30 best Netflix shows for binge watching over the holidays

Written by:
December 14, 2021
Silverback Films

30 best Netflix shows for binge watching over the holidays

We’re in the thick of the holiday season and families will be gathering during their vacation time. While many groups may elect to watch traditional holiday movies, family reunions could also double as larger water-cooler conversations, with family members catching up with each other’s popular culture obsessions.

There is more content on streaming services than ever before, and the number of streaming services is also increasing. All of these competitors are aiming for the success of Netflix, the progenitor of the online streaming trend. Opposing services will face an uphill struggle just to catch up with the sheer volume of content that Netflix has to offer.

Among Netflix’s library are some of the top-rated television shows of all time, including Netflix originals such as "The Queen’s Gambit," "Stranger Things," and "Narcos." With other media conglomerates starting up their own answers to Netflix, the service will be losing some of its top hits in the coming years, giving subscribers limited time to binge-watch these programs. As such, Stacker has compiled some of the top-rated television shows and miniseries currently on the service.

These are English-language TV shows and miniseries, with non-English language anime series being the only exception. The rankings presented in this list come from IMDb user rating data (as of December 2021) ordered from the 30th top-rated show to the first; ties were broken by vote count, and each show had to have at least 5,000 votes to be considered.

Click on to see the best television shows to add to your Netflix list.

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#30. The Haunting of Hill House

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years: 2018

Diretor Michael Flanagan’s “The Haunting of Hill House” is the perfect binge for fans of the horror genre, the jump scare, and family drama. The show, which is an adaptation of a 1959 novel by the same name, follows the Crains, a family who moves into Hill House to renovate the old mansion but are plagued by paranormal activity. The 10-episode miniseries jumps back and forth between their time in the mansion and how their present-day lives have been impacted by that sinister history. The show garnered much acclaim. Although the storyline of “The Haunting of Hill House” is, for the most part, wrapped up by the final episode, fans can watch the next series in the anthology, also directed by Flanagan called “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” This new series features new characters and new storyline but retains the same feel as its preceding series.

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Denver and Deliliah Productions

#29. Mindhunter

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years: 2017–2019

If you’re the kind of person who can fall asleep soundly while watching a true-crime documentary, “Mindhunter” will certainly not disappoint. The psychological thriller, based on the true-crime book “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit,” digs into the origination of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and the strategy of criminal profiling. Seasons one and two feature portrayals of serial killers such as Edmund Kemper, Charles Manson, and Wayne Williams.

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#28. The Queen's Gambit

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years: 2020

In this seven-episode period drama set in the 1950s, Anya Taylor-Joy portrays Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy of global renown who suffers from drug and alcohol addiction. Co-creator Allan Scott purchased the rights to the story, which was originally a novel written by Walter Tevis, from Tevis’ widow in 1992 and had been trying to adapt it for television ever since. The show won 11 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes and broke several Netflix viewership records.

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ABC Signature

#27. Daredevil

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years: 2015–2018

The Netflix series “Daredevil” is based on the Stan Lee Marvel superhero of the same name. The show follows main character Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer by trade based in New York City with a superhero alter ego. “Daredevil,” which takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the first in a series of shows leading into a crossover miniseries called “The Defenders.”

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Comedy Central

#26. Chappelle's Show

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years: 2003–2006

If you’re a fan of sketch comedy, you’ve likely already heard of or already binged “Chappelle's Show.” And if you’re looking to make your foray into the genre, you might consider starting with this series. In November 2020, all three seasons of the show landed on Netflix and HBO, but were removed less than two months later after Chapelle publicly denounced the fact that he was not receiving royalties. Several months later, Chappelle negotiated a new deal for the re-release of seasons one and two. 

In October 2021, Netflix also released Chappelle's controversial standup special "The Closer." Members and allies of the LGBTQ community called out the comedy routine for its transphobic commentary, with hundreds of Netflix employees staging a walkout in protest. Despite the backlash, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said "The Closer" does not meet the company's definition of "content designed to incite hate or violence" and is still available for streaming on the platform.

