50 best Netflix original series

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December 31, 2020

50 best Netflix original series

Netflix debuted its first original content series, “Lilyhammer,” in 2012. The next year, “House of Cards” was released. Just three years later, Netflix was touting roughly 126 original series or films, later stating that the company wanted half of its available content to be original by 2019 and would invest $8 billion toward production in 2018 in order to make that goal a reality.

Netflix’s original offerings cover a wide genre spectrum, from stand-up comedy to crime documentary to romantic comedy and international works. There’s quite literally something for everyone. And while not every show is a hit with the critics, there is some quality content to be found among the hundreds of choices available to Netflix viewers. That’s where this list comes in.

Stacker pulled data on all Netflix original series and ranked them according to IMDb user rating as of Dec. 14, 2020, with #1 being the best. Docuseries and limited series were considered. Series that Netflix picked up for continuation were not considered (e.g. “Arrested Development,” “Black Mirror”). Going through the list, you’ll see that some series received more votes than others. For example, “The Witcher” received more than 285,000 votes, while “The Crown” pulled in just over 134,000 but was rated higher. The number of votes can be attributed to several factors, including the length of each series, its popularity, or general viewer chatter surrounding the show.

As for which Netflix original series tend to rank highest, this list shows a trend toward documentaries, stories based on true-life events, and those only loosely based on reality. Examples include “Wild Wild Country,” “The Last Dance,” “Narcos,” and “The Mechanism.”

The fact is, most people love to learn about other people. It’s why reality TV is such a hit and why marketing execs push business owners to “tell their story.” Will we see more true-life originals coming from Netflix? According to Thrillist, there are a number of docuseries coming from Netflix in 2021. We’ll be on the lookout—will you?

Click through for the 50 best Netflix series so far.

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1 / 50

#50. Wild Wild Country (2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 23,612

Released in 2018 as a six-part docuseries, “Wild Wild Country” chronicles the true story of a controversial guru who came from India and established a utopian community in the Oregon desert. He and his followers were seen as a cult by locals, and the group’s activities caused a national scandal.

2 / 50

#49. American Vandal (2017–2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 26,371

This comedy mockumentary presents fictional events as a true-crime documentary. Jimmy Tatro plays Dylan Maxwell, who is blamed for the crime of vandalizing 27 faculty cars with phallic symbols. While everyone is against him, one of his friends presents evidence that might prove his innocence.

3 / 50

#48. Castlevania (2017–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 37,483

Japanese-style animation meets American voice-overs in this fantasy animated series starring actors such as Richard Armitage, James Callis, and Alejandra Reynoso. Dracula has released an army of demons from hell, and a vampire hunter must fight to save the city.

4 / 50

#47. The Witcher (2019–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 285,282

From the writer and producer of “Daredevil” and “Private Practice,” “The Witcher” is based on a series of books by author Andrzej Sapkowski. The series follows a monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) who can’t seem to find his place in the world.

5 / 50
Amblin Television

#46. Five Came Back (2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 3,783

Produced by Steven Spielberg, Scott Rudin, and Barry Diller and narrated by Meryl Streep, this documentary chronicles the true stories of five legendary filmmakers who served in World War II. Based on the book by Mark Harris, “Five Came Back” chronicles a time when Americans would get their international news before the start of a movie. It explains how filmmakers Frank Capra, John Huston, William Wyler, John Ford, and George Stevens enlisted in the war in order to show the real-life story happening overseas.

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6 / 50

#45. The Midnight Gospel (2020–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 10,902

With voice-overs by Phil Hendrie as the Universe Simulator and Duncan Trussell as Clancy, “The Midnight Gospel” is an adult animated series that follows the latter as he interviews beings on other worlds. Podcast interviews from “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour” provided the inspiration for the space-cast interviews.

7 / 50

#44. The Get Down (2016–2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 20,847

This musical drama from Stephen Adly Guirgis and Baz Luhrmann follows a group of teenagers as they hang out in the Bronx in the late 1970s, just as the city is coming alive through hip-hop, punk, and disco. Hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash coined the term “the get down” in the 1970s, before hip-hop as we know it today existed. It’s this era of the genre that is chronicled in this Netflix original.

8 / 50

#43. Grace and Frankie (2015–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 37,973

Entering its seventh season in 2021, “Grace and Frankie,” created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris, features an all-star cast including Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, and Martin Sheen. Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) become friends who need each other to cope after finding out their husbands have been romantically involved with each other for the past 20 years.

