When it rolled out House of Cards back in 2013, Netflix up and changed the TV game. Since then, the terms "binge-watch" and "Netflix and chill" have entered the cultural lexicon, competition in the streaming universe has gotten intense (the latest players: Apple and Disney), and Netflix has dramatically increased its output of originals, releasing what seems like a dozen new shows and movies a week.
As is the case with good old-fashioned television channels, some Netflix original series are better than others. We took the liberty of ranking the 50 best, with just a few conditions to maintain our sanity: no kids shows and no nonfiction programming. Additionally, every series has to be a "true" Netflix original -- so none of those shows, like Chewing Gum and The End of the F***ing World, that are vexingly stamped with the Originals logo but aired in other countries first. Finally, we only looked at shows that began life on Netflix (which is why Arrested Development and MST3K don't appear). Got it? Then on to the ranking...
Acquired Taste: Blood Rice Cakes With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Justina Valentine
You would think shows based on comic books would have an easier time with side adventures and plot detailing -- that's why they invented punching bad guys! -- but the promising Luke Cage, ripe with Harlem rhythm and actor Mike Colter's gruff attitude, loses its way. Just when you're warming up to Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as "Cottonmouth" Stokes, a classic mafia villain, and Alfre Woodard as an corrupt, enabling councilwoman, Luke Cage reverses course with a clunky, mythology-focused backstory that feels out of place in a show first concerned with neighborhood politics. Just let the man be a hero, Marvel. Sadly, that will never happen since, like its Netflix Marvel brethren, the show's been canceled after two seasons.
Each installment of the Rayburn saga unwinds family drama and large-scale crime during hourlong episodes that feel like a mix of antediluvian parable and contemporary prestige TV. Kyle Chandler's great. But it's a slowwwwww burn that requires a decent chunk of time to get truly invested.
48. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The Archie Comics kids are having quite a run on television these days, thanks to The CW's Riverdale and now Netflix's not-quite-crossover Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Like the print run that came before it, Sabrina puts a Satanic spin on Greendale's teen witch, now played by Kiernan Shipka, a.k.a. Sally Draper from Mad Men all grown up. The first season of the series has a couple of unnecessary detours, but the central conflict over the battle for Sabrina's part-mortal soul is a compelling one filled with scenery-chewing performances that make it all the more fun. (Miranda Otto is a particular pleasure as Sabrina's Aunt Zelda.) The spell-casters of this universe have a flare for drama and fashion, which makes enrolling in the Academy of Unseen Arts seem like a great option.
When Élite debuted on Netflix in October 2018, 20 million households gulped down the addictive soapy, syrupy teen drama. Set in a wealthy prep school in the Spanish countryside, Élite is more or less a swirling murder mystery with a drizzle of class commentary that puts in the work of building its predominantly ultra-privileged cast into complex, sympathetic characters, despite being mostly despicable, hot teens. While Season 2 takes a dip in quality from the first episodes, it's still a worthwhile jaunt packed with head-spinning twists on the same level as Riverdale, but grounded in the real world.
Marvel's inaugural Netflix series delivers R-rated superhero fans exactly what they seem to want: brutality, scenes ripped from comic book splash pages, and minimal thoughtfulness. Charlie Cox stars as a blind Hell's Kitchen lawyer who takes a crime insurgence into own hands under the guise of a sleek red devil. Season 1 pits "The Man Without Fear" against Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk, a classic villain with emotional tics, while Season 2 adds more characters (The Punisher! Electra!) with shallower motivations (kicking ass! More kicking ass!). Like the rest of Netflix's Marvel offerings, Daredevil was canceled, but it still has some merit thanks to Cox's charisma and chemistry with Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple. That would go a longer way if you didn't have to squint to see it -- the show is dark in tone and literal lighting, but we appreciate the risk of such brutality.
Robia Rashid's ambitious family dramedy centers on an autistic 18-year-old named Sam (It Follows' Keir Gilchrist) who's seeking a girlfriend and independence. The writers carefully employ therapy sessions and asides to shed light on autism, moves that are always more enjoyable than didactic. The humor sprinkled throughout rarely comes at the expense of its protagonist (N.B. great fun facts about penguins and Antarctica), and the show touts a message of inclusion and compassion, no matter the circumstances, to which all viewers can relate. It's an emotional ride, one that might get off to a clunky start, but one that's ultimately worth the investment, especially considering the bite-size runtimes.
