It’s true that today, we have an abundance of streaming services and more content to consume than we have time for. But let’s be honest, Netflix is where the binge-watching revolution began. The streaming service has been churning out award-winning original shows for years, as well as securing rights to some of the best shows ever created in television history. But with thousands of programs available at any given time, knowing just which shows are actually worth investing your precious free time can feel impossible. Luckily for you, we’re here to help you filter the fluff and discover Netflix’s true gems.
Scrolling through Netflix’s dozens of categories can either feel overwhelming, like looking for a needle in the world’s largest haystack, or uninspiring, when all the titles seem familiar and yet nothing catches your eye. But buried within its massive archive lies a treasure trove of creative, addictive, and innovative stories that have revolutionized television.
From historical dramas to laugh-out-loud comedies, from sci-fi thrillers to true crime docuseries, you’re going to find on this list a queue full of shows to watch. Let us be your personal Netflix curators and help you chart the sea of choices, so you can find the kind of shows you’ll wish lasted twice as long but can’t wait to start over from the beginning the second they end.
Updated on August 11th, 2023, by Soniya Hinduja: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.
Up until the first season, Heartstopper was a lighthearted, coming-of-age story centered around two British teenagers – Charlie, an openly gay student, and Nick, a popular rugby player – who eventually fall in love. The show depicts Charlie’s toxic relationship with a guy first, and how he manages to get out of it and finds a more healthy love with Nick. The bright, sunny aesthetic and simple tone blanketed the entire inaugural season, giving us a finale that made us cheer.
But as the show moved to the second season, it took time to explore multiple narrative arcs of its brilliant cast of characters. It even addressed issues of sexuality, depression, eating disorder, and bullying. Amidst it all, however, the show paints a sweet portrait of teenage friendships and inclusive romance using gentle smiles and hand-holding.
34 The Lincoln Lawyer
A refreshing legal drama based on a bestselling crime novel series, The Lincoln Lawyer follows the charming lawyer Mickey Haller, who took a fall in his career after an incident. Determined to get back in the game, Mickey starts running his law practice from the back of his Lincoln Town Car and takes on cases both big and small. Like every courtroom drama, this one also makes sure to remain intelligent, stylish, and witty, grasping your interest case after case as you work alongside Mickey himself in solving a mystery.
Each episode lands him with a new case where he must take sides and weave through Los Angeles’ underworld of wealthy and powerful people. The show, currently at two seasons, also makes sure to give importance to Mickey’s past, his family, and his personal demons by slowly peeling off new layers.
33 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Ellie Kemper broke out on television after joining the critically acclaimed mockumentary sitcom The Office (U.S.) as Erin. After staying on the show as a regular for five seasons, she returned to the small screen in a fresh and colorful comedy series. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows Kemper’s upbeat and quirky title character who is rescued from an underground bunker after spending 15 years in a doomsday cult.
Needless to say, the premise of someone discovering New York City for the first time in over a decade itself wins half of the points. Our protagonist Kimmy takes home the rest. She’s unbelievably optimistic and unique in her weirdness. She’s decided to rebuild her life and she does so by seeking love and purpose and a sense of identity. Overall feminist in tone, the show delivers great music, non-stop jokes, and affirmative insights into life.
Dark is one of those cerebral shows that linger in your brain long after you have finished watching them. The science fiction thriller revolves around the lives of four different families in a German town. Although living in the present, they are somehow interconnected with each other and with their past selves through some mysterious time-travel incidents. This becomes more evident when their children go missing and events from the past and future begin to collide.
The first season itself reveals enough detail to pull you into the eerie world. Moreover, the show is shot in a brooding tone, making it chilling to watch. The visuals are quite creative, as multiple plotlines move forward at the same time and leaving the viewers with more questions than answers. Ultimately, Dark is an ingenious and brilliant show with a depth that is unrivaled.
