The best TV shows on Netflix Australia
High-quality TV series exclusives are the jewel in Netflix’s crown. To help fight off the evening-long bouts of indecision that comes with the glut of choice, we’re constantly on the hunt for the very best TV shows and original series streaming on Netflix Australia. Here’s our ever-growing list.
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Sophie: A Murder in West Cork
When 39-year-old French television producer and mother of one Sophie Toscan du Plantier was brutally murdered in 1996 outside her Irish holiday home, the story became a national obsession in both Ireland and France. This three-part documentary series, created with the full cooperation (and even participation) of Sophie’s family, digs deep into the investigation into her murder and the ongoing battle to bring her accused killer to justice.
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork is also worth a watch simply because, instead of relying on common true-crime tropes, it offers a refreshingly real, sensitive and victim-centric take.
Shadow and Bone
Based on Leigh Bardugo’s uber-popular YA ‘Grishaverse’ series, Shadow and Bone is a little bit Game of Thrones, a little bit His Dark Materials, and very steampunk.
Set in the fictional kingdom of Ravka (inspired by 19th-century Russia), Shadow and Bone follows Alina Starkov, an orphan cartographer who discovers she possesses the ability to create light. She joins an army of fellow magic-users (known as Grisha) as they fight to save Ravka from the Shadow Fold, an ever-expanding swath of darkness inhabited by demonic winged creatures.
The show dropped to rave reviews from critics and viewers alike, and although a second season has yet to be confirmed, given its top-10 spot in multiple countries, we reckon it’s a done deal.
Alice in Borderland
Often, an incredible trailer can lead to huge disappointment when you finally watch the show itself. In the case of Alice in Borderland, the opposite is true. I was intrigued from the moment I saw the trailer, but believe me when I say the show is ten times better than I could’ve expected. So good, in fact, that I binged all eight episodes in a single weekend.
Based on the manga of the same name, Alice in Borderland is a gory Japanese sci-fi thriller that follows obsessed gamer Arisu and his friends as they suddenly find themselves in the middle of an empty Tokyo. They soon find out that they’re not alone, and in order to survive, they’ll need to compete in a series of dangerous games that’ll test their mind, body and even their heart. If, like me, you’re left wanting more, you’ll be happy to learn Netflix has confirmed a second season is on its way.
Best foreign-language Netflix series
It’s not often that a foreign-language series cracks the top 10 shows on Netflix Australia, and after one episode of Lupin, you’ll understand why it has. The show follows professional thief Assane Diop (played to perfection by The Intouchables star Omar Sy), a second-generation Senegalese immigrant who, inspired by the famous fictional thief Arsène Lupin, seeks vengeance for his father’s suicide after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit by the wealthy and powerful Pellegrini family. It’s smart, gripping and utterly compulsive viewing.
The first season is split into two parts, with part two dropping recently to rave reviews. And fans will be happy to know that Lupin part three is a sure thing, with co-creator George Kay suggesting we’ll probably get a fresh batch of episodes in 2022.
If you popped Gossip Girl and Pride and Prejudice in a blender, chances are the end product would look a little something like Bridgerton. Oh, and since it’s executive produced by none other than Shonda Rhimes, you can expect a dash of Gray’s Anatomy-calibre drama thrown in.
Set in Regency-era London during high society’s busy social season, Bridgerton follows the matchmaking attempts of the distinguished Bridgerton family and those in their exclusive circle. The series is narrated by the mysterious Lady Whistledown (or, as I like to call her, Ye Olde Gossipe Girle), who happens to be voiced by the iconic Dame Julie Andrews and takes spilling the tea to a whole new level. Whistledown’s scandalous newsletter has the ability to change the fortunes of anyone it names faster than you can say “ton”, and boy does it.
Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun
What do you get when you combine a hilariously absurd Aussie comedy group, the star power of Ed Helms, Kristen Schaal and “Weird Al” Yankovic, and some of the funniest songs you’ll ever hear? Well, you get the rude, crude and oh-so-funny sketch show Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun.
It’s the trio’s first TV series, and it’s been an unexpected but very welcome hit – not only in Oz but all over the world. In its first week, it was already trending in the US, UK, Canada and Norway.
The best bit? Imagining every foreigner watching the show scratching their heads at the many extremely Australian references (Grant Denyer, Four ‘N’ Twenty beef pies and Toyota Corollas, just to name a few).
The Queen’s Gambit
Best Netflix miniseries
If you told me at the start of the year that my favourite show of 2020 would be about chess, I’d think you were a dirty liar. But 2020 is the year of surprises, and The Queen’s Gambit is no exception. It’s perfectly acted, beautifully shot and has a killer soundtrack to boot.
An adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, The Queen’s Gambit stars the ultra-talented Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphan who discovers an unrivalled talent for chess (and a weakness for drugs and alcohol).
The seven-part series follows Beth from the mid-1950s into the 1960s in her quest to become the best chess player in the world, from her first games in the basement of the orphanage to battling grandmasters on the world stage.
Thanks to Netflix Australia, you can now have Troy and Abed in the Morning, every morning, whenever you like. All six seasons of Dan Harmon’s beloved comedy series are now streaming on Netflix.
For the uninitiated, Community is a heartwarming comedy that follows a study group throughout their time at Greendale Community College. It stars Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Allison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Chevy Chase, as the group of mature-age students at the centre of the show.
If you’re a fan of feel-good comedies like The Good Place (also available on Netflix) or Parks and Recreation (available on Foxtel Now, Stan, Prime Video, and Binge), then don’t skip out on this masterclass of Family of Choice comedy.
The Midnight Gospel
The Midnight Gospel is an eight-part animated series from Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) and comedian Duncan Trussell that follows spacecaster (a multi-dimensional podcaster) on an educational journey through The Chromatic Ribbon, Midnight Gospel’s colourful multiverse.
The show’s unique format sees protagonist Clancy (voiced by Duncan Trussell) visiting a new universe every episode to interview its inhabitants about their thoughts a variety of topics, from weed legalisation, to forgiveness, and death.
The conversation plays out as it would on a typical podcast, while an animated story plays out in the background. For example, the first episode features an interview with addiction specialist Drew Pinksy, represented in-universe as Glasses Man, a tiny president fighting the zombie apocalypse on Earth 4-169.
Dividing your attention between the podcast, and the psychedelic on-screen narrative is itself an exercise in mindfulness, and you’ll come out the other end of the Chromatic Ribbon feeling enlightened and a little teary.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
We’ve all heard the name at least a few times in the last few years, but chances are you don’t know the full extent of Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes. If that’s the case for you, this Netflix docuseries will fill you in with all the shocking, rage-inducing details.
Released in May this year (less than 12 months after his suspicious jail cell death), Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich tells the story of the survivors of the disgraced financier and sex offender. This four-part series will make your blood boil and leave you with more questions than answers, but it’s a must-watch.
The 2018 cancellation of Brooklyn Nine-Nine by the coward Fox Broadcasting Company had perhaps the most significant blowback from fans in modern history. It’s no wonder why. The procedural comedy set in a fictional New York Police Department precinct has the same laughs-per-minute and feelgood warm and fuzzy feels of co-creator Michael Schur’s other break out comedy hits, The Good Place and Parks and Recreation.
Thankfully NBC was there to slap the cuffs on Nine-Nine’s production after Fox cut it loose. Now we’ve got two more seasons and six of those are ready to stream on Netflix. Season 7 is currently airing and will surely make its way to Netflix once it wraps up.
Best Netflix fantasy series
The Witcher series has always been a massively popular property in its existing mediums, books and video games. Still, the recent Netflix series has taken its popularity to a whole other level.
For the uninitiated, the series follows Geralt of Rivia (played here by Henry Cavill), the titular Witcher who makes his coin slaying a whole number of monsters. He’s a gruff lone wolf who only looks out for himself. That is until fate unites the tough-as-nails bounty hunter with a powerful princess.
The fantasy-averse might find The Witcher’s heavy exposition and lore a little stiff but fans of the book and video game series will not be disappointed with Netflix’s warts-and-all portrayal of the grumpy Lothario.
Netflix puts out a lot of original content and outside of its award-winning stand-up specials, its persistent attempts at cracking into the comedy game can be very hit-and-miss. The same can be said for its coming-of-age teen dramas. Sex Education, however, is both a comedy and a coming-of-age drama that actually lands.
On paper, it doesn’t sound like anything revolutionary: A sexually and socially awkward teenager makes waves at by school offering a “sex advice” service, using lessons learned from his liberal sex therapist mother. But Asa Butterfield (in the lead role as Otis) and Gillian Anderson (Otis’ mother Dr. Jean F. Milburn) somehow take this potentially trite premise and make it one of the most worthwhile shows on Netflix.
Kingdom tackles the question on all our lips: how would feudal Korea deal with a zombie outbreak? (The answer involves a lot of swords and quite a bit of fire.)
