Looking for your next binge watch? We’ve got you covered! Having scoured through it all, we’ve plucked out only the best TV shows on Netflix streaming currently. Now, our list is not going to cover the obvious classics like Breaking Bad or F.R.I.E.N.D.S. So we’ll spare you those. And this isn’t in any particular order, mind you.
1. Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)
Created by Dan Levy, this show follows the Rose family as they adapt to living in the tiny town of Schitt’s Creek after losing all their wealth. Over the course of the six seasons, we see the dysfunctional family learning to band together in times of adversity. The writing is sharp and gives all the characters proper arcs. As a result, even their little victories start to feel personal.
The show has now amassed a global following and even went on to sweep all the Emmys last year. But, the real success of the show is in managing to normalize same-sex relationships by creating a world filled with zero prejudice.
2. The Crown (2016-2020)
Gorgeously mounted, The Crown‘s premise is as lavish as its budget. It’s reportedly, the most expensive TV show ever made by Netflix. And it’s no surprise too. The production value is evident right from the start of the show. Nothing but pure television gold. With actors like Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Olivia Colman, Emma Corrin, this is one you’ll regret not watching. The first two seasons of this royal drama chart the rise of Queen Elizabeth II from princess to monarch alongside her husband Prince Philip. Olivia Colman’s act (who succeeds Claire Foy as the Queen in Season 3), takes a while to grow on you. The recently released Season 4 is brilliantly scripted. (Read The Crown review here)
3. The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
Set in the Cold War era, The Queen’s Gambit is a brilliantly crafted story of Beth Harmon who literally rises from the ashes of death and abandonment to become the world chess champion. Played exceptionally, and without much display of external emotion or histrionics, by the supremely talented Anya Taylor-Joy, twenty-four-year-old American-Argentinian-British actor.
The miniseries is based on a 1983 eponymous novel by Walter Tevis, and while we would love it to be a true story and Beth is endearing as a person and in command as a performer, she is a fictitious character and some would say that it makes sense because she maybe too good to be true.
The series is directed by two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter, Scott Frank, and the story moves at a gripping pace, so much so that one overlooks some of its predictable outcomes. Shows like these restore one’s faith in the power of cinema to elevate life. You don’t need to be a chess aficionado to love this.
4. Ratched (2020)
This rather dark show is bound to evoke mixed feelings in its captive audience and critics, but let it be said that as a piece of cinematic art, it is beautifully constructed. Superlative in its art design, it is dangerously creative, its sheer beauty like a dose of slow poison, drawing you in gently and choking, choking, choking…and snap, there you go! Clearly, Ratched is not everyone’s cup of tea.
The character Nurse Ratched is inspired from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sarah Paulson does a role of her lifetime but am not sure if this series can be billed as a prequel to the film. Another brilliant performance is by talented Sophie Okonedo as a character with dissociative identity disorder. She is an unpredictable force to reckon with. Sharon Stone also delivers an authoritative performance as an eccentric heiress with a pet monkey, hungering for a decapitated head.
Developed by Ryan Murphy, Ratched is designed to fully explode in two seasons. Wonder what the next season has in store for the unsuspecting viewer!
5. Designated Survivor (2019)
I can understand why the IMDb rating is not really stratospheric but the series deserves better than that. It’s an implausibility-riddled storyline alright, can seem a bit stretched or simplistic at times, what with nuclear bomb threats, bio-terrorism, mole in the Oval Office, counter espionage et al but it keeps you enthralled by the sheer intelligence of its made-for-political-melodrama script and the energy of its performers. The series unfolds at a rapid pace and I find most of its 53 episodes engaging.
However, the clincher for me is the totally-in-command performance of Kiefer Sutherland who puts his tentativeness behind him and grows into the skin of the President, day after unrelenting day. Maggie Q as an FBI/CIA agent is top class, albeit more than a superwoman than an intelligence operative.
6. Anne With An E (2017)
Ann With An E is based on Anne of Green Gables, a 1908 novel by Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. The book, a progressive work in that age, is considered a classic children’s novel. It is, indeed, a heartwarming tale of a young girl using her imagination, intelligence and emotional maturity to surmount the odds that come her way and emerge as an icon of sorts for her peers.
