30 Best Netflix-Exclusive TV Shows And Movies Of 2018
What was your favorite Netflix exclusive of 2018?
In 2018, Netflix remained the undisputed leader of streaming platforms, at least as far as public perception goes. And what matters more than that? Granted, Netflix has achieved its current top status by throwing everything it can at the wall and seeing what sticks. But throw enough, and that strategy will periodically pay off.
Just look at the shows and movies on this list, which spans Netflix originals as well as programs exclusive to Netflix streaming. There's something here for everyone, whether you're into dark horror, insane action, adorable anime, or irreverent comedy. 2018 on Netflix saw everything from new films from great directors, like Gareth Evans' Apostle, to a new comedy special that marked a return to form for one of the greats with Adam Sandler's 100% Fresh.
And we're not even scratching the surface here. Continue through the list to find out what the GameSpot team thought the best Netflix originals of 2018 were. When you're done, let us know what we missed, or what you agree or disagree with, in the comments below. Then check out some of our other end-of-year lists, like the biggest comics to read in 2019, the best performances of the year, and the biggest horror movies to look forward to in 2019.
Apostle is the latest movie from The Raid: Redemption director Gareth Evans, and it saw him move from martial arts madness into dark horror territory. Apostle is set in 1905, and stars Legion's Dan Stevens as Richardson, a man who infiltrates a religious cult on a remote island with the intention of rescuing his kidnapped sister. This is very much a movie of two halves, and the first plays out more like a spooky mystery than a straight horror movie, as Richardson becomes part of this deeply religious society.
But if the main influence of the first half is creepy British folk-horror films like The Wicker Man, then the rest simply tosses everything else into the mix. The movie leaves the realm of the "real" and embraces the supernatural, throwing in some horrific torture, surreal, nightmarish imagery, and even a couple of bone-crunching fights along the way. It's inevitable that this throw-it-at-the-wall approach will create elements that don't always work; the climactic scenes feel a little rushed, and even at 130 minutes, there are plot points that seem a little under-explained. But in an era of generic, formulaic horror, there weren’t any other movies quite like Apostle in 2018. -- Dan Auty
2. Outlaw King
This historical epic focuses on a particularly brutal period of British history, and tells the story of Robert the Bruce, who was appointed King of Scots and led the ultimately successful campaign against the English in the early 14th century. Chris Pine takes on the lead role; he might be best known for playing Captain Kirk in the recent Star Trek reboot movies, but his portrayal of the angry, determined Robert is impressive. He has relatively little dialogue, and none of Kirk's wise-cracking charm to fall back on, but is convincing as a man who will stop at nothing to protect his family and reclaim his country (his accent is pretty good too).
Outlaw King is superbly directed by David MacKenzie, who delivers some exciting set-pieces and hugely impressive battle scenes alongside the drama. The climactic Battle of Loudoun Hill, as the two sides clash in unforgiving marshland, drenched in rain, mud, and blood, is both thrilling and incredibly brutal. The movie has its flaws--the story often feels rushed--but it is worth watching, particularly on the biggest screen you can find.--Dan Auty
Maniac is one of the most complex, challenging shows of 2018. It's a sci-fi comedy drama, loosely based on a Norwegian show of the same name, with The Leftovers' Patrick Somerville showrunning and True Detective Season 1's Cary Fukunaga directing every episode. It's is set in alternative retro-futuristic New York, and stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as Owen and Annie, two damaged people who submit themselves to a mysterious pharmaceutical trial for different reasons. The trials involve the subjects entering hallucinatory states, and almost immediately Annie and Owen's start to overlap, suggesting some unique bond between these two strangers.
