Netflix has a lot of money. Read some of the entertainment trade press and you could be forgiven for thinking it has all of it.
Since its first big TV show investment – House Of Cards – it has built a reputation for backing series and films others wouldn’t, spending big on them, and putting whole seasons on its streaming service at once, at a time when that absolutely wasn’t a thing.
Netflix now makes hundreds of hours of original material every year, on top of the stuff it buys in, and sifting through it inevitable presents a challenge. Here’s a mix of ten to get you started, that across them demonstrate how Netflix has changed the metaphorical goalposts…
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Best Netflix Originals
1. The CrownStream Now (Netflic)
This was the show where it became apparent Netflix could effectively outspend small countries. The Crown originally starred Matt Smith and Clare Foy, with reports suggesting that the multi-award-winning royal drama cost £100m just for its first season alone. If true, that’d mark a record for a TV production. Either way, it was richly rewarded by awards-givers, and after two seasons, was able to completely overhaul its cast, with Olivia Colman coming in for Foy.
2. BirdboxStream Now (Netflix)
The biggest movie of Christmas 2018? Well, that was supposed to be Mary Poppins Returns, but instead, the conversation was seized by Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, a thriller starring Sandra Bullock that ventured towards A Quiet Place territory. This was a blockbuster movie launch by any other name too, leading the notoriously secretive Netflix to reveal that some 45 million people worldwide had streamed the film in its first week of release. And not that many people saw Mary Poppins Returns…
3. BoJack HorsemanStream Now (Netflix)
Turns out that if you have an animated series about a horse trying to recapture his former fame while battling alcoholism and depression, you can a) become a huge cultural hit and b) use that framework to tackle social issues, and try and assure people they’re not alone.
Not for nothing is the show regarded as one of the best and most important Netflix has ever put its name and sizeable bank account to. It’s made the world of cosplay rather entertaining too.
4. Stranger ThingsStream Now (Netflix)
The biggest cultural hit Netflix has produced to date, Stranger Things unashamedly grounds itself in the pop culture of the 1980s, blending in horror, sci-fi and the kind of kids’ gang stories that permeated cinema at the time.
The show also boasts more Easter Eggs than your local petrol station ships out to last minute shoppers on Easter morning. The first season saw a “Netflix production" become one of the most talked about of the year on social media.
5. DaredevilStream Now (Daredevil)
Before Fox became part of Disney, it had the rights to make Daredevil movies, and was desperately trying to put a second one together. Time ran out, Disney refused to extend Fox’s option, and it paved the way for a groundbreaking Netflix TV show, that in time too was sort-of swallowed by studio politics. Once Disney decided it was going to do its own Netflix-rivalling streaming service, the plug was pulled on a range of Marvel shows. Daredevil lasted three unmissable seasons.
6. RomaStream Now (Netflix)
Not content with nearly becoming the first film fully funded by a streaming service to win the Best Picture Academy Award (Green Book, of course, pipping it to the post), Alfonso Cuaron’s widely acclaimed movie Roma then sparked a bust-up with one or two British cinema chains. After BAFTA gave the film its top movie prize, UK cinema chain Vue sent a letter of protest, whilst Cineworld withdrew privileges from BAFTA members. All in protest at what they saw as a film primarily not intended for cinema winning such prestigious cinema prizes.
7. AnnihilationStream Now (Netflix)
A film that got a limited release in the US and Canada, Alex Garland’s Annihilation was the first high-profile project that was destined for a cinema release, but found itself sold to Netflix instead, who promptly released the movie three weeks after the deal was inked. Thus, the superb, visually striking sci-fi film, starring Natalie Portman, debuted on the streaming service in the UK and most countries around the world. Even if it should have been seen on a cinema screen really.
8. MindhuntersStream Now (Netflix)
Director David Fincher – Seven, Fight Club, The Social Network – has, staggeringly, struggled to raise financing to get projects off the ground in recent times. No such problems with Netflix, who stumped up for Mindhunter, a dark drama series following the people who profile serial killers, in the hope of catching them. It’s a slow, diligent show, set in the late 1970s just as criminal profiling was in its infancy at the FBI. It took eight years to bring to the screen, but was oh so worth it.
9. Orange Is The New BlackStream Now (Netflix)
Jenji Kohan’s television adaptation of Piper Kerman’s memoir led to Orange Is The New Black, a groundbreaking drama set in a women’s prison. As well as earning huge, rich acclaim for its black humour and quality drama, the show’s keenness to show human beings as human begins is what really sees it soar. Not for nothing has the programme gone on to become one of Netflix’s most-watched originals on its service.
10. Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtStream Now (Netflix)
Ellie Kemper was a scene-stealer already in The Office before the role of Kimmy Schmidt came along. Her joyous comedic innocence, paired with Tituss Burgess’s gleeful performance as her roommate Titus, makes for one of the best sitcom pairings of recent years. Fuelled by positivity, the show was actually originally developed for US TV networks, before Netflix swooped in with its chequebook and a bigger commitment than was otherwise on offer.