57 Best Shows on Netflix to Watch Right Now
Whether you’re in the mood to swoon, laugh, or sleep with the lights on, we’ve got the perfect Netflix series for you. Warning: You’re about to be obsessed.
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Netflix shows you’ll want to binge-watch
Why do we love Netflix so? Is it because the streaming service has every kind of programming, from classic TV shows to crime shows to cartoon shows? Yep, there’s that. But they also have a ton of original shows that suit any and every mood, whether you want to binge-watch a nail-biting thriller, a quirky sitcom, or an international phenomenon. Plus, Netflix partners with directors like Ava DuVernay and David Fincher to create critically acclaimed series, as well as producers who deliver big-budget period pieces everyone swoons over. (Here’s looking at you, Bridgerton!) But no matter who’s at the helm or what the topic is, the best shows on Netflix are the ones that people cannot stop talking about.
Since the streamer is constantly adding new shows to the platform, it can be hard to wade through the options. Allow us to offer some advice. We’ve spent countless hours watching dozens upon dozens of shows (hey, it’s our job!), but we also narrowed down our list by picking award winners, audience favorites, and some new, under-the-radar series that should definitely be on your list. So get comfy on your couch, enjoy some of the best TV shows around, and thank us between episodes. Then, check out these Netflix codes that reveal tons of hidden titles.
The Crown (2016–present)
Watch for: Emma Corrin’s incredible interpretation of Princess Diana in Season 4.
Depending on who you talk to, The Crown is either a show that reveals the sordid secrets of the British royal family or a masterful work of fiction. The series spans the decades-long reign of Queen Elizabeth II, from her early years in power to the more soap-operatic era when Prince Charles was married to Diana. While the early seasons played out more like a period drama, the 1980s episodes are chock-full of popular music, iconic fashions, and reenactments of moments that many of us remember. Whether the House of Windsor likes it or not, The Crown firmly cements the idea that the royals are just one big, dysfunctional family, and thanks to the show’s myriad awards, it has become one of Netflix’s flagship series. Find out how The Crown‘s actors compare to the real-life royals.
The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
Watch for: The incredibly accurate portrayal of real chess strategy.
The Queen’s Gambit, based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 book of the same name, tells the story of Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy who struggles with demons that include substance abuse and parental abandonment. While dramatic and dark at times, the award-winning series is also stylized and gorgeous, more like one of the best movies of all time and not a TV series, and Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as Beth is equally grim and glamorous. The show, which features loads of chess matches and discussions of strategy, was responsible for sparking an interest in the game among viewers and has been lauded as one of the best shows on Netflix.
The Good Place (2016–2020)
Watch for: The sight gags buried in the background as visual puns or clever scenery.
The Good Place is one of our favorite TV sitcoms because of the way it infuses humor with philosophy, and it’s dense with sight gags, making it perfect for Netflix, where you can pause, rewind, and rewatch them to your heart’s content. Kristen Bell stars as Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who lived a very imperfect life. When she dies, she finds herself in “the good place,” which seems a lot like heaven. Viewers come to find out, though, the “architect” of this place, Michael (Ted Danson), is not who he seems, and the place she thinks is heaven turns out to be a living hell.
Midnight Mass (2021)
Watch for: Samantha Sloyan’s wild portrayal of Bev Keane, the new priest’s right-hand woman.
Writer and director Mike Flanagan has made a name for himself in the horror genre, and Midnight Mass is his latest series, which you’ll likely binge until you’ve finished the whole thing. A mysterious young priest (Hamish Linklater) arrives at a small fishing town to replace the old priest who has fallen ill. At the same time, a mysterious flying creature has been seen around the town. When it appears the priest is working miracles on the townsfolk, Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) starts questioning the townspeople’s zealotry and wondering what’s really happening in church. (Hint: It has to do with vampires.) Don’t let the cast’s strange old-age makeup scare you off in early episodes; everything will make sense in the end.
The Great British Baking Show (2010–present)
Watch for: The elusive Paul Hollywood handshakes for a job well done.
One of the best reality TV series on Netflix also happens to be one that defies reality-show expectations. It offers almost no drama between contestants, there’s no backstabbing behavior, and it makes you delight in references to soggy bottoms. Though an American remake was attempted, there’s nothing like the charm of the original British series, which features expert home bakers kneading, mixing, and glazing their way through a series of baking challenges, supporting one another, and exchanging sly double entendres about buns with judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. Though the hosts of the show have changed over the ten-plus years, from the wonderfully witty Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins to comedians Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, the soothing warmth of the show remains the same.
Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
Watch for: The shocking deaths of several major characters.
