Even more so than its original movies (you’ll find our top picks in that category here), Netflix has really poured it on with their original TV series. There are dozens to choose from, and they are coming faster than is possible to watch them. It would be an impossible task to catalog all of them and come up with a definitive list of the best, so please consider this list more of a broad guideline; It’s a list of 14 great Netflix shows (we have four ties), rather than the 14 greatest.

There are many intriguing possibilities among the shows that didn’t make the cut: Bojack Horseman, Godless, House of Cards, Lady Dynamite, Mindhunter, Orange Is the New Black, Trollhunters, the great documentary mini-series Five Came Back, David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, the continuations of Arrested Development and The Killing, and many more. But hopefully these titles, covering a wide range of tastes and topics, will give you a place to set up base camp. 

10. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

mst3k Netflix

Crow (Hampton Yount), Jonah Ray, and Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn) goof off between bad movies in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.

This reboot of a show that ended in 1999 still feels amazingly fresh, even among all the YouTube channels and other meta-comedy shows it inspired. In Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return (2017-present), writer, comedian and podcaster Jonah Ray fills the shoes of his predecessors nicely, a jump-suited worker bee trapped in a space station and forced to watch bad movies. But, with the help of his robots Crow and Tom Servo (voiced by various actors), they ridicule the movie and keep their sanity—while making us laugh.

Fanboy dreamgirl Felicia Day plays the head villainess, and Patton Oswalt is her henchman, adding to the warm, nerdy factor. Aside from a new widescreen-TV look and a few other updates (Servo can now fly inside the screening room, and the third robot, Gypsy, also makes appearances), the format is refreshingly the same. As always, it has the power to knock you off guard with a silly comment, and then keep you off-balance as it bombards you with more silliness. Look for guest stars such as Neil Patrick Harris and Jerry Seinfeld, and even musical numbers, including the now-classic “Every Country Has a Monster” rap from the Reptilicus episode.

9. Chef’s Table / Ugly Delicious

Chefs Table Netflix

Los Angeles chef Niki Nakayama is just one of many chef’s profiled on Chef’s Table.

Cooking shows are everywhere, and foodie nerds are very picky about which ones they like, but these two Netflix shows are both favorites. Chef’s Table (2015-present) spends each episode visiting a different chef in a different city, painting something of a personal portrait, while Ugly Delicious (2018-present) is more directly focused on the origins and cultural authenticity of specific dishes. Needless to say, the latter show is more focused on delicious food (or “food porn” as it’s sometimes known), so which show emerges as the victor depends on the viewer’s palate.

Chef’s Table focuses on restaurants that most of us will never be able to afford. For us, Ugly Delicious gets a slight edge, for pure “yum” factor. The first eight episodes concentrate on things like tacos, pizza, fried rice, shrimp and crawfish, BBQ, and fried chicken, and there’s even an episode devoted solely to home-cooked Thanksgiving meals. Aziz Ansari guest stars in the pizza episode, and Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor) directed two episodes and produced all eight. 

8. Jessica Jones / Luke Cage

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Super-strong, invulnerable Luke (Mike Colter) is a conflicted hero in Harlem in Marvel’s Luke Cage.

Netflix’s run of Marvel superhero shows has been hit and miss, but when they hit, they are gripping. While still action oriented, these shows are more interested in characters, out of costume, dealing with everyday hangups in addition to more world-shaking threats. Daredevil was great in the middle, but it started slow and ended sluggishly; The Defenders was a fizzle, and the less said about Iron Fist, the better. But the first seasons of both Jessica Jones (2015-present) and Luke Cage (2016-present) are crackerjack (and both featured great villains!).

Krysten Ritter gave the world a beautiful, just-rolled-out-of-bed badass, carrying a lot of baggage, and not caring about etiquette or fashion, fighting the all-controlling Kilgrave (David Tennant). Luke Cage (Mike Colter)—who, incidentally, first appeared on Jessica Jones—dealt with Harlem’s politics, poverty, and richness of character, in addition to its vicious crime. Soon-to-be Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) brilliantly plays villain Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes—a king-sized portrait of The Notorious B.I.G. on the wall—creating the stuff of legends. 

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