Amybeth McNulty as Anne Shirley Cuthbert is such a delight. Immensely gifted, she brings alive the lead protagonist and literally gets into the skin of her character. A natural blonde, she dyed her hair red for this role. I also loved the veteran British actor, Geraldine James, who plays her foster mother, Marilla.
7. Memories of the Alhambra (2018)
The ultra-cool K-drama is a fascinating blend of high technology and medieval jousting. Truly one-of-its-kind, it takes augmented reality and situates it in the real world, a product of deviance and distortion, making the boundaries blur between what’s virtual and what’s real. There are bugs in the game and therein lies the tale. One of undying revenge and compulsive violence, where death is the only gratification. There’s a beautiful romantic entanglement between the two lead protagonists (both great actors) and that adds a warm, endearing touch to the otherwise murky, magical-surrealistic proceedings.
What if, one day, augmented reality creeps into the skin of reality and becomes her? That is the question this top class series from Seoul asks and it’s worth delving into.
8. Into The Night (2020)
I won’t call this Belgian series (a first for me) a must watch apocalyptic drama but it picks up after the initial stage-setting episodes and is an engaging watch. Based on a hypertext novel called The Old Axolotl by Polish sci-fi writer Jacek Dukaj, the series is about a group of survivors running away from a diabolical sun that is set to destroy the world. You are safe as long as you don’t allow sun rays to reach you. Interesting though implausible plot that makes for a contextually relevant viewing in the current times. Also, each character has a nuanced backstory.
Will humanity outrun the sun? Will it survive? How? Some of these questions will hopefully be answered in season 2, if it’s made. Do check it out.
9. Outlander (2014-present)
This show is one of my top favourites. Its S5 finale aired yesterday and what a piece of cinematic brilliance it was. Irish actor Caitriona Balfe as time-travelling Claire Fraser is absolutely stunning and her acting prowess leaves you spellbound. And Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser for whom she goes back two hundred years in time, is a class act. Season 6 has been already commissioned and I hope we get to see it sometime in 2021.
If you haven’t seen Outlander yet, drop everything and watch it for its magnificent stories (based on Diana Gabaldon’s books), superlative acting and the sheer expanse of its canvas.
10. Caliphate (2020)
Created by Wilhelm Behrman, this is a hauntingly powerful series about how ISIS radicalises innocent Muslim youth in Sweden and unleashes its politics of terror. The story moves between Stockholm and Raqqa (in Syria), is fast-paced and has an authentic feel to it. Women in Raqqa live but as men’s shadows, and men are trained to be killers and martyrs in the name of an ever merciful God. Life in paradise! The story is told from women’s perspective: at once fragile, naive, flawed and abused, at once resilient, strong and heroic. Shot in Stockholm and Jordan, the terrain is no-fuss, minimal, bleak by design and adds to the tempo.
Swedish actor Gizem Erdogan as Pervin pulls off a class act. Even in the most trying circumstances, Gizem is restrained and composed, and brings great dignity to her portrayal of a woman dehumanised by the ISIS’ perverse and primitive code. They could debase but not diminish her.
Can’t wait to watch Season 2.
11. Fauda (2015-2020)
While this counterterrorism thriller is told from the perspective of Israel, its narrative is gripping and it unfolds at a rapid pace. The human stories that punctuate the largely spying-surveillance-surprise-neutralise structure elevate this Israeli drama to a different level.
The West Bank is real and it comes alive. The Israeli occupation is real but it doesn’t come alive. The Resistance is real and violent, Palestinian aspirations are real too and could have been dealt with some nuance and understanding but Israel’s insecurities are understandable. This is reportage from a war zone where terms of engagement are based on Darwinian survival. Politics and national identity issues apart, Fauda has many people story strands that are endearing and equally heartbreaking.
The Territories are real and so is oppression, terrorism and tragedies. This ain’t a violence-ridden computer game. People are dying every day. From this blood-soaked chaos must arise a legitimate solution for a legitimate people. That is the hope of a saner world. Gaza is dying for peace.
Do watch Fauda. It’s a class act.
