The 15 best Netflix original series

It’s been a long couple of years, but our streaming subscriptions flourish more than ever. It’s entirely likely that you or someone you know has recently uttered the phrase “I’ve watched everything in my queue,” or “I’ve seen everything on Netflix.”

No, sweetie, you haven’t.

Whether you’ve burned through your queue or your recommendations, Netflix still contains untold treasures should you wish to unlock them (since there’s still no A-Z search function, just assume you’ve glimpsed a mere tip of the iceberg). We’ve got lists of thrillers, rom-coms, the best original movies, and more.

While we wouldn’t consider ourselves your close personal friends, the Mashable Entertainment team has banded together to share what we believe are the best Netflix original series, to watch or rewatch as you see fit.

Here are the 15 best Netflix originals series to date (in no particular order).

1. When They See Us

Caleel Harris and Ethan Harisse in the first episode of "When They See Us" on Netflix.

Caleel Harris and Ethan Harisse in the first episode of “When They See Us” on Netflix.
Credit: Atsushi Nishijima / Netflix

Based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, Ava DuVernay’s limited series tragedy When They See Us delivers a scathing indictment of the United States’ legal system that will hang with you long after you’ve finished its four-episode arc. Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome, and Marquis Rodriguez stun as young men trapped in an institution designed to work against them. If there is any series on this list you “must” watch, it’s this. –Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter

Where to watch: Netflix

2. Russian Doll

Chicken! What a concept!

Chicken! What a concept!

Russian Doll gets as close to a perfect Netflix binge watch as possible.

It’s short, with eight 30-minute episodes forming its first season. It’s bold, covering themes of mortality, trauma, and human connection against the backdrop of New York’s East Village. And it’s flat-out hilarious to boot. Natasha Lyonne co-created and starred as Nadia, a woman who becomes trapped in a time loop after dying on her 36th birthday. Nadia’s Groundhog Day–esque adventure becomes increasingly complex as the series progresses and she races against the loop to discover why she can’t stop dying — and what her loop has to do with Alan, an alleged stranger who’s experiencing the exact same cycle. -Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Where to watch: Netflix

3. The Get Down

Whoever said disco is dead was lying — and hadn't seen "The Get Down" on Netflix.

Whoever said disco is dead was lying — and hadn’t seen “The Get Down” on Netflix.

The Get Down is one of Netflix’s most unique series offerings, remixing the real life roots of hip hop legends like DJ Cool Herc and Grandmaster Flash with the fictional, almost fairy-tale story of talented Bronx teens desperate to achieve their dreams. Like many of co-creator Baz Lurhmann’s projects, The Get Down is partially a musical, with original songs by Sia, Janelle Monáe, and Christina Aguilera blended in with ’70s hits like “Bad Girls,” “Ball of Confusion,” and in the series’ most triumphant moment, the iconic theme from Star Wars. Its flashy visuals don’t distract from the show’s huge heart, making the show as joyous and hard-hitting as the rap albums its style emulates. –A.N.

Where to watch: Netflix

4. American Vandal

This photo contains game-changing clues in a very serious criminal investigation.

This photo contains game-changing clues in a very serious criminal investigation.
Credit: netflix

“Who did the dicks?” may not sound like a compelling premise for a true-crime drama, and technically, it isn’t: American Vandal is a comedy about a completely fictional case of a high school parking lot defaced with spray-painted penises. But the parody nails the genre so well, and with such a resolutely straight face, that it’s almost possible to forget none of it is real, and very possible to get as deeply invested as if it were. 

As Peter (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam (Griffin Gluck) look for the culprit behind the penis drawings in the first season (or, in Season 2, the laxative-laced lemonade), what started as a puerile spoof about the eternal hilarity of dick jokes eventually reveals itself to be a surprisingly empathetic exploration of adolescence…that still finds plenty of time to snicker about poop or penises, because come on. That shit’s hilarious. –Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor

Where to watch: Netflix

5. Sense8

The hive mind has never looked as cool as on  the Wachowski sisters' "Sense8."

The hive mind has never looked as cool as on  the Wachowski sisters’ “Sense8.”
Credit: Netflix

Created by the Wachowski sisters and J. Michael Straczynski, Sense8 is, well, exactly as trippy as you’d expect a sci-fi drama created by those three to be. The series follows eight strangers who discover in quick succession that they’re linked by a single mind and soul, and that that makes them a target for certain mysterious forces. Thrills ensue, in the form of cool superpowers, deadly chases, sinister conspiracies, and intricately choreographed fight scenes, all shot and edited together with dazzling precision.

