Previous
Next

The 25 Best Netflix Original Films & Shows –

 

 

Netflix

25. Five Came Back

Netflix catches a lot of flack for their dearth of classic films, and rightfully so. One of their few steps in the right direction in terms of representing Hollywood history on the site was this superb three-part documentary miniseries about the journeys of five Hollywood directors through World War II. In addition, Netflix acquired the rights to many of the propaganda films these directors made to assist in the war effort, allowing curious viewers to go even deeper into this subject. It’s a model that would be ideal for other topics, if only Netflix would use it again. — Matt Singer.

Netflix

24. The Crown

The Crown might as well have “Emmy-bait” crocheted into all that royal dress, but good prestige drama is still good prestige drama. The ten-episode series chronicles the early years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, featuring Claire Foy under the title burden, flanked by Doctor Who favorite Matt Smith as husband Duke Philip and John Lithgow in bulldog mode as Winston Churchill. Like the best historical shows, you’ll find yourself drawn into researching actual events like London’s Great Smog, but The Crown has far more to offer than palace intrigue during times of crisis – it’s a window into a world of unimaginable responsibility. — Kevin Fitzpatrick.

Netflix

23. Gerald’s Game

As it turns out, Stephen King’s most unadaptable story was pretty adaptable after all. Mike Flanagan (Oculus) turned King’s horror thriller into a poignant drama with horrific elements. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) head to an isolated vacation home on the lake to spice up their marriage, but then Gerald keels over from a heart attack and leaves Jessie handcuffed to the bed with no hope of rescue. With a nifty conceit that transforms Jessie’s inner monologues from King’s novel into something more tangible, Flanagan delivers a film that is ultimately about surviving trauma and taking strength from the experiences that tried to steal it from you. — Britt Hayes.

Netflix

22. Mindhunter

If you love David Fincher’s Zodiac but wish they actually caught a bad guy, then Mindhunter is for you. It’s also so much more than a typical procedural; in fact, it’s not a procedural at all. But Fincher’s morose style (he directed four episodes) is apparent throughout the 10-episode debut season, which tells a somewhat fictionalized version of how a pair of FBI agents (Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) created a system to profile violent offenders by interviewing incarcerated killers — including real-life murderers like Richard Speck and Edmund Kemper, the latter of whom has a significant (and unsettling) recurring role in the series and is played to unnerving perfection by Cameron Britton. Fringe’s Anna Torv gives a subtly brilliant turn as a prominent academic helping the duo shape their profiling methods, which begin to infiltrate Agent Holden’s own psyche in alarming and fascinating ways — leading to a finale that is utterly compelling. — BH.

Netflix

21. Love

It’s insane how relatable Paul Rust’s Gus and Gillian Jacobs’ Mickey are in this rom-com-drama series. And it’s so rare to relate to both the male and female leads in a story about relationships and navigating adulthood. Love is filled with moments that alternate effortlessly between making you want to root for these two messy humans to get their crap together and just be with one another, and cringing at how horrible they behave when they are. Despite some of the heavier aspects, Rust’s signature silliness is very much present throughout (particularly when he gets his friends together to make up end-credits songs for movies that don’t have them), and Brett Gelman is perfectly slimy in his recurring role. — BH.

Netflix

20. 13th

There are good documentaries, and there are important documentaries; Ava DuVernay’s 13th is both. This sprawling doc chronicles the history of slavery in America post-Civil War, right up to the mass incarceration of black and brown people in the U.S. today. The film hits on the KKK-rallying of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs, Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, and numerous recent killings of people of color by police. It’s an ambitious piece of filmmaking, but it’s also a timely, searing wake-up call that all Americans need to hear. — E. Oliver Whitney.

Netflix

19. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz Stories is so good (and Adam Sandler is so good in it) that it almost retroactively justifies everything else he’s made for the streaming service. (Okay, maybe not The Do-Over. There’s no justifying that.) Sandler plays one of the children of an egomaniacal New York City artist (Dustin Hoffman) whose health crisis forces his kids to confront one another and their complicated relationship with their dad. Sandler and Ben Stiller, playing half-brothers, have several incredible scenes together; the fact that this is their first major movie together since Happy Gilmore is almost as depressing as The Ridiculous 6— MS.

Netflix

18. Lady Dynamite

Few shows are as cripplingly honest about mental illness, and with such a blistering sense of humor, as Lady Dynamite. On this dark comedy, standup Maria Bamford plays herself as a woman navigating bipolar disorder while trying to stay afloat as an actress. It’s a hilarious satire of Hollywood, has a stellar cast of comedic guest stars, and is the most delightfully absurd thing Netflix has given us yet. — EOW.