44. On My Block
On My Block is a wild ride. The Gen-Z dramedy, from Awkward creator Lauren Lungerich and All Eyez On Me writers Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft, follows four inner-city teens as they enter their first year in high school together. Over the course of two seasons, the central characters -- Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao), Jamal (Brett Gray), and Cesar (Diego Tinoco) -- tackle everything from love and family to gang violence. There's a wide range of material covered in an impossibly short amount of time, which means the tones of the show don't always align, occasionally pinballing abruptly between the zaniness of a cartoonish Nickelodeon show and the grittiness of something like Hardball. On My Block's cons never outweigh its pros, however, with the show ultimately succeeding in turning the teen sub-genre on its head, blending John Hughes' sensibilities with Gonzalez's experiences growing up in Compton and Lynwood for something that's at once fresh and universal.
43. Wu Assassins
You're coming to Wu Assassins for its kickass fight scenes, not necessarily for its plot, which stalls and jumpstarts several times throughout its first 10 episodes. Luckily, hand-to-hand combat is plentiful in this martial arts saga, about a San Francisco chef, Kai (actor and stuntman Iko Uwais, who's best-known from The Raid movies), who just wants to cook his food but is gifted with the elemental powers of the Wu Xing, which gives him the strength of 1,000 monks. He reluctantly fights crime syndicates (and some backwoods racists) throughout the somewhat corny series as the titular Wu Assassin. Groundbreaking? Not necessarily, but it will scratch your martial arts itch.
42. Grace and Frankie
Netflix users of a certain age have likely overlooked this dramedy from Marta Kauffman (Friends) and Howard J. Morris (The Starter Wife), about two septuagenarian friends (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) who shack up together after their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) announce they're in love and intend to marry. With notes of The Odd Couple and The Brady Bunch -- both couples have grown kids as equally knocked out by the news -- Grace and Frankie is down-to-earth viewing that's rich with observational wit on the progressive notion of being true to one's identity, and the time-worn cliche that everyone gets older with age. If you've indulged in the low-key, picture-perfect comedies of Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give), give this one a try.
41. Santa Clarita Diet
This show, from Better Off Ted creator Victor Fresco, gives the typical suburban family an undead twist. Unlike most shows about the struggle of surviving with zombies, Santa Clarita Diet is set up like a typical sitcom, with Drew Barrymore as the flesh-hungering monster and her husband (Timothy Olyphant) as a tireless zombie-pleaser trying to placate her in Little Shop of Horrors-like fashion. A 30-minute format establishes a laid-back pace with quirky jokes and an excessive amount of gore. Not for the weak-stomached.
The glut of shows available on Netflix -- not to mention on traditional networks and other streaming services -- means that creators have been emboldened to follow some of their more idiosyncratic ideas. That's largely a good thing, but it can also lead to a show like Love, a slow-motion dissection of a romantic relationship that perhaps doesn't require that level of scrutiny. The two protagonists Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) are flawed, complex individuals, and Jacobs, a stand-out on NBC's Community, brings a raw emotional vulnerability to her role as an addict. She's never been better than her adventures with Andy Dick or her grueling trip to the Magic Castle in Season 1. But too often even the best episodes, like Season 2's free-wheeling "Shrooms," feel like deleted scenes from producer Judd Apatow's Knocked Up or Funny People stretched into overstuffed short films. Like many long-term love affairs, it's enjoyable and maddening at the same time.
39. Everything Sucks!
Netflix's version of Freaks and Geeks won't scratch quite the same ensemble dramedy itch, but it was solid enough for a single Netflix season (RIP). Set in the '90s, the show tells the coming-of-age stories of one Oregon high school's A/V and Drama club members, embellishing the proceedings with plenty of pop culture and slang from the era. Though Everything Sucks! occasionally feels like it's trying too hard -- beating you over the head with on-the-nose music cues, references, and borderline absurd dialogue -- it makes up for its shortcomings by tackling admirable territory and populating its world with sympathetic characters. There's Peyton Kennedy (Kate Messner), a sophomore who's coming to terms with her sexuality, and Luke O'Neil (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), a freshman who's trying to fit in and woo Peyton; and the good news is the co-stars are a thrill to watch. If you can see past the mostly superficial period toppings, Everything Sucks! makes for a nice, nostalgic trip back to the '90s -- one with positive messages, and one that's bingeable in a day or two.
