The 17 Best Netflix Exclusives Of 2017
By Aaron Pruner on
The best of the best
To say that Netflix is a content powerhouse would be an understatement--over 1,000 hours of original programming premiered on the service in 2017. That's not to say that all of it is perfect, of course, and with such a sheer abundance of content on Netflix, simply finding all the gems among the rough can be a challenge.
Enter this list. From cutting edge movies to small-screen surprises, the streaming giant once again played a pivotal role in the age of "Peak TV." Here are the 17 best Netflix originals to air in 2017.
17. A Series of Unfortunate Events
13 years after Nickelodeon's big screen adaptation bombed at the box office, Netflix stepped in to right that unfortunate wrong. Based on the Lemony Snicket (real name: Daniel Handler) book, A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the tale of the Baudelaires--three incredibly unlucky children whose parents mysteriously died in an accident. They're forced to live with Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a failed actor pretending to be their uncle to gain access to the family fortune. Tonally reminiscent of the works of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, each episode follows the kids as they struggle to beat Olaf at his own mischievous game.
16. Orange is the New Black
For five seasons, Orange is the New Black has followed Piper Chapman's (Taylor Schilling) 15-month prison sentence. And while that formula has led the series into some silly plot points, Season 5 reigned in the show's focus and, in turn, made things exciting once again. The new episodes took place over a three-day timespan, following a prison riot at Litchfield Penitentiary that flipped the power dynamic between the abusive guards and those behind bars. Personal drama, complex character arcs, and conflicts between rival factions made for a compelling season definitely worth a watch.
With Ozark, Jason Bateman was finally able to step out of Michael Bluth's shadow. The series follows money launderer Martin Byrde (Bateman) as he moves his family to the Ozarks. His plan of paying back the Mexican drug cartel that killed his partner hits a few hiccups along the way. Tonally, the show's been compared to the likes of Breaking Bad, Bloodline, and Justified. And with some heavy hitting performances in the cast--Laura Linney is amazing as always--the brooding story goes straight for the jugular and never lets up.
In 2017, gamers received a gift in the form of the delightfully bloody anime, Castlevania. Based on the original 1986 Nintendo game, comic book writer Warren Ellis and executive producer Adi Shankar teamed up to continue the tale of the Belmont clan's war with the looming vampire threat. Richard Armitage (Hannibal, The Hobbit movies) is perfect as the voice of Trevor Belmont, the story's reluctant hero. And while the season was short--just four episodes, to be exact--it definitely delivered the goods. Patience, friends--more episodes are set to hit Netflix in 2018.
Okja follows the story of a young South Korean girl who forms an unusual bond with a giant creature known simply as a "super-pig." When Okja is reclaimed by its parent corporation and sent to the slaughterhouse, chaos ensues. Scenes of animal torture and corporate greed help to deliver an up-close look at the corruption that lies within the American Food Industrial Complex. It's Bong Joon-ho's heartfelt, heartbreaking, anti-corporation, pro-vegan message to the masses, and the film is as lovely as it is bizarre. What else would you expect from the dude that brought us Snowpiercer?
12. Dear White People
Much like the Justin Simien film that came before it, Dear White People explores the lives of the various students of color who attend a mostly white college. It's a mindful satire that takes the subject matter regularly seen on the nightly news and flips it, giving a voice to those who need to be heard. Needless to say, Dear White People was a breath a fresh air when it premiered in April. Activism, racism, and social injustice are just a few hot button issues tackled here, but they're touched on in such an engaging way, it's hard not to become fully engaged. More episodes will hit Netflix in 2018. So, you know, stay woke.
11. American Vandal
Netflix pokes fun at the true crime docuseries trend with American Vandal. The first season of the mockumentary series may be only eight episodes, but the simplicity of the satire is stupidly smart. If Making a Murderer, The Jinx, and Serial all went back to high school, this would probably be the show they'd become. Each episode ends up being more engrossing than the last, and that says a lot for an investigation into the mysterious lewd graffiti that appeared on 27 faculty members' cars. "Who drew the dicks?" It's the burning question--and we still don't know the answer.
10. Alias Grace
Alias Grace tells the tale of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a poor servant girl accused of murder in 19th century Canada. This series--which is adapted from Margaret Atwood's 1996 novel--is an intriguing mix of period drama and true crime tale. Co-starring Anna Paquin, Zachary Levi, and David Cronenberg, the six-episode series explores the cultural dynamic between men of power and the women forced into subservience. Its subject matter is just as timely as The Handmaid's Tale, which make sense, since Atwood wrote that book, too.