9 / 50

#42. Godless (2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 50,340

Written and directed by Scott Frank, produced by Steven Soderbergh, and starring Jeff Daniels and Jack O’Connell, “Godless” is set in the 1880s American West. An outlaw gang leader searches for the protege who he believes deceived him. Meanwhile, the protege (O’Connell) is hiding out in a town inhabited almost exclusively by women.

10 / 50

#41. Atypical (2017–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 57,639

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Rapaport, and Keir Gilchrist star in this comedy-drama series that follows a family with a teenager on the autism spectrum. The final season of this Peabody-nominated series will air in 2021, one of only a few series that have lasted four or more seasons. The show’s popularity is largely due to its showcasing of underrepresented points of view.

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11 / 50

#40. Master of None (2015–2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 64,965

This comedy created by and starring Aziz Ansari follows Dev, a 30-year-old New York actor, as he struggles with his career, looks for a relationship, and hangs out with his friends. The two-season series takes viewers back to a time of hipster millennials and retro funk music, highlights the stories of American immigrants, and features Ansari's real-life parents as Dev's on-screen parents.  

12 / 50

#39. Sense8 (2015–2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 137,514

Eight strangers become mysteriously connected mentally and emotionally in this mystery/sci-fi series starring Bae Doona, Jamie Clayton, and Tina Desai. While some attempt to help the eight unravel the mystery, others hunt them down. The show's hardcore fanbase was heartbroken when Netflix canceled “Sense8” in 2017, but the network eventually came back with a two-hour finale to wrap up the story.

13 / 50

#38. Sex Education (2019–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 150,670

Entering its third season, “Sex Education” stars Asa Butterfield as a teen who decides to benefit from his mom (Gillian Anderson) being a sex therapist by setting up an underground sex-ed class for kids at school, learning a lesson or two of his own in the process. The series, which was one of Netflix's top 10 most popular shows in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2019, has been renewed for a third season. 

14 / 50

#37. Money Heist (2017–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 284,885

In this subtitled Spanish action-crime series created by Alex Pina and originally titled “La Casa de Papel,” a group of thieves attempt to steal $2.4 billion euros from the Royal Mint of Spain. The fifth and final season of this series that currently holds the title of most-watched non-English series on Netflix, will air in 2021. The final season will feature several new faces, including “Sense8’s” Miguel Ángel Silvestre.

15 / 50

#36. Abstract: The Art of Design (2017–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 4,671

In this documentary series, designers from every discipline are showcased, helping to illustrate how art and design have the ability to touch and shape every aspect of life. Featured interviews include Platon, Cas Holman, Marcus Engman, and Ruth E. Carter.

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16 / 50
Brightlight Pictures

#35. Julie and the Phantoms (2020–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 4,774

From executive producer Kenny Ortega, director of “High School Musical” and “Descendents,” this comedy-fantasy-musical is a family-friendly series that follows a teen after her mother dies. Julie (Madison Reyes) is having a hard time finding her voice when the ghosts of a boy band show up and invite her to join them. The tricky part is that the audience can only see the full band when the music is playing.

17 / 50
Banger Films

#34. Hip-Hop Evolution (2016–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 4,929

The stars of hip-hop sit down with MC and journalist Shad Kabango to discuss hip-hop’s evolution and its place in modern music in this documentary series. Interviewees include LL Cool J, Alonzo Williams, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, and Russell Simmons.

18 / 50

#33. Kingdom (2019–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 28,093

Written by Kim Eun-hee and directed by Kim Seong-hun, “Kingdom” is Netflix’s first original Korean (subtitled) series. A mysterious plague runs rampant, turning people into zombies in this cinematic horror-thriller starring Ji-Hoon Ju.

19 / 50

#32. The Mechanism (2018–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 35,347

Created by José Padilha (“Narcos” and “Elite Squad”) and loosely inspired by a Brazilian political scandal, this subtitled crime drama series shines a light on Brazilian politics and has audiences split on what’s fact or fiction. The former president of Brazil called the show underhanded and full of lies, but creator Padilha said he had nothing to apologize for.

20 / 50

#31. Narcos: Mexico (2018–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 58,572

Inspired by true events, “Narcos: Mexico” tells the story of how the Guadalajara drug cartel rose to power in Mexico in the 1980s. American DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena (Michael Peña) moves to Mexico from California to begin his long battle with the cartels.

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21 / 50

#30. Unbelievable (2019)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 68,236

“Unbelievable” is based on the true story of a teenager (played by Kaitlyn Dever) charged with lying about being sexually assaulted. Two female detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) follow the evidence in order to find the truth. The eight-episode series was inspired by a Pulitzer prize-winning 2015 article by ProPublica and The Marshall Project.

