When it really wants to, Netflix does a great job at letting people know what TV shows it has to offer. Unfortunately, with the never-ending wave of new ones arriving every month, certain high-profile creators to keep happy with front-page promotion, and shifts in the streaming wars that can upend viewer attention at a moment’s notice, there are always a few series that seem to fall between the cracks.
To go with the ever-growing list of reviews that we publish on the site on a regular basis (including the new releases worth your time), we thought the moment was right to put together a collection of the best series that Netflix has to offer. It’s a tricky time for the streaming industry at large, with changes in pricing and user strategy signaling a potential sea change. In order to help make sure some of our most beloved shows don’t lost in that big logistical shuffle, we’ve assembled 60 series that might just be worth prioritizing.
There’s the usual caveat that rankings are inherently subjective (is the 17th-best Netflix show that much better than the 29th-best Netflix show, etc.) but the one thing connecting all of the series in this collection is that we think they’re absolutely worth your time. They may not all end up on everyone’s list of personal favorites — tastes vary! — but it’s a trusty roadmap to get unstuck from mindlessly watching Season 7 of that show you never really liked all that much in the first place.
Narrowing things down to a relatively small number meant setting some guidelines. We weeded out some shows that did their best work before they became Netflix Originals. And although the platform may be home to some amazing shows that premiered elsewhere, we stuck to shows that were either originally produced or distributed by Netflix. To keep matters even more manageable, Netflix’s many one-off comedy specials have been excluded. (Our apologies to Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette.”)
For each show, you’ll find three things. First, a simple synopsis for those unfamiliar with any of these titles. Then, a few short bursts of insights for anyone who hasn’t taken that particular plunge yet. Finally, we dropped in a link or two to past IndieWire coverage, either interviews with the people who helped make these shows or bonus praise from one of our writers. Regardless of what ends up being the selling point, we hope this helps you find a fresh classic.
Proma Khosla, Marcus Jones, Kristen Lopez, Erin Strecker, and Ben Travers contributed to this list.
What it is: With the help of Michelle Obama and a rotating cast of performers, chefs, and scientists, puppet friends Waffles and Mochi take the audience on a global ride into a magic-filled, culinary world, one that’s very different from their frozen food-dominated home.
Why you should watch it: In a kids’ entertainment landscape filled with heinous, mind-numbing, cheaply animated nonsense, “Waffles + Mochi” feels like a revelation. While harkening back to an age of tangible characters interacting with human friends and guides, it’s the kind of series that can hold younger attentions without being gimmicky. It also avoids being patronizing, instead using food as a jumping-off point for understanding what goes into what we eat and the excitement that comes with following a creative passion wherever it may take you. —Steve Greene
Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci discuss the songs of “Waffles + Mochi!” with IndieWire.
What it is: Andre Holland leads this ensemble story of a jazz club in East Paris struggling to stay solvent. Each episode follows a member of The Eddy’s core group: the cash-strapped expat owner, his estranged daughter, the house band’s lead singer, and the handful of musicians that make the club come alive.
Why you should watch it: “The Eddy” is a show brimming with life, even if its characters have their share of threats and looming uncertainties. From the Damien Chazelle-directed pilot to its appropriately bittersweet ending, Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber’s music backs a series of stories that don’t make the easy reach for the sensational or the overly familiar. It’s a celebration of the messiness of jazz as an art form and creativity in general, one ready for rediscovery after the circumstances surrounding its release (in the uncertain days of May 2020) left most potential viewers unaware that it even existed in the first place. —SG
André Holland spoke about “The Eddy” to IndieWire at length in 2020 for our Awards Spotlight.
What it is: In order to make up for a financial scheme gone wrong, finance whiz Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) offers to save his and his family’s life by setting up a massive money-laundering scheme in the heart of Missouri. Facing threats from his new bosses, their competitors, and the various members of the Midwest’s criminal infrastructure, Marty, wife Wendy (Laura Linney), and their two children have to resort to far more sinister solutions than creative accounting in order to stay afloat and stay alive.
Why you should watch it For those who don’t mind their dramas on the crushing side, “Ozark” is a pretty effective slow burn in that disaster feels like it could strike at any moment. The show takes advantage of its rural surroundings and its color-timed gloom, considering what it does to a family to be constantly staring into darkness. Watching Bateman and Linney play people teetering on the edge of desperation and despair isn’t exactly an uplifting experience, but the two of them (along with Julia Garner and her own star-making performance) find some new psychological depths along the “bad person or bad thing?” spectrum. —SG
Read IndieWire’s review of the final season of “Ozark.”
What it is: Convicted of murder, Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) relates her personal history to a doctor (Edward Holcroft) assigned to evalute her. The more that Grace explains the circumstances of her life and maintains that she does not remember committing the multiple crimes in question, the more that all of those actual details become part of a larger obsession.
Why you should watch it: Sarah Polley’s recent acclaim for “Women Talking” makes it an ideal time to revisit this six-part series that is, in many ways, that film’s spiritual predecessor. The adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, coupled with Gadon’s electric central performance, also grapples with questions of bodily autonomy and who is afforded the benefit of the doubt within societal structures. What really separates this series — even from other series based on Atwood works — is Mary Harron’s direction, which not only helps “Alias Grace” operate on a different rhythm from most stories from the mid-19th century, but effectively turns so many chapters of Grace’s story into a waking nightmare. —SG
“Alias Grace” was received positively, but there’s a lot to learn from the controversial adaptations authors and readers haven’t liked.
