With the whole world on Coronavirus lockdown, there’s plenty of time to kill at home these days for all of us—and most likely for months to come.
And like many other freelance professionals, I’m currently sitting at home without a job. So I thought I’d make myself useful to society and put together some streaming entertainment guidance to help you through the crisis.
Netflix is arguably getting better and better but there’s still a lot of mediocre entertainment in there. To help you sieve the pearls from the average I’ve put together a selection of my all-time favorites. I’ve focused on stuff that’s exclusive to Netflix.
Stay safe, stay home, exercise!
Here we go, in random order. (I promise, no major spoilers.)
2019—? | 1 season (Season 2 in post-production) | 8 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 4h
Genre: Comedy / Mystery
What’s it about? A modern re-interpretation of 1993’s ‘Groundhog Day’ in which Bill Murray has to re-live the same day over and over again. Only this time the protagonist is a quirky chain-smoking female who has to keep dying only to be re-spawned at her own birthday party.
Watch if you like a highly entertaining and creative plot with a great lead actress. And for a beautiful reminder that you never walk alone in times of crises.
2017 | Mini-Series | 7 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 7h35min
What’s it about? Godless is a contemporary attempt to reload a genre that has ever since been considered typically male in both its heroes and target audience. Set in the 1880s American West, the plot evolves around a bunch of women led by an armed widow and a lesbian. The gang is facing a dangerous outlaw after the male population of their city has been wiped out.
Watch if you like Western, and want to see dusty traditional genre codes and rules flipped upside down. 21st century feminism is cleverly woven into a 19th century plot. (Godless‘ release coincided with the #metoo movement.) Casting is flawless, there’s not one character that I found noncredible. The protagonists in Godless are broken, they feel real and deep.
Wild Wild Country
2018 | Documentary Mini-Series | 6 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 6h45min
Genre: Documentary / True Crime / Spirituality
What’s it about? Easily one of the best things on Netflix these past years, Wild Wild Country tells the story of the historic attempt of Indian guru “Osho” and his fellow disciples to erect a utopian city in Oregon, USA, during the early 1980s. The events spiral out of control leading to one of the most bizarre crime investigations in the history of the U.S.
Combining original footage with witness interviews, Wild Wild Country is the chronicle of an escalation, and a lesson about prejudice, ego, and the duality of human nature.
Watch if you want to see the gold standard of what made Netflix great. This is documentary storytelling at its best.
2011—? | 5 seasons | 22 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 21h30min
Genre: Sci-Fi / Thriller
What’s it about? Black Mirror‘s dystopic visions of a possible near future are amongst the most clever and creative shows of the past years, and certainly amongst the best things to find exclusively on Netflix. Also very refreshing is the fact that each episode is a closed narrative in itself, so you can even watch Black Mirror in random episode order.
Watch if … there’s no ‘if’ here, just watch it. It’s a modern classic.
2017—? | 3 seasons (3rd season not yet released in all countries) | 24 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 18h
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
What’s it about? Each season of The Sinner is a standalone fictional suspense/crime drama about ordinary people getting arrested for murder. What they have in common is that they appear to be the most unlikely suspects. They also experience memory loss so they have no recollection of what happened. A troubled veteran police officer investigates.
In my favorite season 1, Jessica Biel stars as a woman who is arrested after slaying a man at a beach without any apparent reason.
Watch if you like suspense series that feel coherent from the first to the last episode. Or if you like Bill Pullman.
The Haunting of Hill House
2018—? | 1 season (Season 2 in post-production) | 10 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 9h40min
Genre: Mystery / Horror
What’s it about? A fractured family is reunited in the present after a sinister haunting from the past creeps back into their lives. Adapted from a novel by Shirley Jackson.
Watch if you like ghost stories and a good scare. What makes this one stand out from the crowd though is the depth of the characters and their family bonds. The show creates a high potential for identification as we follow each protagonist through their own emotional struggles. There are a few psychological notes and moments in there so subtle and beautiful they literally made me tear up.
One of my personal all-time favorites on Netflix.
2019—? | 1 season (Season 2 coming 2021) | 8 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 8h
What’s it about? Gerald of Rivia, outcast and member of the guild of witchers—a hybrid-human race with superpowers that hunts down monsters—is tossed into events that soon turn into a battle for the kingdom.
The story was adapted from a Polish novel series which was first adapted into a computer game.
Watch if you like Game of Thrones, monsters, and some sick swordplay. Henry Cavill as grumpy Gerald is also spot on.
I noticed some confusing timeline jumps in the narrative. Sometimes it’s not clear if what you see is the present or a flashback. But that’s a minor bump in an otherwise surprisingly smooth fantasy novel adaptation.
2019 | Documentary Mini-Series | 8 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 6h45min
Genre: Nature / Documentary
What’s it about? From the makers of BBC’s Planet Earth series, Our Planet is the latest installment in a breathtaking row of high-definition documentaries about our planet and its wildlife. Legendary narrator David Attenborough and his soothing voice take you on a journey through jungles, deserts, swamplands, arctic ice, and the depth of the sea.
Watch if you’d like to reconnect with nature and feel better. Suitable for kids.