22 / 50

#29. After Life (2019–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 81,772

Comedian Ricky Gervais stars in this dark comedy-drama dramedy about how losing a loved one can change a person. After Tony (Gervais) loses his wife unexpectedly, his personality flips from nice guy to impulsive and abrasive, surprising those around him. In May 2020, Netflix announced it was renewing the series for a third season. 

23 / 50

#28. Ozark (2017–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 179,303

Jason Bateman stars in this story of a typical American family that turns out to be not so typical. Marty (Bateman) moves his family from Chicago to Missouri’s Ozark Mountains when he gets in trouble with a drug boss who’s forcing him to launder money. “Ozark” will return for a fourth and final season—there will be 14 episodes released in two parts, but it could be 2022 before audiences see it.  

24 / 50

#27. Last Chance U (2016–2020)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 5,917

This documentary follows the story of students and coaches on the field and in the classroom at East Mississippi Community College. The student-athletes at this under-the-radar school attempt to overcome personal obstacles as they aim for future success in the NFL. A fifth and final season aired in July 2020, but a new series, “Last Chance U: Basketball,” is planned for 2021. 

25 / 50

#26. Hilda (2018–2020)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 5,968

“Hilda” is a U.K.-based animated series following a blue-haired girl as she goes on adventures—some fun and some harrowing—with her new friends. The series has won a Daytime Emmy and was nominated for a BAFTA award.

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26 / 50
DreamWorks Animation Television

#25. Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia (2016–2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 13,040

This DreamWorks Animation production features the voices of Kelsey Grammar, Charlie Saxton, and Lexi Medrano in a tale about an ordinary boy who becomes a Trollhunter after finding a magic amulet. The series was created by celebrated visionary and Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro.

27 / 50

#24. Queer Eye (2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 15,254

This reboot of the original “Queer Eye” series features a new group of five stylists and a new setting, Atlanta. People are advised on matters of style, home design, diet, and more, all while learning more about themselves through the efforts of the Fab Five.

28 / 50

#23. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 20,800

Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is the critically acclaimed prequel to the 1982 Jim Henson film, “The Dark Crystal.” Audiences return to the planet Thra, where a group of Gelfling fight to save their world.

29 / 50

#22. Love, Death & Robots (2019–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 93,310

Emmy-award winner “Love, Death & Robots” features directors and animation studios from around the world that create animated short stories from a variety of genres, including fantasy, horror, comedy, and sci-fi. The series was created by Tim Miller, who directed “Deadpool.”

30 / 50

#21. The Punisher (2017–2019)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 180,180

Jon Bernthal plays veteran Frank Castle (Marvel's The Punisher) in this crime-drama created by Steve Lightfoot. After his family is murdered, Frank’s main goal is to avenge their death, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so.

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31 / 50

#20. Chef's Table (2015–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 13,181

Each episode of the Emmy-nominated “Chef’s Table” takes viewers behind the scenes with a different chef, some world-renowned and others largely unknown. This was Netflix’s first docuseries, debuting in 2015, and the series remains popular today.

32 / 50

#19. Formula 1: Drive to Survive (2019–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 18,191

In this docuseries about Formula 1 racing, viewers go behind the scenes to meet the drivers, teams, and their families. This new perspective on the sport reveals the human connection that fans don’t normally get to see. Netflix has confirmed a third season, though it has not yet announced a release date. 

33 / 50

#18. Making a Murderer (2015–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 85,676

This crime documentary follows the story of Steven Avery over a 10-year period. Wrongly convicted of a crime, Avery was released from prison after 18 years. Once released, and while trying to expose a corrupt legal system, Avery was arrested again as a suspect in a new crime. This series stirred major public interest regarding the case—to the tune of more than 500,000 signatures on a petition to the White House to pardon Avery.  

34 / 50

#17. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 176,533

Created by Mike Flanagan, who has adapted Stephen King novels like “Doctor Sleep” and “Gerald’s Game,” this drama/horror/mystery series follows siblings who used to live in the haunted Hill House. When they have to return to the house with their own children, they’re faced with haunting memories—and more.

35 / 50

#16. Mindhunter (2017–2019)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 208,820

In this crime thriller set in the 1970s, investigators interview convicted serial killers in order to understand their motives and help solve existing open cases. “Fight Club” director David Fincher directed seven episodes.