What it is: Created by Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, the only season of “Everything Sucks!” transports audiences back to Boring High School (as in the real city of Boring, Orgeon) in 1996 for a wildly underrated, ska-backed parody of grunge and girl power that’s all about growing up and being young and gay, as told through the eyes of outcast kids in one school’s A/V and drama clubs. A pre-“Euphoria” Sydney Sweeney appears alongside Peyton Kennedy, Rio Mangini, Quinn Liebling, Jahi Di’Allo Wiston, Elijah Stevenson, Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, Patch Darragh, and more.
Why you should watch it: There’s an almost fruit punch-like blast from the past quality to this delightfully queer inclusive and nostalgic ’90s romp. It’s a classic case of Netflix leaving subscribers hanging with a story we could have used way more of, but “Everything Sucks!” delivers energizing magnetism with its comedy and treats its teen lesbian romance with care. It’s a sweet but not at all dull homage to the era of “Clueless” and “Mallrats” with the consideration only revisiting a time period can bring. —Alison Foreman
Get more recommendations for the best teen TV shows, such as “That ’70s Show” and “Daria.”
What it is: A seven-part investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sister Cathy Cesnik’s death touches also doubles as two researchers’ exploration of a Baltimore-area Catholic school’s history. As more information becomes available, director Ryan White and the series’ present-day subjects paint a culture of secrecy and abuse that still resonates a half-century later.
Why you should watch it: Despite only being a few years old, “The Keepers” feels like a vestige from a different era of Netflix doc series. There’s an immediacy and patience in the way that White and the team allow the space for survivors to tell their story on their own terms. When the series focuses on the truths and realities of people who stories mirror Cesnik’s and those of Archbishop Keough High School alumni, it’s a reminder of what the platform’s documentary slate used to stand for. —SG
Our 2017 review of the series, which looked at how the series fit into the documentary series landscape of the day.
What it is: This six-part, true crime documentary series examines the impact of Indian guru Bhagway Shree Rajneesh, an infamous cult leader whose 1981 establishing of a commune in Oregon unraveled two communities and revealed a series of serious crimes, including murder, arson, and a case of mass salmonella poisoning.
Why you should watch it: Documentarians/Brothers Maclain and Chapman Way examine the Rajneesh movement with the complexity its mind-bending facts deserve. By consistently reframing its characters (interview subjects range from the commune’s wary and sometimes intolerant white neighbors to controversial Rajneesh spokesperson Ma Anand Sheela), the filmmakers set up a dazzling series of dramatic turns and a stunning, thorough consideration of religion, intolerance, xenophobia, and power. —AF
While the series got attention for its many twists and turns, here’s a consideration of the show through the specific lens of Sheela.
What it is: In its first two seasons, Netflix’s “The Witcher” adaptation starred a super-jacked Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia: a stony force and fearsome fighter from author Andrzej Sapkowski’s six-volume book series about monster hunters.
Why you should watch it: Exhilarating fight sequences — plus Cavill really making a meal out of lines as simple as “Fuck.” — turned Lauren Schmidt-Hissrich’s fantasy series into a massive hit with not just fans of Cavill and Sapkowski, but of “The Witcher” video games as well. (One word: Bathtub!) In Season 3, Liam Hemsworth will take over for Cavill, so jury’s out on whether this show has remained one to watch. The first two seasons surely kill. —AF
For more on the look of The Continent, here’s some perspective from series production designer Andrew Laws.
What it is: Building out from a template and visual style that director David Gelb brought to “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” this long-running doc series presents food from kitchens all around the world as pieces of art. Different seasons have profiled chefs and culinary standard-bearers in themed and un-themed seasons, paving the way for more specialized looks at pastries, BBQ, pizza, and French cuisine.
Why you should watch it: It’s one of TV’s most indulgent series, but it puts all that power to effective use. It’s as much a document of the process of cooking, one that begins before the ingredients arrive at any particular prep area. The slow-motion footage and impeccable plating have become ripe fuel for parodies and tributes alike (the Gelb-supervised sections of “The Menu” somehow function as both), but the fact that they go hand-in-hand with a better appreciation of the craft makes this a show worth savoring, regardless which course is your first. —SG
Our delectable, process-filled chat with David Gelb, Andrew Fried and Brian McGinn, three of the directors on the series.
What it is: When a young outlaw (Jack O’Connell) stumbles into an 1884 New Mexico town, he discovers a community comprised almost entirely of widows who lost their husbands in a devastating mining accident. He is soon pursued by his former partner in crime.
Why you should watch it: Writer/director Scott Frank’s “Godless” not only allows us the privilege of seeing Merritt Wever wielding a shotgun, but also delivers striking western cinematography, a thoughtful feminist perspective, and Jeff Daniels in one of his most terrifying performances. You’ve seen stories like this one before, sure. But “Godless” remains an underrated triumph because of its own wit and grit. To quote Samantha Soule’s character: “A town full of ladies? It’s ripe fruit for the wicked.” —AF
A spoiler-heavy discussion of the series’ final episode, praising and dissecting a wild ending.
What it is: In Jenji Kohan’s sprawling expansion on Piper Kerman’s memoir “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” a singular ensemble drives a compassionate look at the lives of inmates and guards at a fictional minimum-security federal prison in upstate New York.
Why you should watch it: “Orange Is the New Black” didn’t just make history at Netflix (though its success was an unprecedented leap forward in scripted comedy for the service). With too many standout performances to name (Uzo Aduba! Kate Mulgrew! Samira Wiley! Natasha Lyonne!), the genre-straddling, women-centric dramedy championed diversity onscreen and off, as well as challenged the limits of ripped-from-the-headlines drama for the binge-watching format. —AF
Series mainstay Natasha Lyonne explained how the chance to get behind the camera changed the entire trajectory of her career.