38. Narcos: Mexico
If you like Narcos, may Netflix interest you in the similar -- but different! -- Narcos: Mexico. As the name suggests, the action centers around Mexican cartels, as opposed to the Colombians in the original, and features more star power in Diego Luna and Michael Peña. Tracking the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel, Narcos: Mexico is in most ways the same show as its predecessor, but Luna's cartel boss and Peña's DEA agent deftly play an unnerving game of cat-and-mouse that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
37. The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel doesn't get the most faithful adaptation in this engrossing series from executive producer Mike Flanagan, the director behind Netflix's not-for-the-squeamish Stephen King thriller Gerald's Game and the better-than-you'd-think sequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. This Hill House has some nasty tricks hidden in its dark hallways. Instead of treating the book like a roadmap, Flanagan and his writing staff approach it like a mood board: They contextualize specific character traits, creepy settings, unsettling plot points, and even bits of Jackson's prose over the course of the first season's 10 episodes to often chilling effect. Pinging between two time periods with carefully edited (and wryly clever) transitions, the show follows the Crain family as they renovate the foreboding house in the past and deal with the psychosocial fall-out of their time there in the present. The show's emotional intensity can become overbearing at points -- and there are a few too many tear-filled monologues down the stretch -- but you feel like it's been constructed with real care and attention to detail (a rarity for many Netflix shows!). Like the best ghost stories, The Haunting of Hill House doesn't just try to startle you with jump scares and violent imagery. It wants to take up residence in your mind. Hopefully the follow-up, The Haunting of Bly Manor, will take similarly entertaining creative liberties with its source material: Henry James' Turn of the Screw.
Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star in this stylish, mind-bending limited series about two messed-up people who volunteer for an experimental drug trial. It's an ambitious project that parodies the drug industry and tackles themes of love, family, trauma and loss, and it frankly doesn't always tonally work. But with Justin Theroux, Sally Field, and Sonoya Mizuno giving fun, unhinged performances, Maniac hooks you and pulses forward with manic energy that's endearing enough to work. Plus you get the Hill and Stone's proven chemistry as they wind their way through the deepest, darkest corners of their minds.
35. Altered Carbon
Adapted from the 2002 Richard K. Morgan novel of the same name, Altered Carbon is a flashy, jargon-y, and, at times, dizzying descent into sci-fi decadence. The show follows a 22nd-century mercenary (Joel Kinnaman) who's hired to solve the murder of a highly influential aristocrat. The catch? Said aristocrat is still alive, because in this version of the future, the wealthy can't really die -- instead, their consciousness is essentially uploaded to the cloud and downloaded into new bodies. In a world without death, the ensuing caper boasts the same jaw-dropping visuals and world-building as a Blade Runner and the same thought-provoking intrigue as HBO's Westworld. And over the course of 10 episodes, what looks like a complicated murder mystery detours as a complicated love story and a complicated look at social stratification. In other words, showrunner Laeta Kalogridis packs A LOT to digest in here, but that means there's A LOT to appreciate if you're patient. Though it takes a few episodes for Altered Carbon's dense story to really take off, it's an ambitious ride that's well worth sticking around for. In fact, we can't wait to see more.
34. Sacred Games
Netflix's first original Indian series is an insanely watchable, not-to-miss cop thriller that grips you almost instantly. Based on the 2006 novel by Vikram Chandra, this eight-part series works off of a familiar premise -- determined cop hunts down a high-profile drug kingpin and uncovers ungainly connections and hushed corruption -- set in Mumbai, showing Western audiences that there's way more to Indian entertainment than Bollywood movies.
