It varies a bit from country to country, but many Netflix libraries contain over 3000 movies and shows. While many try their best, few people can come close to claiming that they’ve seen even a fraction of what the average Netflix library has to offer. The best that entertainment junkies around the world can hope for is that the cream rises to the top. For the most part, that hope holds true. Original series like Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black have rightfully gotten the attention they deserve as some of the best programs that you’ll find on Netflix (or anywhere else, for that matter). Other TV shows, like Breaking Bad, were granted a second chance at success courtesy of the exposure the streaming service provided.
Yet, not every great title on Netflix gets the attention they deserve. Some struggle for life under the weight of hundreds of other content options that are all vying for your attention. Rather than dive into the Netflix yonder and simply hope that you stumble upon a hidden gem, we’ve taken the time to forgo social obligations and have a few more Netflix nights in order to identify the shows that are just waiting to become your next obsession.
These are the 15 Shows on Netflix You Didn’t Know You Should be Binge Watching.
15 Tales By Light
Only in an age of near-infinite entertainment options could a show like Tales by Light go under the radar. Tales by Light is not a serialized show, but rather a miniseries that follows some of Australia’s best photographers as they explore remote and strange parts of the world. While part of their drive to do so stems from a desire to advance the art of photography, the appeal of the show from a viewer’s perspective comes from the sheer beauty of the program.
Granted, only those with a serious interest in photography will fully enjoy watching these professionals break down the art of the perfect shot, but even those whose photo skills do not extend beyond the camera icon on their smartphone will be in awe once they see the world as these visual auteurs do. Those who get to watch the show in its proper 4K glory will be rewarded with one of the most stunning documentary series ever produced.
Many shows have tried, but there are few serialized programs in entertainment history which have accurately portrayed what it’s like to be in a relationship. While the fault sometimes lies in a creator’s attempt to romanticize romance itself, more often than not, the problem with fictional romances is that they are too limited. They attempt to capture universal truths regarding a subject that often boasts intimate intricacies which are difficult to relay.
The joy of Easy comes from the way it embraces the idea that no two relationships are ever quite the same. Over the course of eight episodes, Easy explores eight different relationships that are united by the theme of imperfection. There is a raw honesty to Easy’s characters and their interactions that occasionally generates a cringe from viewers, who suddenly are forced to watch a version of themselves engage in unfortunate romantic escapades. But more often than not, this only serves as the source of Easy’s unfiltered brilliance.
13 The Get Down
If you’re feeling pressed for time, you could consider The Get Down to be a hip-hop Disney musical with an edge. While that brief description might serve as an easy way to sell The Get Down to an uncertain potential viewer, it does very little in terms of actually capturing the brilliance of Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series. The Get Down focuses on a teenage poet named Zeke who struggles to find his purpose in a highly-stylized take on the 1970s Bronx, and soon submits to a growing underground DJ culture.
While The Get Down features a compelling narrative that incorporates a large cast of characters and subplots, it’s not exactly a show designed to capture you with cliffhangers and dangling plot threads. The show’s excellent narrative sits in the backseat while The Get Down’s soundtrack and visuals take the wheel. It relies on dramatic moments to advance the plot, but more often than not, the story inspires the same uplifting sense of belonging that makes the best musicals truly great.
12 Samurai Gourmet
Based on a popular Japanese manga, Samurai Gourmet follows a retired businessman named Takeshi Kasumi who has yet to really answer the dreaded “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” question. In his pursuit of answers, he stumbles upon several restaurants. As our protagonist enjoys dishes both nostalgic and new, he begins to project the persona of a wandering samurai whose mission is to explore Japanese food culture. Soon, this samurai persona begins to give Kasumi the second chance at youth that he craves as much as the food he consumes.
On the surface, Samurai Gourmet is an extremely off-putting show. It’s presented in a raw, almost documentary-like fashion that reserves its few visual flairs for the dishes Kasumi eats. Despite its strange style, those who stick with the show will find a refreshingly weird tale that is best described as a mid-life crisis food porn adventure with samurai themes.
11 Santa Clarita Diet
Santa Clarita Diet has one of those premises that makes you stand up and pay attention. It’s the story of Sheila and Joel, a relatively normal couple living in the suburbs of L.A. One day, Sheila begins to, quite literally, vomit her guts out. She soon comes to the conclusion that she has somehow died, but continues to wander the Earth. While this new existence comes with some benefits (including the reemergence of Sheila’s sex drive), it also requires her to consume human body parts in order to continue.
