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The best Netflix TV dramas to watch right now

Updated Aug 22nd, 2023 3:02PM EDT
Crash Landing on You
Image: Lim Hyo Seon/Netflix

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Here at BGR, we regularly cover the best content to watch on Netflix across a number of different categories, ranging from the best true-crime titles on the streaming giant to the best Korean shows, the best gritty crime sagas, and the weekly rundown of the biggest and most-watched Netflix shows in the world. In this post, along those same lines, we’re going to take a closer look at 17 of the best Netflix dramas available to stream right now — shows that all stand out to me, for one reason or another, as some of the best of the best.

Worth noting, this list is completely subjective, and it’s also not meant to be comprehensive, so take that into account whether you agree with most of my selections or whether you think this or that standout Netflix drama was inadvertently overlooked.

Can’t-miss Netflix TV dramas, from The Crown to Peaky Blinders

For an even more comprehensive look at the best TV shows to watch on Netflix right now, you can also check out this guide that we update each month. It includes not only dramas, but also TV shows across the entire spectrum ranging from comedy to action and much more. Without further ado, though, let’s jump right into our list of the best dramas (in no particular order) that are worth watching on Netflix.

Peaky Blinders: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — this British gangster drama is hands-down one of the all-time great TV series that Netflix has ever released.

Peaky Blinders on Netflix
A still from the Netflix/BBC series “Peaky Blinders.” Image source: Robert Viglasky/Netflix

The focus of the story is on Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy), a World War I veteran who heads a crime gang in Birmingham and who’s also the patriarch of the expansive Shelby family. He’s as rich and complex a character as you’re likely to come across in a Netflix series — Tommy is shown as everything from a killer to a family man to a devoted lover and a shrewd entrepreneur — and when you include everything from Peaky Blinders’ fantastic world-building to the stylish fashions, it adds up to this Netflix series being one that you won’t be able to pull yourself away from once you’ve started.

I love everything about this show — all of it, including the oh-so-perfect theme song (“On a gathering storm / comes a tall, handsome man / in a dusty black coat / with a red right hand”).

Crash Landing on You: This next series is a Korean-language drama that just so happened to be the first of the genre that I ever tried (and one that K-drama fans also consistently rank as one of the best of all time).

Crash Landing on You on Netflix
A promotional still from the Netflix Korean drama “Crash Landing on You.” Image source: Lim Hyo Seon/Netflix

Crash Landing on You is about an uber-rich South Korean heiress who goes hang-gliding one day and gets swept across the border during a storm. She lands in a North Korean forest — specifically, in a tree, where she “crash lands” into the arms of a handsome, elite North Korean soldier.

The show (which is reportedly getting an American remake) is chock-a-block with everything from a swoon-worthy romance to comedy, drama, action sequences, big-budget set pieces, an ensemble bromance, and some great spy action. The show is so well done that it actually feels like a collection of mini-movies. Furthermore, as with most Korean shows, there’s only one season to enjoy here, so there’s not a huge time investment required.

If you’ve never watched a Korean drama on Netflix before, this is definitely the one to start with.

Beef: While those first two are Netflix dramas that originally debuted years ago, Beef is a 2023 series that’s so good, it stands alongside the best TV shows that Netflix has ever released.

Beef on Netflix
Steven Yeun as Danny in “Beef.” Image source: Andrew Cooper/Netflix
Beef on Netflix
Joseph Lee as George and Ali Wong as Amy in “Beef.” Image source: Netflix

As noted in my previous review of the series, the 10-episode Beef starts off in the parking lot of a store in Los Angeles — where Steven Yeun’s “Danny” almost backs his truck into the sleek SUV driven by Ali Wong’s “Amy.” The ensuing road rage encounter is really the manifestation of a cyclone of anger and desperation swirling in both Danny and Amy; the former is a failing contractor with a chip on his shoulder, while Wong’s Amy is a self-made entrepreneur who has (what looks like) a picture-perfect life.

Amy, we come to learn, is trying to sell her plant business to the filthy rich Jordan, played by Maria Bello. In the meantime, she chafes under the thumb of her insufferable and wealthy mother-in-law.

