The Best Shows to Watch on Netflix

11 minute read
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Netflix may not be the very first online streaming service (iTV, based out of Hong Hong, came before it), but it sure might feel like it. The old faithful of the streamers dates back to 1997, and since then, it has amassed an impressive supply of fan favorite shows. This is by no means an exhaustive list—nor a purely objective one—but it focuses largely on original content created for Netflix (no, we didn’t forget about The Sopranos!). Tentpole shows include the ‘80s-infused sci-fi smash hit Stranger Things; Netflix’s most-watched series, the South Korean survival drama Squid Game; and the well-pressed historical drama The Crown. Read on for our picks from Netflix.

BoJack Horseman

On paper, BoJack Horseman seems like an odd premise: the titular BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) is an anthropomorphic horse—and the washed-up star of a ‘90s sitcom. On screen, though, the acclaimed animated black comedy works, and it works well. Hilarious and unexpectedly relatable, BoJack Horseman is a smart take on the human condition in an anthropomorphic world.

Orange Is the New Black

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) did a bad thing. Ten years ago, she transported a suitcase full of drug money for her then-girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). Now her world looks entirely different—she’s happily engaged to Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs—but everything changes when the crime comes to light. Piper goes to prison, so does Alex, and we meet a whole oddball cast of prison regulars.

The Crown

There’s something about the concept of monarchy—perhaps its privilege, power, or wealth—that fascinates and enthralls the rest of us. Peter Morgan knows that well, and has drawn from his 2006 film The Queen and his 2013 play The Audience to create and principally write The Crown, which will ultimately span six seasons, and portrays the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II through the years.

Russian Doll

In the same camp as Groundhog Day and Palm Springs, there is Russian Doll, another time loop story—but this time infused with Natasha Lyonne’s trademark offbeat charm. Lyonne stars as Nadia Vulvokov, who finds herself ceaselessly reliving the night of her 36th birthday party. Season 2 sees Nadia shunted even farther into the past, with serious implications for her family.

Stranger Things

Mix investigative drama with supernatural elements, add a dash of horror and childlike worldview, drizzle that with ‘80s pop culture references, throw in an ensemble cast, and you’ve got yourself one of Netflix’s flagship shows. A human experimentation facility near the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana rips open a portal to the Upside Down, a dark alternate dimension, and otherworldly chaos ensues.

When They See Us

In 1989, a white woman jogger was assaulted and raped in Central Park. Five innocent young men of color were convicted and sentenced. In 2003, the “Central Park Five” filed a suit against New York City for wrongful conviction, and in 2014, they were awarded a settlement. Ava DuVernay created, co-wrote, and directed this acclaimed crime drama miniseries that tells their stories.

Unbelievable

Based on a string of serial rape cases between 2008 and 2011 in Colorado and Washington, Unbelievable grounds its story around Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped. Two detectives, Grace (Toni Collette) and Karen (Merritt Wever), connect dots between cases across the map to uncover the truth.

Unorthodox

Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s 2012 autobiography, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Unorthodox follows Esty Shapiro (Shira Haas), a 19-year-old member of the Satmar sect of the ultra-Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But when she flees to Berlin to escape an arranged marriage and an unhappy life, her past follows her.

GLOW

GLOW, or the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, is a fledgling professional wrestling promotion that consists of a dozen or so “unconventional women”—including Ruth “Zoya the Destroya” Wilder (Alison Brie) and Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan (Betty Gilpin). Ruth and Debbie, former best friends, have a rocky past, and the tension between them continues into the ring.

I Think You Should Leave

The official name of this show is I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson—which makes sense, given that Robinson created the sketch comedy show (alongside Zach Kanin), and stars in most of its sketches. Sketches often consist of a character making a mistake, then doubling down and trying to convince the room that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

The Queen’s Gambit

Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a chess prodigy whose rising star just keeps climbing higher and higher. She beats everyone she plays, even—and especially—the men. But Beth has a troubled past: she’s an orphan who develops an addiction to the tranquilizer pills that the orphanage dispenses daily. But that won’t stop her on her way to a major international chess tournament.

The Haunting of Hill House

Horror icon Mike Flanagan created and directed this eerie and perhaps surprisingly affecting supernatural drama, loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. 26 years after Hugh and Olivia Crain and their five children—Steven, Shirley, Theo, Luke, and Nell—move into Hill House, they must reunite to reconcile with a past that won’t leave them.

Maid

Alex (Margaret Qualley) lives for her two-year-old daughter, Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet). Together, the pair escape from Alex’s abusive boyfriend, Sean (Nick Robinson), and set out to build a life of their own—built on the job Alex gets, cleaning houses for Value Maids. Inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, Maid is a poignant portrait of a woman enduring.

