From Squid Game to Stranger Things: My 15 Favorite Netflix Shows
The taste is subjective. For every TV series praised by legions of fans, there is a faction of haters ready to launch a counteroffensive. Consensus is still elusive in the entertainment world. So rather than draw up a shortlist that states with undeserved certainty that the following shows are the best netflix originals ever, I focused on something closer to home. Specifically, my 15 favorite Netflix original series.
These selections are based on nothing other than my tastes and preferences as a proud Couch Potato TV fan. Over the course of Netflix’s time as an original content provider, these are the series that appealed to me the most. The only criteria for this ranking was that I had to have seen every episode of the series. So if any of your absolute favorite series is missing from this list, you can safely assume one of two things: 1) I haven’t completed the entire series yet or 2) I’m missing intentionally respect your individual opinion in particular.
15. Squid game
Accuse me of recency bias if you will, I don’t care. South Korean drama Squid game quickly became a global phenomenon in its own right and is on its way to becoming Netflix’s most-watched original series, according to co-CEO Ted Sarandos. But that’s not why he made my list.
Squid Game is a high-profile marvel who manages to use her splash hook – of poverty stricken people gambling their lives for millions of dollars – to pull an outrageously unique shot through the arc at modern capitalism. Surprisingly tender character development and impeccable production design and cinematography combine to deliver the most surprisingly engaging drama of 2021.
Anyone who reads my work here at Observer, follows me on Twitter, or listen to my podcasts know I’m an absolute contender for superheroes. I love comic book material and since this is my list I can embrace my bias! While I can more or less do without one of Netflix’s other Marvel shows, daredevil was a real ripper during his three seasons. (Don’t worry, fans, Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock will be reintroduced to the MCU soon).
daredevil provided Marvel’s modern, fun iteration with a much needed infusion of edginess. He also delivered the best action fight scenes on this side of Shang-Chi. In retrospect, it still looks like the least sanitized MCU adjacent project of the 2010s.
13. The Umbrella Academy
The The Fantastic Four are affectionately referred to as “Marvel’s First Family”. This same dynamic applies to The Umbrella Academy, but in a much more dysfunctional way. Super powers, time travel, a stunning soundtrack and childhood trauma, this show has it all!
For all of its trendy rockets, its foundation is the infuriating but loving, heartbreaking and hilarious bonds we share with family. As such, The Umbrella Academy gets through interpersonal dynamics and shifting tones better than most Netflix originals. There is also a talking monkey which helps.
12. Russian doll
Natasha Lyonne, who created Russian doll starring Amy Poehler, has never looked as good as she is here in this creative dramatic comedy about a woman who is caught in an endless time loop of her own demise. It is a high-end concept without ever getting lost in the weeds; it’s hilarious without ever sacrificing the heart. Who else could be successful “Thursday, what concept?“With a straight face?”
Often, vehicle shows choose to convey their central themes and messages and think outside the box in melodramatic and self-righteous ways. But the lessons of Russian doll always felt organically earned and accomplished, a testament to its sharp writing and conceptual execution.
11. Master of None
There has always been something slightly ethereal about Aziz Ansari Master of None, who likes to mix surreal elements into his otherwise firmly anchored narrative. Season 1 was enticing, Season 2 was a revelation, and Season 3 made very little noise but remained calmly touching and emotional. At this point, the show has probably run its course. But what a strange and particularly satisfying journey it was.
ten. American Vandal
Who drew the cocks?
If I were to tell you four years ago that such a phrase would be trending on Twitter and lead a voracious conversation about pop culture, you would have rightly reported me to the proper authorities. Yet under the vulgar toilet humor of American Vandal There was a deep well of empathy for anyone who has ever felt like a special place in their life.
During its two seasons, American Vandal managed to draw a line between popular high school kids and losers, monsters and geeks. Everyone from the athlete to the stoner was more innocent, guilty, and similar than we had imagined. Who knew cock jokes could be the gateway to such healthy emotional authenticity? Bonus points for hilarious satire of the real crime genre.
9. Dead to me
I love the contrasting yet complementary dynamic between Christina Applegate’s closer Jen and Linda Cardellini’s free-spirited Judy. Casting is everything and the chemistry between the two could anchor an informant. Designer Liz Feldman shows such a strong understanding of the tragicomic vibe Dead to me aims as she skillfully mixes humor and drama in an emotional 360. The show knows all too well that you can’t enjoy the sweet without the sour.