What it is: Creator Brit Marling stars as the titular OA or “original angel”: a woman who mysteriously returns to her adoptive parents after disappearing for seven years. Their reunion reveals a mind-bending epic, cut short by a hard-to-accept cliffhanger.
Why you should watch it: Synonymous with hidden gem, “The OA” is a word-of-mouth sci-fi sensation for a reason. Though Season 1 got a mixed reception from critics (its serpentine storyline proved too difficult to follow for some), the show has since been extensively praised for its ambitious approach to multi-dimension storytelling and is remembered for a Season 2-turned-series finale that left unsatisfied fans grappling with frustrating but fascinating meta-questions about Marling’s under-explored TV universe. —AF
Our Influencers profile on series composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, including thoughts from Marling.
What it is: Twin sisters Sterling and Blair Wesley (Maddie Phillips and Anjelica Bette Fellini) have to secretly balance being apprentices to a grouchy veteran bounty hunter (Kadeem Hardison) with their everyday teen troubles being students at a Christian school.
Why you should watch it: Another entry into Netflix’s far-too-vast canon of shows gone too soon, the Kathleen Jordan-created comedy brought such an original concept to the well-trodden genre of teen TV, mixing in crime caper fun with biting satire of down south, contemporary Christian culture in the Atlanta suburbs. —Marcus Jones
“Teenage Bounty Hunters” was the capper on our list of shows in 2020 that were canceled way, way too early.
What it is: As Julia (Lucía Uribe) and Ruy’s (Flavio Medina) marriage is crumbling, they try to preserve parts of the life they have and put on a good face for their daughter. When affairs and public controversies start to complicate things even further, the couple is forced to confront their own assumptions about what family means.
Why you should watch it: Now much more known for being in front of the camera on a TV series, this proves that Diego Luna might be an even better director. There’s patience and generosity in so many of the scenes here — whether they feature characters fighting, flirting, or just sitting alone eating — that really let these performances crackle. —SG
Some additional thoughts on how this show effortlessly moves between rich family drama and dark, biting comedy.
What it is: The first all-Black Upright Citizens Brigade team — known since their founding as the Astronomy Club — entertain in this single-season sketch celebration featuring reality show framing.
Why you should watch it: “Astronomy Club” stands out not just for its spectacularly funny writing (“You just peanut butter and jealous!”), but also the well-earned chemistry of its stars. Players Shawtane Bowen, Jonathan Braylock, Ray Cordova, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses, Keisha Zollar, and James III exude comfort that makes their comedy at once punchier and warmer. —AF
A tribute to the season that was and some thoughts from the cast about where their collaborations could head next.
What it is: When Tokyo instantly transforms one afternoon into a deserted, abandoned city, a handful of friends find that in order to stay alive and have a shot at returning to their own reality, they’ll have to endure a series of challenges categorized by a mysterious deck of playing cards.
Why you should watch it: It got crowded out a bit by a certain other “solve puzzles to earn your survival” show that came along a few months later — but don’t sleep on this Shinsuke Sato manga adaptation that has just as much high-stakes blockbuster detail in its favor. The opening episode’s challenge, based around a deadly guessing game, wastes no time setting up the thematic throughline of the series: In a ruthless competition like this, no one is safe. —SG
A more detailed case for why “Alice in Borderland” is a worthy entry to the Netflix puzzle box canon.
What it is: An aspiring indie filmmaker (Rosa Salazar) visits ’90s Los Angeles in search of her big break. What she finds is a city, an industry, and some odd strangers who all seem to be in the grasp of something that’s out of this world.
Why you should watch it: As dizzying as show-biz stories can get, this uses some surprising, nasty genre storytelling to get at the heart of Hollywood shininess and rot at the same time. It takes a lot of work to make chaos feel this controlled, but from the closing moments of the first episode on, there aren’t many series that are as impossible to predict as this one is. —SG
A look into the practical work behind some of the season’s most memorable moments, courtesy of a conversation with showrunners Lenore Zion and Nick Antosca.
What it is: James Beard Award-winning chef and author Samin Nosrat travels the world to showcase a diverse array of great dishes that have the four essentials listed in the show’s title.
Why you should watch it: The simplicity of Nosrat’s cooking edict, along with her gentle instruction and infectious enthusiasm, make for an interactive watch: It’s enough for viewers to start taking her suggestions to heart and get more involved in the kitchen. The visuals are also sumptuous, making even a shot of a loaf of focaccia bread look like a cinematic work of art. —MJ
Nosrat talked about her journey to becoming a TV host, and which of the four episodes ended up being the hardest to make.
What it is: This Dutch horror series follows a new medical student (Jade Olieberg) who shows up for a university initiation ritual and ends up discovering the sinister forces keeping the school afloat and its members in power.
Why you should watch it: Brutal and elegant all at once, this is a show that’s both a visual feast and parade of horrors. Striking color, patient camerawork, and a keen eye towards corruption of all kinds is what makes this far more than just a college/conspiracy story mash-up. You’ll never look at masquerade masks or a ball of dark goo the same way ever again. —SG
It’s one of our no-brainer choices for the Best International Series on Netflix.
What it is: Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s comedy about a woman (Ellie Kemper) who spent 15 years imprisoned in a bunker with a cult leader is as kooky and optimistic as its premise is bleak. As Kimmy catches up on the years she missed, she finds the company of wannabe diva Titus (Titus Burgess), eccentric/possibly dangerous landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), and self-absorbed, oblivious rich employer Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski).
