We recommend our favourite Netflix Original shows you can watch right now, exclusively on the online streaming service, as well as the best upcoming Netflix Original series launching in late 2017 and 2018.
When Netflix first came along it was simply a way to make watching films and TV series more convenient, by posting out DVDs to your home. Then came the video streaming service, for on-demand viewing without a wait. Then, when Netflix grew even bigger, its new mission was to not only deliver the movies and shows but to actually make them too.
The result is Netflix Originals, which are shows you won't find elsewhere. These exclusive series and flicks cover all kinds of genres and you're bound to find something that you'll love, no matter your tastes. So if you already have Netflix or are thinking about signing up and want recommendations, read on for all you need to know about the Netflix Original content and the best shows available now or coming soon.
What are Netflix Original series?
A Netflix Original series is a TV show created by Netflix which is aired exclusively, initially at least, on the online streaming service.
That means Netflix produces the show, funding its creation. For House of Cards, the company actually used its smart algorithm data from its 33 million subscribers’ viewing habits to detect what was popular and then picked the actors, directors and even story based on that data to create the show. Smart!
How many Netflix Original shows are there?
Netflix will have released over 1,000 hours of original movies and shows by the end of 2017.
These Netflix Originals cover drama, comedy, sci-fi, action, romance, horror and other genres on top, so you've got a wide variety of exclusive content to choose between.
How can I watch Netflix Original series?
The long and short of it is that you will need to have a Netflix subscription to watch the Original series shows, when they are first aired. However, many of these shows also end up being released on DVD, such as House of Cards and Better Call Saul. These can therefore be enjoyed without a subscription.
Of course, as a DVD boxset costs about the same as a two month subscription to Netflix, this tactic isn't particularly easy on the wallet. You're better off simply grabbing a subscription and bingeing on as much as possible.
Can I stream Netflix Originals in 4K?
The list of Netflix Original shows is growing fast and with it so too does the list of those available in 4K. This is because Netflix is committed to shooting in 4K Ultra HD resolution, to future-proof its videos. That and to offer the best quality experience to its viewers of course.
Some of these exclusive shows are also in HDR, which varies between HDR10 and Dolby Vision. You’ll have to check which format your TV supports to be able to take advantage of this feature. Also you’ll have to be sure you internet connection is good enough (Netflix recommends at least 20MB) to get that full quality 4K stream.
Can I download Netflix Original shows?
Yes, there are lots of Netflix Original shows and movies available to download onto your device right now. That means you simply need to check it's available, in the download section, to get it on your device. Remember to get on Wi-Fi first if you’re on a mobile phone, or grabbing shows for offline viewing could cost you in data charges.
What are the best Netflix Original series to watch right now?
As Netflix has produced so many exclusive shows now, most of which would happily fit in any list of best TV series, this is already a long list that’s quite tough to narrow down. That said, there are plenty of stand-out greats that you simply have to watch if you haven’t already.
Best Netflix Original dramas
Top of the list has got to be Stranger Things. This dark supernatural drama was a huge hit that everyone was talking about when it came out. Think Goonies meets ET meets Terminator meets X-Files and you're not far off, helped along by its nostalgic 80s style, some fantastic performances and plenty of effective horror.
House of Cards is another great Netflix Original that’s shot to popularity since it first came out and is still powering along in its fifth series at time of publishing. This gritty political drama is accessible even to those not usually into that sort of thing, as it's more about the dodgy dealings of the main character, Frank Underwood. Played to perfection by Kevin Spacey, along with a stand-out performance by Robin Wright as his just-as-devious wife.
Even if you never saw the brilliant Breaking Bad, you’ll get a serious kick out of series prequel Better Call Saul. This show dives into the backstory of dodgy lawyer Saul Goodman, back when he was slightly less dodgy lawyer Jimmy Mcguire. Awesome performances, tight scripting and plenty of fan-service cameos make for a fantastic watch.
Already finished off Better Call Saul? Well, new Netflix Original Ozark should help fill the gap til the next season. Jason Bateman stars as a financial advisor who launders money for a Mexican drug cartel, until things go a bit pear shaped and he finds himself in serious debt. His solution is to shift the family to a sleepy Missouri resort, where he can find a new front for the operation - with a little help from the wife.
The last of our crime capery picks is Narcos, which charts the rise to power of Colombian drugs smuggler Pablo Escobar. There’s the odd spot of bad language, and perhaps the occasional smattering of nasty spleen-shattering violence, but on the whole it’s wholesome family fun.
Orange Is The New Black is going from strength to strength, offering original episodes set inside a women-only prison. The show remains light hearted while touching on some seriously dark issues, with a huge and diverse cast of really impressive actors that immediately win your sympathies.
Lilyhammer is a great co-production filmed in Norway about a retired gangster hiding out in a remote town. Of course, it doesn't take long for his past to catch up with him, which is just as well really. Otherwise this mobster tale would be rather short and dull.
