Every day, it seems, we wake up to find out about a new Netflix Original show. But how many of these shows are great, and how many are just there to fill up the rows of content on the Netflix home screen? We ask ourselves this question all the time, and have compiled our list of the best original shows on Netflix.
Credit: Curtis Baker/Netflix
Major competition is coming soon, though, in the form of Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus, which will offer their own exclusive original programming. We also asked the experts if Netflix should be scared of Apple.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
A sort-of spinoff of the hit show Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina takes the dark, witty attitude of that CW show, and adds macabre horror and fourth-wall breaking jokes. Star Kiernan Shipka is getting rave reviews for her performance, as the former Sally Draper drives the show with ample charisma. Just don't expect this show to jump head-first into its magic and witchy horror, which it amps up, repeatedly, throughout the season. It's more than OK for the show to build to such reveals, as it gives audiences a sense that the stories of Sabrina are being planned properly, and not rushed.
Two seasons in on Netflix, The Crown is one of the service's most praised shows yet. The series tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II, from her time as Princess Elizabeth and her 1947 wedding, to the present day. Claire Foy's won heaps of accolades for her portrayal of the iconic ruler, as has Matt Smith, who plays Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who Elizabeth marries. In particular, the pair earned points for their easy-going chemistry, which has given these historic personalities a touch of humanity, and even earned some sympathy, which neither are particularly known for.
It's long been said that women rarely get the juiciest, most despicable, lazy and loathsome roles, as they're often written for men. Natasha Lyonne flips that tradition on its head in Netflix's Russian Doll, a new original show from Big Red that shows that the service can still get weird. I won't spoil the show's signature twist, but let's just say you'll appreciate how it harkens back to a comedy classic while still reinventing the wheel.
Love, Death and Robots
A dark sense of humor may be a requirement for a Netflix show, but Love, Death & Robots keeps things at a funny, not-disturbing level. That is not to say this animated show skimps on the violence, but it manages to distinguish itself from Black Mirror, the sbow most will compare it to. Also, there are a ton of cats. About three hours long in total, each episode shakes up the visual style so much that you won't get bored at all. Its aesthetic is that it has no core look, jumping from a caper that looks inspired by Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, to another that feels like the Brawny paper towel man bought a mech suit. The series' looks are more homage than knockoff, with one episode looking a lot like what would happen if an early Nine Inch Nails music video came to life.
Part Steven Spielberg, part Stephen King, and part "that Dungeons and Dragons campaign you played when you were 12," Stranger Things is an enjoyable sci-fi/horror show with a distinct '80s vibe. When preteen Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears, it's up to his friends, his family and a concerned sheriff to track him down. A mysterious girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) may hold the key to finding him, as well as an even weirder mystery at hand. The series got even stranger in its second season, adding new kids in town, crazier special effects and even Sean Astin.
Stranger Things Season 3 will launch on July 4, and its teaser trailer hinted at a summertime focus, with the message "ONE SUMMER CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING..." The new season will include at least four new characters: Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) is set to portray the sleazy mayor of Hawkins, IN, Jake Busey (Starship Troopers) plays a reporter with questionable morals, Maya Thurman-Hawke plays an alternative girl bored with her day job and Francesca Reale (Haters Back Off!) is Heather, a lifeguard working at the Hawkings community pool.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
A reboot of the classic 1980s series, Voltron: Legendary Defender has it all: space battles, magical powers and giant robots. Shiro (Josh Keaton) leads a team of young pilots from Earth as they get swept up in an intergalactic war. Princess Allura (Kimberly Brooks) gives each pilot access to a huge leonine robot, which could aid in the fight against an evil empire. Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos from Avatar: The Last Airbender produced this one.
Sense8 isn't just a trippy sci-fi drama from the Wachowski siblings; it's also one of the first sci-fi shows with a robust cast of LGBT characters. The show follows eight characters from all around the world, each one dealing with his or her own personal problems. Things get even worse for them, however, when they realize that they are "sensates" — psychically linked to each other, and under threat by an organization trying to hunt them down. While Netflix didn't want to renew Sense8 for a whole third season, a two-hour "Finale Special" aired to sate the legion of fans who expressed frustration over the show's cancellation.
Marvel has five shows on Netflix (goodbye Iron Fist, we hardly watched you), and while Daredevil has always been one of the top shows in the pack, it's about to take the crown once more.
Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is a lawyer by day, and a costumed vigilante called Daredevil by night. He protects the NYC neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen from both supernatural and terrestrial threats, crossing swords with gangsters, ninjas, dirty cops and even villains of a more mystical nature. Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin is one of the best Marvel villains on screen yet. Its second season added Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, The Punisher, in a revenge-driven storyline that tested Matt Murdock's ability to trust other vigilantes. Bernthal continued to sizzle in The Punisher's spinoff show, which many started to regard as the best Marvel Netflix show.
Daredevil Season 3 pushed things even further, bringing Kingpin back into the picture and adding Bullseye. Not only did critics praise other new characters, including Jay Ali, who's playing Ray Nadeem, an FBI agent tasked with handling Wilson Fisk, but reviews noted that this season managed to fix the pacing problems that hurt many a Netflix original television show.
Sadly, the third season of Daredevil will be the last, as a Deadline report revealed that Netflix would be axing the series. And while many fans are buzzing about the odds of the offices of Murdock, Nelson and Page joining Luke Cage and Iron Fist on Disney+, the mouse's upcoming streaming service, we're not so sure. Veteran TV critic Alan Sepinwall tweeted "The execs have already said they don't want these shows on the Disney service. And even if they did, the nature of the contracts would make it virtually impossible. They're done."
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
"Females are strong as hell." That's the underlying theme of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and with Tina Fey as one of the writers and creators, it's not hard to see why. Ellie Kemper stars as Kimmy Schmidt: a bubbly Midwestern gal trying to make it on her own in New York City. There's just one twist: She just emerged from being held captive in an underground bunker for 15 years, and her culture shock generates some hilarious realizations.
At first glance, BoJack Horseman seems like a lighthearted sitcom about talking animals in Hollywood. Sit through even one episode, though, and you'll notice that it's a deep and thoughtful exegesis on the nature of clinical depression and the pitfalls of celebrity culture — with plenty of lighthearted talking animal jokes, though. BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) is a washed-up sitcom star (also a bipedal talking horse) whose constant self-sabotage is equally entertaining and heartbreaking.
Arrested Development never quite found enough viewers during its first three seasons on Fox, but Netflix knew that this quirky, bizarre sitcom could get a second chance online. Season 4 of Arrested Development reunited the dysfunctional Bluth family, as its middle son, Michael (Jason Bateman) tries to rein in his relatives' bizarre schemes. There's a Fantastic Four parody, a reality show in a women's prison and even a murder mystery. Just roll with it. While that reunion didn't hit the nail on the head, due to how its cast were spread unevenly through each episode, the fifth season did a better job.
House of Cards
A remake of the popular British drama of the same name, House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as ambitious, amoral politician Frank Underwood. Being a powerful congressman isn't enough for Underwood and his scheming wife, and the two will do whatever's necessary — legal or not — to advance in Washington's ruthless political machine. This is the series that put Netflix original content on the map, and it's still one of the service's most inspired shows. Its final season, House of Cards did not include Spacey, after allegations of his misconduct with colleagues led to Netflix cutting ties with the actor. Critics agreed, though, that the show did not suffer from his absence.
The first two seasons of Black Mirror — Charlie Brooker's devastatingly-powerful tech-focused version of The Twilight Zone — may have aired elsewhere, but Netflix acquired the show and brought its well-reviewed third season to the air in 2016. Hits of that third season include Shut Up and Dance (a harrowing tale of blackmail), Nosedive (what happens when we live and die by ratings given by our peers) and the award-winning San Junipero (which revolves around a vacation town that attracts people looking for an escape).
A fourth season won massive praise for continuing to meet expectations, with "USS Callister" being the standout episode, and Black Mirror's first interactive film Bandersnatch landed on streaming services on Dec. 28, 2018. On May 15, Netflix revealed its trailer for Black Mirror Season 5, which will unfortunately only contain 3 episodes. Those additions to the anthology series seem to feature meditations on stardom (featuring Miley Cyrus herself) and even fighting video games.
Bill Nye Saves the World
Mechanical engineer Bill Nye helped a whole generation of kids learn the fundamentals of science, and now he's back to help educate his audience once again. Instead of a straight science show, Bill Nye Saves the World is a talk show, in which Nye interviews esteemed guests on topics ranging from medicine to sex to video games. Along the way, Nye debunks pseudoscience and teaches the value of a skeptical, scientific mind-set.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a bizarre, subversive collection of children's books written by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). The Netflix series is everything fans could have hoped for. It's dark, it's funny, it's weird, and it's an enjoyable watch for both kids and adults. Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes star as the Baudelaire children: wealthy orphans left in the care of their greedy relative Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), who wants their fortune for himself.