31 Cobra Kai
As a fantastic continuation of the cult classic movie The Karate Kid, this comedy-drama goes back in time to rehash the rivalry between two iconic characters – Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. Even though it’s been decades since the first movie came out, Cobra Kai manages to hold its own by being immersive and making the previously one-dimensional characters more nuanced and mature.
The plot goes as follows: Johnny is a down-on-his-luck hero who pushes himself to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo. His rival Daniel is now a successful businessman, who upon hearing the news, decides to make sure that Cobra Kai’s toxic methods do not infect the new generation. While their rivalry takes center stage, the show does not miss a beat in retaining the great wit and humor that makes it so extraordinary. Also, we get to see some really cool martial arts sequences.
30 Never Have I Ever
You’re familiar with the game, but Devi’s life isn’t anywhere close to one. Never Have I Ever is a charming coming-of-age series that follows the life of a modern, first-generation Indian American teenage girl named Devi, who simply wants to elevate her social status and get noticed by her boy crush. With refreshingly relatable characters and a lively aesthetic, the show ponders important subjects of grief, family dysfunction, cultural clashes, and the many woes of adolescent life.
The show is lighthearted and insightful in every way. The main protagonist, Devi, is a complex and imperfect character. She is awkward, emotional, and ambitious to a fault. But there is something so fascinating about her journey and the way she navigates the murky waters of her teenage years, that you cannot help but root for her.
29 Better Call Saul
A spin-off of the internationally praised crime drama series Breaking Bad (also a must-watch), Better Call Saul weaves a darkly funny tale of an unremarkable lawyer’s transformation into a shady criminal defense attorney. The parts that work well for the show? It's deceptive and complex storytelling, interesting character arcs, and the intense lurking of doom. The prequel traces the life of brilliant but flawed Jimmy McGill and the way he morphs into a corrupt and shameless lawyer Saul Goodman.
His criminal journey even risks his relationship with his brother, tangles his fate with that of a dangerous drug kingpin, and sets his moral compass in a never-gonna-turn-back direction. As the plot unfolds throughout six seasons, you find yourself drawn into the intense character study and appreciate this ode to the art of slow burn.
Period pieces have a glorious and enchanting way of allowing you to escape real life, an hour at a time. And what better way to do so than to be thrust straight into the lush world of Regency-era London high society. Featuring rich families, lavish costumes, delicious scandals, and syrupy drama, Bridgerton follows the eight close-knit siblings of the powerful Bridgerton family as they attempt to find love and happiness in high society.
But underneath the ballgowns and courtesies lie subtle flavors of jealousy, deception, and secret passions that threaten to destroy the family’s reputation and derail the social season. Based on the romance novels by Julia Quinn, the series delivers on all the tropes you expect from a historical drama – swoon-worthy love, grand parties, gossip, and backstabbing intrigue – but with a modern cast and steamier romance.
27 Peaky Blinders
Gangsters, cops, revolutionaries, and an entire criminal empire walk hand in hand in this captivating crime drama. Set in the lawless streets of postwar Birmingham, Peaky Blinders chronicles the rise of the deadly and disillusioned Shelby family. Thomas Shelby and his clan must test the waters of changing times, evolving threats, and shifting political winds as they expand their power and deal with the massive toll it takes on their personal lives and family dynamics.
Because despite the violence and manipulation, at its core, Peaky Blinders is a family saga. It traces the strains made by secrets, betrayals, and loyalties within a close group stuck in a very turbulent time of history. Mesmerizing performances from Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, and Anya Taylor-Joy, the haunting original scores, and of course, the creative violence all come together as an epic tale of Britain in the roaring '20s.
26 Derry Girls
There have been endless depressing depictions of the Troubles, but when you sit down to watch Derry Girls, you must forget about all of those. Because this hilarious sitcom offers a much-needed dose of chuckles from the other side of the divide. Set in 1990s Derry, Northern Ireland, the series centers on Erin and her friends, an unusual yet adorable group of four teenage girls and one wee English fella, as they go about the everyday embarrassments and drama of high school life.
