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Netflix movies: The best original films to watch

H

aving established itself as a power-house of binge TV, Netflix has more recently turned its attention to movies.

But with dozens of Netflix original films to chose from, how to sort the gold from the feature-length dross?

To help you make sense of the service’s mind-boggling viewing options here’s a countdown of the best original movies available to stream on Netflix UK.

The ultimate hate-watch or game attempt at reinventing a classic thriller? Opinions are divided on Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel already immortalised by Hitchcock. Lily James and Armie Hammer are the unlikely lovers from across the class divide, with Kristin Scott Thomas disapproving Mrs Danvers. Wheatley plays it straight and gothic Manderley estate isn’t nearly as creepy as it ought to be. Still, the film is a topic of conversation – and you wouldn’t want to feel left out, would you? 

The greatest action movie star of our times, Charlize Theron heads the cast in this rip-roaring romp about a squad of mercenaries gifted/cursed with immortality who have served as guns for hire through history.

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A low-key but gripping relationship drama set in Memphis with Mamoudou Athie as a young man dreaming of becoming a master-sommelier and Courtney B Vance as his hard-to-please father. 

This rickety-looking science fiction thriller delivers where it counts with a twisting, turning plot and several genuine surprises. In the far future, a maternal robot (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises a young woman (Clara Rugaard) as her daughter. But when an outsider (Hilary Swank) makes her way to their bunker, their perfect life is shattered forever.

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A bohemian middle-aged couple struggle to have a child. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are hilarious and poignant. And the pathos is piled on as twenty-something college drop-out Sadie (Kayli Carter) parachutes into their life. High jinks follow, though director Tamara Jenkins ensures the existential sadness that has become part of the protagonists daily life never quite fades.

Steven Soderbergh has become something of a Netflix regular, with his Meryl Streep-starring The Laundromat recently premiering on the service. This earlier movie is about a basketball agent (André Holland) in a game of skulduggery between players (mostly black and uneducated) and team owners (white and wealthy). It’s a great sports film and also a commentary on the racial and social schisms that divide America.

34. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

A quirky though ultimately quite dark indie movie about two misfits, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) and Tony (Elijah Wood), on the trail off a burglar who made off with a silver spoon belonging to Ruth’s grandmother. Whimsical on the surface, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is in fact a meditation on what happens when you’ve had enough of life’s fundamental unfairness and lash out.

This team-up heist movie stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnum and Pedro Pascal as old marine corps buddies headed to South America for one final pay-day. It’s hugely flawed – but Affleck is convincing as a guy losing his way amidst divorce and middle age. And JC Chandor (Collateral) directs the action scenes with pizzaz. It comes close to being a great action flick for grown-ups before ultimately fizzling out.

32. A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Straight-to-video production values don’t do it any favours, but this biopic about the founder of American satirical magazine National Lampoon, Douglas Kenney (Will Forte), has its heart in the right place. It’s a by turns poignant and hilarious accent of Forte’s rise, his descent into drugs and infidelity – and his strained relationship with Lampoon co-founder Henry Beard (an unrecognisable Domhnall Gleeson).

Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in an unapologetically schlocky comic book movie about a street drug that imbues its users with superpowers. The catch is you don’t know what powers you receive until you pop a pill. The thrills are strictly of the B-pic variety yet everyone involved commits entirely.

30. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things

Charlie Kaufman waxes weird in this tale of a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who travels with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). And then things turn dark and weird – as you’d expect from the creator of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. 

Rene Russo and Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Velvet Buzzsaw‘

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute/photo by Claudette Barius)

Critics trounced this stylised horror starring Jake Gyllenhaal are a vainglorious art critic. Certainly, as commentary on the vacuousness of the art world it’s a whole lot of stating the obvious. Yet enjoyed as a Argento-esque OTT romp, Velvet Buzzsaw is a delight, as director Dan Gilroy subjects his victims to a series of ever more absurdist and grisly ends.

28. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

This would be higher on the list were it not for the fact it really isn’t a film. Best thought of as a two-hour Breaking Bad episode, it takes up the story of Jesse Pinkman after he’s fled the dying Walter White and driven into the blue yonder. The milieu is the familiar New Mexico underworld of Breaking Bad and its gentler prequel, Better Call Saul. BB fans will nonetheless relish a return, however brief, to the Vince Gilligan expanded universe. Plus all – yes ALL – your faves from the Ballad of Walter White are back for cameos.

With his Doctor Sleep adaptation now in cinemas, Mike Flanagan has established himself as the latter-day top dog off Stephen King retellings. He gave us a taste of what he was capable of via his gruelling adaptation of the 1992 King novel about a woman (Carla Gugino) who ends up bound to a bed when her husband dies during a sex game. Don’t try this at a home – or anyone else for that matter – kids.

26. The Devil All The Time

Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson and Sebastian Stan head the cast in a gothic melodrama about a Second World War veteran (Bill Skarsgård) haunted by his memories of the conflict upon returning to a new life in deepest Ohio. Holland is his tearaway son, while Pattinson terrifies as a corrupt preacher.

25. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sorkin’s verbose retelling of the notoriously politicised prosecution of American civil rights protesters after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago is already tipped as an Oscar contender. A packed-to-the-brim cast includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Rubin, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton and, as villainous judge Julius Hoffman, an imperious Frank Langella.

