Netflix might be facing increasing competition from a growing number of quality shows offered on other streaming services, but it continues to deliver exciting shows of its own across every genre. From dramas to thrillers, documentaries to sitcoms, shows that were surprise hits to ones that are finally coming to an end, there was so much to watch on Netflix this year.
Which were the best shows? They feature high-profile actors like Aaron Paul, Keri Russell, and Michael Cera, as well as relative newcomers like Gabriel Basso. They include a docuseries, gothic horror film, dystopian speculative fiction, and a political thriller, among others. If you haven’t yet watched any of these eight shows, they’re all worth your time. Once you work your way through these series, check out the best shows on Netflix.
It’s the end of an era for The Crown, with the predetermined six-season run coming to an end. Delivered in two parts, the sixth season of the historical drama about the Royal Family and the reign of Queen Elizabeth II covers the time period between 1997 and 2005. The most pivotal moments depicted include Princess Diana’s romance with Dodi Fayed, as well as her tragic death. There’s also Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s budding relationship and Prince Charles’ (now King Charles’ wedding to Camilla.
It’s a bittersweet end to the series that has been lauded for its costumes, acting, writing, and more. The Crown is one of those shows that even people who aren’t fans of the Royal Family find fascinating. While season 6 doesn’t cover some of the more recent events, including Prince Harry stepping down and leaving England and the death of Queen Elizabeth II, it remains one of the best TV shows of the 21st Century.
Stream The Crown on Netflix.
The Diplomat marks Keri Russell’s return to the small screen. In the political thriller that’s like The West Wing meets The Night Agent, she plays Kate Wyler, a career diplomat who is suddenly thrust into a position of higher power after being asked to work as U.S. ambassador to the U.K. There’s an international crisis and the president and his staff believe she’s the best person for the job.
The series is heavy on complex dialogue as Kate navigates challenges in this new position, including learning that there are even bigger plans for her. Her husband Hal, brilliantly played by Rufus Sewell, is a former U.S. ambassador who has rubbed some people the wrong way. He tries to remain at arm’s length while his wife shines, but it’s not so easy for the man who is used to calling the shots. Created by Debora Cahn, who previously worked as a writer and producer on The West Wing, The Diplomat is a fast-paced, politically charged story. Sure, the story takes liberties compared to what could happen during a real-life geopolitical crisis, but the characters and shocking twists have made it a hit.
Stream The Diplomat on Netflix.
A delicious guilty pleasure, YOU has taken serial killer Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) in so many directions through its first few seasons. The fourth season moves the story all the way to London, where Joe has assumed a new identity and secured a job as an English professor at a prestigious school. He has even made some high-society friends, despite his distaste for their way of life, materialistic attitude, and lack of academic and, in his eyes, even basic intelligence.
Seeing Joe’s sadistic need to control and obsess over someone or something new plays out beautifully in the latest season. The massive twists and turns, delivered in two parts released one month apart, increased the intensity when it first premiered. Season 5 of YOU, which will arrive in 2024, has been confirmed to be the show’s last.
Stream YOU on Netflix.
One of the biggest surprise hits of the year, The Night Agent could have been just another run-of-the-mill action thriller amid a cookie-cutter selection of them. But something about the show, as corny as it is at times, really stood out for viewers. Gabriel Basso is Peter, an FBI agent who has secured a job at the White House working as a Night Action telephone operator. It sounds glamorous except there’s never really any action. He sits in a dark room night after night pushing papers for his entire shift, hoping that one day the phone might actually ring. And one day, it finally happens. On the other end is a terrified young woman named Rose, whose aunt and uncle have been hunted down and killed, and she fears the assassin is after her, too.
Such begins a complicated plot whereby Peter and Rose (Luciane Buchanan), who also happens to be a cybersecurity entrepreneur, uncover a government conspiracy. Who can they trust and can they come out of it alive? There are so many layers to the story in The Night Agent, yet it’s still an easy to follow, sometimes even melodramatic story that will keep you guessing. It’s the type of show you’ll find almost impossible not to watch in a single sitting.
Stream The Night Agent on Netflix. For similar shows like it, check out 10 TV shows like The Night Agent you need to watch.