Best Netflix Original action shows
If action is your bag, you now have plenty of Marvel shows to choose from also, all made exclusively for Netflix. The selection includes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the upcoming Defenders, which combines them all. If you’re even a slight fan of the Marvel movies and comic book characters in general, we recommend checking out at least a couple of these Original shows.
Best Netflix Original sci-fi shows
Sense8, from Lana and Lilly Wachowksi, is a sci-fi series that will really mess with your mind. Eight strangers come together when they realise that they have a strange psychic connection, but end up fighting for their lives as a shady well-armed organisation tracks them down. The finale is coming to Netflix in 2018, and here’s hoping it’s less eyebrow-raising than Matrix Revolutions.
Black Mirror is a continuation series; in other words, the show existed before and was aired on Channel 4, before being picked up for the Netflix Original treatment. Charlie Brooker's rather bleak look at our possible near-future is certainly harrowing at times, with the likes of social media and drone warfare placed under the microscope.
Best Netflix Original comedy shows
Master of None is a hilarious and heartwarming comedy written by and starring Aziz Ansari, who you’ll recognise from Parks & Recreation. If you want a laugh, we'd heartily recommend this show. Wet Hot American Summer is another exclusive Netflix Original comedy series that's well worth a look, this time a remake of the original movie that’ll have you pointing out stars throughout. Between fits of laughter of course.
BoJack Horseman needs a mention as this ticks the dark comedy box on Netflix with a really, really black pen. Even if you're not a fan of animation, BoJack is one of the smartest and most surreal, not to mention consistently hilarious, shows around right now. Even when touching on serious topics such as depression and middle age crises, there's always a chuckle around the corner.
Staying on the animation tip, we also highly recommend F is for Family, Bill Burr’s razor-sharp take on growing up in 1970s American suburbia. The show is rather terrifyingly inspired by the comic's own childhood, which goes some way to explain his foul mouth and temper.
Samurai Gourmet is a lot of fun and just as random. This Japanese show based on a comic book follows a retiree warrior as he tries new food on his travels and is far better than it sounds. Certainly one of the more outlandish Netflix Original shows, but one with buckets of charms and barrels of laughs.
New series Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, or GLOW for short, is also guaranteed to put a grin on your face - and not in that way, you dirty perv. This 80s-set comedy drama covers the rise to fame, or perhaps infamy, of a collection of actresses playing such wrestlers as ‘Zoya the Destroyer’ and ‘Vicky the Viking’. They bond, they laugh, they love, they hang out with an awesome 80s robot. Great stuff.
Stand-up comedy is plentiful on Netflix, with one-off exclusive shows from Bill Burr, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Chris Tucker, Jimmy Carr, Bo Burnham, David Cross, Reggie Watts, Jen Kirkman, Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, Tracy Morgan and many more.
Best Netflix Original documentaries
Netflix doesn't just feed you a seemingly endless stream of quality original entertainment. You can also find some enlightening and shocking documentaries on there, covering a wide variety of very important subjects.
For instance, Cooked is a fantastic documentary that teaches you about the way food has affected human development the world over. You’ll never look at bread the same way again.
Other exclusive documentaries to watch on Netflix include The Square, Team Foxcatcher, Nobody Speak, The Ivory Game, Keith Richards: Under the Influence and many more.
Best Netflix Original movies
Although this feature is concentrating on the Netflix Original TV shows, you should definitely take a look at some of Netflix's exclusive self-funded movies as well. Films worth watching include Blame!, Okja, To The Bone, iBoy and Beasts of No Nation, to name a few.
What are the best Netflix Original series coming soon in late 2017/early 2018?
Netflix has plenty of great Original shows planned for release in the rest of 2017 and start of 2018. Here's some of the exclusive series that we can't wait to stream.
Stranger Things is back for that much-anticipated second series on October 27, further chronicling the kids' adventures battling demons from the Upside Down. Check out our complete Stranger Things season two overview, for all you need to know.
Mindhunter is another dark drama, set for release just before Stranger Things season 2 hits Netflix. This gripping psychological drama covers the FBI's attempts to profile serial killers, and is directed by the keen eye of David Fincher. Expect a grim yet compelling watch, and check out our full Mindhunter feature for all you need to know.
As far as exclusive new Marvel shows go, Netflix users have got The Punisher and The Defenders to look forward to. The latter should be well worth checking out, especially if you’ve watched any of the other Marvel shows. Comic book fans also have season two of Luke Cage, due later in 2017, to get excited about.
Star Trek: Discovery, made in conjunction with CBS, is a fresh new series of the space exploration wonder show. We can’t wait for the September 25 release to see if this Netflix Original is as strong as the older series.
If you want emotionally moving yet cartoony kid-friendly viewing then Watership Down, a collaboration between Netflix and the BBC, is worth looking out for. We don't have a release date just yet, so stay tuned.
Lost in Space, the silly sci-fi show from the sixties, is being remade for Netflix with a fresh set of colonists heading offworld for adventure and hijinks. Let's just hope it's not as offensive to our senses as the Matt LeBlanc movie from about twenty years ago.