12. Unorthodox (2020)
A Hasidic Jewish young woman, nineteen and pregnant, flees her home, her husband and her community’s stifling Williamsburg ghetto in New York and arrives in Berlin with nothing much but determination to breathe in the air of freedom and make something of her life.
Inspired by a true story (Deborah Feldman’s autobiography Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots), this limited series explores the constricting mores of one of the most conservative religious sects in the world (present-day Hasidism is a sub-group within Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and is noted for its conservatism and social seclusion) and one young woman’s ‘scandalous rejection’ of their debilitating and obscurantist beliefs.
Well played by the talented Israeli actor, Shira Haas, who literally diminishes herself to live up to the demands of this challenging role. Highly recommended!
13. Rise of Empires: Ottoman (2020)
This is a highly engaging Turkish docudrama about the conquest of Constantinople, the famed capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, by the young and audacious Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 when previous 23 attempts had failed and the magnificent city remained unvanquished for about 1100 years. Mehmed II was ‘the conqueror’ par excellence and a poet (though this limited series doesn’t show his poetic inclinations, focussing entirely on the fall of Constantinople) who left a classical diwan poetry collection.
Truly fascinating story, beautifully recreated and shot.
14. Virgin River (2019)
Imagine an idyllic small town with a virgin river and stunning mountains somewhere in Northern California. Imagine a beautiful and accomplished nurse from Los Angeles escaping to this town to reset her life. Imagine the local watering hole and its handsome owner with a troubling marine past. And what you have is a pristine romance that brews on a slow fire and is relatable and endearing.
After the blood and gore of myriad crime dramas and thrillers, it is refreshing to come across this good, old-fashioned romance set in a place where life is unhurried and relaxed. Both the lead protagonists are sterling actors. Alexandra Breckenridge is charming and talented and Martin Henderson is dishy and intense.
The series is based on Robyn Carr’s critically acclaimed Virgin River novels. Imagine she has written 21 of those gems! If you have a thing for romance, like me, go for it.
15. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
I am not a huge fan of horror or paranormal drama but this Netflix’s new original series is so intelligently scripted and so imaginatively executed that you begin to wonder at the prowess of human ingenuity. The Haunting of Hill House is a terrifying and intellectual journey into how the past coalesces with the present, and invariably seeps into our consciousness to determine who we are today.
The show has genuinely scary moments, and does a great job of balancing the psychological with the supernatural. It also imbibes a great technique of revisiting certain moments and presenting them with greater clarity. The result is that we embark upon both a mental and emotional journey, which is equally draining as it is cathartic.
16. Black Mirror (2011-2019)
This was a bit of a risk by Channel 4 when it first started out, but this dystopian-ish TV show set in an alternate reality, or in the future (your pick) got fans’ attention right away. Netflix stepped in after the mind-boggling success of the show and it’s been a huge hit ever since.
It’s ironic in a way. For a show that portrays a reality where technology has taken over, the audience can’t seem to get their eyes off the screen. Season 5 of the show released earlier this month, with brilliant episodes and stories, starring big names like Anthony Mackie, Andrew Scott and Miley Cyrus. There isn’t really any order for any episode of Black Mirror, so you can just start anywhere.
17. Stranger Things (2016-2019)
Stranger Thingswas the heavily-1980s induced horror TV series we never knew we needed. This show following four oddball kids, a telepathic girl, a cop and a couple of teenagers is packed with heart, quality, laughs and an AMAZING soundtrack. For the first time in 3 decades, the 80s are in now.
Season 3 is now out, so it’s all the more excuse to catch up on the show if you already haven’t. Go for it!
18. When They See Us (2019)
A brutal re-telling of the Central Park Five case which ocurred in 1989, which saw five black and Hispanic teens wrongfully convicted of a rape that took place in New York City in 1989. The show pulls no punches whatsoever, and gives it to us straight. The miseries spans 4 episodes, which goes through the entire case, from interrogations to convictions, which leads to a heartbreaking ending.
When They See Us has been one of the gems of 2019, and it merits a watch. It’s set itself solidly in the race when awards season begins. Don’t miss this one.
