Updated for February 2019.
The thing is that Netflix has so much content (about 4,000 movies and 1,800 TV shows) that some of the best films and series of all time are just sitting there, buried beneath all the new stuff the streaming giant churns out each week.
So I thought it might actually be helpful to remind readers of the best Netflix has to offer.
TV-wise it has, ya know, some of the best shows ever. And they’re just sitting there, awaiting a rewatch or, God help you, your FIRST watch. Netflix currently carries “Arrested Development,” “Blue Planet,” “Breaking Bad,” “Cheers,” “The Civil War,” “Fawlty Towers,” “Frasier,” “Friends,” “The Good Place,” “Halt and Catch Fire,” “Mad Men,” “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” “The Office” (American), “The Office” (British), “Parks and Recreation,” “Person of Interest” and “Planet Earth.”
Granted, not all of the following shows are as good as the aforementioned classics, but everything here is at least worth a try, particularly given the low bar of entry that Netflix offers.
These are the 100 best shows currently on Netflix.
“3%”: Brazilian sci-fi series that takes the meritocracy to its terrifying logical conclusion.
“Altered Carbon”: What if you could keep uploading your consciousness into new meat suits?
“Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”: The king.
“American Crime Story”: Including the more recent “Versace” season and the much-better “O.J.” season.
“American Vandal”: The drawing-phalluses-on-cars season is better than the poop season, but they collectively make this one of Netflix’s funniest efforts ever.
“Arrested Development”: Maybe just watch the earlier seasons.
“Arrow”: The inaugural CW/DC series and really the only one that’s been able to maintain a level of quality over its many seasons.
“Babylon Berlin”: Pre-Nazi Germany detective noir that’s one of the best things you can currently watch on TV, like Internet TV and TV TV.
“Bates Motel”: Portrait of the bird taxidermist as a young man.
“Better Call Saul”: The much-better-than-anyone-could-have-ever-expected prequel to “Breaking Bad.”
“Big Mouth”: “BoJack” gets a lot of attention, but “Big Mouth,” about a group of preteens going through ch-ch-changes, is Netflix’s best animated series.
“Black Earth Rising”: Acclaimed eight-episode miniseries about Kate (Michaela Coel), a Rwanda-born investigator in London who gets caught up in the prosecution of an African militia leader. John Goodman and Harriet Walter co-star.
“Black Mirror”: A hit-and-miss run of episodes, sure. Start with “San Junipero,” “USS Callister” and “Fifteen Million Merits.”
“Blue Planet I and II”: In David Attenborough voice: It’s marvelous.
“Bodyguard”: Robb Stark, following a particularly bad wedding party, decides to become a PTSD-stricken bodyguard.
“BoJack Horseman”: Depressed horse searches for meaning.
“Breaking Bad”: Just rewatch it already. There’s not much new worth watching these days.
“Cheers”: Best sitcom ever? Better than “Seinfeld”?
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”: Adolescence is hard even without the complicating factors of dark magical forces that mean you harm.
“The Civil War”: Ken Burns recalls a time when wars had more civility.
“Continuum”: Clever Canadian time-travel show.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”: Catch up on The CW’s popular series ahead of its last season.
“The Crown”: Queen content.
“Dogs”: Heart-tugging docuseries about the greatest damn creatures on this whole rotten rock.
“Dear White People”: TV continuation of the satirical film. Actually much better than the movie.
“The End of the F***ing World”: Two anti-social teens run away from home, fall in love and become outlaws.
“Extras”: Not on par with the British “Office” but a fine earlier effort from Ricky Gervais before he became insufferable.
“The Fall”: Jamie Dornan is undoubtedly the sexiest and most smoldering serial killer in all of fiction.
“Fawlty Towers”: What I think of when I think of British sitcoms.
“The Flash”: The first season of this was wonderful.
“Five Came Back”: Docuseries based on the Mark Harris book of the same name, which explores the wartime contributions of movie legends Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler.
“Frasier”: So no one told you life was gonna be this way.
“Friends”: Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
“Frozen Planet”: Like “Planet Earth” or “Blue Planet” but like with ice.
“Gilmore Girls”: The earlier seasons and the Netflix revival.
“GLOW”: Terrific comedy about amateur female wrestlers in the ’80s.
“Gomorrah”: Naples-set crime show based on the movie of the same name.
“The Good Place”: Best comedy currently on TV. Catch up with the first two seasons here.
“Grace and Frankie”: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin start over in their 70s.
“The Great British Bake Off”: The cooking show for people who don’t even like cooking shows.
“Great News”: Dearly departed NBC sitcom set at a rinky-dink cable news network.
“Halt and Catch Fire”: This is the best drama post-golden era TV (which I suppose ended with the series finale of “Mad Men”). It’s a wildly entertaining show that chronicles the efforts of a couple of entrepreneurial tech upstarts in the ’80s and ’90s.
“Happy!”: A series in which a drug addict cop played by Christopher Meloni starts seeing his daughter’s imaginary friend, a computer-animated unicorn with the voice of Patton Oswalt. It’s … kind of brilliant.
“Happy Valley”: Riveting small-town British crime show.
