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 side-splitting comedies to action-packed adventures. Let Stuff be the sherpa on your cinematic journey.
PART 1: NETFLIX ORIGINALS
This period comedy-drama about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling isn’t really about 1980s wrestling at all, but about how a group of women rally against both their demons and the patriarchy that keeps them down. GLOW could have easily fallen into the trap of a camp curiosity, or a simple, shallow celebration of neon spandex and super-strength hairspray, but it’s instead a sharply written, character-driven comedy that sits comfortably among Netflix’s most bingeworthy original series.
The Queen’s Gambit (S1)
Despite arriving with little fanfare, The Queen’s Gambit may well be Netflix’s best original series of 2020. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as chess champion Beth Harmon, a child prodigy with a preternatural inclination for the game – as well as a tendency for addictive behaviour. Set mostly in the 1960s, the sumptuous period details (so many gorgeous hotel lobbies!) and soundtrack occasionally bring to mind Mad Men, but this series has a necessarily more focussed approach to telling its story. Inspiring, funny and evocative, this is a character-driven success that reminds us of Netflix’s superb early run of original shows.
The Last Dance (S1)
Arguably the biggest sporting icon of all time, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a series of NBA championships in the 1990s, was the face of one of history’s most popular sneaker ranges and the star of a Hollywood movie. By 1998, however, it seemed like the Bulls’ era of dominance – and Jordan’s place at its heart – was in the balance. This engrossing, masterfully made 10-part documentary tells the story not just of that fateful season but of Jordan’s rise from green rookie to global superstar, and of how the Bulls planned and built their hegemony after years of underachievement.
The Last Dance will appeal not only to basketball and sport fans, but to anybody who appreciates a story well told and a glimpse into the strangely singular mind of mercilessly driven individuals like Jordan. Those looking for a nostalgic trip back to the 90s won’t be disappointed either – the era-appropriate soundtrack is superb.
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.
I Think You Should Leave (S1-2)
Sketch shows, once kings of TV comedy, have fallen out of favour of late. But I Think You Should Leave is proof positive that there’s plenty of life left in the old format: it just needed a refreshing jolt of weirdness.
Former Saturday Night Live cast member Tim Robinson co-writes and appears (along with a parade of familiar guest faces like Bob Odenkirk, Tim Heidecker and Andy Samberg) in a collection of crude, inventive and hilarious skits that rarely end up where you expect them to. The humour usually comes from a character “committing to the bit” by taking a social miscue or bizarre personality trait to extremes. It sounds simple enough, but Robinson and co have done nothing less than reinvent the comedy skit.
Featuring some of the most bum-clenchingly tense scenes witnessed on a TV screen since Breaking Bad, Ozark follows Jason Bateman and Laura Linney’s squabbling Chicago couple as they launder money for a brutal and merciless drug cartel. When Bateman’s put-upon financial advisor happens on a risky plan to “wash” the dirty cash in rural Missouri, he and his family must immediately up sticks for a brand new life in one of America’s most deprived places. All of a sudden, murderous Mexican narco-barons become just one of many problems for the family.
Filmed in muted, washed-out tones with bags of brooding and squalor on show, Ozark doesn’t always make for a pretty watch. But if you like your drama series perpetually poised on a knife edge, it’ll be right up your street.
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.