As the series continues we see them in a variety of imagined situations, from a 1940s heist caper to a Tolkien-esque land of elves and fairies. But the boundaries between reality and fantasy frequently break down, with dialogues, faces, music, and events occurring in different contexts as Annie and Owen attempt to traverse the inner worlds of their psyches. And if that sounds like heavy going, it often is. But Maniac is also funny, sad, joyous, moving, exciting, and completely unlike anything on screens in 2018. Hill and Stone are equally matched by Justin Theroux and Sonoya Mizuno as the unhinged doctors leading the experiments, and Sally Field as Theroux's mother, a bestselling motivational therapist who maintains a strange emotional hold over her son. Maniac is one of those shows where it's almost impossible to predict where each episodes is going to go next, but the 10 episodes are so brilliant and unique you'll want to start it again the moment it finishes. -- Dan Auty
4. Ugly Delicious
Ugly Delicious is one of the best travel/food shows on television. Yes, on its surface, it is another show where a host heads to different places on the globe, eats food, and gives their unique perspective on culture and everything else. However, Ugly Delicious drastically stands out because host David Chang isn't just showing off that he knows a lot about food (and he totally does, but that's besides the point). He's connecting food we know and love in America to the rest of the world. How does the rest of the world eat fried chicken and what are its roots in America? What's the deal with Louisiana and crawfish? What's it like to deliver pizza? It's the perfect blend of information, history, and fun, while giving insight into the one thing that bonds everyone on this planet: food. -- Mat Elfring
5. Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country is a trip. Debuting in early 2018, the 6-part docuseries follows the events of the Rajneesh movement and its move to rural Antelope, Oregon in the early 1980s. The group bought a piece of land outside of a town of 60 people and built a small city, bringing in 7,000 new residents. From there, things get weird and very, very dark.
This is a layered story about power corrupting the innocent, power struggles within a group that borders on cult status, murder plots, drugs, sex orgies, and conspiracy theories--many of which are true--told by the people from the movement and from those living in Antelope when their town was invaded. You will find yourself bingeing it all in one sitting as the story is incredibly engrossing and hard to believe. I spent a lot of time looking up old news stories about the Rajneesh movement after watching Wild Wild Country because I simply couldn't believe all of this happened. -- Mat Elfring
6. The Toys That Made Us
If there's one thing Netflix gets right more often than not, it's documentaries. The streaming service is overflowing with feature-length documentaries and multi-part series that dig into a number of different topics. The Toys That Made Us, though, is one of the most exciting. It dives deep into the weird, wild, and sometimes very silly stories behind some of your favorite toys from your childhood.
This eight-part series serves as a fun examination of the things you're nostalgic for and what makes you nostalgic for them. It's also crazy to realize how how close to failure practically every major toy was at some point. We're looking at you, GI Joe. -- Chris E. Hayner
This gripping chiller was one of the most original horror movies of the year. It's set in the world of adult web cams, and focuses on Alice, a cam girl who's life is changed when someone--or something--with her name, face, and live cam login starts occupying her channel. On paper, Cam's mix of sex and horror suggests that it will be an exploitative film, but while it's definitely disturbing, it also presents a sensitive, intelligent view of the live web cam industry as well as some insightful observations about how we interact with modern technology.
Cam it is definitely a horror film, but it ultimately has more in common with the surreal work of David Lynch and the tech-satire of Black Mirror than a more conventional scary movie. There are no jump scares and there's little violence, and most of the movie either takes place in daylight or in the brightly-lit glare of Alice's studio. But for horror fans bored of the clichés and predictable scares of the genre, Cam is an ambitious, scary treat. -- Dan Auty
8. The Night Comes For Us
You won't see a more brutal action movie this year than this Indonesian epic, and providing your tolerance for broken limbs and spraying arteries is high, you're unlikely to see a better one too. The Night Comes For Us is directed by Timo Tjahjanto, who previously collaborated with The Raid: Redemption director Gareth Evans, and it features several stars from the Raid movies (including the amazing Iko Uwais).
This story of a former killer hunted by his old gang is ostensibly a martial arts movie--while there is some gunplay, most of the fighting is hand-to-hand (or knife-to-throat) combat in small spaces. But Tjahjanto is careful never to give us the same scene twice and delivers a series of inventive set pieces and showcasing an impressive range of weaponry. There's guns and knives, but also saws, bones, wires, wine glasses, nails, and pool balls; basically, if a character in this movie can hold it, they can kill someone with it. For anyone looking for an action movie that pushes the genre and delivers some of the most jaw-droppingly violent fight scenes ever filmed, The Night Comes For Us more than delivers the bloody goods. -- Dan Auty
Bodyguard is a BBC political thriller available in the US on Netflix, credited by The Guardian as “the biggest drama hit in the UK in more than a decade”. Once you watch it, it’s easy to see why. It sucks you in and demands a binge watch. Bodyguard tells the story of David Budd (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden), a war veteran turned Police Sergeant. He gets assigned to specialist protection detail for Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose controversial politics clash directly with his own. David has two children with his wife, whom he is separated from but longs to reunite with.