You

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) has a problem. Well, he has a lot of problems. The New York bookstore manager doesn’t just fall in love—he gets absolutely, head-over-heels obsessed. In the first season of this popular psychological thriller, that obsession hinges on Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Beck), an aspiring writer who Joe tracks, stalks, and tries to ensnare.

Mo

Mo Najjar is a character, but Mo Amer is a real-life comedian—and both are achingly funny. Mo is loosely based on Amer’s life as a Palestinian refugee living in Houston, Texas, with a few embellishments for style and flair. The comedy-drama, co-created by Ramy Youssef, reps Burin, Palestine and its olive oil just as hard as it goes for Alief, the Houston suburb once home to Beyoncé and Lizzo.

Squid Game

In Netflix’s most-watched series, Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae), a.k.a. Player 456, is flat broke and desperate for money. Desperate enough to kill. Gi-hun is one of 456 players who attempt increasingly perturbing versions of classic Korean children’s games for a chance at $35 million. The catch? Losing a game means death.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is one of the Indiana mole women. That is to say, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) kidnapped her 15 years ago, put her and three others in an underground bunker, and convinced them that they alone had survived the nuclear apocalypse. Newly rescued, Kimmy is on her own in New York City, hilariously discovering what she missed.

American Vandal

Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) says he’s innocent. He did not vandalize 27 teacher and faculty cars in his high school parking lot with phallic images. This laugh-out-loud mockumentary follows two friends, Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck), as they launch an investigation into the crime, trying to exonerate Dylan.

Heartstopper

Boy meets boy. Boy one joins the rugby team to spend time with boy two. Boy two comes to the realization that maybe, just maybe, he likes boy one. Maybe he likes boys in general. This coming-of-age rom-com/drama is adapted from the webcomic and graphic novel of the same name by Alice Oseman, who wrote the show as well. Oseman’s hand drawn motifs pepper the show, epitomizing its warm charm.

Queer Eye

Antoni Porowski tackles food and wine. Tan France is in charge of fashion. Karamo Brown teaches culture. Bobby Berk leads interior design. And Jonathan Van Ness takes care of grooming. Together, these five queer people help reboot and refresh the lives of individuals around the country to heighten their lifestyles—and their love lives.

The Great British Bake Off

A group of amateur bakers—relatable and easy to cheer for—compete (politely, in their British way) to wow the judges with their baking skills. Each round, a contestant is eliminated, until a winner is selected from those who reach the final round. Thirteen seasons later, The Great British Bake Off is delicious escapism at its finest.

Derry Girls

Derry, Northern Ireland in the 1990s—the tail end of the Troubles—wasn’t necessarily a picturesque place. But to four girls—Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Orla (Louisa Harland), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), and Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell)—it’s home. The group of highschoolers, plus Michelle’s British cousin, James (Dylan Llewellyn), grow up together in this side-splitting teen sitcom full of Catholic school hijinks and teenage mischief.

Sex Education

Imagine your mother is a sex therapist. Now imagine that you’re a teenage boy in high school and your mom is overly involved in your life. Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) is a socially awkward guy who knows more about the mechanics of sex than most of his peers. So he starts a sex therapy clinic—alongside edgy Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey)—from inside his school’s bathroom stalls.

Money Heist (La Casa de Papel)

The Professor (Álvaro Morte) is a mysterious man. He recruits eight strangers—runaways, jewel thieves, miners, counterfeiters, hackers—to carry out his brilliant plot: rob the Royal Mint of Spain. With painstaking detail, the heist unfolds episode by episode, as viewers hold their breath. Will this ragtag group of lovable criminals get away with the crime of the century?

Bridgerton

This wildly popular fantastical period piece is dripping in glamor, intrigue, and secret affairs of the heart. In its first season, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) is named by Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) as the “diamond of the season”—that is, the social season in Regency era London, when upper-class youth enter society and search for perfect pairings.

Never Have I Ever

Loosely based on the childhood of Mindy Kaling, who co-created and co-executive produced the show, this dramedy follows Indian American high school student Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) through her last three years of high school in the wake of her father’s sudden death.The fourth and final season, released in June, sees Devi graduate high school, having grown through the rough, awkward, hilarious patches of teenagehood.

The Fall of the House of Usher

An 1840 short story by Edgar Allen Poe meets a fictionalized version of the Sackler family. Daubed with macabre gothic horror, The Fall of the House of Usher braids other Poe stories and characters into a story that spans the last 70 years. Roderick Usher (Zach Gilford/Bruce Greenwood), the magnate of a corrupt pharmaceutical company, seems cursed as death chases all six of his children.

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