What begins as the story of an angry, random confrontation between two strangers soon enough goes to a much more interesting and even universal place — to the divide between the haves and have-nots. And to the unseen prisons that trap people in lives that they’re desperate to escape from, whether the life they live is one of privilege or otherwise.

Beef on Netflix
Steven Yeun as Danny in “Beef.” Image source: Andrew Cooper/Netflix

The Queen’s Gambit: There was a moment during the first year of the Covid pandemic when it felt like the whole world was transfixed by the game of chess. The reason? Netflix had us all addicted to the story of Beth Harmon, the fictional protagonist of its limited series The Queen’s Gambit — Beth being a chess prodigy from a humble background who learns the game and goes on to dominate it globally.

The Queen's Gambit
Anya Taylor-Joy in Netflix’s hit series “The Queen’s Gambit” as Beth Harmon. Image source: Phil Bray/Netflix

If you haven’t tried The Queen’s Gambit yet, don’t let chess’ centrality to the plot put you off. The show — based on the 1983 novel of the same name written by Walter Tevis — manages to make the game so much more exciting than most of us probably realized it could be. By the end of the first episode, I can guarantee Netflix will have you at checkmate.

Narcos: Mexico: In my opinion, these next two Netflix dramas rank among the streamer’s best franchises of all time. The first is a spinoff, set in Mexico, of Netflix’s cartel drama Narcos, which was originally focused on the larger-than-life Pablo Escobar — a monster who was pretty much off-the-charts evil. However, I much prefer the Mexican spinoff’s focus on the entrepreneurial-minded drug kingpin Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, who somehow convinced the feuding cartels to band together and that wars are bad for business.

Narcos: Mexico on Netflix
Manuel Masalva as Ramon Arellano Felix and Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, as Arturo “Kitty” Páez, in Season 3 of Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico.” Image source: Juan Rosas/Netflix

Yes, one of the constants of this franchise has always been the shocking violence and steadily rising body count — no surprise, given that it began by tracking the bloody rise and fall of Escobar. Then came the ascent of his rivals, the leaders of the Cali Cartel, after his death. And when the franchise relocated from Colombia to Mexico for the spinoff series, our introduction to Gallardo ramped up the violence and evil, but also balanced them out with depth and powerful storytelling.

In the end, Narcos and Narcos: Mexico stand as powerful reminders of Lord Acton’s dictum — the one about the corruptibility of power. And, notwithstanding the never-ending US battle against the flow of drugs, that there’s also no such thing as a good war.

The Last Kingdom: As for the second of the two Netflix dramas that rank, to me, among its best franchises ever — there was a time when pretty much every streamer had stars in its eyes over the possibility of releasing its own Game of Thrones.

For a minute there, some of us thought that The Witcher might very well turn out to be that for Netflix, until the series based on the book series by Andrzej Sapkowski basically s*at the bed and collapsed before our eyes. This also obscured the fact that… actually, Netflix already had its own critically acclaimed and fan-favorite Game of Thrones rival this whole time.

The Last Kingdom on Netflix
Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in the Netflix series “The Last Kingdom.” Image source: Netflix

If you ask me, that distinction belongs to The Last Kingdom. Long story short, the story here is about the ancient forces that set in motion the rise of what would become the British empire, and the narrative basis for the show is Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling novel series, The Saxon Stories.

“Years ago, when I was at university, I discovered Anglo-Saxon poetry and became hooked on that strange and often melancholy world,” Cornwell once said during an interview. “For some reason, the history of the Anglo-Saxons isn’t much taught in Britain where I grew up, and it struck me as weird that the English really had no idea where their country came from.

“Americans know, they even have a starting date, but the English just seemed to assume that England had always been there, so the idea of writing a series about the creation of England was in my head for a long time.”

The Last Kingdom on NetflixImage source: Netflix

The Crown: Speaking of the British empire, our never-ending fascination with the British Royal Family has helped turn creator Peter Morgan’s prestige drama about the royals into one of the biggest and buzziest Netflix shows of all time — with the still-to-come sixth and final season of the show taking us into the early 2000s.

In terms of the focus of the Season 6 story, viewers will follow Prince William (Ed McVey) as he enters university at St. Andrews — where, per Netflix, “he hopes to lead as normal a life as possible before taking up his royal responsibilities. Little does he know that the future for the crown begins right on campus, when he meets fellow student from Berkshire Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy).”

