While Netflix has some of the best movies and TV shows from other sources that they have licensed, that isn’t enough to keep them on top.
As proven with Disney+ and HBO Max, Netflix can’t rely on others to provide them with entertainment, or they will lose the now building streaming wars.
Netflix has known this all along and has created its own TV shows for years. In more recent times, Netflix is making as many original movies and TV shows as they are looking to license.
This will always provide Netflix subscribers with great entertainment they can’t find elsewhere, and more importantly, that Netflix won’t lose.
Here is a look at the best Netflix original series released on the streaming service so far.
Updated on January 7: Netflix is always releasing new original series each month, sometimes improving on what it offers as it goes along. This article will update every month, adding on new series that hit in the previous month, and sometimes adding overlooked titles from the past, to provide a comprehensive look at the best that the streaming service has to offer.
Based on the popular novel series by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton is set in the world of Regency London high society’s ton.
Executive produced by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy) as part of her Netflix creative deal, the series features two families during the annual season where elite families hold parties to try to find suitable marriages for their kids.
Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) is the widowed mother of eight children, four boys & four girls. The second major family in the series is the Featheringtons, whose mother Portia (Polly Walker) has three daughters of her own.
THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
In a Netflix original series that came out of nowhere and shocked the world, The Queen’s Gambit took the game of chess and made it thrilling.
Anya Taylor-Joy turned heads with her performance as Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy in the ’50s who overcomes discrimination as well as her own personal emotional problems and addiction issues to become the world’s greatest chess player.
Taylor-Joy has received a lot of praise and should be a frontrunner for many awards this season for her performance on the series.
There are seven episodes and it is one of the most-watched miniseries in Netflix history.
Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) developed a new series for Netflix in September 2020 based on Nurse Ratched from the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest movie and novel.
The series stars Sarah Paulson as the character who was voted for in many polls as the evilest character in fiction.
The Netflix original series is about her origin, how she wanted to become a nurse, and trained for it under a physician who conducted controversial treatments on patients.
The first season consisted of eight episodes and there will be one more as the series shows how she reached the point she ended up at in the seminal movie/novel.
TALES OF ARCADIA
Don’t underestimate Tales of Arcadia. Yes, this is an animated series but it is smart, creative, and quite brilliant.
This should come as no surprise from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro, who is the executive producer of the show.
The series has been split into different chapters and the most recent hit in August 2020 with one to go.
To watch them in order, start off with the three seasons of Trollhunters, which follows three friends who discover the secret world of monsters and learn that one of them is the Trollhunter, a protector to the realm.
Up next is two seasons of #Below: Tales of Arcadia, which moves the story to some aliens who end up on Earth and have to make it there in their new home.
In August 2020, Wizards: Tales of Arcadia hit, with just one season that explores the mythology and introduces a new protagonist. There is still a movie coming that will conclude the story.
Unsolved Mysteries was one of the most beloved shows in the ’80s and ’90s, and Robert Stack became a household name thanks to his introduction fo the show for several seasons.
In 2020, Netflix brought it back as an original series.
The season on Netflix is the 15th for the season and might be scarier than ever. The stories rotate from unsolved murders that became cold cases to scary stories of possible UFO abductions and more.
There are 12 episodes planned for the Netflix revival and the first six of them hit in July 2020.
THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB
All girls of a certain age, at one time or another, read the stories from The Baby-Sitters Club.
The books, by Ann M. Martin, was about teenage girls who started their own business as baby-sitters and their adventures in that job.
The Netflix original series stayed pretty faithful to the story and had a fantastic cast of young actresses to take on the roles in the series. Also along for the ride is Alicia Silverstone as a mother, a perfect addition for those older mothers who remembered reading the books as a child.
The series received almost universal acclaim, with a 100-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Cursed was an interesting twist on a classic legend.
This Netflix original series tells the story of Nimue, who fans of Arthurian legend knows is the name of the Lady in the Lake, the being who presented Arthur with the Sword.
However, this takes place before that and it is the origin story of Nimue, how she got the sword, and how she needed to use it to save her world before King Arthur ever came alone.
Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller (The Dark Knight), this is a legendary tale well worth the watch.
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy hit Netflix in July 2020 and it was even better than the first season.
The first season saw the former child heroes from The Umbrella Academy team back up to try to stop an apocalypse that they somehow cause.
In the second season, it is the same idea, but they are sent back to the ’60s and have to deal with one member with a hero complex who wants to stop the Kennedy assassination.
With that said, the music, the action, the cinematography, and the storyline was all top of the line and this Netflix original remains one of the most exciting fantasy series on the streaming service.
HOUSE OF CARDS
The first critically acclaimed hit for Netflix’s original series was House of Cards, which ran from 2013-2018.
Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, it was also made as a miniseries in the U.K.
The series starred Kevin Spacey as a Congressman while Robin Wright was his wife, as they set out in a power play after he is passed over for the position of Secretary of State.
Spacey was fired from the series, and the final season starred Wright. This series has 73 episodes and received 33 Primetime Emmy nominations.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
After House of Cards, Orange is the New Black became the critical darling for Netflix’s original drama series.
This is a show about a woman (Taylor Schilling) who is arrested for transporting drugs for her girlfriend.
The series then shows her life, as well as the lives of other inmates in the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary. Life is not easy, even in a minimum-security prison, and the inmates face dangers at every corner, even from corrupt corrections officers.
The show had seven seasons with 91 episodes and picked up 12 Primetime Emmy nominations.
Marvel came to Netflix with an original series in Daredevil, and it set off a fantastic run of shows that ended when Disney announced it was starting its streaming service.