30 best Netflix original films

Show all 30

1/3030 best Netflix original films

30 best Netflix original films

30. I Am Mother

Rickety-looking science fiction thriller I Am Mother delivers where it counts with a twisting, turning plot and several genuine surprises. In the far future, a maternal robot (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises a young woman (Clara Rugaard) as her daughter. But when an outsider (Hilary Swank) makes her way to their bunker their perfect life is shattered forever.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

29. Private Life

In Private Life, a bohemian middle-aged couple struggle to have a child. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are hilarious and poignant. And the pathos is piled on as twenty-something college drop-out Sadie (Kayli Carter) parachutes into their life. High-jinks follow, though director Tamara Jenkins ensures the existential sadness that has become part of the protagonists daily life never quite fades.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

28. High Flying Bird

Steven Soderbergh has become something of a Netflix regular, with his Meryl Streep-starring The Laundromat recently premiering on the service. His earlier movie High Flying Bird is about a basketball agent (André Holland) in a game of skulduggery between players (mostly black and uneducated) and team owners (white and wealthy). It’s a great sports film and also a commentary on the racial and social schisms that divide America.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

27. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

A quirky though ultimately quite dark indie movie about two misfits, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) and Tony (Elijah Wood), on the trail off a burglar who made off with a silver spoon belonging to Ruth’s grandmother. Whimsical on the surface, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is in fact a meditation on what happens when you’ve had enough of life’s fundamental unfairness and lash out.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

26. Triple Frontier

Team-up heist movie Triple Frontier stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnum and Pedro Pascal as old marine corps buddies headed to South America for one final pay-day. It’s hugely flawed – but Affleck is convincing as a guy losing his way amidst divorce and middle age. And JC Chandor (Collateral) directs the action scenes with pizzaz. It comes close to being a great action flick for grown-ups before ultimately fizzling out.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

25. A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Straight-to-video production values don’t do it any favours, but A Futile and Stupid Gesture – a biopic about the founder of American satirical magazine National Lampoon, Douglas Kenney (Will Forte) – has its heart in the right place. It’s a by turns poignant and hilarious accent of Forte’s rise, his descent into drugs and infidelity – and his strained relationship with Lampoon co-founder Henry Beard (an unrecognisable Domhnall Gleeson).

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

24. Velvet Buzzsaw

Critics trounced this stylised horror starring Jake Gyllenhaal are a vainglorious art critic. Certainly, as commentary on the vacuousness of the art world it’s a whole lot of stating the obvious. Yet enjoyed as a Argento-esque OTT romp, Velvet Buzzsaw is a delight, as director Dan Gilroy subjects his victims to a series of ever more absurdist and grisly ends.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

23. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

El Camino would be higher on the list were it not for the fact it really isn’t a film. Best thought of as a two-hour Breaking Bad episode, it takes up the story of Jesse Pinkman after he’s fled the dying Walter White and driven into the blue yonder. The milieu is the familiar New Mexico underworld of Breaking Bad and its gentler prequel, Better Call Saul. BB fans will nonetheless relish a return, however brief, to the Vince Gilligan expanded universe. Plus all – yes ALL – your faves from the Ballad of Walter White are back for cameos.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

22. Gerald’s Game

With his Doctor Sleep adaptation forthcoming, Mike Flanagan has established himself as the latter-day top dog off Stephen King retellings. He gave us a taste of what he was capable of via his gruelling adaptation of 1992 King novel Gerald’s Game, which is about a woman (Carla Gugino) who ends up bound to a bed when her husband dies during a sex game. Don’t try this at a home – or anyone else for that matter – kids.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

21. The Incredible Jessica James

Former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams is a revelation in The Incredible Jessica James, which follows a romantically adrift young playwright who tries to come to terms with a break up by projecting blinding over-confidence. She strikes up an unlikely chemistry with Chris O’Dowd’s awkward everyman – with results that achieve a rarefied mix of funny and sweet.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

20. Bird Box

Sandra Bullock in a blindfold whispering to two terrified children might not sound like the stuff of blockbuster gold. Sci-fi horror Bird Box is certainly flawed. It also had the ill fortune to come out six months after the thematically adjacent A Quiet Place. Nonetheless, there’s an undeniable pulpy thrill to this tale of aliens that drive you mad on sight (hence the blind-folds). Keep an eye out, too, for a fantastic cameo from Tom Hollander.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

19. Always Be My Maybe

Ali Wong and Randall Park play former childhood sweethearts from San Fransisco whose lives take very different paths after they consummate their friendship. She becomes a celebrity chef engaged to a dead-eyed property developer; he’s a home town schlub still living with his dad. Screwball antics ensue as their paths cross again. So far, so cliche. But there are enough surprises – and one hilarious cameo – to prevent Always Be My Maybe feeling hopelessly formulaic.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

18. Atlantics

Magic realism comes to Netflix in this coming-of-age story set in Dakar, Senegal. Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) is betrothed to a wealthy man but then falls in love with construction worker Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré). When he vanishes her world is tipped head-over-heels. In truth, the bare-bone plot is merely the chassis upon which director Mati Diop drapes a hallucinatory romance and mystery with elements of the supernatural.

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30 best Netflix original films

17. The Two Popes

Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Price twinkle ecumenically in this two-hander about Pontiffs Benedict XVI (Hopkins) and Francis (Price) who are thrown together at a time of crisis for the Church. The two leads were nominated for Oscars, as was screenwriter Anthony McCarten, adapting his 2019 play of the same name.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

16. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Netflix has become an unexpected champion of the humble romcom and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was the movie that established its reputation in the genre. Lana Condor plays a shy high-school student who writes pretend letters to her crushes. But when the missives are stolen and made public, she feels obliged to enter a fake relationship in order to preserve her dignity. All your favourite romcom tropes are ticked off – but with a knowingness that falls satisfyingly short of cynical.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

15. The Fundamentals of Caring

Paul Rudd takes a break from Ant-Man to play the carer of teenager Trevor (Craig Roberts), who has muscular dystrophy, in The Fundamentals of Caring. A heart-warming road movie ensues as they somehow end up crossing America in the company of flinty hitchhiker Dot (Selena Gomez). Rudd’s likability is dialled all the way up in a feel-good weepie sure to shred the heartstrings

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

14. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

King of motion capture Andy Serkis ropes in some famous pals – Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett. Benedict Cumberbatch etc – for a fang-baring tilt at Rudyard Kipling. Shunted back because of Disney’s own “live action” Jungle Book remake, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is far grittier – a children’s movie with enough tooth and claw not to feel like a fairytale.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

13. Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy puts in one of his best performances in years in Dolemite Is My Name, a biopic about Blaxploitation comedian Rudy Ray Moore, whose potty-mouthed albums and movies in the mid Seventies were credited with helping invent hip hop. Moore’s “Dolemite” character was based on old black homeless man he encountered in San Fransisco and caused both a sensation and a scandal at the time. Murphy brings this complex figure to life with an alternately hilarious and affecting turn.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

