The 50 Best Netflix Original Series of All Time, Ranked

Counting down the streaming giant's greatest hits.

best netflix originals
Design by Mallory Rosten for Thrillist
Design by Mallory Rosten for Thrillist

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 (see: Amazon Prime VideoApple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock, etc.), and Netflix has dramatically increased its output of originals, releasing what seems like a dozen new shows and movies a week.

Of course, some Netflix original series are better than others, and that's where this ranking comes in. We established some fairly rigid eligibility ground rules: We're not including children's programming, reality shows (such as Selling Sunset), or docuseries (like Tiger King). Additionally, we're only interested in true Netflix-produced originals, not shows (like The End of the F***ing World or Peaky Blinders) that Netflix stamps with the Originals logo but are more accurately just "exclusive" because they're co-productions or licensed pick-ups that aired internationally first. Got it? Then let's begin.

anthony mackie in black mirror

50. Black Mirror (2011– )

In each of Black Mirror's standalone episodes, British creator Charlie Brooker imagines a different near-future dystopia that risks alarming prescience. What if we rated one another on social interactions? How about a racist cartoon character who runs for president by appealing to people sick of actual politicians? A multiplayer game that blurs the lines between reality and entertainment? By its fifth season, Black Mirror’s techno-societal paranoia had overstayed its welcome, partly because the show's quality had grown uneven and partly because it was losing its bite. But at its highest points—the romantic "San Junipero" or the thrilling "USS Callister," for example—the series blends satire and horror to unnerving effect.

rosa salazar in brand new cherry flavor

49. Brand New Cherry Flavor (2021)

This miniseries adapted by Nick Antosca (Channel Zero) from a novel by Todd Grimson is incredibly stylish—set against the backdrop of a neon-lit LA and taking place in the '90s when grunge chic was in—but be advised that it takes Cronenbergian horror to the extremes. And if you're a cat lover, know that there's more than a few scenes of people vomiting up live kittens. (Yes, you read that right.) The show's heroine, aspiring filmmaker Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), ends up with those felines down her throat after she's wronged by a producer (Eric Lange) who claims he can adapt her short into a feature and she tries to get back to him in the most obvious way possible: using a little black magic with the help of a witch (Catherine Keener). It certainly owes a great deal to its body horror predecessors and is by no means for everybody, but this revenge tale dipped in poison is also an unabashedly weird underrated gem.

Joel Kinnaman on altered carbon

48. Altered Carbon (2018–2020)

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 in Season 1, Anthony Mackie in Season 2) hired to solve a murder of a highly influential aristocrat and ensuing power struggle. The catch? In this version of the future, the wealthy can't really die; instead, their consciousnesses are essentially uploaded to the cloud and downloaded into new bodies. In a world without death, the ensuing action boasts jaw-dropping visuals on the level of Blade Runner and thought-provoking intrigue similar to HBO's Westworld. Though it takes a few episodes for Altered Carbon's dense story to really take off, and the second season falls off a bit, it's an ambitious ride that's well worth sticking around for.

outer banks

47. Outer Banks (2020– )

Centuries of colonization, wars, and storms means there are tons of shipwrecks in the waters off the East Coast just waiting for enterprising SCUBA divers to stumble across them. It's one of these ships, laden with gold, that's at the center of this teen drama series, Outer Banks, which follows a group of high-school kids hunting for sunken treasure. Hanging with his pals and working his job at a boat-repair company, John B (Chase Stokes) lives parentless in the less fashionable back alleys of the Outer Banks, the North Carolina island chain that's become a popular tourist destination in the summers. He and his friends spend their downtime antagonizing the Vineyard Vines-clad children from the rich households with McMansions squatting on whatever land isn't already sinking into the sea, until they learn that John B's missing dad's sunken-treasure obsession might not be that far-fetched at all. The result is a teen soap that's as silly as it is dramatic, set amid the breezy, beachy vibes of the East Coast's most tumultuous shoreline.

