There’s a lot of TV on Netflix, but which are their best original series as of 2018?
Netflix has produced a wealth of original television shows since their first property, House of Cards, turned into a runaway hit in 2013. Over the following years Netflix has provided hit after hit in various genres. In fact, it seems like every time you check Netflix now there’s a new original series available to binge. But how do they measure up against each other?
For your convenience, we present Netflix’s best original series as of 2018. This is a list of 23 originals that are worth binging.
Remember that these are the originals we have seen, so if your favorite isn’t on here, pocket the outrage and save it for another time. Or, hit the comments and tell us what we missed!
Netflix’s Best Original Series (Updated Through 2018)
23) ‘Hemlock Grove’
There is a clear divide between Hemlock Grove lovers and haters. It definitely isn’t one of the strongest executed shows Netflix has delivered. Hemlock verges campy, is sometimes difficult to follow, and is maybe just too weird for the average viewer. There are those who just go with the crazy and enjoy it for what it is: gruesome and ridiculous, with characters who you can’t decide if you love or hate them.
It looks cool, and if gore is your thing, Hemlock has it in spades, but it could have done with story lines that made a little more sense, and supernatural ‘rules’ that were easier to understand.
Bloodline seemed to resonate more with critics than average viewers. Perhaps it’s the slow burn that viewers have little patience for, or the depressing tone that sticks with the series the whole way through.
Ben Mendelsohn is fantastic and gripping as Danny, but the ‘good people who did a bad thing’ theme that permeates through the series can only keep you interested for so long before you expect a big payoff that doesn’t really happen. To be sure, questions get answered, it’s just that it feels anticlimactic. Bloodline starts strong but loses steam along the way, and it almost feels like you’re only finishing it just to see what Danny will do next.
21) ‘Nailed It!’
This unconventional cooking show is one of the best ones out there. Challenging amateur and deeply untalented bakers to try their hand at some of the most ambitious baking jobs ever, it’s a fun competition where the least terrible of the results wins — and oh, the results are terrible. Comedian Nicole Byer keeps things funny by openly laughing at the things she sees, encouraging the bakers to poke fun at themselves, too. While it’s not necessarily a show you can binge-watch, it definitely makes for a fun, relaxing time.
20) ‘Big Mouth’
Portrayal of adolescences on TV is typically sugar-coated in lesson of the week style shows. Big Mouth does not take that route. Instead settle in for all the worst mood swings, hormone attacks, and discomfort puberty has to offer. From comedian Nick Kroll, this series holds non punches as it tackles everything from divorce, to boners, to early symptoms of depression. Perhaps the best part of the series is the presence of Hormone Monsters who assist and get in the way of the children who are simply trying to get through the day.
“Why’d they do it?” Rather than “Who dun’ it?” Is the question taking over podcast and Netflix series. Mindhunter is a series that takes place in the 1970s following two FBI agents who looking into the Why of a murder. In a series of chilling interviews, the agents try to get inside the heads of the murderers they interview in order to solve the open cases currently on the FBI’s books. It is, of course, based on a true crime book.
18) ‘BoJack Horseman’
Six seasons in and BoJack Horseman seems to only pick up steam as it chronicles the journey of its namesake. The sharp wit helps to counter the brutal unpacking of BoJack’s past, present and future. The group of characters in his orbit unwillingly, or sometimes willingly, feed his massive ego and lose themselves either by association or due to their own explorations of self-worth. The story is supported by impeccable animation choices that not only feed the narrative, but provide endless jokes for a first or second watch. Don’t let the animation or animals fool you. It is not a light-hearted watch, but it is a rewarding one that will stick with you long after it’s done.
17) ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’
You can’t help but fall in love with Kimmy Schmidt. Her endearing and hilarious innocence helps bring life to this fairly unoriginal story of ‘naive girl goes to New York and is amazed by what she sees.’ But of course, credit must go to Ellie Kemper for making this character’s overwhelming positivity and wonderment so delightful.
The humor isn’t entirely original either, feeling a lot like 30 Rock, but with more sugar. It’s so silly and ridiculous, but that’s exactly why we like it. The same goes for Titus. As exuberant as he is, we wouldn’t have him any other way. He’s the perfect partner in crime for Kimmy, as well as incredibly lovable on his, with hilarious lines you’ll quote for weeks. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that Kimmy Schmidt was created by our comedy queen, Tina Fey (who eventually makes a cameo!). While the show is ending soon, we’ve been promised a film to neatly tie up the story.