Why you should watch it: From the first weekend when that theme song got stuck in everyone’s heads, “Kimmy Schmidt” found something special. The show exemplifies the absurd humor its creators honed on “30 Rock” — humor that pops up in “Girls5eva” and the criminally underwatched “Great News,” but which truly thrives on “Kimmy Schmidt.” Packed with cameos, flights of fancy, and complete with a choose-your-own-adventure movie finale, “Kimmy” is not only unbreakable but audacious in finding hope and humor after trauma. —Proma Khosla
Once the show wrapped its final full season, Fey and Carlock reflected on what it took to say goodbye.
What it is: Over an eight-part season and a timely bonus episode, this documentary series tracks the experiences of four doctors over the course of their work at an Upper East Side hospital.
Why you should watch it: The early weeks and months of lockdown brought a handful of Netflix shows that ripped through the TV-watching consciousness, but none of them had quite this level of care and balance, putting the daily lives of patients and medical professionals in the spotlight. With time, the series’ extra episode — chronicling the arrival of the pandemic at Lenox Hill — remains one of the most valuable documentary time capsules of that tumultuous time. —SG
Directors Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash explain what it took to earn the trust of all their subjects (and not get in the way).
What it is: Best friends Andrew Glouberman and Nick Birch navigate their changing minds and bodies in this crass coming-of-age comedy, forged of “Freaks and Geeks” and “Inside Out.”
Why you should watch it: Maybe it’s overly heady to describe a raunchy cartoon about puberty as “having vision.” But the team behind “Big Mouth” continues to impress with its uniquely smart solutions to the narrative issues you’d expect a series about middle schoolers written by adults to encounter. It’s a giddy combination of high-concept meta humor and low-brow laughs — plus pitch-perfect voice acting from Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, and Jordan Peele among others. —AF
Go inside some of the best “Big Mouth” songs, including tributes to ’90s erotic thrillers, body positivity, and Freddie Mercury.
What it is: This season-by-season series looks at a handful of different junior college football programs around the country, where standout athletes still have a slim pathway to the pros. Each year, the show weighs their play on the field as well as time spent in class, with families, and as part of the community built around each school.
Why you should watch it: No single piece of art — outside of the most recent one set in Dillon, TX — has done a more effective job of engaging with football as a metaphor for the country whose soul it dominates. Through championship-level seasons and underperforming squads, there’s always a drama to “Last Chance U” that centers on the people even more than the plays (a balance that’s also present in the spinoff’s focus on juco basketball). —SG
With cameras playing as much of a role as they do in this series, here’s some additional info on how the team captures the action.
What it is: “You” is a journey through Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) season-by-season obsessions with idealized visions of the women in his crosshairs. With narration courtesy of Joe’s inner monologue, the show builds each of his new pursuits on the literal and figurative skeletons of the people from the past he’s trying to forget.
Why you should watch it: What started out as an experiment in subverting TV’s Nice Guy trope has become its own deep dive into how the people around him write and rewrite their own moral boundaries. Badgley takes a near-impossible task — play an extremely misguided, charming manipulator without making him an easy monster — and finds new, impressive ways to help the show around him take even bigger swings. —SG
From the early Lifetime days, a chat with Badgley and creator Sera Gamble on the risks the show took from the start.
What it is: Taken from the same Jens Lapidus-written source material as the early-2010s film trilogy, this series follows a trio of central characters and their connections to the Swedish crime world. As the stakes get higher, their fates start to become forever linked.
Why you should watch it: Few TV dramas are this laser-focused on the myriad ways that crime stories act as a double-edged sword. Through the eyes of Leya (Evin Ahmad), Salim (Alexander Abdallah), Tim (Ali Alarik), and everyone else in this web, you can see how alluring it is to be close to money and power (or even wield it). But when the consequences come in “Snabba Cash,” this show puts you right in the heart of deadly confrontations not easily forgotten. —SG
In the wake of the release of Season 2, here’s our spoiler-free case for why this is the kind of show that could easily be a Netflix hit.
What It Is: Creator Joe Swanberg (“Drinking Buddies”) crafts an episodic anthology series about modern love that doubles as a magnificent ode to the city of Chicago.
Why you should watch it: Episodic anthology series (where each episode tells its own story) are generally underrated, and Swanberg’s astute and expansive romantic drama certainly deserves wider consideration. With plenty of contemplative one-off episodes — and a few plots that continue across all three seasons — “Easy” is, in fact, easy to enjoy one at a time, while the full-series experience is filled with charm, insight, and incredible shots of America’s finest city. Still not sold? Just look at the cast: Marc Maron, Jake Johnson, Aya Cash, Jane Adams, Zazie Beetz, Kate Micucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Orlando Bloom, Hannibal Buress, Aubrey Plaza, Michaela Watkins, Judy Greer, Timothy Simons, and Melanie Lynskey are just a few of the talents you can expect to see. Enjoy. —Ben Travers
For anyone wanting to jump right into the middle, here are our picks for the best episodes of Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3.
What it is: Stephen Satterfield leads this multi-part look at the foundations of some of the most seminal American dishes. Using Jessica B. Harris’ book (and herself) as a guide, the series looks through the lens of the diaspora that cultivated and nurtured these traditions over the course of centuries.
Why you should watch it: “High on the Hog” takes the richest parts of what food-centered doc series do best, with Satterfield’s empathy and enthusiasm as a host making a perfect counterpart to the show’s travelogue and craft appreciations. Beyond that, it makes the undeniable case that food is its own form of art, one that can exist alongside the traditions of music, dance, and the vivid colors intertwined with these dishes’ greater significance. —SG
The show was an easy pick for our list of the Best Documentaries of 2021.