12. Annihilation

Lovecraftian weirdness by the bucketful from director Alex Garland. Natalie Portman heads a team of researchers venturing into a quarantined swampland where the laws of nature have been rebuilt from the cellular level up. Annihilation is mind-bending body horror, with echoes of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

11. Beasts of No Nation

Cary Joji Fukunaga will shortly make his Bond debut with No Time To Die. But he was better known for directing original season of True Detective when his adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s Ghanian civil war novel Beasts of No Nation was acquired by Netflix. It’s a nightmarish tale of child soldiers dehumanised by conflict, with Idris Elba chilling as the adult commander of the boy combatants.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

10. Apostle

Netflix has been churning out serviceable horror movies for several years now. Apostle, a Wicker Man updating by Raid director Gareth Evans, features the standard feral yokels, to which he brings his own innovation via oceans of gore. Dan Stevens is a naive outsider who, in 1905, travels to a remote Welsh island hoping to locate his vanished sister. He discovers a cult headed by Michael Sheen’s crazed preacherman, a whole lot of trouble and something terrible hiding in the dark.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

9. Okja

With Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite winning the Palme d’Or, what better moment to revisit his brilliantly weird and charming morality fable from 2017. Co-written with John Ronson, Okja is a by turns heart-warming and chilling story of a young girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) and her friendship with the titular bio-engineered super-pig. It sounds, and frequently is, bonkers but Joon-ho plays with our heartstrings as if manipulating a Stradivarius, while Cate Blanchett is outstanding as an evil tech messiah masquerading as an environmentalist.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson head the cast in Noah Baumbach’s comedy drama The Meyerowitz Stories about worldly Manhattanites struggling with their lives of sophisticated privilege. Baumbach is on solid ground marshalling the inter-familial tension. But he also reminds us why he’s a master at locating universal truths within the self-involved lives of neurotic Americans.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

7. Mudbound

Mudbound is an unflinching survey of race and politics in the Southern United States immediately before and after the Second World War. Carey Mulligan and Mary J Blige head the cast, while Dee Rees guides the story with tremendous tautness. Mudbound was expected to receive a clean sweep of Oscar nominations in 2017. In the end it received just four, in relatively minor categories. The first rumblings of .’s hostility towards streaming and its impact on cinema?

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

6. Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler blazes like a diamond-drill in Josh and Benny Safdie’s sensory-rush drama about a jeweller and gambling addict trying to hold onto his sanity as his world comes crashing down. It’s an exhausting, sometimes overwhelming watch – but with Sandler as the audience’s lodestar, it’s a journey worth staying with.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

5. Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach draws on the breakdown of his marriage to Jennifer Jason Leigh in this unflinching chronicling of a modern divorce. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are compelling as a couple who wake one morning to discover they’ve fallen out of love, while Laura Dern deservedly won an Oscar as Johansson’s force-of-nature attorney.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

4. The Other Side of the Wind

For a reminder how unhinged film-making became in the Seventies, buckle up and lose yourself in this posthumous restoration of never-completed Orson Welles movie, The Other Side of the Wind. What would have been Welles’s swansong is a maniacal, meta meditation on art and fame, with John Huston playing a buccaneering director – in essence, a heightened composite of himself and Welles. There are also parts for Peter Bogdanovich and Dennis Hopper. Welles’s editor, Bob Murawski, together with Bogdanovich and Welles’s daughter Beatrice, assembled the cut from 100 hours of footage. It only occasionally makes sense – but, as an experience, it’s unforgettable.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

When Netflix asked the Coen brothers to make a binge-friendly TV series, .’s quirkiest siblings obviously went their own way. This anthology movie, titled The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, features six stories set amid the Coens’ deeply quirky and revisionist take on the Old West. The spirit of their classic O Brother, Where Art Thou? is tapped enthusiastically, with Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco and Tom Waits heading the starry cast.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

2. The Irishman

Teaming up with De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese suggested The Irishman might be the cinematic event of the decade. There is certainly lots to love in this generations-spanning tale of hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro) and his relationship with union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) and his own daughter (Anna Paquin). True, the film isn’t quite a classic at the level of Goodfellas. The de-aging technology employed to turn the cast into thirtysomething gangsters feels rubbery and unconvincing. And the 209-minute running time left many viewers suffering numb bum. But it’s still Scorsese doing mobsters and unmistakably the work of a director reaching for a big artistic statement.

Netflix

30 best Netflix original films

1. Roma

The privileged Mexico City childhood of director Alfonso Cuarón inspired his affecting, quasi-autobiographical treatise on class, privilege and love. Yalitza Aparicio is the semi-invisible maid to a wealthy family, her life a story of small moments unfolding against the backdrop of political upheaval. Netflix was denied its Best Picture Oscar for Roma, but Cuarón was an uncontroversial pick for Best Director at the 2018 awards.

Netflix

24. The Incredible Jessica James

Former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams is a revelation as a romantically adrift young playwright who tries to come to terms with a break up by projecting blinding over-confidence. She strikes up an unlikely chemistry with Chris O’Dowd’s awkward everyman – with results that achieve a rarefied mix of funny and sweet.

Millie Bobby Brown steps outside Stranger Things and joins forces with Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin. She plays the eponymous younger sister of Sherlock (Cavill) and Mycroft (Claflin) Holmes, with Helena Bonham Carter as her eccentric mother. The game is afoot when Eudoria (Bonham Carter) vanishes and Enola sets out to track her down.  

Sandra Bullock in a blindfold whispering to two terrified children might not sound like the stuff of blockbuster gold. Sci-fi horror Bird Box is certainly flawed. It also had the ill fortune to come out six months after the thematically adjacent A Quiet Place. Nonetheless, there’s an undeniable pulpy thrill to this tale of aliens that drive you mad on sight (hence the blind-folds). Keep an eye out, too, for a fantastic cameo from Tom Hollander.

