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The best Netflix shows of 2023

Top TV shows you may have missed from the top streamer...

The best Netflix shows of 2023
Jon Mundy
14 December 2023

We hope it’s not too much of a downer to start this celebration of a year in streaming to note Netflix has had a pretty rocky 2023, at least away from the screen.

This was a year in which the streaming giant issued wince-inducing price hikes, all while the general population was experiencing a cost of living crisis. Throw in a saturated streaming market and it’s no wonder Netflix subscriber numbers took a bit of a hit.

Thankfully, that’s no reflection on the quality of the entertainment that we received from Netflix. The sheer volume of output might have dropped ever so slightly, but the quality and consistency suggests a more mature, discerning Netflix that realises it’s going to have to compete for its elevated asking price.

That’s the hope, anyway. As this rundown of the best Netflix shows of 2023 goes to show, when the original streamer is good, it’s very good indeed.

Which of these was your favourite Netflix show of 2023? Make sure you vote below.

Best Netflix shows of 2023

Best Netflix shows of 2023

1. Shadow and Bone (season 2)

Stream now on Netflix

Season two of Shadow and Bone will be the last, as the Netflix cancellation hammer has worked its destructive magic once again. That’s a real shame, as a promising first season has been followed up by this more expansive season two. It continues to depict Leigh Bardugo’s uniquely flavoured YA fantasy world of warring nations, elemental warriors, and a mysterious dark rift, while retaining its strong writing and increasing its already considerable character count. There’s an awful lot going on here, but season two’s successful juggling act makes you pine for more.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

2. Lockwood & Co.

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British director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) pulled off a near-perfect slice of YA fantasy in Lockwood & Co., which follows the exploits of a London ghost-hunting organisation fronted by youths. Based on a series of books by Jonathan Stroud, it treads a fine line between drama and whimsy, with a snappy script and likeable characters. Another victim of the increasingly brutal Netflix chopping block, it’s a crying shame we won’t get to see more of Lockwood & Co., as there were real grounds for something interesting to develop from this first and only season.

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There hasn’t exactly been a great track history of live action manga and anime adaptations, but One Piece pulls the trick off much better than Cowboy Beebop ever did. You wouldn’t necessarily have predicted such a thing, given One Piece’s deeply odd fantasy-pirate setting, and there’s an awful lot crammed into this first season, including multiple origin stories, epic sea battles, and action set pieces. Ultimately, though, it all boils down to the source material’s likeable characters and swashbuckling tone, all of which are faithfully replicated here.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

4. The Fall of the House of Usher

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Horror maestro Mike Flanagan brings his fruitful partnership with Netflix to a close (don’t worry, he’s only off to arch-rival Amazon Prime Video) with The Fall of the House of Usher, and it’s a fittingly hair-raising send-off. This Edgar Allan Poe adaptation has all the creeping dread you can stomach, as mournful billionaire Roderick Usher recounts the tragic (and of course spooky) demise of his entire bloodline. If you like watching horrible things happen to despicable characters, this is your next jam.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

5. Lupin (season 3)

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Another Netflix show that has weathered the increasing fickleness of its paymasters, Lupin gave us a third delicious slice of French heist goodness in 2023. If you haven’t been keeping up, Omar Sy plays a cool, collected, and streetwise master thief with a social conscience. Having gained his revenge at the end of season two, you might have wondered where there was left to go for Sy’s Assane Diop. The answer: a thrillingly twisty third series as our hero returns to Paris to get his affairs in order.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

6. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

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This series serves as both an animated adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel and some kind of a soft reboot of Edgar Wright’s live action movie from 2010. The makers have managed to tempt the entire cast back from that cult favourite to provide the voices, including the likes of Michael Cera, Brie Larson, and Chris Evans. What’s new this time is an expressive animation style that brings the original artwork to life, as well as a surprising gear shift that dares to take things in a new direction.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

7. Blue-Eyed Samurai

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This stunning animated series set in Edo-period Japan features a stellar English-language cast, including Kenneth Branagh and George Takei. It’s Maya Erskine’s Mizu who takes the lead though, as a vengeful half-Japanese samurai who carves their way through those responsible for the death of her mother. Blue-Eyed Samurai’s many fight scenes are breathtakingly choreographed and astoundingly bloody, while the animation is of the very highest order, with painterly depictions of nature offsetting all the claret.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

8. Black Mirror

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The latest series of Charlie Brooker’s speculative fiction anthology saw the British creator taking a tentative step away from his successful technophobic formula, and attempting several new genre exercises instead. Black Mirror retains its capacity to surprise and appall in equal measure, but this time there are pronounced horror elements that have been added into the mix. Also new in season 6 is a welcome willingness to bite the hand that feeds. Netflix might write the cheques these days, but it doesn’t escape Brooker’s scathing wit.

