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3 stylish, underrated Netflix series I wish more people knew about

Published May 26th, 2024 12:06PM EDT
Kleo on Netflix
Image: Julia Terjung/Netflix

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Several of my favorite Netflix series from the recent past share something in common. While, plot-wise, these dramas couldn’t be more different — the shows encompass ninjas, spies, and dystopian horror — the commonality is that while they’re all critically acclaimed, I nonetheless feel like not enough people know or talk about them.

That might be because these are all international TV shows (from German and Japanese creative teams), and we all know how there’s a contingent of American viewers who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to deal with subtitles. If you can handle that minor inconvenience, however, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed by any of the streamer’s series below, all of them featuring memorable characters and compelling stories that will keep you addicted from start to finish.

And we’ll start with a slick, stylish espionage drama that’s sort of like the love child of Killing Eve and The Americans.


Kleo on Netflix
Jella Haase, as Kleo Straub, in the Netflix spy series “Kleo.” Image source: Netflix

Spy thrillers come in all sorts of varieties, from romps to comedies, stereotype-laden garbage, titles that lean heavily on action sequences, and stylish gems that don’t take themselves too seriously. Kleo, about a former East German spy on the hunt for a red suitcase stuffed with secret documents, is definitely one of the latter.

The first season of the series, which critics roundly praised, saw Kleo released from prison and then begin a hunt as to who betrayed her and caused her to get sent there. In the forthcoming second season, which hits Netflix on July 25, both the CIA and KGB are now hunting for the secret documents, while Kleo is not only about to uncover more information about why she ended up behind bars — but also more details about her own sketchy past.

House of Ninjas

House of Ninjas on Netflix
Kento Kaku as Haru Tawara and Riho Yoshioka as Karen Ito in Netflix’s “House Of Ninjas.” Image source: Netflix

This next Netflix series, meanwhile, is the drama about ninjas that you didn’t realize you needed in your life.

From reluctant warriors to epic ninja battles, as well as a secret conspiracy, Netflix’s House of Ninjas has it all. This story from writer-director Dave Boyle is actually a spy thriller, albeit in a different form — it’s a drama that imagines a modern Japan with ninjas that are mostly retired but who get called back into service to foil the scheme of an evil clan threatening the country.

“Everyone in the Tawara family is a bit… bored,” Netflix’s summary explains. “Haru stocks vending machines and stokes his crush on a woman he doesn’t even know. His mom, Yoko, is bored of domesticity and shoplifts to keep things interesting. His dad, Soichi, is tormented by the loss of Haru’s older brother, Gaku, and bides his time running a sake business. Nagi, Haru’s sister, skips class to go on secret missions she hides from her family. And then there’s the unassuming Riku, Haru’s little brother, and Taki, Haru’s grandmother, who helps around the house. 

“Soichi wants Haru to one day take over the family business — sake brewing — but Haru just isn’t interested. When the family lost Gaku, everything changed. Back then, they were all ninjas, working together to serve justice. Now they’ve given it up. That is, until — one by one — the Tawara clan is pulled back in.”

Alice in Borderland

Alice in Borderland on Netflix
A production still from Season 2 of “Alice in Borderland” on Netflix. Image source: Netflix

Another Japanese Netflix series that’s very, very good is one that seems to get very little if any press coverage, and I don’t tend to see that many people talking about it online.

In my opinion, Alice in Borderland is perfect for fans of, say, Squid Game. Based on a graphic novel by Haro Aso, the show unfolds kind of like the Square Enix video game The World Ends With You (at least at the beginning). Arisu, a video game-obsessed young man who’s listless and unemployed, suddenly finds himself in an empty and strange version of Tokyo — one where he and his friends have to complete dangerous tasks and games in order to survive.

Arisu meets a young woman named Usagi who’s navigating the games alone, and together they set out to unravel the mystery while risking their lives to uncover what it really means to be alive with a purpose.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.