Goldberg goal was to explore both the lighter and darker side of growing up, and what that all means. Big Mouth also features voices of Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele, Jenny Slate and SNL alums Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. And that’s just the regulars. You can see why Netflix decided to greenlight the second season only a month after the show premiered – honest humor gets laughs, now matter how gross it is.
This is a thriller-drama series that focuses on the lives of the Rayburn family, who own and run a beachside hotel in Florida. When the oldest son and black sheep of the family, Danny, returns home he quickly causes turmoil amongst the family, who have a dark past and a secret to hide. When Danny gets caught up in the criminal world, he threatens to bring down his entire family and their legacy. This show has great performances throughout, but Ben Mendelsohn’s menacing performance as junkie brother Danny gave the show some edge, and could have his name in contention for some major awards over the next several months. However, the biggest drawback to Bloodline is that it really started to lose steam after its first season but with only three seasons produced, it’s still worth seeing this story through to its conclusion.
22. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Making its return as a prequel to the 2001 cult hit of the same name, Wet Hot American Summer is a barrage of laughs from start to finish. The original was a commercial failure that developed a huge cult following and starred such names as Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, before they were the household names and mega stars that they are now. The 2001 film and the Netflix Original series focus on a group of teens at a summer camp in the 1980s and is a spoof of the many sex comedies that were aimed at teens in that era. The show has a very unique sense of humor and some people likely won’t appreciate it, but if you do, it is one of the funniest shows out there today. Netflix released a follow-up in 2017 called Ten Years Later and while good, it simply wasn’t as strong as First Day of Camp.
Despite being co-created by Judd Apatow, Love is a comedic drama series that elicits very few laughs but that isn’t to say that the show isn’t charming or funny. Rather, Love is a raw relationship drama that takes viewers on such an emotional roller coaster that it’s difficult to stay positive and upbeat in the face of its sometimes brutal depictions of … well, love.
Starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust as two messed-up thirtysomethings trying to recover from rough breakups, Love sometimes feels like watching a trainwreck play out in slow motion, as here are two people who aren’t good for one another and probably shouldn’t even be together who still try and make a go of it. Still, there’s an underlying touch of earnest optimism underneath everything that keeps Love from becoming a masochistic viewing experience. In other words, if you like your relationship dramas to not pull any punches, Love will probably be to your taste.
Sense8 is a rigid and interesting sci-fi drama. The initially difficult-to-grasp plotline centers on a group of eight people from different parts of the world whose lives become connected following the death of a mysterious woman. It’s a beautiful show that embraces its characters and scenery, and the mysteries of its storyline are revealed slowly to avoid confusing viewers of this fairly abstract and unique show. From heists to fight scenes to wild orgies, name it and you’ll probably see it at some point in Sense8. Sadly, Sense8 is one of the few shows that Netflix has cancelled to date, with only two seasons in the bag. Still, it was an incredible ride while it lasted.
19. American Vandal
With the popularity of true-crime TV series like Making a Murderer on the rise, it was only a matter of time before we got a parody of the genre. American Vandal is a mockumentary following a group of high school students who are producing a web series true-crime story about an incident at their school. What is that incident? Well, someone decided to spray paint “a bunch of dicks” on the teachers’ cars in the faculty parking lot.
What initially feels like an opportunity to resort to non-stop penis jokes (which are still hilarious), American Vandal ends up being a funny, well-crafted who-done-it? story. Despite the show being a farce, it’s hard not to become completely invested in finding out just who the culprit is. American Vandal is also an excellent high school drama featuring clever writing and some great performances, and should be near the top of your list of shows to watch.
Jason Bateman is mostly known for his comedic roles in the likes of Hancock, Horrible Bosses and of course, Arrested Development. He even played the voice of a sly fox in the animated hit Zootopia. So we were definitely among those surprised to learn that he was going full Bryan Cranston and trading in the comedy for a role as a dramatic big-time cartel money launderer in Ozark.
Rather than a slow burn like Breaking Bad, this Netflix original kicks right off with the s**t hitting the fan, as Bateman’s character (Marty Bird) uproots his entire family to the Ozarks in an attempt to pay off Mexican drug lords after being screwed by his former business partner. Soon, the whole family is in on the action, hiding money in the walls and ducking the questions from both locals and FBI agents. Bird’s interactions with the local residents truly make this series worth watching, as he struggles to both keep his secrets and make enough money to prevent his family from being murdered by Mexican criminals. Season Two was ordered by Netflix just a month after Season One debuted.
