Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

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Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch
(Image credit: Netflix)

Figuring out the best Netflix shows is tricky in 2020. It feels like there's a new original series every week, which means your watch list can grow to be unimaginably long. Being selective is key in this era of too many streaming services: your time matters, and if you're going to sit down to watch a drama with multiple hour-long episodes, you want that time investment to pay off.  

We've made our list of the best Netflix shows nice and simple. On this page, we're just giving you 20 great shows to watch across a variety of genres, instead of 19 pages of a thousand different shows. Below, you'll find a healthy mix of Netflix Originals and shows from other networks, and we'll keep updating this list with new favorites. 

Find something that catches your eye below, and enjoy. And check out our list of the best Netflix movies if you're looking for a film to watch. 

Not in the US? No problem. Check out our list for the best shows where you are below:

  • The best Netflix UK shows
  • The best Netflix Australia shows
  • The best Netflix shows for UAE

The Witcher

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

'High-end trash' is one way to describe The Witcher, Netflix's adaptation of the Andrzej Sapkowski fantasy series that you may know better as a trilogy of videogames. Henry Cavill brings serious star power as monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, and even though there's a larger arc at work here between two warring kingdoms, the best parts of this eight-episode first season are always Geralt's monster-of-the-week-style tales, which usually feature a twist ending of sorts. 

It's not particularly challenging to watch, and it's not trying as hard as Game of Thrones was to be 'prestige' TV, which is actually pretty refreshing. Enjoy being in its world, get to know its likeable characters, and look forward to the already-confirmed season 2. And if you're struggling to follow the show's unusual time-hopping structure, check out The Witcher timeline to figure it all out. 

Prepare to have 'Toss a coin to your Witcher' stuck in your head for the rest of 2020. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Mindhunter

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

David Fincher is no stranger to Netflix, since he directed the first ever episode of House of Cards, but Mindhunter is Fincher going ... well, full Fincher. It's based on John Douglas' book of the same name and charts the life of an FBI profiler whose job it is to track serial killers. It's set in the '70s and later the early '80s, and sees its trifecta of lead characters interviewing famous serial killers in often tense encounters.

Fincher is extremely hands-on, too, directing four episodes of season one and three of season two. Whether there'll be a Mindhunter season 3 is still up in the air, but we're hopeful, given that this is some of the director's best work to date. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

Stranger Things

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

When it comes to TV and movies, the '80s is the nostalgia decade of the moment. Filmmakers can't get enough of Ghostbusters, shell suits and Sony Walkmans.

Stranger Things is another brilliant homage to this era. Leaning heavily on Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King, the story revolves around a small town, a group of friends, a missing person and a dodgy science lab. Writing anything else would give away the myriad twists in a show that is full of brilliant creepy fun.

The third season hit last year and it was fantastic, and each subsequent set of episodes just deepens your investment in these kids' stories and friendships. Season 4 of Stranger Things is on the way.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

Last Chance U

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

ESPN might've had the world of sports documentaries well in hand with its 30 for 30 series. But that was before Netflix got the crazy idea to make one of its own. Inspired by an article in GQ magazine, Last Chance U follows student athletes who are one step away from never playing football again. On top of the pressures on the field, students face problems in the classroom where class absences and the fear failing hit harder than a defensive lineman. It's gritty, heart-wrenching and exactly the kind of series that gives you something to root for all while biting your nails.

The fourth season of the show – which continues following the team in Independence, Kansas – was released in 2019.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

Black Mirror

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Before Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker was best known for his snarky look at the news in Weekly Wipe and his fantastic, caustic look at meeja types in London’s Shoreditch, Nathan Barley. Now this anthology show has given him superstar status, for good reason. 

Each episode is about technology and its effect on human life. Sometimes, this can be positive, but usually each episode hews towards dystopian fiction. Black Mirror can be a little inconsistent in quality like all anthology shows, but about two thirds of its episodes overall are great, and the later Netflix-produced chapters look expensive and feature bigger stars. 

Seasons on Netflix: 5 + Bandersnatch special 

Queer Eye

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Need a dose of feel-good TV to help cope with today's rocky political landscape? Check out Queer Eye, a show about being the best you with help from five of the coolest dudes on the planet. The show will gets its fifth season in 2020 and we're still loving the premise of taking people stuck in a rut and hoisting them to the self-respecting, self-loving person we all want to be. 

Seasons on Netflix: 4  

Dear White People

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

If you like your cultural analysis with a dose of humor, Dear White People is the show for you. Starring Logan Browning at the conflicted Sam White, Dear White People navigates the tricky grounds of race relations in America in the post-Obama-but-yet-not-post-racism era. 

The first few episodes back away from hitting on anything too heavy but come episodes five and six, you get a biting sense of why this show is so needed at this point in our history. Funny, clever and dripping in wit, Dear White People isn't so much an attack on American ideals as it is a series about exploring, explaining, defending and deliberating the issues facing people of color in the US.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

The Good Place

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Critically acclaimed comedy The Good Place is closing its fourth and final season on NBC, continuing to follow the afterlife of a recently deceased woman who is sent to heaven by mistake. The first three seasons are on Netflix now. 

Even though this show's core idea peaked in season one, when less was known about the details of the afterlife setting, this has still some of the best joke writing on TV. A great cast and an original concept make this a must-watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

The Umbrella Academy

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

While we were disheartened when Netflix ended its long-running partnership with Marvel Studios on shows like Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, we were treated in February last year to this adaptation of The Umbrella Academy - a comic series written by former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerald Way. With an excellent ensemble cast that includes the likes of Ellen Page and Robert Sheehan, this breezy and fun show almost makes up for the lack of new Marvel content coming to Netflix. 