dark crystal age of resistance

46. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

It easy to remember Jim Henson's legendary original fantasy about the world of Thra, but your yearnings to return to that world and the story of the mystical Gelfings should be satisfied by this Netflix series. 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-season wonder is just as committed to the puppetry and visuals of the 1982 classic, and big names like Helena Bonham Carter, Taron Egerton, Andy Samberg, and Anya Taylor-Joy provide the voices.

sierra capri in on my block
Nicola Goode/Netflix

45. On My Block (2018–2021)

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 high school together. Over the course of four seasons, 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 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 turning the teen 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.

lily collins in emily in paris
Stephanie Branchu/Netflix

44. Emily in Paris (2020– )

Is Emily in Paris (the "Emily" and "Paris" rhyme, you see) actually funny, or is it just so dumb that it's funny? Comedy is in the eye of the beholder, so that decision is left to you, if you choose to watch the titular heroine (Lily Collins) bumble her way through France's socialite class after being sent abroad to work at her marketing company's recently acquired Paris branch. There, she gets caught up in love triangles with her best friend, takes awkward selfies as a budding social media influencer, and butches the French language. Season 2 found its stride in being a bit less cringey and, with a storyline focusing on Emily's chic boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), became something more charming.

Brigette Lundy-Paine on atypical
Greg Gayne/Netflix

43. Atypical (2017–2021)

Robia Rashid's family dramedy centers on a teenager on the autism spectrum named Sam (Keir Gilchrist), who, like many teens, is seeking a girlfriend, independence, and to get into college. Although Gilchrist is an able actor, the series features many other actors who are on the spectrum and carefully employs therapy sessions and asides to shed light on autism. There may be some clunky episodes and cheese abounds (including no shortage of penguin facts), but it's a comfort watch that prides itself on its message of inclusion and compassion. His family played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Rapaport, and Brigette Lundy-Paine (a particular stand-out whose coming out arc is one of the show's best) help the series to feel like a hug. 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.

eleven season 1, millie bobby brown in stranger things

42. Stranger Things (2016– )

There's the Stranger Things of now—Funko Pops, Universal Studios attractions, and a guaranteed pop cultural event whenever new episodes arrive—and then there's the Stranger Things of 2016. It's almost hard to remember that when the show dropped, it was somewhat of a sleeper, word-of-mouth hit, built on the starpower of Winona Ryder, the nostalgia factor, and its then unknown creators the Duffer Brothers. Of course, it wasn't long until Stranger Things was everywhere, but early on, it was a captivating sci-fi binge with incredible young actors, freaky monsters, telekinetic preteens, and government conspiracies, for good measure, like a Spielbergian dream full of '80s pastiche. While the show has always remained cinematic and built upon its lovable characters, it's hard to ignore its missteps and the way it mirrors Netflix's overall programming bloat. It's almost as if the show has gotten too big for its own good that you can't help but wonder how the Duffer Brothers will stick the show's imminent, supposedly pre-conceived ending. Nevertheless, those of us who joined the Hawkins AV nerds for the first round of D&D in Season 1 will likely be down to play again, whenever the opportunity arrives.

Matíus Uris/Netflix

41. Elite (2018– )

​​This teen drama centered on a wealthy private high school in Spain was a surprise hit when it first dropped on Netflix in 2018. Now standing at five seasons and counting, it's easy to see why: a juicy murder mystery, obscene displays of wealth, and lots and lots of sex. On top of being a soapy whodunnit, Elite's issues-based side plots, dealing with topics like class inequality, xenophobia, and the stigma of HIV, are the running undercurrents that keep this show afloat. Even with subtitles, you'll have binged your way through every episode before you know it.

santa clarita diet

40. Santa Clarita Diet (2017–2019)

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. The 30-minute format establishes a laid-back pace with quirky jokes and an excessive amount of gore. Not for the weak-stomached. 


