The first thing everyone learns about Netflix is that there’s a lot of content – so how do you sort through and find the best shows on Netflix that are worth your time? We took a look at quality, popularity, availability, and – of course – if a show has a satisfactory ending, all combined to recommend some of the best Netflix content out there. Netflix has some of the best streaming in shows and movies, so a subscription will cover all your watching needs. If you’re looking for a movie for your next movie night, take a look at 24 of the best movies streaming on Netflix for 2013.
It’s no surprise, then, that our top choice was Breaking Bad. All seasons of the incredible drama are available on Netflix, making it the best and easiest place to watch Walter’s White’s incredible, gripping transformation across 62 episodes. There’s few other shows more worth watching all the way to the end! However, even if Breaking Bad isn’t your cup of tea, we have plenty of other picks across a variety of genres to try! If you want to watch one of these shows from the comfort of your own home, you’ll definitely also want to consider this list to find the best streaming device for your home.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: There are good reasons that Breaking Bad has been called the best TV ever and a gold standard for all dramas. The story follows the humble teacher Walter White as he turns into a meth kingpin to support his New Mexico family – but loses himself along the way. It’s full of humor, pathos, tragedy, and generally perfect television from beginning to end!
WHY WE LIKE IT: Netflix has a huge roster of animated shows with some truly excellent options, including some amazing original content that we’ll talk more about with some of our other picks. But nothing really comes close to Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show so good that its appearance on Netflix more than a decade after ending had it instantly pop to the top of Netflix’s 10 most viewed shows of the week. The three seasons follow the young Aang and his lovable gang of friends on a journey to help him master control of all four elements and end a century-long war.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Big Mouth is a lot of things: An animated comedy, a sex education course, an intimate exploration of puberty, and often a lovable mess. One of Netflix’s best adult animated originals, it follows a group of middle schoolers as puberty hits, and examines all the physical and emotional baggage that follows – with great detail. There’s a reason it’s one of the few shows Netflix has renewed for multiple seasons into the future.
WHY WE LIKE IT: This show is worth a watch solely for the production values, as the fantasy series uses full puppet animation (combined with top-notch voice actors) across its many races and creatures. Don’t worry, neither you nor your kids need to have seen the original 80s movie to fully enjoy this traditional fantasy romp through a world that badly needs saving.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The sort-of-satire has won acclaim for its deft, frequently funny take on race relations amongst the younger generations, following a group of Ivy League university students entering college in a culture that assumes it has no problems with racism – but isn’t exactly correct. You’ll laugh – and wince – a lot.
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was indeed a real phenomenon back in the day, but Netflix’s original series offers an incredible take on the idea, combining memorable characters with a bold look at dysfunction and dreams in the 1980s. You don’t have to like wrestling to love this drama, and you’ll find it’s just as lighthearted as it needs to be to deal with the frequently serious content.
WHY WE LIKE IT: A super-friendly reality TV content, this show follows a group of amateur bakers competing for 10 weeks to see who can make the best cake – and what that even means. It’s sweet, informative, has a whole bunch of seasons, and is generally the perfect watch when everything else feels a little too stressful and you just want to watch talented people have fun with cakes.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Easily one of the best horror shows of the decade, The Haunting of Hill House re-imagines the previous book and movies as a show that follows a family into a crumbling manor they remember from their childhood…including terrors that they had almost forgotten. It’s riveting TV for a horror fan, and probably not too scary for the average viewer who’s feeling bold. If you’re more in the mood for action, take a look at 30 of the best action movies streaming on Netflix.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Ever wonder where the term “serial killer” came from? Mindhunter follows a small team of FBI agents in the 1970s that are trying to uncover just why some people kill over and over again. In the process, they interview infamous serial killers, test out hypotheses, and confront their own shortcomings. You’ve never seen a show that’s as tense as this one – but while it can be a hard watch, it’s worth every heart-pounding second.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Narcos is an imaginative retelling of the true story of the 1980s effort to end cocaine trade from South America and take down the leading drug kingpins of the day, especially Pablo Escobar. Of course, nothing is ever easy, and the show moves smoothly from conflicts with the law, the police, the politicians, and the everyday people on the ground to show what it really takes to bring down a criminal.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Following the amazing Planet Earth releases, Netflix’s Our Planet uses the same teams (including David Attenborough) to explore a world of nature in a more modern context. All the beauty, wonder, and incredible secrets of the natural world can be found here, but the series also takes a look at the human impact on these things. It’s educational, beyond beautiful, and even a little challenging for its audience.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Starring Jason Bateman, this Netflix original is about a comfortable family that’s thrown into chaos when the father is forced to move them from Chicago to the rural Ozarks to try and launder millions in drug money – or face the consequences. It’s both riveting and well-paced, and Netflix appears to be invested in completing the full story.
