Just four short years after Netflix released its first original series (2013’s House of Cards), the website has gone from a simple online streaming service to the biggest producer of original content, turning out more movies and TV shows than any other network. These days, with over 50 million Americans subscribing to the service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a household that doesn’t have a Netflix account… or at least the password to someone else’s.
In 2017, Netflix made yet another transition into the original content world by producing and distributing films with budgets that are usually reserved for theatrical release. First came Okja, an unconventional summer blockbuster featuring A-list actors and made on a budget of $50 million. In December, it was Bright, a holiday release that featured bigger names and an even bigger budget -- proving once and for all that blockbusters no longer have to debut in theaters.
But anyone who’s sat through these two films will know that the quality of Netflix content can vary drastically. Let’s take a look back at a year of binge-watching from the comfort of our beds and separate the winners from the losers.
Here are the 10 Best (And 10 Worst) Netflix Originals Of 2017, Ranked.
20 Worst: Bright
With a production budget of $90 million, it’s clear that Netflix had high hopes for Bright - a gritty cop thriller that exists in a world where humans and mythical creatures coexist. What Netflix probably wasn’t expecting was that this A-list action film would become one of the most scathingly reviewed movies of the year.
Directed by Suicide Squad’s David Ayer, Bright finds Will Smith playing veteran cop Daryl Ward who is tasked with training the first ever Orc police officer, played by Joel Edgerton. Not even these two charismatic leads (along with Noomi Rapace filling in as the film’s villain) could save Bright from its cliched buddy-cop story arc and its heavy-handed social commentary.
We love a good genre mash-up, but if Bright has proven anything, it's that a gritty police procedural and high-fantasy simply weren't meant to coexist.
19 Best: Marvel’s The Punisher
In a year that brought us both Iron Fist and The Defenders, it was looking as though the best of Marvel’s Defender-verse was already behind us. Then came The Punisher, which found the perfectly cast Jon Bernthal reprising his role as Frank Castle for the character’s first solo outing.
While the series has a slow start, the action really begins to pick up around the halfway point as Frank attempts to expose a criminal underworld while continuing to use violence as his own form of grief therapy.
Despite the Punisher being one of most ruthless and morally ambiguous Marvel anti-heroes, the series actually manages to push an anti-violence agenda while exploring themes of loss and PTSD. The result is undoubtedly the best adaptation of the character to date, which has also breathed new life into the Marvel/ Netflix partnership.
18 Worst: Death Note
This year’s American adaptation of Death Note wasn’t an outright failure; the film’s production design was spot on and the cast turned out a number of talented performances — particularly Willem Dafoe’s turn as the demon Ryuk. But as a whole, Death Note simply strayed too far from its source material, resulting in a movie that felt more like the latest installment of the Final Destination franchise than an adaptation of the famed Japanese manga.
While the film changed a number of vital elements from the original story, the biggest misstep by far was altering the character of Light, changing him from a megalomaniacal psychopath who wants to play god to a sympathetic underdog who’s afraid to let his darker side shine. The result is a story with far less bite than the original, making it one of the few Netflix productions that was too afraid to push boundaries.
17 Best: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Based on the children’s books by Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events had already seen one mainstream adaptation with the 2004 film that found Jim Carrey in the role of Count Olaf. But after plans for a film sequel were eventually scrapped, Netflix picked up the series, with plans to adapt each of the 13 novels.
The first season, which consisted of eight episodes, premiered on January 13, 2017, and was immediately met with universal acclaim. Though the film also featured its fair share of engaging performances and impressive production design, the Netflix series came much closer to capturing the gothic tone of the source material, which never shied away from topics such as loss and grief.
Neil Patrick Harris also proved himself capable of playing the murderous and conniving Count Olaf, and he is set to reprise the role in the second and third seasons of the show.
16 Worst: Gypsy
After Naomi Watts first broke big in David Lynch’s mesmerizing Mulholland Dr., where she played two contrasting characters who are both overcome with love and lust, we were wondering if Watts would ever return to play such a dark character.
At first glance, Netflix’s Gypsy appeared as though it was the perfect vehicle for the actress, as it centered around a psychologist who oversteps boundaries with her patients, infiltrating their personal lives to satiate her own dark desires. The character even adapts an alias in the process named Diane — which happens to be the same name as one of Watt’s characters from Mulholland Dr.
But Gypsy ultimately proved to be far more melodramatic than it was mysterious, never achieving the tantalizing tone that it so desperately grasps for, resulting in the series being canceled shortly after its debut.
15 Best: BoJack Horseman
Set in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals coexist, this Netflix series follows BoJack Horseman, a washed-up actor who lives in Los Angeles where he plans to make a comeback with the release of his tell-all autobiography.
BoJack Horseman made its debut back in 2014 and was met with lukewarm reviews. But from season two onward the show has gone on to receive praise for its depiction of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse — putting it right up there with Rick & Morty as one of the darkest animated series airing today. The show works on multiple levels, but primarily sets out to lampoon Hollywood and celebrity culture, and Will Arnett provides his smoky and despondent voice to the title character.