33. She's Gotta Have It
Nola Darling is an artist, an activist, a Brooklynite, and a sex-positive polyamorous pansexual with three emotionally volatile boyfriends. But who is she? Spike Lee made his directorial debut with 1986's She's Gotta Have It, and 30 years later, expands the character study (with the help of a writers' room including his sister Joie Lee, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage) into his first TV series, a rhythmic exploration of sex, Brooklyn, and black life. Lee's signature, syncopated style -- bright colors, up-close-and-personal confessionals, jolts of pop music and album art, Bruce Hornsby's melancholy piano filling the gaps -- is intact, tracking Nola through the gentrifying brownstone labyrinth of Fort Greene. The joy of the series is in the updated casting, DeWanda Wise's Nola beams with wisdom, fear, artistic knowledge, and carnal desire, while the men and women in her life are fleshed out and… fleshed out, allowing the many sex scenes to play to the senses while reaching for something deeper. It's unfortunate that Netflix canceled this underrated show after just two seasons.
32. Jessica Jones
Like Veronica Mars and many standout British crime series, Jessica Jones follows a private investigator searching for the answer to her own mystery. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) possess superhuman strength... and crippling PTSD from a run in with Kilgrave (David Tennant), a troubled man with mind-control powers who forces the heroine to commit heinous acts against her will. Jessica Jones still meanders in the mid-section as Jessica sloooowly unravels the past, but the frightful conceit, all-too-real social parallels, and Ritter's roaring performance make this the bar for Marvel's now-defunct Netflix projects.
In this Western from Logan screenwriter Scott Frank, Jeff Daniels stars as an hombre with one arm and a bad attitude who menaces a town governed nearly entirely by women due to a tragedy at the local mine. Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery plays a no-nonsense widow and Jack O'Connell stars as a handsome young gunslinger who's hiding out from Daniels' domineering outlaw father figure. It doesn't exactly break the Western mold, but there are enough gunfights and monologues uttered on horseback to make the seven-episode run worthwhile.
30. House of Cards
Netflix's first original program remains one of its most addictive, though House of Cards' penchant for over-the-top plot twists makes it difficult to take too seriously. Adapted from the BBC miniseries of the same name, the long-running drama provides a dark glimpse at the power players and backstabbers who run DC. Star Kevin Spacey's sinister Jim-facing has taken on a creepy new real-world context, but this will always be the show that launched a streaming revolution.
Toni Collette and Merritt Weaver lead a talented cast in this miniseries that adapts a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about the hunt for a serial rapist and the infuriating police lapses that could have reduced the scale of the crimes. Booksmart breakout Kaitlyn Dever plays Marie Adler, a rape victim who winds up pleading guilty to filing a false police report after authorities doubt what happened to her, allowing her attacker to continue operating in a different state. Throughout its eight episodes, Unbelievable takes an unsentimental approach to the failures of the justice system and the struggle many survivors go through just to get taken seriously; it's one of the more harrowing viewing experiences you'll have on Netlix.
28. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
It would be hard to forget Jim Henson's legendary original fantasy about the world of Thra, but now the story of the mystical Gelfings is going to reenter the pop culture consciousness even more so with a new series for Netflix to satisfy all of your childhood yearnings. Over 10 episodes, a new story unfolds about three Gelflings who learn the truth about the villainous Skeksis' power, inspiring them to start a revolution and take back their home. And don't get too nervous if you’re worried that yet another reboot will ruin your childhood, because this one is just as committed to the puppetry and visuals of the classic, and big names like Helena Bonham Carter, Taron Egerton, Andy Samberg, and Anya Taylor-Joy voice the cast.
A Netflix series based on an edgy comic written by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, about a bunch of masked superheroes with weird powers who all grew up in a mansion and hate their dad, sounds like a very elaborate, very specific joke, but we assure you, it's real, and it's actually pretty good once it finally hits its stride. You'll come for the explosions, time travel, and chimpanzee butler, but you'll stay for the oddly affecting portrayal of how sibling relationships grow and powerfully shape each other, for better or for worse.
26. Big Mouth
In Big Mouth, Nick Kroll and his friends essentially hop into an animated time machine to play much younger versions of themselves, adolescent tweens beginning to date and watch porn, coming to grips with their emotions and sexuality. The show comes stacked with familiar Kroll friends, including John Mulaney, Maya Rudolph, Jenny Slate, Jordan Peele, and Fred Armisen, among others. With a no-holds-barred approach and the freeing format of animation, the show tends to really go there (see: horny Hormone Monsters, singing Michael Stipe tampons, scary Garrison Keillor sex fantasies), placing it in the same taboo-busting league as Netflix's other hit mature toons.
