The best Netflix original series to binge-watch now
From Stranger Things to The Crown, we've rounded up our favourite Netflix original series
Time Out staff
March 31, 2020 1:40 PM
Finding the best Netflix series for your next binge watch can be a daunting prospect, with an almost bottomless pit of content to choose from. The streaming giant licenses huge amounts of TV and produces its own shows, too.
To help you avoid incessantly scrolling through the never-ending carousels of content, we’ve rounded up our favourite Netflix original series.
Five seasons, 22 episodes + one choose-you-own-adventure interactive film What is it? An anthology series from the mind of Charlie Brooker about how humans interact with, and are affected by, technology. Why watch? Originating on the UK's Channel 4, Netflix quickly snapped up the rights to Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series about the impact of technology on humanity. At times it can be horrifying as we see how society could be changed inexplicably by how technology has changed humanity. However, there are those moments, like with season three episode San Junipero, where love prevails. In late 2018, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was released – a choose-your-own-adventure style interactive film that about technology and free will.
Six seasons, 77 episodes What is it?
Adult animated comedy about the complexities of fame set in an alternative world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live as one.
Why watch? It’s one of the most highly rated Netflix originals and with good reason. It manages to tell its stories about desperation, depression, self-destruction and isolation with both humour and melancholia, never straying too far in either category. It’s socio-politically aware, too, oh, and the lead character is literally a horse.
Two seasons, 20 episodes What is it? The German ‘Stranger Things’ – but slightly more complicated. Why watch? Obviously, we already have Stranger Things and that doesn’t involve having to read subtitles. But Dark stands on its own because it has just that much more depth. Focused on the lives of four families, the show explores the spooky goings on after two children disappear. It has supernatural elements, as well as the family drama, but the plot is complex, too, and it hooks you in. It’s also been favourably compared to Twin Peaks, which is no bad thing.
Dear White People
Three seasons, 30 episodes What is it? A comedy drama about modern American race relations set in a fictional Ivy League college. Why watch? If you like your TV served with a slice of social commentary then this is the show for you. Based on the 2014 film of the same name by Justin Simien, the series examines race relations in America through the lives of black students at an Ivy League education college. The show is zeitgeisty, sure, but it also feels prescient, touching on the past as well as the future.
Three seasons, 30 episodes What is it? A dramedy about a female wrestling team. Why watch? Based on the 2012 documentary ‘GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, we’re introduced to out-of-work actor Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) who ends up auditioning for a women’s wrestling promotion. Set just after the women’s liberation movement in 1985, the show questions just how much has really changed and whether the women taking part in GLOW are empowered or exploited.
Grace and Frankie
Six seasons, 78 episodes What is it? A kooky and surprisingly emotional show about an unlikely friendship between two septuagenarian women Why watch? You might not expect a comedy series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as best friends forever living in a beach house to resonate with people, but Grace and Frankie is a show with so much heart and humanity that it makes for the ultimate comfort viewing. Fonda is brilliant as Grace, while Tomlin’s comedy genius strikes gold as the out-there Frankie.
House of Cards
Six seasons, 73 episodes What is it? A political thriller about the lengths individuals will go to get their grip on power. Why watch? It was really the first Netflix original series that made a splash, and the first few seasons following Frank and Claire Underwood's grasp for power was thrilling, shocking and absolutely gripping television. Unfortunately, the show's sixth and final season where Wright took centre stage was met with a muted critical response. Still, we'll always have those first few tense seasons of political intrigue to keep us up at night.
Three seasons, 39 episodes What is it? An extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe focused on a failed superhero turned private investigator. Why watch? The show has a noir-ish quality that doesn’t feel pastiche but instead adds layers of intrigue thanks to its hard-boiled approach to the mystery at hand. Krysten Ritter shines as the titular character, giving the superhero narrative a well-needed feminist slant. The show also deftly handles difficult topics.
Making a Murderer
Two seasons, 20 episodes What is it? A gripping true crime documentary series about the complexities and possible corruption of the American justice system. Why watch? Aside from it being the show that everyone was talking about in 2019, the sheer amount of research and depth involved in creating Making a Murderer makes for a slow burning mystery. The construction of the series by filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos submerges you in the case of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, as – whether rightly or wrongly – they’re tried for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. The second season goes on to examine the post-conviction process and the impact that has on all involved.
Two season, 19 episodes What is it? A dramatisation of the true story about the FBI's early development of criminal psychology and criminal profiling from the king of tension building, David Fincher. Why watch? It's no secret that deep down we're all a little obsessed with serial killers. This show doesn't just look at why these criminals commit the horrors that they do but also highlights how, in some ways, we're all very similar. It's a slow burner, but this just builds the tension for an edge-of-your-seat ending.
Three seasons, 30 episodes What is it? A drama about the life and crimes of Pablo Escobar. Why watch? Described by one reviewer as ‘high-concept drama’, this show's main thrust is highlighting the impact of the international drug trade, while also telling the infamous story of Escobar’s rise and fall. The scope of the show is broad, but it’s centred by the use of archive news footage. The third season diverts a little bit, focusing on what happened when Escobar died. While the show didn't continue after its third season it was rebooted in 2018 as ‘Narcos: Mexico’ with a new premise and setting.
Orange is the New Black
Seven seasons, 91 episodes What is it? A dark, dark comedy set inside a women's prison in New York. Why watch? While Orange is the New Black is not without its faults, its heart, humour and humanising approach to the American prison system has made it one of Netflix's most compelling shows. Our entry to the prison is Piper Chapman, a spoiled white woman indicted on drug trafficking charges, but it's the other inmates, their stories and personalities that pull you into the goings on at Litchfield Prison.
Three seasons, 30 episodes What is it? A crime drama starring Jason Bateman. Why watch? Jason Bateman plays everyman Marty Byrde. A father of two married to Wendy (the ever-ace Laura Linney), he ekes out an existence as an accountant in the Chicago suburbs. At least, that’s before he gets drawn into laundering money for the second largest mob cartel in Mexico. And when some of their cash goes missing, Marty must move his family deep into the Ozark Mountains to survive. To say too much of the plot would only be to ruin it. But to miss it would be, well, criminal.
Three seasons, 25 episodes What is it? An '80s nostalgia-fest dressed up as a supernatural science-fiction horror series. Why watch? Following in the tradition Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, at the heart of Stranger Things is about story about growing up, the muckiness of adolescence and the power of friendship. Throw in buckets of '80s references, scary alternative universe, a missing kid, a frightening monster, an unstable Winona Ryder and a child with telekinetic powers with a predisposition for nosebleeds and you've got yourself some binge-worthy TV.
Three seasons, 30 episodes What is it? A historical drama about the British monarchy that's allegedly Netflix's most expensive drama. Why watch? Aside from being a lusciously filmed, beautifully presented and painstakingly accurate period drama, The Crown feeds into one of the UK’s favourite pastimes: speculating about the personal lives of the royal family. The first two seasons focused on Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne and her relationship with Prince Philip. Claire Foy brought a steely restraint to her portrayal of the monarch, while Matt Smith put on an equally good show as her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. Don't get attached to them, though, as for the third season the whole cast was replaced to allow for the passing of time. Fret not, however, as the majestic Olivia Colman takes over the crown to grace the throne and play Queen Elizabeth II.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Four seasons, 51 episodes What is it? A quirky comedy about a woman moving to New York after being rescued from a doomsday cult. Why watch? Well, it's from the writing duo that brought us 30 Rock, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, so you know there'll be jokes a-plenty. Ellie Kemper brings just the right level of naivety to the role of Kimmy, her child-like wonder giving the small fish big pond narrative an unfamiliar tilt. But really, it’s Tituss Burgess’ turn as Titus Andromedon who, as Kimmy’s roommate, steals the show and brings the biggest laughs. He might be the best sitcom character in years.