While Santa Clarita Diet sometimes fails to really build upon its premise as the series rolls on, the show rarely fails to be a surprisingly light romp reminiscent of popular ‘90s sitcoms. Of course, Fraiser never featured the level of violence and cannibal-related humor that Santa Clarita Diet does. The combination of these qualities leads to the most lighthearted dark comedy you’ll find on Netflix.
The North American fur trade scene of the late 1800s isn’t a subject that is usually explored outside of a few pages of some select college history textbooks. However, this period is infamous for a level of brutality and harshness that few eras in modern history can lay claim too. Frontier provides a snapshot of these captivating times as it follows a man named Declan Harp (Jason Momoa), whose fur trade operation, the Black Wolf Company, is at war with the Hudson’s Bay Company. When it’s not focusing on that Game of Thrones-esque rivalry, Frontier confirms that the life of a fur trader is just as difficult and harsh as you might imagine.
While Frontier’s tale of humanity lost in pursuit of easy money on the open plains doesn’t come close to encroaching upon the depth of a story like Blood Meridian, it is an endlessly entertaining adventure that will satisfy your bloodlust and occasionally surprise you with its more meaningful observations.
Rectify isn’t a Netflix original series -- it made its debut on the Sundance Channel -- but it is a show that many never heard of before it appeared on their Netflix feed. It’s the story of a man named Daniel Holden who was convicted of the rape and murder of his girlfriend when he was just a teenager. Almost twenty years later, new DNA evidence casts serious doubt on whether or not Holden should have been found guilty. His original conviction is overturned, and Holden is allowed to go home to the small Georgia town where he was raised.
If Rectify was just a show about a man trying to readjust to normal society following a stint in prison, it would still be one of the best shows out there. However, Rectify also brilliantly leaves viewers in the dark (for a time) regarding Holden’s innocence or guilt, which just makes its meditations on crime, punishment, and how small towns fit into the ideas of the modern world that much more impactful.
“Ugh, not another show about aimless 20-somethings trying to find purpose in life,” you say with the disdain of a person who has seen one too many attempts at the creation of a millennial masterpiece. While you’re right to be wary of that bloated sub-genre, don’t be so quick to lump Lovesick in with the pack. Originally titled Scrotal Recall (a dubious name of some merit) Lovesick is a British television import about a man named Dylan who learns that he has chlamydia and must inform his former sexual partners of his condition.
While the show gets quite a bit of mileage out of that central premise -- some of the best moments in the show stem from the stories behind Dylan’s previous sexual encounters -- Lovesick is not an example of gimmick television. It’s a thoughtful look at a young man who is forced to view his past in the light of a new day. In the process, he is forced to face the familiar fear of his future. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Lovesick is also painfully funny.
7 The Fall
The Fall eventually succumbs to the banality of the many police procedurals that have preceded it. Granted, that’s an odd way to begin a recommendation, but The Fall cannot be recommended in good faith without disclosing that it does fall off a bit in the later episodes. However, do not let that small catch keep you from enjoying the show at its best.
At its core, The Fall is about a cop and a serial killer. The cop (Stella Gibson as played by Gillian Anderson) becomes the leading investigator into a series of mysterious murders perpetrated by a man named Paul Spector. The thrill of the show doesn’t come from trying to find out who the killer is, but rather in the thrill of the hunt itself. Well, that and the way that The Fall carefully examines the lives of its principal players in order to emphasize the duality of their existence, all without beating the viewer over the head with philosophical musings about cops and criminals.
For some people, original television is defined as any show that isn’t about a group of young people living in a New York apartment they cannot possibly afford. If you’re someone who craves truly unique television, however, then you need Dramaworld in your life. It follows a young girl named Claire Duncan who is obsessed with Korean television dramas. Through a magical occurrence, she soon finds herself transported into the world of her favorite show. Far from a mere background player, she assumes the role of a background operative who facilitates the unlikely dramatic occurrences required for the show’s guy and girl to become a couple.
Dramaworld is like Last Action Hero if Last Action Hero was about Korean dramas and didn’t suck. It helps if you’re familiar with Korean television, but most of the cliches that Dramaworld parodies apply just as well to Western television. In any case, its quirky sense of humor and loveable characters are a universal good.