“The Haunting of Hill House”: The first few episodes and last few episodes of the spooky series weren’t great, but the middle stretch is outstanding.
“How to Get Away With Murder”: A helpful and edifying series.
“The Hunt”: Another superb nature doc from Attenborough and Co., this one exploring the relationship between predators and prey.
“I’m Sorry”: Squirm comedy starring the great Andrea Savage.
“iZombie”: The best zombie romcom police procedural we have.
“Jane the Virgin”: Four seasons of a telenovela about the accidentally artificially impregnated Jane.
“Jessica Jones”: Best and most consistent of the Marvel shows on Netflix.
“The Keepers”: Harrowing doc series about the decades-old murder of a nun and its possible link to a priest accused of abuse.
“The Last Kingdom”: Excellent British action epic set during the ninth century.
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”: Now in its third season, featuring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.
“Lovesick”: Charming British comedy about a group of young friends coping with their love lives and venereal diseases.
“Lucifer”: Satan moves to L.A. to become a cop. A certain kind of stupid fun that works really well.
“Luther”: Idris Elba broods, solves cases handsomely.
“Mad Men”: Right beneath “Sopranos” and “The Wire,” you’ve got to put “Deadwood” and “Mad Men.” There aren’t better shows than this.
“The Magicians”: Based on the great Lev Grossman books, this Syfy series is pretty terrific, especially its first season.
“Making a Murderer”: I mean the first season, at least.
“Master of None”: I don’t care for this show, but a lot of people love it, so what the hell do I know?
“Mindhunter”: David Fincher (for a few episodes) examines the twisted minds of real-life serial killers.
“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman”: In which Letterman interviews Clooney, Obama, Malala.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000”: Huge collection of episodes, the older ones, of course, better than Netflix’s recent reboot.
“Narcos”: Learn every little detail of the Colombian drug trade. And learn about Mexico’s in “Narcos: Mexico.”
“New Girl”: Ultimate millennial hangout show. Winston is the secret star.
“The Office”: The British one
“The Office”: The American one.
“One Day at a Time”: Great Justina Machado sitcom, now in its third season.
“On My Block”: Coming-of-age show about a group of friends growing up in a rough L.A. neighborhood.
“Orange Is the New Black”: This show eventually got really, really bad. But the first three or four seasons are tremendous. It’s OK to watch some of a show before bailing.
“Ozark”: Jason Bateman as brooding prestige TV antihero.
“Parks and Recreation”: Just one of the best things that ever happened to TV.
“Person of Interest”: Criminally underrated show about a group of people who use a benevolent God of a computer program to stop murders before they happen.
“Planet Earth I and II”: Enjoy the wonders of the planet before we get finished destroying it.
“Queer Eye”: This show makes my wife cry a lot.
“Rectify”: A slow-burn drama about a guy convicted of murder and acquitted decades later due to DNA evidence. It’s sort of a mystery but primarily a show about how a deeply traumatized man tries to re-enter society.
“Riverdale”: Tween peaks.
“Russian Doll”: Natasha Lyonne plays a woman who keeps dying and reliving the same New York City party over and over in this acclaimed new comedy co-created by Amy Poehler.
“Santa Clarita Diet”: Drew Barrymore becomes a zombie and her husband (Timothy Olyphant) makes sure she’s got a good supply of brains in the freezer.
“Schitt’s Creek”: Canadian sitcom in which a wealthy family (headed by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) lose everything and are forced to live in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
“Sense8”: The Wachowskis’ far-out sci-fi series.
“Sex Education”: British dramedy about a virgin (Asa Butterfield) and son of a sex therapist (Gillian Anderson) who sets up a secret sex health clinic at his high school.
“Sherlock”: The beginning of Cumberbatch fever.
“Star Trek”: The first three seasons.
“Stranger Things”: I know this show leans hard on nostalgia, but I still think it’s wonderful — well-done and full of compelling characters.
“Supergirl”: The superhero who started at CBS but found a home at The CW and, eventually, Netflix.
“The Staircase”: The essential true crime docuseries and its follow-up episodes.
“That ’70s Show”: An admittedly spotty series, but Red Forman is an all-time-great character.
“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”: The author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” cleans up your mess.
“Trailer Park Boys”: Another Canadian gem, so stupid and funny, 12 seasons on Netflix.
“Travelers”: Clever, watchable time-travel show starring Will of “Will & Grace.”
“Twin Peaks”: The great first season. And the barely-worth-watching second season. You’ll have to subscribe to Showtime to see the glorious fever dream that is Season 3.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”: A girl long held captive by a cult leader experiences the big city. The comedy series wanes in its later seasons but starts strong.
“The Vietnam War”: Ken Burns does the Vietnam War.
“The War”: Ken Burns does WWII.
“The West Wing”: Aaron Sorkin does the White House.
“Wild Wild Country”: Wild wild documentary series about a cult leader who formed a separatist society in Oregon.
“Wormwood”: A fascinating, and at times enervating, Errol Morris doc series about a man trying to find answers to the death of his father, who was dosed with LSD by the CIA.
“YOU”: Penn Badgley plays a starry-eyed psycho who stalks the girl of his dreams. Salacious, trashy and actually really good.