With the recent release of its viewer statistics, there is no doubt that Netflix is ahead in the streaming war.
The last 12 months have cemented its place at the top and it seems there is no sign of slowing in 2024. With this in mind, we recommend three shows from the last few years that, in many ways, encapsulate the range and quality of Netflix original releases. Each of our chosen trio combine huge production values, award winning casts, and world famous directors.
They are all totally binge-worthy and worth catching up this holiday period, for sure.
- Stars: Tom Sturridge, Boyd Holbrook, Patton Oswalt, Vivienne Acheampong, Mason Alexander Park, David Thewlis, Jemma Coleman, Joely Richardson
- Created by: Neil Gaiman, David S Goyer, Lauren Bello
Based on the iconic comic book series by writer Neil Gaiman, The Sandman is Netflix’s answer what many have deemed "unfilmable". With stories spanning decades, hundreds of characters, and a lore so rich and involved that it has spawned many a spin-off, the project is ambitious to say the least. There was a huge pushback from the fanbase when this was announced, calmed only slightly when Neil Gaiman himself took writing control and was seen to have direct input in it.
The titular main character of The Sandman, also known as Dream, Morpheus and a plethora of other names. He is one of the seven Endless, with his siblings being Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium (formerly Delight), and Destruction (also known as "The Prodigal").
They each rule a different realm that influence our lives, such as The Dreaming where we go when we sleep. And this is at the heart of the series.
It is incredibly ambitious and does succeed in many ways, mixing fantasy with horror (at times). It also looks beautiful, has some stand out episodes mid-season and solid performances throughout. It's absolutely a Gaimen project and his mark is all over it.
Many purists still hate it but watched from an outside perspective, it is a fantastic piece of involving, intelligent writing and television.
- Stars: Sarah Paulson, Finn Wittrock, Cynthia Nixon, Charlie Carver, Sharon Stone, Amanda Plummer, Vincent D’Onofrio
- Created by: Ken Kesey, Ryan Murphy
It would be difficult to think of Netflix in 2023 without thinking of the name Ryan Murphy. The prolific writer, producer and director has established himself as a key part of the Netflix expansion over the last decade, considering he's been responsible for some of its key releases.
Dahmer, The Watcher, and American Horror Stories are among his hugely successful back catalogue, making him essential to the network.
In 2020, he set his mind to a prequel for one of the most iconic movies in cinema –One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. However, instead of working on an obvious origin story for the main character, R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), the choice was made to follow Louise Fletcher’s legendary Nurse Mildred Ratched – this time played by the outstanding Sarah Paulson.
The end result is a dark and almost gothic horror drama that I genuinely believe added a certain degree of maturity to Netflix as a whole.
It is a beautiful and heavily-stylised show, that's perfectly shot with an attention to detail that adds to every scene.
As part of the Ryan Murphy universe, it is essential viewing. And, as it's a standalone show, rather than part of his American Horror Stories anthology series, it can be watched without any prior revision or understanding.
It's a perfect antidote to an overload of Christmas cheer.
- Stars: Zach Gilford, Kate Siegel, Samantha Sloyan, Rahul Kohli, Henry Thomas, Hamish Linklater, Anabeth Gish
- Created by: Mike Flanagan
With a portfolio including the truly amazing Doctor Sleep, The Haunting Of Hill House, and his 2023 Netflix swan song, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, there's no denying that Mike Flanagan is one of the best writer / directors currently working.
Hailing himself from Salem, Massachusetts, he carries an almost Stephen King level of the macabre, creating films and long-form TV shows that echo the slow build dread and crushing oppression that King was renowned for. He is a world builder, a master of character development and conversation, and a writer of exceptional clarity and purity.
Flanagan's Midnight Mass is a seven-part Netflix drama following an isolated island community experiencing miraculous events and terrifying omens.
First, this is not a horror show. Netflix sells it as such and it does have some elements of horror – including the odd jump – but this is all secondary to a much bigger, better and fully developed story of loss and redemption.
It is also a show about religion – a well-written dive into faith and how it manifests itself in different people. We see a town that needs something, anything, to gain their "miracle" and how it changes them. We see them so desperate that they refuse to question why. The idea of redemption is so important that they will do whatever to achieve it.
The script is sharp and intelligent, pacing is perfect, and cinematography outstanding. The show is never afraid to be quiet, to let long sweeping shots of the island fill gaps, and lets us, the viewer, become more immersed. The island becomes as much a character as our protagonists and antagonists, becoming both a home and a tomb as we move through the series.
There's a special nod to Hamish Linklater as Father Paul. I've liked him for years and always thought he should have had bigger roles. He is outstanding in this.
There are a lot of TV shows out there on Netflix but I honestly believe that Midnight Mass should always be remembered as the best of them.