39. Bridgerton (2020– )

The Shonda Rhimes-produced Bridgerton is set in the early-1800s period known as the Regency, during the Austen-Brontë stretch of time when English society's structure was rigid, corsets were tight, and marriage was the top priority of any woman. Among the luckier aristocratic classes—referred to in the show as "the ton"—girls of marriageable age were paraded around high society during the "season" when young ladies would present themselves at social events and hold audiences with gentleman callers in their palatial homes. The show is based on Julia Quinn's bestselling book series—and updated with a new, modern notion of the racial politics of the time, allowing for wider, more inclusive casting—following the young members of the Bridgerton household as they fall in and out of love and embark on whirlwind romances with high society's eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, and try their best to survive amongst the hive of bored aristocrats with nothing better to do than try to make one another's lives miserable.

maniac netflix

38. Maniac (2018)

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.

lily tomlin and jane fonda in grace and frankie
Ali Goldstein/Netflix

37. Grace and Frankie (2015–2022)

Netflix users of a certain age may have overlooked this comedy, which recently ended after seven seasons, from Marta Kauffman (Friends) and Howard J. Morris (The Starter Wife) about two septuagenarian friends (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) who shack up together when 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 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 cliché that everyone gets older with age. If you've indulged in the low-key, picture-perfect comedies of Nancy Meyers (see: It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give), give this one a try.

master of none season 2

36. Master of None (2015–2021)

Master of None examines the anxiety of unlimited choice, that slow drip of dread that starts every time you fire up Netflix itself or look up restaurant recommendations on your phone. But the series, which was co-created by former Parks and Recreation writer Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari, is able to find laughs in the often mundane problems of well-off city-dwellers. Sexual misconduct allegations against Ansari that arose during the show's run have no doubt tarnished its legacy and complicated its plots around online dating and modern love for many viewers, and the shortened third season cut out Ansari's character Dev entirely to focus on Lena Waithe's Denise and her wife. In hindsight, it feels like Denise should have been the show's focus all along. Still, individual episodes in the first two seasons, like "Parents" and "Thanksgiving," stand out as some of the most thoughtful comedic storytelling Netflix has to offer.

orange is the new black

35. Orange Is the New Black (2013–2019)

Netflix’s third ever original series deserves plenty of credit: OITNB put the spotlight on queer and trans characters, tackling America’s infatuation with mass incarceration over the course of its seven seasons. 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 its audience coming back for more. OITNB's run changed the way we watch television as one of the earliest and best binge watches. That, as much as the extremely lesbian content of the show itself, remains its lasting legacy.

everything sucks netflix

34. Everything Sucks! (2018)

This teen melodrama, set in a small Oregon town in 1996 and tracking the social flailings of a group of A/V clubbers and drama nerds, will remind you of Freaks and Geeks, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and other depictions of angsty teens and the friends who pine unrequitedly for them. (Episodes also prominently feature a deep cut off Sebadoh's Harmacy and Ride's shoegaze banger "Leave Them All Behind," which alone bumps the show's place in this ranking up at least a few notches.) Sadly, Netflix opted not to renew Everything Sucks!, cementing its cult status with other "canceled too soon" one-season wonders—such as Freaks and Geeks.

tuca & bertie netflix season

33. Tuca & Bertie (2019)

Tuca & Bertie was never shown the respect it deserved at Netflix, which was unceremoniously canceled after one season and subsequently picked up at Adult Swim where it has flourished. But even that first season doesn't hold back, packing in the potential makings of great adult animated series that could last for years and years. From BoJack Horseman producer and designer Lisa Hanawalt, Tuca & Bertie takes place in a similar anthropomorphic universe that 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 as bird BFFs Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) and Bertie (Ali Wong) navigate thoroughly modern workplace issues, their mental health, romantic relationships, and their long friendship. Like BoJack, Tuca & Bertie uses animal people to showcase human vulnerability in between its jokes, while carving out a little extra space for a song break.