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Bodies is a rare British entry to Netflix’s sci-fi roster, and brings with it a suitably distinctive ‘timey wimey’ character. Four London-based detectives tackle what appear to be the same murder case occurring at four very different times in the city’s history. Can they overcome the challenges of their particular eras, which span from 1890 to 2053, and wrap up the case? The brilliant Stephen Graham plays Elias Mannix, a man who appears to provide a mysterious through-line to each time.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

10. Sex Education (season 4)

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Few modern Netflix series get to wrap up on their own terms. That Sex Education got to do so – across four seasons no less – is a sign of both its enduring popularity and its consistent quality. For this final season, the setting shifts from high school to college. Having finally gotten their act together, our core couple of Otis and Maeve find their fledgling relationship placed under pressure due to the latter’s horizon-expanding exchange trip to America. Tears will be shed, and not just by our photogenic cast.

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Beef treads that deliciously awkward ground between drama and comedy, revelling in the discomfort and misfortune of its two bickering leads. The lives of Steven Yeun and Ali Wong might appear to be going in very different directions, but both have the habit of making terrible decisions that manifest in an escalating personal feud following a petty road rage incident. This combination of combustible elements serves to give Beef a unique flavour, shot through with salt and bitterness. It’s an unexpectedly delicious recipe.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

12. I Think You Should Leave (season 3)

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Tim Robinson’s off-kilter sketch show returns for a third season, and it’s as packed full of delightfully awkward moments and hilarious non sequiturs as ever. Robinson has an impressive facility for embodying a seemingly endless variation of jerks, oddballs, and raving malcontents. The fact that after three seasons of I Think You Should Leave you still can’t quite predict where any of its skits is going to end up is a testament to the man’s creativity, not to mention his twisted perspective on life.

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This mature slice of anime seemingly rocketed in from outer space in late October, stunning everyone who watched it with the quality of its animation and the depth of its writing. It’s an adaptation of a 2003 manga by Naoki Urasawa, which was itself a darker and more mature retelling of one of Osamu Tezuka’s classic Astro Boy story arcs. Starting out as a whodunnit about a murderous robotic serial killer, it soon works its way into much wider themes of war, trauma, and what it means to be human.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

14. Top Boy (season 3)

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The gritty British drama returns for one final season, as friends and competing drug kingpins Dushane (played by Ashley Walters) and Sully (Kane Robinson) compete to become the titular top boy. This final season really ramps things up, not least with the casting of Hollywood hot property Barry Keoghan (Saltburn, The Banshees of Inisherin) as a brutal Irish gang boss. It all makes for a heart-stoppingly tense and tragic finale, despite the truncated six-episode running length.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

15. The Night Agent

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The Night Agent is the kind of pacy action-drama about shady goings on among US law enforcement agencies we’re more accustomed to seeing on Prime Video. That’ll either be a huge endorsement or a big warning sign depending on your tastes. For our money, The Night Agent is a solidly executed example of the format, with a likeable performance from Gabriel Basso in the lead role. Basso plays a frustrated young FBI agent serving time on an overnight White House hotline, pulled into protection duty for an imperilled young entrepreneur.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

16. The Diplomat

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In The Diplomat, Keri Russell finally got another star vehicle to call her own after sterling work in The Americans. She plays the titular US ambassador to the UK, who must contend with the political machinations of her new role as well as a rocky marriage to a meddling former diplomat (played by Rufus Sewell). It’s a slow-burn of a series, but by the end of its eight-episode run The Diplomat has more than earned its renewal for a second season.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

17. Castlevania: Nocturne

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The sheer quality of the first animated treatment of Konami’s Castlevania video game series took everyone by surprise. This follow-up from the same team presents an all new cast and setting, but the standards haven’t dropped one iota. This time we’re in France during the revolution, where the hated elites have been infiltrated by haughty vampires and their hellish creations. Thankfully there’s another cocky Belmont around to crack the whip, as well as a compelling cast of allies and enemies, each with fully fleshed out personalities and motivations.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

18. The Witcher (season 3)

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Henry Cavill’s final turn as the muscle-bound monster hunter Geralt of Rivera wasn’t quite as valedictory as some fans would have liked it to be ahead of Liam Hemsworth picking up the twin swords for season four. Still, season three was an undoubted improvement on a somewhat messy second season, ramping up the stakes and teasing out the identity of a treacherous big bad. Its biggest success, however, was in focusing in on its core trio of characters, making the climactic events all the more impactful. Over to you, Mr. Hemsworth.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

19. Agent Elvis

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The King of Rock and Roll lives a double life, taking time out from his Las Vegas residency to embark on secret missions for the US government with his chimp sidekick in tow. Such a fever dream premise could only really be pulled off in animated form, and so it proves, with Matthew McConaughey providing the perfect vocalisation for this butt-kicking rendition of Elvis. Stir in some distinctly salty language, and it’s perhaps no surprise Agent Elvis isn’t getting a second season. Enjoy it for the crazy one-off that it is.

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Best Netflix shows of 2023

20. Squid Game: The Challenge

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Who could have guessed a real life spin on the fictional deadly game show could prove almost as compelling? That’s the case with Squid Game: The Challenge, which casts real contestants into devilish games taken from the Netflix smash hit. True, the penalty for failure isn’t death, but the drama is no less real for that fact. With 456 initial contestants competing for a $4.56m prize, the stakes are plenty high enough. It might be missing the point somewhat, but Squid Game: The Challenge is the very definition of a guilty pleasure.

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