The show deftly mixes all the palace intrigue of a period drama with the undead slashing of a classic zombie film, sprinkling a layer of martial arts biffo on top for good measure. The zombies are only active at night, meaning each day is spent preparing for the inevitable siege in a new location. It’s tense, clever, beautiful, and one of the best shows around. (Fair warning: watch it in the original Korean with subtitles because the English dubbing is awful.)
Star Trek: Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery is the most drastic reimagining of the Trek formula since Deep Space Nine ditched the USS Enterprise for an intergalactic shopping mall 26 years ago.
On the in-universe timeline, Discovery takes place just before the events of the 1966 original series, and uses the first serious conflict between the Federation and the then-fractured Klingon Empire as a backdrop. Structurally, the show stands apart by relegating the captain to second fiddle behind main protagonist First Officer Michael Burnham. It preserves the philosophical pontificating but speeds up the action for modern audiences.
Best Netflix comedy series
Wigs, unclassifiable accents, schadenfreude, an adorable love story… Schitt’s Creek really has it all, and if you haven’t experienced the pure joy of watching this Emmy-winning Canadian sitcom before, I highly recommend you get started right now.
The premise is simple – an ultra-wealthy family are suddenly left with nothing, except for a small town called Schitt’s Creek (a joke gift given by patriarch Johnny Rose to his son David over two decades earlier). With nowhere else to turn, the family are forced to build a life in the quirky yet charming town as they try to get back on their feet. But really, Schitt’s Creek is all about the characters, all played to perfection by Eugene Levy (Johnny), his real-life son Daniel Levy (David), the unbelievable Catherine O’Hara (Moira) and Annie Murphy (Alexis).
Best Netflix drama series
Dramatising the life of Queen Elizabeth II, The Crown is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced. From castles and estates, luxury yachts, ceremonial jewels and gowns – all captured in crystal clear 4K – you can see every penny. Whether you’re a devoted royal watcher or a republican sharpening the metaphorical guillotine, drama this well-scripted shouldn’t be ignored.
Claire Foy and Matt Smith have complex, fascinating chemistry as the couple at the heart of the monarchy, and John Lithgow is uncanny as Winston Churchill – the Emmy-winning season one episode “Assassins,” about Churchill’s bruised ego over a portrait painted for his 80th birthday, is an all-time TV great.
While the Castlevania video game series has lain dormant since 2014’s rubbish Lords of Shadow 2, it recently found new life as an animated Netflix Original. And unlike literally every other adaptation of a video game… it’s good! Set in 15th century Wallachia, Dracula seeks bloody revenge after the church burns his human wife at the stake for witchcraft.
Trevor, the heir to the disgraced monster-hunting Belmont family legacy, busts out the whip and somewhat reluctantly tries to stop the ensuing slaughter. It’s angsty, dramatic, insanely gory, and beautifully drawn in a pseudo-anime style.
Best Netflix documentary series
Natural wonder David Attenborough takes us on a spectacular eight-part tour of, er… our natural wonders. Our Planet is as spectacular as you’d expect. Filmed across 50 countries, over four years, with a crew of more than 600 people, the resulting footage will be used to explain HDR in JB Hi-Fi TV departments for years to come.
Most intriguingly, Netflix, unlike the BBC in decades past, has encouraged Attenborough to get explicitly political; his commentary repeatedly calls out the need to act on climate change if the wonders depicted are to survive into the future. Honestly, it’s about time.
Best animated Netflix series
Few shows about a washed-up child star (who is also a talking horse) can evoke melancholia one minute, fits of laughter the next.
Will Arnett injects BoJack’s alcoholic self-centred depressive streak with just enough pathos to make him likeable – kinda – and Aaron Paul’s deadbeat-but-lovely Todd is the heart that balances out the anthropomorphic bleakness.
The show improves after its slow first season and ends up being an insightful critique on the vapid nature of fame and the human condition. And, once again, it’s about a talking horse.
With the surge in true crime obsession over the last few years (guilty!) it was only a matter of time before the iconic long-running series Unsolved Mysteries returned to our screens. Netflix has unleashed 12 brand new episodes upon us in 2020, and they’re even better than the O.G. seasons.
Each case is told first-hand by those who investigated, reported on or were closely affected by each death or disappearance, and at the end of each episode, viewers are given an address to send tips and information to – something which has actually led to some good leads on otherwise cold cases.
Got the speed to stream?
Hoping to stream these shows in all their 4K glory? You might want to consider upgrading your broadband speed first. Here are the most popular NBN50 plans in Australia according to WhistleOut’s comparison engine.