After a movie that disappointed many fans, Netflix did Daredevil right, with an origin story that re-introduced the world to the Man Without Fear.
Netflix followed Daredevil with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and The Defenders, and created a superhero universe as compelling and entertaining as anything on TV.
Daredevil ended up with three seasons and 39 episodes.
Narcos was Netflix’s biggest crime drama series, with a story set in the real world of Mexican drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
The series focused on the DEA as they went to war with the drug cartels in Mexico, sending in undercover agents and trying to bring down the biggest drug suppliers south of the border.
The original Narcos series, starring Wagner Moura and Pedro Pascal, lasted for three seasons and 30 episodes.
There is also a spin-off series titled Narcos: Mexico that has run for two seasons and 20 episodes so far.
Stranger Things was the first truly monster hit for Netflix. This fantasy series told the story of a group of kids in the ’80s who had to fight an evil organization and scary monsters.
It was the perfect mix of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, with a massive homage to The Goonies thrown in.
Millie Bobby Brown stars as Eleven, a young girl with mysterious powers, who befriends a group of boys and leads them into great danger as they try to save a friend who disappeared.
There have been three seasons and 25 episodes, and in the end, there will be five seasons total in the series, which has picked up 31 Primetime Emmy nominations.
The Crown is probably Netflix’s most ambitious original drama series.
This show follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II, created by Peter Morgan, who also directed The Queen in 2006.
Because Queen Elizabeth II is 94 years old, this covers many years, and as a result, Netflix chose to do something unique and recast the roles as the Queen aged in later seasons.
Claire Foy portrayed the Queen in the first two seasons, with Olivia Colman taking over the role in Season 3. There will be a total of five seasons before it ends.
The first two seasons of The Crown alone picked up 26 Primetime Emmy nominations.
13 REASONS WHY
13 Reasons Why was one of the most controversial, and successful, Netflix original drama series.
The first season starred Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker, a girl who takes her own life. Hannah then sends out 13 cassette tapes with the reasons her life grew too hard to go on – to the people who she feels wronged her.
The suicide itself caused many people to call for a boycott, as some people felt it was a triggering moment for those contemplating taking their own lives.
The second season dealt with the possibility of a school shooting and the third dealt with the murder of a high school rapist. A fourth season wrapped up the series in 2020.
One of the best current crime drama series on Netflix right now is Ozark, starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney.
Bateman is Marty Byrde, a former financial advisor who helps a Mexican drug cartel launder money. Linney is Wendy, his wife, who becomes power-hungry as time goes on.
However, dangers also arrive as the mafia wants more and more while the Byrde’s are doing everything they can to stay alive and succeed in life at the same time.
There have been three seasons, with one more to go, and it has picked up 14 Primetime Emmy nominations.
Filmmaking icon David Fincher produced the true-crime Netflix series Mindhunter.
For fans of shows like Criminal Minds, this series tells the story of how the FBI Behavioral Science Unit formed.
FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), work to put together a unit to hunt down and catch serial killers. To do this, they use interviews with former serial killers to create a criminal type.
There are two seasons with 19 episodes, and the second season dealt with the true-life serial killer during the Atlanta murders of 1979-81.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
The Haunting of Hill House is based on the horror novel by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting.
The series follows a family who moves into the Hill House and soon finds that the house is haunted. When the mother of the family dies, the family runs, and it destroys their lives.
The show then flips forward to modern-day, where the kids are all adults, with their lives destroyed by the past. When one heads back to the house, her siblings head back to save her and face their history all over again.
A second season is coming based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw.
Dark is a German fantasy Netflix original series about time travel and alternate timelines and is one of the most confusing, yet brilliant shows on the streaming giant.
When children start to disappear from a German town, a wormhole is discovered to be the cause, and the kids might be ending up at different points in the town’s history.
There are multiple timelines in Dark, with the present-day, 1986, 1953, 2052, and later, 1921 and 1868 added in. The characters play different versions of themselves in the timelines, so don’t start anywhere but the beginning if you hope to keep up.
The Witcher is a historical fantasy series about monster hunters.
Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, which were previously turned into a video game series, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) stars as Geralt of Rivia, a witcher.
The first season fo The Witcher takes place between three timelines, with Geralt in one, a sorcerer who sets off a destiny in the past, and a princess named Ciri in yet another. The series then ties these three individuals’ fates together.
The first season had eight episodes and a second season is reportedly coming in 2021.
LOCKE & KEY
Locke & Key was originally a comic book series by horror author Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King.
The story has the Locke family moving to their family estate, the Key House, after the father of the family was killed by one of his students.
Once there, the three children find various keys throughout the house that open doors and portals to various locations, or in some cases, to incredible powers.
However, there is also a demon who lives below the house that wants the keys to free herself. The first season had eight episodes and a second season is scheduled for 2021.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a comedy Netflix original series that ran from 2015-2019.
The series starred Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt, a girl who was raised in a doomsday cult since she was 14. When she and three other women were rescued after 15 years, she has to figure out how the real world works.
Kimmy begins working as an assistant for a socialite and finds a roommate in a flamboyant gay roommate named Titus.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt finished with four seasons and 52 episodes, picking up 18 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations.
MASTER OF NONE
Master of None was one of the best Netflix original comedies on the streaming giant.
Aziz Ansari created one of the best comedies on the streaming service; it is hard to believe it only lasted two seasons.
Ansari starred as Dev Shah, an actor best known for his commercial work, and his romantic relationships as he tries to make it in New York City.
The title refers to the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Master of None won three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe and picked up several awards and nominations throughout its two-year run.
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