The 50 best shows on netflix
Scrolling through Netflix can be an arduous task - especially when shows you’ve never even heard of pop up. The problem with television is that there’s just too much choice. Luckily for you, we’ve sifted through UK Netflix, sorting the good from the bad to deliver the 50 programmes you really should be watching. (Or, let’s be honest, bingeing.) A mixture of BBC classics, Netflix Originals, foreign hits and soon-to-be cult favourites, here’s - in no particular order - the very best that UK Netflix has to offer.
1. Fargo (Season 1)
Martin Freeman leaves office staplers and Gandalf’s eagles far behind as he heads into the snowy Minnesotan plains. Noah Hawley’s FX show breathes new life into the Coens’ film, taking you down the expected retread route before severely twisting it on its head. Season 2 may not yet be available on UK Netflix, but don’t let that put you off: Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton have never been better.
2. Daredevil (Season 1)
Blind, mild-mannered Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) doesn’t scream ‘superhero’, but Netflix’s 13-part first season sure turned him into one. Series creator Drew Goddard balances The Man With No Fear’s backstory and present day struggles with ease, even finding room for a bit of humour and romance - though we’re pretty sure this is the only superhero story involving a meet cute in a dumpster. Season 2 hits on March 18.
3. BoJack Horseman (Seasons 1-2)
Will Arnett lends his vocal talents to this darkly comic look at the life of disenchanted actor-slash-horse, BoJack. It’s quirky, colourful (the trippy titles are evidence enough) and meta as they come, but the further you progress, the more tragic BoJack’s longing for the limelight becomes. You might find BoJack difficult to get on with at first, but stick with it - we promise it’s worth it.
4. Top Of The Lake (Series 1)
When pregnant 12-year-old Tui (Jacqueline Joe) tries to kill herself, Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) returns to her New Zealand home to discover why Tui disappeared soon after her suicide attempt. Jane Campion’s Kiwi mystery won Moss a Golden Globe as the woman who finds herself linked to the troubled young girl in more ways than one. The always excellent Peter Mullan also turns up amidst the weirdness.
5. Luther (Series 1-3)
Idris Elba is the titular detective chief inspector, sharing a lot of blood with Sherlock (more on him later…) in this BBC drama. There may currently be more television crime experts than you can shake a stick at, but this murder detective is slicker (and more violent) than your average. Warning: may contain shock character deaths a la Game Of Thrones.
6. Archer (Seasons 1-6)
Constant quoting and uncontrollable fits of laughter are just two of the things you’ll blame FX’s Archer for - but you’ll be very glad it exists. Following the antics of Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and his International Secret Intelligence Service (aka ‘ISIS’, swiftly dropped in Season 6) coworkers, this adult animation boasts in-joke payoffs like no other. The stellar voice cast includes Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler and Jessica Walter as alcoholic boss - and mother - Malory Archer.
7. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (Seasons 1-10)
Paddy’s Pub is owned by ‘The Gang’: essentially four friends and Danny DeVito. And by ‘friends’ we mean a group of people who inflict pain and hardship on each other just because they can. If you’re after short, sharp bursts of alcohol-infused, televised anarchy, It’s Always Sunny is undeniably the one for you.
8. Fawlty Towers (Complete Series 1-2)
John Cleese and Connie Booth wrote and starred in the biggest farce to ever hit Torquay. With Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs also onboard, Fawlty Towers became one of the BBC’s biggest ever hits. (Just don’t order the Waldorf salad.)
9. The Thick Of It (Complete Series 1-4)
“I’d love to stop and chat to you but I’d rather have Type 2 diabetes” - and that’s pretty much the only quote from Malcolm Tucker we can write without censorship... Peter Capaldi may have swapped swears for the keys to the TARDIS, but his profanity-spewing policy enforcer is his crowning glory.
10. Better Call Saul (Seasons 1-2)
Long before Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) crossed paths with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, he was struggling lawyer James McGill. Saul’s slow burn nature may not sit quite right with new viewers, so we heartily recommend working your way through all five seasons of Breaking Bad first. The pleasure in this prequel is revisiting characters (hello Mike Ehrmantraut) we’d always wanted more backstory on.
