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Best Netflix show from every year: 2012-2021

Best Netflix show - Stranger Things season 4 - Eleven

Stranger Things – Credit: Netflix

Best Netflix show from every year

Netflix was founded in the late ’90s as a mail-order DVD service. Customers could rent or buy DVDs that would be delivered directly to their homes. In 2007, Netflix launched its streaming service, which was originally a limited selection of movies that could be viewed online.

A few years later, Netflix’s streaming library had grown exponentially while the DVD-by-mail rentals had almost ceased. Eventually, Netflix would separate its DVD rental business from its streaming platform, rebranding the DVD arm of the company as (many don’t know this, but still exists and will deliver DVDs straight to your door). This gave Netflix more time to focus on its growing streaming business.

In 2012, the platform launched its first exclusive program, and now, almost a decade later, Netflix has become the premier destination for original movies and TV series.

Here are the best Netflix shows of every year, from 2012 to 2021, starting with the best Netflix show of 2012.

Best Netflix show of 2012: Lilyhammer

Many people don’t know this, but Lilyhammer was actually the first Netflix original show in the streaming service’s history. The series follows a New York mobster who gets put into the witness protection program and winds up in a small Norwegian town.

The best way to sum up the show would be to call it part The Sopranos and part Schitt’s Creek. Lilyhammer’s lead actor is none other than Steven Van Zandt, famous for playing Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, which also helped instantly give the series some credibility in the mobster genre.

The series aired in both America and Norway and lasted for three seasons, creating 24 episodes in total. These days, the show is remembered as a cult hit, being watched mainly by The Sopranos fans, and it has since fallen into obscurity. However, it holds an 88% audience score on review-aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, meaning it’s a quality show for anyone looking for something new to binge on Netflix.

Best Netflix show of 2013

TV shows on Netflix

Orange Is the New Black – Credit: Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2013: Orange Is the New Black

The year 2013 was a huge year for Netflix. It completely changed the trajectory of the streaming platform. After dipping their toes into original programming with 2012’s Lilyhammer, the media giant quickly turned into a premium hub for exclusive series. In 2013, Netflix launched the continuation of Arrested Development, as well as new shows like Hemlock Grove and House of Cards.

However, it was the prison dramedy, Orange Is the New Black, that became an overnight sensation. Based on the memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, the series followed Piper Chapman as she begins her sentence in a women’s prison in upstate New York.

The show starred some notable names, such as Jason Biggs, Laura Prepon, Taryn Manning, and Natasha Lyonne, and went on to launch the careers of many actresses, including Samira Wiley and Laverna Cox. Orange Is the New Black also went on to become a staple at award shows throughout the 2010s, taking home numerous Emmy’s and People’s Choice Awards, as well as SAG and AFI awards. By the time the Netflix show ended in 2019, it had amassed 91 episodes.

Best Netflix show of 2014

BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman – Credit: Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2014: BoJack Horseman

After Netflix’s massive year in 2013, 2014 was a rather sparse year for new content. The streaming giant was more focused on creating new seasons for their hit shows. However, two series did premiere in 2014, the historical drama Marco Polo, and the adult cartoon, BoJack Horseman.

When BoJack Horseman was first released, it was a critical hit but flew under the radar of many Netflix viewers. However, as the seasons progressed, the show became a word-of-mouth hit and was soon one of the platform’s most-watched programs.

The series follows the titular character, a washed-up actor from a ’90s sitcom who is determined to get his name back in the spotlight by writing a bittersweet and shocking memoir. While not fully a comedy, or fully a drama, it’s clear to see why the show became such a massive success. The characters were voiced by some of Hollywood’s most talented actors, including Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, and Alison Brie. The series was also able to snatch a wide array of actors for recurring roles, too, like Patton Oswalt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and even Olivia Wilde.

While the series concluded at the beginning of 2020, after airing almost 80 episodes, many fans say the show lives on through newer cartoons like Big Mouth, which many say was directly influenced by BoJack Horseman.

