Best Netflix original series, featuring 'Stranger Things,' 'The Diplomat,' 'Bridgerton,' 'Wednesday,' and 'The Sandman.'

The Best Netflix Original Series

Netflix might be slowly sliding down the ranking of streaming services, what with its policies about sharing accounts and its trend of canceling shows after a couple of seasons, but that doesn’t erase the fact that it has put out some of the most famous and beloved shows of the last decade. 

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From science fiction stories that sparked waves of ’80s nostalgia to brilliantly acted comic book dramas and shows that shine a spotlight on the Regency romance genre, Netflix really has some gems in its catalogue. (It would be nice if they weren’t an exception to a generally unsatisfactory rule, though.)

If, by chance, you haven’t already watched every single original show available on Netflix, here are 15 of the best-of-the-best English-language shows the platform has ever produced—in no particular order. Here’s to hoping they make more, or at least stop with the en-masse cancellations.

Wednesday

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in Netflix's Wednesday
(Netflix)

This new take on the Addams Family’s eldest daughter, played by Jenna Ortega, was helped along by Tim Burton and is one of Netflix’s most recent successes. Wednesday‘s first and so far only season skyrocketed to second place in the list of the most-watched English-language series on Netflix. The story follows Wednesday as she gets enrolled by her parents—Actual Best Couple Ever™ Gomez and Morticia Addams, played by Luis Guzmán and Catherine Zeta-Jones—into Nevermore Academy, a private school for monstrous teens in which she soon finds herself dealing with the murder mystery du jour. Plus, the show stars Gwendoline Christie as Nevermore’s principal, Larissa Weems—and everything with Gwendoline Christie is an immediate masterpiece, in my opinion.

The Witcher

Henry Cavill as Geralt in The Witcher
(Netflix)

The Witcher is inspired by the book series of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which also serves as the source material for a very fortunate video game franchise. The story follows Geralt of Rivia, the titular witcher—a human who is magically enhanced to hunt monsters—as he journeys across kingdoms and realms doing exactly what his job description says. Geralt crosses paths with a series of people who greatly impact his life, from the sorceress Jennifer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) to the traveling bark Jaskier (Joey Batey), and of course the runaway princess Ciri (Freya Allan), who is bound to Geralt by destiny.

The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy cast in Hotel Oblivion in season 3
(Netflix)

Based on the comic books of the same name—written by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame and illustrated by Gabriel Bá—The Umbrella Academy revolves around a very peculiar family, consisting of one billionaire and his seven adopted children who were all born in the exact same day at the exact same time, and all happen to have superpowers. The siblings reunite from their various walks of life for the funeral of their adoptive father, just in time to learn from one of them—Five (Aidan Gallagher), who can jump through space and time—that the apocalypse is imminent and they have to do their best to stop it from happening. The show currently has three seasons, with a fourth and final season confirmed in 2022.

The Diplomat

Keri Russell as Kate Wyler in "The Diplomat"
(Netflix)

Another recent Netflix product, The Diplomat only has one season so far, but it has already been renewed for a second. As the title suggests, the story delves deep into the world of international politics, following Kate Wyler (Keri Russell) as she takes on the role of the new US ambassador to the United Kingdom. Of course, the daily struggles of her job are mirrored at home and in her marriage with fellow diplomat Hal Wyler, played by Rufus Sewell.

Outer Banks

john b and sarah from outer banks
(Netflix)

There’s always space for some small-town teen drama on any list, and that’s where Outer Banks comes in. The small town of Outer Banks, North Carolina is divided between the wealthy seasonal residents and the working-class locals—the plot follows a group of the latter as they investigate what happened to the father of one of them and also incidentally stumble across a legendary treasure, all while dodging the obstacles the seasonal residents put on their way. 

Sex Education

Sex Education Season 1
(Netflix)

Of the many shows revolving around teens that Netflix has produced over the years, Sex Education remains one of the best. The story follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who sets up a sex clinic at his school using advice from his mom, Jean (Gillian Anderson), a professional sex therapist. He’s joined by a funny cast of characters, among whom the most important are definitely Otis’ best friend Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) and his partner-in-crime turned crush Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey). An important note: Sex Education is also the first time actress Simone Ashley graced our Netflix screens in the role of Olivia Hanan, a member of the school’s popular kids. It was not the last, though—more on that further down the list!

The Sandman

The Sandman's Dream with a helmet
(Netflix)

Here I am, back on my Gwendoline Christie agenda. And this time she’s playing Lucifer—when I tell you that learning of Christie’s casting made every cell of my queer Catholicism-traumatized heart vibrate at a frequency that could shatter glass, I’m not being hyperbolic. The Sandman revolves around the titular “sandman,” who is none other than Morpheus of the Endless, the personification of dreams (Tom Sturridge). Captured and trapped by a human thanks to an occult ritual at the beginning of the 20th century, he manages to escape after a century and has to restore order in his realm, the Dreaming, which was left in disarray by his absence. The show is based on Neil Gaiman’s comic book of the same name and has been renewed for a second season after a very successful first season released in August 2022.

Shadow and Bone

Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and the Darkling (Ben Barnes) in 'Shadow and Bone'
(Netflix)

Adapted from the Grishaverse book series by author Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone is set in a fantasy world where some people are born with the ability to manipulate various types of matter—something that those who can do it, the Grisha, call “the Small Science”—and where a terrible slice of pure darkness cuts the protagonist’s country in two. The story follows young mapmaker Alina Starkov, who finds herself launched from absolute anonymity into the highest spheres of the country’s Grisha elite and political scheming. On the other side of the sea, a group of thieves and criminals sign up for a very dangerous and very rewarding heist. 