Dark is a bit of a strange inclusion on this list, but trust us — just give it a chance. Originally a German web-series, it debuted on Netflix in December 2017 to very little fanfare. Since then, however, it’s attracted a strong following for its creepy sci-fi story of disappearing children, troubled family relationships, and wormholes — yes, wormholes.
To make things easier, the show has been dubbed into English (although you have to endure that annoying thing where the actors’ lips don’t move in sync with their lines sometimes), but you can also enjoy the original German version with subtitles, if that’s more your thing. Starring a cast of unknowns, Dark weaves a complex tale in three different times — 2019, 1986, and 1953. We did mention wormholes, right? The show has also been favorably compared to the oddball classic series Twin Peaks and the newer Netflix sensation Stranger Things, which is definitely some solid praise.
Daredevil is simply one of the best superhero shows on TV. It is superior to anything we have seen in a while, with a storyline that packs a far grittier wallop than anything else in the genre. The writing is solid, the conversation between characters is great, and rarely does TV get fight scenes as gorgeous and well-choreographed as this. That sort of thing is normally reserved for film. This is one of the most watched Netflix Original series out there for good reason, as its entertainment value is through the roof. Its second season is even more ambitious than the first, introducing Jon Bernthal’s Punisher, a character who proved so popular that he ended up getting his own Netflix series! Unfortunately, that second season was also wildly uneven, which is why Daredevil doesn’t rank higher on this list. Still, this is one of the most ambitious Netflix Originals to date and laid the groundwork for a compelling shared universe involving multiple heroes and series, including Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher. We can’t wait to see where Matt Murdock’s story goes next!
15. The Crown
The Crown is Netflix’s most expensive TV show to date and indeed, one of the most expensive television productions of all time, but this royal drama’s charms go well beyond its $100 million+ budget. Through its first two seasons, The Crown dramatizes the early days of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, from her ascension to the throne as a young princess in the wake of her father’s death to her political jousting with such figures as Sir Winston Churchill and Jacqueline Kennedy. \
As much a character portrait as it is a broad examination of Britain’s tumultuous post-war years, The Crown pays continued lip service to the often unclear role of a constitutional monarchy in the twentieth century and even today. The series is anchored by incredible performances, particularly from its leads Claire Foy and Matt Smith, who present a royal couple with some serious (and surprisingly relatable) relationship problems. Period piece dramas certainly aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but Netflix has one of the best in recent memory on its hands with The Crown.
A brutally violent R-rated Western starring Jeff Daniels as the bad guy? That’s all you had to say to convince us to watch Godless. The series debuted in late 2017 and was an instant hit — even people who aren’t traditionally Western fans ended up binging their way through this seven-part miniseries. On top of that, The Washington Post and Vanity Fair both named Godless one of the best 10 new shows of 2017, which is high praise when you consider the competition.
Along with a truly mesmerizing performance from Daniels as charismatic gunslinger Frank Griffin, Jack O’Connell (This Is England, Unbroken) and Michelle Dockery (best known for her roles on Downton Abbey and the TNT series Good Behavior) both deliver career-best performances in starring roles. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones) and Merritt Wever (Denise from The Walking Dead) were so good in their supporting roles that we could barely recall their previous work — they were that convincing.
Godless has several intertwined plots — a small town of almost all-females trying to figure things out after all the men die in a mining accident, a cowardly sheriff trying to earn back his reputation, and plenty of father-son themes to go around. With a total run time of roughly seven hours, the series allows for more depth and deeper character building than your average Western movie would, which is the real achievement of Godless. Unlike some other shows, this one makes us care deeply about every single character — a true rarity.
Ever since The Silence of the Lambs wowed us all in 1991, interest in FBI serial killer profiling has skyrocketed. There have been dozens of books, TV shows, and movies dedicated to both fictional and non-fictional cases. In 2017, Joe Penhall had the idea to turn one of those books — Mindhuner: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker) — into a full blown TV series.