Breaking Bad is the kind of show that extends beyond TV and becomes part of the zeitgeist. Protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a sad sack high school teacher who’s been diagnosed with cancer. Low on money and expecting a new baby with his wife, he turns an RV into a meth lab and joins up with his former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), to sell the drugs to secure a stable future for his family after he dies. As Walter gets deeper into the drug trade, he adopts the alter ego known as Heisenberg and becomes a drug kingpin. The series, which earned a whopping 16 Emmy Awards and 58 nominations, was known for its violence, humor, and memorable quotes as well as for spinning off a beloved prequel, Better Call Saul.
Watch for: The profilers interviewing the serial killers to determine their motives and mental acuity.
Based on a true crime book by former FBI agent John E. Douglas, Mindhunter is executive-produced by film director David Fincher, whose signature style and penchant for dark, dangerous characters is on display throughout the show. Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany star as FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench, who work in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and profile serial killers. Ford and Tench were not real people, but they were based on the author and his partner, who interviewed serial killers like Ted Bundy and Charles Manson and whose methods formed the basis for modern criminal profiling. The story is as much about the lives and psyches of the agents as it is about their killer subjects, and it’s often dark and chilling.
Peaky Blinders (2013–present)
Watch for: The Season 1 finale, which ends with a single gunshot off camera.
One of the best crime shows on Netflix, the series stars a who’s who of British acting powerhouses. Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Helen McRory, and Paul Anderson lead the cast of this period drama based on the Shelby crime family, who referred to themselves as Peaky Blinders. The family was indeed real, but Peaky Blinders is a work of historical fiction. It takes place in the aftermath of World War I and focuses on the criminal exploits of the gang, led by Tommy Shelby (Murphy), who builds up his criminal enterprise in Birmingham, England, and expands it across the country over the course of the show’s five seasons.
Watch for: The steamy scenes featuring the dashing Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page).
When Shonda Rhimes inked a deal with Netflix for a reported $150 million, it seemed like a breathtaking amount of money. But after watching her first series for the platform, Bridgerton, that price seems well worth it. Based on the book series by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton is a Regency-era romantic drama set in London that focuses on the love life of wealthy society gal Phoebe Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), her family, and their well-to-do socialite friends and neighbors. The second season is currently in production, and if the first season is any indication, this period drama will contain plenty of flirting, touching, and steamy sex. Wondering what will happen on Season 2 of Bridgerton? We have some thoughts!
Nailed It! (2018–present)
Watch for: Host Nicole Byer’s hilarious critiques of the contestants’ terrible bakes.
Imagine a reality show where people were actually not talented and competed to be the “least worst” in their field. That’s the premise of Nailed It!, the baking competition that features average home cooks who are challenged to replicate complicated bakes and almost always fail. Hosted by comedian Nicole Byer and featuring master chocolatier Jacques Torres as head judge, the show is a great option for family viewing. Though the contestants tend to fail miserably, it’s all in good fun as contestants laugh at themselves and show off their cake wrecks, which are usually visual horror shows. Unlike most competition shows, on this one, the bigger the fail, the better the episode.
Wild Wild Country (2018)
Watch for: The twists and turns that prove real life is often far more interesting than any made-up story.
Wild Wild Country is one of those documentaries where you just can’t believe this kind of thing really happened. In 1981, a spiritual guru named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his personal assistant relocated from India to a sleepy town in Oregon. His followers, many of whom appear in the film, formed a commune that sought to take over the town by any means necessary (poisoning them, for starters). It’s a wild, wild story indeed.
Stranger Things (2016–present)
Watch for: Barb. Seriously, has anyone seen poor Barb?
Stranger Things sets the bar high for the best shows on Netflix. It draws from the best ’80s TV shows and movies to create a creepy world that’s equal parts The Goonies, E.T., and The Twilight Zone. Set in 1980s Indiana, it follows a group of young boys, led by Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), and the mysterious girl they meet (Millie Bobby Brown). Around the same time, one of the kids’ friends, Will, disappears—and somehow ends up in an alternate dimension. Will’s mom (Winona Ryder) is convinced her son is reaching out to her from beyond, there’s a mysterious government lab that has something to do with it all, and it turns out that the girl, Eleven, has some wild psychokinetic powers. You’ll definitely want to catch up before Season 4 premieres in mid-2022.
Queer Eye (2018–present)
Watch For: The emotional, hopeful, and cathartic moments.
In the early 2000s, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a hit makeover show for, yes, “straight guys.” But here in the 2020s, we’re not as into labels, which is why this reboot is such a hit. Sure, there are plenty of heterosexual men who get a wardrobe boost and a decent shave, but they might as well call this show Tear Eye because you’ll end up crying nearly every time you watch. In each episode, the Fab Five (Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Antony Porowski) receive a dossier with information about a new client whose life needs some TLC—a new look for an upcoming event, a boost of self-confidence after a personal tragedy, or just a lesson in self-care. The cast members are all charming and funny, and personal stories of love, acceptance, and personal redemption are always woven into the show.
