Best Netflix originals: The movies, series and docs to watch now

Best Netflix originals: Stranger Things 3
(Image credit: Netflix)

Every day, it seems, we wake up to find out about new Netflix Originals. 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.

Our latest favorite show is The Witcher, which adapts a rather complicated series of video games and books about Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter with tough decisions to make. You's second season has also won praise from our team.

Trying to find stuff you haven't seen yet? Check out our Netflix hidden gems guide for a strong list of under-the-radar shows and movies.

The best Netflix originals to binge right now

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Best Netflix originals: Glow

(Image credit: Erica Parise/Netflix)

Everyone — from pro wrestling fans to people who wouldn't watch Monday Night Raw if you paid them to — loves the Netflix original GLOW. This drama/comedy stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, an actress who struggled to find success as a thespian until she tried out for a new TV show called GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. There, under the direction of the miserable Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), Ruth found she was a natural baddie in the squared circle, taking on the role of Zoya The Destroya. 

Co-star Betty Gilpin plays Debbie aka Liberty Belle, an all-American babyface (wrestling slang for good guy/gal), but issues between Ruth and Debbie eventually infiltrate the ring and lead to calamity. Currently in its third season on Netflix, which just released, Glow is one of our favorite shows on the platform.

Netflix just announced that Glow will fourth and final season. We look forward to seeing Zoya's return to Netflix.

Read our full Glow Season 3 review here.

Black Mirror

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. The fifth season of Black Mirror has been quite divisive, and that's not even for its disappointing 3-episode length. 

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.

The Crown

Three seasons, The Crown is one of the most acclaimed of the best Netflix originals. 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.

Russian Doll

Best Netflix originals: Russian Doll

(Image credit: Netflix)

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 original Russian Doll, which demonstrates 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.  

For more from Lyonne, check out her work in Orange Is The New Black, whose seventh and final season just bowed on Netflix.

Love, Death and Robots

A dark sense of humor may be a requirement for a Netflix original, 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.

Stranger Things

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. 

Now, with three seasons under its retro-belt, Stranger Things is one of the very best Originals in Netflix's lineup, having survived sophomore jitters. Its most recent run featured great character development, awesome throwback tunes and a gripping, game-changing finale. Oh, and you better believe that Netflix just confirmed that Stranger Things 4 is coming.  Netflix announced the news alongside the note that it signed Stranger Things' showrunners The Duffer Brothers to a multi-year film and series overall deal. 

Read our full Stranger Things 3 review/recap.

Best Netflix originals: Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

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 Netflix original 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 made five shows with 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.

MORE: The Best (and Worst) Marvel Shows

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.

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.

Best Netflix originals: BoJack Horseman

(Image credit: Netflix)

BoJack Horseman

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

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.

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 original 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.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.