The series hooks you in from the start as David singlehandedly deals with a suicide bomber on a train, which his children are also riding in. From there we learn that David is a complex character who wears many faces--maintaining professionalism and authority on the job as he protects someone he despises, silently suffering from PTSD and reluctant to take part in a support group, being a loving father to his son and daughter, and messily drunk dialing his estranged wife on a regular basis.
Star Richard Madden delivers a spectacular star-making performance. He exudes the trauma and sadness lingering within David, while captivating us as a take charge action hero in the line of fire. The series is well paced, keeping the audience enthralled by the salacious drama, tense action, and brewing conspiracy within its six episodes. -- Chastity Vicencio
10. Nailed It!
The Great British Baking Show makes baking look deceptively easy. While it should be lauded for encouraging thousands of us to get into the kitchen and try our hands at making our own showstoppers, it didn’t necessarily do a good job of setting us up for (inevitable) failure when we try these dazzling projects ourselves. A lion made of bread? Easy. A Bavarian clock tower made from gingerbread? A walk in the park.
The harsh reality: split custards, runny mousses, and the dreaded soggy bottoms.
Which is why we’re so glad Nailed It! exists. It’s a baking competition where amateurs attempt to recreate elaborate bakes from Pinterest. Think insane fondant work, photorealistic cakes, and inventive and unexpected use of candy. The thing is, these bakers are set up for failure in the best way--they’re in on the joke that they’re not supposed to be able to recreate these masterpieces. Host Nicole Byer’s infectious laughter alleviates stress among the contestants, and honestly, watching the professional chef guest judges try to find things to compliment in the disasters they’re presented is absolutely hilarious. You’ll breeze through both seasons (and the Queer Eye special) in no time. -- Lucy James
11. Hold the Dark
Jeremy Saulnier followed his dark thrillers Blue Ruin and Green Room with this bleak, ambitious Netflix movie. It's set in a small Alaskan town, where a young mother is coming to terms with the the abduction of her child by a pack of wolves. She contacts renowned a wolf expert to track and kill the animal that took her child, but with her soldier husband on the way home from Iraq, a bloody reckoning is inevitable.
With a superb cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, Riley Keough, and a terrifying Alexander Skarsgård, Hold The Dark is a stunningly acted, intense, and ambiguous movie. The striking locations, stunning cinematography, and droning music help create an environment that is unforgiving and almost otherworldly--while nothing actually supernatural happens, at times Hold the Dark feels like more of a horror movie than a straight thriller. But that's not to say it’s always a slow-paced, open-ended mystery. Saulnier might like his narrative ambiguity, but he also loves to deliver visceral action, and there are moment of shocking violence, including a harrowing, brilliantly-directed shoot-out sequence. For those who like their thrillers to provoke and challenge as well as thrill, Hold the Dark is an impressive achievement that isn’t quickly forgotten.--Dan Auty
12. Adam Sandler 100% Fresh
Adam Sandler hasn't exactly been in his prime for some time. But watching 100% Fresh is a welcome reminder of why we loved the comedian in the first place, from his days on Saturday Night Light to his irreverent '90s comedies that we once upon a time just couldn't stop quoting. This stand-up special's unique editing style sends us jumping around between countless different shows, from small intimate venues to huge auditoriums. But the material is the same at each one: Personal stories about his family, short ditties that end with unexpected punchlines, and epic ballads like the heart wrencher he sings about Chris Farley at the end. You'll laugh--and probably cry, too--and finally feel good again about being an Adam Sandler fan. -- Mike Rougeau
13. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina really caught us by surprise. It's nothing like the TGIF sitcom we remember. Instead, it's like someone took Riverdale and injected a lot of Satan and a fantastic cast. Sabrina has a gothic horror aesthetic and a supply of spooky creatures running through it as it unravels the story of a young girl torn between two worlds--the mortal world and the witching world. It's the kind of adaptation modern Sabrina comics deserve and, thankfully, it's not slowing down anytime soon. Season 2 is currently in production. -- Chris E. Hayner
14. Daredevil Season 3
Lapsed fans of the Netflix Marvel universe finally have a reason to return to the fold: Daredevil Season 3. The original season of Netflix's Daredevil series set a high bar that most of the subsequent shows, from Luke Cage all the way to Defenders, failed to match. But thanks to a new showrunner and the return of fan favorite villain Wilson Fisk, Daredevil Season 3 somehow did the impossible and actually surpassed the show's first season to become the best season yet from Netflix and Marvel's uneven collaboration. The fact that it's since been canceled should only make us value this final, fantastic season more. -- Mike Rougeau
15. Big Mouth Season 2
Big Mouth Season 2 was the perfect follow-up to Season 1. It's still a disgusting, puerile, way too honest examination of puberty in all its terrible forms. But also like Season 1, the new episodes pack in an incredible amount of heart and character development for a show that stars a boy who f***s his pillow, personified incarnations of the protagonist's pubes, and an invisible monster who constantly urges teenagers to masturbate. Big Mouth has proved to be the perfect playground for today's top comedians, from Nick Kroll and John Mulaney to Jenny Slate, Jordan Peele, Jason Mantzoukas, Fred Armisen, and countless more who provide their voices and talents. And best of all, when you're done watching it, you'll have dozens of disgusting new euphemisms for sex, chief among them "making thick in the warm." Ew, but also, fantastic. -- Mike Rougeau
There is rarely content about sports entertainment not produced by WWE that doesn't mock it. However, Netflix's GLOW is a show that bridges the gap for both fans and the casual person who only knows who Hulk Hogan is. While Season 1 played heavily to wrestler cameos and establishing what wrestling is, Season 2 evolves and focuses primarily on how to run a TV series. What worked well in Season 1, like character relationships as well as the creative process that is wrestling as a whole, gets expanded for this year's showing.
It's a comedic struggle as this season revolves around characters trying to find out where they fit in this world. Is Ruth/Zoya merely a performer or is she destined for something greater? It all really comes together in Episode 8, where viewers are treated to a full episode of the wrestling program they've been working on, which is the most '80s thing on Netflix. Sorry, Stranger Things. -- Mat Elfring
17. Ozark Season 2
If you haven't checked out Ozark, you'd be forgiven for assuming it's Breaking Bad but with Jason Bateman instead of Bryan Cranston. But this blue-hued white collar crime drama continued forging its own corpse-strewn path with this year's Season 2, and the show has proved to be one of Netflix's best originals. The Byrde family just keep digging themselves deeper, and in Season 2 it became abundantly clear that they're not getting out any time soon. The season succeeded in particular thanks to a talented cast of female characters, including Julia Garner's Ruth Langmore, Lisa Emery's Darlene Snell, and most of all, Laura Linney's Wendy Byrde. These actresses flip with apparent ease from badass to menacing, from gut-wrenching emotion to shocking violence, and they help make Ozark one of Netflix's best originals. -- Mike Rougeau
18. The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House if scary, sure. It's filled with jump scares, hidden haunts that you won't see until it's too late, and so much tension that you'll spend the entire time on the edge of your seat. More importantly, though, The Haunting of Hill House is an impeccably made family drama.