What it is: A semi-autobiographical romantic-comedy from creator and star Mae Martin, “Feel Good” follows George (Charlotte Ritchie), who’s never dated a woman before, and Mae (Martin), who struggles with addiction in its many forms, as they embark on a new relationship in Manchester, England.
Why you should watch it: Both authentic to its characters’ experiences and finely crafted as a dramatic-comedy, “Feel Good” features a breakout turn from Martin and a killer supporting performance from Lisa Kudrow, as Mae’s mother. Honestly, Kudrow alone is enough to recommend it — but once you get started, you’ll find so much more than you ever imagined. —BT
For additional thoughts on the show’s farewell Season 2, here is our rave review.
What it is: Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) couldn’t be more different. But when their husbands reveal they’re in love with each other, the two women are forced to deal with the change in their lives together.
Why you should watch it: Fonda and Tomlin have been creating comedy for decades and if you enjoyed them in “9 to 5” this is a fantastic continuation. The two women have such an easy camaraderie together that you can easily identify with one or the other. They just create magic together. —Kristen Lopez
A dispatch from the ATX TV Festival, where the show’s creative team talked about the game-changing Season 4.
What it is: Stand-up comedian Hasan Minhaj hosted what was easily Netflix’s most successful talk show from 2018 to 2020, winning two Peabody Awards in the process.
Why you should watch it: It’s sad to think but the window for recommending “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” is probably closing. The current events-based series thrived in the realm of social and political commentary for six seasons with Minhaj delivering well-researched arguments about the state of our planet on par with the Emmy-dominating “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Of course, many of those episodes will only stay topical for so long so catch the series sooner rather than later. —AF
A peek into making the look of “Patriot Act,” from the graphic design to the screens that showed it all.
What it is: Sam (Logan Browning) hosts the titular radio show at her extremely white Ivy League college, where tensions rise between multiple Black student unions and at the sole historically Black dorm. Soon, all eyes at Winchester University are on Sam, Reggie (Marquee Richardson), Coco (Antoinette Robinson), Lionel (DeRon Horton), Troy (Brandon P. Bell) and the rest of the Black student population, some of it wanted, some unwanted, some deliberately plotted.
Why you should watch it: Adapted from creator Justin Simien’s 2014 feature film, this series is about bright, young, attractive Americans, the liberal elite as much as the generationally oppressed. The collegiate friendships, flings, and scandals pop off the screen with distinct style, tone, and humor. “Dear White People” features a collection of ultra-smart, flawed, and deeply relatable people trying to figure out their lives and futures like anyone else who happens to be Black as they do so. There’s also a secret society, Giancarlo Esposito, and a whole musical season, because why the heck not? —PK
Ahead of the show’s second season, Simien spoke about how the initial response to the show fueled its own story.
What it is: A married Stockholm publishing house’s new executive gets into a flirty, complicated office game with the company’s IT temp. What starts as an innocent game of blackmail becomes a thornier (and more absurd) tangle of emotions.
Why you should watch it: This is an ideal show for anyone who likes their romantic comedies with a serrated edge, anchored by an incredible multi-faceted performance from Ida Engvoll. “Love & Anarchy” delights in the “will they/won’t they” dynamic of an office affair, while never losing sight of the fact that, in this case, there’s far more than just a handful of work crushes at stake. —SG
Here are some additional thoughts on Season 1 and Season 2.
What it is: Three generations of one Cuban-American family deal with life, love, and the comedy that comes along with it.
Why you should watch it: This remake of the 1970s sitcom of the same name was packed with both laughs and heartfelt discussions of growing up Latinx. Justina Machado as Penelope Alvarez was all kinds of hilarious, as well as tough and relatable. Couple that with a stellar turn by the iconic Rita Moreno and these were characters everyone wanted to spend time with. —KL
Some insight into how the show was able to last at Netflix for as long as it did, following a passionate fan campaign.
What it is: Baz Luhrmann’s one-season wonder about the rise of hip-hop in 1970s New York is a tender romance, exhilarating musical, and passionate piece of history, all at once.
Why you should watch it: The music is reason enough to check out all 11 episodes, but don’t sleep on the cast: “The Get Down” helped put Justice Smith and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on Hollywood’s radar, while veteran stars like Jimmy Smits, David Diggs, Giancarlo Esposito, Ron Cephas Jones, Billy Porter, and Renée Elise Goldsberry all embraced Baz Luhrmann’s swirling world of genre-bending beats, bringing each character in the ecstatic production to heart-pounding life. —BT
Some extra insight into how the series’ music and production design helped recreate the New York of decades past.
What it is: Aziz Ansari stars as Dev, a struggling actor and New York foodie with various big dreams, but Ansari’s leading role is somehow the least remarkable part of the show. Every episode of “Master of None” — including its honorary third season following various chapters in Denise’s (Lena Waithe) love life — is a feat of writing, direction, stunning cinematography, and often social commentary.
Why you should watch it: What Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang did with “Master of None” was outstanding. Season 1’s “Parents” and “Indians on TV” remain eminently watchable, while Season 2’s black-and-white jaunt through Italy, “New York, I Love You” and “Thanksgiving” leave Dev behind altogether and experiment with voice and style. There’s still nothing quite like “Master of None” anywhere else on television, proving that it is, at least, master of one. —PK
Weeks after the surprise release of Season 3, stars Waithe and Naomi Ackie reflected on what it took to bring the show back.
What it is: A tortured young man (Zach Gilford) returns to his island home after a four-year prison sentence, where he crosses paths with a strange new priest (Hamish Linklater).