Jane the Virgin (2014–2019)
Watch for: Jaime Camil as Rogelio, with his impeccable comedic timing.
Jane the Virgin is a genre-bending dramedy rooted in the Spanish-language telenovelas that it draws from. Gina Rodriguez stars as Jane Gloriana Villanueva—a virgin, in case it wasn’t clear—whose inept doctor inseminates her with sperm intended for another patient, and being a devout Catholic, she carries the baby to term. As if that premise wasn’t already dramatic, it turns out the sperm donor is Jane’s boss, Rafael, whom she once had a crush on and eventually falls in love with, much to the chagrin of her fiancé. And don’t get us started on Jane’s father, Rogelio, played by the scene-stealing Jaime Camil, who resurfaces in her life after years of absence and is now a famous telenovela actor. There’s so much drama (Murder! Love triangles! Parenting a toddler!), but the show grounds itself in reality with a blend of heart and humor.
Watch for: The many clever schemes and cliff-hangers.
Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, a “gentleman thief” inspired by the character Arsène Lupin, who was created by French writer Maurice Leblanc. At the beginning of the series, we learn that Diop’s father, a Senegalese immigrant living in France, was framed for a crime and sent to prison, where he ultimately takes his own life. Years later, after reading the Lupin books his father gave him, Assane avenges his father’s death by pulling off a series of heists inspired by the books and attempting to avenge those who framed his father. The French mystery series has released two seasons so far, and a third is underway. While you wait, pick up these mystery books that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
American Vandal (2017–2018)
Watch for: The real vandal! If Dylan didn’t do it, then who did?
This mockumentary is a Peabody Award–winning satire based entirely around phallic graffiti. Yes, you read that right. The series stars Jimmy Tatro as Dylan Maxwell, a ne’er-do-well high schooler accused of a school prank that left numerous faculty cars covered in spray paint in the shape of male body parts. After Dylan is expelled, the crime is investigated by a pair of students who film their findings to determine whether Dylan really was the culprit. A hilarious send-up of true crime shows, the series (which was both scripted and improvised) also satirizes social media and high school tropes.
When They See Us (2019)
Watch for: Ava DuVernay’s outstanding writing and direction, which provides new context for a crime we’ve been misinformed about for years.
Directed by Ava DuVernay and executive-produced by Oprah Winfrey, When They See Us is the story of the Central Park Five, who were wrongly imprisoned for the rape of a woman known as the Central Park Jogger. After a brutal attack left a woman beaten and comatose, five Black and Hispanic young men were accused of the assault. Though they confessed to being a part of the attack, they later recanted, saying that their confessions were coerced by police. While serving their time in prison, another man confessed to the rape, and the young men were exonerated and released—but not after having their lives completely upended. This dramatized miniseries reconstructs the events of the case with actors including Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, and John Leguizamo. Much like DuVernay’s essential documentary about race, 13th, When They See Us is a powerful story that tells a hard truth.
Watch for: The romance between Claire and Jamie.
British time-travel series Outlander is based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling historical fantasy book. Caitriona Balfe stars as Claire Randall, a war nurse who, after the end of World War II, encounters a portal back to 1743, thanks to magical standing stones she visits in Scotland. While back in time, she meets and falls in love with a Highlander named Jamie (Sam Heughan), whom she marries. Making things more complicated, she has a child with Jamie and brings the child back to the future, where she’s still married to a man named Frank (The Crown‘s Tobias Menzies). With all this talk of time travel, we shouldn’t forget to mention that the show is perhaps best known for its steamy sex scenes that take place in every timeline.
Cowboy Bebop (2021)
Watch for: An incredibly cute Corgi named Einstein, who’s just as smart as his namesake.
One of Netflix’s newest and most-anticipated shows of 2021, Cowboy Bebop is based on the 1990s anime show of the same name, which has a massive cult following. Starring John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as bounty hunters who live aboard the spacecraft Bebop and roam the galaxy together, the series has the hefty task of reenvisioning a much-beloved animated series. Thanks to its stylish, cinematic flair and great performances, especially from Cho as Spike Siegel, the live-action version packs a punch with action, humor, and a jazzy score, much like its source material.
Alias Grace (2017)
Watch for: The mystery of it all. Is Grace guilty or not?
Margaret Atwood, one of the best female authors of our time, is having a moment (or more like a decade) in the prestige TV world, thanks to her books being turned into critically acclaimed shows, including Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s Alias Grace. Based on Atwood’s historical fiction novel, Alias Grace stars Sarah Gadon as the titular Grace, a woman who has spent more than a decade imprisoned for murdering her boss—a crime she claims to have no memory of. The real-life murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, took place in 1843, and at the heart of the story is whether or not Grace was truly the mastermind of their deaths.
