The greatest Netflix movies and shows of the year… so far
2023 has been a great year for Netflix content. Here are 10 of the best so far...
There’s no getting around it. Netflix releases an awful lot of TV shows and movies in a calendar year. However, 2023 is proving to be a much slower year for the streaming giant, as it works to tighten its purse strings.
Overly aggressive price rises, the rocketing cost of living and general streaming service saturation have really hit Netflix where it hurts, right in the subscriber numbers. It has been forced to scale back on its original production slate as a result.
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We can’t say we’re sorry, to be honest. While the streamer has been prolific with its output of late, it’s probably fair to say that the quality control hasn’t exactly been there.
That’s not to say that 2023 has been a total write-off for Netflix. There’s been some really good stuff released this year, both in terms of episodic TV series and original films.
It can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, however, which is where we come in. The following Netflix originals have stood out from the crowd in 2023 so far.
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The greatest Netflix movies and shows of the year
1. Lockwood & Co.Watch on Netflix
Joe Cornish of Attack the Block and Adam and Joe fame gets a crack at the lucrative YA fantasy genre, to which he brings his own brand of distinctly British whimsy. The series follows a London ghost-busting agency fronted by young people, who are the only members of society who can see and fight an epidemic of deadly apparitions. Featuring a strong concept (based on a series of books), exemplary production design, and strong performances from its three young leads, Lockwood & Co. is a blast. Sadly, it has also been cancelled.
2. The Pale Blue EyeWatch on Netflix
Christian Bale stars in this moody gothic whodunnit as detective Augustus Landor, who takes on the disturbing case of a killing at a US military academy in 19th century New York State. There are signs of a ritualistic element to the killing, which leads to Landor enrolling the assistance of a sharp but strange cadet named Edgar Allan Poe, played by Harry Melling. Yes, that’s the writer Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a fanciful conceit alright, yielding a somewhat overwrought drama, but the sheer quality of the cast ensures a good time.
3. BeefWatch on Netflix
Perhaps the most interesting Netflix project of the year so far, Beef stars Steven Yeun and Ali Wong as two very different parties in a fateful road rage incident. The tit-for-tat escalation that follows speaks to the deep unhappiness of these two characters, one a down-on-their-luck building contractor, and the other a small business owner seemingly on the cusp of breaking into the elite. Beef is the kind of uncomfortable, hard-to-categorise dramedy that delights in wrong-footing you at every turn.
4. KaleidoscopeWatch on Netflix
Netflix series Kaleidoscope might hit all of the classic heist movie marks – it clearly owes a debt to Ocean’s Eleven – but it also has a major and really quite novel twist. You can watch its eight episodes in any order you like, and it’ll all hang together. Netflix randomises the order for every viewer, though you’re also encouraged to pick and mix yourself. The plot jumps back and forward in time around the planning, execution, and aftermath of an audacious plan to raid a billionaire’s vault, led by Giancarlo Esposito’s career criminal Leo Pap.
5. The DiplomatWatch on Netflix
Keri Russell (of The Americans fame) plays Kate Wyler, the US ambassador to the UK in this slickly produced thriller series. Rufus Sewell plays her former diplomat husband, and the couple’s strained marriage and contrasting professional fortunes make for a compelling sub-plot to all the political wrangling, international incidents, and glitzy shindigs. It’s perhaps a little more formulaic and not quite as thoughtful as some would like, but a strong cast (which also includes Rory Kinnear as the prime minister) pulls the Diplomat into ‘reliably entertaining’ territory.
6. Luther: The Fallen SunWatch on Netflix
If you’re one of the many millions of people who were obsessed with Luther’s five-series run on the BBC you won’t need our recommendation to watch this feature film follow-up. In the event that you haven’t seen it already, Luther: The Fallen Sun follows Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, played by the ever-charismatic Idris Elba in full smoulder mode. The move to Netflix is accompanied by an even grislier tone, as Luther is dragged into a murky world of snuff-porn whilst hunting down Andy Serkis’s serial killer.
7. Jung EWatch on Netflix
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho of Train to Busan and Hellbound fame, Jung E is a sci-fi thriller set in a 22nd century where the world has been wrecked by climate change. With the remnants of mankind now living in orbital space stations and warring among themselves, a tech company seeks to develop a decisive battlefield AI based on the consciousness of a legendary war hero. Needless to say, given the director, what ensues is a genre film with smarts, and a deep sense of humanity at its core.
8. Kill BoksoonWatch on Netflix
Like a distinctly South Korean twist on John Wick, Kill Boksoon tells the story of a highly organised federation of assassins operating behind the scenes of society. Jeon Do-yeon plays the living legend who serves as the organisation’s top killer, Gil Bok-soon, who also happens to be a middle-aged single mother struggling to maintain a relationship with her teenage daughter between assignments. There’s a lot more narrative depth and characterisation to Kill Boksoon than many of its obvious inspirations, though it still contains several memorable action set pieces.
9. The Night AgentWatch on Netflix
The Night Agent doesn’t do anything particularly new – it’s a twisty, turny US thriller series-by-numbers – but it has the essentials down pat. Gabriel Basso plays young FBI agent Peter Sutherland, assigned to the graveyard shift on a Whitehouse hotline after his involvement in a dramatic terrorist incident. Before long he’s answering a late night call from a young entrepreneur, and helping her evade the attentions of a pair of paid killers. The leads are likeable, everything moves along at a fair old lick, and the whole thing is good solid entertainment.
10. Agent ElvisWatch on Netflix
How’s this for a premise: an animated series in which Elvis Presley is a secret agent who goes on missions with his chimp sidekick in-between Vegas shows. If that doesn’t sound sufficiently improbable, how about the fact the show was co-created by the singer’s late wife, Priscilla Presley? Did we mention that Elvis himself is voiced by Matthew McConaughey? Against all odds, Agent Elvis turns out to be an absolute hoot, with a riotous sense of humour and decidedly NSFW scripts. The animation, meanwhile, is just Too Much.