Even in the darkest of times, our Netflix queues shine bright.
Thus far, 2020 has been a bit of a…bumpy ride. Thankfully for the Netflix-subscribed among us, the streaming service’s steady offering of original series has provided some much needed consistency. Over the past six months, we’ve enjoyed the returns of old series favorites like Dead To Me, Ozark, and Grace & Frankie, alongside new sensations like Love Is Blind, Outer Banks, and [sigh] Tiger King. We even got more Dating Around, Queer Eye, and an interactive Kimmy Schmidt special.
With many of us having more screen time thanks to stay-at-home orders, the race for Best Netflix Original Show of the Year has never been tighter. Halfway through 2020, which series do we think have a shot at clinching the title?
Here are our top 15 picks for the best original Netflix series of 2020 (so far).
15. The Stranger
The next time you need a fictional world to fall into, look no further than Netflix’s The Stranger. Criminally under-watched and under-praised, this mystery thriller starring Hannah John-Kamen is a totally engrossing rollercoaster ride of suspense, secrets, and betrayal. Come for the promise of devastating news delivered by a stranger, stay for its catastrophic ripple effects.
Where to watch: The Stranger is now on Netflix.
14. Grace & Frankie Season 6
Once again, the cast and crew of Grace & Frankie left us positively dazzled. As the Netflix sitcom staple approaches its final season, expected sometime next year, it’s clear every member of this comedy team is leaving their best work out on the screen. In Season 6, we watched Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) pursue their dreams via a Shark Tank crossover episode as Sol (Sam Waterson) and Robert (Martin Sheen) grappled with deceit in a season-long saga for the ages. Always spectacular, Grace & Frankie made the most of its second-to-last go around — and while we can’t wait for more, we also can’t bear to see it end.
Where to watch: Grace & Frankie Seasons 1-6 are now on Netflix.
13. Outer Banks
Those in the market for an unproblematic 13 Reasons Why replacement got the deal of a lifetime with Outer Banks. This adventure-fueled journey through adolescent melodrama and high-stakes treasure hunting made for the perfect binge this April, with a cast newcomers we loved rooting for and ocean-side scenery we loved dreaming of. A totally underrated sleeper series in Netflix’s spring lineup, Outer Banks is the kind of show you didn’t know you were dying to see until you hit play and it was suddenly ten hours later.
Where to watch: Outer Banks is now on Netflix.
12. Locke & Key
Based on the beloved comic book series from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez, Locke & Key took its sweet time reaching the world of streaming. But in 2020, the adaptation fans had been waiting for finally arrived on Netflix — and proved to be even more spectacular than we’d imagined. An exquisite blend of adventure, fantasy, and mystery with a fantastic cast to boot, the story of the Locke siblings has sucked us in all over again.
Where to watch: Locke & Key is now on Netflix.
11. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Netflix has been churning out plenty of true crime this year, but Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is without question the story that stuck with us most. Centered on the 2003 murder of Odin Floyd, this nuanced and thought-provoking docuseries examines the infamous trial and subsequent death of NFL tight end Aaron Hernandez with meticulous detail. The series raises critical questions about Hernandez’s life, career, and mental state prior to the murder that are compelling, albeit not entirely satisfying.
Where to watch: Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is now on Netflix.
10. Dead To Me Season 2
Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate return as best friends-turned-accomplices in the second season of Liz Feldman’s completely batshit dramedy series Dead To Me. As hilarious, inventive, and gripping as ever, the sophomore outing of this soapy series gave us an edge of our seats experience that only let up when we were on the floor laughing. Between the twists, the turns, and the twists and the turns, this rollercoaster of emotion and wine was good to the last drop. Here’s lookin’ at you, Season 3. (Fingers crossed, we get triplets!)
Where to watch: Dead To Me Seasons 1-2 are now on Netflix.
Ah, to exist in the glittery, gritty dreamscape of Hollywood. This historical fiction series from Ryan Murphy rewrites the entertainment industry’s checkered past to imagine a world where women, people of color, and LGBTQ people always win in the face of diversity. With an ensemble so stacked with talent it’s hard to pick a favorite and production values so spectacular we’d watch it again on mute, Hollywood wow-ed us in all the ways that matter. It’s only got 7 episodes though, so if you haven’t seen it, make sure to savor them. Then, join us in praying for more.
Where to watch: Hollywood is now on Netflix.