The Keepers (2017)
Watch for: The incredible team of sleuths who’ve spent years searching for justice.
The Keepers is one of the best true crime documentaries you’ll ever watch, despite the fact that it will infuriate you. Sister Catherine Cesnik was a 26-year-old teacher in Baltimore in the 1960s when she was abducted and brutally killed. Decades later, several of her students, who are now grown women, decided to investigate the death of their beloved teacher, and they discovered a web of abuse and a corrupt chaplain at their former school who may have been behind the murder. While the mystery is central to the story, the women who have spent years seeking justice for their teacher are true inspirations.
Schitt’s Creek (2015–2020)
Watch for: Dan Levy’s expressions.
Schitt’s Creek started out as a fish-out-of-water story: Rich family loses everything and moves to a town in the middle of nowhere because, well, they bought the town as a joke years before. The shallow Rose family (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Dan Levy, and Annie Murphy) arrives in the town of Schitt’s Creek with nothing but a few suitcases and a closet full of wigs, despondent over the fact that their new digs consist of two rooms in the decrepit Rosebud Motel. But by the time the series ends, the Roses are changed by their life in town, thanks to their kind, decent (albeit very wacky) neighbors. Even if you haven’t watched Schitt’s Creek yet, you’ll recognize the characters from some of the funniest memes of the last few years.
Watch for: Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley’s mother-daughter dynamic on-screen.
Maid is a limited series that stars Margaret Qualley in a star-making role as Alex, a young mother who flees an abusive situation and starts working as a house cleaner to make ends meet. Andie MacDowell, Qualley’s real-life mother, plays her unstable narcissist of a mother in the show, and the series is a very real, very devastating portrait of poverty that’s based on Stephanie Land’s memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Qualley’s performance as Alex, who lives out her days scraping together pennies and dealing with wealthy clients oblivious to her desperation, makes this, without a doubt, one of the best shows on Netflix right now.
The Baby-Sitters Club (2020–present)
Watch for: The subtle but effective updates the show makes to the original series.
Yes, The Baby-Sitters Club books are geared toward preteens and most of the subject matter is about young adult drama, like having a first boyfriend, dealing with snobby neighbors, and handling your divorced parent’s new relationship. But the new series, which was developed by Gen Xer Rachel Shukert, pays homage to the original books while giving the new series a major update. Characters that were once archetypes are fully rounded out, the cast is diverse and inclusive, and the writing is sharp and funny enough that even adults who never read the books will enjoy it.
Russian Doll (2019–present)
Watch for: All the clever and hilarious ways that Nadia dies over and over again.
Amy Poehler is a comedian, so you might be surprised to learn that she cocreated one of the best science fiction shows of the past few years. Russian Doll, which was also cocreated by Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland, follows Nadia (played by Lyonne), a 36-year-old woman who keeps dying in a time loop on the night of her birthday party. When Nadia meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), she realizes he’s experiencing the same thing, and they work together to retrace their steps to figure out what led them to keep repeating the same day over and over again.
Black Mirror (2011–2019)
Watch for: The unexpectedly uplifting (for Black Mirror) “San Junipero” episode.
Black Mirror is our generation’s Twilight Zone. It’s an anthology series, and each episode features some new, dystopian nightmare that depicts life in a world where technology, politics, or social issues have taken a dark turn. Over the course of five seasons, there have been 22 episodes, the most lauded of which have been “White Christmas,” “San Junipero,” and “USS Callister.” Each offers a look at a twisted reality through the lens of different “what if” scenarios: What if you could project your memories onto a screen? What if you could travel through time? What if you could live your life in virtual reality? The fact that many of the story lines seem plausible in the near future makes the show all the more thrilling and unsettling.
Sex Education (2019–present)
Watch for: Adam Groff’s story arc.
Otis (Asa Butterfield) is an awkward teenage virgin, but he realizes that his issues with sex are hardly unique. Everyone at his high school seems to be dealing with some kind of issue relating to love, sex, or personal identity, so he and his friend Maeve (Emma Mackey) open a sex clinic for their peers and offer sex therapy. (Otis’s mom is a renowned sex therapist, and Otis has gleaned a thing or two from her over the years.) Though the series can get pretty graphic at times, much like its animated counterpart, Big Mouth, it explores many universal truths about puberty, young love, and identity, in a hilarious way. As the seasons progress, Otis and Maeve’s relationship becomes more complicated, friendships deepen, and the school bully (Conor Swindells) becomes one of TV’s great tragicomic characters.
Derry Girls (2018–present)
Watch for: Subtitles. Seriously, you may need to turn them on because the cast’s thick Irish brogues are often difficult to parse, and you won’t want to miss any of the jokes.