11. American Horror Story (Seasons 1-4)
Another series, another spooky story. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s horror anthology (a far cry from your previous work on Glee, boys…) features a repertory cast including Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Angela Bassett. Murder House, Asylum, Coven and Freak Show - aka Seasons 1-4 - are available on UK Netflix if you think you’re brave enough.
12. Orange Is The New Black (Seasons 1-3)
When Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) finds herself behind bars for a crime she committed a decade earlier, her life becomes a messy merry-go-round of exes, current fiancés and trying to avoid becoming a prison wife. Based on the real Piper’s memoirs, a diverse cast transform this quick-witted comedy drama into essential viewing. As for the standouts amongst the inmates? It’s a tough one, but Uzo Aduba’s Crazy Eyes, Samira Wiley’s Poussey and Yael Stone’s Lorna Morello are right up there. Season 4 arrives in June, with two more already slated to follow.
13. House Of Cards (UK) (Complete Series 1-3)
You all know about the Kevin Spacey/Robin Wright House Of Cards, but what of the original British series also based on Michael Dobbs’ book? Another Francis - this time Urquhart - sees an opportunity when Margaret Thatcher resigns as Conservative leader. You know the rest: it’s diabolical schemes a go-go as the chief whip attempts to climb the ranks. Tautly-told, this 12-parter doesn’t face the Netflix Original’s problems of being renewed without an obvious end in sight.
14. The Killing (Denmark) (Series 1-2)
Before it was inevitably remade for US screens, Forbrydelsen (aka ‘The Crime’) ran from 2007-2012. The Danish original kicks off with the same premise: a young girl gets murdered and a huge case of ‘whodunnit’ unfolds. The closest the UK have come to gripping the nation with the mystery of Nanna Birk Larsen? It would have to be Broadchurch. The Killing does it even better.
15. Peaky Blinders (Series 1)
The infamous Northern gang are the focus of Steven Locke Knight’s post-Great War drama. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy with a perfect Brummie twang) is the cool but deadly leader of the pack, crossing paths with the police and Winston Churchill on his rise to notoriety. Drawing comparisons to Boardwalk Empire, Series 2 ramped up its star wattage by adding Tom Hardy and Noah Taylor into the mix.
16. The Good Wife (Seasons 1-6)
Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) world is rocked when her politician husband (played by Chris Noth) finds himself behind bars following a scandalous sex and corruption one-two punch. Forced to return to work after years with her children, Florrick hits the courtroom with a vengeance, returning as a litigator. If you’re after another guilty pleasure to suck you in, Scandal-like, look no further.
17. Line Of Duty (Series 1-2)
Series 1 dealt with corruption within the force. Series 2 dealt with an attack on the force. Combined, the separate threads secured this drama as one of BBC Two’s best shows of all time, with Gina McKee, Lennie James, Keeley Hawes and Neil Morrissey each bringing their A-games. With Series 3 due to start shooting this year, you’ll want to jump on the bandwagon now.
18. Sherlock (Series 1-3)
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have caused the internet to go into meltdown multiples times since Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Conan Doyle reimagining hit our screens back in 2010. Full of modern day touches (Holmes wears nicotine patches and uses GPS; Watson served in Afghanistan), Cumberbatch’s character is still very much of a Victorian nature - and still very much a user. If the idea of venturing into 221B Baker Street has never appealed to you, this Beeb version might just be the ticket.
19. Arrested Development (Seasons 1-4)
Seasons 1-3 of Arrested Development may just be the funniest thing ever created: Will Arnett as an egomaniac magician, Liza Minnelli as a vertigo-suffering neighbour, and David Cross spending the majority of Season 3 pretending to be ‘Mrs. Featherbottom’. And that barely scratches the surface of this dysfunctional family comedy that swaps a laughter track for a Ron Howard narration. Netflix-only Season 4 was a difficult slog for many, so fingers crossed that the proposed fifth season returns us to the glory days.