Netflix snatched up the rights, and the show debuted in 2017 to rave reviews. Starring Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany as a pair of FBI agents who come up with the (then) crazy idea to interview convicted killers in an effort to solve future crimes, Mindhunter gives us a somewhat historically accurate look at the very birth of criminal profiling, a tactic that is used by law enforcement everywhere today but was seen as a wishy-washy pseudoscience just a few decades ago. Like GLOW, a second season has already been ordered, meaning we will get some resolution to the cliffhanger ending of Season One.
12. Manhunt: Unabomber
Although the two shows are technically unrelated, Manhunt: Unabomber feels like a spiritual sequel of sorts to Mindhunter. It’s set 20 years later and details the massive FBI task force that was trying to discover the identity and whereabouts of the Unabomber aka Ted Kaczynski, a domestic terrorist who used homemade bombs to kill three people and wounded a couple dozen others.
Starring Sam Worthington (Avatar, Hacksaw Ridge) as FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald, the show demonstrates how slow the technique of criminal profiling actually progresses. The FBI’s original profile of a killer who was an uneducated airline mechanic from the Ohio area couldn’t have been further from the truth — a truth that was only realized after a careful study of the Unabomber’s writings and his particularly unique dialect. Paul Bettany (who plays the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. and later Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) is especially excellent playing the troubled Kaczynski. Manhunt: Unabomber is a gripping look at one of America’s most notorious criminals.
11. The End of the F**king World
One of the most binge-friendly Netflix originals to date — there are only eight episodes, and each one clocks in around the twenty minute mark — The End of the F**king World is a modernized take on the young rebels in love, Bonnie and Clyde story but with a dark twist. Right off the bat, James (Alex Lawther) explains that he’s a budding sociopath with a desire to kill someone and in walks his rebellious classmate Alyssa (Jessica Barden), who is sick of everyone in her life but sees a possible kindred spirit in James.
In keeping with the spirit of its title, this f**ked up young romance story goes to some totally unexpected places over the course of its short length and is much funnier and affecting than its dark premise would suggest. At its core, The End of the F**king World does what the best coming-of-age stories do, honestly portraying the confusion, horniness, and pain that teenagers deal with. 13 Reasons Why may get all the attention but this is the best of Netflix’s young adult series to date.
10. Chef’s Table
This show is fantastic, but do not watch it on an empty stomach. Each episode profiles a different chef from various areas of the world and their history, with each episode ending with an up-close examination of their signature dishes, which can make you wish smell-o-vision was a thing. While food shows are normally bloated and overly complimentary, this show is thrilling, beautiful and thoughtful. There are no competitions, loudmouth hosts or otherwise, just the beauty and art of creating magnificent food and meeting the people behind the meal. The show has received critical acclaim by many and is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates good food.
9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a hilarious comedy with a dark side, created by 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and Robert Carloc. The show’s main character is Kimmy, a former victim of a cult, who dives headfirst into a New York City lifestyle with the help of her glamorous and gigantic roommate Titus and other colorful characters. The comedy in this show is great, as it can range from goofy to uncomfortably dark. In addition, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is extremely clever, making it a real shock that NBC passed on picking this show up. Oh well, NBC’s loss is Netflix’s gain.
8. House of Cards
This show was one of the first Netflix Original series to become critically acclaimed, and House of Cards is still a major force to be reckoned with in the crowded world of dramas. The show has brilliant production value and is helmed by Kevin Spacey, who plays the role of a politician who is desperate to get into higher power. The main themes of the show are manipulation and power, which make this political drama among the best out there. And we aren’t the only ones who feel this way; it was the very first web television series to receive major award nominations (Emmys and Golden Globes), a few of which it ended up taking home.
Of course, with Kevin Spacey’s departure in 2017 following numerous sexual harassment and assault allegations, House of Cards’ pedigree has diminished somewhat but the show remains one of Netflix’s finest offerings.
7. Orange is the New Black
This show has easily one of the best ensembles on TV today and its writing is unbelievable as well. Orange is the New Black focuses on a female minimum security prison and its inhabitants and is a show obsessed with detail: Every single character has a “voice” and purpose of their own, which is rare on TV today. This kind of character development allows each episode to focus on different ideas and be about different people, which when combined with the show’s willingness to run the gamut between being both hilarious and incredibly dark, make this show an easy choice for this list. The show has also been critically acclaimed and nominated for numerous Emmys and Golden Globes as well!