This comedy is about a group of teenage girls in Catholic school who are all dealing with your typical teen-angst stuff: boys, makeup, and annoying family members. It just so happens that these teens are living in Northern Ireland in the 1990s during The Troubles, and the armed conflict between Irish and British forces also permeates their day-to-day lives. Yet despite the fact that this could have been an overwrought drama, the series plays everything for laughs and is truly hilarious. The young stars of the series—Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, and Dylan Llewellyn—are all gifted comedians, and their performances make this one of the best teen shows around.
Cobra Kai (2018–present)
Watch for: A reunion of the cast of the original movie at a hilariously awkward party during the Season 3 finale.
Cobra Kai is what happens when you get to see your favorite movie characters 30 years later. Former karate rivals Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence (Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, reprising their roles from the original Karate Kid films) still live in the same town and are both still active in the karate world, but Johnny has fallen on hard times, while Daniel runs a franchise of successful car dealerships. When Johnny opens a karate dojo under the moniker Cobra Kai to make steady money, Daniel, who was tormented by Johnny and his Cobra Kai sensei, wants to shut it down. The series is a reboot, but a welcome one that reinterprets the story from antagonist Johnny’s perspective.
BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)
Watch for: The episode “The View from Halfway Down.”
BoJack Horseman, voiced by Will Arnett, is a washed-up 1990s Hollywood sitcom actor (who is also an anthropomorphic horse who lives in a world where humans and animals like him coexist) in the midst of writing a tell-all memoir of his life in showbiz. BoJack struggles with depression and addiction, and he must contend with his biggest rival, an anthropomorphic dog named Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), and his agent, Princess Carolyn, a cat played by Amy Sedaris. Over its six seasons, the show has become a cult favorite for its blend of humor and its handling of mental health issues and political issues like gun control. Obviously, this animated series is not for the younger set. If you’re looking for something in that genre, try our list of the best kids’ shows.
Watch for: The way Sam progresses each season.
Atypical centers on 18-year-old Sam (Keir Gilchrist), who happens to be autistic. Sam is at a pivotal age when he’s becoming an adult and starting to develop romantic feelings, but his family, who is so used to supporting him, needs to accept the fact that he’s branching out on his own. As the series progresses, Sam’s love life, as well as his growing autonomy and desire to move out, mark a milestone not just for him but for the family he was so dependent on for so long.
The Chair (2021)
Watch for: Sandra Oh, who delivers yet another sublime performance in a well-written dramedy.
Sandra Oh, who spent nine years playing Dr. Cristina Yang on one of our favorite doctor shows, Grey’s Anatomy, could read the phone book and it would be charming and delightful. In The Chair, she stars as, well, “the chair,” the head of the English department at a prestigious university, and she nails the role with discomfort and hilarity. When Ji-Yoon (Oh) is named the first woman of color to chair her school’s English department, she has to straddle appeasing the old-school faculty and the new, progressive agenda of the younger faculty and students while also dealing with a colleague’s impropriety with a student. Oh is a master of dramedy, pivoting from serious to silly on a dime, making this show a must-watch.
Never Have I Ever (2020–present)
Watch for: Well, more like listen for John McEnroe, who narrates the bulk of the series.
Mindy Kaling already secured her place in sitcom history as Kelly Kapoor on The Office and as the title character in The Mindy Project, but the actress/writer/producer is also responsible for this great new sitcom on Netflix. Loosely based on Kaling’s own experiences, Never Have I Ever stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a high school student whose father, Mohan, dies, causing her to lose the use of her legs for three months, which adds even more trauma to her already traumatic high school experience. Mohan’s idol, John McEnroe, provides much of the series’ voiceovers, which might sound weird, but it works.
Watch for: Julia Garner as Ruth, a role she’s won two Emmys for thus far.
This crime thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. It stars Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde, a financial planner who relocates his wife (Laura Linney) and kids to the Ozarks in Missouri and finds himself laundering money for a drug ring. As a result, the family falls deeper and deeper into the criminal world and must deal with unsavory members of the local drug syndicates. Actress Julia Garner has won two Emmys for her role as Ruth Langmore, a member of a local crime family. If you love the sounds of this Netflix show, these thriller books will also be right up your alley.
The People v. O.J. Simpson (2016)
Watch for: Sarah Paulsen and Sterling K. Brown’s stellar performances.
In the past few years, pop culture has started to scrutinize the way many people—mostly women—have been treated in the media. The People v. O.J. Simpson is as much an indictment of Simpson’s behavior as it is of our treatment of women like prosecutor Marcia Clark (played here by Sarah Paulson), who was relentlessly mocked for her looks and personal life. The true crime series, based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, offers both unseen insights and the gift of hindsight as we relive the infamous trial that gripped our attention in 1995. Paulson and Sterling K. Brown’s performances as Clark and fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden are incredible, and David Schwimmer’s Robert Kardashian, a man grappling with his friend’s crimes, is sympathetic and heartbreaking.