Ali Wong and Randall Park play former childhood sweethearts from San Fransisco whose lives take very different paths after they consummate their friendship. She becomes a celebrity chef engaged to a dead-eyed property developer; he’s a home town schlub still living with his dad. Screwball antics ensue as their paths cross again. So far, so cliche. But there are enough surprises – and one hilarious cameo – to prevent Always Be My Maybe feeling hopelessly formulaic.

Magic realism comes to Netflix in this coming-of-age story set in Dakar, Senegal. Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) is betrothed to a wealthy man but then falls in love with construction worker Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré). When he vanishes her world is tipped head-over-heels. In truth, the bare-bone plot is merely the chassis upon which director Mati Diop drapes a hallucinatory romance and mystery with elements of the supernatural.

Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Price twinkle ecumenically in this two-hander about Pontiffs Benedict XVI (Hopkins) and Francis (Price) who are thrown together at a time of crisis for the Church. The two leads were nominated for Oscars, as was screenwriter Anthony McCarten, adapting his 2019 play of the same name.

18. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Netflix has become an unexpected champion of the humble romcom and this was the movie that established its reputation in the genre. Lana Condor plays a shy high-school student who writes pretend letters to her crushes. But when the missives are stolen and made public, she feels obliged to enter a fake relationship in order to preserve her dignity. All your favourite romcom tropes are ticked off – but with a knowingness that falls satisfyingly short of cynical.

17. The Fundamentals of Caring

Paul Rudd takes a break from Ant-Man to play the carer of teenager Trevor (Craig Roberts), who has muscular dystrophy. A heart-warming road movie ensues as they somehow end up crossing America in the company of flinty hitchhiker Dot (Selena Gomez). Rudd’s likability is dialled all the way up in a feel-good weepie sure to shred the heartstrings.

16. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

King of motion capture Andy Serkis ropes in some famous pals – Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett. Benedict Cumberbatch etc – for a fang-baring tilt at Rudyard Kipling. Shunted back because of Disney’s own “live action” Jungle Book remake, this one is far grittier – a children’s movie with enough tooth and claw not to feel like a fairytale.

Eddie Murphy puts in one of his best performances in years in this biopic about Blaxploitation comedian Rudy Ray Moore, whose potty-mouthed albums and movies in the mid Seventies were credited with helping invent hip hop. Moore’s “Dolemite” character was based on old black homeless man he encountered in San Fransisco and caused both a sensation and a scandal at the time. Murphy brings this complex figure to life with an alternately hilarious and affecting turn.

Chris Hemsworth puts to one side Thor’s hammer to play an Australian black ops mercenary in a kinetic Bangladesh-set thriller directed by former stunt-man Sam Hargrave (Hemsworth’s double in the Marvel films). It’s pedal-to-the-floor from the start and worth watching for a mid-point car-case Hargrave shot in a single take by strapping himself to the bonnet of a jeep.

Lovecraftian weirdness by the bucketful from director Alex Garland. Natalie Portman heads a team of researchers venturing into a quarantined swampland where the laws of nature have been rebuilt from the cellular level up. Mind-bending body horror, with echoes of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cary Joji Fukunaga will shortly make his Bond debut with No Time To Die. But he was better known for directing original season of True Detective when his adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s Ghanian civil war novel was acquired by Netflix. It’s a nightmarish tale of child soldiers dehumanised by conflict, with Idris Elba chilling as the adult commander of the boy combatants.

Netflix has been churning out serviceable horror movies for several years now. This Wicker Man updating by The Raid director Gareth Evans features the standard feral yokels, to which he brings his own innovation via oceans of gore. Dan Stevens is a naive outsider who, in 1905, travels to a remote Welsh island hoping to locate his vanished sister. He discovers a cult headed by Michael Sheen’s crazed preacherman, a whole lot of trouble and something terrible hiding in the dark.

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Show all 50

1/50The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Bojack Horseman

A cartoon about a talking horse, starring the goofy older brother from Arrested Development… on paper little about BoJack Horseman screams “must watch”. Yet the series almost immediately transcended its format to deliver a moving and very funny rumination on depression and middle-age malaise. Will Arnett plays BoJack – one time star of Nineties hit sitcom Horsin’ Around – as a lost soul whose turbo-charged narcissism prevents him getting his life together. Almost as good are a support cast including Alison Brie (Glow, Mad Men), Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad, and Amy Sedaris as a pampered Persian cat who is also BoJack’s agent. Season five touches the live rail of harassment in the movie industry, offering one of the most astute commentaries yet on the #MeToo movement with an episode based centred around an awards ceremony called “The Forgivies”. The sixth and final series was split in two, with part one debuting on 25 October and part two on 31 January 2020.

Netflix

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Stranger Things

A valentine to the Spielberg school of Eighties blockbuster, with Winona Ryder as a small town mom whose son is abducted by a transdimensional monster. ET, Goonies, Close Encounters, Alien and everything Stephen King wrote between 1975 and 1990 are all tossed into the blender by Millennial writer-creators the Duffer brothers. It was clear Stranger Things was going to be a mega-smash when Barb – the “best friend” character eaten in the second episode – went viral the weekend it dropped.

Netflix

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Daredevil

Netflix’s Marvel shows tend towards the overlong and turgid. An exception is the high-kicking Daredevil, with Charlie Cox’s blind lawyer/crimefighter banishing all memory of Ben Affleck’s turn donning the red jumpsuit in 2003. With New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood as backdrop, Daredevil is caked in street-level grit and features a searing series one performance by Vincent D’Onofrio as the villainous Kingpin. The perfect antidote to the deafening bombast of the big screen Marvel movies.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Staircase

Did he do it? Does it matter considering the lengths the Durham, North Carolina police seemingly went in order to stitch him up? Sitting through this twisting, turning documenting about the trial of Michael Peterson – charged with the murder in 2003 of his wife – the viewer may find themselves alternately empathising with and recoiling from the accused. It’s a feat of bravura factual filmmaking from French documentarian Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, which comes to Netflix with a recently shot three-part coda catching up with the (very weird) Peterson clan a decade on.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Dark

Stranger Things: the Euro-Gloom years. Netflix’s first German-language production is a pulp romp that thinks it’s a Wagner opera. In a remote town surrounded by a creepy forest locals fear the disappearance of a teenager may be linked to other missing persons cases from decades earlier. The timelines get twisted and it’s obvious that something wicked is emanating from a tunnel leading to a nearby nuclear power plant. Yet if the story sometimes trips itself up the Goonies-meets-Götterdämmerung ambiance keeps you hooked.

