Last Updated: September 15th
There are a lot of good TV shows on Netflix but what’s the best Netflix original series? Depends on who you ask. Comic book superheroes, zombified sitcoms, ’80s-soaked sci-fi — the streaming platform kind of has it all. So, if you’re trying to figure out exactly which original show to watch next but you’re struggling to narrow down your queue, here’s a great place to start with a look at a ranked list of the 60 best Netflix series right now.
Related: The Best Movies On Netflix Right Now
The Umbrella Academy
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
Superhero team-ups are a dime a dozen but the TV adaptation of this award-winning comic series created by Gerard Way — yes, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance — feels wholly unique and thus, totally refreshing. The show follows the story of seven kids, all born on the same day to mothers who didn’t even know they were pregnant. They’re adopted by a mysterious billionaire and trained to use their supernatural abilities to fight evil in the world, but when they grow up, their dysfunctional upbringing catches up with them, and they’re left struggling to live normal lives. In season two, that means time-jumping to the 60s, starting doomsday cults, and seriously f*cking with the assassination of JFK. It’s all kinds of weird, which is exactly what the genre needs right now.
Dead To Me
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
Christina Applegate returns to TV with this grief-com about a woman trying to pick up the pieces after her husband is murdered in a horrible hit-and-run accident. Applegate plays the angry, grieving widow with equal parts humor and empathy while Linda Cardellini plays her sunny, optimistic best friend. The two meet in a grief group and navigate the challenges of moving on after loss while also solving a murder mystery. There’s no way you’ll know what to expect here, which is half the fun of watching and the show dispelled any worries that it couldn’t keep up its cliffhanger-heavy intrigue with a second season that saw Applegate and Cardellini involved in a new, just-as-illegal cover-up.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Henry Cavill leads this fantasy epic based on a best-selling series of books and a popular video game franchise. The expectations are high, but they’re more than exceeded by Cavill, who plays a mutated monster hunter named Geralt. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich laid out for us the changes she made from page to screen, introducing key characters like the sorceress Yennefer and the destined princess Ciri early on, changes that take this show to the next level. It’s a cross between a police procedural and a Lord Of The Rings-style adventure. You’ll love it.
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley returns as a scumbag we can’t help but swoon over in this Lifetime drama that’s now been handed off to the streaming platform. Badgley plays Joe Goldberg, a seemingly-sweet guy who works at a bookshop in the city and courts a beautiful blonde named Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Unfortunately, that’s where the rom-com portion of this thriller ends. You see, Joe’s “courting” includes stalking the object of his affections, breaking into her apartment, holding her boyfriend hostage, and peeping in on her most intimate of moments. And that’s only in the first episode. If anything, this show is proof that the modern dating world can be a terrifying hellscape. And in case the show’s first season didn’t traumatize you enough, Badgley returns to prey on another poor woman aptly named Love (Victoria Pedretti) who might put up more of a fight than his previous victims.
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Following in the footsteps of Nick Kroll’s Big Mouth, this British teem comedy is committed to exploring all of the cringe-worthy, taboo topic associated with sex, just not in animated form. The series follows a mother-son duo navigating their way through those uncomfortable “talks.” Of course, the mother here happens to be a sex therapist named Dr. Jean Milburn (a terrific Gillian Anderson) and her son Otis (Asa Butterfield) is the kid enduring her overbearing tendencies at home while doling out sex advice of his own in an underground sex therapy ring amongst his friends. Sex is a comedy goldmine, and although the show loves to play up ’80s high-school tropes, there’s real nuance and thought that goes into how these teens are portrayed and their interactions with sex. Plus, Anderson’s comedic timing is spot-on.
The Last Kingdom
4 seasons, 36 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
If Vikings and epic battle and political intrigue are your thing then you’ll like this medieval series about a Saxon lord striving to reclaim his birthright as England unites against a Danish invasion. Alexander Dreymon plays Uhtred, a Saxon-born, Viking raised warrior who finds himself torn between two worlds as he fights to help an English king rule over the continent and wrestles with his true nature. There’s a colorful cast of supporting characters (some historical figures you might recognize), but what this show does well is its action, giving fans gritty, realistic warfare that feels just as exciting as any CGI showdown.
6 seasons, 77 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
Netflix’s best series is also one of its most underrated. Set in a world where anthropomorphic animals and humans live side-by-side, BoJack Horseman is about a horse named Bojack (Arnett), the washed-up star of the 1990s sitcom Horsin’ Around. After a decade boozing on his couch and sleeping around, Bojack tries to resurrect his celebrity relevance with decidedly mixed results. His agent and on-again, off-again girlfriend is a Persian cat (Amy Sedaris); his rival (Paul F. Tompkins) is a golden labrador; he’s in love with a human woman who works as a ghostwriter (Alison Brie); and he has a layabout roommate (Aaron Paul) with whom Bojack has a co-dependent relationship. On the face of it, it’s a zany satire of Hollywood and celebrity culture. What’s unexpected, however, is that Bojack Horseman may be television’s most honest and thorough examination of depression. The writing is sharp, the jokes are layered, and the situations are hilarious, but there’s a melancholy undercurrent to the series. Despite being a horse, Bojack is also one of the most human characters on television. It takes two or three episodes to hook viewers into its world, but once it does, it’s an impossible series to stop watching.