Behind Her Eyes (2021)
Watch for: The big, unexpected twist at the end (which will also give you knots in your stomach).
The entire time you watch Behind Her Eyes, you’re aware that something is amiss, that there’s going to have to be some kind of big twist, and boy does it deliver. But whether or not you find the ending truly satisfying, it will definitely be something you can’t stop talking about because it’s so wild. Against her better judgment, single mom Louise (Simona Brown) starts a secret affair with her boss, David (Tom Bateman), who is married to a woman named Adele (Eve Hewson). Adele befriends Louise, and pretty soon the two women have a secret friendship themselves. But something is definitely off about Adele, and once Louise starts looking into her past, well, the whole thing feels like a bad dream.
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Watch for: The terrifying scares.
Based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 horror book of the same name, The Haunting of Hill House tells the story of the Crain family, who live in a mansion called Hill House. The year is 1992, and though Mr. and Mrs. Crain plan to move out of the home they share with their five children, they’re forced to stay longer than expected. And that’s when the paranormal activity begins. Years later, the eldest son, Steven, writes a book about the hauntings his family experienced when he was a kid and returns to the family home with his siblings. Told through flashbacks of the siblings’ terrifying and often tragic childhood, as well as in the present, the series shows the unthinkable horrors caused by the spirits inside the house.
Watch for: The finale episode, where all the threads of the season’s crimes are finally woven together.
Kaitlin Dever stars as Marie Adler, a teenager who claims she was raped but later, under stress and pressure from people around her, recants her story. Marie is nearly suicidal as a result of not only the rape but the subsequent torment by the investigators who don’t believe her. Unbelievable can be hard to watch at times, as it’s based on real events and it feels like no one will ever believe Marie’s story, but things change when another assault takes place years later that appears to be the work of the same person. The new detectives on the case (played by Toni Collette and Meritt Wever) believe Marie and work with her to solve the crime. The mostly female cast is a triumph, the writing is sharp, and you can’t help but be riveted by the whole series, waiting for Marie to get the justice she deserves.
Watch for: A supremely satisfying ending.
Dark is the first German-language series produced for Netflix, and it really delivers. The supernatural show focuses on a small German town where two young children have gone missing. The people in town are rightfully distraught, and in the course of searching for the children, they learn that the town contains a wormhole through which people can time travel. Though the wormhole was originally used to prevent certain tragedies from occurring, it has developed a mind of its own, and the portal becomes a time loop that two of the townsfolk have to destroy. The show is perfect fodder for speculation, and after three seasons, it manages to pull off one of the most satisfying endings in recent memory. For more foreign content, check out Netflix’s Korean dramas.
Watch for: Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever, who star as two of the residents of La Belle and pivot from emotional drama to serious action with ease.
This seven-episode miniseries is set in 1884 and was filmed primarily in New Mexico, accounting for its beautiful Western scenery. In the show, Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) is an outlaw who’s on the run from his mentor, Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), who wants Roy dead. Goode ends up in La Belle, New Mexico, a town full of mostly women, thanks to a mining accident that claimed the lives of many of the men who once lived there. He seeks shelter at the home of Alice Fletcher (played by Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery), who harbors him until his inevitable showdown with Griffin. The series culminates in a good, old-fashioned Western shootout.
Narcos: Mexico (2018–2021)
Watch for: The fact that you might lose an entire weekend because you have to see what happens next.
This series was originally developed as the fourth season of the original Netflix show Narcos, which was set in Colombia, but the subject matter of the Mexican drug cartel proved too rich to cover in a single season and it became its own series. The first season covers the history and origins of the Guadelajara drug trade, led by Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna) and the American DEA agent (Michael Peña) sent to Mexico to track him. As the series progresses, major players in the drug trade, such as El Chapo and Palma, appear, and the Mexican Drug War as we know it develops.
Orange Is the New Black (2013–2019)
Watch for: The rich backstories of the supporting characters.
It’s almost impossible to believe that back in 2013, when Orange Is the New Black premiered, Netflix had very little to offer in the way of original programming. This series was one of the streamer’s very first productions, and it remains one of the best shows on Netflix. Based on the book by Piper Kerman, the show stars Taylor Schilling as Piper, a woman whose relationship with a former drug dealer (Laura Prepon) lands her in prison, where her ex is also locked up. Much of the show features flashbacks, through which viewers learn about each character’s life before prison and what led them there, and episodes reveal how the relationships of the prisoners, their family members, and the guards in the prison evolve while they’re doing time. The cast is predominantly female, and the show is full of breakout performances from actresses like Kate Mulgrew, Uzo Aduba, and Natasha Lyonne. Here are more of the best book adaptations to put on your must-watch list.