This isn’t to say that the show does not take time to ponder on the sectarian tensions and violent realities of the ongoing conflict. But in its own way, Derry Girls finds the sweet spot between comedy and pathos and captures the mundane adventures of youth with tremendous heart and authenticity. Classic one-liners and OTT shenanigans make it one of the funniest feel-good comedies of the past few years.
25 Arrested Development
Arrested Development is one of the smartest yet silliest comedies of the 21st century. The show chronicles the bizarre lives of the formerly wealthy yet deeply dysfunctional Bluth family. After the patriarch is arrested for fraud and the family fortune disappears, each member displays their own unique neurosis as they try to adapt to their new situation, with Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth left as the only responsible adult.
The rapid-fire humor and deadpan deliveries from the diverse cast of characters make for an awkward and entertaining comedy. But the show isn’t all gags and farce. There are intricate layers of each character that provide subtle callbacks – like the attention-hungry Buster or the narcissistic mother Lucille. Moreover, all five seasons are brilliantly written to satirize wealthy incompetence and over-the-top families.
24 Hospital Playlist
A beautiful Korean drama that captures the heartwarming joys, complexities, and brutal sorrows of human relationships by charting the everyday lives of a group of doctors, residents, interns, and patients. We are introduced to their person, their desires, and their stories of love, friendships, and healing in the most unconventional ways. Set primarily at Yulje Medical Center, the series follows five friends who have been colleagues for 20 years as they navigate the demands of their medical careers and their personal lives.
The characters are so charming and endearing and full of warmth that you cannot help but be instantly invested in their stories. From friends-turned-lovers to fractured family bonds to the toil the profession takes on doctors, everything about the show subverts standard tropes. Because it is refreshingly optimistic through it all. Hospital Playlist is a smart, funny, and gorgeously shot drama.
23 Black Mirror
Jumping on to a more chilling, brain-draining anthology series, Black Mirror that poses an important question: what if the comfort of technology came at the cost of our own humanity? Black Mirror is made of six seasons, and within each season are brilliant standalone episodes that explore the dark side of life in a speculative world. Here, the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and social media have creepy, almost insidious consequences.
From a Prime Minister forced to do the deed with a pig on live TV to an emotionally torn woman falling for a digital copy of her dead husband, the dystopian storylines are as thought-provoking as they are disturbing. But what truly shocks the audience is how familiar these tales of technological downfall feel in our own plugged-in era. In a way, the series holds up an unflinchingly honest (black) mirror to our growing dependence on screens and the constant connectivity of the virtual world in what can only be defined as a sharp tone.
22 Kim’s Convenience
Kim’s Convenience is one of those comfort shows. The Canadian sitcom follows the ups and downs of the Korean-Canadian Kim family who run a convenience store in Toronto. The series, with an utterly heartwarming tone, tackles themes of intergenerational opinions, family conflict, cultural differences, and the immigrant experience. Never once does the show lose its warmth, humor, and deep respect for humanity.
The Kim patriarch Appa and matriarch Umma, struggle with their life in a new country while raising their two adult children, Janet, who goes to university and Jung, who does not live with the family because of an incident that occurred years ago. While the older generation tries to communicate, the younger generation struggles to find an acceptable balance between honoring their family’s traditional values and pursuing their own dreams. The cast is authentically Asian, bringing life to the nuanced and hilarious characters. Overall, Kim’s Convenience is a gem of a sitcom that deserves more appreciation and shouldn't have been canceled.
8 Seasons on Netflix (9 in total)
Legal dramas are always fun to binge. And when you stumble upon a fast-paced long-running series that follows the lives and careers of a bunch of ambitious associates and partners working at one of Manhattan’s top law firms, there’s no reason to stop, is there? But looking beyond the usual tropes, this show’s real heart is the unconventional, based-on-a-true-lie relationship between Mike Ross, who is a college dropout, and Harvey Specter, a legendary lawyer.