3 seasons, 25 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
A throwback and love letter to the early 1980s movies of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, the Duffer Brothers Stranger Things feels both familiar and new. The first season is about a boy named Will (think E.T.‘s Elliot) who is captured by a The Thing-like creature and trapped in a Poltergeist-like world. His mother (Winona Ryder) recruits the local sheriff to investigate Will’s disappearance. Meanwhile, Will’s dorky, Goonies-like best friends take to their bikes to do some sleuthing of their own and eventually befriend an alien-like girl with telepathic powers (the E.T. of the series). Season two continued that vibe as the show dove deeper into government conspiracies and alien monsters intent on wreaking havoc on small-town Indiana while the show’s latest season let its magnetic young cast grow up a bit, giving them more complicated villains to fight and a Soviet conspiracy to uncover. It’s great PG horror/sci-fi, like the blockbusters of the early ’80s, and even if you didn’t come of age in the era, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Ozark, from part of the team behind Ben Affleck’s The Accountant, is an example of what we call stress-watching television. A combination of Breaking Bad and Bloodline, Ozark sees a money launderer (Jason Bateman) and his wife (Laura Linney) move from Chicago to backwoods Missouri in an effort to clean $8 million in three months, lest their entire family be killed by a Mexican drug cartel. It’s not a fun show, and it’s barely entertaining, but like Bloodline, it’s the kind of series where the viewer is anxious to binge through it just to see if the antagonists will survive and how. It’s a seedy, well-written, well-acted series, and Bateman is terrific, but the entire point of Ozark is to put the viewer through the wringer.
When They See Us
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 9/10
Director Ava DuVernay’s limited series about the wrongfully accused men in the Central Park Five case is an emotionally heavy reimagining of a truly tragic event in our history. The series sheds light on racial profiling and corruption in the NYPD as a group of young Black men are targeted for a heinous crime and put on trial with little evidence. It’s a gripping, heartbreaking retelling, but one that feels sadly relevant.
4 seasons, 40 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
At once intimate and sweeping, The Crown presents an inside view of the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II, played by Claire Foy, and the first few years of her reign. John Lithgow is featured as the indomitable Winston Churchill, struggling with the ignominy of age at the end of his career. Churchill’s support and mentorship of Elizabeth, despite his limitations, creates an important emotional center around which various historical events turn. Elizabeth’s relationship with her husband, Prince Phillip (Matt Smith) is also wonderfully explored; his role as consort is one that he by turns delights in and rebels against. And because the show has committed to exploring Elizabeth’s length reign, we’re treated to different versions of these characters throughout their lives. In season 3, Olivia Colman picks up the crown while Tobias Menzies plays Prince Phillip and Helena Bonham Carter comes on board as Princess Margaret.
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
G.L.O.W., from exec producer Jenji Kohan and a couple of her proteges, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, is based on the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling television series. Set in the 1980s, G.L.O.W. sees a group of failed actresses and assorted misfits shaped into a female wrestling league by a cult-flick screenwriter (Marc Maron) and a trust-fund kid (Chris Lowell). There’s nothing particularly original about G.L.O.W., which traffics in a number of tropes and stereotypes, but the characters (led by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin) are so unbelievably likable that it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with these underdog heroes. It’s a fast-paced, funny and immensely sweet series that goes down like candy. Season two focuses the spotlight on the supporting cast as the women ready for their television debuts and contend with sexual harassment and misogyny in the workplace and the show’s third season felt like it was setting up a satisfying conclusion to the rich story these women share. Unfortunately, it looks like the pandemic has taken that away from us too.
3 seasons, 39 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
Brilliantly shot, excellently choreographed, and superbly written, Daredevil lives so far outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as to be completely distinct. It is darker, more brutal, and grittier than the film franchise, although there are enough light and humor in the show to make its characters sympathetic. The series nails the tone of the comic, the characters are complex, and it really understands the grey area between hero and villain, and the fine line between the two where violence is concerned. The fight scenes are brutal, and one couldn’t ask for a better Matt Murdock than the one depicted by Charlie Cox. The villains — Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in the first season, and Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle in the second — are not caricatures. They’re three-dimensional and at times sympathetic in their own right. It’s a potent combination of writing, acting, and directing that makes Daredevil one of the best Netflix originals and the best superhero series on television. It’s a shame Marvel’s deal with Netflix ended because the show’s third season was a masterclass in how to act like a tortured hero from Cox and it set up some interesting storylines we’re still dying to see play out.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
Natasha Lyonne stars in this Groundhog Day-from-hell remake about a woman who’s forced to relive the last day of her life over and over again. It’s been done before, but this series stands out thanks to its mix of dark humor and a tinge of the supernatural. Lyonne is one of the often-overlooked OITNB stars, but it looks like this series is giving her a chance to show off her comedic chops as her character, Nadia, endures a constant loop of partying, dying, then waking up to do it all over again. As bleak as the premise is, Lyonne manages to find a silver lining, a universal message that basically read, “The world is sh*t, let’s help each other out if we can.”