But what makes Sense8 feel truly special is its emphasis on emotional connection. It’s a show that feels almost radical in its earnestness — in its plea for empathy, in its faith in humanity, in its celebration for love. It wears its tender, beating heart on its sleeve, and invites you to touch it, and then asks you if, perhaps, you wouldn’t like to open up your own heart to it, too. -A.H.

Where to watch: Netflix

6. Dear White People

Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson), Sam (Logan Browning), and Coco (Antoinette Robertson) take a brief break from their consuming college lives in "Dear White People."

Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson), Sam (Logan Browning), and Coco (Antoinette Robertson) take a brief break from their consuming college lives in “Dear White People.”
Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Dear White People knows that its title provokes, but the masterful comedy from Justin Simien is more insightful than incendiary. The only challenge it poses at the interpellated audience (and at nonblack viewers in general) is to see these characters as striving, learning, aching three-dimensional people like anyone else. Welcome them into your home as they welcome us to the irresistible insularity of Winchester University, where every late night, hook up, and student caucus meeting is a dramatic event unto itself.

Here, at the predominantly Black dorm of Armstrong-Parker, where Sam (Logan Browning), Coco (Antoinette Robertson), Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson), Troy (Brandon Bell), Reggie (Marque Richardson), and Lionel (DeRon Horton) navigate their tremulous college years through race, relationships, and legacy. Simien and his writers don’t sleep on satire or social commentary, but Dear White People never feels informational. It is a crash course in modern racial dynamics wrapped in some of the sharpest comedy you can find. You’ll quickly be drawn into the Winchester bubble and unable to shake it off when you leave. -Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter

Where to watch: Netflix

7. Tuca and Bertie

You wish you had a friendship like Tuca and Bertie, but you're only human.

You wish you had a friendship like Tuca and Bertie, but you’re only human.
Credit: netflix

BoJack Horseman producer Lisa Hanawalt’s animated comedy Tuca & Bertie portrays the realities of millennial adulthood and the unbreakable bonds that form women’s friendships. Also almost everyone is birds. Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) is a fun-loving toucan whose reaction to responsibility is abject terror, while her best friend Bertie (Ali Wong) is a neurotic, ambitious songbird. Their lives in Bird Town are relatable in some ways, like how Bertie experiences sexism at work, but Tuca & Bertie’s imaginative world also allows for creative liberties, like the existence of sentient pubic lice that party on people’s crotches. Tuca & Bertie also does more with the medium of animation than almost any other animated series streaming on Netflix, using paper cutouts and sequences with puppets to highlight important parts of its story. –A.N.

Where to watch: Netflix

8. Astronomy Club

Mary Poppins answers for her bias toward white children in this "Astronomy Club" sketch.

Mary Poppins answers for her bias toward white children in this “Astronomy Club” sketch.
Credit: Lara Solanki / Netflix

There is no acceptable reason for how or why the ingenious Astronomy Club has gone this long flying low on Netflix radar, but you can do your part to rectify that immediately. UCB alums Shawtane Bowen, Jonathan Braylock, Ray Cordova, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses, Keisha Zollar, and James III (“We’re Black, and we’re all stars, and like most stars, nobody knows our names.”) deliver sketch after brilliant sketch, and that’s when they’re not leaning in to reality-show drama about heightened versions of themselves. –P.K.

Where to watch: Netflix


In Betty Gilpin we trust.

In Betty Gilpin we trust.
Credit: Erica Parise / Netflix

It’s the Gooorgeous Ladies of Wrestling! Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, GLOW is one of those shows that makes you smile just thinking of it. A masterful blend of rage-fueled ‘80s feminism and timeless comedic beats, this half-hour dramedy delivers everything you could want in great TV each and every episode throughout its three seasons. Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin lead an unparalleled ensemble in a journey we’ll never be ready to see end. Here’s lookin’ at you, Season 4. -A.F.

Where to watch: Netflix

10. Unorthodox

Esty (Shira Haas) braves an unfamiliar world in "Unorthodox."

Esty (Shira Haas) braves an unfamiliar world in “Unorthodox.”
Credit: Anika Molnar / Netflix

Unorthodox is a gripping miniseries about a young Esty Shapiro (Shira Haas), a young, recently married woman who escapes her ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn to find her mother in Berlin and start a new life. It is one of the most engrossing series I’ve ever seen, engulfing viewers in a community that many may be cursorily aware of but have no in-depth knowledge about. As Esty arrives in Berlin, confused yet free, trying to find her place and a place to stay, the family she left behind is frantic. Her husband is distraught and begins searching for Esty while she gets her first tastes of independence outside her insular Satmar community. As the story unfolds, more details of Esty’s past are revealed and the possibility of a future at a musical conservatory hangs precariously in front of her. Esty’s search for something more in life and her family’s search for her intertwine into an intense crescendo of family, community, and independence.