Dead to Me (2019–present)
Watch for: Jen and Judy’s friendship.
Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) are both in a grief support group after having lost their significant others. The two women develop a bond that’s fueled partly by wine and partly by grief, but over the course of the show, the mystery of Judy’s fiancé’s death unravels in an unexpected way. The series is filled with terrific comedic actors like James Marsden, Ed Asner, and Max Jenkins, and it’s the perfect blend of comedy, drama, and mystery.
Friday Night Lights (2006–2010)
Watch for: Coach Taylor and his wife, Tami—there’s nothing not to love about these two.
Friday Night Lights premiered in 2006, which means we’ve been repeating the inspirational and uplifting quote “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” for 15 years now. The sports drama—which is based around a high school football team in west Texas, its beloved coach, Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), and his wife, Tami (Connie Britton)—had a cult following and was widely considered one of the best-written dramas on television. Many of the show’s young costars, including Zach Gilford, Jesse Plemons, Michael B. Jordan, and Taylor Kitsch, have gone on to have massive careers thanks to the show.
Watch for: All the best parts of rom-coms, from the quirky supporting characters to the comedy mined from failed romantic gestures.
You may not think that comedy and chlamydia go together, but they do in Lovesick. When Dylan (Johnny Flynn) receives an unfortunate STD diagnosis, it’s a rough turn of events for him, made even rougher by the fact that he now has to reach out to all of his former partners and let them know that he’s sick. Along with his two roommates, Evie and Luke (Antonia Thomas and Daniel Ings), he reminisces about his past relationships, usually in flashbacks. The show focuses on Dylan’s past, his friendships with his roommates, and his generally romantic outlook and has a biting but sweet sense of humor.
Tiger King (2020–present)
Watch for: Each and every person on the show, every one of whom is weirder and wilder than the next.
Tiger King was an absolute phenomenon when it first hit our screens in 2020. Centering on Joe Exotic, a larger-than-life, mulleted man from Oklahoma who ran an exotic animal park, the series documented Joe’s trajectory (he was at various times a magician, a presidential candidate, and a big-cat breeder, and he is currently a convicted felon) and his rivalry with fellow big-cat lover Carole Baskin, a Florida woman he tried to kill. Tiger King is astonishing in that everyone involved in the series seems truly outlandish … and it’s crazier still that they all agreed to appear in the series, the second season of which was just released.
The Society (2019)
Watch for: Grizz, played by Jack Mulhern, who steals every scene.
We got just one season of The Society before it was canceled by Netflix, but this teen mystery, created by Christopher Keyser (who also created Party of Five), is a great binge for young adults and older ones alike. When a group of teens returns to town after a field trip, everyone else in town has vanished. If that wasn’t strange enough, a forest fills in around the town, and the teens’ cell phones can only be used to contact one another. While some of the kids insist on partying like there’s no tomorrow, others try to implement a more structured routine to their new lives, rationing food and creating jobs. Over time, though, their self-policing becomes hostile and violent. In the process, they also try to figure out what caused the isolation in the first place. Looking for the best books for teens? We’ve got plenty of ideas in that category too.
Watch for: Betty Gilpin’s comedy chops and brilliant acting.
A Netflix show about women wrestlers from the 1980s might sound a little niche, but at its core, it’s a show about friendship, discovering yourself and what you’re good at, and owning your own quirks and personality. Community star Alison Brie, who played the lead character, Ruth, was the big name when the series debuted, but Betty Gilpin, who starred as Debbie, Ruth’s former friend, nemesis, and eventual colleague, was a revelation. Filled with a hilarious supporting cast of female comedians and actors, as well as Marc Maron as a gruff television director, it was played for laughs but was actually full of heart. It was truly a blow when the series was canceled after three seasons.
Watch for: The mid-series pivot from a tense romantic drama to a suspenseful thriller.
This limited series is about a war veteran with PTSD (Game of Thrones‘ Richard Madden) assigned to the security detail of a politician who he simultaneously loathes for her politics but finds himself attracted to. As Home Secretary Julia Montague, Keeley Hawes is perfect as a Conservative member of Parliament whose agenda includes an invasive surveillance bill that’s meant to thwart terrorist attacks but ends up making her a target of violence. Madden and Hawes have great chemistry, and his performance is full of conflict. In addition to romance, this series has plenty of action and mystery.
Downton Abbey (2010–2015)
Watch for: Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, a role unlike any he’s had before.