It's an unfortunate first impression that the name of this show could also be a vanity license plate. Netflix's first big sci-fi series, from Matrix-creating legends The Wachowskis, boasted a novel idea: "Eight strangers from cities around the globe begin having experiences that defy explanation." Well, let us try our hand at an explanation: They're linked mentally and being hunted by a mysterious group that's trying to destroy them/the world. It was always an ambitious show, but tedious in pace and execution, leading Netflix to temporarily cancel the big-budget series after two seasons, though it ultimately returned with an audacious 2 1/2-hour finale to wrap everything up.
24. Tuca & Bertie
The show will draw obvious comparisons to its Netflix sibling Bojack Horseman, which Tuca creator Lisa Hanawalt produced and designed. (Additionally, Bojack creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg serves as Tuca's executive producer.) Despite subtle animation differences, the shows seem to exist in similar narrative universes; Tuca & Bertie takes its blurred line on object sentience further, introducing us to talking, walking, breast-having plant people and a cell phone that speaks when it's in danger. Like Bojack, Tuca & Bertie uses animal people to mine the depths of human vulnerability, but its efforts are focused squarely on a friendship between two millennial women, and the anxieties that surround them. Unlike Bojack, Tuca & Bertie got canceled after a single season.
23. Love, Death & Robots
There's a certain artistry to making entertaining, effective, and imaginative short films, and Netflix's new animated series Love, Death & Robots blends all three of those strengths with some really crazy sci-fi. The title pretty much says it all: every episode will have elements of love (read: sex -- the show is very rated R), death, and/or robots, and sometimes a combination of all three. From a tourist party of androids traipsing through a post-apocalyptic Earth, to a monster fighting ring where the monsters are powered by human minds, to an ancient civilization thriving in a couple's refrigerator, to a beautiful fable about an artist in the future who only paints using one shade of blue, Love, Death & Robots is a multifaceted collection of some of the most exhilarating and inventive storytelling out there.
22. One Day at a Time
Like The Ranch, its red state cousin, One Day at a Time is a throwback family sitcom in a world that can be unkind to audience laughter, big comedic performances, and that stage-bound multi-camera look. But single-camera purists should get over their hang-ups. This clever remake of Norman Lear's '70s hit about a single mother raising two teenage daughters is more charming and funny than many of its seemingly "edgier" peers. Anchored by a lived-in performance from Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), the show finds familiar laughs in the way generations clash and families wage war, but it's also culturally specific, socially engaged, and leisurely paced in a way that makes it stand out from your average CBS family show -- or Netflix's own dire Fuller House. Netflix may have clumsily announced its cancelation on the platform, but the fan outcry didn't just point to the show's popularity; it got One Day at a Time a second (third?) life on Pop TV.
21. Dead to Me
In Liz Feldman’s Dead to Me, Christina Applegate’s Jen is grieving the recent death of her husband, who was killed in a hit-and-run, with cynicism, reluctantly attending group therapy. That's where she meets Linda Cardellini’s Judy, who's also grieving, and the two form an instant bond. But by the end of the first episode, it's clear that both of these women, whose chemistry is the kind of snarky friendship you crave in your own life, are hiding something. The 30-minute dark comedy moves effortlessly between registers, from lighthearted to deadly serious, with a plot-turning twist thrown into every episode for good measure. If you enjoy watching adults say "screw it, I'm doing what I want," this is definitely for you.
Hell yeah, Aggretsuko is anime. Season 2 of the Sanrio-driven series about Retsuko, a mild-mannered office worker who vents her pent-up daily frustrations by karaoking black metal, builds on an already stellar Season 1, leaning into its musical asides and exploring new genres with its other characters. Here, Retsuko deals with the intensely relatable and cringeworthy problems of an overbearing coworker and her mother who keeps setting her up on matchmaking dates, and finds resolution in a new, unexpected love interest -- a relationship that brings its own set of unique problems. The season ends on a bittersweet note, but Aggretsuko fits a lot of emotional swings, including plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, into its bingeable 15-minute episodes.
