Who doesn’t need a good show to watch when you don’t feel like going out? Luckily, there are plenty of T.V. show options, including the ever-growing list of Netflix Originals. The problem is we are in a period of peak T.V. What is the best Netflix Original series?
The streaming service has poured money into original content as it attempts to fend off rivals like Prime Video from Amazon, Hulu, and the upcoming Disney+ service. Currently, there are over 100 Netflix Originals. We comb through the pile and give you the 14 best original series on Netflix.
Technically not a Netflix Original, but the streaming giant has the exclusive rights to it in the United States, so free pass. It helps the show is up there as one of the best shows to watch on Netflix, period. Set in Britain in the aftermath of World War I, it follows a fledgling gang (the Peaky Blinders) as they rise the ranks in both the criminal underworld and the political system.
The cast, led by Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby, is pure perfection throughout its three seasons (the 4th is on its way). And it features one of the best recurring characters with Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons. We get a brief introduction in season one with more madness in season two and three.
If the acting isn’t enough, there’s always the cinematography. Somehow, it makes the gritty locations look amazing, and the costume department is on point with the tailored suits for the crew. And then there’s the soundtrack. You know you have a hit show when the intro song becomes a breakout hit.
2. The Last Kingdom
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% / IMDB: 8.4
Are you a fan of Vikings? The Vikings before History killed off Ragnar. If so, The Last Kingdom fills that void with a gritty show set in the same timeline. We follow Uhtred, who is on a quest to reclaim his birthright, Bebbanburg. Along the way, he pledges his sword to King Alfred and helps Wessex fend off rivals and the Danes. It may not have the polish of Peaky Blinders, but it does have fantastic characters you’ll grow to love. Currently three seasons in, Netflix picked it up for a fourth set to debut either late 2019 or early 2020. As Uhtred always says, destiny awaits.
3. Altered Carbon
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% / IMDB: 8.2
Need a sci-fi fix? Netflix hit it out of the park with Altered Carbon. Great story. Solid world building. And stunning visuals. What more could you ask for? It’s based on the 2002 science fiction novel by Richard Morgan and takes us on a ride to a dystopian future where our consciences are downloaded into stacks and reuploaded into new ‘sleeves’ or bodies. Technically, it makes us immortal unless our stack is destroyed. The first season follows Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), a former U.N. elite soldier who is hired by a wealthy man to investigate the murder of his own sleeve. It’s a great premise, and somehow Netflix doesn’t manage what other networks do, and that’s screw up science fiction. Looking at you Fox. A few episodes bog down as the show world builds, but with an upcoming second season, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
4. Stranger Things
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% / IMDB: 8.9
Outside of Game of Thrones on HBO, Stranger Things has to be one of the most talked about shows throughout its two seasons. It’s a throwback to the old school, P.G. horror/sci-fi on the early 1980s with a certain E.T. Amblin Entertainment vibe. If you’re more into the R-rated horror, you may find the show toned down, but its nostalgic appeal is more than enough to make up for any shortcomings on the horror side.
The first season follows the story of Will, who is kidnapped. His mother (Winona Ryder) taps the local sheriff to help track her son down. In a not-so-subtle goonies reference, it’s Will’s friends who carry the show taking it upon themselves to find their friend and in the process meet an alien-like girl with telepathic powers. If you haven’t added it to your Netflix queue, you should. With Game of Thrones out of the way, water cooler talk will need a replacement.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% / IMDB: 8.7
Out of the five Marvel shows on Netflix, Daredevil stands alone at the top. And it makes us all forget the unfortunate Ben Affleck movie. That alone should win the Netflix series high praise. What makes the series compelling is its ability to stand on its own outside the wider MCU. Daredevil is unapologetically dark, though humor from the supporting cast does add a bit of levity in between beautifully shot and choreographed fight scenes. Charlie Cox is brilliant as Matt Murdock, and even the villains shine throughout the three-season run.
Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in the first season and Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle in the second show off villains who are not your typical caricatures. Bernthal’s performance was good enough to earn The Punisher its own two-season spin-off. Unfortunately, the upcoming Disney+ streaming service put an end to the Marvel-Netflix partnership, but here’s hoping the studio finds a way to revive Matthew Murdock’s story.
6. The Punisher
Rotten Tomatoes: 62% / IMDB: 8.6
It was never supposed to become a show, but Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle / The Punisher was sublime in the second season of Daredevil. Fans clamored for a spin-off and were rewarded with two seasons of Castle as a one-man wrecking crew. While the second season stalls out, Bernthal gives 100 percent in the role making it a top-tier Marvel-Netflix collab.
