The best Netflix shows of 2021

squid game

It’s that familiar age-old question that Netflix subscribers are faced with every time they browse the streaming giant’s vast library of films and shows: “What do I want to watch today?” There was already an enormous amount of content that subscribers could barely keep up with prior to COVID-19, but ever since the pandemic began, Netflix has been feverishly adding even more new content for its loyal audience to enjoy.

Unlike COVID, Netflix’s efforts have worked out pretty well for us ⏤ so well, in fact, that at times it’s hard to keep up with the abundance of new content. Now that 2021 is coming to a close and a New Year is upon us, however, it’s time to look back on some of this year’s most talked-about releases as well as a few hidden jewels that general audiences may not even be aware exist.

Here, in no particular order, are our top 10 best Netflix original shows of 2021.

Shadow and Bone

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, this big-budget Netflix original follows the story of Alina Starkov, a young woman who discovers that her power over light is the key to saving a kingdom from a legendary darkness that has plagued it since before she was born. She attempts to figure out her purpose while being coerced into using her abilities for political gain.

The overall look of the show stays in the realm of fantasy and pulls elements from HBO’s Game of Thrones and Freeform’s Shadowhunters, creating a dark and violent romantic drama that leans heavily into its young adult themes of love triangles and emotional rebellion. One of the more popular shows of 2021, Shadow and Bone is a fun watch for fantasy fans.

Kim’s Convenience

Thanks to the rising fame of Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu, this show has been getting newfound attention from Netflix subscribers. Following a Korean-Canadian family who owns and operates a convenience store, Kim’s Convenience is a screwy ethnic comedy that focuses on the everyday antics of immigrant family life in a fun and endearing way. 

The show explores the complicated relationships between traditional overseas parents and their Westernized children as the Kims navigate the changing times as their son Jung (played by Liu) and their daughter Janet (Andrea Bang) both attempt to live their lives outside of their parents’ traditional standards. If you’re looking for a show that will make you laugh, this feel-good family sitcom is sure to do the trick. 



Shonda Rhimes ⏤ the visionary creator of Grey’s Anatomy ⏤ adapted this period drama from the book series of the same name, and we’re all the better for it. Set in the 1800s, it follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) as she makes her first appearance in London society and navigates her way through its social circles amidst the gossip surrounding the rest of her siblings. It certainly doesn’t help that Phoebe is falling for a Duke (Rege-Jean Page) who also happens to be the talk of the town, all while a mysterious woman somehow notes all the juicy gossip and publicizes it for everyone to read in an anonymous column.

In a nutshell, this show is all about love and drama, but with a Victorian twist. Even TV Guide writer Allison Picurro says that Bridgerton is “Pride and Prejudice meets Gossip Girl and Scandal,” which pretty much sums it up. If you’re someone who can’t get enough “tea,” then you’re going to love Bridgerton.

Sweet Tooth

Based on the DC comic book of the same name, Sweet Tooth is a live-action adaptation set in the aftermath of a catastrophic global virus. It focuses on a special boy-deer hybrid named Gus (played by Christian Convery) as he journeys across the country in search of a new life. Along the way, he meets a gruff protector named Tommy (Nonso Anozie) and the two strike out together in a buddy adventure for the ages.

Beneath the surface, Sweet Tooth also explores the prejudice and corruption that has taken hold of the country since the virus began, creating a thoughtful look into the fragility of human emotion. Beautifully strange, dark, and aspiring, Sweet Tooth is a captivating story that makes it hard not to binge the first season in one go.


Sorry, anime fans ⏤ we’re not talking about the same Lupin that many of you have come to know. That said, this Lupin does steal some stuff. Inspired by the classic French character (which the anime also loosely based its character on), Netflix’s Lupin follows Assane Diop (Omar Sy) as he attempts to steal a valuable necklace from the Louvre as part of a revenge plot against a wealthy family responsible for his father’s death. Full of wool-over-the-eyes trickery and entertaining heist antics, Lupin was considered a refreshing addition to the Netflix library in the early part of 2021.