Part of what makes Unorthodox extraordinary is its roots in reality. It’s inspired by a memoir by Deborah Feldman, a woman who fled the Satmar community. Many of the actors grew up speaking Yiddish. It pulls on knowledge from people who have been in or around these communities to help with sets, speech, attire, and moments as authentic as possible. Parts of the show feel like stepping into a period piece, but it’s the reality of modern ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish communities. – Kellen Beck, Entertainment Reporter

Where to watch: Netflix

11. Never Have I Ever

Months after Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s comedy about 15-year-old Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and her sublimely teenage woes, I’m still not sure what its naysayers expected. The show was never going to compromise on or depart from its creators’ signature sense of humor as it was first minted on The Mindy Project. It was never going to be the story of every Indian American teenager or every immigrant family, nor was it going to resolve Devi’s many flaws and misjudgments over the course of a single 10-episode season.

But Never Have I Ever does so much else. It puts Devi in full peril of her sexuality, grief, and a wee smidge of sociopathy. It has the best ensemble cast of any Kaling production (no disrespect to the rotating secondary characters of The Mindy Project, but perhaps a healthy dose of shade) and scenes that will leave you laughing, crying, or crawling out of your skin as you remember the blissful highs and nightmarish lows of adolescence. –P.K.

Where to watch: Netflix

12. Santa Clarita Diet

Nuclear family, house in the suburbs, white picket fence — the American Dream! ...with one tiny glitch, on "Santa Clarita Diet."

Nuclear family, house in the suburbs, white picket fence — the American Dream! …with one tiny glitch, on “Santa Clarita Diet.”
Credit: netflix

Come for the irresistibly gory premise, stay for the surprisingly sweet center. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant play a suburban California couple whose lives are upended when Sheila (Barrymore) turns into a zombie. The transformation gives her a new zest for life, but she’s also racking up a high body count, attracting the suspicion of neighbors and authorities, and finding herself changing in ever more disturbing ways.

Through it all, though, Joel remains resolutely on Sheila’s side, committed to making it work no matter how weird or dangerous the journey gets — or tense and terrified it makes him (Olyphant’s nervous chuckles alone are worth the price of admission). Dig past the blood and entrails and chewed-off fingers, and you’ll find in Santa Clarita Diet a tender portrait of the challenges and joys of long-term romance. –A.H.

Where to watch: Netflix

13. The Crown

Pile under some blankets and get ready to be soothed by watching one seriously fucked up but deeply captivating family.

The Emmy-winning series made a star out of Claire Foy, who portrayed a young Queen Elizabeth in Seasons 1 and 2. While Season 3 — now starring Olivia Colman — didn’t always reach the same highs, it remained a stirring portrait of a woman and a marriage that are both world famous and yet still shrouded in mystery. The series is at its best when it explores the quiet moments that must have followed the big public headlines about news events you know. Foy and Colman both so easily make a meal out of just a head turn, a raised eyebrow, or a single tear. Luxe production values ensure that Buckingham Palace is awe-inspiring, but the biggest applause must be held for the meaty monologues about God, family, and country. -Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor

Where to watch: Netflix

14. Sex Education

It’s rare that depictions of high school sexual exploits do anything but make you cringe. And yet, in the world Sex Education, these scenes are the bedrock of a blissfully understanding, caring, and ever-evolving world that presents the best of the best in acceptance. Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, and Asa Butterfield lead as three friends sorting their way through Moordale Secondary School, its student body, and the trials of the heart that lie within. -A.F.

Where to watch: Netflix

15. Stranger Things

Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and Will (Noah Schnapp) would rather be playing Dungeons and Dragons than the real-life version that uproots their lives.

Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and Will (Noah Schnapp) would rather be playing Dungeons and Dragons than the real-life version that uproots their lives.
Credit: netflix

Stranger Things is a great sci-fi series. With roots in horror and coming-of-age arcs, there is so much about these three seasons that is so satisfying. Each season builds itself on an expanding flow of tension and release, of mystery and explosive action, interwoven with growing personal relationships and government conspiracies that make each step forward in the story that much more engaging.

The series begins in Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s, and something strange is going on. A sort of interdimensional rift has been opened beneath the rural town and a young girl, Eleven, who is tapped into that that Upside Down dimension, escapes her capture and teams up with a group of kids to put a stop to the terror that has entered the world. As the seasons go on, the threats morph but that element of horror and unabashed ‘80s stays strong, giving Stranger Things a really strong and (mostly) consistent sense of style and narrative. –K.B.

Where to watch: Netflix

This list was updated in August 2021 to reflect the latest on Netflix.

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