7. Bojack Horseman
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% / IMDB: 8.5
Dubbed Netflix’s most underrated series, Bojack Horseman is in its fifth season set in a world where anthropomorphic animals live alongside humans. In case the name doesn’t give it away, the show follows the story of a horse named Bojack (voiced by Arnett). He’s a washed-up 1980s sitcom star who is trying to resurrect his career with mixed results. The cast is rounded out by Bojack’s on-again, off-again girlfriend is a Persian cat (Amy Sedaris); his rival (Paul F. Tompkins) is a golden labrador; he’s in love with a human woman who works as a ghostwriter (Alison Brie); and he has a layabout roommate (Aaron Paul) with whom Bojack has a co-dependent relationship.
It sounds like an absurd take on Hollywood and celebrity culture, but the undertone of the writing explores the issue of depression. For most viewers, it’ll take a few episodes to get into the series, but it quickly becomes a must-watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% / IMDB: 8.2
A three-season sci-fi show co-produced by Netflix and Candian network, Showcase. The plot is your standard sci-fi fare. People from the future have their consciences sent back to the present day into people who are about to die. It’s Terminator-esque with the mission to prevent a dystopian future from happening. While it sounds boilerplate, the interesting twist comes in as the people from the future struggle to acclimate to their new bodies. It’s a fun twist and one that makes the show easy to binge.
9. The Crown
Rotten Tomatoes: 90% / IMDB: 8.7
A shockingly good period drama with an ensemble cast. Imagine if Peaky Blinders traded in its story of gangsters and violence for the intrigue of the royal family. Excellent cinematography and Claire Foy’s turn as Queen Elizabeth is fantastic. One of my favorite moments has to be when the official portrait of Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) is unveiled. It makes for great television. Season three will mark a time jump for the series as Olivia Coleman will take over the role of Queen Elizabeth and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% / IMDB: 8.7
Based on the FBI unit tasked with studying serial killers in the 1970s and 80s, Mindhunter follows Holden Ford, a young FBI agent with interest in psychology and serial killers. The character is based on the real-life John E. Douglas, who was the inspiration for Jack Crawford in the Hannibal series. The show is a gripping look at the world of serial killers and the psychology behind them, which has spawned countless police procedurals. If you’re a fan of David Fincher movies, give Mindhunter a watch. Not only is Fincher an executive producer, but he also directs a few of the episodes.
11. The Umbrella Academy
Rotten Tomatoes: 77% / IMDB: 8.1
It’s safe to say we have plenty of superhero shows, but The Umbrella Academy is definitely out of left field. It’s based on the award-winning comic book series created by Gerard Way. You might recognize the name as the lead singer for My Chemical Romance. Yes, that My Chemical Romance. The show follows seven kids who were born to mothers who didn’t know they were pregnant. Adopted by a mysterious billionaire, the group uses their abilities to fight evil in the world. As they grow up, the dysfunctional upbringing catches up with them as they struggle to live normal lives. Weird? You bet. But the comic book show/movie could stand a dose of weird.
12. Marco Polo
Rotten Tomatoes: 67% / IMDB: 8.1
The only show more expensive to make to date is Game of Thrones. Netflix was swinging for the fences with this historical drama which followed Marco Polo in the court of Kublai Khan. While critics may have panned the series, I loved it. The characters are great, especially 100 Eyes who earned his own 30-minute short. The second season has a tough cliffhanger to swallow, but the show is worth a watch. It’s a shame it didn’t garner the viewership or Netflix couldn’t contain the costs. It is still one of my favorite Netflix Originals.
13. Luke Cage
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% / IMDB: 7.4
Another Marvel/Netflix team up which had great promise but felt like two entirely different shows. The first half of the first season featured one of the better villains in the entire MCU with Mahershala Ali’s turn as Cottonmouth. After that, it felt like the show lacked direction, and Cage’s brother as the villain in the second half felt forced and out of place. Season two picked up as Netflix was introducing multiple crossover characters like the Iron Fist. But like Daredevil and all the rest, Disney+ put the nail in the coffin of this series after two seasons.
While billed as a dramatization of the rise of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel, Narcos does a great job of splicing together real news and set pieces throughout its four seasons. As a drama, it’s a solid watch. As an exploration of America’s failed war on drugs, it’s a must-watch.
That wraps some of the best Netflix original series streaming right now. Did we leave a favorite of yours out? Let us know.