8. Big mouth
Taboo? Too daring? Off-limits ? Big mouth laughs at conventional norms as he tackles the crudest, embarrassing, uncomfortable, and annoying parts of puberty in a hilariously excruciating way (there are talking vaginas, crazy hormonal freaks of sex and monstrous tampons. You get the idea). Nowhere on Netflix has a shared internal monologue been so precisely externalized. Congratulations to creator Nick Kroll.
Every humiliation of your past that comes to mind as you lay in bed trying to sleep is laid bare in Big mouth. But the point isn’t to ridicule, it’s to normalize all the flaws, missteps, and natural changes that make us feel alienated, different, or inferior. There is a tender heart for Big mouthThe disgusting comedy of the hard line.
7. Peaky Blinders
The observer spoke with Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight in 2019 about the imminent end of his British crime drama, which will end after the sixth and final season ahead. Will Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) find redemption? Whether he does or not, the crime-ridden stylistic journey has been an energetic journey through family division and 20th century industrialization.
We will take advantage of this time to take a minute of silence to GLOW, which was renewed for a fourth and final season before Netflix changed course at the start of the pandemic and canceled the series altogether. Yes, I will continue to watch Netflix. But I won’t forget. Oh no, I won’t forget.
5. Sex education
Tome, Sex education combines contagious optimism and positivity of Ted lasso with the positive sexual humor of Big mouth. It’s a hell of a good combo. While the recently released third season may stretch a bit too thin in its overall cast, the British comedy-drama still remains self-aware.
Sex education has the uncanny ability to find very specific niches – be it sexuality, family dynamics, puberty, or self-esteem – and expand them so that they are accessible and applicable to everybody. Universality found in specificity is the greatest strength of designer Laurie Nunn.
4. Strange things
Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Strange things is probably the largest IP developed by Netflix when all factors are taken into account. While I remain skeptical about its longevity, there’s no denying that it could very well be Netflix’s funniest show overall. Paying homage to child-centered horror led by Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, Strange things is a perfect amalgamation of nostalgia that leaves enough room for his own creations.
It’s fun, funny, sweet, and airy, not to mention an endless source of great-value memes. With his love for the 1980s and his much-needed mix of action and horror, Strange things was virtually retro-designed for the streaming era of binge culture.
3. The crown
Is it possible that The crown is somehow underrated in the annals of the prestige of Peak TV? Despite the attention and accolades, the massively ambitious epoch-spanning saga still feels somewhat underestimated when discussing the great long-standing dramas of recent memory. It is an alternative The Godfather, zoom on the good and (especially) the bad of the monarchy.
It is rich not only in the lavish settings and production design that cost hundreds of millions to produce, but in its texture of seemingly unknowable lofty figures of history. That he can feel additive and consistent from era to era, even as his main cast changes to match his character’s advanced age, is a feat in itself.
2. Spirit hunter
Leave it to executive producer and shadow showrunner David Fincher to deliver one of Netflix’s best original series. Atmospheric, cinematographic, captivating, anxiety-provoking. Choose the superlative you prefer and I’m sure we can find a place for it among Spirit hunterit’s excellent two seasons.
When it comes to thrillers, Spirit hunter managed to manufacture earned tension while rarely venturing into life and death situations. The fascinating nature of its more academic approach shows just how well-crafted its characters were and just how deep the plot, which revolved around the FBI’s discovery and reluctant classification of serial killers, could be.
Unfortunately, Spirit hunter is unlikely to return as the actors were released from their contracts when Fincher focused on man in 2020.
I’ve written a lot about how Dark both is and is not the second coming of LOST both positively and negatively. But seen as a whole through its three scintillating and breathtaking seasons, Dark comes across not only as my favorite Netflix original series, but as one of the best sci-fi shows in television history. Hyperbola? Watch the show and come talk to me.
DarkThe immaculate narrative construction of is a remarkable campaign in an overlapping non-linear storytelling that, despite its twists and turns, never falls into disarray or chaos. Instead, the tightly drawn maze follows a beautifully predetermined course that provides a necessary degree of completion.
Keeping Watch is a regular TV and movie endorsement worth your time.