While it belongs firmly in the horror genre, what makes this Netflix original so special is that it's not the scares that drive it. Instead, it's the story of this family falling apart in the aftermath of a traumatic event and being forced to reckon with it years later. It's hard not to feel for every member of the Crane family as they confront their demons, both literal and figurative, in an attempt to simply live their lives. You'll come for the jump scares but what will make you stay is how engrossed you'll become in the Crane story. -- Chris Hayner
19. Everything Sucks
We already know that Everything Sucks isn't getting a second season, but we can still enjoy the quaint, heartfelt '90s high school romantic comedy we got at the start of this year. In our review of the show, we said that '90s nostalgia is only the bait: "Everything Sucks is actually less a Freaks and Geeks rip-off, and more an adorable gay high school romance." Yes, they listen to Oasis and run away to a Tori Amos concert, but there's much more to it than cheesy '90s references, and the romance that blossoms between Peyton Kennedy's Kate Messner and Sydney Sweeney's Emaline is truly touching. -- Mike Rougeau
20. Devilman Crybaby
Netflix has been moving slowly into the world of anime over the past couple of years, and Devilman Crybaby was the first out of the gate in 2018. It's a new adaptation of Go Nagai's classic '70s manga and subsequent anime series Devilman, about a teenager who becomes possessed and transformed into an avenging demon with a pure human heart. Devilman Crybaby takes this basic storyline but brings it right up to date, embracing the age of social media and web journalism. It's directed by modern anime master Masaaki Yuasa, best known his insane movie Mind Game, and is packed with some of the most extreme content ever to hit Netflix. It's provocative and explicit, a sometimes funny but often disturbing collision of sex, gore, and demonic madness. -- Dan Auty
21. Black Mirror Season 4
Since getting a new lease on life after being picked up by Netflix, Black Mirror continues to get darker and more twisted. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the show’s fourth season, which debuted at the very end of 2017. Despite balancing the season with “lighter” episodes such as Hang The DJ, Season 4 made waves with the gruesome Black Museum, as well as Crocodile, a cautionary morality tale about the impact of surveillance, which delivered some of the darkest moments in the show’s history. Season four also experimented a lot more with tone and format, with the black and white horror episode Metalhead, as well as the feature-length homage to Star Trek, USS Callister. It’s clear that series creator Charlie Brooker isn’t running out of ideas anytime soon, so we dare only dream of the horrors he’ll come up with for Season 5. -- Lucy James
22. The Dragon Prince
The Dragon Prince is a show equivalent to an excited dog on a leash who’s just been let out for a walk. It hasn’t had the opportunity to reach its stride yet, but it’s pulling us in a lot of directions with interesting characters, a beautiful art style, and the promise of an epic saga on the scale of its creator’s previous work, Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a shame the first season was so short, but we’ve only just left the house, and there’s a whole world out there for us to explore. -- Nick Sherman
23. Mystery Science Theater 3000
Mystery Science Theater 3000 turned 30 years old in 2018, and it got a second season on Netflix as well. Titled "The Gauntlet," Jonah, Crow, and Tom Servo riff six movies that are simply unwatchable. Yes, it's more of the same that you've seen in the past, but by "The Gauntlet," fans feel very comfortable with Jonah at the helm as well as with the new voices for Crow and Tom. Right off the bat, the season nails it out of the park with the 1988 E.T. ripoff Mac and Me and follows it with the 2013 Pacific Rim ripoff Atlantic Rim, which is a movie about characters saying "look at that" without the camera ever showing what's just offscreen. The Netflix run has such a broad appeal and wide array of jokes and quips that appeal to classic MST3K fans and a younger audience as well. Who doesn't love funny people making fun of bad movies? There's a reason this show has been around--in one way or the other--for 30 years. -- Mat Elfring
24. BoJack Horseman Season 5
Over the course of its five seasons, BoJack Horseman has evolved from a surreal, Family Guy-esque comedy, filled with bizarre non-sequiturs and cutaway gags, to one of Netflix’s best Originals: balancing cutting commentary on modern Hollywood (or "Hollywoo") culture with crushing emotional beats. It constantly messes with your expectations, using exceptionally creative framing devices to tell stories (see the episode Free Churro to see the show at its heart-wrenching best), as well as delivering devastating plot lines that resonate deeply.
BoJack Horseman must have been a weird sell to Netflix: An animated show about a washed-up, depressed horse. But it constantly proves that it’s one of the most creative, emotionally-driven shows out there, and if you have a Netflix subscription, is not one to be missed. — Lucy James
25. Altered Carbon
In our review of Netflix's Altered Carbon early in 2018, we called it "a new cyberpunk masterpiece." For sci-fi fans, its accomplishments are almost innumerable. It manages to establish a living future brimming with complexity, from AI poker games held in cyber space to the all important Cortical Stack, a spinal implant that's made society's upper crust all but immortal.