Netflix’s first Marvel series set the bar high for their original series based on comics to come. Charlie Cox deftly leads an all around great cast, consisting of two phenomenal villains over the course of two seasons. After all, a hero can only be as strong as his/her antagonist, and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, and Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle are definitely high caliber of villain.
Dialogue is realistic and quotable, and cinematography is fluid and masterful. Every fight scene is choreographed and shot beautifully, although there are a few too many of them. Eventually it gets to the point of, “Okay we get it, let’s move on,” and the impressiveness wears off when it’s done too often. Daredevil was recently cancelled, but the end of season three thankfully makes for a satisfying ending.
15) ‘One Day at a Time’
This show might seem like your typical sitcom, but it’s much richer than you might think. As it follows the story of a Latinx family in America and their mother, who is struggling with PTSD, even the little comedic moments do a wonderful job of describing the contemporary Latinx experience. The family’s daily effort (and sometimes struggle) to preserve their culture, while dealing with identity issues, mental health and LGBTQ+ issues, makes for an experience that isn’t only laugh-out-loud funny… it’s also full of heart.
Narcos suffers from having few to zero sympathetic and/or relatable characters, and for some viewers, the drug trade storyline is banal and trite. The rest of the show, though, is on point.
Based on the true story of Pablo Escobar’s exploits, Narcos cleverly makes use of real life videos of Escobar and events that transpired during this time. It’s a great way to remind the audience that as ridiculous as some of these occurrences are, they actually happened. And like Netflix’s first original series, House of Cards, Narcos‘ antagonist main character is a delight to watch. You hate him, but you kind of love him too. The episodes go by quickly, and it’s definitely in the ‘just one more episode’ camp.
While it’s only three seasons long, Netflix also released Narcos: Mexico as a separate series following different characters, although it’s still considered a fourth season of Narcos.
13) ‘Jessica Jones’
Despite the superpowers of the main hero and villain, Jessica Jones is as real as it gets. The darkest and grittiest Marvel property so far, Jessica Jones may take a few episodes to find its footing and start engaging, but once it does, it hits the ground running and rarely lets up.
Much like its titular character, Jessica Jones is unapologetically honest and brutal. It may have a physically super strong heroine, but it isn’t just about fist fighting and action (although it does have that). Jessica Jones is also a psychological battle, for various characters, and it’s this struggle that makes them, and the show, engaging. As of season two, it’s turned into an exploration of Jessica’s journey towards finding her own humanity and overcoming her trauma.
12) ‘Orange is the New Black’
Orange is the New Black has lost steam and is probably overstaying its welcome by this point, but when the show is at its best, it truly is one of Netflix’s best shows. It has diversity of all kinds, including gender, sexuality, and race; it can be stomach-crampingly hilarious, and tear-jerkingly sad and heartwarming.
The plethora of well-developed characters makes it difficult to pick a favorite, a great problem to have. Some of the charm of it has occasionally gone missing over the seasons, but it can be forgiven and (mostly) forgotten because you know there are great moments to come, even if not as frequently as season 1. As we approach the end of the series, we can be sure it’ll go out with a bang.
11)’Grace and Frankie’
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin shine like never before in this amazing comedy-drama about two women in their seventies who suddenly find their lives turned upside down, when both their husbands fall in love with each other, leaving them behind.
Both actress’ strong personalities and performances make for a wonderful story about self-discovery and friendship in the later years of one’s life. Not only do Grace and Frankie have to rediscover themselves as individuals now that they don’t have their husbands, but they also have to overcome their differences so that they can survive the ordeal together. Grace and Frankie’s ex-husbands and kids also have a journey of their own, navigating their new life, making the show a beautiful and hilarious exploration of family and friendship.
10) ‘Peaky Blinders’
Few shows manage to capture a historical moment accurately while still daring to do what has never been done before. Peaky Blinders is daring in its performances, its plot, and its music, and in four seasons it hasn’t shown any likelihood of decreasing in quality.
Cillian Murphy is absolutely chilling as he plays Tommy Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders, a gang that operated in Birmingham in the 1920s. The show explores a mix of violence, family loyalties and politics, and is one of the best television dramas out there right now.
9) ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’
Kicking off its new trend of adapting popular books into TV shows, Netflix took ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ to the screen and did a great job of it. Neil Patrick Harris’ Count Olaf is absolutely excellent, and the main characters’ age and personalities perfectly match those of the books. This show proved that a book-to-show adaptation can thrive on Netflix, and paved the way for future adaptations.
8) ‘Master of None’
Maybe it doesn’t always have the most laugh out loud jokes, but Master of None does provide something new in comedy. Young 20-somethings talk life, family, love, and sex, in the way that young 20-somethings do. The conversations are relevant, relatable, and realistic, with various characters who break and conform to a stereotype in the freshest way possible.
With so many story lines and subjects tackled, you’re bound to find at least one that resonates with you personally. Master of None doesn’t just have laughs either, it also has heart. If you don’t get even a little emotional in the family episode, you might want to reevaluate yourself.
7)’The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’
Netflix’s take on Sabrina The Teenage Witch had a darker look than the original TV show, but it’s worthy enough to stand on its own. With an amazing cast of actors like Michelle Gomez (Doctor Who) and Miranda Otto The Lord of the Rings, the show weaves a story that is just dark enough to keep you and your toes but charming enough to make you adore it.
While at times it feels a little bit slow, it’s definitely not predictable, and it’s a refreshing new take on characters that we grew up loving.
6) ‘The Haunting of Hill House’
An adapted ghost story, The Haunting of Hill House is one of Netflix’s most recent additions, which follows a family through their paranormal experiences in a mysterious house. While it’s marketed as horror, it’s actually a lot more introspective in its exploration of family relationships — although it does have its fair share of scary scenes.
The Crown retells the story of Queen Elizabeth’s earliest years on the throne as she learned to balance her position and her family through the highs and lows of the country. Claire Foy does a stunning job, transforming completely into the Queen, and it’s really fun to see Matt Smith play a different sort of character after Doctor Who. And all the places we get to see — Buckingham Palace in particular — is a visual feast to enjoy.
This show is the Wachowski’s crowning victory: the perfect combination of everything they have been trying to achieve with the movies they’ve made before. Sense8 is a cinematic masterpiece spanning at least eight different countries per season, exploring the lives of eight different people around the globe who suddenly find themselves connected on a profound level, beyond telepathy.
Sense8 can’t be easily classified as science fiction, drama, comedy or romance — it’s all of that and a little bit more. And while it was cancelled shortly after its second season, the fandom still managed to get Netflix to offer up a two-hour finale special, which brought the show to a beautiful end.
All the 80’s nostalgia comes rushing back with the Stranger Things kids and their crazy, fun and sometimes absolutely terrifying adventures! Possibly Netflix’s most successful original series, this show does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of childhood friendships, with Dungeons and Dragons, bike rides with friends and walkie talkies. And once the Upside Down gets involved, things get just dark enough to be absolutely gripping.
The stars of Stranger Things are some of the biggest stars in the new generation of actors, and watching the show is a stunning display of acting talent.
We were all completely blindsided by Queer Eye, a show we never expected to tug at our heartstrings quite like it did. The Fab Five take us on a makeover trip, improving both the looks and the lives of men around the United States.
Not only does it have all the best parts of a makeover show, but the Fab Five are a genuinely inspirational group of men, defying all preconceptions about masculinity and encouraging them to be themselves without fear, whether that means showing their emotions more, allowing themselves to feel attractive, or reaching out to the people around them. It’s a beautifully pure show that has committed itself to dismantling the toxic effect of the patriarchy on men’s own lives.
1) ‘House of Cards’
Topping the list is of best Netflix original series is the first original series they produced, the show that got the world hooked on binge-watching. House of Cards tops the list because it’s just damn good. It’s true season 3 was a snoozer, and we worried it had lost its steam, but season 4 proved it was just a bump in the road, a pesky KKK sign easily explained away and forgotten.
Frank and Claire Underwood are both terrific and terrible leads. Like a giant forest fire, they’re captivating to watch, even though we know they’re horrible. Although House of Cards has turned more into a soap opera than a political drama, it’s still some of the best TV out there, with sharp writing, intuitive directing, and believable performances.
Despite the Kevin Spacey scandal, the show has kept going by virtue of all the other outstanding talent in the show. Its sixth and final season is now streaming on Netflix.