Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix, once said, “The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” With a growing library of critically acclaimed content that has earned the streaming service Emmys and Golden Globes, it seems that Netflix isn’t just becoming HBO, but rather a one-stop hub of entertainment for the masses. The entertainment giant even released its first feature length film this year.
Though they previously released a few stand-up comedy specials and documentaries, Netflix really started to be a contender in 2013 when they released their first original series, House of Cards, which became a cultural sensation due to the fact that they released the entire first season at once, allowing fans to binge-watch the Kevin Spacey political drama over the course of one weekend. With high-profile projects in the works for 2016, like Fuller House, Netflix seems to be an unstoppable force in the entertainment industry. Also, we should all just take a moment to praise the company that is bringing Uncle Jesse back into our lives. Have mercy.
Unfortunately, choosing only 10 Netflix original programs was extremely difficult due to the high quality and variety of content they put out. Between the comedy specials, documentaries, sitcoms and dramas released this year alone, there is something for everyone. The following list compiles the wide range of what Netflix offers into 10 of their must-see original programs.
10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt debuted this year as Netflix’s first comedy series. It was followed by a roaster of other very successful comedies (Grace and Frankie, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Master of None) but this one stands out for its originality and for finally giving Ellie Kemper a starring role. The show is also littered with hilarious supporting characters portrayed by the likes of Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess, not to mention the guest appearance by Jon Hamm. It earned critical praise and a handful of Emmy nominations. NBC must be kicking themselves, as the show was originally developed by Tina Fey for that network but they passed and sold the series to Netflix. The second season set to premiere Spring 2016.
9. House Of Cards
This political drama, starring the always-amazing Spacey, was Netflix’s first series and has paved the path for every other show on this list. The quick drama enthralled viewers in its first season, who were probably pretty psyched that Netflix released the entire season at once so they could spend a weekend binge-watching all 13 episodes. Since its release, it has become an award season favorite, earning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations each year. Both Spacey and Robin Wright have earned Golden Globes for their cut throat performances. The fourth season set to premiere in 2016.
8. Hot Girls Wanted
Okay, so Netflix has a very large library of documentaries to watch but Hot Girls Wanted, released by Netflix this year, is worth your attention. The film was originally supposed to look into the young male obsession with pornography. As research for the film began, the filmmakers discovered that most of these young men were watching very young women in these films. How and why were these young girls getting into the adult entertainment industry at such a young age? And so, the documentary switched focus and became an engaging and sad look at the journey of a few young women who entered the industry of Miami.
7. Orange Is The New Black
Orange is the New Black, a show based in a women’s prison, was one of the first shows to start the trend of blurring the lines between drama and comedy, followed later by shows like Jane the Virgin. This, of course, confused many awards voters and has resulted in the show jumping from comedy nominations in 2014 to drama nominations in 2015. That’s really all the better for Netflix though, as Uzo Aduba made history when she became the first actress to win an Emmy Award in both the comedy genre and the drama genre for her portrayal of the character Suzanne Warren, or as she’s better know, Crazy Eyes. It has received much praise for its depiction of race, gender and sexuality all in the confines of the prison. The fourth season set to premiere in 2016.
6. A Very Murray Christmas
Shouldn’t the fact that Bill Murray hosted a Christmas special be enough to sell you on this show? If it’s not, the show also features George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Michael Cera, Chris Rock, Amy Poehler and many, many more. In this star-studded Christmas special, Murray plays himself as he worries a snow storm in NYC will keep people from coming to the taping out his show. The whole thing works as a homage to the old variety shows with characters floating in and out. Some of the famous names play themselves, while others play characters. Sprinkled with renditions of classic Christmas songs, it is the perfect thing to watch if you want to get into the holiday spirit. But, again, the main reason to watch is to see Murray dancing with Miley.
5. John Mulaney: The Combeack Kid
Netflix has a lot of stand-up comedy specials to choose from. In 2015 alone, Netflix released a special almost every single month, with some huge names like Aziz Ansari and Chris Tucker. While both Tucker’s and Ansari’s specials are hilarious and worth watching, John Mulaney’s is a must see. After Fox cancelled Mulaney, his show that received low ratings and very poor critical reviews, you would think everyone in the entertainment industry would be hesitant to take a chance on Mulaney but, again, Netflix isn’t like everyone else in the entertainment industry. This resulted in one of the best stand-up specials of this year, with an amazing bit about Bill Clinton near the end that puts this special over the top.
4. Master Of None
If you loved Ansari on Parks and Recreation (and, let’s be honest, who didn’t?), you’ll love him even more on Master of None, a show starring and created by him. Master of None is a comedy that offers some very insightful social commentary with a fresh new voice. On top of the hilarity of the episodes that question things like why there can only be one Indian character on a show or why women have to deal with sleazy Instagram comments, the chemistry between Ansari’s character and his love interest, Noël Well’s character, is adorable. The SNL alum, Well’s performance pulls you in and makes you smile every time she’s on the screen. Ansari recently earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
The first season of the 10-episode crime drama received positive reviews and for good reason. It follows the drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, over which he ruled. While it’s hard to really related to any of the characters portrayed in this brutal world, the cinematography, sharp writing and excellent acting performances are enough entertainment to forget about relating to the character. Narcos was nominated for two Golden Globes, one for Best Drama Television Series and another for Wagner Moura’s performance as the evil Escobar. It has been picked up for a second season, so get ready for another gritty season about the war on drugs.
2. Beasts Of No Nation
Netflix doesn’t just want to be HBO, it wants to be everything, including an Oscar-winning company. Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’s first feature film and it’s on it’s way to securing Oscar nominations this season, having already scored SAG nominations, Spirit Award nominations and a Golden Globe nomination. Even if it doesn’t necessarily score a coveted Oscar nomination, picking up the aforementioned awards for their first feature-length film is still a great feat. This war drama was written and direct by Cary Joji Fukunaga, hot off his praise and Emmy award for True Detective season one. The budget for this film was reported to be only $6 million, which by Hollywood’s standards, is a very cheap film to make. The fact that a high-quality film is being released via Netflix for your at home viewing pleasure is almost too good to be true.
1. Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones, starring Krysten Ritter, is Netflix’s second show about a Marvel hero, as Daredevil (another Netflix show you need to watch) was released earlier this year. The dark neo-noir showcases Jessica Jones as she deals with Killgrave, a villain who can control anyone he comes in contact with, simply by telling them to do or say anything he’d like. Killgrave also just so happens to be Jessica’s ex-boyfriend. Their entire relationship works as a metaphor for a destructive, abusive relationship, in that Killgrave is the dominate and abusive one, while Jessica is the victim. With the additional aspect of Jessica dealing with PTSD from her previous relationship, this Marvel show proves to be a dark, human look at a superhero. The show was originally developed by ABC but they passed on it, which may be for the best as Netflix allowed the show to be as gritty and dark as it liked.