Why you should watch it: Mike Flanagan delivers a rich and haunting exploration of faith in this underrated and understated supernatural drama. At just seven episodes and chockful of dazzling performances (Kate Siegel! Rahul Kohli!), “Midnight Mass” is an authentic consideration of the sometimes-insidious power religion holds over the most vulnerable godfearers. —AF
An essay on the real monsters in “Midnight Mass,” who end up being scarier than the ones you might imagine.
What it is: An East Village misanthrope is forced to relive her 36th birthday again and again, trying to figure out the rules and way out of an existential time loop.
Why you should watch it: There are so many aspects of the trippy, stylish comedy for viewers to latch onto, from the dark humor director Leslye Headland brings, to star/co-creator Natasha Lyonne’s completely lived-in performance that ranges from wacky to heartrending. It also happens to be the best representation of New York City the streaming service has to offer. —MJ
An inside look from Headland and cinematographer Chris Teague about how they crafted their visual version of New York.
What it is: A young mother (Margaret Qualley) navigates the welfare system while working as a maid.
Why you should watch it: Molly Smith Metzler’s adaptation of Stephanie Land’s biography is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful. Qualley gets the audience to root for her at every turn as she shows a woman trying to continuously jump through the hoops that government assistance imposes on those who need it. It’s a timely and frustrating story about the things that need to change in our society. —KL
Here’s our conversation with Metzler, discussing the show’s audience reach and the impact it had on viewers going through similar situations.
What it is: Mike Flanagan adapts Shirley Jackson’s novel into a haunting exploration of family trauma. Hopping back and forth in time, this 10-part series follows the Crains as they move into a mysterious manor and years later, when tragedy strikes again.
Why you should watch it: Mike Flanagan is our new master of horror and “The Haunting of Hill House” cements it. Using Jackson’s novel as a foundation, Flanagan presented a heartbreaking look at how suicide can transform an entire family (couched in a haunted house thriller). Equal parts spooky and insightful. —KL
What it is: An inside look at the high-stakes world of junior college cheerleading, told through the on- and off-mat lives of the stars, future stars, coaching staff, and everyone else who helps make up a championship squad.
Why you should watch it: There’s a level of precision here, crafted for years on the football field by many members of the “Last Chance U” creative crew, that gets put to incredibly effective use when documenting these fast-moving, high-flying routines. It’s also one of the few genuine Netflix phenomena to get the chance to engage (and reckon) with its own popularity and the way it transformed the lives of people who were a part of it. —SG
Here’s our interview with “Cheer” director Greg Whiteley on the challenges of making Season 2 during Covid and addressing the conviction of Season 1 subject Jerry Harris.
What it is: Asa Butterfield stars as Otis Milburn, the son of a sex therapist (Gillian Anderson) who then starts giving out paid intimacy advice to students at his school along with resident bad girl Maeve (Emma Mackey). The rise of “sex kid” creates as many problems as it solves, setting Otis and Maeve’s will-they/won’t-they and Otis’s lifelong friendship with Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) against the chaos of Moordale.
Why you should watch it: For a show with a deliberately provocative title (though it’s no “Scrotal Recall”), Laurie Nunn’s coming of age comedy is wonderfully, delightfully wholesome. Yes, there is sex, and lots of it, and it’s awkward and ill-advised and loving and everything in between — but there are also beautiful friendships, tender crushes, and powerful human connections, physical or otherwise. “Sex Education” does what its namesake often fails to and normalizes sexual activity as its characters fondle and fumble their way into adulthood. —PK
For some closer perspective on the series, here are insights courtesy of Butterfield and Gatwa.
What it is: Realizing that her family’s Orthodox Judaism is not in line with how she wants to live her life, Esty (Shira Haas) secretly travels to Berlin in search of something different.
Why you should watch it: Haas’ deeply nuanced work here is a big part of what made this a word-of-mouth Netflix hit and resonated with viewers across different faith traditions. Credit also the directorial sharpness of Maria Schrader, who proved that she had the same sharp skill to offer behind the camera as she has in front of it. Journeys of self-discovery can sometimes feel indulgent (especially when they dovetail with art in the way this does), but “Unorthodox” adapts Deborah Feldman’s autobiography with real empathy. —SG
For more about a personal connection to the series, read this essay on what it’s like to watch a series that helps you better understand your own family.
What it is: Set at a girls’ Catholic school against the backdrop of the Troubles in ‘90s Ireland, “Derry Girls” is a sitcom about five friends navigating adolescence at a fraught place and time.
Why you should watch it: A likable cast and stupidly funny writing (“It wasn’t bullying, it was attempted bullying!”) should be enough to sell you on Lisa McGee’s beloved cult comedy. Once you begin binging the half-hour series, however, you’ll quickly be struck by the dark themes it mines for universal truths that help shape these surprisingly rich characters and the wisdom the narrative imparts using specific historical references and story development. The show has been extensively praised for its tenderhearted depiction of Irish history and young adulthood. —AF
After the recent series finale, a tribute to the show and its ability to find comedy in a place where not all stories can.
What it is: This adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s beloved series of children’s books about a group of junior-high girls who form a group of baby-sitters is sweet, smart, and fun.
Why you should watch it: This is how you update a beloved property. The celebration of girlhood remains the same, but this series savvily brings the ‘80s book series forward to our different era. Thoughtful storylines on everything from trans characters to divorce make this an endearing, wholesome two-season treat that plays just as well to adults as tweens discovering this world for the first time. —Erin Strecker
The cast and series creator Rachel Shukert share how they were able to let this adaptation be guided by kindness.
What it is: Podcaster Duncan Trussell and “Adventure Time” creator Pendleton Ward team up for this trippy exploration of philosophy and existence, with a throughline about a foolish “spacecaster” named Clancy who goes around the universe interviewing different lifeforms.