Netflix

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The wry and bleak Lemony Snickett children novels finally get the ghastly adaptation they deserve (let’s all pretend the dreadful 2004 Jim Carrey movie never happened). Neil Patrick Harris gobbles up the scenery as the vain and wicked Count Olaf, desperate to separate the Baudelaire orphans from their considerable inheritance. The look is Tim Burton by way of Wes Anderson, and the dark wit of the books is replicated perfectly (Snickett, aka Daniel Handler, is co-producer).

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Maniac

If you’re curious as to how Cary Fukunaga will handle the Bond franchise, his limited series, starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, drops some delicious hints. It’s a mind-bending sci-fi story set in an alternative United States where computers still look like Commodore 64s and in which you pay for goods by having a “travel buddy” sit down and read you adverts. Stone and Hill are star-crossed outcasts participating in a drugs trial that catapults them into a series of trippy genre excursions – including an occult adventure and a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy. It is here that Fukunaga demonstrates his versatility, handling potentially hokey material smartly and respectfully. 007 fans can sleep easy.

Netflix

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Better Call Saul

The Breaking Bad prequel is starting to outgrow the show that spawned it. Where Breaking Bad delivered a master-class in scorched earth storytelling Saul is gentler and more humane. Years before the rise of Walter White, the future meth overlord’s sleazy lawyer, Saul Goodman, is still plain old Jimmy McGill, a striving every-dude trying to catch a break. But how far will he go to make his name and escape the shadow of his superstar attorney brother Chuck (Michael McKean)? Season five has just arrived and journeys even deeper into the Breaking Bad expanded universe.

AMC Studios/Netflix

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Black Mirror

Don’t tell Channel 4 but Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series has arguably got even better since making the jump from British terrestrial TV to the realm of megabucks American streaming. Bigger budgets have given creators Brooker and Annabel Jones license to let their imaginations off the leash – yielding unsurpassable episodes such as virtual reality love story « San Junipero » and Star Trek parody « USS Callister », which has bagged a bunch of Emmys.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Mindhunter

David Fincher produces this serial killer drama based on the writings of a real-life FBI psychological profiler. It’s the post-Watergate Seventies and two maverick G-Men (Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) are going out on a limb by utilising the latest psychological research to get inside the heads of a motley assembly of real-life sociopathic murders – including the notorious “Co-Ed” butcher Ed Kemper, brought chillingly to live in an Emmy-nominated performance by Cameron Britton.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Crown

A right royal blockbuster from dramatist Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost / Nixon). Tracing the reign of Elizabeth II from her days as a wide-eyed young woman propelled to the throne after the surprise early death of her father, The Crown humanises the royals even as it paints their private lives as a bodice-ripping soap. Matt Smith is charmingly roguish as Prince Philip and Vanessa Kirby has ascended the . ranks on the back of her turn as the flawed yet sympathetic Princess Margaret. Most impressive of all, arguably, is Claire Foy, who plays the Queen as a shy woman thrust unwillingly into the spotlight. Foy and the rest of the principal cast have now departed, with a crew of older actors – headed by Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies – taking over as the middle-aged Windsors for season three. They’ll be around for season four too. And then the grand endeavour closes with Imelda Staunton as Elizabeth in her twilight years.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Narcos

This drug trafficking caper spells out exactly what kind of series it is with an early scene in which two gangsters zip around a multi-level carpark on a motorbike firing a machine gun. Narcos, in other words, is for people who consider Pacino’s Scarface a touch too understated. Series one and two feature a mesmerising performance by Wagner Moura as Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, while season three focuses on the notorious Cali cartel. Reported to be one of Netflix’s biggest hits – the company doesn’t release audience figures – it turns its attention in its fourth and fifth season to Mexico’s interminable drugs wars, with Diego Luna playing Guadalajara cartel honcho Miguel Gallardo.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Master of None

A cloud hangs over Aziz Ansari’s future after he was embroiled in the #MeToo scandal. But whatever happens, he has left us with a humane and riveting sitcom about an Ansari-proximate character looking for love and trying to establish himself professionally in contemporary New York.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Bloodline

One of Netflix’s early blockbusters, the sprawling soap opera updates Dallas to modern day southern Florida. Against the edge-of-civilisation backdrop of the Florida Keys, Kyle Chandler plays the local detective and favourite son of a well-to-do family. Their idyllic lives are thrown into chaos with the return of the clan’s black sheep (an unnervingly intense Ben Mendelsohn). The story is spectacularly hokey but searing performances by Chandler and Mendelsohn, and by Sissy Spacek and the late Sam Shepard as their imperious parents, make Bloodline compelling – a guilty pleasure that, actually, you shouldn’t feel all that guilty about.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Alienist

You can almost smell the shoddy sanitation and horse-manure in this lavish murder-mystery set in 19th New York. We’re firmly in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York territory, with a serial killer bumping off boy prostitutes across Manhattan. Enter pioneering criminal psychologist Dr Laszlo Kreisler (Daniel Brühl), aided by newspaper man John Moore (Luke Evans) and feisty lady detective Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning).

