Starting with their very first original series House of Cards in 2013, Netflix has defined the media streaming industry and what expectations the audience can hold in regards to a streaming network. Directly or not, their focus on investing so heavily in original content has, in a way, forced other services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+ to come up with original content of their own, which is all-around great for the average consumer.
Netflix produces hundreds and hundreds of original shows every year. Most of them usually fly under the radar due to how unremarkable they tend to be, but some end up being massive critical hits, such as the ones mentioned in this list.
10 American Crime Story (2016) – 93%
From the creators of the iconic horror anthology series American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy also ended up accruing success with the true-crime series American Crime Story. Not only does it bear a heavy resemblance in the title, but it also follows a similar storytelling format to the aforementioned series, where each season is a miniseries of its own.
The first season retells the story of the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, dubbed the “trial of the century” due to the amount of international exposure it received. The second season and upcoming thrid season both also deal with highly publicized events of the criminal kind.
9 Sex Education (2019) – 94%
Sex is an awkward topic to discuss for anybody, exponentially more so for teenagers, and that’s exactly what Sex Education highlights in the most charismatic and humorous way possible. It features an ensemble cast of young up-and-coming actors, such as Ncuti Gatwa, and more seasoned professionals, such as The X-Files’s Gillian Anderson.
The latter plays the role of an open-minded sex therapist, whose teenage son opens a sex-therapy business of his own in his high school, to help his fellow peers with all their awkward issues and insecurities.
8 Dark (2017) – 95%
Netflix has always been a great supporter of trying to reduce the language barrier between international audiences. Through the platform, hundreds of foreign shows have found audiences all over the world, which would’ve been impossible otherwise.
Netflix’s first German-language project, the sci-fi series Dark, tells an intricately woven tale of time-travel that is every bit as complex as it is well written. Some have even suggested viewers take notes while watching the show in order to keep up with the extremely complicated plot.
7 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015) – 96%
Ellie Kemper is best known for her role as the ever-cheerful receptionist Erin Hannon from The Office. However, in Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt she leads her very own sitcom in the titular role as Kimmy Schmidt.
Set in the fictional Louisiana town of Durnsville, Kimmy Schmidt is one of the four women that were imprisoned for 15 years in a doomsday cult by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (played by Mad Men star Jon Hamm). Now finally free, she moves to New York City in hopes of restarting her life.
6 A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017) – 96%
It’s hard to imagine How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris as a goofy looking villain trying to murder three children and steal their inheritance, but Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events manages to make it work. Co-created by Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, it is based on the popular children’s novel series of the same name by author Lemony Snicket (pen name of novelist Daniel Handler).
The series was praised for being a faithful adaptation and is considered one of Netflix’s best original dramas.
5 Russian Doll (2019) – 97%
The time-loop literary trope is not a very common one but at the same time, it can be found in form or another in various TV shows, movies, anime, or even games. A prominent example would be Tom Cruise’s sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow. While Russian Doll does little to reinvent the genre, its true charm lies solely in the witty writing and performance of its lead actress Natasha Lyonne, who also created, directed, and wrote the show.
The result was one of Netflix’s most critically acclaimed original series that deservingly received four Primetime Emmy nominations.
4 American Vandal (2017) – 98%
True Crime as a genre has grown much in popularity in recent years, and Netflix’s slew of docuseries have certainly contributed to this. But American Vandal isn’t just another documentary based on a true crime, rather, it’s an absolute parody of the genre.
The show follows two high school teenagers who track down a culprit after they vandalized several cars by drawing lewd and inappropriate pictures on them. They are also trying to track a criminal by the name of “The Turd Burglar.” Made by and starring a fairly obscure cast of people, the series didn’t just make fun of others but provided compelling storytelling of its own.
3 Unbelievable (2019) – 98%
Stories and shows that involve rape and sexual assault can be challenging to write. For a writer, they have to ensure that they are being responsible and handling the subject with care as it is considered a sensitive topic. Based on the reviews of some viewers and critics, they have stated that Unbelievable is one of the few shows that manage to do just this.
The title of the series comes from the Pulitzer winning news article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” which was about a series of sex crimes that occurred in Washington and Colorado around 2010.
2 Master of None (2015) – 100%
Parks and Recreation ended more than 5 years ago in 2013, and its cast has spread out near and far to do many great things on their own. Chris Pratt has arguably enjoyed the most success as Star-Lord in the MCU, but his co-star Aziz Ansari isn’t doing too bad either.
In collaboration with Netflix and Parks and Recreation writer Alan Yang, he co-created the comedy-drama Master of None. Starring himself in the lead, the show based on Ansari’s own life experiences and is one of the best-rated series on the platform with a solid 100% rating.
1 The Queen’s Gambit (2020) – 100%
Every now and then, out of the hundreds of substandard projects they release, Netflix will manage to produce something that entirely distinguishes itself from everything else and takes the entertainment world by storm. Tiger King is a good example of this as everyone seemed infatuated with the show towards the beginning of 2020.
However, attention has now diverted to The Queen’s Gambit. Created by Logan screenwriter Scott Frank and starring Split actress Anya Taylor-Joy, this period-drama about a chess prodigy and her descent into a life of drug and alcohol abuse was a smashing hit with critics and fans on release.
NEXT: The Queen’s Gambit (& 9 Other Netflix Shows You Didn’t Know Were Adapted From Books)
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