Set right after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Downton Abbey is the story of the aristocratic Crawleys, who live on a pastoral estate in Yorkshire County, England, along with a large staff of servants. While the family deals with rich-people drama, like which male heir will inherit the estate, the servants play out soap-operatic story lines of their own, stealing from their bosses and hooking up with one another. The series, which originally aired on PBS, was created by Julian Fellowes, who has made a career out of depicting the lives of British aristocracy and society onscreen, with films like Gosford Park and Vanity Fair.
The Last Dance (2020)
Watch for: Chicago Bulls security guard John Michael Wozniak and his adorable, competitive rivalry with Michael Jordan in the locker room.
The Last Dance is a limited docuseries about the Chicago Bulls’ 1997–1998 season, which would be Michael Jordan’s last season with the team. The show originally aired on ESPN in early 2020 before finding a home on Netflix, and it takes a deep dive into Jordan’s rise from aspiring high school basketball player to one of the greatest athletes of all time. Woven into Jordan’s life story is the story of the Bulls themselves, including the tensions between zen-like coach Phil Jackson and general manager Jerry Krause; the rise of players like Steve Kerr, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman; and the team’s sixth championship win in 1998. It’s not an underdog story, but it’s a tale of longevity and what it takes to succeed.
Watch for: Billy Porter, in his breakout role as Pray Tell.
Ryan Murphy’s Pose follows the performers in New York City’s drag ball culture in the 1980s and 1990s, the underground ballroom scene in which young performers (many of them Latino, African American, and LGBTQ) would form houses that became their chosen families. At the drag balls, members of the houses would compete in performances featuring dancing and drag and would be awarded for their skills. The series features Billy Porter in his Emmy Award–winning role as Pray Tell, the emcee of the balls and mentor to several of the performers. For more in this genre, check out our list of the best LGBTQ movies.
Big Mouth (2017–present)
Watch for: The fourth season’s “A Very Special 9/11 Episode.”
The animated series Big Mouth is one of the raunchiest shows on television, yet it feels like important viewing for young adults. At its core, the show, created by Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, is about a group of middle schoolers going through puberty and coming to grips with things like their bodies, racial identities, and sexual orientations. But all of that is wrapped in sharp jokes, gross-out gags, and hilarious avatars known as “Hormone Monsters” and “Shame Wizards” to take the serious edge off. It’s like an R-rated high school health class, but funnier.
Dear White People (2017–2021)
Watch for: Tessa Thompson, who starred in the film version of this series and arrives in Season 2.
Dear White People is a darkly funny but also deadly serious show set on a fictional college campus that’s full of White students who consider themselves progressive and liberal-minded but who aren’t always the allies they think they are. The series focuses on the nuances of race relations on campus through the lens of the few Black students who attend the school, including Sam (Logan Browning), a woman who hosts a politically charged radio show but is secretly dating Gabe (John Patrick Amedori), one of her White peers. Each episode focuses on a different character’s point of view, and the series deftly satirizes race relations while also commenting on them in a smart way.
Call My Agent! (2015–present)
Watch for: The celebrity cameos, with French actors playing over-the-top caricatures of themselves.
This French show follows the agents at the fictional ASK talent agency whose jobs are in jeopardy when their boss and agency founder dies. Tasked with keeping their sometimes difficult celebrity clients happy, the agents are put through a wringer of emotional distress—but for laughs. The show, which is beloved in France, features a who’s who of French actors, including Juliette Binoche, Jean Dujardin, and Isabelle Huppert, playing fictional, sometimes awful versions of themselves (think Larry David and his friends in Curb Your Enthusiasm).
Watch for: Shira Haas’ realistic, devastating portrayal of Esty.
Unorthodox is, at times, hard to watch because it’s so realistically acted. Israeli actress Shira Haas plays Esty, a Hasidic woman in Brooklyn who feels trapped in her arranged marriage. Unable to bear him a child and not allowed to do what she really wants to do (play music), she flees from him and from her religion and covertly moves to Berlin. There, she searches for the mother who abandoned her when she also fled the religion years earlier. Esty spends much of the series running from her husband and his family, who seek her out in Germany. The series is based on the true story Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman, a woman who left her insular Hasidic community after being forced to marry at age 17.
Virgin River (2019–present)
Watch for: Mel and Jack’s “will they or won’t they” relationship drama.
Robyn Carr’s Virgin River book series contains more than 20 titles that feature Mel Monroe (Alexandra Breckinridge), a nurse who experiences a devastating loss when her husband is killed and then moves to the small town of Virgin River to escape her pain. She is greeted coldly by some residents and develops a romance that’s more complicated than she expected, all while still dealing with her grief. It’s a bit of a romantic soap opera, but the story lines are well-written and well-acted, and it’s a satisfying watch. If Virgin River puts you in the mood for more on-screen love, check out this list of the best romantic movies of all time—and the best romantic movies on Netflix.