Video-streaming service Netflix gives you a vast number of films, TV shows and documentaries to choose from – and that can be a problem.
More often than not, you find yourself spending your entire evening shuffling through the selection trying to pick something suitable – before realising that you no longer have time to actually watch a film.
Never fear. We've rifled through the Netflix catalogue to bring you our top picks, from chucklesome comedies to action-packed adventures. Let Stuff be your guide on your cinematic odyssey.
PART 1: NETFLIX ORIGINALS
“How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?” This slick drama series tracks the efforts of two FBI agents to better understand the inner workings of serial killers’ minds. It was a field of research not considered useful by law enforcement top brass in the late 1970s, when the first season of the show is set, but our protagonists (based on a pair of real-life agents) believe that by understanding how murderers’ brains function, law enforcement will be better able to capture them.
If this all sound overly grim, don’t worry – Mindhunter isn’t all doom and gloom, being peppered with moments of comedy (often black, admittedly) and underpinned by the dynamic of the main characters’ strained relationship.
Altered Carbon (S1)
Altered Carbon is a cyberpunk neo noir journey 300-odd years into the future, where the planet is an overpopulated, dirty, decadent, neon-lit Bladerunner-esque mess – but outright death is a rarity.
That’s because everybody has their consciousness digitally backed up in a “stack”, a tiny disc-shaped computer stored where the skull meets the spine. Flattened by a lorry? No biggie: the paramedics can prise out your stack and – provided it hasn’t been smashed – put it in safe storage until a new body (or “sleeve” in the show’s vernacular) is available. If this sounds like a utopia, be warned: rampant capitalism has ensured that only the wealthy can afford good quality sleeves, with others being kept in storage for decades or transferred into the first available body, regardless of its suitability.
Into this grave new world comes Takeshi Kovacs, released from prison and dropped into a new sleeve after a couple of centuries on ice. Why has Kovacs been brought back from the dead after so long? In order to solve a murder, of course – a mystery that the insanely wealthy victim (who’s now reincarnated in a new cloned sleeve, natch) believes only Kovacs’ unique skills can get to the bottom of.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (S1-2)
A riotous comedy-drama-thriller loosely based on Hitch-Hikers' Guide... author Douglas Adams' novels, Dirk Gently's... is like nothing else on TV. In fact it's like nothing else in the world - and is all the better for it.
The plot is way too convoluted to go into here, but that's actually the point: as a 'holistic' detective, Dirk Gently simply investigates crimes he happens across randomly and follows the most obscure and seemingly unconnected of leads as he does so. What transpires is a gloriously muddled mess of offbeat diversions, Technicolor characters and bizarre events taking in psychic powers, cats, dogs, homicidal angels, torture, some really lovely leather jackets and Elijah Wood.
Best mainlined in a few lengthy sittings - it's too confusing, and too good, to watch piecemeal.
Stranger Things (S1-3)
Only 80s kids will understand this. Actually that’s not true at all, but Stranger Things is a love letter to many of the movies, TV shows and books that children who grew up in that decade will cherish: it’s replete with references to E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goonies, Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons and Poltergeist, and the mood and feel is sure to dredge up nostalgia aplenty.
Take away the retro vibes though, and the show can still stand on its own as a decent sci-fi drama-thriller. And it doesn’t mess about too much – unlike a lot of Netflix Original Series, its episodes are reasonably tight (around 40 minutes each), and there are only eight of them in the entire fantastic first season, and nine in the (almost as enjoyable) second.
The End of the F***ing World (S1-2)
If you prefer your quirky comedy-drama to remain firmly planted on the bleak, dark and murderous side of the fence, this one-season Brit series made by Netflix and Channel 4 deserves to sit high up on your shortlist.
When two disaffected teenagers embark on an impromptu road trip, things quickly take a chaotic Bonnie and Clyde-style turn – and little wonder, given that one of them, believing himself to be a psychopath, plans on killing the other as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
With episodes running just 20 minutes in length, it’s stupidly easy to find yourself drawn into the pair’s little adventure and binge on this show – but just make sure you don’t miss out on the superior direction, camerawork and production design when your blitz through it in a weekend – because this is as well-made as it is engrossing.
Wild Wild Country (S1)
This slick, stylish six-part documentary series will gleefully draw in anyone with more than a passing interest in cults, utopian visionaries, counterculture and power struggles. It tells the story – by turns comedic and disquieting – of Indian religious leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who brought his band of crimson-robed followers to a Manhattan-sized tract of land in the Oregon wilderness. His intention? The founding of a self-sustaining city based on “love and sharing” rather than ownership and individualism.
Unsurprisingly, this band of free love-advocating New Age nudists immediately came into conflict with the handful of local townspeople – God-fearing, conservative and mostly old – and the amazing true story of this rapidly escalating culture clash is told masterfully through new talking heads interviews and hours of archive footage. With the tale taking jaw-droppingly unlikely twists and turns (Germ warfare! Arson! Attempted murder! The FBI! The co-founder of Nike!), Wild Wild Country is arguably the most compelling original documentary series in Netflix’s library.
The most critically acclaimed Netflix original series of 2015 (now three seasons strong) tells the bloody story of Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and the man tasked with taking him down. Sounds like a laugh riot, right?
While Narcos lacks much in the way of light-relief, watching American DEA agent Steve Murphy submerge himself in a viciously amoral cesspit is a constant thrill. What could well be a high-minded exercise in true crime melodrama is elevated to nerve-shredding nirvana via some classy performances and the disturbing use of archive footage. Escobar’s brutal legacy lives on through your telebox, and the horror of it all will make you wince in anguish.