20 of the best of Netflix 2020
We can all readily admit that 2020 hasn't been without its disappointments. But one of the upsides is that it's been one of the best years of Netflix offerings ever.
Some series have returned with their best seasons yet while there have been plenty of brilliant new series on the streaming service too.
We got lost in documentary series and delighted in some trashy reality television.
It's also been a strong year for Netflix original movies, a category they typically suffer in.
These are what we think have been the best of Netflix 2020 movies and series so far...
'The Queen's Gambit' follows the rising career of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she struggles with addiction issues. The success of the series took everyone by surprise as it dominated the Netflix top 10 for months. Recently it became the streamer's most-watched scripted limited series, and it has to led an explosion of interest in chess. At its heart, the show is a traditional Bildungsroman, but it's compelling, with an exquisite lead performance in Taylor-Joy and remarkable writing from 'Godless' creators Scott Frank and Allan Scott. Thus its success makes total sense.
The fourth season of 'The Crown' has ended up being its most successful yet. Perhaps it is because for many viewers it documents events still in living memory, such as Margaret Thatcher's (Gillian Anderson) rule as PM and Diana Spencer's (Emma Corrin) marriage into the Royal family. The season has courted controversy, notably for its depiction of Diana and Prince Charles' (Josh O' Connor) marriage, and characterisation of Camilla Parker Bowles (Emerald Fennell). But that fine line between outright soap opera and drama is what has attracted so many fans.
'Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen' has been never mind one of Netflix's best documentaries of the year - it's one of the best docs of the year full stop. It offers a compelling deep dive into trans representation across film and television, looking at the topic from a number of angles, including the representation of trans people in early cinema; the experiences of trans people seeing themselves on screen; damaging stereotypes; and crossovers between racial and sexual identities. Everyone needs to see this.
'Enola Holmes' plays like a classical adventure film from one's youth. Think more 'The Goonies' than previous iterations of Sherlock Holmes. It's charming, old-school and winsome with Millie Bobby Brown proving a delightful lead. She plays Enola, the little sister of renowned detective Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin). When their mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, she sets out to uncover a mystery all on her own.
A young woman (Jessie Buckley) has doubts about her boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons). Still, she agrees to go on a road trip with him to meet his parents (David Thewlis, Toni Colette) at their family farm. Things quickly become surreal and existential. This latest project from the mind of Charlie Kauffman, who was behind 'Anomalisa', 'Being John Malkovich', 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' and 'Adaptation', is as profound as you'd expect. The performances are intriguing, the dialogue snappy, and narrative bizarre.
'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness' ended up being one of the surprise hits of the summer. Following the highly eccentric and sometimes downright bonkers big cat owners living and working in America, it was manic reality TV at its finest. The stand-out of the series was of course Joe Exotic, the owner of 1200 lions, tigers and bears among other animals in a wildlife park in Oklahoma, who becomes imprisoned for murder for hire. That b***h Carol Baskin though...
'The Last Dance' aired earlier this year, providing much needed solace when we were in proper lockdown. Based on the career of Michael Jordan and the reign of the Chicago Bulls, the show wasn't just an education in sports history and throwback to the late '80s to '90s. It also inspired some amusing memes among high acclaim. Impressively edited and covering a range of players and great sporting moments, audiences were hooked. It was pure entertainment.
Selling Sunset s2-3
Netflix subscribers were treated to not just one but two seasons of 'Selling Sunset' this year with season 2 dropping in May and season 3 in August. Set in LA, it follows real estate agents selling high end properties and generally wandering around looking like models and wearing fabulous clothes. It's all very shallow and ridiculous but damnit if it isn't escapist. Think 'The Hills' for people in their thirties.
One series to come totally left of field and surprise us with how good it was, was 'The Umbrella Academy' in 2019. Season two of 'The Umbrella Academy' drops us right into the middle of the action once again. After taking part in Number Five's (Aiden Gallagher) teleportation jump, each of the seven Hargreeves siblings gets blasted into a different moment in time, but within the same exact location. While it looks like a repetition of season one from the offshoot, it's so much more than that. It's even more OTT and more fun.