20. Sons Of Anarchy (Complete Seasons 1-7)
First rule of SAMCRO? You don’t talk about SAMCRO. Actually, that’s not true, although you definitely don’t want to bad mouth the members of the Sons Of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original to their faces. Or to their mums' faces, for that matter. Charlie Hunnam’s Jax is the main focus, struggling with his responsibilities to his Hells Angels-esque clan and new baby in this hard-hitting, high intensity, who's-going-to-die-next crime saga.
21. Jessica Jones (Season 1)
We’ve already mentioned The Man With No Fear. Now it’s time for The Girl Who Will Join Him In The Defenders, aka Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). It may have a lighter colour palette, but Jones deals with much darker material: rape, PTSD, and being in a controlling relationship with a positively bonkers David Tennant. Jones spends most of her time as a private investigator trying to escape her superhero past, but the sparks really fly when Ritter gets fighty with love interest and man of steel, Luke Cage (Mike Colter).
22. Damages (Complete Seasons 1-5)
Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) finds the perfect job as protégée of lawyer extraordinaire, Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). But boy, does her placement make a week’s work experience with Malcolm Tucker look like a walk in the park. Delivered by some of the guys behind The Sopranos, you know this isn’t going to be short on drama. And upping the drama ante? Arcs from John Goodman, Ted Danson and Marcia Gay Harden.
23. Battlestar Galactica (Complete Seasons 1-4)
This continuation from the 2003 miniseries deals with the survivors of a Cylon (much more than your average robots) attack and their journey to find another colony. Sounds boring and unoriginal. Definitely isn’t. A remake of the 1978 show, this earned its place on Time’s 100 Best TV Shows Of All Time list for good reason: a stellar crew, raging political conflict, and for simply being one of the best sci-fi shows ever made.
24. Planet Earth/The Blue Planet/Human Planet/Frozen Planet (Complete Series)
A large chunk of BBC documentaries and original programming are available on Netflix UK, but few come close to this quartet. Whether it’s the sea, the sky, or the icy arctic tundra, when it comes to David Attenborough, we don’t need to give a reason.
25. Sense8 (Season 1)
Eight unrelated strangers find themselves inexplicably linked in this Netflix Original from the Wachowskis. Taking on each other’s languages, fighting skills, and, at times, lovers, these interlinked bodies work together to find an answer to their sudden psychic link. Featuring a sexually, racially, and culturally diverse cast, you’ll be longing to be reunited with the core ensemble once the first 12 episodes are through. Lucky, then, that Season 2 is on its way.
26. The Office (UK) (Complete Series 1-2 and Christmas Specials)
Slough’s Wernham Hogg paper merchants needs to downsize, but management have different thoughts on how they want to approach the matter. Mockumentary at its finest, The Office made stars of Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman, with seven other versions created in its wake. If you haven’t already seen it - or simply fancy a rewatch - the complete series and Christmas specials are ready and waiting. You bring the stapler, we’ll bring the jelly.
27. That Mitchell And Webb Look (Series 1-3)
“Thaaat’s numberwang!” Whilst David Mitchell and Robert Webb were busy making Peep Show, they also found time to deliver radio and television sketches. The first three series of the latter can be found on UK Netflix. Olivia Colman and Paterson ‘Johnson’ Joseph pop up, with The Surprising Adventures Of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and The Helivets just some of the brilliantly-named sketches on offer.
28. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp (Season 1)
If you haven’t seen David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer, well, we’ll eat our own tent if First Day Of Camp makes a lick of sense. A prequel to the events of the 2001 film, this reunites us with the campers of Camp Firewood - still teenagers 15 years on - and a whole host of new, famous faces (hello Lake Bell, Kristen Wiig and a bunch of amazing cameos we don’t want to ruin). It’s honestly worth it just for Paul Rudd’s mopey alpha teen, Andy.
29. Firefly (Complete Season 1)
Joss Whedon’s space Western set in the future: eight words that are music to our ears. Set in 2517 on the spaceship Serenity (the name of the 2005 film continuation), the show only lasted one season, but has gained cult status and legions of fans. Whedon favourites Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk and Summer Glau can all be found onboard the good ship Serenity.