Launched right at the end of the year, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is exactly what fans of the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the graphic novels series by Lee O’Malley have been waiting for. The animated series lived up to the hype and expectations, receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews. It’s an alternate retelling of the events from both the books and the 2010 movie. The core premise remains the same: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, Finn Wolfhard as a teen, and Will Forte as an older version) is a member of an indie band who falls for the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But before he can date her, he must battle and defeat her seven evil exes. In this interpretation, Scott loses the first battle. Ramona, however, later learns that he might actually still be alive and is determined to find out what happened to him. The lives of each of her exes, meanwhile, changs drastically because of these events.
What makes Scott Pilgrim Takes Off strike a chord with die-hard fans of the cult classic is the fact that most of the original cast members returned to reprise their roles in voice form, adding a layer of authenticity to the story. The show has been praised for having the same heart and wit as the movie without simply replicating the same story in animated form. There’s a new twist and fans are loving it. For fans of the original who were kids when Scott Pilgrim vs. the World came out in 2010, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off will take you right back there.
Stream Scott Pilgrim Takes Off on Netflix.
It seems like every week, there’s a new celebrity docuseries coming out on one streaming service or another. But somehow, Beckham struck a particular chord. It was all everyone could talk about when it was released. What’s most intriguing is that the docuseries appeals to not only English football and David Beckham fans, but just about anyone. Even if you didn’t know who Beckham was before watching, you’ll find him surprisingly down to earth and relatable. Those who didn’t realize the hate and vitriol that Beckham faced from his home country back in the day following a single mistake will be shocked to learn about it. More impressive, however, is his resilience and strength despite these challenges.
There aren’t any juicy or salacious reveals, nor scandals that serve as a focal point of the series: his alleged affairs are discussed with both he and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, only briefly. But it doesn’t matter. At its core, Beckham is a raw, honest look at a man’s passion for football, as well as his life story, tremendous career drive, and focus on being a good family man, husband, and father. You might currently view him as just another athlete and she as just another faded pop star. But this docuseries will make you see both of them in a completely differently light.
Stream Beckham on Netflix.
Steven Yuen and Ali Wong are more than capable of leading a show, as both prove with captivating performances in this multi-Emmy-winning comedy-drama. They play two angry people who get involved in a road rage incident that quickly becomes an obsession for revenge. Beef received 13 Primetime Emmy nominations and won 8, including Wong and Yuen for Best Actress and Actor, respectively, as well as Best Limited or Anthology series.
Despite being a comedy, Beef is a touching, emotionally charged story about two people in bad places in their lives who take it out on one another, a heavily exaggerated version of a situation so many know all too well. Neither character is a particularly good person, but they’re trying to be…sort of. Beef is a cautionary tale about letting pettiness get the best of you. The ending will leave you sympathizing with two characters you likely loathed the entire way through.
Stream Beef on Netflix.
It was a long four-year wait for fans to finally get a sixth season of Black Mirror. Netflix took over the series from British network Channel 4 from season 3 onward. The streaming service delivered incredible episodes and stories that kept fans excited, though a few weren’t as popular as others. The same is true for the long-awaited sixth season, but the most thought-provoking episodes more than make up for the lackluster ones.
The standout is Beyond the Sea, the third episode that stars Aaron Paul, Josh Hartnett, and Kata Mara. It’s a chilling story about two astronauts working thousands of miles away on a ship. During off hours, their consciousnesses travel home in artificial replicas to spend time with their families. It’s emotionally draining, heart-wrenching, and beautifully acted. The other four episodes in the season range from must-watch to not bad. But carried by the weight of its strongest episodes, Black Mirror easily makes the cut for this list.
Stream Black Mirror on Netflix.
This gothic horror drama miniseries has the potential to be the next American Horror Story. It’s loosely based on stories from Edgar Allan Poe, but interestingly, connects fictional characters he created through his works into a singular narrative. At its heart is Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood and Zach Gilford), CEO of a corrupt pharmaceutical company, and his twin sister, Madeline (Mary McDonnell, Willa Fitzgerald), who works as COO. When all six of Roderick’s children wind up dead, it’s clear that something suspicious is going on. Carla Gugino plays Verna, a woman from twins’ past who can take on many different forms, most notably, a raven.
Receiving positive reviews across the board, The Fall of the House of Usher is a unique spin on 19th-century classics, told through a dark lens on the small screen. Perfect for fans of both horror and allegorical stories, it’s an intelligent and deeply creative show.
Stream The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix.