10 popular Netflix original TV series ranked from worst to best
Tired of searching for the best Netflix original TV series from the seemingly endless category menus?
It might be a little harder than ever right now, given that Netflix has changed its account-sharing rules in Canada, leaving many to cancel their subscriptions to the service. Last year had some amazing movies stream and hit theatres, so at least we will always have that option.
But for anyone who is left, we are here to help.
Netflix’s original TV series production has seen quite the evolution since it first aired House of Cards back in 2013 and inserted the word “binge” into our everyday lingo. Spoiler alert: House of Cards did not make the cut here due to a complete lack of rewatchability because of a terrible last season and…other reasons.
When it comes to episodic television, especially in the binge model, few have done it better than Netflix.
Sure, it’s sometimes guilty of letting a great show go on way too long (Orange is the New Black) or cancelling fan favourite shows far too early (Glow, The OA). Sometimes, they get it just right.
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For this top 10 list, we are only looking at scripted television (sorry, Too Hot To Handle). And yes, the ground-level superhero shows (Jessica Jones/Daredevil/Luke Cage/Iron Fist/The Punisher) were a (mostly) successful venture, but none quite made the cut here.
Here are our picks for the best Netflix original TV series, ranked from worst to best.
10. Sex Education
This show about the students, staff, and parents of the fictional Moordale Secondary School is the rare successful non-animated comedy from Netflix.
Everyone in it is fantastic, especially Gillian Anderson hilariously playing the mom to Otis (the main character) who also happens to be a sex therapist.
9. Big Mouth
Another sex-focused comedy…is that a Netflix trend or does it say more about our list-making?
To many, this could easily be the #1 choice. It’s hilarious, has a stacked cast, and gets away with the most ridiculously raunchy ideas about sex because even though they are kids, it’s still a cartoon. Plus, the messaging behind (mostly) every episode is actually really thoughtful and good advice.
Everyone has a favourite character too. Ours? Jay’s pillows.
8. Russian Doll
This show marked the titanic return of the incredible Natasha Lyonne.
The whole “stuck in a time loop” thing is a bit played out, but Russian Doll managed to infuse enough style, weirdness, twists, and Lyonne to make it a must-see Netflix series.
Plus, likely thanks to the success of this show, we now have Poker Face, which is one of the best things on TV right now.
7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
There’s really no other way to say this…this show is unbelievably hilarious. Filled with pop culture references, cameos, and rapid-fire jokes, this feels a lot like 30 Rock, especially since it was created by Robert Carlock and Tina Fey.
It’s about Kimmy, a woman who is rescued from a doomsday cult she was imprisoned in when she was in junior high and then has to start life over again in New York City 15 years later.
Titus Andromedon really is one of the most underrated comedic TV characters in recent memory. “You know how I’m like an astronaut? I’m out of this world. And I also once had to poop in a vacuum.”
6. Squid Game
It seems like every single person on Earth watched Squid Game…and maybe they did. Whether you watched with subtitles, dubbed, or in Korean, this was a global phenomenon that launched memes, fads, games, food trends, and more.
If you’re the only person left who hasn’t watched this show, it’s about a secret contest where 456 players in financial trouble voluntarily risk their lives to play a series of deadly children’s games for…a lot of money.
5. Stranger Things
To some, this show just keeps getting bigger and better. The budget exploded with the popularity and the show’s scope has grown to gargantuan levels and made celebrities out of basically everyone involved.
To others, the first season was by far the best because the focus was narrowed to these much-loved characters and there was more time to slowly draw out the terror.
Either way, it’s an undeniable force that lands itself right in the middle of the list.
4. Bojack Horseman
This is the second (and last) animated show on the list.
It might seem like a random pick, but if you’ve ever seen the show’s themes of loneliness, depression, suicide, and alcoholism, you know it’s so much more than a talking horse who lives in a world with other talking animals as well as people.
Also, it’s hilarious, packed with pop culture references and fun animal “fish out of water” premises. Unlike most Tv shows, each season seems to get better, with the writers clearly having more flexibility and confidence to take risks.
3. After Life
The premise for this one is…sad!
In the pilot episode, the main character is trying to end his life after the death of his wife, but he can’t seem to find the right time to do so. He was a funny and lively spirit before, and now that same personality exists, but with a dark and sarcastic way to look at the world around him.
It’s a little predictable (spoiler: he finds ways to see the joys in life), but his feeling of deep loss is always there. It feels real and that makes the grief feel all the more relatable. The incredible jokes throughout and odd situations (and characters) are anything but predictable. Side note: This series also has one of the best blooper reels available on YouTube.
It’s an amazing finale with all of the intense and cathartic sadness that a show can only get from playing the right Radiohead song (also see: FX’s The Bear).
One of the best shows ever really, not just on Netflix, but it feels unfinished. Each season we get to know the characters in intimate ways that only a mind like David Fincher can get into, and it was sad to not see them return. We also got a little too deep into the minds of sadistic and notorious serial killers, but that’s cool. It’s what you sign up for when firing up a Fincher.
It wasn’t cancelled, but Fincher has stated that the show is too costly without enough viewers for Netflix to justify making more of it.
If you get through the two seasons of Mindhunter and NEED more then check out Fincher’s equally masterfully twisted movies Zodiac, Gone Girl, or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Despite a slightly lacklustre finale, Ozark takes the top spot on this list with its four incredible seasons. Okay, maybe season two wasn’t perfect, but it’s the imperfections that make something great. Right? This show wasn’t too short or too long but perfectly played out.
The blue-filtered Ozark subtly played with time, moving back and forth between times that were good, times that were bad, and times that were misunderstood — it was always surprising and actually rewards rewatches.
If Breaking Bad was the slow change of a mild-mannered chemistry teacher into a Heisenberg-named meth-making monster, then this is the fast-forwarded version of that. In the pilot episode, we learn our straight-edge main character has already gone bad, the family quickly finds out, and he’s already on the run, which is basically the entire Breaking Bad series in one hour. Walter White wanted to live and he became a man obsessed with power. He was the danger. He was the one who knocks. For Marty Bird, and much of the series, he seemed like he had surrendered to the fact that he was always minutes from being killed. It was this “nothing to lose” attitude that made it that much more compelling to watch.
Ozark gave us one of the coolest crime stories ever, the best Netflix original TV series ever, and plenty of outrageous Ruth Langmore quotes.