Netflix

17. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

There are few things as joyful as Pee-wee Herman, Paul Reuben’s obnoxious but all-too-sweet childlike persona. After several years away (and a successful Broadway show), Reubens revived his iconic character for an all-new journey; a first, actually, as Pee-wee had never taken a proper vacation. Adventures, sure. But a vacation? Psh. I know you are but what am I. He’s joined by a few familiar faces and new BFF Joe Manganiello — as himself, kind of — in a role so delightful it rivals Magic Mike XXL’s “Cheetos and water” scene. Reubens has never formally come out, and though Pee-wee is hard to define as anything but, well, Pee-wee, there’s a great queer subtext to Big Holiday that makes his vacation all the more special. — BH.

Netflix

16. House of Cards

At best, the real world has taken a lot of the escapist delight out of this amusingly melodramatic series about a mendacious politician and his equally cunning wife. At worst, it has rendered it obsolete. But let’s not forget all the pleasure the first couple seasons of House of Cards brought us, as Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood schemed his way into the White House. Perhaps the show’s time has passed. But if we’re being honest, this is probably The West Wing this generation deserved —MS.

Netflix

15. Sense8

Let’s be real Netflix: I’m never going to forgive you for canceling Sense8. I mean who cancels a show with not one but two fantastic orgy scenes? The Wachowskis’ first television series was one of the most (maybe even the most) unique things on television, an ambitious mix of drama, sci-fi and action that also asked bigger questions about the unexplainable things that connect us and make us human. It also had one of the most diverse casts on TV. Luckily we’re still getting that revival movie special in 2018. — EOW.

Netflix

14. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Original movies aren’t exactly Netflix’s strong suit, as evinced by how few made this list. But Macon Blair’s directorial debut is the streaming studio’s biggest surprise yet. It follows Melanie Lynskey’s pushover nursing assistant who goes on a revenge mission to find the jerks who stole her laptop. Taking a few notes from his Blue Ruin and Green Room director Jeremy Saulnier, Blair’s film is bursting with nasty violence, but he cleverly balances the brutality with a quirky sense of humor. It’ll leave you hoping some studio gives Melanie Lynskey her own action comedy franchise. — EOW.

Netflix

13. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Human cartoon Ellie Kemper should always be busy in the world of TV comedy, and kudos to Netflix for correcting one of NBC’s mistakes and rescuing Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from the rejected series heap four years ago. The show shares its absurd streak with 30 Rock, but never quite loses its sense of optimism, even as it tackles heavier questions like Kimmy’s PTSD and abandonment issues. Tituss Burgess also gets a chance to shine as the inimitable Titus Andromedon, while a daffy Carol Kane rounds out the core cast in a (slightly) fictionalized New York that somehow feels as bright and warm as Kimmy herself. — KF.

Netflix

12. American Vandal

There’s one mystery more compelling than Making a MurdererSerial, or The Jinx combined: Who drew the dicks? That’s the central question of the Funny or Die-produced American Vandal, a high-school-satire of the docu-mystery format that’s so sharp you’ll never find the edge between penis jokes and hard-hitting investigation. The eight-episode series takes you into a high school investigation of phallic vandalism so engrossing in its scope that you’ll consistently forget its sophomoric premise. Much more than parody, American Vandal gets surprisingly emotional as Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro)’s alleged prank unravels very real threads between students across the school. It’s a story that folds in on itself over and over. Just as Serial’s own popularity affected its narrative, filmmaker Peter (Tyler Alvarez)’s personal investment weaves a tapestry around disillusioned bullies, dismissive teachers, and destroyed reputations. — KF.

Netflix

11. Jessica Jones

There’s good reason Jessica Jones remains the Marvel Netflix series fans have most consistently demanded a second season for. The hard-drinking antithesis of Daredevil’s costumed crusader plays much better as a story of survival and abuse than any stock superhero narrative, and features terrific performances from leads Krysten Ritter and David Tennant. Its first season is as guilty of Netflix bloat as any, but Jessica Jones redefined what we thought Marvel’s TV universe capable of, and transforms a story of shared trauma into one of the best – and only – female friendships the MCU has to offer. — KF.

Netflix

10. Dear White People

Dear Netflix viewer: Few series have ever picked up the baton of its film inspiration as well as Justin Simien’s Dear White People. The ten-episode dramedy followed up on Simien’s 2014 film with a largely new cast, but nonetheless gave every perspective on race thoughtful scrutiny with an episodic format that emphasizes the diversity of its supporting characters. More than simple dissection of race and gender politics, Dear White People finds the shared humanity in moments like a harrowing police standoff or the awkwardness of coming out without ever losing its incisive edge. — KF.

Netflix

9. Orange Is the New Black

Regardless of whatever you thought about Season 5 of OINTB, there’s no question Netflix’s prison dramedy has been one of the site’s most consistently entertaining and surprising shows, with one of its very strongest casts and deepest rosters of talent. (Not for nothing, it’s also launched more new stars than anything else Netflix has produced.) What began as one woman’s memoir about a stint in prison has sprawled into the most epic and nuanced crime drama on television since The Wire. — MS.