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Tornante Company

#25. BoJack Horseman

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years: 2014–2020

The adult animated sitcom “BoJack Horseman” got off to a shaky start during its inaugural season but eventually landed on many “best of” lists. The show follows a self-destructive anthropomorphic horse named BoJack, a former sitcom star from the ‘90s on a journey to regain celebrity status and cultural relevance. The show stars Will Arnett who voices the titular character, along with Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, and Aaron Paul. “BoJack Horseman has been lauded by viewers and critics for its effectiveness at covering common existential crises through melancholic humor.”

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Carnival Film & Television

#24. Downton Abbey

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years: 2010–2015

“Downton Abbey” is one of the most popular period dramas in history. The show follows the lives of the fictional aristocratic Crawley family. With the series taking place between 1912 and 1926, it covers historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic, WWI, the Spanish Flu, the Irish War of Independence, and the decline of the British aristocracy. “Downton Abbey” received myriad awards and accolades throughout its six seasons.

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Imagine Entertainment

#23. Arrested Development

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years: 2003–2019

Riches-to-rags sitcom “Arrested Development” from Mitch Hurwitz had a popular run on the Fox network in the early 2000s, before what many fans deemed to be an untimely cancellation after three seasons. Netflix would go on to revive the show in 2013, though stars such as Jason Bateman and Will Arnett were successful to the point where the fourth season focuses on the Bluth family members separately. The show returned to its ensemble roots in 2018 with its fifth season.

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#22. House of Cards

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years: 2013–2018

One of the first popular Netflix originals was “House of Cards,” a remake of a BBC series which in turn was based on a novel. Created by playwright Beau Willimon and produced and directed by David Fincher, the show had Kevin Spacey as the cutthroat House Minority Whip Francis Underwood as he plotted his way to greater power in Washington D.C. with the help of his wife, Claire (Robin Wright). After a number of sexual misconduct allegations, Spacey was fired from the sixth and final season, with Wright as Claire taking the lead role.

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21 Laps Entertainment

#21. Stranger Things

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years: 2016–present

Arguably the most pop-culturally significant Netflix original is “Stranger Things,” an homage to 1980s fiction and trends by the Duffer brothers. Like “E.T.” or a Stephen King story, “Stranger Things” follows a group of children as they encounter mysterious forces in their hometown of Hawkins, Ind. One such force is a telekinetic girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who helps the children fight beings from the Upside Down during the show’s three seasons; the show is due for a fourth and possibly fifth season.

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Medstar Television

#20. Forensic Files

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 1996–2011

Before Netflix became the go-to place for true-crime documentaries, there was “Forensic Files” on TLC. The show documents how forensic science is used to solve crimes and mysterious accidents. With over 400 30-minute episodes in the catalogue, there’s plenty of crime-solving to keep you busy over the holidays.

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BBC Scotland

#19. Still Game

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 2002–2019

Have you heard of many Scottish sitcoms? Perhaps not, but most fans will tell you there’s at least one worth knowing. Scottish sitcom “Still Game” follows two old men doing what old men in film, especially television, so often do—reflecting on the good ‘ol days past and lamenting the complicated reality of the present. Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill who played Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade in the show actually came up with those characters for their sketch comedy show “Chewin' the Fat” where they made their debut in 1999. The pair was such a hit with fans that the spin off “Still Game” was born.

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#18. Monty Python's Flying Circus

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 1969–1974

The classic surrealist comedy troupe Monty Python made their name with their “Flying Circus” program on the BBC. Legendary sketches such as the “Ministry of Silly Walks” and “Dead Parrot” have been etched into popular culture in the United Kingdom and around the world. The troupe went on to make a number of popular comedy films, while each individual trope member also went on to pursue unique and successful careers.