Best Netflix show of 2015

Best Netflix shows of 2020 Grace and Frankie season 6

Grace And Frankie Season 6 – Credit: Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2015: Grace and Frankie

2015 was another one of those massive years for Netflix. The humpyear of the decade produced some of the streaming platform’s most beloved hits like Bloodline, Sense8, Jessica Jones, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

But it was one unsuspecting comedy that really took the world by storm – Grace and Frankie. Netflix had originally created the series hoping to attract an older audience to the streaming service. The show followed two women, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), as they discover their husbands are secretly gay and in love with each other.

The show tackles tons of issues like ageism, bigotry against the LGBTQ community, and the struggles of women in the workplace. It turned out that the show resonated with audiences of all ages, and thanks to the powerhouse performances of Fonda and Tomlin, the series was hailed by critics and became a perennial favorite at award shows.

To date, the series has aired 78 episodes and is currently filming the final season, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s likely that the farewell season won’t premiere until 2022.

Best Netflix show of 2016

Best Netflix shows - Stranger Things season 4 3 - Netflix shows

Stranger Things 3 – Credit: Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2016: Stranger Things

In 2016, Netflix released a whole smorgasbord of wildly different programming. From the Full House reboot, Fuller House, to indie sensations like Lady Dynamite, and even pop culture phenomenons like The Crown, 2016 was definitely the year that Netflix took lots of risks.

One of those risks was Stranger Things, a sci-fi drama filled with ’80s nostalgia starring Winona Ryder. While the show could have been a massive failure, great writing and excellent acting helped create one of the most captivating and unique television series of all time.

Since the show’s debut in 2016, Stranger Things has created an entire empire of products, including novelty books, a novel series, video games, a Stranger Things version of the Dungeons & Dragons board game, and even DLC in the popular Dead by Daylight video game.

A fourth season is scheduled for release, but production was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rumors have it that the new season could release later in 2021.

Best Netflix show of 2017

GLOW - Canceled shows

Photo: Betty Gilpin, Alison Brie.. GLOW: Season 3.. Credit: Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2017: GLOW

2017 saw a good amount of hits from Netflix. The drama 13 Reasons Why became a teen sensation, the superhero show The Punisher was praised for its dark cinematics, and the cult hit Santa Clarita Diet was unveiled.

However, no show from 2017 created the buzz that GLOW did. GLOW is a dramedy about the real-life GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) wrestling organization in the 1980s. During its peak in the 80s, GLOW was all about women with big hair and flamboyant makeup duking it out for an audience.

The series was an instant hit and garnered lots of media attention for Netflix. However, production on the show’s fourth season began right before the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus continued to spread, production across Los Angeles was halted.

Later in 2020, Netflix came out and announced that it would not resume production on GLOW, which meant the show was canceled. The streaming service cited numerous reasons for this, but the biggest was that the show centered on wrestling. As August came around, and film and TV production began slowly starting back up, new rules and regulations were placed to keep casts and crew safe.

One of these measures was social distancing. According to Deadline, Netflix decided that there was just no way to safely make a show about wrestling while following social distancing protocols, and that production probably wouldn’t even be able to pick back up until 2021 or 2022, which would have been too long of a gap between seasons. Upon hearing the decision, fans of the show were outraged, proving that GLOW will have a cult following for years to come.

Best Netflix show of 2018

Queer Eye

QUEER EYE: We’re In Japan! – Credit: Bruce Yamakawa/Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2018: Queer Eye

At Netflix, 2018 was the year of the spooky and sci-fi. They launched hit shows like Lost in Space, Altered Carbon, and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. However, the 2018 Netflix show that’s gone on to be the most successful is actually the reality show Queer Eye.

Queer Eye is a spiritual reboot of the 2003 series, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where five gay men, dubbed the “Fab Five” would give makeovers to unfashionable straight men. In retrospect, while the original was considered groundbreaking in the early 2000s, it’s now viewed as perpetuating negative stereotypes of gay and straight men, as well as being based around forcing people to conform to normative attitudes about beauty and fashion.