The fourth season of BoJack Horseman dropped in September and provided another 12 episodes of laughs and surprisingly poignant stories. The show has already been renewed for a fifth season.
14 Worst: The Babysitter
With a pitch-perfect trailer that promised a lot of skin, scares, and laughs, expectation going into this October release were high. Unfortunately, The Babysitter ultimately proved to be a lot more blunt and a lot less clever than the B-movie horror comedies that it was trying to send-up.
The film follows Cole, a 12-year-old nerd who's infatuated with his babysitter only to discover that she's part of a demonic cult. However, the cat-and-mouse game that eventually ensues between Cole and the cult of dim-witted high schoolers is contrived and not the least bit nerve-wracking, and although The Babysitter is overflowing with impressive bloody effects, the jokes that are meant to punctuate the gore are often unfunny and mean-spirited.
While we had hoped this would be another horror-comedy to add to our Halloween watch list, it doesn’t look like we’ll be revisiting The Babysitter anytime soon.
13 Best: GLOW
Set smack dab in the middle of 1980s Los Angeles, GLOW is loosely based on the female wrestling circuit of the same decade — known as the Gorgeous Women of Wrestling. The series follows Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress played by Alison Brie (Mad Men, Community) as she auditions and trains to become the wrestler later known as Zoya the Destroya.
GLOW hits all the right marks, from its spot-on period design to the eclectic cast of talented actresses, earning the first season of the show a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The actual wrestling matches are a good bit of fun too, and while the show provides plenty of laughs, GLOW is smart enough to make the viewer question whether or not the wrestling league was actually a help or a hindrance to women's equality.
12 Worst: War Machine
Another Netflix original that turned so much potential into a massive misfire, War Machine is a satirical war film based on the real-life Army General Stanley McChrystal who was sent to Afghanistan in 2009 to end the war.
The film has an A-list cast, headed up by Brad Pitt who plays the fictionalized general, with supporting roles from Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, and Topher Grace. Pitt even produced the film, making it the second time that his Plan B Entertainment partnered with Netflix — the first being the intriguing mystery series The OA.
Despite some engaging performances, War Machine massively misses its mark. The heart of the problem really lies in the film's tone, which is never able to bridge the gap between the more comedic and tragic moments, making the viewer feel like they’re watching two underdeveloped movies at the same time.
11 Best: I don’t feel at home in this world anymore
Reminiscent of an early Coen Brothers flick, this quirky black comedy starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood begins when Ruth, a nursing assistant, returns from work to find her home burglarized. Unwilling to accept that humans continue to get away with their greedy ways, Ruth embarks on a mission with an idealistic neighbor to recoup her stolen goods.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is all over the place in the best way possible, and the dark comedy eventually unravels into a crime thriller that’s punctuated with equal parts laughter and flashes of bloody violence.
The film even won first-time writer/director Macon Blair the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore ultimately succeeds in making the viewer enraged at the state of the human condition while also giving us hope that we’re not alone.
10 Worst: iBoy
Based on the 2010 novel, this Netflix original movie is set in a rough area of London and follows Tom, a young man who develops supernatural powers after the shrapnel from his phone becomes embedded in his head. This moment comes when Tom arrives at his crush’s house, only to discover that she has been beaten and raped by a group of thugs, resulting in Tom taking a bullet to the head while trying to run for help.
Game of Thrones' Maiise Williams plays the girl who is victimized, but unfortunately, her strong performance cannot save iBoy's plot, which is wrought with both gangster and superhero movie cliches. The film also takes itself far too seriously for a story whose superhero is ostensibly a glorified cellphone. If only iBoy had offered up a few laughs, we would have been able to overlook some of the more impractical plot points.
9 Best: Okja
Is there really a movie so good that it could make you stop eating bacon? While that may not have been the sole intention of Okja - a fantasy about a young girl’s friendship with a genetically-modified super pig - the film does succeed in making its audience question their eating habits far more than the buffet of food-based documentaries also streaming on Netflix.
The film was written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, who also helmed the South Korean creature-feature The Host, as well as the 2013 dystopian film Snowpiercer. Once again, Bong tackles complex social issues through the lens of science-fiction and fantasy, appealing to the viewers’ emotions rather than their reason.
But that’s not to say the Okja is in the least bit sappy. In fact, the film is downright weird and full of original action sequences that will appeal to even the most seasoned cinephile.
8 Worst: Girlboss
Based on the real-life story of Sophia Marlowe, an American entrepreneur who would go on to found the women’s fashion retailer Nasty Gal, this Netflix original series debuted on April 21 and found Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland, The First Time) playing the lead.
Despite a promising premise -- which tracks the self-made millionaire’s humble begins as she begins to sell vintage clothing on eBay -- Girlboss ultimately fails to make the viewer connect with Sophia, a character who is far too selfish to sympathize with.