1 season, 7 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Exec produced by Steven Soderbergh and written, directed, and created by Scott Frank, who wrote Logan and Out of Sight, Godless, is equal parts a feminist Western and s a show about fathers and sons. The series is set in the 1880s in the small mining town of La Belle, where nearly all of the town’s men have died in a mining accident. Enter Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), a charming gunslinger on the run from the mentor he double-crossed, Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), who — along with his crew out desperadoes — had already murdered everyone in another small town for harboring Goode. The series ultimately pits a town of mostly women against a brutal, merciless outlaw gang. Scoot McNairy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Sam Waterston play lawmen, but the standouts in Godless are Downton Abby‘s nearly unrecognizable shotgun wielding pioneer woman Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever, a bisexual woman all out of f–ks to give. It’s a tremendously good series buoyed by beautiful cinematography, poetic language, a few great shoot-outs, and fine performances from the entire cast.
4 seasons, 42 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
The animated, coming-of-age comedy from Nick Kroll is full of familiar voices and even more familiar life problems. Centered on a group of pre-pubescent friends, Kroll voices a younger version of himself, a kid named Andrew who’s going through some embarrassing life changes like inconvenient erections and strange wet dreams and bat-mitzvah meltdowns. All these traumatizing and hilarious happenings are usually caused by Maurice, Andrew’s own Hormone Monster (also voiced by Kroll) who takes pleasure (literally) in abusing the poor kid. As painfully accurate as the show is, if you’re lucky enough to be removed from that angst-ridden era of life, you’ll probably appreciate the humor in all of it.
5 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
A British import licensed in America exclusively by Netflix, Peaky Blinders is roughly the UK equivalent of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, taking place in the same time period and covering similar terrain. It’s got British gangsters, and while bootlegging and gambling are involved, so is the IRA, Peaky has one thing that Boardwalk does not, however, and that’s the piercing, intense Cillian Murphy, who plays something akin to Prohibition-era Boyd Crowder. The show also features Tom Hardy as a phenomenal recurring character in seasons two and three (along with Noah Taylor). It’s addictive, violent, intense as hell, and it manages to seamlessly blend roughly-accented melodrama with historical events so everything feels timely and modern.
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
Shira Hass gives a star-making performance in this limited series playing a young, ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman who flees her community and begins a new life for herself following an arranged marriage. Haas devastates as Esther, a girl who grows up under strict religious scrutiny and finds the courage to make her own way while still warring with the values and teachings of her early life. It’s not an easy watch by any means, but it is an enlightening one.
5 seasons, 50 episodes | IMDb: 8.9/10
With Narcos, Netflix takes on the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Medellín drug cartel. Splicing together dramatized scenes and actual news footage, Brazilian filmmaker José Padilha (Elite Squad) combines Scarface and Goodfellas to track the life of Escobar. However, the real story here is not the characters as much as it is the Colombian drug trade and the spread of cocaine from South America into the United States in the 1980s. Escobar is used as a vehicle to illustrate the futility of the American drug war and the toll it took on both the criminals in Colombia and the authorities in the United States. As dramatic series go, Narcos is decent. As a historical examination of the drug trade, it is absolutely fascinating.
Orange is the New Black
7 seasons, 91 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
Jenji Kohan’s knack for social commentary mixed with humor is perfect for a prison story. Orange Is the New Black is as funny as Weeds in its early years, but Kohan has found a way to infuse poignancy to the overall vibe of her stories. The diverse, engaging ensemble cast is chock-full of fan favorites, and while Orange is the New Black traffics in stereotypes, it also challenges and complicates them. The acting is superb, the writing is brilliant, and the storylines are addictive. More importantly, it forces us to root for people who make poor decisions and appreciate the fact that we all make poor decisions because we’re human. The series will make viewers laugh and think, and every once in a while, it will break viewers’ hearts. It is a smart show, but most of all, it is good, in every sense of the word.
2 seasons, 19 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
In Mindhunter, Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford, a character based on the real-life John E. Douglas (the inspiration for Jack Crawford in the Hannibal series). The series itself is based on the origins of an actual behavioral science unit in the FBI used to study serial killers in the 1970s and 80s. Ford is a young FBI Agent who takes a keen interest in psychology which, in turn, grows into an interest in the psychology of sequential killers. It’s a fascinating exploration into the origins of what now seems commonplace, a science that has inspired dozens of police procedurals. What’s more interesting here, however, is that while Ford is studying serial killers (all of whom are based on actual serial killers from that era), Ford develops his own obsession with serial-killers which mirrors the obsession serial killers have with their victims. The series comes from Joe Penhall and executive producer David Fincher (who also directs several episodes), and fans of Fincher’s Zodiac will appreciate Mindhunter for its same attention to detail, and the same dedication to character and research over surprising twists and reveals.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
4 seasons, 52 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
This Tina Fey-produced sitcom — which was originally supposed to air on NBC before the network agreed to give it to Netflix — is as dense and irreverent as 30 Rock, but it’s also immensely life-affirming. It’s funny, fast-paced, chock-full of pop-culture references and maybe the easiest Netflix original series to binge-watch. And, like 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt also includes a lot of fun — and unexpected — celebrity cameos and pop culture references throughout its four seasons.