9. Stranger Things 2
In Stranger Things' second go-round, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Hopper (David Harbour), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), and the rest found themselves battling an even bigger supernatural threat. With new characters added into the mix--and plenty of '80s pop culture references to pick through--the adventure takes them all deeper into the strange world of the Upside Down. In related news, The Duffer Brothers doubled down on a winning formula, prompting Netflix to pull a no-brainer and renew the series for more episodes.
Godless tells a western tale of vengeance and redemption in a town filled with husbandless women. Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Logan) spent well over a decade creating the seven-part series, which balances some classic Sam Peckinpah style with a fair share of edgy modern day sensibilities. And while the writing is on point, the real highlight here is the show's epic cast: Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, Halt and Catch Fire’s Scoot McNairy, and The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels are all at the top of their games. But the real standout is The Walking Dead’s Merritt Wever. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.
7. The Punisher
The arrival of Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle finally brought balance back to Marvel's gang of street-level heroes. In its first season, The Punisher paid close attention to Castle's war-riddled back story, delivering a hard-driving human element to the Netflix franchise. In turn, audiences were given a tough-to-swallow PTSD-inspired tale, while Frank's tortured psyche was laid out for all to see. This may be a story about a hero whose only superpower is shooting guns, but the series doesn't shy away from the repercussions that come from such violence. In the end, it's still a comic book series. But be warned, there's absolutely no escapism here.
6. Big Mouth
Big Mouth is an animated series unlike anything Netflix audiences have seen. Created by longtime friends Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, the raunchy cartoon traverses that awkward time in everyone's childhood when puberty strikes. The show boasts a talented voice cast--John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, and Kristen Wiig show up here. Big Mouth excels at exploring some painfully uncomfortable subject matter in a way that is equally gross, heartwarming, relatable, and downright hilarious. Thankfully Netflix renewed the series for another season. We need more Hormone Monsters in our lives.
5. Gerald's Game
Another day, another Stephen King adaptation. Instead of killer clowns and haunted towns, though, the simplicity of the premise is what makes Mike Flanagan's film a stirring success. The majority of the movie takes place in a secluded cabin where a married couple--played brilliantly by Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Mad Men) and Carla Gugino (Roadies, San Andreas)--attempt to save their relationship with a sexy weekend away. Once Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed, what transpires is a visceral tale of survival as she faces down certain death, and some unexpected demons from her past.
4. Master of None
The Aziz Ansari-led comedy came back bigger and better in its second season. The new episodes found the story digging deeper into the dramatic side of Dev's (Ansari) heartbreak, and the influences from classic Italian cinema lent an unexpected aesthetic to the series that set it apart from nearly everything else on TV. As hilarious as Master of None is, each episode roots itself in a personal truth that elevates the series beyond its comedic roots. The Lena Waithe-written Thanksgiving episode--which she won the Emmy for--is a phenomenal standout.
3. The Crown
The Crown is such a lavish tale, sometimes it's easy to forget it's based on real life. Netflix's period drama explores the early days of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. With a budget weighing in at about $100 million, the ambience and production value is top notch. The series continues the chronological tale of Elizabeth's rise, but this time around, closely follows her complex marriage with Philip (Matt Smith)--and the rumors of infidelity that followed. Emotional high points and intricate plot points abound in Season 2, making The Crown more riveting than ever.
GLOW follows Ruth (Alison Brie), a struggling actress looking for work who discovers the role of a lifetime in the most unexpected place: a wrestling ring. The conflicted relationship between old friends Ruth and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) acts as the foundation for the series. And with its quirky ensemble cast and characters, the Jenji Kohan-created series paints a bigger world that's hard to not fall in love with. GLOW not only celebrates the original 1985 wrestling program it's inspired by, but also delivers a surprising tale of female empowerment that packs in plenty of fights, laughs, and drama along the way.
David Fincher's Mindhunter explores the mission of two FBI agents--played by Jonathan Groff (Glee, Frozen) and Holt McCallany (Fight Club, Lights Out)--as they travel the country creating the modern day process for profiling serial killers. It's a slow burn that encapsulates the current trend of true crime dramas without feeling formulaic. The fact that it takes place in 1977 only heightens the subject matter, turning the riveting tale about America's most dangerous criminals into an engaging period drama. The show is so well done, in fact, that Netflix renewed Mindhunter for a second season before it even premiered.