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36 / 50

#15. Daredevil (2015–2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 358,233

Created by Drew Goddard (“Alias,” “Lost,” “The Good Place”), this Marvel superhero series follows Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox), a blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night, who fights crime in New York City. Over its three-season run, the show was nominated for five Primetime Emmys, among other honors.

37 / 50

#14. Lenox Hill (2020)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 1,631

Four doctors working at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital are followed in this documentary series. Viewers witness the joy and pain of helping others in the interactions between doctors and patients, as well as the drama in the doctors’ own lives.

38 / 50

#13. Norm Macdonald Has a Show (2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 2,851

In this 30-minute talk show, comedian and “Saturday Night Live” alum Norm Macdonald interviews actors such as Drew Barrymore, Chevy Chase, Michael Keaton, Jane Fonda, and more. Much like his podcast, on which the series is based, Macdonald gets the celebs goofing around and discussing off-the-wall topics.

39 / 50

#12. Middleditch & Schwartz (2020–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 3,262

Based on audience suggestions, Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) and Ben Schwartz (“Parks and Recreation”) filmed three completely improvised comedy specials. It’s a rare opportunity to showcase long-form improv, formerly a staple of live comedy shows.

40 / 50

#11. Anne with an E (2017–2019)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 34,900

A new take on the L.M. Montgomery books about Anne of Green Gables, “Anne with an E” follows an orphan named Anne (played by Amybeth McNulty) as she adapts to her new life on Prince Edward Island in the 19th century. The series has won several Canadian TV awards.

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41 / 50

#10. BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 108,603

This animated dramedy follows a washed-up horse actor (Will Arnett) in Hollywood. Although he’s a horse, BoJack struggles with many of the same issues as other actors who have fallen out of the spotlight—depression, addiction, and relationship issues. The show, which was loved by critics and audiences alike, also features the voices of Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, and Aaron Paul. 

42 / 50

#9. The Crown (2016–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 134,221

Created by Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “The Last King of Scotland”), “The Crown” is in its sixth season in 2020. Spanning decades, it follows the political rivalries, romances, and events that have shaped England and its people during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

43 / 50

#8. The Queen's Gambit (2020)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 161,949

Anya Taylor-Joy (“Peaky Blinders” and “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”) stars as orphan Beth Harmon, who emerges as a chess prodigy at 9 years old. Once adopted, she enters the chess championship circuit but discovers that there are pros and cons to winning. The series was adapted from the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis. 

44 / 50

#7. House of Cards (2013–2018)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 461,971

When “House of Cards” ended its run after six seasons, it had already been nominated for 33 Primetime Emmy awards. The show originally starred Kevin Spacey as a congressman on a mission to get revenge against those who betrayed his trust. Following Spacey’s departure, the series’ focus shifted fully to his wife, played by Robin Wright.

45 / 50

#6. Stranger Things (2016–present)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 797,159

While Season 4 of “Stranger Things” is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first three seasons are available for those who need to catch up. The fantasy-horror series created by Matt and Ross Duffer takes place in a small town, where a boy goes missing and his family and friends must confront supernatural beings in order to get him back.

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46 / 50

#5. Dark (2017–2020)

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Votes: 270,832

The first German (subtitled) production for Netflix, “Dark” tells the story of two children who disappear from a German town in the present day. However, a turn toward the supernatural takes the story, and its four families, back to the same town in 1986.

47 / 50

#4. Narcos (2015–2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Votes: 349,424

Centered on the Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, the three-season biographical drama “Narcos” chronicles the true story of international drug cartels and law enforcement’s efforts to stop them. The series was nominated for three Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globes over its three-season run.

48 / 50

#3. When They See Us (2019)

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 87,826

Created by Ava DuVernay (“Queen Sugar” and “The Red Line”) and based on a true story of the Central Park Five, this legal drama follows five teens in Harlem who are falsely accused, and eventually exonerated, of the violent sexual assault of a 28-year-old woman. The story can be difficult for some to watch, but is also an important look at what can happen when the legal system fails its citizens.

49 / 50
ESPN Films

#2. The Last Dance (2020)

- IMDb user rating: 9.2
- Votes: 74,005

This critically acclaimed sports documentary chronicles the 1990s basketball dynasty of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, led by the legendary Michael Jordan. The series jumps back-and-forth in time to profile key players and examine the personal and collective factors that spurred the team to greatness.

50 / 50

#1. Our Planet (2019)

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Votes: 31,051

From the BBC, creators of “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet,” this latest documentary series brings viewers closer than ever to Earth's animal habitats and showcases nature’s diversity. It was filmed over four years and in 50 different countries.

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