19. Dear White People
Writer-director Justin Simien stretched his own feature debut and Sundance breakout, Dear White People, into a 10-episode Netflix series, and three seasons in, the result is even more cunning, tense, and consistently hysterical than the original. Race relations on the campus of Winchester University are boiling after a group of white students throw a blackface party, and each member of the black student union reacts in his or her own fashion. Dear White People weaves through the perspectives of class leaders, local rebels, the college newspaper reporter, and Sam, host of the provocative "Dear White People" radio show (who also happens to have a white boyfriend). Familiar college-age behavior breathes life into the political and social questions, and Simien raises the stakes to heart-pounding intensity that sustains itself throughout the series. Dear White People is the most human show on Netflix, period.
Creator Laurie Nunn's British teen dramedy about Otis (Asa Butterfield), the son of a sex therapist who somewhat unwittingly parlays his secondhand sexual knowledge into a successful business counseling fellow students, took Netflix subscribers by storm when it premiered in January 2019. A cast anchored by Butterfield, Emma Mackey (who plays Maeve), and Gillian Anderson (as Otis' mom, Jean) adds nuance to a story that could gone low and focused merely on the sex, but opted for a more thoughtful route. The incredible chemistry between all of the cast members and an undeniable John Hughes vibe (think Pretty in Pink) elevate this easily binged show above a sea of mediocre teen angst programs.
17. Lady Dynamite
Maria Bamford is a weirdo in the best ways possible. In the days before Netflix put out an avalanche of original shows, often taking chances on new or outsider talent, her singular gifts might have been relegated to minor roles and voice work. But Lady Dynamite is a fun example of what the freedom Netflix offers can produce when given the right material and execution. Over two seasons (alas, the show will not get a third), the comedian gives an absurdist and fictionalized version of her struggle with mental illness, jumping across time, place, and various identities in a vibrant comedy that feels genuinely fresh. Bolstered by Fred Melamed's performance as Bamford's charmingly obsequious and incompetent agent, and a rotating cast of guest stars, Lady Dynamite is a must-watch.
It sounds like an episodic spin on Groundhog Day: A cynical New Yorker (Natasha Lyonne) attempts to figure out why she keeps dying and being forced to relive her 36th birthday over and over. Co-executive producers Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland joined Lyonne to make a hit out of one of the sharpest dark comedies of 2019, finally answering the timeless question of what happens if you repeatedly die and repeatedly wake up in an Alphabet City bathroom with a strange door during a party with Harry Nilsson playing. Lyonne's a gas to watch, as she falls down stairwells and cracks wise about her dilemma, but what starts off seeming like a humorous episode of Black Mirror turns into a profound and affecting meditation on trauma.
This thriller unpacks the horrifying, drug-laden history of Colombia during the reign of legendary kingpin Pablo Escobar. As Escobar, Wagner Moura is both terrifying and captivating, and his opposition, two DEA agents fighting their way through a convoluted mystery, give a scarily real sense of the American efforts to end the war on drugs. Narcos' mix of archival footage and contemporary fictionalization keeps you engaged, and reminds you that a literal genocide had to happen just so yuppies could blow coke in the Hamptons during the '80s (only kind of kidding).
14. When They See Us
Given the wide scope of the material, juggling multiple families scrambling to protect the ones they love and a vast grinding legal apparatus attempting to pin a crime on innocent victims, the most impressive aspect of When They See Us, director Ava Duvernay's powerful docudrama about the Central Park Five, is the way it zeroes in on small moments of human anguish, bravery, and cruelty. Focusing on the aftermath of a rape and assault of a female jogger in the park, the miniseries combines the tick-tock storytelling of a true-crime police procedural with a more curious, empathetic eye. Like she did with 2014's Selma, Duvernay, who also co-wrote all four episodes of the series, moves elegantly between tactics-obsessed storytelling and more intimate passages. That sense of purpose -- and the show's relative brevity in comparison to many Netflix shows -- makes it stand out on a platform that often emphasizes comfort at the expense of concision.
13. I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson
I Think You Should Leave is easily the most bingeable series on Netflix, with just six sketch-based episodes clocking in at fewer than 20 minutes each. It's also really fucking funny. The brilliance of ITYSL comes from its ability to turn mundane, everyday situations -- like a birthday party or sitting on an airplane -- into absurdist masterpieces peppered with poop and fart jokes. The "good steering wheel" guy in the car focus group has become a widespread meme, but that kind of dense, nonsensical humor colors every sketch with a refreshing goofiness that's difficult to find. Where else will you see a guy dressed as a hot dog crash a wiener car into a store, then turn the debacle into a theft mixed with a commentary about watching porn on phones?