Maya and the Three

Despite its bright and animated look, this nine-episode miniseries is actually dark and mature enough that even an adult can enjoy it. From Jorge Gutierrez, the same filmmaker behind The Book Of Life, Maya and the Three revolves around a fifteen-year-old warrior princess named Maya who goes on a quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy to stop the gods of the underworld from destroying humanity.

The show is a great ethnical commemoration and celebration of Latin culture filled with ceremonial headdresses, war paint, and detailed Aztec-themed costumes as Maya travels across the picturesque landscape of Central America on her quest. Packed with great CGI action, humor, and Latin history, Maya and the Three is certainly worth an immediate binge.


If you’re a fan of the popular PC video game League of Legends, then this Netflix original is going to be your favorite new show. Based on two of the game’s playable characters, Jinx (Ella Purnell) and Vi (Hailee Steinfeld), Arcane is a CGI-animated epic that dives into their origins as sisters growing up in the underworld city of Zaun while exploring the amazing tech built by the affluent city of Piltover above it.

The show has crafted a deep and complex story that does a beautiful job of organically fleshing out each character so they connect accordingly with each other in the League of Legends universe. The show is so well done that even if you’re not a fan of animation or know nothing about League of Legends, you’ll quickly find yourself binge-watching the first season in a day.

Squid Game

For the past few years, Korea has been steadily proving itself to be the next powerhouse when it comes to great adult television programming. So far, no show has had quite the impact that Squid Game had this year. The drama revolves around the plight of Seong Gi-hun, an out-of-work failure who is invited to compete alongside hundreds of financially indebted contestants in a series of children’s games in the hopes of obtaining the game’s enormous cash prize. 

Playing “Red Light, Green Light” for money doesn’t sound so bad, right? It wouldn’t be if you didn’t have to fear for your life should you lose. Critically acclaimed for its high-stakes character development and brutal game setting, Squid Game has become the unexpected breakout hit of 2021. With only half a year since its release and only one season to its name, Squid Game has the potential to become as huge as Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead. Just watch the first episode and you’ll see why it’s the most heavily-referenced show in pop culture right now.

My Name

Another Korean series that has impressed audiences with its engaging storyline is My Name. Though not as talked about as Squid Game, this crime thriller follows the story of a young woman named Yoon Ji Woo (Han So Hee) who seeks revenge for her gangster father’s murder by joining his underworld organization and training to become a killer. At the direction of her boss, Woo later joins the police force in the hopes of locating her father’s killer among her fellow officers.

What ensues is a game of cat-and-mouse that takes Woo’s murderous skills and loyalty past its limits, leading to an ultimate final showdown with the man responsible for her father’s death. My Name tells a dark story of corruption and manipulation that is well-spun and keeps you guessing even if you have an idea of how it might end. If you’ve fallen in love with Squid Game, then there’s a good chance you’re going to like My Name.


From Yeong Sang Ho, the creative force that brought you the popular film Train to Busan, comes another supernatural project that has already taken Netflix by storm in its first few weeks of release. Based on his webtoon Hell, Sang-Ho’s Hellbound introduces a new test on faith and religion as creatures mysteriously appear on Earth to essentially kill and drag people to the depths of hell once they’ve received a decree from an “angel” that prophesies when they’re going to die. 

Following the stories of various people given said decree to die, Hellbound focuses on humans’ innate tendency to manipulate and misinterpret otherworldly things they do not understand. What makes the show so powerful is the depth of emotion Sang-Ho’s characters experience as they try to make sense of the phenomenon while curtailing society’s natural inclination to use the events to serve their own ideologies. Brutally violent and extremely engaging, Hellbound is shaping up to be the next hit in the Korean market.

Did your favorite Netflix original show of 2021 make the list? Let us know in a comment below!