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
In theory, American Vandal sounds silly and sophomoric, and it is, but it’s also a genuinely brilliant, incredibly clever, smartly written satire of true-crime documentaries. It plays just like any other true crime docuseries — interviews, investigations, multiple suspects, and numerous conspiracy theories — only the crime here is not a murder. It’s a high school student who has been accused by the school board of spray painting dicks on 27 cars, a crime that threatens his ability to graduate. It’s a brilliant whodunnit that just happens to also be the best parody of 2017, and it even earned a Peabody Award earlier this year. With the show’s second season, the guys are investigating a new mystery: the case of the cafeteria’s contaminated lemonade. If you thought there were a lot of dick jokes in season one, just wait until you see how many sh*ttakes the’ve got planned.
Master of None
3 seasons, 25 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Aziz Ansari’s Master of None is a post-racial dating and relationship sitcom about millennials. Like the better dating sitcoms of the past, the series still manages to capture the anxieties of dating, of new relationships, and of settling down, only it successfully brings in texting and social media into the mix naturally and without calling attention to itself. It also explores intimacy without resorting to gender stereotypes or relationship clichés. It’s new, and unique, and most of all, it is kind. It’s a good series about genuinely good people, and the chemistry between Ansari’s character and his love interest (Noel Wells) in the first season is electric. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but Master of None is funny in its observations, clever in its writing and honest in the depiction of its characters. It’s a truly great sitcom and something of a roadmap to dating for a new generation.
2 seasons, 26 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
Netflix’s sixth Marvel series falls victim to the same problems that have beset the previous Marvel series, namely it takes a strong character and stretches the story entirely too thin. Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is, save for Jessica Jones, arguably the most compelling character in Netflix’s Marvel universe. He’s a villain in the second season of Daredevil, but a dark anti-hero here, a man who has zero regards for the lives of bad people, who he pummels and tortures to death. Castle is a grim character, but — thanks to the buddy partner dynamic with David Lieberman (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) — there are moments of levity and occasional doses of humor in the first season. The show’s follow-up run lags a bit, but it introduces fans to new characters who test Castle’s carefully constructed persona and force him to reckon with his past in interesting new ways.
3 seasons, 26 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
If you’re trying to pin down Netflix’s mystery crime thriller, the best way to describe it is to call it a German version of Stranger Things minus the Demogorgon. The show centers on four families whose lives and dark deeds are brought to light after two children vanish in the woods. There’s plenty of familial drama here and a supernatural twist or two to keep things interesting. Oh, and time travel. Did we mention the f*ck with your mind time-travel plot?
2 seasons, 22 episodes + 1 Christmas special | IMDb: 8.4/10
The Wachowksis’ Sense8 is about a group of people around the world who are suddenly linked mentally. Like Cloud Atlas, the disparate stories about love and relationships weave in and out of each other. For all its sci-fi flourishes, however, Sense8 is about big, sloppy profound love, and as unwieldy as the series can often be, there’s at least one moment in every episode so powerful that viewers can’t help but to feel moved by the affection the characters feel for one another. It is sometimes cheesy, and occasionally illogical, but it is also one of the most diverse, multi-cultural, romantic, life-affirming sci-fi series ever. It may require some patience from viewers, but for idealists and romantics, it’s a truly special series.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones
3 seasons, 39 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
As an episodic series, Jessica Jones occasionally falters. Jones is a private detective with certain special powers, but the series doesn’t put her P.I. talents to much use, instead focusing on one storyline surrounding the big bad, Kilgrave (David Tennant) for the entire first season. Tennant’s character, however, is the best reason to watch the series — he’s captivating yet repugnant, alluring yet vile — and the themes of rape and domestic abuse resonate loudly. Unfortunately, when Kilgrave is not onscreen, the series drifts, diving into Jessica’s traumatic upbringing in season two and pitting her against her adopted sister in season three. Still, it’s a captivating, thematically-rich series that covers ground no other superhero series would dare to explore, and while that doesn’t make it the most entertaining Marvel series, it is the bravest and most original.
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Based on the 2002 science fiction novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon mixes a few great, new ideas with a lot of derivative ones and delivers a series that alternates between frustrating and brilliant. The show is set in a future where everyone’s consciences have been downloaded into stacks, which can be transferred into different “sleeves,” or bodies. Theoretically, a person can live forever, unless his or her stack is destroyed; however, in practice, only the wealthy can afford to buy the necessary sleeves to live indefinitely. In this world, Joel Kinnaman stars as Takeshi Kovacs, a former U.N. elite soldier who returns in a different sleeve to work as a private investigator hired by a wealthy man to solve the murder of his own sleeve. The premise itself is fascinating, but the show gets bogged down in world-building before it can establish its characters. The latest installment picks up right where things left off, just with Anthony Mackie taking over for Kinnaman, playing Kovacs. Kovacs is living in a new host, searching for his long-lost lover, investigating more murder mysteries, and seeking redemption all while trying to exist in a world where human consciousness is passed from body to body in the hopes of attaining immortality. So yeah, a lot is going on with this one.
The End of the F***ing World
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
The End of the F***ing World is a dark-black comedy based on the comic series by Charles S. Forsman about James (Alex Lawther), a withdrawn and disturbed 17-year-old who believes he is a psychopath, and his burgeoning Bonnie & Clyde-like relationship with Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a classmate damaged by a dysfunctional family. Written by Charlie Covell and directed by Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak, the series’ is akin to a high school version of True Romance, about two deeply troubled, misanthropic teenagers who find comfort in one another and who are willing, if necessary, to perpetrate crimes to maintain their relationship. It’s bleakly funny but things take a more serious turn in season two, when Alyssa is left managing the aftermath of the pair’s crime spree and a new psychopath enters the mix.