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Love

Judd Apatow bring his signature gross-out comedy to the small screen. Love, which Apatow produced, is a masterclass in restraint compared to 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up etc. Paul Rust is Gus, a nerdish movie set tutor, whose develops a crush on Gillian Jacobs’s too-cool-for-school radio producer Mickey. Romance, of a sort, blossoms – but Love’s triumph is to acknowledge the complications of real life and to disabuse its characters of the idea that there’s such a thing as a straightforward happy ending. Hipster LA provides the bustling setting.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Queer Eye

Who says reality TV has to be nasty and manipulative? This updating of the early 2000s hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has five stereotype-challenging gay men sharing lifestyle tips and fashion advice with an engaging cast of All American schlubs (the first two seasons are shot mostly in the state of Georgia). There are laughs – but serious moment too, such as when one of the crew refuses to enter a church because of the still unhealed scars of his strict Christian upbringing.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Chef’s Table

A high-gloss revamping of the traditional TV food show. Each episode profiles a high wattage international chef; across its three seasons, the series has featured gastronomic superstars from the US, Argentina, India and Korea.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Arrested Development

A disastrous group interview in which actor Jason Bateman “mansplained” away the bullying co-star Jessica Walter had suffered at the hands of fellow cast-member Jeffrey Tambor meant season five of Arrested Development was fatally compromised before it even landed. Yet Netflix’s return to the dysfunctional world of the Bluth family stands on its merits and is a worthy addition to the surreal humour of seasons one through three (series four, which had to work around the busy schedules of the cast, is disposable by comparison).

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Altered Carbon

Netflix does Bladerunner with this sumptuous adaptation of the cult Richard Morgan novel. The setting is a neon-splashed cyberpunk future in which the super-wealthy live forever by uploading the consciousness into new “skins”. Enter rebel-turned-detective Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), hired to find out who killed a (since resurrected) zillionaire industrialist while dealing with fallout from his own troubled past. Rumoured to be one of Netflix’s most expensive projects yet, its second run sees Anthony Mackie (aka Marvel’s Falcon) replace Kinnaman as the shape-shifting Kovacs. He’s a perfect fit for the part too, delving into the inner turmoil of a character who accumulates a multitude of ghosts across his endless lifespan.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Rick and Morty

Dan Harmon, creator of cult sitcom Community (also on Netflix), finds the perfect outlet for zany fanboy imagination with this crazed animated comedy about a Marty McFly/Doc Brown-esque duo of time travellers. Every genre imaginable is parodied with the manic energy and zinging dialogue we have come to expect from Harmon.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

GLOW

Mad Men’s Alison Brie is our entry point into this comedy-drama inspired by a real life all-female wrestling league in the Eighties. Ruth Wilder (Brie) is a down-on-her luck actor who, out of desperation, signs up a wrestling competition willed into being by Sam Sylvia (podcast king Marc Maron). Britrock singer Kate Nash is one of her her fellow troupe members: the larger than life Rhonda “Britannica” Richardson.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Archer

Deadpan animated satire about an idiot super spy with shaken and stirred mother issues. One of the most ambitious modern comedies, animated or otherwise, Archer tries on different varieties of humour for size and even occasionally tugs at the heart strings.

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Ozark

Breaking Bad for those with short attention spans. The saga of Walter White took years to track the iconic anti-hero’s rise from mild mannered everyman to dead-eyed criminal. Ozark gets there in the first half hour as nebbish Chicago accountant Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) agrees to serve as lieutenant for the Mexican mob in the hillbilly heartlands of Ozark, Missouri (in return they thoughtfully spare his life). Bateman, usually seen in comedy roles, is a revelation as is Laura Linney as his nasty wife Wendy. There is also a break-out performance by Julia Garner playing the scion of a local redneck crime family. Bateman recently won a best director Emmy for his work on the series, seizing the gong from beneath the noses of Game of Thrones’s David Benioff and DB Weiss. Season three is due in March 2020.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Good Place

A heavenly comedy with a twist. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is a cynical schlub waved through the Pearly Gates by mistake after dying in a bizarre supermarket accident. There she must remain above the suspicions of seemingly well-meaning but disorganised angel Michael (Ted Danson) whilst also negotiating fractious relationships with do-gooder Chidi (William Jackson Harper), spoiled princess Tahani (former T4 presenter Jameela Jamil) and ex-drug dealer Jason (Manny Jacinto).

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Disenchantment

It’s been forever and a few years since The Simpsons was even vaguely essentially viewing. But Matt Groening’s Homer mojo clearly hasn’t abandoned him yet. His Netflix series, just back for a second season, is a hilarious pastiche of fantasy tropes, with Abbi Jacobson as a hard-drinking princess, Eric Andre and Nat Faxon as her demon pal and elf sidekick and Matt Berry as – to quote Wikipedia – “Prince Merkimer, from the kingdom of Bentwood, who is arranged to marry [Princess] Bean, but was turned into a pig”.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Top Boy

Netflix has been binning shows as if it is going out of fashion. But that didn’t stop Drake from persuading it to revive the Channel 4 drama about rival drug dealers in a fictional south London neighbourhood. Middle-aged Irishman Ronan Bennett captures the reality of life for many young black British people with tremendously sensitivity, while the cast is headed by Ashley Walters, Kane “Kano” Robinson, rapper Little Simz and Mercury Prize winner Dave.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Unbelievable

A police procedural adapted from a long-form magazine exposé of American justice’s entrenched misogyny sounds like nobody’s idea of a fun night in. But Unbelievable makes serious points about how sufferers of sexual assault are marginalised and victim-blamed while also drawing the viewer into a compelling mystery. Unflinching yet never gratuitous, it stars Toni Collette and Merritt Wever as hard-bitten detectives investigating a serial rapist. Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever, meanwhile, plays a young woman wrongly accused of crying wolf when a man attacks her in her apartment.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Russian Doll

Time becomes a loop in this sci-fi parable about a troubled New Yorker who finds herself reliving the final hours of her life over and over. Is the cosmos itself trying to tell her something? Or is she simply losing her marbles. Natasha Lyonne excels as damaged, potty-mouthed Nadia. Her improbable love interest is played by Charlie Barnett.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Umbrella Academy

Gerard Way’s surreal comic book has translated impressively to the screen. Umbrella Academy unfolds as a lightly unhinged anti-Avengers. A family of super-powered siblings tries to solve the mystery of the murder of their domineering adoptive father, who plucked them from the arms of their mothers and raised them to be humanity’s first line of defence. Ellen Page, Tom Hopper and Robert Sheehan head the cast in a series that plays out like a Marvel movie directed by Wes Anderson. Watch out for a cameo by R&B queen Mary J Blige as an inter-dimensional assassin.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

When They See Us

Oscar-nominated Ava DuVernay makes a foray into television with a gripping four-part retelling of the 1989 Central Park Five case in which five African Americans were charged with the rape of a jogger in central Manhattan.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Dark Crystal

This return to the world of the Jim Henson 1982 fantasy movie is very much a series of two halves. The first five episodes are a confused hodgepodge of exposition and world building. But once it settles down this prequel to the film spins a fantastic tale of puppet Gelflings and Skeksis vying for power in a feudal kingdom… a game of thrones, as it were. Westeros regulars Natalie Dormer, Lena Headey and Nathalie Emmanuel star alongside Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill and Alicia Vikander.

