When it rolled out House of Cards back in 2013, Netflix up and changed the TV game. Since then, the terms “binge-watch” and “Netflix and chill” have entered the cultural lexicon, competition in the streaming universe has gotten intense (see: Apple TV+, Disney+, Peacock and HBO Max), and Netflix has dramatically increased its output of originals, releasing what seems like a dozen new shows and movies a week.
Of course, some Netflix original series are better than others, and that’s where this ranking comes in. To preserve our sanity for this update, we established some fairly rigid eligibility ground rules: We’re not including children’s programming, reality shows, docuseries (e.g., Tiger King), foreign-language originals (like top-tier Dark), or shows that began life elsewhere (such as Black Mirror and You). Additionally, we’re only interested in true Netflix-produced originals, not shows (like Peaky Blinders or The End of the F***ing World) that Netflix vexingly stamps with the Originals logo but are more accurately just “exclusive” because they’re co-productions or licensed pick-ups that aired internationally first. Got it? Then let’s begin.
10. I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson (2019–present)
I Think You Should Leave is easily the most bingeable series on Netflix, with just six sketch-based episodes clocking in at fewer than 20 minutes each. It’s also really fucking funny. The brilliance of ITYSL comes from its ability to turn mundane, everyday situations — like a birthday party or sitting on an airplane — into absurdist masterpieces peppered with poop and fart jokes. The “good steering wheel” guy in the car focus group has become a widespread meme, but that kind of dense, nonsensical humor colors every sketch with a refreshing goofiness that’s difficult to find. Where else will you see a guy dressed as a hot dog crash a wiener car into a store, then turn the debacle into a theft mixed with a commentary about watching porn on phones?
09. The Queen's Gambit (2020)
The runaway popularity of The Queen’s Gambit, a seven-episode miniseries about a young girl who gets really good at playing chess against a bunch of boys, is only surprising if you haven’t already seen it. Adapted from Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name by writer-director by Scott Frank (Netflix’s Godless), the show is a dark, intense exploration of the minds of obsessives, addicts, and strategic geniuses, as well as a fascinating foray into the cutthroat world of 20th-century professional chess. The story, in which precocious orphan Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) transforms into a world-famous master of her craft, is as exhilarating as it is, at times, deeply tragic, and turns an unflinching eye on what happens when nurturing a childhood talent becomes feeding an endless desire to win at all costs.
08. American Vandal (2017–2018)
This comedy’s first season, in which teen documentarians investigate whether a classmate (Jimmy Tatro) accused of spray-painting penises on teachers’ vehicles is guilty or not, is much more than a dick joke. After the first couple of episodes, the phallic material fades into the background, allowing the show to satirize high school and today’s criminal justice system in a meaningful way. To pull it off, the co-creators studied the alluring techniques used in true-crime titans Serial, Making a Murderer, and The Jinx, and in doing so crafted a surprisingly nuanced show that’s a parody, homage, and addictive teen drama all wrapped in one. Season 2 (also the final season) doubles down on the concept by focusing on poop, and it, too, works devastatingly well.
07. When They See Us (2019)
Given the wide scope of the material, juggling multiple families scrambling to protect the ones they love and a vast grinding legal apparatus attempting to pin a crime on innocent victims, the most impressive aspect of When They See Us, director Ava Duvernay’s powerful docudrama about the Central Park Five, is the way it zeroes in on small moments of human anguish, bravery, and cruelty. Focusing on the aftermath of a rape and assault of a female jogger in the park, the miniseries combines the tick-tock storytelling of a true-crime police procedural with a more curious, empathetic eye. Like she did with 2014’s Selma, Duvernay, who also co-wrote all four episodes of the series, moves elegantly between tactics-obsessed storytelling and more intimate passages. That sense of purpose — and the show’s relative brevity in comparison to many Netflix shows — makes it stand out on a platform that often emphasizes comfort at the expense of concision.
06. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–2020)
A castaway from NBC’s primetime lineup, creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s 30 Rock follow-up found life in the early days of Netflix original programming, and became a gut-busting beacon of hope for the platform. If 30 Rock was the sitcom tradition done to perfection, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the Elon Musk approach to comedy hijinks. The idea of throwing together a childlike kidnapping survivor, a gay black man with the voice of angels, a conspiracy-theorizing old lady, and an upper-crust divorcee is an even bigger risk when there’s room left to explore the tragic side of the situation. But the keys are star Ellie Kemper, delivering amped-on-Pixy-Stix-level commitment, and Tituss Burgess, who gives the show a song-filled backbone (from “Pinot Noir” to “Boobs in California”). After the Season 4 series finale in 2019, the cast returned for a marginally humorous one-off interactive special in 2020.