Grace and Frankie
7 seasons, 82 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Starring veteran actors Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, and Martin Sheen, Grace and Frankie follows the lives of two reluctant best friends who move in together after their husbands leave them for each other. The series can best be described as amiable. It’s funny, but not hilarious; occasionally clever, and always pleasant. The conceit is novel, but the storylines are familiar and don’t really go anywhere. They don’t really need to. It’s a great lot of people to hang out with, boosted by a strong supporting cast that includes Brooklyn Decker, June Diane Raphael, and Ethan Embry. For longtime fans of the main cast, the series borders on irresistible.
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
The OA has been wildly divisive among both critics and viewers alike, with about 50 percent strongly disliking it and the other 50 percent incredibly intrigued by the Brit Marling series. Marling stars as Praire Johnson, a blind, adopted woman who disappears for seven years and when she returns, she has scars on her back, she’s clearly been underground for a long period of time, and she can see. She calls herself The OA, and shares the details of her disappearance with only a few select people, her cult of followers. It’s an ambitious, imaginative series and though it is wildly uneven, it still remains watchable, full of moments both profound and eye rolling. The problem with The OA, however, is that it buys too readily into its own ethos and ultimately takes itself way more seriously than any viewer could. While it also manages to build a compelling mystery, it fails to resolve it in a satisfying manner.
On My Block
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
At first glance, On My Block is just another teen drama about a group of funny, street smart kids trying to figure life out. But the show, which has been praised for its diverse cast and its ability to touch on real issues like immigration and the effects of gang violence, provides a refreshing viewpoint while concentrating on the lives of these four friends making it on the rough streets of an inner Los Angeles neighborhood. The show may deal in larger themes, but the fun in watching it comes when the focus falls back on the close-knit bond between four very different kids.
13 Reasons Why
4 seasons, 49 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
13 Reasons Why has an intriguing hook: A teenage girl named Hannah takes her own life and leaves behind a suicide note in the form of 13 tapes, each one directed at a particular individual at least partially responsible for the decision to kill herself. The tapes are then passed around to the 13 people, who have to deal with the guilt they feel for the role they played in her death, as well as keep their secrets hidden as the contents of the tape threaten to destroy relationships and cost the school millions in an ongoing lawsuit. The drama came under fire in its first season for its heavy subject material, and the reason it stirred so much controversy is that it is an honest and unflinching look at teen suicide. It’s a heavy series, especially for one featuring teen characters, but it is also emotionally raw, incredibly compelling, heartbreaking and admirable for at least what it’s trying to do, and it only continues asking those hard questions in later seasons, watching as these kids grow up and try to move on from this life-altering tragedy.
3 seasons, 33 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
Bloodline’s first season was a masterclass in the art of the slow-burn and though the show’s follow-up seasons faltered a bit, the killer cast and unpredictable twists make them still must-watch material. The series follows the Rayburn siblings, John (Kyle Chandler), Meg (Linda Cardellini), Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) and Danny, portrayed by the Emmy-nominated Ben Mendelsohn, who gives one of this decade’s best television performances. It’s Danny who’s the powder keg, the black-sheep brother who returns home to the hotel business and upends the entire family, outing their secrets and putting them all in danger. Bloodline is a stressful series. It seems designed not to entertain, but to give viewers a panic attack. It’s a series that demands to be binged, not because the viewer wants to find out what’s next so much as not pushing through means living with these characters’ anxiety that much longer.
I Am Not Okay With This
1 season, 7 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
The Stranger Things team brings us another supernaturally charged look at adolescence, this time starring Sharp Objects’ Sophia Lillis. Lillis plays Sydney, a young woman whose father commits suicide in her family’s basement, moves to a stifling town, loses her best friend to the obligatory “boy crazed” phase of teenagedom, and begins manifesting her angst with increasingly volatile bouts of telekinesis. Think Carrie mixed with The End of the F*cking World.
2 seasons, 26 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
The third entry in Marvel’s Defenders series, Luke Cage follows the title character — introduced originally in Jessica Jones) — to Harlem, where he works as a sweeper in a barbershop and as a dishwasher in a restaurant. Cage –who has superhero strength and unbreakable skin — gets dragged against his better instincts into crime-fighting in order to save Harlem from violence and corruption. Mike Colter is the real draw here — he manages to perfectly straddle the line between imposing and kind — and Luke Cage is every bit as thematically complex as Jessica Jones before it.
One Day at a Time
3 seasons, 39 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
A remake of a 1970s sitcom produced by 94-year-old iconic television producer Norman Lear, One Day at a Time manages to not only match its predecessor but miraculously improve upon it. This updated version centers on a Cuban America family headed by a single mom (Justina Machado) raising three kids with the help of her mom (Rita Moreno). It’s broad jokes and laugh track feels somewhat out of place on the streaming service, but the jokes still land and more importantly, the characters connect in an honest way as they attempt to live on a modest nurse’s salary and maintain their Cuban heritage while adapting to modern progressivism (much like Fresh Off the Boat). It’s more poignant sitcom than it is funny, but it’s a warm, loving look at the difficulties of single parenting that resonates as much now as it did in the ’70s.