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Haunting of Hill House

A rare TV horror that genuinely gets under the skin. Very loosely adapted from 1959 Shirley Jackson gothic classic, Mike Flanagan’s series chronicles the adulthood agonies of a family whose childhood was traumatised by a run-in with a creepy mansion. Rather than lazy jump-scares, the series ratchets up the dread slowly yet unyieldingly. A few episodes in and you may find yourself holding your breath, so searing is the tension. To really freak you, Flanagan has also inserted dozens of hidden ghosts into the background. See how many you can spot – and good luck getting to sleep afterwards.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The OA

Bonkers on a swizzle stick, this series from Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij makes Twin Peaks look like an Only Fools and Horses repeat. Prairie (Marling) is an inter-dimensional wanderer with a strange past and an even weirder future. She recruits a group of high school students, teaching them the “movements” that permit travel across time and space. That’s the jumping off point for a meditation on existence, identity and fate. Controversially cancelled after just two seasons – and the mother of all cliff-hangers – the OA is nonetheless a sensory experience worth your time. Did we mention the talking octopus?

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Our Planet

David Attenborough provides the narration – but the real star is the stunning camerawork and general sumptuousness, courtesy of the team behind BBC mega-hits Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Shots of flamingos running across salt flats and blue whales chilling off the coast of Mexico are the perfect excuse to spring for a Netflix HD subscription.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Dragon Prince

Game of Thrones exited to the strains of a thousand damp squibs imploding at once. And it’s too early to say whether adaptations of the Witcher or The Wheel of Time will be any use. But one fantasy saga worth getting your chainmail in a twist for is this kid’s animated series from Avatar: The Last Airbender director Aaron Ehasz. The setting is bog standard swords and sorcery – there are dragons, elves and magicians – but the execution is riveting. Ethnic tensions between elves and humans are compellingly drawn – and did we mention the dragons?

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Castlevania

A gothic adult cartoon based on an obscure video game does not sound enticing. Yet this baroque fever dream starring Richard Armitage (Thorin from The Hobbit movies) as the last living member of an excommunicated family of vampire hunters and Graham McTavish as a misunderstood Count Dracula (he’s upset after his wife is burned the stake) is a riveting slow burner. A third season is in production.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Tuca and Bertie

Netflix has lately turned cancelling shows into a competitive sport. This new animated drama from the creators of BoJack Horseman was canned just two months after its debut despite much critical acclaim. In Netflix’s defence, it is rather wacky. To quote Deadline, it tells of “the friendship between two 30-year-old bird-women who live in the same apartment building, Tuca (Tiffany Haddish), a cocky, care-free toucan and Bertie (Ali Wong), an anxious, daydreaming songbird.” The humour is surreal but, just like BoJack Horseman, the emotional beats – specifically its depiction of the central relationship – yank the heartstrings.

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Blown Away

Reality TV, the Netflix way. Imagine Bake Off with glass-blowing instead of marzipan manipulation and YouTube star Nick Uhas in for Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. Ten artists test their glass blowing mastery in a series of challenges. The winner walks away with $60,000 and a residency at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Just like Bake Off, it’s riveting viewing even if you can’t tell a kiln from a kangaroo.

The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Dead to Me

Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate join forces for this super-dark comedy about two women who meet at a therapy group for the recently bereaved. They strike up a natural friendship – but, as we slowly learn, each has secrets they’d rather not share. James Marsden is fantastic as the smarmy ex of Judy (Cardellini) while the behind the scenes involvement of producers Will Ferrell and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy director Adam McKay provides a clue as to the mad-cap humour. A word-of-mouth success, it has been picked up for a second series.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Witcher

Henry Cavill stars as titular monster hunter Geralt of Rivia in a pulpy adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s best-selling fantasy novels (the show is not directly based on the hit video game series). It’s a ludicrous lark with a plot that often baffles (watch out for those multiple timelines). But Cavill is fantastic as the Witcher and he has a great support cast including Anya Chalotra as sorceress Yennefer , Freya Allan as Princess Ciri and Joey Batey as Jaskier the Bard. It is estimated to be the most in-demand TV show in the world across all platforms. All together now, “toss a coin to your Witcher, oh ratings of plenty…”

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

The Stranger

An old-school, over-the-top thriller, adapted from the Harlan Coben bestseller. The setting is a fictional town of Cedarfield, which seems to be somewhere within commuting distance of Manchester. Richard Armitage plays a loving dad and husband whose world falls apart when a mysterious woman tells him his wife (Dervla Kirwan) faked her pregnancy. Jennifer Saunders later pops up as a mother whose family has its own secrets.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Baroque with bells on and camper than a disco ball at a tent convention, Netflix’s rebooting of Sabrina the Teenage Witch makes a virtue of excess. Kiernan Shipka – Don Draper’s daughter from Mad Men – lights up the screen as the half-human/ half witch teenager drawn into a tangle with the devil himself. Miranda Otto and The Office’s Lucy Davies play her eccentric aunts. And there’s a cat named Salem, though he doesn’t talk.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Next in Fashion

Feel-good reality TV was once a contradiction in terms. But the vibes are agreeably optimistic in this fashionista contest in which professional designers compete for a $250,000 price. Presenters Tan France and Alexa Chung bring the common touch and the contestants appear to be enjoying themselves rather than undergoing the ordeal of a lifetime. Essentially, it’s Bake Off on the catwalk.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Locke and Key

