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Squid Game
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The 25 best Netflix original series to stream in the UK

From ‘Squid Game’ to ‘Stranger Things’, these are the best Netflix original series

Written by
Andy Kryza

Netflix debuted its first in-house series, House of Cards, in 2013. At the time, it was a risky gambit for the streamer previously known as a mail-order video shop. A mere eight years later, Netflix is essentially a network unto itself, shelling out a near endless array of awards-bait dramas, true-crime documentaries, childrens’ series, sitcoms, superhero thrillers and period romances.

Choosing what to watch amid Netflix's endless scroll can be daunting. Choose correctly and you’ll be embroiled in the world of Orange is the New Black or Squid Game. Choose wrong, and suddenly you're on a ranch with Ashton Kutcher or touring the whitest parts of Paris with some grating Yank named Emily. 

We're here to help. Below is a list of Netflix's strongest original offerings, ranked from good to great. Whether you’re into documentaries, dramas or comedies, Netflix has something for you. And if you somehow run out of stuff to watch, you can always head to Amazon Prime

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The best Netflix original series to stream in the UK

The Crown
Photograph: Netflix

1. The Crown

Four seasons in and with a fifth arriving like some kind of opulent carriage soon, The Crown has gone from being dismissed as royalty porn with a soapy tang to a show revered and award-winning in equal measure. Its dazzling recreation of Queen Elizabeth’s age-old world at the heart of a fast-changing realm feels like it cost $100m to put together, mostly because it did. But it’s the pitch-perfect casting, from Claire Foy as the young version of Her Maj to newcomer Emma Corrin as Princess Di, that really makes this show sing. Next up? Imelda Staunton dons the crown.
Orange is the New Black
Photograph: Jessica Miglio/Netflix

2. Orange is the New Black

While Orange is the New Black is not without its faults, its heart, humour and humanising approach to the American prison system has made it one of Netflix's most compelling shows. Our entry to the prison is Piper Chapman, a spoiled white woman indicted on drug trafficking charges, but it's the other inmates, their stories and personalities that pull you into the goings on at Litchfield Prison. We sure miss it. 

BoJack Horseman
Photograph: Netflix

3. BoJack Horseman

This is a show about a drug-addled '90s sitcom star navigating a comeback in current-day Hollywood. It's also a stark, emotionally draining examination of addiction, depression, guilt, transgenerational trauma, sexual politics and spiritualism that will reduce even the most hardened cynic into a puddle of tears at least three times per season. Oh, and the main character is a talking horse living in an alternate Hollywood – sorry, Hollywoo – full of anthropomorphic beasts and constant sight gags. That's right, perhaps the most emotionally engaging show on television is also a lunatic animated show about talking animals… but hey, you try not to cry when cheery labrador Mr Peanutbutter faces a devastating divorce or power-player/pink cat Princess Carolyn breaks down after discovering she’s infertile.

Stranger Things
Photograph: Netflix

4. Stranger Things

The tale of small-town Goonies embroiled in a bizarre plot involving government spooks, psychic kids and interdimensional monsters is dripping with nostalgia. Nods to John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Ghostbusters, Terminator, Red Dawn and John Hughes hit with alarming frequency. But the real reason that audiences felt at home in the Upside Down is its young cast of outsiders, who sell the wonder and terror they face while sprinkling the story with an earnest dose of humour, empathy, awkwardness and gee-whiz energy. The series became a worldwide phenomenon, going on to influence the very things it was riffing on, from It to Ghostbusters. All the while, it's stayed true to its charmingly macabre vision. Season 4 can't come quickly enough

Photograph: Emmanuel Guimier

5. Lupin

The preposterously charismatic Omar Sy (Jurassic World) is just one of the good reasons to dig into a breezy Paris-set series that wants you to think it’s a stern-jawed revenge thriller but that’s just having far too much of a good time to carry it off for long. The others? Well, as a showcase for the city’s photogenic charms, it’s pretty unbeatable, from the moment its plot gets underway with a heist at the Louvre. The tangled web of intriguing that connects Sy’s French-Senegalese trickster Assane Diop (a version of the books’ master thief Arsène Lupin) with the rich-as-sin Pellegrini family provides a twisty-turny story arc on which to hang Lupin’s many slick set pieces.

Photograph: Patrick Harbron/Netflix

6. Mindhunter

It’s no secret that deep down we’re all a little obsessed with serial killers. This fact-based show from The Social Network and Zodiac mastemind David Fincher doesn’t just look at why these monsters kill, but also highlights how, in some ways, we’re all very similar. It’s a slow burner, but this just builds the tension for an edge-of-your-seat finale. The second season, which follows the Atlanta child murders of 1979 to 1981 is equally thrilling. As it stands, a third season is looking increasingly unlikely, but never say never. 

Black Mirror
Photograph: David Dettmann/Netflix

7. Black Mirror

Originating on Channel 4, Netflix quickly snapped up the rights to Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series about the impact of technology on humanity. At times it can be horrifying as we see how society could be changed inexplicably by how technology has changed humanity. However, there are those moments, like with Season 3 episode 'San Junipero,' where love prevails. It's rare, but it happen.