godless netflix

32. Godless (2017)

In this limited series Western from Logan screenwriter and The Queen's Gambit writer-director 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.

number four the umbrella academy
Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

31. The Umbrella Academy (2019– )

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.

one day at a time

30. One Day at a Time (2017–2019)

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.

joe goldberg, penn badgley in you

29. You (2018– )

After Netflix snatched You from Lifetime's clutches in 2018, the show about a murderous psychopath addicted to crushing on the helpless women he meets (read: stalks) through America's greatest metropolises became a massive hit, spawning two more seasons (and soon three!) with a new cast of characters in each. The rare-book-obsessed Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) promises himself over and over that his days of enacting violence on anyone who crosses him are over, using the women in his life to "overcome" his obsessive impulses. As we know after three seasons, that mandate always tragically backfires, even when Joe meets a woman arguably even scarier than him. The sick joys of watching You come not from rooting for the heroines to survive, but from the twisted morality of waiting to find out in what shocking ways all the "good guys" are going to die—and all the ways that the good guys might not be as good as they think they are.

ellie kemper in unbreakable kimmy schmidt
Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

28. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–2019)

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 quirky beacon for the platform. If 30 Rock was the sitcom tradition done to perfection, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is its try-hard cousin. The idea of throwing together a childlike kidnapping survivor (Ellie Kemper), a gay Black man with the voice of angels (Titus Burgess), a conspiracy-theorizing old lady landlord (Carol Kane), and an upper-crust divorcee (Jane Krakowski) is an even bigger risk when there's room left to explore the tragic side of the situation. But the keys are star Kemper, delivering amped-on-Pixy-Stix-level commitment, and Burgess, who gives the show a song-filled backbone (from "Pinot Noir" to "Boobs in California").

lady dynamite

27. Lady Dynamite (2016–2017)

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.

sex education netflix

26. Sex Education (2019– )

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.

robot on love death and robots

25. Love, Death + Robots (2019– )

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 crazy sci-fi. The title pretty much says it all: Every episode has elements of love (read: sex—the show is very R-rated), death, and/or robots, and sometimes a combination of all three. From a tourist party of androids traipsing through a wasteland Earth to a beautiful fable about an artist in the future who only paints using one shade of blue, a train passenger transfixed by the glowing lights following him through the tall grass, an astoundingly lifelike bejeweled lake siren romancing a deaf knight, and a tiny zombie apocalypse, Love, Death + Robots is a multifaceted collection of some of the most exhilarating and inventive storytelling out there.

orthodox netflix

24. Unorthodox (2020)

This limited series, based on a memoir by Deborah Feldman, was one of the biggest surprises Netflix had in 2020. In four lovely episodes, it tells the story of Esty, a young woman who was raised in the Satmar community of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. The narrative jumps back and forth in time to chart her path to an unhappy marriage and subsequent escape from her restricted world to Berlin. In Germany, she falls in with a crowd of musicians and charts a life for herself independent of her past. Anchored by an incredible performance from Shira Haas, Unorthodox is one of the most spiritually fulfilling programs the streaming service has to offer.

logan browning in dear white people

23. Dear White People (2017–2021)

Writer-director Justin Simien stretched out his 2014 feature debut and Sundance breakout, Dear White People, into a four-season Netflix series, and the result is even more cunning, tense, and consistently hysterical than the original. Set at the fictional, predominantly white Winchester University where race relations on campus are Not Good after white students throw a racist party, Dear White People weaves through the perspectives of the Ivy's Black students: class leaders, local rebels, the college newspaper reporter, and Sam (Logan Browning), host of the provocative "Dear White People" radio show. Familiar college-age behavior breathes life into the show's political and social questions, and Simien raises the stakes to heart-pounding intensity that sustains itself throughout the series, culminating in a triumphant musical of a final season.