The Crown on NetflixImage source: Netflix

Also, in the new season, Imelda Staunton will reprise her role as Queen Elizabeth II. Likewise, Lesley Manville is back as Princess Margaret, as is Dominic West as Prince Charles, and Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana. The cast also includes Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne and Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker Bowles.

Warrior Nun: Netflix’s fantasy drama, based on the comic book series from Ben Dunn, is so good that after Netflix inexplicably canceled it back in December — in spite of a huge fan base and a strong showing on the Netflix global Top 10 — fans around the world organized and mounted a campaign to save it.

Warrior Nun on Netflix
Alba Baptista as Ava Silva in episode 203 of “Warrior Nun” on Netflix. Image source: Netflix
Warrior Nun on Netflix
Will Shepard as Preacher in episode 204 of “Warrior Nun.” Image source: Manolo Pavón/Netflix

The fact that the campaign was successful (in lieu of a Season 3, the Warrior Nun universe will expand in the form of a movie trilogy) should tell you as much about the fans as about how boneheaded this move was from the streamer. The show, about an ancient order of nuns who fight evil on earth, didn’t deserve its cancellation by Netflix, and if you haven’t checked out the show yet you can do so now safe in the knowledge that the story will continue. Moreover, the cast is led by Alba Baptista, a commanding presence in every project she takes on.

The Diplomat: This buzzy political drama starring Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell comes from a writer/producer whose TV credits The West Wing as well as Homeland, which was enough all by itself to convince me to give the show a try.

From Netflix’s official logline for The Diplomat:

“Kate Wyler (Keri Russell) is the new US Ambassador to the United Kingdom. She was supposed to go to Afghanistan. She’s great in a crisis zone. In a historic home … less so. War is brewing on one continent and boiling over on another. Kate will have to diffuse international crises, forge strategic alliances in London, and adjust to her new place in the spotlight — all while trying to survive her marriage to fellow career diplomat and political star Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell).”

The Diplomat on Netflix
Keri Russell as Kate Wyler in the Netflix series The Diplomat. Image source: Netflix

Mindhunter: I’m not much of a fan of true-crime drama, least of all shows about serial killers, but I’ve got to hand it to David Fincher’s Mindhunter, which pulls off quite a narrative magic trick:

This two-season drama is as much about the fascinating work of behavioral analysis and criminal profiling as it is the criminals behind the madness. From Netflix’s summary: “Ever wanted to look inside the mind of a serial killer? That’s the job of FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany).

Mindhunter on Netflix
Jonathan Groff, Oliver Cooper, and Holt McCallany in “Mindhunter.” Image source: Netflix

“Together with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), the trio makes up Quantico, Virginia’s new Behavioral Science Unit (BSU). Set in the late ’70s to early ’80s, the series chronicles the origins of the BSU and criminal profiling. To inform their work, Holden and Bill visit imprisoned killers to record their stories, reasoning that if they can understand the psychology behind these individuals, they can use it to inform open cases.”

Money Heist: This five-season Spanish-language heist drama is one of the biggest Netflix originals of all time, and deservedly so.

Three seasons of the drama — which inspired a Korean-language remake and which is also getting a prequel series about the character Berlin — occupy three separate spots on Netflix’s list of its most popular non-English TV shows of all time. In terms of the story here, a brilliant criminal mastermind assembles a motley crew of rogues to break into the Royal Mint of Spain. The story is told from the perspective of “Tokyo,” one of the crew of robbers who’s played by Ursula Corbero.

Money Heist on NetflixImage source: Tamara Arranz/Netflix

Dark: Netflix’s first original series that was entirely created, produced, and shot in Germany is the three-season masterpiece Dark, which has drawn comparisons to Stranger Things as well as to Lost (thanks to its time-bending storylines). From Netflix’s official synopsis:

Dark is set in a German town in present day where the disappearance of two young children exposes the double lives and fractured relationships among four families. In ten, hour-long episodes, the story takes on a supernatural twist that ties back to the same town in 1986. The series is created by award-winning showrunners Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, who previously received critical acclaim for their movie Who am I (2014).”