Squid Game
Photograph: Netflix

8. Squid Game

Despite its extremely grim content, Netflix South Korea’s ultraviolent Squid Game quickly became the streamer’s most-watched piece of original content, and the show manages to live up to its hype. Unfolding on a mysterious island where desperate citizens square off in deadly childhood games, the show is a deft mix of stylised action, horror and political commentary that cuts to the bone, anchored by a likeable cast of characters who face impossible odds in a life-or-death bid to score impossible wealth. It’s a jarring and disorienting fever dream of a series that rocketed South Korean extreme filmmaking into the mainstream despite its gore-soaked narrative, and a gut-churning piece of social discourse to boot. 

Sex Education
Photograph: Sam Taylor/Netflix

9. Sex Education

Sex Education might seem like just another comedy series about a group of teenagers obsessing about sex, but it manages to tackle formative fornication without fudging things – it’s a tender and wise show with smarts. Even better, it’s funny. We meet Otis (Asa Butterfield), the son of a sex therapist (played expertly by a cool Gillian Anderson), and his gang of friends, including GBF Eric (a standout role played by Ncuti Gatwa) and Maeve (Emma Mackey), who Otis starts a sex therapy clinic with at school. What results is a surprisingly aware show about sex that more than a few grown-ups could learn from. 

Photograph: Steve Deitl/Netflix

10. Ozark

Ozark took a little while to capture the attention and devotion of Netflix’s audience. Now considered to be one of the best crime dramas of recent TV history. Jason Bateman is a financial advisor that moves his family from Chicago to deep-red Missouri after a money laundering scheme gone bad. The crime and the drama doesn't end after the move: expect the Mexican drug cartel and local criminals to make appearances as the show finds its footing and becomes a worthy successor to Breaking Bad — only way, way more dour. 

Photograph: Erica Parise/Netflix

11. GLOW

Based on the 2012 documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, we’re introduced to out-of-work actor Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) who ends up auditioning for a women’s wrestling promotion. Set just after the women’s liberation movement in 1985, the show questions just how much has really changed and whether the women taking part in Glow are empowered or exploited. Unfortunately, while a fourth and final season was already in the works, pandemic complications saw Netflix change its mind and pull the plug, much to the disappointment of fans. As a result, we’ll never know how this brilliant TV show ends.

Master of None
Photograph: Netflix

12. Master of None

If you’re over maudlin sitcoms or slapstick romcoms, Aziz Ansari's Master of None is the perfect antidote. Yes, it’s a show partly about dating, and yes it highlights just how darn complicated that is now we have social media and text message anxiety, but it does it with warmth. Better still, the characters are likeable as they explore their complexes about intimacy and relationships on screen, especially in the recent third season, which shifts focus to Lena Waithe's Denise. It might not a laugh-a-minute type sitcom, but its humour stems from its acute depictions of dating, and for that it should be essential viewing.

Call My Agent!
Photograph: Netflix

13. Call My Agent!

Much more than just a French Entourage, this champagne cocktail of broad comedy, pin-sharp satire, character drama and glossy glamour goes down so easily, you’ll be tempted to race through its four seasons following the highs and lows of the Parisian talent agency ASK in one big gulp. It’s worth taking a little time over, though, as its savvy and emotional depths reveal themselves in subtle increments. The regulars – spearheaded by the zero-BS, serial vaping super agent Andréa Martel (Camille Cottin) and slippery, high-strung alpha male Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalembert) – are terrific, and you may have heard about the big-name cameos too. Not to be missed.

Dear White People
Photograph: Adam Rose/Netflix

14. Dear White People

If you like your TV served with a slice of social commentary then this is the show for you. Based on the 2014 film of the same name by Justin Simien, the series examines race relations in America through the lives of black students at an Ivy League education college. The show is zeitgeisty, sure, but it also feels prescient, touching on the past as well as the future.

Photograph: Anika Molnar/Netflix

15. Unorthodox

Unorthodox is both hard and easy to watch. Heavy material depicted in digestible bits (4 episodes, each just under an hour), the story takes you inside the Hasidic community that calls Williamsburg, Brooklyn home. Loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s 2012 autobiography (Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots), this is the first Netflix series almost exclusively shot in Yiddish.

The OA
Photograph: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

16. The OA

The OA is one of those rare shows that lands on the streaming scene without notice, is anchored by relatively unknown actors, yet unexpectedly makes a mark on television history and society in general. Unfortunately, after an absolutely incredible first season – one of the best that Netflix has ever aired – the second one turned out to be the exact opposite. The negative reviews are likely what prompted the network to cancel the show after season two... even though it was originally announced that The OA would wrap up after five.

Making a Murderer
Photograph: Netflix

17. Making a Murderer

The sheer amount of research and depth involved in creating Making a Murderer makes for one heck of a slow burning mystery. The construction of the series by filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos submerges you in the case of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, as (whether rightly or wrongly) they’re tried for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Season 2 examines the post-conviction process and the impact that it has on all involved.