It's easy to see why early critics compared Ozark to Breaking Bad: Drug money and morally gray characters abound in both. But as Marty Byrde -- a brilliant Chicago-based financial advisor who moves his family to B.F.E. Missouri on a life-or-death deadline to wash truck loads of cash for Mexico's second-biggest drug cartel -- Jason Bateman never goes full Heisenberg. In fact, his character's main motivation for doing anything is to protect his family, as he's more someone who's stuck in this underworld than someone who's trying to take it over. Season 2 put wife Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) front and center, and solid supporting players Julia Garner (as feral bumpkin Ruth Langmore) and Peter Mullan (as heroin hick Jacob Snell) also returned to help the show work its slow-burn magic.
11. The Crown
The Crown is a well-made (and very expensively made) show, with standout performances in its first two seasons from Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. (Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies will take over for them starting with Season 3.) Its period costumes are legendary and its sets designed with impeccable attention to detail. If only The Crown would choose its potential storylines as meticulously! Modern audiences would be better served if the showrunners examined the macro geopolitical shifts that have characterized Elizabeth II's long reign -- for example, decolonization receives scant attention, but the Great Smog of London merits a multi-episode storyline. Still, The Crown is confident in its soapiness, opulent in every respect, and quite possibly Netflix's best choice for escapism (albeit using a subject that should probably be anything but). If you love royalist porn or British period dramas like Downton Abbey, this will be like a long, slow massage.
10. Orange Is the New Black
As Netflix’s third original series, OITNB deserves plenty of credit for signaling the streaming service’s ambition: It put the spotlight on voices traditionally underrepresented in media, tackling America’s infatuation with mass incarceration along the way. Creator and showrunner Jenji Kohan adapted Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name into a show that treats deadly serious topics with a humorous touch, while not shying away from format changes and cliffhangers to keep the audience coming back for more. It's all over now, but OITNB's run signaled a sea change in the way people watch television. That, as much as the content of the show itself, remains its lasting legacy.
It's odd that it took so long for someone to make a fun comedy about professional wrestling. Where Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler turned the plight of a washed-up grappler into a Sisyphean struggle in spandex, GLOW, which was inspired by a real life wrestling women's wrestling promotion from the '80s, takes a sunnier but still no-holds-barred approach. Community's Alison Brie excels as an actress who gets cast by a washed-up filmmaker (Marc Maron) to play the villain in the rag-tag operation, but, like producer Jenji Kohan's Orange Is the New Black, it's the side characters, like Britney Young's second-generation brawler Machu Picchu, who really help this show get over. It's one of the few pieces of pop-culture that actually captures this "fake" sport's very real appeal.
Dark, which follows multiple characters from several families in the present, past and future after a teen named Jonas travels through time, will satisfy any discerning sci-fi fan's continual need for philosophical and mind-bending time-travel narratives. The German-language program -- your future self implores you to turn off the horrible dubbing and watch with subtitles -- is even more addictive and convoluted in Season 2, essentially serving as the Back to the Future Part II to Season 1's Back to the Future, only without the hoverboards. It's coming back for a third and final season, which is bittersweet news, but few Netflix shows can achieve the kind of concise resolution Dark looks poised to produce.
7. Master of None
Master of None is a comedy that examines the anxiety of unlimited choice, that slow drip of dread that starts every time you fire up your Apple TV or look up restaurant recommendations on your phone. Sounds bleak, right? Thankfully, the series, which was co-created by stand-up Aziz Ansari and former Parks and Recreationwriter Alan Yang, is able to find laughs in the often mundane problems of well-off city-dwellers. Recent sexual misconduct allegations against Ansari will likely complicate the show's plotlines about online dating and modern love for many viewers, but individual episodes like Season 1's "Parents" and Season 2's "Thanksgiving" still stand out as some of the most thoughtful, incisive comedic storytelling Netflix has to offer.