19. Peaky Blinders (2013-2019)
This show deserves more recognition. Honestly, it’s absolutely criminal that not a lot of people haven’t heard about this show. Starring Cillian Murphy, this show has received critical acclaim as well as praise from all around the world. Even world renowned actors like Tom Cruise has sung its praises. But why hasn’t it been even nominated for an Emmy?
This 1920s gang based in Birmingham has some absolutely brilliant actors, beautiful cinematography, kickass soundtrack and an amazing plot. What more can you ask for? Whilst Peaky Blinders is yet to win an Emmy, you can help by checking out this absolutely wonderful show. Go ahead, treat yourself.
20. Mindhunter (2017-2019)
David Fincher‘s transition to the small screen was triumphant, with his gloomy serial killer drama. This show is not for the faint-hearted, I’ll say that. But the slow-burning thriller which leaves fans intrigued was enough to get a renewal for a second season.
A true story, based on a book of the same name, it stars FBI Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and his slightly more rough-and-tough partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), interviewing the world’s most famous and twisted serial killers. It gives the FBI Agents and the audience some insight into the mind of a serial killer, making us wonder why they do what they do. (Read Mindhunter review here).
21. Sex Education (2019-2020)
Starring Asa Butterfield, Emma Mackey, Gillian Anderson and Ncuti Gatwa, Sex Education offers a funny, hormone-loaded and touching (no pun intended) series about the struggles of adolescent life.
This stage in life, this part of life – adolescence – is overlooked or shielded by most parents. But Sex Education tells the story as it is; holding nothing back, in a heartwarming, tender comedy that both adults and teens would enjoy watching.
“Own your narrative.” If there’s something I’m taking away from Sex Education, it’s going to be this. Read: Sex Education Season 1 Review here).
22. Dark (2017)
Netflix’s first German language original series, Dark is remarkably binge-worthy. Unfurling at a unique pace of its own, the show traverses along existential lines and explores similar themes of time and its stronghold on human nature. Combining genres like the sci-fi and the murder mystery into one fold, the show does more than just that. Following the kidnapping of a child and the eventual unraveling of his family secrets, the show is compellingly executed. Along with atmospherically foreboding soundtrack, it has a reserved colour palette and tone to match the bleak world of the story. Garnering nearly the same response from critics and viewers alike, the show is currently at 8.8 IMDb rating. With sinister happenings lurking around throughout the plot, it creates an edge-of-the-seat experience for its audiences.
23. Russian Doll (2019)
Nadia is on her way to a birthday party in her honour, held in New York City. But in the process, she ends up attending the party, dying and then waking up on the morning of the very same day, completely unharmed. This goes on and on, with her dying every single time at the end of that night.
This show is different. It’s something you’ve never seen before. The concept was risky, daring and in the end, amazing. You won’t regret watching this one.
24. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-2019)
This show is amazing. Pure satisfaction and pleasure (Title of your sex tape). It’s so silly, yet it’s so sharp at the same time. This sitcom set in a New York precinct in Brooklyn stars Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta as well as other colourful, memorable characters.
I’ll level with you though. Jake is great and all, but Andre Braugher as Captain Holt is the real MVP here. Go ahead, add this one to the list, and by the time you’re caught up, you’ll be screaming, “NINE NINE!”
25. Mad Men (2007-2015)
Now I said I wouldn’t add any classic TV shows. But from my experience with a lot of people, no one has ever heard of Don Draper or of Mad Men. This baffles me, to be honest. One of the greatest shows ever made, and no one’s heard of it.
The drama is slow-burning, which would bore people who prefer faster paced shows. But this show, based on Madison Avenue Ad agency in the 1950s and 60s and its leading creative man Don Draper, a man with a mysterious past, is one of television’s hallmarks. Give the show time, and I assure you, you will not regret it.
26. Godless (2017)
Last but not the least, watch Godless for the widow-warriors of La Belle who rose against a cabal of brutal murderers in a Godless country. In parts, this limited series creates memorable and cult-inspiring compositions. Too good to be missed.
There we are! These are some of the best TV shows on Netflix streaming right now. What are you binge-watching? Let’s talk in the comments below.
By Aditya Sarma, Sanjay Trehan, Soven Trehan, Shreyas D.S.