The Best Reality TV Shows on Netflix
From wild dating shows to wholesome self-improvement series, these are the reality shows worth streaming on Netflix.
Like with all other formats in the entertainment industry, Netflix has gone in on reality TV production and licensing with mixed results. While some of its series are maybe too out there (Sexy Beasts anyone?), many of them became our collective obsession when they dropped, introducing clever new formats and more down-to-earth sensibilities to the genre. For the purposes of this particular list, we've excluded competition-driven reality shows (ie. Nailed It!, The Great British Baking Show), serious docuseries (ie. Chef's Table), and informational series (ie. Nadiya Bakes) because, in its purest form, reality TV is mostly just about people hanging out. Thus, here are the best reality TV shows to watch on Netflix for when you need to turn your brain off and witness the human condition through highly produced situations and careful editing.
Are You the One? (2014– )
It's man vs. machine in this dating game that sounds like something straight out of Black Mirror—but maybe a tad less dystopian. The show, which began in 2014 right as we were starting to realize how much algorithms controlled every aspect of our lives, pits human connection against empirical data, testing how well human nature lines up with math. A bunch of singles are given the run of a sprawling mansion after answering a series of in-depth questionnaires that the show uses to match them all into pairs according to the data. The twist: None of this information is revealed to the contestants, who have to search for love the old-fashioned way. If their results line up with the algorithm, they win a cash prize and, potentially, a soulmate for life—but only if everyone is able to find out what the computers already know.
The Circle (2020– )
Taking elements of other popular reality shows—Big Brother with a dollop of Love Island and a sprinkle of Terrace House—and incorporating them into a social media-based game, The Circle is an experiment in isolation: The players, who are likely living a few doors away from each other in made-for-Instagram apartments, can only interact with other through the show-specific, voice-activated social media app, the titular Circle, and have to rank each other every day based on photos posted, bonds formed in DMs, hunches on who's catfishing and who isn't, and who's likable enough, but not too likable, to pad you from being blocked. There's some flirting, but it's mostly people just asking each other how their day is going and forming friendly alliances with each other, with a few occasional challenges made to procure the most likes on posts from other players. It sounds maybe boring—how could people talking at a screen obsessing over their feeds be entertaining?—but trust us, you won't regret flipping on The Circle.
Cooking with Paris (2021)
Cooking shows are easy to love in pretty much any iteration, but it's always worth being a little skeptical when a non-chef celebrity-hosted one is announced. I don't know about you, but I love a cooking show in pretty much any iteration—so last year when Netflix announced Cooking with Paris, I was excited but also a little skeptical. But even if you watch them to ease your brain, there's still always something to learn—surprisingly, as is the case with Cooking with Paris. Essentially, the show has Hilton host her famous friends over for themed meals and we get to watch as she bumbles her way through her kitchen—celebs, they’re just like us!—in fabulous outfits. She certainly has her fair share of recipe screw ups, but they are charming, and honestly, Hilton is pretty sturdy in the kitchen overall. The Funfetti Flan Cake and Easy Cheesy Mac and Cheese might just make it into your own kitchen rotation.
Love Is Blind (2020– )
Could you fall in love with someone simply based on the sound of their voice and the depth of your conversations, then marry them a few weeks later? That's Love Is Blind in a nutshell, where separate seasons of Americans, Brazilians, and Japanese people try to find "the one" by entering a pod with a comfy couch and talking to a wall with a person on the other side—who they only see after they're engaged, and then try to make it in the real world as a couple. Hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, the series makes for a decidedly wild watch, as people fall in love or fall out of love when the reality of merging two lives together smacks them in the face, and they decide whether to say "I do" or "I don't" at the altar at the end of the experiment.
Queer Eye (2018– )
When Queer Eye first debuted in 2018, it was met with skepticism. The original, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, seemed extremely dated. Would any sort of update work? And turns out, yes, mostly brilliantly. Getting rid of the second part of the title and expanding the purview of “heroes” the Fab Five would consult refreshed the format, making it inclusive and extremely entertaining. Does Queer Eye sometimes lean a little too hard on its saccharine charms? Sure. But its fabulous cast, including Antoni and his T-shirts, still make it a great watch.