Netflix

8. Wet Hot American Summer

In a television landscape saturated with revivals, few truly recapture the distinct magic that made them beloved cultural sensations in the first place. It’s twice as difficult to deliver a successful revival when it’s based on a cult hit that wasn’t exactly that loved upon initial release, but David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Michael Ian Black (a trio of comedic geniuses) did just that — not once, but twice. Both Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Ten Years Later are every bit as idiosyncratic and silly as their cinematic predecessor, and made all the more hilarious by having the original cast members play themselves as teenagers (again) and 30-something adults. Wain leans into the difficulty in wrangling the entire ensemble at once, turning it into a meta-joke that punctuates two increasingly absurd series involving presidents, conspiracy theories, a possibly murderous babysitter, and Jai Courtney (of all people). — BH.

Netflix

7. Making a Murderer

Netflix has had more than their share of misses, but credit where credit’s due; they’ve managed to stream something right into the heart of the zeitgeist on numerous occasions. Maybe the best example is the gripping documentary series Making a Murderer, which came right on the heels of Serial and The Jinx, sating the appetites of fans of serialized true crime. The show had its detractors, but it also brought renewed attention to a shocking murder, and led to new developments in the defendants’ cases. — MS.

Netflix

6. GLOW

I am not sure the actual GLOW (aka the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” a short-lived women’s wrestling television series from the 1980s) was quite as empowering as this fictional version of the show’s origin. But so what? Netflix’s GLOW was one of the site’s best series: Funny, warm, with an incredible cast of actresses, plus comedian and podcaster Marc Maron stealing scene after scene as the show-within-a-show’s sleazy director. Though a lot of Netflix series suffer from a severe case of bloat, GLOW was satisfyingly compact: Just 10 half-hour episodes. As a result, it was one of Netflix’s truly bingeable productions, and the one I am most excited to see back for a second season. — MS.

Netflix

5. BoJack Horseman

It’s a testament to the strength of ensemble casts when BoJack Horseman can push its title character largely to the background for a season (even omit him from the trailer entirely), and remain as funny and poignant as ever. Netflix’s crudely-drawn animal pun factory remains one of the more thoughtful and layered examinations of depression and Hollywood culture out there, and it even added a few welcome notes of hope in its fourth season with a look at the character’s family ties. Will Arnett has had some hit-and-miss Netflix projects, but BoJack remains unBiel-ievably great. — KF.

Netflix

4. Okja

To say Okja is Netflix’s best original feature to date is to damn it with the faintest of praise. But Bong Joon-ho’s tale of a young girl and her unbreakable love for her super-pig is also one of the best features of 2017 period. For whatever reason, Netflix’s successful approach to TV hasn’t paid off the same way with movies. But it did with Okja, which is beautiful and surreal and sad and dark and wonderful in ways very few studios would even attempt at a fraction of its budget. Netflix gets blamed for a lot of the film industry’s ills these days. But if the future of movies looks like Okja, that’s okay with me. — MS.

Netflix

3. Stranger Things

It’s funny to think that just last summer no one had a clue what Stranger Things was. Then, within a single weekend, the Duffer brothers’ series became one of the biggest pop culture obsessions in years. Stranger Things isn’t just delectable nostalgia for anyone who loves the ‘80s, and especially ‘80s sci-fi and horror; it uses those influences to tell an enthralling mystery that hooks you from the start. What isn’t to love about a band of kids fighting monsters, a grumpy heroic cop, and a super-powered girl who steals Eggos? — EOW.

Netflix

2. Black Mirror

Forget ghost stories and serial killers, technology is the real evil we should be afraid of. Charlie Brooker’s dystopian sci-fi series is disturbing because its nightmarish scenarios are all too plausible. The third season of Black Mirror (the only one distributed by Netflix) brilliantly explored everything from our anxieties around social media validation (“Nosedive”) to the horrors of augment reality games (“Playtest”). Name another show that can utterly traumatize you with an episode like “Shut Up and Dance,” then tell one of the sweetest love stories you ever saw in “San Junipero.” — EOW.

Netflix

1. Master of None

We were somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that, in choosing which of Netflix’s original offerings is the best, there was one we agreed upon: Aziz Ansari’s series about life, love, friendship, and pasta. Culling from his own personal experiences (and those of his co-stars and collaborators), Ansari’s Master of None is a true slice of life: At turns beautiful, hilarious, surreal, and painfully real. The series artfully (and sometimes playfully) pays homage to cinema greats, ranging from Woody Allen and Mike Nichols to Italian classics, like The Bicycle Thief — which inspired a Season 2 opener worthy of a chef’s kiss. Throughout two seasons (there may not be a third), Ansari and his creative team tell such specific, diverse stories that are still somehow fantastically relatable, while speaking directly to the experiences of viewers of color. Lena Waithe’s Season 2 “Thanksgiving” episode isn’t just a series highlight; it may be the series’ best. — BH.
Previous
Next
Please wait...

And Now... A Few Links From Our Sponsors