WHY WE LIKE IT: This comedy, starring Amy Poehler, began as a clone of The Office but quickly became something else entirely, a bouncing and genius comedy exploring just how a team deals with a small town’s parks system – and, of course, each other. The show features some of comedy’s most well-known players, some of the best romances, and some of the most hilarious situations you can find, all mixed together in a lovable bundle.
WHY WE LIKE IT: It’s hard to explain Russian Doll without giving too much away, but it’s certainly worth the watch. Think of it as an especially wry version of Groundhog Day for millennials, set in NYC, and totally uncompromising when it comes to the challenges of everyday life. The story’s over in one brief season, so there’s no long commitment, and every minute is worth your time.
WHY WE LIKE IT: This quirky little show quickly became one of Netflix’s most-watched series, and it’s easy to see why: Sex Education takes place in a fictional English town where a young teen (Asa Butterfield) moonlights as an inexperienced sex therapist at his high school, while his mother (Gillian Anderson) tries to find her place in the adult world as a professional sex therapist at the same time. Sex ends up being more complicated than either of them anticipated, and hijinks ensue – although the show’s upbeat tone always hits the right note.
WHY WE LIKE IT: By far the most famous of Netflix’s original content, Stranger Things is the perfect blend of sci-fi, small-town mystery, psychic phenomena, and childhood friendship – plus a little horror for the Stephen King fans. If you haven’t already tried, do yourself a favor and get started now so you’ll be ready for the fourth season when it hits.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Tiger King is the perfect example of a trashy show that’s still fun to watch. It’s a zany murder-for-hire true story that takes place in the weird and rather disturbing world of (frequently illegal) big cat breeding and sales. The cast of characters is bonkers, the world they inhabit is both familiar and insane, and there are more episodes on the way, so feel free to binge.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Trollhunters is an inventive and brilliantly animated kid’s show about a young teen who discovers he’s the key to maintaining peace in a secret – and very magical – world of trolls living just under his pleasant town. It combines brilliant fantasy plots with high school struggles in a way that few young adult fiction works can, making it an easy recommendation for kids of many ages – and quite a few adults, too.
WHY WE LIKE IT: Sure, it’s a “superhero show” but that doesn’t really describe the intimate, fascinating, and often painful world of The Umbrella Academy. The show follows a group of characters who once lived together as childhood step-siblings learning to use various superpowers, and must now meet again many years later as broken adults, unsure of their places in the world and uncertain about saving it. It’s one of Netflix’s best, and there’s more on the way.
WHY WE LIKE IT: From earworm tunes to fierce fantasy battles, The Witcher became one of Netflix’s biggest hits almost overnight. Part of that was the Game of Thrones-like take on a gritty fantasy world. In addition to the fascinating coverage of elves, magic, and mercenaries that made the games and books before it such a hit. And part was simply that the show is easy to digest, and has memorable characters. Adults looking for a fantasy fix will find it here. Plus, season 2 is already confirmed which is another bonus!
We started by watching a lot of TV! Of course, opinions can be relative, so we also did a lot of research on reviews, ratings, recommendations, and what data Netflix has released about the shows that people like to watch. Good scores, lots of buzz, and star power certainly help! We also tried to pick a variety of shows to prevent getting stuck in one genre for too long.
We also paid particularly close attention to original content. The shows Netflix has from other networks can be watched in other ways, or caught live if you’re a particularly big fan. But Netflix’s original content can’t be found anywhere else, so it gets extra points for being worth the watch.
We also awarded more points for shows that are ongoing, or have satisfactory resolutions. After all, it’s great to start a high-quality new show, but very disappointing to find that show was canceled before it had time to end properly. If you’re looking for a movie for your next Netflix binge, take a look at 53 of the best movies streaming on Netflix for 2013.