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Veena Sud’s follow-up to The Killing uses a similar structure — one season devoted to one case — but it takes a more holistic approach and injects a heavy dose of racial politics into the mix. The series sees a white cop, Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp), run over a 15-year-old African American kid on his bike and leave him to die. There’s no question that the initial hit was an accident, but the drama comes from the cover-up. The Jersey City cops aim to protect their own, while the grieving family of the boy seeks justice, but this is more than a simple criminal case. It pits cops versus the black community, the prosecutor’s office, and fellow cops, and it ultimately asks the question: How much is the life of a black kid worth? The answer, unfortunately, is depressingly little, at least where the criminal justice system is concerned. The series takes a few episodes to get up to speed, but the end of the fourth episode will grab viewers by the lapels and never let them go. It also features some sterling performances, particularly those from Regina King, Clare-Hope Ashitey, and Michael Mosley.
4 seasons, 38 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Atypical is a family sitcom that would feel right at home among ABC’s family sitcoms (Speechless, Black-ish, Fresh off the Boat, etc.). It’s also a charming coming-of-age show about Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old from Connecticut with high-functioning autism. He’s arrived at an age when he’s decided that he’d like to date and have sex, and the show covers his awkward encounters with women, his inappropriate crush on his therapist, and his relationship with the teenage girl he eventually asks to prom. It also deals with the challenges of his parents; his father (Michael Rapaport) is trying to figure out how to connect with his son while his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) aims to find her own identity apart from being the mother of an autistic child. It’s the older sister (Brigette Lundy-Paine) who is the real stand-out of Atypical, however, as she aims to both support her brother while also creating a life of her own separate from her brother. It’s not a groundbreaking series, but it’s funny, heartwarming, and very, very sweet.
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
This coming-of-age series set in the ’90s could easily be described as the comedic counterpart to Stranger Things, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a sweet, funny, and heartfelt show about a group of high school kids — popular, unpopular and in-between — searching for their own identities and trying to find their place not only in high school but in the world. The main story sees a freshman from the A/V club, Luke (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), falling in love a with Kate (Peyton Kennedy), who is trying to come to terms with her own sexual identity as a lesbian. While the issues they face are specific to their characters, the range of feelings they experience as universal — falling in love, heartbreak, seeking acceptance and validation from others. It is a comedy infused with ’90s nostalgia, but it doesn’t rely on nostalgia to tell its story, and the story it tells is one of those most hopeful, optimistic, and deeply affecting series in the Netflix catalog.
Dear White People
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 6.3/10
One of the best and most underappreciated series on Netflix, Dear White People is a television adaptation that manages to improve exponentially on the movie upon which it is based. From creator Justin Simien, Dear White People is a smart, insightful, thoughtful and at times sharply funny examination of racial politics on a college campus, where it’s more than just black people pitted against white people; it’s woke people vs. those who aren’t woke; black people fighting the system versus black people trying to work within the system; and light-skinned black people versus darker-skinned black people. It’s an eye-opening, smartly crafted television show that’s as entertaining as it is important, and it features an outstanding cast, led by Logan Browning.
3 seasons, 34 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
Travelers is a sci-fi series co-produced by Netflix and a Canadian television network Showcase starring Eric McCormick (Will & Grace). It’s a light sci-fi drama about people from hundreds of years in the future whose consciences are sent back to the present day to take the place of others who are already about to die. They’re sent back, a la Terminator, to prevent a bleak future from taking place. In the present day, this group of people is tasked with missions to prevent the future dystopia from happening, but they also have to acclimate into the lives of their host bodies. It is a quintessential Netflix show: Easy-to-binge, madly addictive, fun as hell, and immediately engrossing. While it certainly borrows heavily from other sci-fi shows and movies, it does an excellent job of shaking it up and bringing fresh life to the genre.
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Alias Grace, adapted by Sarah Polley from a Margaret Atwood novel which itself is based on a true story, is set in Canada in the middle of the 19th century, where a house servant Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) has been convicted of a double murder. After spending time in a mental asylum and while serving time in prison, an early version of a therapist is called in to try and discern if Grace is guilty, innocent, lying or telling the truth. Grace’s account of the murders is as confounding to the viewer as it is the doctor, but the truth is not the point. The point of Alias Grace is to illustrate how the men in her life and the lives of the women around her have tyrannized and abused them. They are the product of that abuse, of a system controlled by men, and if a woman were to rise up and murder her terrorizer, who could blame her? It’s a smart, brilliantly acted, and entertaining series, but more than that, it’s an important one for these times.