The latest project from Last Chance U documentarian Greg Whiteley, Cheer took us behind-the-scenes of America’s hyper-competitive cheerleading circuit. The six-part docuseries follows Texas’ Navarro Community College cheerleading team on the road to the National Cheerleading Association’s Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. Leaving no heartbreaking stone unturned, Cheer painted a heartfelt and inspiring portrait of following your dreams at any cost.
Where to watch: Cheer is now on Netflix.
7. Sex Education Season 2
Sex Education, one of our favorite Netflix original series of 2019, blew us away again with a nearly faultless Season 2 in January 2020. Otis (Asa Butterfield), Maeve (Emma Mackey), Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), and more of our Moordale Secondary faves kept the beating heart of this comedy alive and well as the drama deepened and the stakes heightened across each and every episode. When we weren’t grinning from ear to ear or enjoying a very phallic Romeo & Juliet, we were quietly guessing just how long we’d have to wait to see this mess resolved in Season 3.
Where to watch: Sex Education Seasons 1-2 are now on Netflix.
6. Love Is Blind
When it comes to reality TV, Netflix has never seen a better year. So far in 2020, the streaming service has debuted treats like The Circle, Too Hot To Handle, and Floor Is Lava, plus new seasons of Queer Eye and Nailed It! But above them all reigns Love Is Blind — a singular viewing experience unparalleled in its ability to get us completely obsessed. A part of us will always live in those “pods,” forever questioning whether Barnett made the right decision, whether Jessica really knew what she was doing, and whether Cameron actually felt that strongly about using his SO’s toothbrush. Here’s hoping we get just as much out of the already announced Season 2. If you haven’t seen Season 1 yet? Well, it’s never too late for love.
Where to watch: Love Is Blind is now on Netflix.
5. BoJack Horseman Season 6
It’s curtains for everyone’s favorite has-been horse in Hollywood. After six spectacular years, Netflix’s critically-acclaimed animated comedy series BoJack Horseman came to an end this year with a devastating and true to itself finale. Fitting of his nuanced legacy, BoJack went out as a complex, imperfect, and somehow still hopeful character too many of us could see ourselves in. Whether this was the best season of BoJack is debatable, but we’re certain to remember it always.
Where to watch: BoJack Horseman Seasons 1-6 are now on Netflix.
4. The Midnight Gospel
The talents of Adventure Time‘s Pendleton Ward and podcaster Duncan Trussell meet in this trippy animated dramedy. Set in the fantastical world of The Chromatic Ribbon, the story of Clancy (a glorified, interdimensional YouTuber) and his shifting understanding of adulthood and responsibility offer a transcendent journey of self-reflection to any viewer willing to watch. Illusion-shattering and spectacular, this is the kind of TV that changes you.
Where to watch: The Midnight Gospel is now on Netflix.
3. Ozark Season 3
Who among us isn’t still reeling from the Ozark Season 3 finale? Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams’ Emmy-winning crime series returned with a vengeance this spring as the Byrde family further descended into cartel business. Though the writing and acting was top-notch across the board, especially spectacular performances from Laura Linney and Janet McTeer during the final two episodes made this season one of Ozark’s best. Heading into a long between season wait, we’ve got so many questions we need answered. (Yes, most of them are about Darlene and Wyatt.)
Where to watch: Ozark Seasons 1-3 are now on Netflix.
Among the more underrated items on this list, Unorthodox delivers some of the most impassioned and captivating drama streaming this year. Scripted in both Yiddish and English, this miniseries tells the story of 19-year-old Esty Shapiro (played by the mesmeric Shira Haas), a young woman who leaves her Orthodox community in Brooklyn to pursue a new life of freedom in Berlin. An edge-of-your-seat thriller with heart to spare, Unorthodox deserves at least one viewing but merits more.
Where to watch: Unorthodox is now on Netflix.
1. Never Have I Ever
Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, this smart-yet-sweet coming-of-age story is easily the most fulfilling watch of our Netflix year so far. Lead Maitreyi Ramakrishnan will steal your heart as Devi, a high school sophomore reeling from the loss of her father the year before but with big plans for a future as vibrant and fearless as she. Culturally important as it is authentic, Never Have I Ever serves not only as a critical step for on-screen representation, but a frontrunner in the race for best Netflix series of the year. Now, take your Dew and go.
Where to watch: Never Have I Ever is now on Netflix.