midnight mass church, hamish linklater in midnight mass

22. Midnight Mass (2021)

With shows like The Haunting anthology and high-profile Stephen King projects like Gerald's Game and Doctor Sleep, filmmaker Mike Flanagan has proven himself to be a master of the horror adaptation, finding his own way into challenging material. Midnight Mass, a miniseries about a religious awakening in a sleepy offshore fishing community, is an original tale, drawing from Flanagan's own struggles with faith and sobriety, but it has the same richness of his literary interpretations. The creepy saga of Father Paul, a charismatic priest played with a haunting stillness by Hamish Linklater, pairs elegantly with the struggles of pregnant school teacher Erin (Kate Siegel) and guilt-ridden ex-venture-capitalist Riley (Zach Gilford), creating a web intrigue that converges in some of the most shocking and satisfying moments Flanagan has ever put on screen. Like a great sermon, it pushes the audience right to the edge.

mae martin in feel good

21. Feel Good (2020–2021)

Inspired by Canadian comedian Mae Martin's own experiences, Feel Good is a very bingeable dramedy that catches you in all of its feelings. The quick Netflix original traces the semi-fictitious Mae's struggle with addiction, something they struggle to accept about themself, as they fall head over heels for a woman named George (Charlotte Ritchie) who has never been in a queer relationship before. What follows the perfect meet-cute when George approaches Mae after their stand-up set is a whirlwind romance full of spontaneity and wit. The two are forced to confront their own respective issues, but you'll find their connection easy to get swept up in.

squid game cast

20. Squid Game (2021– )

Squid Game, Netflix's Korean smash hit that took director Hwang Dong-hyuk a decade of waiting to be made, has only just begun. The series stars Lee Jung-jae as the down-and-out Seong Gi-hun, desperate to make a quick buck, who's wooed into a series of schoolyard games that promises the last person standing 45.6 billion Won in cold hard cash, dangled over the 456 contestants' heads in a big glass piggy bank. As always with these things, there's a catch: The losers of the games die, usually in horribly painful, gruesome ways. The series' surreal aesthetic and cheery color palette pairs ominously with its biting critique of class and capitalism, boldly remarking on the monstrous price people will pay to come out on top.

unbelievable netflix

19. Unbelievable (2019)

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 Netflix. 

the queen's gambit

18. The Queen's Gambit (2020)

The runaway popularity of The Queen's Gambit, a seven-episode miniseries about a young girl who gets really good at playing chess against a bunch of boys, is only surprising if you haven't already seen it. Adapted from Walter Tevis' 1983 novel of the same name by writer-director by Scott Frank (Netflix's Godless), the show is a dark, intense exploration of the minds of obsessives, addicts, and strategic geniuses, as well as a fascinating foray into the cutthroat world of 20th-century professional chess. The story, in which precocious orphan Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) transforms into a world-famous master of her craft, is as exhilarating as it is, at times, deeply tragic, and turns an unflinching eye on what happens when nurturing a childhood talent becomes feeding an endless desire to win at all costs.

when they see us

17. When They See Us (2019)

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.

jason bateman in ozark, the byrdes ozark
Steve Dietl/Netflix

16. Ozark (2017–2022)

Ozark is a classic kind of crime drama—about seemingly normal people doing a Very Bad Thing. In the Jason Bateman-produced and led series, our Chicagoans-turned-morally-gray-associates are the Byrdes, who move to Missouri when daddy Byrde's (Bateman) work forces him to take up money laundering for the Mexican cartel. Being that they're at first in over their heads and confronted with Southern ne'er-do-wellers, the dark series (like, it was literally a very cool-lit show) grips you with its morality plays that push the Byrdes every which way. It can't be ignored, though, how tonally off it felt when it took some wild turns, or was simply drawn out towards its finale. But thankfully, its cast (including an at times terrifying Laura Linney and series breakout Julia Garner) were there to keep your attention throughout the slow burn, even when it got a little old seeing the tried and true prestige TV form, seeing regular folk try to maintain some semblance of a reasonable, familial motivation, when they really "don't know shit about fuck."