Joe Hill’s bestselling graphic novels receive the YA treatment in this urban fantasy about a house full of portals to other worlds and the grieving family who make their home there. The break-out performance is by Emilia Jones – daughter of singer Aled – playing middle child Kinsey Locke. Hill, the son of Stephen King, moved heaven and earth to bring his story to the screen and the effort has paid off.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Star Trek: Discovery

Trekkies have agreed to disagree regarding this often madcap reboot of the venerable sci-fi saga. Suffice to say, if starships powered by “spore drives” or Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs over-acting across multiple dimensions is off-putting then this isn’t the Trek for you. But others have warmed to the ambitious storytelling, top-notch FX and Sonequa Martin-Green’s earnest performance as science officer Michael Burnham.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Money Heist

The Spanish thriller has become one of Netflix’s most popular non-English language shows. There’s certainly lots going on. The story begins with a daring raid on the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid, overseen by the mysterious Professor (Álvaro Morte) Thereafter it gets steadily more bonkers and the location shifts from Spain to Germany and Thailand. Though all the twists and turns, highs and lows, Money Heist is never less than gripping.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Night on Earth

David Attenborough’s Our Planet has hoovered up all the attention. But this UK-made series, narrated by Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley, brings a new perspective to wildlife TV. Shot using heat-sensitive cameras, Night on Earth features lions romping by moonlight and cacti blooming under the desert stars. It’s like journeying to another world, with reality only returning as the sun rises.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Spinning Out

Kaya Scodelario – recently seen in the new BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The White Horse – owns the screen as a promising young skater recovering from a serious injury. Her real challenge is off the rink as she tries to conceal her family’s history of mental illness. It’s clearly pitched at a YA audience and is a bit overwrought in places. But Spinning Out is never less than watchable and it’s a shame it was cancelled after just one series.

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The 50 best TV shows on Netflix UK

Living with Yourself

Paul Rudd and Aisling Bea have good chemistry in this mordant comedy about a white collar schlub (Rudd) who, in the depths of a midlife crisis, accidentally clones himself. He is forced to compete with his happier, more confident, wittier alter-ego while his wife (Bea) tries to make sense of the transformation. You’ll chuckle rather than fall over clutching your sides but the leads are likeable and the script hums along.

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There is a heartbreaking cameo from the late Chadwick Boseman, who plays a US marine squad leader killed in Vietnam. In the present day, the four veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Norm Lewis) who served under him return to the scene of the war to repatriate his remains. Lee has delivered a dizzying rumination on growing old and making peace with ghosts from the past. But the soldiers are African-American and so the Da 5 Bloods also interrogates, in the year of Black Lives Matter protests, America’s racial traumas. 

With Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite winning the Palme d’Or, what better moment to revisit his brilliantly weird and charming morality fable from 2017. Co-written with John Ronson, this is a by turns heart-warming and chilling story of a young girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) and her friendship with the titular bio-engineered super-pig. It sounds, and frequently is, bonkers but Joon-ho plays with our heartstrings as if manipulating a Stradivarius, while Tilda Swinton is outstanding as an evil tech messiah masquerading as an environmentalist.

8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson head the cast in Noah Baumbach’s comedy drama about worldly Manhattanites struggling with their lives of sophisticated privilege. Baumbach is on solid ground marshalling the inter-familial tension. But he also reminds us why he’s a master at locating universal truths within the self-involved lives of neurotic Americans.

An unflinching survey of race and politics in the Southern United States immediately before and after the Second World War. Carey Mulligan and Mary J Blige head the cast, while Dee Rees guides the story with tremendous tautness. Mudbound was expected to receive a clean sweep of Oscar nominations in 2017. In the end it received just four, in relatively minor categories. The first rumblings of .’s hostility towards streaming and its impact on cinema?

Adam Sandler blazes like a diamond-drill in Josh and Benny Safdie’s sensory-rush drama about a jeweller and gambling addict trying to hold onto his sanity as his world comes crashing down. It’s an exhausting, sometimes overwhelming watch – but with Sandler as the audience’s lodestar, it’s a journey worth staying with.

Noah Baumbach draws on the breakdown of his marriage to Jennifer Jason Leigh in this unflinching chronicling of a modern divorce. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are compelling as a couple who wake one morning to discover they’ve fallen out of love, while Laura Dern deservedly won an Oscar as Johansson’s force-of-nature attorney.

4. The Other Side of the Wind

For a reminder how unhinged film-making became in the Seventies, buckle up and lose yourself in this posthumous restoration of a never-completed Orson Welles movie from the period. What would have been Welles’s swansong is a maniacal, meta meditation on art and fame, with John Huston playing a buccaneering director – in essence, a heightened composite of himself and Welles. There are also parts for Peter Bogdanovich and Dennis Hopper. Welles’s editor, Bob Murawski, together with Bogdanovich and Welles’s daughter Beatrice, assembled the cut from 100 hours of footage. It only occasionally makes sense – but, as an experience, it’s unforgettable.

3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

When Netflix asked the Coen brothers to make a binge-friendly TV series, .’s quirkiest siblings obviously went their own way. This anthology movie features six stories set amid the Coens’ deeply quirky and revisionist take on the Old West. The spirit of their classic O Brother, Where Art Thou? is tapped enthusiastically, with Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco and Tom Waits heading the starry cast.

Teaming up with De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese suggested The Irishman might be the cinematic event of the decade. There is certainly lots to love in this generations-spanning tale of hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro) and his relationship with union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) and his own daughter (Anna Paquin). True, the film isn’t quite a classic at the level of Goodfellas. The de-aging technology employed to turn the cast into thirtysomething gangsters feels rubbery and unconvincing. And the 209-minute running time left many viewers suffering numb bum. But it’s still Scorsese doing mobsters and unmistakably the work of a director reaching for a big artistic statement.

Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director at the 2019 Oscars for ‘Roma’

The privileged Mexico City childhood of director Alfonso Cuarón inspired his affecting, quasi-autobiographical treatise on class, privilege and love. Yalitza Aparicio is the semi-invisible maid to a wealthy family, her life a story of small moments unfolding against the backdrop of political upheaval. Netflix was denied its Best Picture Oscar but Cuarón was an uncontroversial pick for Best Director at the 2018 awards.

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