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Best Netflix Originals: 20 fantastic original movies and TV shows made for Netflix

Did your favourite Netflix Original make the our list?

Best Netflix Originals: 20 fantastic original movies and TV shows made for Netflix
Simon Brew
26 July 2020

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.

UPDATE: We've added a number of new shows and movies to our best Netflix Originals list - we've chosen our favourite 20 but there are many more fantastic original Netflix content on the site.

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.

Netflix now makes hundreds of hours of original material every year, on top of all the content it buys in, and sifting through it inevitable presents a challenge. Here’s a mix of 20 to get you started, that across them demonstrate how Netflix has shifted the metaphorical goalposts…
Remember to vote for your favourite below.

Best Netflix Originals

Best Netflix Originals

1. Stranger Things

Stream 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.

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Best Netflix Originals

2. Mindhunters

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

3. Black Mirror

Stream 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.

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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.

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

6. When They See Us

Stream 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.

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Best Netflix Originals

7. Russian Doll

Watch 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.

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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…

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Best Netflix Originals

9. Marriage Story

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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.

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

11. BoJack Horseman

Stream 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.

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Best Netflix Originals

12. The Irishman

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

13. Orange Is The New Black

Stream 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.

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Best Netflix Originals

14. Gerald’s Game

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

15. The Haunting of Hill House

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

16. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Stream 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.

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Best Netflix Originals

17. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Stream 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.

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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.

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Best Netflix Originals

19. El Camino

Watch 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.

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Best Netflix Originals

20. Annihilation

Stream 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.

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