Selling Sunset (2019– )
The King of Reality TV, Bravo's Andy Cohen, has never said much about Netflix's Selling Sunset, other than it might have been inspired by Bravo's own Million Dollar Listing. But Cohen knows Bravo-level quality when he sees it—and Selling Sunset might be the closest thing out there that comes even close. Following an extremely leggy bunch of realtors and the Oppenheimer Twins who boss them around, Selling Sunset is full of Parasite-esque homes only one percenters can afford, a ton of interpersonal drama between everyone in the Oppenheimer office, and Christine Quinn. You'll likely find that you can't help but stan most of these women, but Quinn gets special notice because there hasn't been a reality villain so fully and fabulously realized in ages. Every episode is a wild ride, and the upcoming Season 5 promises more drama, more of Quinn's over-the-top antics and outfits, and a blossoming romance between realtor Chrishelle and one of the Oppenheimer twins (which one exactly is hard to say because they're nearly identical).
Single's Inferno (2021– )
Netflix's first dating show from South Korea was a bingable hit, stranding nine hot single people on a beach for nine days to fend for themselves. Their only way to escape to "paradise," aka a fancy hotel, for a night is to unknowingly choose each other to couple up with, decided by first impressions, side conversations, and being forced to cook meals together. For a dating show, it feels decidedly low stakes, and that's part of what makes Single's Inferno so great. Though the show is billed this way, nobody's presuming to find the love of their life—they just need to make that connection that'll have them sleeping in a real bed and eating a lavish steak dinner with champagne for the night before they're kicked back to the inferno.
Terrace House (2015– )
The Xanax of Netflix reality shows, Terrace House is Japan's answer to MTV's Real World. Six strangers—three men and three women—live together while going about their normal lives. No new jobs or challenges; just vibing, and housemates can leave as soon as they feel it's time. The light twist is that a panel of six comedians and famous personalities watches the same cuts of their days as we do and provides commentary, predicting villains of the house and rooting for budding couples. For as chill as it is, Terrace House is not without drama; on-screen, it's just more subdued and often existential than the in-your-face screaming matches American reality TV fans are used to. On the show, cooking someone's fancy meat blew up into a multi-episode arc about the fallout, and being lazy about your dreams can earn you a dressing-down from your temporary roommates about your unfulfilled potential. Externally, Terrace House has come under fire for its lack of protection and support against its stars being bullied online, which has rightfully put new seasons after Boys and Girls in the City, Aloha State, Opening New Doors, and Tokyo 2019-2020 on indefinite hiatus.
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (2019)
If you find kitchen restock TikToks and room redesign YouTube videos addictive, look no further than Japanese organization superstar Marie Kondo and her flagship Netflix series, in which she helps a different person every episode find order and calm in their own lives by cleaning up their living space. Using her "KonMari method," Kondo instructs her clients and us how to tidy up our homes, getting rid of unnecessary clutter and keeping only things that "spark joy." From throwing every item of clothing onto your bed and sorting through until you can see your sheets again to using small boxes and drawer dividers to organize your closets and kitchens, Marie Kondo has a solution for everything, and her soft-spoken glee in helping people clean up their living spaces—never forget her iconic "I love mess"—gives the show a uniquely calming, fulfilling ambience.
Too Hot to Handle (2020– )
On the surface, Too Hot to Handle has an overly familiar dating show format: A number of hot singles are dumped on a tropical island with nothing but their personalities and wardrobes full of swimsuits and beach cover-ups with which to find a soulmate. But unlike the show's Love Island-esque predecessors, there’s a catch. This show is all about self-control. After 12 hours of rampant flirting, the island's AI, a cone named Lana, pops in to announce that the only way everyone gets off the island with a piece of the cash prize is by refraining from any sexual activity at all. For every instance of hanky-panky that Lana catches, money is deducted from the pool of winnings and the culprits are shamed for being too horny. In other words, perfect television.
The Ultimatum (2022– )
A couple has been dating for a while, and while one person is ready to take the forever plunge and say "I do," the other is less certain about it. Enter The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On, Netflix's version of Temptation Island that's more like therapy than it is distracting its participants with hot singles. Also hosted by Love is Blind's Nick and Vanessa Lachey, it's the streaming service's wildest dating show yet, a true mind-fuck for the people in it that translates to a series that feels illegal to be watching. And yet, its interpersonal drama is addictive as you try to guess which couples will make it out together or crash and burn.