'Unsolved Mysteries' is a TV series that, for its time in the '90s, was relatively low-rent stuff. Host Robert Stack would recount the mysterious disappearance of an unfortunate soul, intercut with interviews of well-meaning but dry interviews of people involved in the case. Tonally, the Netflix reboot is very different, much more of the true crime documentary ilk is has become renowned for. It's forsensic and, as suggested by the name, mysterious, but don't blame us if it keeps you up all night...
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
If last year's biggest true crime doc series was 'Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes', the one that dominated Netflix 2020 was probably 'Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich'. The show is a challenging watch. It leaves you feeling not just indignant but outraged as the full extent of what the convicted pedophile did and got away with, on account of being rich, powerful, and having the right friends, is revealed. Survivors share their stories across four harrowing episodes.
Dead to Me s2
Season one of 'Dead To Me' was fantastic, one of the highlights of 2019 on Netflix. We didn't think they could top it, but there you have it with seas0n 2. Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini are phenomenal as two grieving women who become close friends. When both wind up in big trouble with the law (no spoilers, we swear), they go above and beyond to protect one another. It's silly, pulpy and hilarious with some gripping twists and turns. James Marsden makes for an impressive support too.
Never Have I Ever
Netflix has got some fantastic series when it comes to young adults. Oftentimes you don't have to be a teen to be entertained. Such is the case with 'Never Have I Ever', created by Mindy Kaling, about the awkward high school experiences of Devi Vishwakumar (played by newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). She's a modern-day first-generation Indian American teenage girl who is dealing with the death of her father. It's often very funny but touching and enlightening too.
'Unorthodox' is really an extraordinary series, providing insight into a community the western world knows little about. At its heart, it's about a young woman overcoming extremely difficult circumstances and starting her life anew. In an unhappy arranged marriage in an ultra-Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Etsy (Shira Haas) runs away to Berlin, where her estranged mother lives. She makes friends and looks at options for what path to take next. Little does she know her husband has followed her...
Sex Education s2
The young cast of 'Sex Education' are extraordinarily talented while the adult characters prove to have just as messy lives. Revolving around the students of Moordale Secondary School, the series primarily follows Otis (Asa Butterfield) and the underground sex therapy clinic he sets up there. In season 2, while Otis grapples with having his first girlfriend, his sex therapist mum Jean (Gillian Anderson) starts working at his school. So much drama as well as a lot of laughs are to be had with this one.
Love is Blind
The concept of 'Love is Blind' was pretty bonkers. Thirty men and women date each other via "pods" over ten days, speaking to one another but not seeing each other. Then, if they like each other enough, they get engaged and reveal themselves. After that, all the engaged couples go to a retreat in Mexico; then move in together and meet one another's families and friends. Lastly, they go to the altar and decide there and then if they're going to go ahead with the wedding. The s**tshow that was Mark and Jessica made the show.
'Da 5 Bloods' sees a group of Vietnam War veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) return to the country to recover the body of their squad leader (Chadwick Boseman). In the process, they unearth a buried treasure of gold bars they died trying to recover. The latest from Spike Lee continues the exploration of history, and how it informs our present and presages our future, that is apparent in much of his work. The film is now all the more poignant in the wake of Chadwick Boseman's passing.
Across six hour-long episodes, 'Cheer' portrays the ups and downs of Navarro College's competitive cheer squad as they go for gold. Trust us when we say you are going to fall in love with the personalities in this show - these kids are truly inspiring. They come from such different backgrounds but are united by their love of - and talent for - the sport. The history of cheerleading is also covered, but really it's the interview subjects that make the series so enjoyable.
The latest episodes of 'After Life', like season one, have you laughing one minute.Then blubbering like a baby the next. Season 2 continues to follow Tony (Ricky Gervais) in the aftermath of his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman) passing away. Though Tony still suffers from depression, he is coping better than before. He's also trying harder to make a connection with his colleagues and acquaintances, who are each facing their own battles. It's awkward, funny and sweet, with characters you just want it all to work out for.
The third season of 'Ozark' may have been its most enrapturing yet. The Bryde family continues to run their complex money laundering scheme to stay on the good side of a Mexican drug cartel. Now Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) focus their efforts on their newly established riverboat casino. Wendy is vying for more control in the business. She utilises her relationship with lawyer Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer) to get closer to drug lord Navarro (Felix Solis). A thrilling crime drama.