Photograph: Daniel Daza/Netflix

18. Narcos

Described by one reviewer as 'high-concept drama,' this show's main thrust is highlighting the impact of the international drug trade, while also telling the infamous story of Escobar’s rise and fall. The scope of the show is broad, but it’s centred by the use of archive news footage. The third season diverts a little bit, focusing on what happened when Escobar died. While the show didn't continue after Season 3, it was rebooted in 2018 as Narcos: Mexico with a new premise and setting. 

The Haunting of Hill House & The Haunting of Bly Manor
Photograph: Steve Dietl/Netflix

19. The Haunting of Hill House & The Haunting of Bly Manor

Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan has an extreme eye for detail, and his attention to every dark corridor and empty space is what makes his Haunting series so unsettling. The series’ anthology format allows Flanagan and his recurring cast to explore multiple eras of ghoulishness: The wildly successful Hill House updates Shirley Jackson for the modern era, while Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw is transported to the ‘80s with Bly Manor. Regardless of source material, Hill House and Bly Manor have a lot in common: Horrific crimes, expert scares and a nasty habit of hiding ghosts in the margins of the frame like a ghoulish game of Where's Waldo? Both seasons have their missteps, but the funhouse thrills more than make up for the detours into overwrought melodrama. 

Russian Doll
Photograph: Netflix

20. Russian Doll

Natasha Lyonne created, directed and stars in this comedy-drama that explores life and death through the eyes of her character Nadia Vulvokov, a game developer who keeps on dying and coming back to life to relive the same night over and over again. While trying to figure out the time loop, she meets a fellow constant perisher, Charlie Barnett as Alan Zavery. Originality has earned Lyonne critical praise, TV award show recognition and lots of love from us.

Photograph: Beth Dubber/Netflix

21. Unbelievable

Netflix definitely has a thing for true crime. However, this miniseries starring an on-form Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever is not your typical sensationalist true crime drama. Based on ProPublic/The Marshall Project's 2015 Pulitzer-winning article, 'An Unbelievable Story of Rape,' this sensitive drama about a series of rape cases in the states of Washington and Colorado doesn’t focus on the perpetrator. Instead, this is a story about the survivors of sexual violence, one that’s handled with empathy and without melodrama. It doesn’t shy away from the trauma these survivors live with, but it never feels gratuitous, even if it is, at times, difficult to watch.

Photograph: Netflix

22. Dark

Initially pitched as a grimdark version of Stranger Things, this nihilistic apocalyptic German time-travel saga is actually more indebted to David Lynch than Steven Spielberg. Merrily kicking off with a series of child murders, the show leaps back and forth in time over the course of three seasons as teens in a small town attempt to thwart a nuclear disaster. Hilariously void of humour and gorgeously shot, the series starts off intriguing, takes a delightfully batty turn in the middle and nearly spins out in the homestretch before miraculously sticking the landing. This is a show made for bingeing: A bleak spiderweb that will have even the most passive watcher forming elaborate plot theories. 

House of Cards
Photograph: David Giesbrecht/Netflix

23. House of Cards

Robin Wright and the now-disgraced Kevin Spacey are almost eerily suited to their conniving, power-hungry characters in the political drama that’s enthralled viewers. There hasn’t been anything like it since maybe The West Wing aired, and Frank Underwood’s methods to manipulate become darker and his ethical code more invisible with each new season.

Of course, things shifted in later seasons, which peg Wright at the center of the drama. And while there's a dip in quality, the show — Netflix's first original — still resonates in today's political climate. Actually, it's even more urgent than ever before. 

The Keepers
Photograph: Netflix

24. The Keepers

While Making a Murderer became a world-wide phenomenon and Tiger King is the one that had people compulsively tweeting, it’s The Keepers that feels the most essential. Centered around the unsolved murder of nun Catherine Cesik in 1969, this seven-part docu-series follows the efforts of her former students from Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore to crack the case. Hopping between the ’60s, the ’90s and current day, the documentary soon takes an even more sinister turn, as harrowing allegations of sexual abuse at the school come to light and questions of a potential cover up by the Catholic church are asked. It’s upsetting viewing, and the story will linger with you well after you‘ve finished watching. But the narrative is also respectful of the survivors, who, by sharing their distressing and heartbreaking stories, are able to regain some of the power that was so cruelly taken from them.

Photograph: Liam Daniel/Netflix

25. Bridgerton

When TV maverick Shonda Rhimes signed a $100 million deal with Netflix, the last thing people expected the Grey’s Anatomy creator to produce was a steamy Regency-era romp based on a series of romance novels. Fast forward a few years and Bridgerton is Netflix’s most-watched series ever, so what do we know? The show follows the aristocratic Bridgerton family, focusing on eldest daughter Daphne, who is reluctantly entering society for the first time in order to secure herself a husband. There she encounters the rakish Simon Bassett, Duke of Hastings, who is determined not to marry. Together the pair hatch a scheme that will ensure his bachelordom remains intact and that Daphne finds a suitable match. Adding a bit of campy drama to proceedings, however, is the enigmatic Lady Whistledown, an anonymous society newspaper columnist, fabulously voiced by Julie Andrews, who reports on the gossip and scandalous goings on in society. Think of it all as sitting somewhere between Pride and Prejudice and Gossip Girl and you get the general idea. 

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