30. The Trip (Series 1-2)
Impressions, impressions and more impressions are order of the day in Michael Winterbottom’s sitcom. Playing fictional versions of themselves, Rob Brydon heads off on a gourmet tour of England’s restaurants in place of Steve Coogan’s now ‘ex’ girlfriend. Series 2 sees them head to Italy, but the laughs and bittersweet realisations still come thick and fast. As for Series 3? It films in Spain later this year.
31. Master Of None (Season 1)
New York City life sure has its obstacles for 30-year-old actor, Dev (Aziz Ansari). Post-Parks And Recreation, the comedian continues to dominate the small screen, this time in the self-penned Netflix Original. Real life situations are given a comic spin (Ansari’s parents roped in to play his fictional ma and pa) as Dev navigates romance, stereotypical casting and death.
32. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Seasons 1-2)
Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and friends take police rivalry to the next level in the hopes that Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) might just crack a teeny tiny smile in this hilarious cop comedy. Serious bromances and office roleplay prevent the gang from doing much actual work, though when they do, they’re pretty good at it. There are guest stars aplenty, but it’s Terry Crews’ sensitive tough guy who steals the show.
33. Extras (Complete Series 1-2 and Christmas Special)
Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) and Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen) serve as our thesp guides during this mock, behind-the-scenes peek at the extras industry - but whether their friendship will survive sudden fame is another matter entirely. Very funny, yet very bittersweet, Gervais employed a bunch of his movieland friends for Extras, including Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, and the late, great David Bowie.
34. Breaking Bad (Complete Seasons 1-5)
Are you familiar with the one who knocks? Have you ever wished someone an A1 day? If not, you need to start Breaking Bad immediately. It may seem like an irrational decision to start selling meth after a terminal cancer diagnosis, but Walter White (Bryan Cranston) takes to it like a pro. Assisted by unruly former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walter spirals into darker territory with each passing season. So addictive it should be illegal.
35. Trailer Park Boys (Seasons 1-9)
This comic mockumentary’s premise is simple: three Nova Scotian trailer park residents’ questionable get rich quick schemes never go to plan. But not for lack of trying. Ricky (Robb Wells) and Julian (John Paul Tremblay, drink always in hand) spend most of the show in and out of jail, with poor, gullible sidekick Bubbles (Mike Smith) along for the ride. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Ellen Page amongst the quirky ensemble.
36. Blackadder (Series 3-4 and A Christmas Carol)
The Regency era Black Adder The Third and WWI trench-based Blackadder Goes Forth (as well as A Christmas Carol) can be found amongst Netflix UK’s TV ranks. The monarchs may change (Hugh Laurie makes a perfectly barmy Prince of Wales), but Blackadder’s bite remains - politically astute in Series 3, and tragically satirical in its final stretch.
37. Wallander (Sweden) (Series 1-2)
Before Kenneth Branagh took on the mantle, Krister Henriksson was Kurt Wallander. The nights may be longer, but those sneaky Swedes still find time for the odd murder or two, keeping ol’ K.W. rather busy. Toss in some family drama and you’ve got another compelling addition to Scandinavia's crime compendium.
38. Life On Mars (Complete Series 1-2)
Before Keeley Hawes made hairspray cool again in spin-off, Ashes To Ashes, the will they/won’t they of Life On Mars’ Sam (John Simm) and Annie (Liz White) had us glues to our screens. Hit by a car in present day and put in a coma, DCI Sam Tyler’s subconscious transports him to 1973. Whilst continuing his police work with the wonderfully unorthodox Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister), Sam finds the past may be better than the present. Short but sweet, Life On Mars is one of few shows to deliver a genuinely satisfying ending.
39. The Bridge (Denmark/Sweden) (Series 1-2)
Another entry from Scandinavia, this time taking place on the border between Denmark and Sweden - which isn’t too handy when trying to solve a murder. Situated on and around the Øresund Bridge, The Bridge (aka Broen or Bron, depending on whether you are Danish or Swedish) features prostitutes, pneumonic plague and a whole lotta murder over its two available series. It also bore similar storylines in The Bridge (American/Mexico) and The Tunnel (Britain/France).