The Grishaverse has a dedicated and active fanbase which immediately latched onto the show and supported it, even through some questionable changes to the story. Sadly, the fans’ love was not enough to save Shadow and Bone, which was officially canceled after just two seasons with a lot of Leigh Bardugo’s original story still left to tell.

The Crown

Imelda Staunton, Olivia Colman and Claire Foy on a final season poster for The Crown on Netflix
(Netflix)

With its cascades of Emmy and Golden Globe awards, The Crown is definitely one of the most lauded shows that Netflix has ever produced. With brilliant performances and impressive stage design, The Crown tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II, starting with her early years and throughout the decades of the 20th century, chronicling changes in politics and society as well as personal struggles within the royal family.

The Crown has become famous for its changing cast—an understandable choice considering that it spans so many decades. The first two seasons saw Claire Foy and Matt Smith as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, with Vanessa Kirby taking on the role of young Princess Margaret. The third and fourth seasons had Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies stepping up as Queen and consort, with Helena Bonham Carter continuing on as Margaret and the introduction of Josh O’Connor as a young Prince Charles, as well as Emma Corrin as Lady Diana. The fifth season saw yet another casting change, with Elizabeth and Philip being played by Imelda Staunton and Jonathan Pryce, while Lesley Manville, Dominic West, and Elizabeth Debicki stepped in as Margaret, Charles, and Diana, respectively.

Heartstopper

kit connor and joe locke in heartstopper
(Netflix)

Based on the very popular graphic novel series of the same name by Alice Oseman, Heartstopper is yet another teen romance that has garnered massive success worldwide. The story follows Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), who befriend each other at school and eventually fall in love. Around them is their group of friends, each with their own daily struggles and victories. Heartstopper has earned praise left and right for its portrayal of the LGBTQIA+ community, and it has been lauded as the kind of show that many queer people would have loved to see growing up. It also has a particularly beautiful style of cinematography, which we’ll all be able to enjoy again once season 2 premieres.

Squid Game

The doll in Squid Game
(Netflix)

The K-drama Squid Game is an absolute phenomenon that probably needs no introduction. It was at the center of pop culture when it premiered in 2021, and its aesthetics—from the green tracksuits to the robot doll chanting the Korean version of the Red Light, Green Light game—became immediately recognizable and iconic. The plot revolves around a secret contest, in which 456 players who find themselves in financial straits compete in a series of deadly games for a final prize that equates to about $38 million—while a group of very rich people from all over the world bet on who is going to win for their twisted entertainment.

Heartbreak High

This Australian teen dramedy is a sort-of reboot of a very popular show by the same name which aired in 1994. The plot of Heartbreak High kicks off after the students of Hartley High discover graffiti on one of the school’s walls detailing some of their sexual and romantic relationships. The ones who were mentioned are then forced to attend a new sexual education class, where they navigate all sorts of teen angst and tensions—while the graffiti’s author predictably becomes a social outcast after she’s discovered.

Bridgerton

Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor walking arm-in-arm in Bridgerton (2020)
(Netflix)

Coming straight out of Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland, Bridgerton was a pop culture phenomenon pretty much from the very beginning. Based on the series of novels of the same name by Julia Quinn, the story revolves around the eight siblings of the Bridgerton clan, a family of high-standing in London’s Regency era society, and all dealing with the ton’s marriage mart and the mysterious Lady Whistledown—who sees all gossip in town and writes it down in her scandal sheet.

Each season focuses on one sibling, with season 1 following the fourth child and eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) as she pretends to be in a relationship with the ton’s most eligible bachelor, Duke Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page)—of course, everyone knows how the fake relationship trope usually plays out. Season 2 shines its spotlight on the head of the Bridgerton family, Jonathan Bailey’s Anthony Bridgerton, who falls head over heels in rivalry and love with Simone Ashley’s incredible, show-stopping Kate Sharma. While waiting for season 3—which will focus on Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan of Derry Girls fame) and the third Bridgerton child, Colin (Luke Newton)—Bridgerton also acquired a spinoff, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, which focuses on the marriage of the supreme ruler of the ton, Queen Charlotte herself (played by Golda Rosheuvel in Bridgerton and India Amarteifio in Queen Charlotte).

Stranger Things

Stranger Things cast in season 4
(Netflix)

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without one of Netflix’s flagship series, Stranger Things. Created by the Duffer Brothers, there are four seasons currently available, with a fifth and final season in the works. Filled with ’80s nostalgia and references to other iconic pieces of pop culture, the story revolves around a group of people in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana—which happens to be located not too far from a research center where they experiment on children and open dimensional gates between worlds. Things really kick off when Will Byers disappears into the Upside Down: his friends, his brother, his mother, and the town’s Sheriff, as well as a mysterious girl with psychokinetic powers, all do their best to look for him and bring him back. The show incidentally also features one of the best characters ever put to screen—I am, of course, talking about Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington.

One Piece

Inaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy in 'One Piece'
(Netflix)

As the title suggests, One Piece is the live-action adaptation of the incredibly popular manga and anime of the same name—by mangaka Eiichiro Oda, who was also one of the major creative consultants on the show. The story follows the adventures of the pirate crew of Captain Monkey D. Luffy as they search for the “One Piece,” a fabled treasure that can make Luffy the King of the Pirates. Of course, it wouldn’t be a pirate story without rival crews also searching for this treasure and the equivalent of a royal navy chasing their tails—or sails.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.