Why you should watch it: The maximalist clash of Trussell’s metaphysical discussions with Ward’s over-the-top visuals (they ebb and flow between creepy, scary, sweet, funny, and adorable at a distressing and inconsistent rate) makes for an almost hypnotic viewing experience. If you can follow it, there’s a one-of-a-kind feeling to be found at the end of the enlightening episodes, featuring insightful interviews with “characters” voiced by interesting real-world subjects from Natasha Leggero to Damien Echols. —AF
A quick chat with Ward and Trussell, where the latter admits: “My brain was broken trying to work out all the threads.”
What it is: Five Black and Latino teenagers face accusations of rape and assault as bolstered by a broken judicial system in this harrowing dramatization of the true story of the Exonerated Five (formerly known as the Central Park Five).
Why you should watch it: Known previously for the historical drama “Selma” and the documentary film “13th,” Ava DuVernay reaches new heights of filmmaking mastery in the heartbreaking “When They See Us.” The director’s steady hand guides audiences through the hard-to-watch material, hesitating in exactly the right moments just long enough to let the horrors effect viewers to the point of understanding. The limited series also features a staggering performance from Jharrel Jerome, for which the actor won his first Emmy. —AF
Jharrel Jerome offered a window into the physical and mental strength it took to play both the younger and older Korey Wise.
What it is: The blockbuster Korean thriller series shows a group of cash-strapped individuals trapped on an island and forced to play a series of children’s games gone deadly, all to be the one person that wins the final 45.6 billion-won prize.
Why you should watch it: Considering this is Netflix’s most watched series of all time, there’s a good chance you have already watched it. But the Emmy-winning global phenomenon did build that audience off of its canny, devastating storytelling, managing to capture the universal dread of capitalism in an exciting, twisty, action-packed way. —MJ
Go inside the making of the “Squid Game” challenges, from the people who thought them up to the people who designed and built them.
What it is: This true crime miniseries follows a teenager charged with lying about being raped and the subsequent horrifying truth that detectives uncover while investigating her story.
Why you should watch it: In the glut of true crime stories on Netflix, “Unbelievable” stands out for its empathetic, victim-centering story. A uniformly excellent cast that includes Toni Collette, Merritt Wever, and Kaitlyn Dever brings pathos to a disturbing tale that will change how viewers think about justice and what it takes to find it. —ES
That change was also true for Dever, who talked about the show as a transformational experience.
What it is: Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) navigates high school, boys, and family as a first-generation Indian American teen.
Why you should watch it: Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher gave the high school teen comedy a shot in the arm with the witty, highly relatable “Never Have I Ever.” The series shows Devi’s life as a teenage girl, but it’s also a contemplative look at grief and trauma and identity along the way. —KL
After the show debuted, Fisher and Ramakrishnan spoke about the lengthy process of making a TV dream come true.
What it is: Based on the true-crime novel by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker and with David Fincher and a solid team of directors at the helm, “Mindhunter” follows a trio of FBI agents as they profile known serial killers in order to better pursue wanted criminals.
Why you should watch it: “Mindhunter” is, first and foremost, incredibly creepy. While shaping the future playbook of criminal psychology, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) are essentially operating without a net — while interviewing the nation’s most notorious murderers. Season 2 (the series’ final entry to date) takes things a step further, examining the racial bias inherent to a practice shaped mainly by white male cops, and Fincher’s meticulous construction helps make every moment electric. May we someday see Season 3. —BT
Series cinematographer (and now-frequent Fincher collaborator) Erik Messerschmidt unpacked the visual language of the show’s debut season.
What it is: When kids begin to go missing in a central German town, the answers about why (and how) they left threaten to not only upset the day-to-day lives of local residents, but the very fabric of time.
Why you should watch it: The word “ambitious” gets thrown around a lot these days, but few shows in the last decade have been able to marry a fascinating premise with such cosmic ideas about what holds us all together. It’s a story that works on a personal mystery level and, before you even realize it, “Dark” is using its sci-fi bona fides to tackle everything from generational trauma to the corporate greed. All the way up through the final moments of its farewell season, this is a series as finely calibrated as the clocks that play such an important role along the way. —SG
After the close of Season 1, series creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar explained how they were able to wrap their heads around their own twisting tale.
What it is: After being diagnosed with chlamydia, Dylan (Johnny Flynn) must contact years’ worth of sexual partners, leading to a wistful walk through his personal life that has him reevaluating everything. Each episode flashes back to a different partner, fling, or relationship, bouncing back and forth in time and slowly painting the picture of Dylan’s true love: his best friend Evie (Antonia Thomas).
Why you should watch it: An STI doesn’t seem like the start of an epic romantic odyssey, but it’s exactly that in this poignant comedy from Tom Edge. (The show was wisely retitled from “Scrotal Recall” to represent the show’s heart rather than its…you know.) Dylan, Evie, Luke (Daniel Ings) and Angus (Joshua McGuire) are figuring out love and life just like any other 20-somethings in a TV comedy, but “Lovesick” achieves that coveted level of emotional resonance that few shows ascend to, all while honestly laying out the quagmire of millennial dating. —PK
Some additional evidence for why “Lovesick” deserves to be considered among the TV rom-com greats.
What it is: This era-spanning tale of the life of Queen Elizabeth II and her family is a biopic high point for the network. Five seasons into a planned six-season epic, the cast members (including Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Olivia Colman) change every two years or so — all are uniformly excellent bringing the palace intrigue and personal drama to life.