6. American Vandal
This comedy's first season, in which teen documentarians investigate whether a classmate (Jimmy Tatro) accused of spray-painting penises on teachers' vehicles is guilty or not, was much more than a dick joke. After the first couple episodes, the phallic material fades into the background, allowing the show to satirize high school and today's criminal justice system in a meaningful way. To pull it off, the co-creators studied the alluring techniques used in true-crime titans Serial, Making a Murderer, and The Jinx, and in doing so crafted a surprisingly nuanced show that's a parody, homage, and addictive teen drama all wrapped in one. Season 2 (also the final season) ups the ante by focusing on poop... and it works devastatingly well.
5. Stranger Things
There's no denying that Stranger Thingswas a phenomenon. But was it a "good" phenomenon? That's a controversial question, and it only became harder to answer when the show returned for its eagerly anticipated, somewhat controversial second season, delivering more of the '80s pastiche that propelled the first season to success. While swiping elements from beloved '80s films like E.T., Stand By Me, and The Goonies, the show's creators were able to cobble together some fun sci-fi concepts ("The Upside Down"), break-out characters (Eleven), and a nightmare-inspiring monster (The Demogorgon). That's enough to make you a nostalgia-rich pop culture sensation, and a third season that recaptured some of the nostalgic fun of the original run means Stranger Things easily makes the top 10 of this list.
4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
A castaway from NBC's primetime lineup, creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's 30 Rock follow-up found life in the early days of Netflix original programming, and became a gut-busting beacon of hope for the platform. If 30 Rock was the sitcom tradition done to perfection, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the Elon Musk approach to comedy hijinks. The idea of throwing together a childlike kidnapping survivor, a gay black man with the voice of angels, a conspiracy-theorizing old lady, and an upper-crust divorcee is an even bigger risk when there's room left to explore the tragic side of the situation. But the keys are star Ellie Kemper, delivering amped-on-Pixy-Stix-level commitment, and Tituss Burgess, who gives the show a song-filled backbone (from "Pinot Noir" to "Boobs in California").
3. The OA
Season 1 of The OA was a wild ride, alternating between hokiness and brilliance in nearly equal measure -- but it was clearly trying something, and that was what made it so bingeable. Season 2, however, is a revelation, and puts The OA in rare company of bonkers TV shows that somehow make sense on an emotional level. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the filmmakers behind mind-bending thrillers like The Sound of My Voice and The East, the show follows a young blind woman named Prairie Johnson (Marling) who returns to her sleepy hometown with her eyesight mysteriously restored after she disappeared for seven years. Things only get stranger as we ping-pong between her story in the present, which finds her mentoring a group of rowdy teenagers, and flashbacks to her time away, which involves an underground prison run by Jason Isaacs's evil Dr. Hap. Yes, there's interpretive dancing, too. Most of this shouldn't work -- and some of it doesn't -- but Marling and Batmanglij attack this wonky material with so much passion and sincerity that it's hard not to get swept up in their brain-scrambling vision. Despite the rabid fanbase, Netflix ditched the show after Season 2. RIP Old Night.
2. BoJack Horseman
When you write it, it sounds strange: A cartoon about a talking horse is one of the funniest and most accurate representations of depression on TV today. But it's true. As you join the title character, voiced by Will Arnett, on his quest for Hollywood redemption, you'll encounter killer visual gags, whip-smart dialogue, complex-as-hell characters, and genuine feels -- the kinds that'll make you evaluate (and re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate) your own life. We can't recommend BoJack enough.
David Fincher loves serial killers. The director of Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo launched Netflix into the world of original television when he applied his dark, brooding aesthetic to a different kind of sociopath: obscenely ambitious politician Francis Underwood, focal point of House of Cards. But where House of Cards feels a bit like a desperate child crying out for attention, Mindhunter arrives fully mature, concerned more with exploring the depths of headlines already written than creating new ones. The show's core triad of self-assured FBI wunderkind Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff); Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), Holden's mentor and babysitter; and psychologist-turned-consultant Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) attempt to establish a division of the Bureau tasked with solving a "new kind of crime" that lacks what most law enforcers think of as rational motives. In short, they're inventing what will become the famous "FBI profiler" department, responsible for ferreting out criminal sociopaths. Over two seasons, Mindhunter has balanced tense jailhouse interview scenes with conventions of cop thrillers in a nuanced, tautly directed depiction of life at humanity's extreme fringes. It's the rare show that's both bingeable and deliberate, smart yet entertaining. With any luck, we'll get five whole seasons of it.