5 Chewing Gum
The appropriately titled Chewing Gum is a hard show to digest. It’s all about the life of a 24-year old girl named Tracey who lives in London with her very religious family. While Tracey is a good girl at heart, she is also a virgin whose desire to finally have sex has become all consuming. Unfortunately for Tracey, her religious environment and lack of certain social graces don't exactly make such a thing easy to come by.
While we’ve seen a million stories about young people trying to get laid, Chewing Gum is one of the few comedies that presents that subject matter in such a realistically awkward way. Tracey is not some sexual deviant whose entire existence revolves around sex; she’s just someone that wants to have sex because it seems like the thing to do. Her attempts at finally shedding her virginity lead to a series of hilarious misadventures that just about anyone will be able to relate to.
4 The Strange Calls
Imagine if The X-Files took place entirely within the Hot Fuzz village, and you’ll have a pretty good idea about what makes The Strange Calls so special. This Australian comedy revolves around a young cop assigned to the supposedly boring night shift in a rural town. Soon, however, he begins to receive a series of calls from the townsfolk that all lead him to believe that there is a supernatural presence in the area. With the help of an elderly local, he must now deal with the various paranormal occurrences which are as commonplace as traffic violations in urban areas.
Strange Calls is unabashedly weird. It won’t take long for you to figure out that bizarre things are going to occur during this show, and that nobody involved is going to slow down long enough to let you actually figure out why they are happening. That’s a big part of its charm, however. It tells a sci-fi story with tongue in cheek and forces you to translate the madness into something decipherable.
3 Last Chance U
Years ago, a documentary called Hoop Dreams arrived on the scene and stunned audiences everywhere with its patient portrayal of two high school students with NBA aspirations. While people knew that the road to professional sports stardom was a rough one, Hoop Dreams showed just how rocky the path truly is. Last Chance U is essentially the football version of Hoop Dreams. It's a documentary series that follows the East Mississippi Community College Lions and their pursuit of a third consecutive national championship title. Along the way, we come to know the players who believe that their time on the team will lead to a professional career, as well as those whose dreams divert elsewhere.
While shows/movies like Friday Night Lights did a brilliant job of dramatizing this same subject matter, nothing comes close to matching the intensity of the real thing. This documentary series stands as the most honest look to date at the inside of a football locker room. When it’s not breaking your heart, it’s also the most entertaining.
Even since Lost, viewers everywhere have been seeking the next great high-concept sci-fi series. That shared pursuit makes it all that much more strange that more people are not talking about 3%. It’s the story of a dystopian future -- is there any other kind? -- wherein most of the population lives in horrifying poverty. However, there is a select group of people who get to live in absolute comfort. Those in poverty have the chance to join these people in a better life, but the process is so grueling that only 3% of applicants make it. Meanwhile, a group of rebels are attempting to get an operative into the supposed promise land in order to bring down the system from within.
There’s an element of Hunger Games to 3%, but this Brazilian series eclipses that popular franchise when it comes to examining the humanity of class warfare. When 3% isn’t making thoughtful observations about the human race and how we wall ourselves off from one another, its dazzling you with clever moments and genuinely shocking twists all designed to keep you hopelessly hooked.
1 Lucha Underground
We get it, you don’t watch professional wrestling. Quite honestly, even a hardcore pro wrestling fan would find little reason to question why that is the case. After all, they know better than anyone that companies like the WWE have settled into a creative rut that leaves people with little reason to abandon the classic argument that they don’t watch wrestling because it's fake.
Lucha Underground is not the WWE. It’s not like any other professional wrestling program you’ve ever seen. It’s a superhero show in the style of a Robert Rodriguez film, where the action sequences are some of the best professional wrestling matches you’ll find on this planet. Through both in-ring storytelling and incredibly well-produced vignettes, Lucha Underground tells an oddly compelling story that evolves every week. All the while, it embraces the inherent absurdity of pro wrestling by incorporating elements of Aztec mythology and Lucha Libre mysticism. There has never been anything quite like it, and those who refuse to watch it do so at the peril of missing out on a show that seems destined to become one of television’s great cult classics.
What other largely-unknown Netflix series out there make for prime binge watching material? Let us know in the comments.
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