Why you should watch it: History buffs, scandal lovers and anyone who just wants to gain a bit more understanding into one of the most famous families of the 20th century will be right at home with this lush costume drama. The series does a great job bringing real-life moments to life, often with compassionate understanding for all the people and perspectives involved. Gorgeous cinematography, thoughtful scripts, and lush music complete the experience. —ES
No discussion of “The Crown” is complete without talking about the costumes, something we’ve dug into every season thus far.
What it is: Two best bird-friends (voiced by Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish) tackle the joys and hardships of early adulthood — alongside Bertie’s boyfriend, Speckle (Steven Yeun) — in Lisa Hanawalt’s visually lush and creatively bold adult-animated comedy.
Why you should watch it: Do you like butts? What about baking? Or maybe you enjoy anthropomorphic animals, plants, and more, all brought to life through vivid animation and impeccable voice work? “Tuca & Bertie” is about all these things, but part of Hanawalt’s genius is how she’s able to take a story of friendship and use her sweet, silly, often profane central characters to explore a wide array of topics and tones. Butts, baking, mental and emotional breakdowns — they’re all on the table, and they’re all rendered with exquisite artistry. —BT
For more butts talk, here’s more of Hanawalt’s insight into what drove the character and story design of the show’s lone Netflix season.
What it is: Anxious comedy king Tim Robinson helms this cult sketch comedy series exploring awkward situations (“So what’s the joke? That I had a milder fart than I normally do?”), asking essential questions about our world (“Who will be the baby of the yeeeaaaaar?”), and examining the outrageous lengths one man will go for the bit. (“It’s Turbo Time!” “You are NOT part of the Turbo Team!”)
Why you should watch it: “I Think You Should Leave” boasts a distinctly batshit comedy style unlike any other series on Netflix and, honestly, that isn’t for everyone. But if you’re at all curious about experimental comedy — or just want to better understand the series’ pervasive meme impact (see: “We’re all looking for the guy who did this…” and “He admit it!” among others) — then the easy-to-binge trip is well worth taking. —AF
Our highly scientific, friendship-straining process ended up in this list of the show’s sketches, ranked from best to very best.
What it is: Anya Taylor-Joy dazzles as a single-minded prodigy in “The Queen’s Gambit”: a stirring adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name (and the Netflix limited series that caused a run on chess sets during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Why you should watch it: The compelling precision of editor Michelle Tesoro, the carefully considered perspective of cinematographer Steven Meizler, and an obviously talented special effects and prop team eager to capture the centuries-old game accurately combine forces to project the emotions of chess onto the screen for this riveting coming-of-age story. Taylor-Joy does the rest with a nuanced performance that will make you a fan of the actress, if “The Witch” or “Last Night in Soho” haven’t yet. —AF
There wouldn’t be a great chess show without great chess, so here’s how the legendary Bruce Pandolfini helped make the fictional matches look real.
What it is: The ‘80s-era comedy reimagines the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling — a professional wrestling TV program — through the lens of a struggling actor (Alison Brie) who takes up the sport in its inaugural season, alongside a motley crew of athletes, performers…and her former best friend (Betty Gilpin).
Why you should watch it: “GLOW” has everything you’d want from a TV show: rich characters that only grow deeper over time, incredible craft work (from character-defining costumes to compassionate camerawork), and the ideal blend of intelligent entertainment. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s three-season wonder is smart, dynamic, and moving, but it’s always also fun — which is no small feat in the age of over-serious dramedies. —BT
Before we knew Season 3 would be its last, series costume designer Beth Morgan offered some insights into some of that year’s boldest moments.
What it is: As detective Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) looks to expose corruption in Germany, the rumblings of fascism start to make themselves known on the eve of a new decade.
Why you should watch it: An impeccable marriage of attention to detail and magnetic screen presences, this is historical fiction at its finest. It never loses sight of the personal and large-scale tragedies that are on the country’s horizon, but it allows for some moments of patience and happiness amidst a plot that sometimes moves as fast as the runaway trains that play their own role here. (On top of all that, it gave us one of the great musical moments in TV history.) —SG
This one is another headliner on our Best International Series on Netflix list.
What it is: Created by Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, this pitch-perfect documentary parody follows teen filmmakers Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) as they investigate high school crimes: “Who drew the dicks?” in Season 1, and the identity of Season 2’s “Turd Burglar.”
Why you should watch it: The high school setting and cheeky premises set “Vandal” up for crude jokes and juvenile antics, but this show executes them with finesse and maturity beyond what most shows could ever imagine. From believable casting to relatable high school cliches to hyperspecific social media details, “Vandal” immerses the viewer as deftly as any true crime docuseries, leaving you constantly in awe of a criminally good level of mastery. —PK
Perrault and Yacenda stopped by after both batches of episodes to discuss the surprises of Season 1 and the on-screen terrors of Season 2.
What it is: A has-been, alcoholic, celebrity horse voiced by Will Arnett grapples with childhood trauma, his own toxic behavior, and the resultant self-hatred in a place called Hollywoo (yes, that’s Hollywoo) populated by bipedal, talking animals.
Why you should watch it: Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s beloved animated series is not only a searing satire of 2010s celebrity culture — the #MeToo sitcom explored the morally murky realities of public relations and the entertainment industry with painful honesty that was especially tough to take at the time — but it also paints a darkly hysterical portrait of self-destructive narcissism that’s as wise as it is weird. That said, take heed: “BoJack Horseman” stares into the metaphoric abyss and that can be tough to endure, even animated. —AF
“BoJack” also thrived on self-reflection, as it did in a stellar Season 5 that looked inward and looked at its relationship with one of its central characters.