the witcher
Katalin Vermes/Netflix

15. The Witcher (2019– )

Based on the books that inspired the video-game series, The Witcher stars Henry Cavill, Superman himself, as Geralt of Rivia, a magical mutant "witcher" who hunts stuff and drinks lots of potions and grunts "hm" often. In the show's first two seasons (with more on the way), Geralt finds himself embroiled in a plot to take back a kingdom from the clutches of evil, as he and the rest of the show's many characters fight to survive in a world overcome by chaos. Where the first season plays around with time, chopping and screwing its narrative to jump back and forth between the past and the present, the second season is more straightforward, forcing its characters to reckon with their notions of fate and destiny. Also, it features the best song ever included on a Netflix show.

never have i ever friends

14. Never Have I Ever (2020– )

Mindy Kaling and co-creator Lang Fisher pull off a delicate but worthwhile balancing act with Never Have I Ever. The show is an exploration of its teenage protagonist Devi's grief while also excelling as a sweet and goofy teen rom-com with plenty of boy drama to debate. Narrated with a hefty dose of absurdism by tennis great John McEnroe, Never Have I Ever follows Devi as she attempts to change her social status at school, even as she bats back the lingering sadness from the unexpected death of her father. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the previously unknown cast as Devi, is an absolute delight and helps paint a whole portrait of what it can feel like to be a young person. As she's at times angry and unlikable, and others an outgoing charmer, NHIE puts into perspective just how much of a teen show rarity it is in the way it crafts truly relatable, holistic characters. Oh, and, you'll be debating whether you're team Paxton Hall-Yoshida or team Ben Gross long after your binge.

haunting of hill house

13. The Haunting (2018–2020)

Presented under the anthology banner The Haunting, horror maestro Mike Flanagan's The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor are two of the best series that Netflix has ever presented, adapting two of the most chilling horror stories ever written. Hill House, based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, follows five adult siblings, each traumatized in different ways by their childhood spent inside a possibly haunted mansion. Bly Manor adapts Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, a story about a governess who becomes convinced that her two young charges are communicating with (and perhaps becoming physical vessels for) ghosts that walk the grounds at night. Both have a meditative, almost hypnotic approach to the storytelling, taking plenty of time to draw out their mysteries before wrapping them up in shocking conclusions. The two series are connected by certain cast members and are otherwise totally separate stories, told through Flanagan's signature blend of stomach-dropping, heart-in-your-mouth scares and impossibly deep wells of empathy for even his most sinister creatures.

bae doona in sense8

12. Sense 8 (2015–2018)

If Cloud Atlas or The Matrix sounds ambitious, wait until you get a load of the Wachowski sisters' Sense8, one of Netflix's first original productions that remains arguably the best thing the streaming service ever did. In the show, eight people across the world (played on location by a multinational cast) discover that they are "sensates," humans linked both emotionally and telepathically. It was praised by many for its depiction of gender, politics, and identity—topics the Wachowskis felt weren't explored enough in television—and had an enormous budget due to its many locations, from Berlin to Seoul to Mumbai to Chicago. The show ran for two seasons before it was canceled, but because of the fan response and the cliffhanger ending of the second season, a two-and-a-half-hour finale was released in June 2018, providing a fitting end to one of the most joyfully emotional shows ever created.

the crown

11. The Crown (2016– )

Peter Morgan's meticulously crafted and very expensive bit of royal history-slash-fan fiction has become one of Netflix's most reliable products largely thanks to its parade of impeccable performances. Miraculously the bit of swapping out actors to play the major roles as the series moves through time has worked splendidly with Claire Foy and Matt Smith's work as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip giving way to Olivia Colman's and Tobias Menzies'. There are certainly frustrations to be had with what Morgan chooses to focus on—for example, decolonization receives scant attention, but the Great Smog of London merits a multi-episode storyline. Still, The Crown has only gotten more intriguing with age, introducing Princess Diana, played at first by Emma Corrin, breathed new life into the enterprise.