The narrative possibilities that come from these science fiction conceits are mind-blowing, but it still wouldn't be much of a show if it weren't for an engrossing story involving the mysterious temporary death of one of Earth's richest citizens, as well as gripping performances from lead actors including James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Conner, Kristin Lehman, and especially Joel Kinnaman, who injects a surprising amount of feeling into a protagonist who in another actor's hands might have been just a beefed-up super soldier. Altered Carbon may go a little too far off the rails in its final episodes, but the world is so incredibly drawn that the journey is worth taking regardless. -- Mike Rougeau
26. Lost in Space
Lost in Space might not have taken up as much space in your TV subconsciousness as some other shows this year. After all, Netflix released a lot of shows in 2018. That said, it was simply one of the most entertaining exclusives the streaming service had to offer. This adaptation put a modern spin with great visual effects on the old TV series and left us wanting more by the time Season 1 was finished. Between the exciting worlds it's building, the chemistry between the Robinson family, and the fact that literally anything that could go wrong will in a heartbeat, what's not to love?
Seriously, though, the characters on this show have the absolute worst luck and any plan they come up with to save the day will definitely blow up in their faces. That's pretty entertaining to watch, especially since it seems none of them will die from it. -- Chris E. Hayner
27. End of the Fucking World
Netflix had yet another hit on its hands with The End of the F***ing World at the start of 2018. Originally released on the UK's Channel 4 and based on a graphic novel series by Charles S. Forsman, End of the F***ing World followed James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a pair of troubled teenagers who run away together to escape their miserable home lives. But there's one thing Alyssa doesn't know: James, who's apparently a psychopath at 17, is planning to murder her.
Granted, that sounds like it could be quite a short program. But over its brief first run of episodes, EotFW revealed a pair of much more complex characters whose goals might not actually be as simple as "I want to murder you." Given where the series left James and Alyssa, we're looking forward to seeing what happens in Season 2. -- Mike Rougeau
28. Castlevania Season 2
The first season of Netflix's Castlevania show was really more of a teaser than a full season. Over just four short episodes, it established the main characters and conflict and gave us a taste of the action, with the promise of more to come at a later date. Season 2 expanded on that promise, even if it didn't fully realize it until the very end of its still-too-brief eight episodes.
Castlevania Season 2 follows characters on two fronts: Dracula's court, and the small crew fighting against him. The latter consists of familiar faces: Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), Alucard (James Callis), and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), all of whom we met in Season 1. Taken on its own, Season 2 has a bit too much build-up, but the payoff in the penultimate episode--when everything finally comes together and the Castlevania fan service peaks--makes it well worth the price of entry. We're already looking forward to Season 3. -- Mike Rougeau
Based on a series of web shorts that introduced Sanrio's "Aggressive Retsuko" a few years ago, Aggretsuko's full length anime debut on Netflix was by no means a sure thing. Sure, the title character, a disgruntled but good-natured red panda who hates her job and doesn't know what to do about it, is adorable and relatable. But does the show's main gimmick--that mild-mannered Retsuko takes to karaoke bars by night to spew shrieking death metal--really have the legs to support a whole show?
The answer, it turns out, is hell yes. The incongruous blend of adorable, Hello Kitty-style anime and outrageous death metal is surprisingly endearing. And when it all comes together in episodes like the rap battle between Retsuko and her literal pig of a boss, you'll be glad Retsuko has an outlet for all that rage. -- Mike Rougeau
30. B: The Beginning
B: The Beginning is one of a slew of original anime Netflix approved for 2018. This suspense anime contains a mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements, as well as some mystery with our primary characters being detectives solving the case of a serial killer. The cast of detectives have their individual quirks, and it's fun to watch them interacting with each other as they expertly solve the cases in front of them. And when the conflicts ramp up, the anime contains some excellently animated and exciting action segments--from car chases to fantastical duels--which further elevate this show. Netflix has renewed B: The Beginning for a second season, and for good reason. -- Dave Klein