Mike poses as a Harvard Law graduate during the interview but becomes Harvey’s associate not because of a piece of paper (or its lack thereof) but because of his brilliant mind and fascinating powers of recall and deduction. Together, Mike and Harvey litigate high-stakes cases while also dealing with the firm’s politics, secrets, and competition. Moreover, Suitsalso balances big-hearted emotion and the most annoying will-they-won't-they romance while maintaining its breakneck pace and corporate intrigue.
20 Lady Dynamite
Let's start off with one of the most underappreciated, underseen experimental comedy series that Netflix dropped and forgot about. Lady Dynamite is a careful and absurd compilation of all the comedic catastrophes that Maria Bamford encounters as she bruises life’s bumps and grinds her way through. Loosely based on her own life, the soulful sitcom chronicles events from her past, present, and future making the entire experience feel like a surreal confession.
By blending animated, fantastical sequences and using a disarming perspective as only Maria could tell it, the two-season wonder shines a light on mental health in the most refreshing ways. There are just so many laughs that you’ll find it hard to not believe that light will always find its way back in. Life may have knocked her down one too many times, but Maria always rises like a phoenix from the ashes.
19 The Crown
The Crown is an absolutely stunning, lavish drama that brings the royal family vibrantly and dramatically to life by exploring their flawed humanity, showing the audience what happens when the duties of the throne collide with the vulnerabilities of the people behind the crowns.
Peter Morgan breathes an old-school charm into this five-season drama that follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II from her youthful, scandal-plagued ascension to the throne to the present day, backed by phenomenal performances from Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, with Imelda Staunton as the show progresses. We see historical events roll out with the very personal story of a woman thrust into a role she never desired but fulfilled with dignity. Superb performances, exquisite production values, and grand costumes make this period drama a truly wonderful one.
When a money laundering scheme goes threateningly wrong, a mild-mannered financial advisor, Marty Byrde, is forced to uproot his family of four from Chicago to a summer resort community in the Lake of the Ozarks. That’s the surface-level premise of Ozark. But do not be fooled by the subtle intrigue it radiates because that is so much more to that story. Known to be one of the most consistently brilliant shows Netflix has ever produced, what starts as a fresh beginning for the Byrdes soon transforms into a tangled web of corruption and deception.
The family is pulled into the exact criminal economy they were hoping to avoid. Jason Bateman drips with grace as the perpetually stressed hero and Laura Linney is ever-so-stunning as the intelligent and resourceful better half. From character development to rich regional detail, the great Ozark is saturated with elements that constantly up the suspense ante and then drops a heart-in-your-throat finale.
17 Stranger Things
The Duffer Brothers first graced the small screens with this incredibly entertaining supernatural science-fiction series that brought the nostalgic weirdness of the 1980s to life. Appearing in its overall aesthetic as part Stephen King and part Steven Spielberg with a healthy dose of pop culture references, Stranger Things follows the events that conspire after a young boy named Will Byers vanishes into thin air from the little town of Hawkins, Indiana.
His mother, police chief and his friends must now confront the otherworldly forces attacking them from The Upside Down and fight a mysterious drug-fueled government experiment to get him back. Set to a trembling synth soundtrack and featuring a fantastic cast of characters, the show blends heart, horror, and humor with an irresistible plot that just keeps on getting more intriguing as we go.
16 Dear White People
Setting its piercing gaze firmly and unwaveringly on issues of identity and race, this biting satirical series created by Justin Simien based on his own feature-length film tackles complex social issues with humor and heart. Starting with an insensitive Halloween party stunt that kicks up a racial firestorm at an Ivy League college, Dear White People follows a diverse group of students who are thrust into the middle of a cultural divide no one wants to cross.
Featuring a brilliant young cast including the likes of Logan Browning, DeRon Horton, Ashley Blaine Featherson, and Brandon P. Bell, the series tackles controversies of cultural appropriation, interracial dynamics, and more through an unpredictable and highly shocking plot wide enough to fit in individual stories and layers of development.