I Am Not Okay with This
2020 | 1 season | 7 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 2h35min
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Mystery / Horror
What’s it about? A misfit teenage girl discovers her psychic powers while dealing with the problems of growing-up.
The show draws some inspiration from Netflix’s Stranger Things (see Honorable Mentions section at bottom of page) and Stephen King’s Carrie.
Watch if you have a sympathy for outsiders and want to feel like a teenager again.
Also unique these days is that each episode is only around 20 minutes long. This changes the storytelling in an interesting way, and allows you to digest the narrative in smaller bites (“just one more and I’ll come to bed, honey”).
The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
2017–2018 | 2 seasons | 12 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 11hrs
Genre: Documentary / Architecture
What’s it about? Produced with BBC, this documentary follows two hosts traveling around the globe and visiting some of the most jaw-dropping houses on the planet.
Watch if you’re remotely interested in architecture or aesthetics and able to handle the envy.
2015–2017 | 3 seasons | 30 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 28hrs
Genre: Crime / Thriller / Biography
What’s it about? The story of legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and his business.
Watch if you like gangster movies. This is a Netflix classic for a reason.
2019 | 2h 17 min
What’s it about? Technically not a show but a movie, Marriage Story is one of Netflix’ first full-length theater productions, and one of their first to be nominated for the Academy Awards. It tells the story of a marriage from an unconventional angle—starting with a breakup.
Watch if you’d like to see a new way of telling love stories. And for superb acting by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver (I had totally underestimated this guy after Star Wars VII-IX).
2019 | 1h 34 min
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi
What’s it about? A vertical prison with one cell per level. Each cell has two prisoners. Every month, they wake up on a different floor. In the middle of the rooms is a connecting shaft. Every day, a table with an abundance of delicious food moves through the shaft from the top level downwards. Enough to feed everyone—if only people would share… (doesn’t that remind you of something?)
Watch if you liked Cube (1997). On the surface, this flick is a simple but really creative nightmare. Its true genius, however, is revealed only when you look at it as a riddle. Critics see an allegory to modern society and capitalism. Check this page for some great interpretations (spoiler alert!!).
And be warned—not for the faint stomach (explicit gore & cannibalism).
2014—2016 | 2 seasons | 20 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 20hrs
Genre: Adventure / History
What’s it about? In 13th century, young Marco Polo travels the silk road and gets stranded at the court of the great Mongol king Kublai Khan who rules his empire with an iron fist.
Watch if you like to immerse in old dynasties and court malice without the dragons.
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
2019 | Documentary Mini-Series | 8 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 8hrs
Genre: True Crime Documentary
What’s it about? One of the most disturbing abduction cases in modern history, this documentary depicts the events, suspects, witnesses, and investigators of the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann who vanished without trace from a holiday resort in Portugal in 2007.
Watch if you’re into mysterious unsolved criminal cases. The documentary has some lengths and redundancies but I didn’t feel bored one second. It has also been widely criticized for bias in favor of the parents. Regardless, this one crept the shit out of me.
2016—? | 3 seasons | 30 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 30hrs
Genre: History / Drama / Biography
What’s it about? The Crown follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of England, her political rivalries and private life. The show is informed by historic facts and events but blends them with fiction.
Watch if you like to get an entertaining taste of life as a royal—the power, the perks, the pitfalls.
2018– | 2 seasons | 30 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 7h30min
Genre: Documentary / Science / Educational
What’s it about? Netflix teamed up with amazing U.S. content producer Vox for this educational show. From sex to diets to cryptocurrencies—each week a new episode presents scientific facts and explanations for one topic in 15 minutes and simple terms.
Watch if you have a curious mind.
Beasts of No Nation
2015 | 2h 17 min
Genre: War / Drama
What’s it about? The fictitious plot follows Agu, a child soldier, in an unnamed African country torn by civil war. This is also a full feature film, not a series.
Watch if you want to feel humbled.
2013—? | 5 seasons | 30 episodes | Approx. total playtime: 30hrs
Genre: Crime / Drama
What’s it about? A gangster family epic set in 1919 Birmingham, England; centered on a gang who sew razor blades in the peaks of their caps, and their fierce boss Tommy Shelby. (Abstract by BBC)
Watch if you’d like to experience one the best-reviewed Netflix shows ever.
GET WELL SOON Y’ALL!
The following shows did not make it on my personal shortlist but are well worth considering. With this you should be able to survive a curfew far into 2021. See you on the other side!
The Irishman (Crime / Drama)
The Get Down (Music / Drama)
After Life (Comedy / Drama)
Unbelievable (Crime / Drama)
Alias Grace (Biography / Crime / Drama / Thriller)
Maniac (Sci-Fi / Comedy)
Stranger Things (Fantasy / Mystery / Horror)
Abstract: The Art of Design (Documentary / Art)
The Staircase (True Crime Documentary)
The Keepers (True Crime Documentary)
Shadow of Truth (True Crime Documentary)
The Killing (Crime / Thriller)
Sex Education (Comedy / Drama)
O Mecanismo (Crime / Thriller)
One Strange Rock (Documentary / Nature)
Chef’s Table (Documentary / Food)
Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored feature. Maybe as soon as I have drilled deeper into AmazonPrime you’ll get another best-of compilation.