Even in the age of antiheroes, it appears as though this cut-throat portrayal of Marlowe is still too far gone for audiences to care about. It doesn't help that the businesswoman would eventually rise to become one of the richest self-made women in America only to have her company file bankruptcy soon after.
Unsurprisingly, Netflix has since canceled Girlboss following the negative reviews of its debut season.
7 Best: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Since its debut in 2015, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been one of the best-reviewed shows on Netflix, and this year’s third season was no exception.
The sitcom, which was co-created by Tina Fey, follows Kimmy (The Office’s Ellie Kemper) as she continues to adjust to life in NYC after spending the last 15 years as the member of a cult. The latest batch of episodes kicks off with Kimmy finally getting her G.E.D. while dealing with the ongoing divorce from the Reverend of her previous cult.
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm makes an appearance as said Reverend, and the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has no shortage of memorable guest spots, including hilarious cameos from Laura Dern, Maya Rudolph, Ray Liotta, and Rachel Dratch — which should be reason enough to tune into the series.
6 Worst: Marvel’s Iron Fist
There’s not much left to say about Iron Fist that we haven’t already covered — but that still doesn’t change the fact that the series has been the most disappointing of all the Marvel/ Netflix shows to date.
Even if you managed to go into the series with an open mind — unfettered by the Internet backlash and the show’s dismal 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — it’s easy to see that Iron Fist lacks the character development and originality present in the previous series. Even the martial arts action sequences feel uninspired, which doesn’t help break up the show’s meandering pace.
Instead of relegating the character to a supporting role in the Netflix corner of the MCU, a second season of Iron Fist is already in the works. We can only hope that Netflix has taken all the criticism into consideration.
5 Best: Master of None
With two 100% approval ratings for the first and second seasons of the show, Master of None isn’t just one of the best shows on Netflix, it’s one of the best shows currently available anywhere.
The series, which was created by and stars Aziz Ansari, follows the professional and personal life of Dev Shah, a 30-year-old actor living in New York City, and the second season of the series picked up with Dev continuing his exploration of becoming a pastamaker in Italy until he completes his apprenticeship and moves back home.
While there are a number of Netflix dramedies that explore the personal lives of contemporary young adults, Master of None has continuously hit closest to the mark, resulting in the series winning consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.
4 Worst: Sandy Wexler
After The Ridiculous Six, The Do-Over, and this year’s Sandy Wexler, you might think that Netflix might be regretting the four-film deal they made with Adam Sandler back in 2014. But unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth as the streaming service has signed yet another four-film deal with the actor/producer.
One might say that Sandler is simply content with phoning in his characters in exchange for paychecks, but from The Meyerowitz Stories — another Netflix original released this year — it’s clear that Sandler can turn in a truly committed performance in a quality film when he so desires.
And while we hope that Sandler’s next batch of movies will be a lot more Meyerowitz and a lot less Wexler, we doubt that he'll change up his signature style so long as there’s still an audience out there for this brand of crass and dumb humor.
3 Best: Mindhunter
After helping helm House of Cards — Netflix’s first original series — director David Fincher returned to the streaming service in 2017 to tackle a long-running fascination of his: serial killers.
While films like Seven, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl have certainly featured their fair share of deranged characters that have no qualms with taking a human life, Mindhunter digs deeper. The series follows the first FBI agents who tried to analyze the minds of killers in an attempt to predict their actions.
The series is loosely based on the real-life interviews that the FBI conducted with imprisoned killers back in the 1970s, and after inevitably binge-watching the entire first season, you may find, that much like the FBI agents, you too have become obsessed with trying to understand the incomprehensible.
2 Worst: Fuller House
You can’t blame Netflix for trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of audiences by bringing back Full House for a 13-episode sequel series. After all, the original series has certainly had its share of sticking power and holds a fond place in many of our childhood memories.
But despite seeing many of our favorite character return to the screen, it didn’t take long to realize that this brand of kiddie comedy hasn’t aged well over the last 20 years. Therefore, we didn’t need a second and let alone a third season of Fuller House, which once again received negative reviews from critics and turned out more of the same cringeworthy jokes punctuated by forced laughter.
With the final nine episodes of season three dropping on December 22nd, we can only hope that Netflix pulls the plug on this series before it gets any more embarrassing.
1 Best: Stranger Things 2
After the cultural phenomenon that was Stranger Things, there was a lot of apprehension over whether the Duffer Brothers could repeat the perfection of the first eight episodes during their second outing. While audiences were divided on Eleven’s solo episode romping around Chicago, as a whole, Stranger Things 2 proved once again that some of the best content available today can be found on Netflix.
The series picks up almost a year after Eleven disappeared back into the Upside Down, and it finds the four kids finally readjusting to life just when more supernatural occurrences begin reeking havoc on Hawkins. Despite multiple series newcomers, the show never feels overcrowded, and once again the character arcs, period setting, and the show’s pacing are all spot on.
It’s the new character team-ups here that really make the show pop, solidifying Stranger Things 2 as the must-watch Netflix show of 2017.
What was your favorite (or least favorite) Netflix original of the year? Feel free to share in the comments!