House of Cards
6 seasons, 78 episodes | IMDb: 8.9/10
The highly bingeable political series is the grandfather of Netflix original programming, and now with five seasons under its belt, it’s had a lot of highs and plenty of lows. The first season is impeccable, as we see the beginning of Frank Underwood’s ascent to power from Speaker of the House to eventual President of the United States. The series, however, hits some rough spots, especially in season three when Underwood and his wife Clare (Robin Wright) turn against each other. Still, the show is never short on twists, turns, and the occasional huge surprise, and it’s always a pleasure to watch Wright chew scenery with delight and disdain in equal measure. The supporting cast — which includes Molly Parker, Michael Kelly, Reg E. Cathey, Constance Zimmer, and Corey Stoll, among others — is always excellent, even if their storylines often run into dead ends.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events
3 seasons, 25 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Sure, this show is based off a children’s book series, but that doesn’t mean the adults can’t enjoy it too. For fans of Lemony Snicket’s darkly-fun tale of a trio of orphans trying to escape the machinations of their evil guardian, an eccentric villain named Count Olaf, Netflix’s on-screen interpretation hits all the right notes. Neil Patrick Harris plays Olaf, a mysterious man whose greed and lack of morality reach new heights with every episode, and his poor victims, the Baudelaire children, prove more capable of handling the evil genius than they let on.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.4/10
Viewers who didn’t like the original Wet Hot American Summer movie or haven’t seen it shouldn’t bother with the Netflix series without at least watching the film first. The series operates like an inside joke within an inside joke referencing a bunch of ’80s teen movies (Zapped, Summer School, School Spirit, Meatballs, etc.) that only a particular demographic will understand. It’s a parody series that uses a very small window as a reference point, but for those who get the joke, it’s impossible not to appreciate the attention to detail that David Wain and Michael Showalter put into the show. The Netflix series sees 45-year-old actors playing teenagers in a prequel to a movie in which the same actors at 30 were playing teenagers at a sleepaway summer camp. It also provides an origin story to many of the characters in the original film. There’s a lot of meta humor, scores of callbacks, and it is littered with Easter Eggs. WHAS is a special kind of brilliant, but as a stand-alone series, it doesn’t function particularly well.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.4/10
Michael C. Hall stars as a well-to-do British family man whose daughter goes missing in this thriller. There are a bunch of moving storylines in this one as Hall’s character jumps from flashbacks to the present, wrestling with guilt over his wife’s death and frantically searching for his missing teen who may have uncovered a decades-long secret kept by those closest to him right before she vanished. Figuring out the who and whydunnit probably won’t happen until the end.
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
“I’m a 45-year-old woman who’s clearly sun-damaged! My skin is getting softer, yet my bones are jutting out, so I’m half-soft, half-sharp!” Maria Bamford says in a shampoo commercial fantasy sequence within the show within the show that’s drawn from the life of a real-life stand-comedian, who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder. It’s that kind of show, and its surrealist brand of comedy is not for everyone. The pilot episode sees Bamford, recovering from a breakdown, attempting to ease her way back into the entertainment business with the help of friends and her manager (Fred Melamed), a process that begins by putting a bench in her front yard so that she can better connect with the community (something the real-life Bamford did herself). Creators Pam Brady (South Park) and Mitch Hurwitz (Arrested Development) bring extreme versions of those shows’ sensibilities to Lady Dynamite, although it also possesses the absurdist streak of Brady’s Hamlet 2. To give potential viewers an idea of what to expect, at one point Patton Oswalt — who plays an actor playing a cop within the show about Bamford’s life — breaks character to advise Bamford as Oswalt not to frame her series with her stand-up because it didn’t work for him. Oswalt and Bamford then have a conversation about Breaking Bad, before using a Breaking Bad reference to indicate a time jump. In other words, there’s a lot of balls in the air in Lady Dynamite, but it rewards those who can keep up. Its Season 2 even made it one of our picks for the best TV shows of 2017.
2 seasons, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
Omar Sy stars in this gripping, deliciously fun mystery thriller about a man hell-bent on revenge. Sy plays Assane Diop, a master thief who seeks payback when his father’s wealthy employer accuses him of stealing a valuable diamond necklace. Assane’s dad commits suicide because of the shame, but the con-man decides to wreak havoc on his enemy’s life, inspired by the adventures of master thief Arsène Lupin, a character created by Maurice Leblanc in the early 1900s.
Santa Clarita Diet
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Boasting a stellar cast led by Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant and a compelling premise — a suburban mom/realtor is mysteriously infected by a zombie virus and has to murder to stay alive — this zombie comedy is nevertheless all over the place. The sitcom is sprinkled with a few great laughs and a number of spectacular gross-out moments, but it ultimately doesn’t add up to much. Still, it’s light and entertaining, the cast is fantastic, and the series is just addictive enough to keep binge-watchers reluctantly pushing the next button after each episode until the entire three seasons are consumed like an above-average fast-food meal. It goes down easy, but it doesn’t taste that great after the 5th bite.
The Get Down
2 seasons, 11 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Baz Luhrmann’s (The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge) lavish, ambitious and expensive series explores the burgeoning hip-hop scene in the South Bronx in the 1970s. Messy and over the top, Lurhmann threatens to derail The Get Down with a campy bombastic style that overshadows substance. The movie-length pilot episode is too long and unfocused, but once the series gets going, it improves dramatically. After all the major characters are introduced and the storylines begin to congeal, The Get Down transforms into an eclectic, infectious and delightful 1970’s cultural remix. The storylines don’t always hold, but every episode delivers at least one show-stopping musical number that will stop viewers in their tracks.