05. Mindhunter (2017–2019)
David Fincher loves serial killers. The director of Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo launched Netflix into the world of original television when he applied his dark, brooding aesthetic to a different kind of sociopath: obscenely ambitious politician Francis Underwood, focal point of House of Cards. But where House of Cards feels a bit like a desperate child crying out for attention, Mindhunter arrives fully mature, concerned more with exploring the depths of headlines already written than creating new ones. The show’s core triad of self-assured FBI wunderkind Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), Holden mentor and babysitter Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and psychologist-turned-consultant Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) attempt to establish a division of the FBI tasked with solving a “new kind of crime” that lacks what most law enforcers think of as rational motives. In short, they’re inventing what will become the famous “FBI profiler” department, responsible for ferreting out criminal sociopaths. Over two seasons, Mindhunter has balanced tense jailhouse interview scenes with conventions of cop thrillers in a nuanced, tautly directed (many by Fincher himself) depiction of life at humanity’s extreme fringes. It’s the rare show that’s both bingeable and deliberate, smart yet entertaining. Sadly, we won’t be getting Season 3 for a while, and maybe even never.
04. The OA (2017–2019)
Season 1 of The OA was a wild ride, alternating between hokiness and brilliance in nearly equal measure — but it was clearly trying something, and that was what made it so bingeable. Season 2, however, is a revelation, and puts The OA in rare company of bonkers TV shows that somehow make sense on an emotional level. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the filmmakers behind mind-bending thrillers like The Sound of My Voice and The East, the show follows a young blind woman named Prairie Johnson (Marling) who returns to her sleepy hometown with her eyesight mysteriously restored after she disappeared for seven years. Things only get stranger as we ping-pong between her story in the present, which finds her mentoring a group of rowdy teenagers, and flashbacks to her time away, which involves an underground prison run by Jason Isaacs’s evil Dr. Hap. Yes, there’s interpretive dancing, too. Most of this shouldn’t work — and some of it doesn’t — but Marling and Batmanglij attack this wonky material with so much passion and sincerity that it’s hard not to get swept up in their brain-scrambling vision. Despite the rabid fanbase, Netflix ditched the show after Season 2. RIP Old Night.
03. Ozark (2017–present)
It’s easy to see why early critics compared Ozark to Breaking Bad: Drug money and morally gray characters abound in both. But as Marty Byrde — a brilliant Chicago-based financial advisor who moves his family to B.F.E. Missouri on a life-or-death deadline to wash truck loads of cash for Mexico’s second-biggest drug cartel — Jason Bateman never goes full Heisenberg. In fact, his character’s main motivation for doing anything is to protect his family, as he’s more someone who’s stuck in this underworld than someone who’s trying to take it over. Season 2 and Season 3 put wife Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) front and center, and solid supporting players Julia Garner (as feral bumpkin Ruth Langmore) also help the show work its slow-burn magic.
02. Stranger Things (2016–present)
There’s no denying that Stranger Things has been a phenomenon. But has it been a “good” phenomenon? That’s a controversial question in some quarters, and it only became more difficult to answer it when the show returned for its eagerly anticipated, somewhat controversial second season, delivering more of the ’80s pastiche that propelled the first season to success. While swiping elements from beloved ’80s films like E.T., Stand By Me, and The Goonies, the show’s creators were able to cobble together some fun sci-fi concepts (“The Upside Down”), break-out characters (Eleven), and a nightmare-inspiring monster (The Demogorgon). That’s enough to make you a nostalgia-rich pop culture sensation, and a third season that recaptured some of the nostalgic fun of the original run means Stranger Things easily makes the top 10 of this list. Ignore the haters.
01. BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)
When you write it, it sounds strange: A cartoon about a talking horse is one of the funniest and most accurate representations of depression on TV today. But it’s true. As you join the title character, voiced by Will Arnett, on his quest for Hollywood and personal redemption, you’ll encounter killer visual gags, whip-smart dialogue, complex-as-hell characters, and genuine feels — the kind that’ll make you evaluate (and re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate) your own life. We wholeheartedly recommend BoJack, which recently wrapped up its impressive six-season run.