The reboot sought to be more of a spiritual show. No longer were people just getting a physical makeover, but they were getting a life makeover. The new Fab Five now comes in to help teach confidence, self-reliance, and positivity. The show has been met with universal praise, has been awarded a boatload of Emmys, and the cast has even been a part of various moments in pop culture history.

Most notable is the Fab Five’s appearance in Taylor Swift’s music video for ‘You Need to Calm Down‘. They also appeared alongside Lizzo in her music video for ‘Soulmate‘, and even took part in a campaign video with Jill Biden to discuss LGBTQ and immigration rights. A sixth season of Queer Eye has been announced for sometime next year.

Best Netflix show of 2019

Russian Doll season 2 - Netflix shows

Russian Doll – Credit: Netflix

Best Netflix show of 2019: Russian Doll

Some of Netflix’s most popular current shows premiered in 2019. Series like The Umbrella Academy, Dead to Me, and The Politician have all gained lots of attention and popularity, but one show turned out to be a surprise runaway sensation, Russian Doll.

The series sees Natasha Lyonne return to Netflix in this mind-bending comedy about Nadia Vulvokov, a game developer who gets stuck in a time loop, where she keeps reliving the night of her death over and over again. Many say the series took inspiration from the horror film Happy Death Day, but whereas that went in more of a horror direction, Russian Doll focuses more on a character-heavy storyline, and (despite the macabre plotline) even manages to be laugh-out-loud funny.

The first season grabbed four Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Natasha Lyonne. The show was renewed in 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, production for the new season didn’t begin until March 2021. Because of this, it’s likely fans won’t see the next season until 2022. However, if it’s as good as the first, it will be well worth the wait.

Best Netflix show of 2020

Bridgerton season 2 release date


Best Netflix show of 2020: Bridgerton

For most people, 2020 was a rough year. The pandemic kept everyone locked away, hoping to stay safe and healthy. Luckily, Netflix was there to provide a heaping hoard of binge-worthy programming. In 2020 alone, Netflix launched the megahits Ratched, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Emily in Paris, and The Queens Gambit. But no Netflix series created quite as big a splash as Bridgerton.

Bridgerton takes place during England’s Regency era, and follows the life of the aristocratic Bridgeton family in London. The series was produced by television favorite, Shonda Rhimes (known for hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) and was hailed for its diverse cast and portrayal of an inclusive alternate history.

According to Deadline, Bridgerton also made history in January of 2021, becoming Netflix’s most-watched series of all time, with a whopping 82 million households tuning in. It was also announced in January that the show would be returning for a second season.

The show’s bingeable mix of comedy, romance, and drama helped make it everyone’s show of choice to fight off the pandemic fatigue and be transported to a luscious and vibrant world filled with opulent costumes and pageantry. Plus, it’s narrated by the always-incredible Julie Andrews. What could be better than that?

Best Netflix show of 2021

Ginny and Georgia season 2


Best Netflix show of 2021: To Be Determined 

2021 started out a little rough for Netflix. Their hit new show Ginny and Georgia has been marred by numerous controversies, including being accused of racism and white privilege. Taylor Swift also came out and slammed the streaming service after the show made a joke about Swift’s dating history.

Other shows that were supposed to be breakout hits, such as the Kevin James-led NASCAR comedy The Crew, have also fallen flat and have failed to achieve the success that Netflix had hoped they would.

However, this is all likely to change with the highly-anticipated upcoming sitcom, Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!, starring Jamie Foxx. The show will center around a single father who is the owner of a business empire. But one day his teenage daughter moves in with him, and he’s forced to enter a new chapter of his life. The upcoming series is already receiving a lot of hype and is set to be Netflix’s next big hit when it’s released on April 14

Netflix’s Shadow and Bone premieres on April 23, and in May, we’re getting the first season of Jupiter’s Legacy on May 7 and Lucifer season 5 part 2 on May 28.

Next: Best Netflix shows coming in 2021

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