Friends from College
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 6.6/10
Friends from College — from husband and wife team, Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbors) and Francesco Delbanca — is a tonal nightmare. It meshes sitcom television tropes with dark relationship drama with very mixed results. The cast is incredible — Keegan Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Nat Faxon, Billy Eichner, Annie Parissie, Jae Suh Park, and Fred Savage (with extended cameos from Kate McKinnon and Seth Rogen)– which makes Friends from College very watchable, but the characters are deeply unlikable. It centers on a married couple (Key and Smulders) who move back to New York and end up reuniting with their college friends, one of whom Key’s character has been having a 20-year affair (which they continue even as the wife is trying to have a baby). The catch is that when these 40-year-olds get together, they find themselves acting just as they did in college: They drink too much, they’re obnoxious, and old romantic attractions are reignited. There are plenty of laughs, and much of it might feel relatable to the over 30 demographic, but the series doesn’t quite gel. Despite its many problems, I liked it, but viewers’ mileage may vary, depending on their tolerance for privileged adults acting like college kids.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
The four-episode revival of the popular cult series Gilmore Girls is something of a mixed bag. It’s great to see the characters we know and love from the original series return to Stars Hollow, and much of the quick-witted barbs and fast-paced banter remains intact, although the jokes and pop-cultural references are badly out of date. But the season as a whole nevertheless falls flat. It feels contrived, designed for fan service over good storytelling, and though it is set in the present time, it doesn’t suit this era of America life. That’s a problem for a show that once so astutely commented on the culture of its time. The bloated runtimes — each episode is 90 minutes — do not do the show any favors, either. Ultimately, A Year in the Life does what so many revival series/movies (Arrested Development, Veronica Mars) have done before it: It doesn’t ruin our fond memories of the original, but it certainly dampens our enthusiasm for more.
F is for Family
4 seasons, 36 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
Set in 1973, the Netflix animated series from Bill Burr is based on his childhood experiences in Massachusetts, and while it is not a particularly original family sitcom, it’s deceptively smart, hilariously profane, and pays great attention to the details of the 1970s. F is for Family will appeal to anyone who shares Bill Burr’s worldview — dark, unapologetically politically incorrect, and honest. Despite its vulgarity and crude animation, the series also boasts a few poignant turns that border on heartbreaking. For people of Burr’s age, F is for Family really captures what it was like to grow up in the early 1970s.
3 seasons, 34 episodes | IMDb: 7.7/10
Like FX’s You’re the Worst and Amazon’s Catastrophe, Netflix’s Love is another anti-romcom sitcom, but unlike the other two series, its leads aren’t funny or boisterous enough to overcome how unsympathetic they are. Gillian Jacobs plays Mickey, a woman with substance abuse problems and insecurity issues, who falls for Gus (Paul Rust) in part because he’s so nice and non-threatening. It turns out, however, that Gus is “fake nice, which is worse than being mean.” Gus presents himself as something he’s not and uses his non-threatening looks and his awkward nice-guy demeanor to exploit lonely women searching for safe men who won’t screw them over. The series, exec-produced by Judd Apatow, succeeds in what it’s attempting to do, but the characters are so thoroughly unpleasant that all we can do as viewers is hope they get as far away from each other as possible.
3 seasons, 23 episodes | IMDb: 6.8/10
Anyone who has seen the work of Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas) should know to expect from his TV series: A lot of well known, well-liked actors (Aya Cash, Dave Franco, Jake Johnson, Orlando Bloom, Hannibal Buress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, etc.) improvising through a premise supplied by Swanberg. That kind of arrangement — usually shot quickly and cheaply — can provide mixed results, and Easy is no exception. It is at turns aimless, clever, boring, sexy and compelling, depending on the storyline. The three seasons are broken up into six very-loosely connected half-hour vignettes that all take place in Chicago and explore different facets of love. They’re basically short films, and some are good, and some are not so good, but through it all, it’s more worth watching than not.
3 seasons, 33 episodes | IMDb: 7.2/10
Executive produced by Eli Roth, Hemlock Grove was one of Netflix’s first original series. It was also one of the first to end its run. Buoyed by an interest in a horror series and Netflix’s binge-watching model, the first season of Hemlock Grove was popular worldwide, but poor reviews and the slow pacing led to dwindling interest. Hemlock Grove follows the investigation of two brutally murdered teenage girls into the secrets of a town in Pennsylvania (chief among them, the town’s werewolf population). There’s plenty of gore in the series to keep horror hounds satiated, and there is the occasional spark of life. Unfortunately, the interesting moments are few and far between, and what’s left in between is an inscrutable mystery, disjointed storylines, and far too many loose ends. It’s a ridiculous mess, but not ridiculous enough to be consistently entertaining.
8 seasons, 80 episodes | IMDb: 7.1/10
Netflix’s attempt to replicate the success of Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men with laugh track sitcom actually falls in between the two in terms of quality. The Ranch is not quite Big Bang, but it’s much better than Two and a Half Men thanks mostly to a deep sense of pathos that runs through the series, as well as strong performances from Debra Winger and Sam Elliott. About a washed-up football player (Ashton Kutcher) who returns to help his dad (Elliot) and brother (Danny Masterson) run a faltering ranch, the series surprisingly works as decent background noise, boosted by the likable, familiar presences of Elisha Cuthbert, Brett Harrison, and Megyn Price. It’s an easy series to dismiss, but it’s also an easy one to watch.
6 seasons, 56 episodes | IMDb: 7/10
One ratings service suggests that Fuller House may be the most popular series on television, but popularity doesn’t make something good. Full House was bad; Fuller House is worse, but nobody watched either series for high art. Fuller House mostly gets by on nostalgia, but its brand of family-friendly themes make it a serviceable series for the tween demographic while the ease with which it is watched makes it decent Saturday morning hangover television for wistful adults.