You’ve got an evening to kill and a Netflix subscription — don’t waste any time browsing. These ten picks aren’t going to even begin to cover all of the great stuff on Netflix, but it’s a good start. Here’s what you should definitely watch.
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One of Netflix’s big Oscar contenders this year, Marriage Story is Noah Baumbach’s funny, bleak look at a divorce between two reasonably well-off creative people. It’s a breakup story that plays like a rom-com — witty and sharp but also raw and honest, pushing and pulling its way through a process that brings out the worst in everyone.
Originally a Lifetime series before jumping to Netflix for its second season, You is a thriller about Joe Goldberg, a bookseller with an acerbic wit and a propensity for stalking women. While it’s mostly a thriller, what makes You good is the way it also functions as a withering satire of romantic tropes. You is smart pulp, using the cover of trashy genre fare to deliver a sharp critique of male entitlement and the way our culture covers for it.
Yes, it’s long. Yes, you might not be able to squeeze it all into one sitting. But The Irishman is legitimately great — not Martin Scorsese’s most satisfying film, but certainly among his most contemplative. In telling the story of Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who works his way into a career as muscle for the mob, The Irishman tells a sprawling semi-historical story about politics, labor, and crime — and doubles as perhaps the most sobering examination of the masculinity exemplified by Scorsese’s crime stories.
The Haunting of Hill House
A very good horror show and also perhaps Netflix’s best original drama, The Haunting of Hill House is both a great scary show and also a terrific story about family. The Crain family, specifically: all literally haunted by the unspoken trauma of the night they lost their mother and had to leave the strange manor their father hoped to renovate and sell. An adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, the show will become an anthology when it returns in 2020 as The Haunting of Bly Manor, this time adapting Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Versace wasn’t as big of a hit as The People v O.J. Simpson (also good, also on Netflix). While its eponymous crime was also shocking national news, Versace’s murder by Andrew Cunanan is actually the end of a longer story, one that spanned the country and left several other gay men dead. Starting with Versace and working its way through Cunanan’s victims in reverse, The Assassination of Gianni Versace is magnetic television that quietly contrasts the easy excess of the ’90s with its still-sequestered gay culture. In following Cunanan, it is the character study of a murderer that refuses to give in to luridity. Instead, it uses his victims as a window into the ways homophobia manifests itself and leaves us blind to its violence.
The Get Down
The Netflix that greenlit The Get Down probably doesn’t exist anymore. An expensive, strange work of excess that burned brightly and faded away with nary a whisper, it’s still one of the most singular shows on the streaming service. Headed up by Baz Luhrmann, The Get Down is a Bronx fairy tale about the birth of hip-hop and the zenith of disco; a story about young street poets trying to get by as the borough burns around them and the world slowly conspires to smother their dreams.
There’s something to be said about a show that genuinely loves all of its characters. Based on the real-life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a fly-by-night promo of all-women wrestlers, GLOW follows Ruth Wilson, a struggling actress-turned-wrestler, and the surprise success and satisfaction she finds in wrestling. Along the way, the show takes a page from Orange is the New Black, diving into the lives of her ringmates to tell compelling short stories about women from all walks of life, and the ways they are hamstrung by the men in charge no matter how much success they might find for themselves.
One Day at a Time
Old-school sitcom staging meets new-school topical comedy in this reboot of the ’70s sitcom. One Day at a Time drops viewers into a day in the life of Penelope Alvarez, a Cuban-American woman who lives with her two kids and a theatrical-as-hell mother (played by the great Rita Moreno). Its classic multi-camera setup and laugh track give it a throwback vibe that’s well-matched to the earnestness the show does everything with. Sometimes cheesy, sometimes wrenching, sometimes very funny, One Day at a Time is always a joy.
When They See Us
In April of 1989, the sexual assault of a jogger in Central Park became a flashpoint for race and policing in New York City, as five young men were apprehended and pressured to confess to the crime by a police department looking to close cases and eager to lean on racial prejudices to do so. Ava DuVernay’s stark dramatization of the Exonerated Five’s story was difficult, unpleasant television that nonetheless helped shift a national conversation, not just about the injustices suffered by its central figures, but the myriad ways the disenfranchised are preyed upon today.
Better Call Saul
Netflix was where Breaking Bad became a binge-watching hit, so it’s kind of a shame that the same hasn’t seemed to happen for Better Call Saul. What started as a seemingly ridiculous idea — a prequel about Saul Goodman, Breaking Bad’s huckster lawyer — has evolved into arguably a superior show. When we meet Goodman, he’s just Jimmy McGill, no practice of his own, no Rolodex of criminal accomplices to call. He’s just a screwup with a sick brother, a fondness for easy cons, and a surprisingly big heart, one that we know will eventually be whittled away for good.
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