6. Black Mirror
Technology is great, right? It makes our lives easier and has became an integral part of humanity’s daily routines. But for all the good things about scientific advancement, there are just as many bad implications. We’ve already seen the impact of things like online privacy concerns, government censorship, and difficult ethical questions over things like cloning, surveillance, and online bullying.
Black Mirror began as a Channel 4 exclusive in the U.K. before Netflix snapped up the exclusive rights to make Seasons Three and Four. Created by Charlie Brooker, the series explores the dark side of technology as it might develop in the not-to-distant future. The show is part sci-fi, part horror, and part a warning to humanity — telling us not to become too dependent on computers as we sprint into the coming decades. Black Mirror is as brilliantly entertaining as it is brutally terrifying.
5. Jessica Jones
Arguably Netflix’s greatest accomplishment when it comes to its stable of Marvel co-productions, Jessica Jones is an intense psychological thriller masquerading as a superhero show. Like its contemporaries, the first season of Jessica Jones suffers from pacing problems and characters and storylines that are little more than filler, but the foundational elements are so strong that these drawbacks are easy to overlook. Much of the praise can be heaped on Krysten Ritter’s title character and David Tennant’s sensational turn as the villainous Kilgrave, a serial abuser with a terrifying set of powers.
With the increased focus on sexual assault victims in the entertainment industry in recent times, Jessica Jones’ tackling of related issues serves as in important reminder that comic book movies and TV shows are capable of pushing the envelope and highlighting thematic concerns that resonate, while also being escapism entertainment.
4. Stranger Things
Netflix’s biggest pop cultural phenomenon also happens to be one of its best shows. Created by the Duffer brothers, who shopped the idea around to many different networks before Netflix picked them up, Stranger Things is a melting pot of 80s homages but one that comes together into a satisfying whole that avoids feeling derivative. That’s because behind all the nods to Spielberg, old school horror, and general 80s pop culture are a compelling group of characters brought to life by a cast of veterans and relative newcomers.
In particular, the young actors deserve credit as they are across-the-board excellent, a combination of talent and strong writing, as Stranger Things effortlessly tells adult stories with children, which is never an easy feat. It remains to be seen whether the show will be able to maintain its high level of quality as it starts to move into later seasons but for now, Stranger Things is required viewing for anyone with a Netflix subscription.
3. BoJack Horseman
This is a unique inclusion on this list as it is an animated series. Animated series are rarely ever given a chance to produce an actual narrative or storyline, and are instead usually used to tell an endless string of stories in an unchanging universe on an episode to episode basis (Think Family Guy and The Simpsons). And then there’s BoJack Horseman, a Netflix Original series that delivers a surprisingly deep and meaningful story about the psychology and mind of a former sitcom star that also happens to be a horse. As voiced by Will Arnett, BoJack is an alcoholic trying to write his memoirs with the help of a ghost writer. Yes, it’s a world in which animal puns flow like water, of course, but it’s also an interesting look at the ways in which fame can change people.
Narcos dives into the life of cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, and the resulting portrait is fascinating and brilliant all around. At its core, Narcos is nothing without Wagner Moura, whose portrayal of Escobar is hypnotic and near perfect in every way. The whole series feels full of life and fluidity, as scenes can flip from quiet and mundane happenings to blinding violence in a second. The show’s story about a poor kid who grew up to be among the world’s wealthiest drug lords is also about colonization, American intervention and globalization. A worthwhile watch for anyone who has yet to dive in.
1. Master of None
Aziz Ansari’s comedic drama series is anything but your typical sitcom, presenting an emotionally honest depiction of the Millenial experience that has formed the basis of so much of Ansari’s work up to this point. Master of None’s ambitious structure is one of its greatest strengths, as the second season in particular features a selection of standalone episodes that deviate from the main narrative path involving Ansari’s character Dev and his experiences with modern love.
“First Date” is a manifesto for the Tinder generation as it explores the emptiness and confusion that comes along with dating in the internet age, while “Thanksgiving” may just be one of the best coming out stories in television history. Funny, enlightening and emotionally satisfying, Master of None is one of the best comedy series of the 21st century and one of Netflix’s absolute gems.
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