40. Knowing Me, Knowing You/I’m Alan Partridge (Complete Series and Christmas Special)
Did you know Alan likes ABBA? Well, he really does. So much so, in fact, that he named his (definitely not real) talk show after one of their songs. I’m Alan Partridge goes a step further, following Alan’s post-Knowing Me exploits as he presents on Radio Norwich. If Alpha Papa was your introduction to Partridge, you’ll be wanting to dig through the Parchives, pronto. (Just make sure cringe-o-meters are set to stun.)
41. Friday Night Lights (Complete Seasons 1-5)
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. So goes the mantra of the American football team at the centre of Peter Berg’s high school drama. Eric Taylor (the always brilliant Kyle Chandler) is the coach attempting to make something of East Dillon’s football team, the Panthers, whilst dealing with a rebellious daughter and his players’ teenage hormones. Taylor Kitsch, Michael B. Jordan and Jesse Plemons all made their mark as members of the team early in their careers.
42. 24 (Seasons 5-8)
Terrorist plots and presidential assassinations: it’s all in a day’s work for Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer. Each season contains 24 episodes; every instalment covering an average Bauer hour (notice how he never visits the toilet…). The first four seasons aren’t currently available on UK Netflix, but we’re certain Jack is storming the Netflix offices as we speak.
43. The League (Complete Seasons 1-7)
Fantasy football doesn’t sound like the most thrilling of comedy subjects, but this semi-improvised series proves that theory very, very wrong. As six friends get super-competitive (and super-vindictive) in their fantasy league, life, unfortunately, tends to get in the way. A mixture of guest stars, big laughs and ‘fear boners’ make this imperative viewing.
44. House (Complete Seasons 1-8)
Hugh Laurie fooled many Americans with his spot-on accent as the titular Dr. Gregory House. Addicted to Vicodin and unorthodox in his methods, House is the Sherlock Holmes of the medical profession, lack of empathy included. If you think Laurie is only capable of comedic performances, we prescribe you the complete Seasons 1-8, stat.
45. Narcos (Season 1)
If you don’t know your Pablo Escobars from your El Chapos, it’s time to brush up on your narcotics history. Another Netflix Original, Narcos stars Wagner Moura and Boyd Holbrook as Escobar and DEA agent Steve Murphy respectively. Pedro ‘Oberyn Martell’ Pascal also pops up amongst the intense performances and ludicrous amounts of cocaine. Season 2 is on its way.
46. Making A Murderer (Season 1)
Whether you’re yet to start this bingeing phenomenon, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Steven Avery by now: a man freed for a crime he didn’t commit after 18 years, only to be put behind bars for something else. Could he really have been wrongly accused twice over? The first of Netflix’s original programming that truly begs to be watched in one sitting, Making A Murderer proved that it’s possible to create event television without making a show’s launch an event in itself.
Read our review here.
47. The Returned (France) (Series 1)
Imagine the scene: you’re having a nice meal at the dining room table when a definitely dead relative turns up on the chair next to you. And then your town becomes overrun with more definitely dead people. Even worse? They don’t realise they’re dead. Les Revenants on its home turf, the French series is based on 2004 zombie film, They Came Back. A blunt object to the undeads' heads won’t solve this unnatural mess.
48. Limmy’s Show (Series 1)
His name is Brian Limond - but you might know him as Limmy. If you don’t (he was a regular in Series 2 of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe), prepare to be seriously impressed by the Scottish comedian’s array of bizarre characters. From gameshow host Falconhoof to ex-junkie Jacqueline McCafferty, it’s clear to see why the show won multiple Scottish BAFTAs during its 2010 to 2013 run.
49. Orphan Black (Seasons 1-2)
Sarah. Or is it Cosima? Or Alison? No, wait, it’s Beth, right? Whoever she’s playing, Tatiana Maslany is omnipresent as the ‘sisters’ in BBC America’s clone chronicles. When Sarah Manning witnesses the suicide of her apparent doppelgänger, Beth, her curiosity gets the better of her. Stealing Beth’s identity, Sarah soon realises she’s bitten off far more than she can chew. Jordan Gavaris and Maslany (again) add comic relief as Sarah’s foster brother Felix and Alison, respectively.
50. Bloodline (Season 1)