The best Netflix original series have the power to keep us pinned to our sofas for hours on end as we binge watch, and here we will offer you 10 of the very best Netflix originals that simply must not pass you by!
Netflix has replaced live television broadcasts as the main source of nightly entertainment in many of our lives, and the quality of programmes being made by the American streaming service has gone up and up over the last few years.
Originally founded in the late 1990s as a mail order service for DVDs, Netflix started to transition into streaming services in 2007, and viewers started to catch on as popular shows like Breaking Bad began streaming on Netflix.
Original content did not start to appear on Netflix until 2013, with shows like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black wowing audiences and helping to boost the number of subscribers to Netflix.
Since then, people have come to expect original series of the very highest calibre from Netflix, and we have picked out 10 of the absolute best of the streaming service’s programmes below.
Let us know what you think of our list in the comments!
1. Stranger Things
Stranger Things is undoubtedly one of the biggest hits Netflix has ever had, transporting its viewers into a science fiction world set in the 1980s, complete with buckets of nostalgia and a wonderfully evocative soundtrack. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, Stranger Things centres around the story of how scientific research by the American government leads to a portal being opened to an alternate dimension known as the Upside Down. When a young character called Will Byers is abducted by a creature from the Upside Down, his family and friends are mobilised into a thrilling attempt to rescue him. Winona Ryder was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her role as Joyce, Will’s mother, and Millie Bobby Brown claimed a glut of award nominations for her performance as Eleven, a mysterious young character with psychokinetic powers. If you love science fiction, great writing, the 1980s and all the music and pop culture that came with it, then you’ll absolutely adore Stranger Things.
2. The Queen’s Gambit
The popularity of chess surged in 2020, when Netflix released hit show The Queen’s Gambit, all about an orphaned young girl who takes the chess world by storm. Chess might not sound like an ideal topic for a gripping TV show, but if you’ve yet to see The Queen’s Gambit you might be surprised by just how exhilarating the show is – even the games of chess themselves. Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance in the lead role as chess prodigy Beth Harmon is superb, and the show, which is based on a novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, tells us as much about the struggles of addiction, family life and coming of age as a woman in a world dominated by men as it does about the ancient game of chess.
3. Squid Game
Described by series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk as “a story about losers”, Squid Game is a critically acclaimed show all about a secret contest in which people risk their lives to play potentially deadly children’s games in an attempt to win huge financial rewards. Hwang drew on personal experience when writing the show, after living through a period of hardship when he and his family had to rely on loans to survive during South Korea’s debt crises of the early 2000s. That experience was channeled into Squid Game to make the show a high-octane, gripping watch that has been described by The Globe and Mail as a “brave, dark, ambitious tale, at times moving and at times terrifying”. If you love a thrilling tale of human endeavour, give Squid Game a go.
4. Black Mirror
Originally a Channel 4 production, Black Mirror is the brainchild of brilliant British writer Charlie Brooker and it was snapped up by Netflix in 2016. Black Mirror has earned a reputation for its often dark, sometimes funny, frequently moving depiction of what the future might look like in terms of technology, politics and the way people interact with each other. Storylines include a future where people can choose to virtually return to any time in the past to live out eternity when their bodies leave the physical world, and a future where people can order animated, lifelike recreations of their loved ones when they die. Black Mirror is brilliantly written and its episodes are powerfully believable, fuelling its audience’s imaginations about how the world might unfold in years to come.
5. I Think You Should Leave
If absurdist humour is your thing, you really can’t afford to miss out on Tim Robinson’s utterly bizarre but reliably hilarious sketch show, I Think You Should Leave. Robinson previously worked as a writer on Saturday Night Live, cutting his teeth as one of the most off-the-wall people working in comedy. He is the star of I Think You Should Leave, appearing in nearly all of the show’s sketches, which range in themes from a man who is obsessed with telling people about his younger days and his love for making ‘sloppy steaks’ by pouring water all over his dinner, to the story of a character who went on a island-based dating show and spent the whole time riding a zip wire into the swimming pool. If that sounds a little weird to you, you’ve got the right idea – but within the weirdness lie hours and hours of laughs, making I Think You Should Leave one of the funniest shows ever to hit Netflix.
Comedy drama series Glow was made by the same team that created Orange Is The New Black, and offers viewers a hilarious comedy drama that follows the plight of out-of-work actress Ruth Wilder (played by Alison Brie) as she attempts to get her career back on track by starring in a women’s wrestling show. With Marc Maron, Betty Gilpin and Sydelle Noel also in the cast, you can expect big laughs, high energy and plenty of spandex in Glow, which is an ideal series to get into if you’re after something lighthearted yet heartwarming. Alison Brie is always a joy to watch and in Glow she takes on one of her best roles yet – don’t miss it.
Few shows have captured the zeitgeist of a particular era quite as accurately as Easy, which first streamed in the UK in December 2016. Director Joe Swanberg created 25 episodes that depict the lives of people living in Chicago, with each episode focusing on a different set of characters, only some of whom reappear in other episodes. Viewers encounter a couple with children who decide to try having an open relationship, a pair of brothers who attempt to start their own craft beer business, a pessimistic writer who suddenly finds success, and a nanny who desperately longs for a family of her own. Standout Performances from the likes of Mark Maron, Melanie Lynskey, Orlando Bloom, Zazie Beetz and Dave Franco make this one of the most watchable and addictively entertaining shows in Netflix history.
Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs star in Love, in which two very different characters somehow find themselves falling into a relationship together. Rust’s character Gus is the classic nice guy, and the show starts with him recently having been dumped by his girlfriend. His nerdy, shy nature makes him a strange match for Mickey, who is also recently single but absolutely not shy, quiet or reserved in the slightest. Director Judd Apatow uses these two characters to remind us that falling in love happens in all sorts of unexpected situations, often with hilarious moments along the way.
9. When They See Us
If gritty, true crime drama is your thing, you’ll struggle to find a miniseries more gripping than the universally acclaimed When They See Us. Directed by BAFTA winner and Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay, When They See Us tells the story of five Black and Latino men who were falsely accused and prosecuted on charges relating to the assault and rape of a jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989. The series spans 25 years, during which time the men had to fight to clear their names. The show is based on a true story and stunning performances by Michael K. Williams, Felicity Huffman, Blair Underwood and John Leguizamo make it an unmissable watch.
10. The Crown
Whether you’re a fan of the royal family or not, The Crown is a fascinating dramatisation of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, taking inspiration from real events to tell the story of key political and personal events that defined her time on the throne. Series creator Peter Morgan was able to call upon a stellar cast to bring his idea to life, with Claire Foy, Imelda Staunton and Olivia Colman sharing the role of the Queen, while The Wire’s Dominic West took up the role of Prince Charles, and beloved Doctor Who star Matt Smith giving a brilliant performance as the Duke of Edinburgh. Also worth catching in the crown are Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Princess Margaret, and Elizabeth Debicki’s incredibly lifelike performance as Princess Diana.