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#17. One Punch Man

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 2015–2019

Saitama, the main character of the manga-adapted anime series “One Punch Man,” is a superhero who can defeat his enemies with—you guessed it—a single punch. He’s so successful at vanquishing the bad guys he’s often plagued by boredom, and so he’s always in search of a worthy adversary. The series has two seasons which viewers and critics regard differently. The first season, produced by Madhouse is lauded for its originality and animation, while the second season, produced by J.C. Staff, falls short of the standard set by its predecessor.

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#16. Seinfeld

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 1989–1998

Among the most iconic series to grace the primetime sitcom slot, “Seinfeld” ran for nine glorious years, starting out with bum ratings and eventually climbing the pop cultural ranks thanks to Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s penchant for outlandish but relatable real-world situational humor. The premise is simple: Middle-aged Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer live their social and professional lives—but it’s the way the four loveable fools draw the infuriating (if not funny) complexities of the human condition that keeps us coming back.

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High Bridge Productions

#15. Better Call Saul

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 2015–2022

It isn’t easy to follow up on the highly acclaimed “Breaking Bad,” but co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould were able to win back fans and critics with the spin-off prequel “Better Call Saul.” Bob Odenkirk reprises his role as the criminal lawyer from “Breaking Bad,” under his original name, Jimmy McGill, and before a darker turn into the criminal underworld. “Better Call Saul,” which features other iconic “Breaking Bad” characters like Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), has three of its first four seasons on Netflix in the U.S.

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#14. Narcos

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 2015–2017

Based on the real-life story of drug lord Pablo Escobar, “Narcos” is a Netflix original that stars Wagner Moura as Escobar, Boyd Holbrook as DEA agent Steve Murphy, and Pedro Pascal as DEA agent Javier Peña. The third season takes place after the death of Escobar and focuses on Peña’s efforts against the Cali Cartel. Instead of a fourth season, the show “reset” into a show titled “Narcos: Mexico” with a different cast and story.

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Caryn Mandabach Productions

#13. Peaky Blinders

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 2013–present

Taking place after World War I, this Birmingham-set show from the BBC and Netflix focuses on the fictional Shelby crime family and their gang of “Peaky Blinders.” Cillian Murphy takes the lead as Tommy Shelby, the second-oldest Shelby brother, supported by his brothers Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John Shelby (Joe Cole), and pursued in the first couple of seasons by Chief Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill). The show utilizes anachronistic rock music to set a unique tone.

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#12. Black Mirror

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years: 2011–2019

Originally on British television, this now-Netflix original show is an anthology series by humorist and writer Charlie Brooker. In a similar style as “The Twilight Zone,” each episode provides its own unique narrative and cast of characters, with every story depicting an aspect of society and life twisted by technology in some manner. Netflix experimented with interactive storytelling with “Bandersnatch,” a choose-your-own-adventure “Black Mirror” film.

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Bandai Visual Company

#11. Cowboy Bebop

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years: 1998–1999

The Atlantic once called “Cowboy Bebop” “Sergio Leone in a spacesuit.” This seminal work by director Shinichiro Watanabe is spaghetti western meets dystopian drama, and it is regarded as one of the best animated series of all time. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the series follows a band of bounty hunters on their exploits throughout space. What many viewers love about the show is the dark and deeply human pasts of the cowboys, revealed through flashbacks, that balance out a futuristic narrative. In 2001, “Cowboy Bebop” became the first anime show to be aired on Adult Swim in the U.S.

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Forward Movement

#10. When They See Us

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years: 2019

The limited series “When They See Us” was conceptualized and directed by “Selma” director Ava DuVernay. This Netflix original dramatizing the case of the Central Park Five. Five young actors portray the five young men, all people of color, with performers like Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, and Michael K. Williams filling out the rest of the cast. The four-part miniseries was highly praised and helped win an acting Emmy for Jharrel Jerome.