Expect The Umbrella Academy's second season to arrive in 2020. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

The long-awaited reboot of everyone's favorite teenage witch is finally is easily one of the best new shows on Netflix. 

The first season arrived just in time for Halloween - offering 10 episodes of supernatural high school drama. In the show's second season, which debuted in 2018, we got our chance to see how Sabrina is taking to her new life as a witch, and her struggles with both her inner and outer demons. 

Season 3 begins on January 24. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

Russian Doll

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Orange Is The New Black's Natasha Lyonne stars in this dark comedy as Nadia, who keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party in a surreal time loop – much like Groundhog Day. 

With its cynical and witty examination of living and dying, Russian Doll switches rapidly between laugh-out-loud hilarity and devastating sadness - it's a must-watch. In June 2019, Netflix announced it had renewed Russian Doll for a second season, which is well-deserved. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1 

Bojack Horseman

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Bojack Horseman has just half a season to go, and then its six-year run is sadly over.

Following the life of washed up actor Bojack as he struggles with alcoholism, toxic relationships, and family issues, the series is just as heartwarming as it can be heartbreaking. For those who are worried it may be too dark for them, fear not - there's loads of slapstick humor, word play, and stunning animation to keep everything balanced.

Seasons on Netflix: 6

American Vandal

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

American Vandal is a mockumentary that examines the aftermath of a school prank that sees teachers' cars vandalized. This light-hearted ribbing of serious true crime documentaries like Making A Murderer and The Staircase received rave reviews, and its second season takes on an even loftier case, that taps into much deeper themes.

Both seasons offer enthralling mysteries in their own right, with extremely satisfying endings. The cases themselves seem juvenile, yet the show is really using these as a hook to explore division and prejudice in education. It's oddly tender and human. Sadly, American Vandal was canceled by Netflix, but these two seasons tell close-ended stories, and are well worth your time. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

Riverdale

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: The CW/Warner Bros)

Now airing its fourth season, three seasons of the teen drama based on the infamous Archie comic book series are on Netflix in the US. A spin-off from The CW, Katy Keene, begins on that network in February.

If you were a fan of Archie comics as a kid, this interpretation of the beloved characters is far darker and more mysterious than you'll remember, revolving around the murder of a local boy while the characters attempt to navigate high school, relationships, and family.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

Orange is the New Black

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Orange Is The New Black has wrapped its seven-season run, and it's a superb tale of life in a women's prison. It was one of the first big Netflix originals, along with House of Cards and Arrested Development season 4, and it ran for so long simply because it was very popular. 

That being said, the show is dark. Tensions and issues with the US prison system brought to the forefront and while the comedy from the first few seasons remains throughout, it's slathered with a fair bit of drama. 

Seasons on Netflix: 7

Breaking Bad

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: AMC/Sony)

More addictive than the meth pushed by Walt and Jesse, Breaking Bad is brilliant binge-watching television. The initial plot is simple: a straight-laced teacher is told he has cancer and to make sure he leaves his family with the best possible life, he turns to drug making and dealing. 

There's method to his madness as he ends up being pretty good at it. Creator Vince Gilligan has created such a good group of characters, he is currently mining the same world again with Better Call Saul, which arguably reaches similar heights and is also available on Netflix. Netflix also released a movie sequel focused on Jesse in late 2019, El Camino. 

Seasons on Netflix: 5 (and one movie)

Chef's Table

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

The words 'food porn' get thrown around a lot on social these days, usually followed by deep sighs from us. But Chef's Table is the real deal - it offers 4K footage of some of the best chefs in the world making their signature dishes and doling out morsels of philosophy to keep your mind just as engaged as your stomach. 

Parts of the show come off as a bit too heady for the source material and are prone to veering a bit off course (there are multiple scenes where a particular chef talks about polygamy for some odd reason), but overall most of the chefs come off as genuinely eccentric masters of their craft. 

Seasons on Netflix: 6

Dark

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Wish your fairy tales were a bit ... darker?  Dark is a German-language supernatural thriller in which the disappearance of two children in a small town brings the fractured relationships and dark pasts of the people living there to the surface. 

Adding a touch of Scandinavian crime thriller to American drama, Dark is an example of foreign-made TV from Netflix that translates into every territory.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

Explained

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

Created by Netflix and Vox Media, this handy and smart series takes a look at some of the most popular ideas and tech around today and explains them in a way that's poignant in its presentation without feeling overwhelming to take in. 

From the racial wealth gap, cryptocurrency and why diets rarely work through to K-Pop and the stock market, it's an insightful look at the problems, ideas and trends around today and the stuff that could shape tomorrow. You'll also find two separate spin-off miniseries on Netflix: The Mind Explained and Sex Explained. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2 (and 2 spin-offs)

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Best Netflix shows: 20 series you need to watch

(Image credit: Netflix)

One of the most celebrated and also hotly-debated anime series of all time, you owe it to yourself to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. And that applies even if you don't think you like anime. It's unlike anything else, weaving together big robot fights, religious imagery and a deepening sense of existential dread. The show starts in one place, and utterly transforms by the time you reach its controversial finale.

Watch the main series, then watch the movie End of Evangelion, which is the official ending to the entire story. Netflix bought the rights to show Evangelion globally, ending years of people sharing the show via discontinued DVDs. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1 (and a movie)

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