dead to me

10. Dead to Me (2019– )

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 plot-turning twists thrown into every episode for good measure. If you enjoy watching adults say "screw it, I'm doing what I want," then the two seasons of Dead to Me are definitely for you.

nick kroll big mouth

9. Big Mouth (2017– )

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. 

american vandal on netflix

8. American Vandal (2017–2018)

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, is much more than a dick joke. After the first couple of 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) doubles down on the concept by focusing on poop, and it, too, works devastatingly well.

omar sy in lupin

7. Lupin (2022– )

Each episode of Netflix's Lupin, a nimble French caper series starring Omar Sy (The Intouchables) as gentleman thief Assane Diop, builds to the type of rug-pulling flashback that you might find at the end of an Ocean's movie. Disguises are ripped off; diamonds get pocketed; the dashing hero slips away, again. It's a classic heist-movie device that could get repetitive or predictable in different hands but, through its fast-paced episodes and nail-biting close calls, Lupin and its endlessly charming leading man (and sometimes a very cute Jack Russell Terrier named J'accuse) execute each reveal with a high degree of finesse as each development becomes more dangerous and the stakes grow ever higher. With a show like this, getting fooled is half the fun.

alison brie in glow

6. GLOW (2017–2019)

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.

the oad

5. The OA (2017–2019)

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. 


4. Mindhunter (2017–2019)

Filmmaker David Fincher (Se7en, Zodiac) is fascinated by serial killers, so it was only inevitable that his obsession would find him bringing his dark, brooding style to Netflix for a series. Loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name, the show follows FBI wunderkind Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), his mentor Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and psychologist-turned-consultant Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) as they attempt to establish a division of the FBI 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 identifying criminal sociopaths. Mindhunter 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. But sadly, we'll never see how it intended to tie together the clips of the BTK Killer that loomed throughout Season 2, as Fincher decided to cut the show short to focus on other projects. At least true-crime and prestige TV obsessives had the two seasons we did.

bojack horseman

3. BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)

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 and personal redemption, you'll encounter killer visual gags, whip-smart dialogue, complex-as-hell characters, and genuine feels—the kind that'll make you evaluate (and re-evaluate and re-re-evaluate) your own life. We wholeheartedly recommend BoJack, which wrapped up its impressive six-season run on a high note.

natasha lyonne in russian doll

2. Russian Doll (2019– )

What starts as 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—transformed over the course of two seasons into an existential masterpiece about inherited trauma and guilt. Co-executive producers Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland joined Lyonne for what began in 2019's Season 1 as a hilarious and deft exploration 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. In Season 2, Lyonne took over as showrunner and crafted a time-traveling mystery about the Holocaust and family. Lyonne's performance as Nadia is a treat as she smokes like a chimney and enunciates every letter in the word cockroach, but Russian Doll has also become a sort of exorcism in a beautiful and mysterious way.

i think you should leave with tim robinson

1. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (2019– )

There's an argument to be made that I Think You Should Leave is the only perfect product Netflix has produced so far. The existing two seasons of the sketch comedy series created by SNL alum Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin are short, glorious bursts of bizarre humor that could only exist in a world with no studio notes and no executives asking the writers to explain just why the concept of "sloppy steaks" is so funny. It gives both up-and-coming talent (Patti Harrison, Conner O'Malley, Kate Berlant, Sam Richardson, etc.) and recognizable faces (Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, Fred Willard, Andy Samberg, Steven Yeun, Tim Heidecker, etc.) a platform to flex their most deranged comedic muscles. 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. The "good steering wheel" guy in the car focus group has become a widespread meme along with Dan Flashes and the guy who doesn't know how to drive, 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?

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