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#9. Hunter x Hunter

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years: 2011–2014

“Hunter x Hunter” is an anime series based on a manga of the same name which follows a boy on his journey to becoming a “Hunter”—an elite member of the human race—and finding his father who he believed to be dead. The 2011 series has no connections to the 1999 adaptation. “Hunter x Hunter” first aired in the United States on Adult Swim between 2016 and 2019.

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Wit Studio

#8. Attack on Titan

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years: 2013–present

One of the most popular anime shows on the air is “Attack on Titan,” based on the manga of the same name. Due to the presence of man-eating giant beings known as Titans, humanity is sheltered within a number of walled cities; the show focuses on a group forever changed when a Titan breaches the wall of their own town. The series has been on and off since 2013, with more to come in 2022.

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D.N. Dream Partners

#7. Death Note

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years: 2006–2007

Based on the manga of the same name, “Death Note” follows high school student Light Yagami, who utilizes a supernatural notebook with dark powers. Writing someone’s name in the notebook marks that person for death. Netflix is also the home of an American live-action remake of “Death Note” starring Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe.

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ESPN Films

#6. The Last Dance

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Years: 2020

ESPN proved a commitment to quality when they entered the docuseries arena with “Kings Ransom,” the first installment of their now famous 30 for 30 series, in October 2009. And they’ve never slowed down. What began as 50-minute episodes about cool sports stories evolved into a cinematic documentary filmmaking machine about the world viewed through the lens of sport. Perhaps their greatest achievement yet, which is saying a lot, is “The Last Dance”: a 10-part, eight hour deep dive into the rise of the '90s Chicago Bulls under Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. It doesn’t matter whether you lived through it or you’ve somehow never heard of Michael Jordan. The docuseries is a riveting experience that gets the story straight from the horse’s mouth.

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#5. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Years: 2009–2012

This 2009 anime series is the second adaptation of the “Fullmetal Alchemist” manga, the first having aired in 2003. The series follows two alchemist brothers searching for a way to bring their deceased mother back to life when all goes awry, leading them on a quest for the Philosopher’s Stone. Unlike the original adaptation, “Brotherhood” is more of a direct 1:1 adaptation of the manga.

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Silverback Films

#4. Our Planet

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Years: 2019

The production team that made the “Planet Earth” and related documentaries directly collaborated with Netflix for “Our Planet,” an eight-part series. While the team’s other documentaries focused on nature and the environment that animals and plants inhabit, this documentary is fixated on human impact on these environments. This documentary is also narrated by David Attenborough.

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Riot Games

#3. Arcane

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Years: 2021–present

Riot Games is known for, well, gaming. The video game developer and e-sports engine is known for “League of Legends,” one of the most played video games in the world. It was only a matter of time before their successes opened up other doors, like an animated TV series. “Arcane” is set in the League of Legends world, but it serves as a prequel to the game, building out origin stories for some of the game’s most iconic characters.

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Nickelodeon Animation Studios

#2. Avatar: The Last Airbender

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Years: 2005–2008

This epic quest requires setting the stage for a new world—one in which the four elements denote four different nations. Within each nation, there are benders who can control their given element, be it fire, water, earth, or air. But there is only one who can control all four: the avatar. Long lost, the reincarnated avatar is awakened, and he goes on a journey to master all four elements to keep the physical and spiritual worlds wed and the Fire Nation from taking over.

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High Bridge Productions

#1. Breaking Bad

- IMDb user rating: 9.4
- Years: 2008–2013

One of the most highly acclaimed television shows of all time, “Breaking Bad” follows the tale of Walter White (Emmy winner Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher with lung cancer who goes through a dark transformation. It’s “Mr. Chips turns into Scarface,” as creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan described it. Other memorable characters include slacker-turned-hardened criminal Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and criminal lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who have major roles in Walter White’s transition into a meth-cooking drug kingpin in Alberquerque, N.M. The show has an ongoing prequel show titled “Better Call Saul,” while in 2019, Netflix distributed a continuation feature film starring Paul entitled “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.”

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