There's no doubt about it: 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, which means that there are many great movies and TV shows to choose for a best Netflix Originals guide.
Since its first big TV show investment – House Of Cards back in 2013 – it's built a reputation for backing series and films other platforms or production companies wouldn’t, spending big on them, and putting whole seasons on its streaming service at once, at a time when that absolutely wasn’t the done thing.
- Can’t get enough of Netflix, here are our choices for the best Netflix TV shows and best crime dramas
- Protect your viewing with the best VPN service
Best Netflix Originals
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. The Queen's GambitWatch on Netflix now
The Queen's Gambit is a fantastic show, offering a frenetic and exciting look at a chess prodigy who goes against the odds to take on a male-dominated industry. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth, the chess genius and she is fantastic to watch.
4. Black MirrorStream now (Netflix)
Originally Black Mirror was a Channel 4 production, but it then went to Netflix and the stabilisers came off the show. Each episode is a weird dystopian nightmare that always hits close to home. The latest episodes featured some A-lists, including Miley Cyrus, and the show has also veered into interactive dramas with Bandersnatch.
5. The CrownStream Now (Netflix)
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.
6. Russian DollWatch on Netflix
One of the cleverest TV shows for a long time, Russian Doll focuses on Nadia Vulvokov (a wonderful Natasha Lyonne) who keeps dying after a party. In true Groundhog Day style, she slowly learns how to make the day work for her and try and find out the reason that she is stuck in a loop. As a series it’s pretty much standalone but there is a sequel in the works - and we can’t wait to see what they do with it.
7. WitcherWatch now on Netflix
Netflix was screaming out for a fantastic epic show to take on the might of Game Of Thrones and Witcher really does deliver. It's that perfect thing for Netflix: a show made on a very popular game, which means that there is already a fanbase there, plus an enticing story that will bring new folks in. Oh, and having Henry Cavill as your star doesn't hurt either.
8. Squid GameWatch now on Netflix
Given how dark Squid Game is - about a deadly game where contestants can win lots of money, but have to risk their lives - it was a big surprise just how popular this show was on Netflix but we're glad it found a huge audience as it's an amazing watch. South Korea really does have the best TV and movies at the moment and Squid Game is high up on that list.
9. The Haunting of Hill HouseWatch on Netflix
Director Mike Flanagan does it again with this fantastic horror show. Based on the downright scary book by Shirley Jackson, this is a modern update to the story. As with many of his movies, Flanagan’s wife Kate Siegel plays a central role in a series that focuses on an estranged family who go back to their childhood home which is haunted by manay a ghost. There are proper chills in each episode. You have been warned.
10. When They See UsStream now (Netflix)
This drama has been watched by 23 million people so far and is based on the true story of a rape in New York's Central Park, where five young people were charged with the crime. The show reveals the failings of the judicial system and charts the boys and their fight for both justice and innocence.
11. The SandmanWatch now on Netflix
One of the greatest graphic novels ever made has been given a small-screen adaptation, courtesy of Netflix. Creator Neil Gaiman is involved, as is Blade’s David S Goyer. About a wizard, the personification of dreams, who comes out of imprisonment and tries to right a world that has been wronged since he was incarcerated, Sandman is a complex entity, filled with stories about stories and has been deemed by many to be unfilmable. Netflix has proved it's not, with this stunning-dreamlike adaptation. Tom Sturridge is Dream, with Gwendoline Christie starring as Lucifer and Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine.
12. 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.
13. 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…
14. After LifeWatch now on Netflix
One of the most watched comedies on the planet, After Life proved that there is more to Ricky Gervais than The Office, creating a stark, sometimes controversial look at what happens when the love of someone's life dies and how it brings no sense of meaning to life. Yes, it's got its hilarious moments but there's a massive dollop of pathos in this show that has to be commended.
15. The IrishmanStream Now (Netflix)
The highly-anticipated new crime drama directed and produced by Martin Scorsese has landed on Netflix. It's one of the hottest new Netflix Originals ever made, with Scorsese at the helm and a fantastic cast to boot, including Robert De Niro, Jo Pesci and Al Pacino. The movie is about a man called Frank Sheeran (played by De Niro) who becomes a hitman and gets tied up in mob affairs.
16. Marriage StoryWatch on Netflix
This one is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play a married couple on the brink of divorce but want to make sure that they stay a family unit for their young son. Written, directed and produced by Noah Baumbach who uses some of his own experiences in the tale - and it shows. Brilliant stuff.
17. El CaminoWatch on Netflix
This isn’t really a sequel to Breaking Bad, more an epilogue focusing on what happened to Jesse after the dramatic events of the TV show. It’s slight - don’t go in expecting an epic story - but it does well to add more meat to the character of Jesse (thanks in part to Aaron Paul’s great acting) and also nods to some peripheral characters that you’ve almost forgotten about but jump for joy when you see them.
18. GLOWStream Now (Netflix)
GLOW (or, the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) is a laugh-out-loud TV show with some spectacular highs and heartbreaking lows. On the surface it's all wrestling, glitter and a lot of tight leotards but it's a show with an excellent cast, fantastic script and a whole lot of heart.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. BridgertonWatch now on Netflix
There is still a lot of life in period dramas and Bridgerton proves that you can do something novel with the genre as well. Both sexy and funny, the show is as bingeable as it gets and more than deserves a place on this list
22. The Dark Crystal: Age of ResistanceStream now (on Netflix)
The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance is exactly the sort of Netflix Original that Netflix should be making. It's bold YA fodder that focuses on the time before the original movie. Packed with all-star cast, this is 10, 1-hour episodes of pure fantasy - and (nearly all) made with practical effects, too. Lovely stuff.
23. 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.
24. Gerald’s GameWatch on Netflix
You can’t move for Stephen King adaptations at the moment - not that we are complaining, especially when they are as good quality as Gerald’s Game. Director Mike Flanagan made what seems like an impossible book to film into a taught chiller that has one of the most wince-inducing scenes we have seen in a long time.
25. 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.
26. Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye TrilogyWatch on Netflix
This stunning three-part documentary is a sometimes-hard-to-watch look at Kanye West. Filmed by one of his old friends, it charts the growth of the rapper up until the situation he finds himself in today. It really does show a genius at work, for better or worse.