Dark on NetflixImage source: Netflix

Stranger Things: Like The Crown, meanwhile, Stranger Things is probably one of just a handful of dramas that almost everyone associates with Netflix at its best — even if they’re not a fan of the supernatural-focused series.

The big question everyone wants to know is when we will get to catch up with the gang from Hawkins again. Unfortunately, that question doesn’t have a solid answer yet. As a result of the ongoing strikes in Hollywood, there are estimates that the fifth and final season of Stranger Things might not be available to stream until 2025 at the earliest.

Stranger Things on NetflixImage source: Netflix

Nevertheless, we do already know at least something things about the new season worth sharing. During a Netflix Geeked episode hosted by Felicia Day, for example, show creators Matt and Ross Duffer at one point addressed the slew of character arcs that they have to manage as part of the series. Matt Duffer is the one who then brought up the point about next season, when the problem won’t be as tricky as in seasons past.

“We’re stopping,” he said, meaning the world of the show won’t get any bigger. “We’re not adding any more characters in season five. I promise.”

In a way, that feels at least somewhat expected, right? With Stranger Things 5 representing the culmination of the whole thing, you want the creators of a show this big to focus on sticking the landing. Something that’s all the more difficult to do when you’re still bringing in new faces that you have to seamlessly work into the narrative.

Stranger Things on Netflix
Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson, and Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair in Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Image source: Tina Rowden/Netflix

Four more Netflix dramas that belong on your watch list

The Lincoln Lawyer: This next show, a legal drama from Michael Connelly, is one of Netflix’s growing list of book adaptations that already range from the award-winning movie All Quiet on the Western Front, based on the epic World War I novel, to the Bridgerton series, the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before movie franchise, and the upcoming 3 Body Problem from the Game of Thrones showrunners, to name just a few.

The Lincoln Lawyer stars Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as the idealistic Mickey Haller, who runs his law practice out of the backseat of his titular Lincoln. The cases he takes on run the gamut from the big fish to the small fry of Los Angeles, and the latest season of the hit Netflix show is based on the fourth book in Connelly’s series — The Fifth Witness.

The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller and Yaya DaCosta as Andrea Freeman in The Lincoln Lawyer. Image source: Lara Solanki/Netflix
The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller in “The Lincoln Lawyer.” Image source: Netflix

The Night Agent: One of the biggest Netflix dramas of all time, according to the streamer’s global Top 10 data, The Night Agent is yet another wildly successful Netflix book adaptation comprised of 10 episodes and based on Matthew Quirk’s novel of the same name.

The story involves a low-level FBI agent named Peter Sutherland who works nights in the basement of the White House, manning a phone line for undercover spies that never rings. One day, however, it does ring, setting into motion a chain of events uncovering a conspiracy that reaches all the way to the Oval Office. Put this one on your list if you’re a fan of the Jack Ryan, Reacher, and Bourne Identity franchises — it ain’t Shakespeare, but the action and suspense are more than adequate.

The Night Agent on Netflix
Gabriel Basso as Peter Sutherland in episode 105 of “The Night Agent” on Netflix. Image source: Dan Power/Netflix

Snabba Cash: I love everything about this Swedish-language crime saga, from the way the cameraman runs chaotically behind a character who’s running — giving viewers a visceral you-are-right-there feel — to the choice of Evin Ahmad as the lead actress in this gritty amalgamation of entrepreneurs and big money to the trigger-happy gangsters whose evil frequently spills out of the underworld. From the Netflix synopsis:

“When tech entrepreneur Leya (Evin Ahmad) kick starts her company with criminal money, she finds out the hard way there are no shortcuts to the top without paying the price. The Swedish language reboot sets in Stockholm ten years after the events depicted in the film trilogy. It is a buzzing environment where the craving for status and money is stronger than ever and Leya is determined to make it, no matter what. The entrepreneurial jet set as well as the criminal world is more brutal, chaotic, and ruthless than ever. When these two worlds collide, loyalty, friendships, and business partners will all be tested in the never-ending quest for easy money.”

Snabba Cash on Netflix
A production still from Season 2 of “Snabba Cash” on Netflix. Image source: Gustav Danielsson/Netflix

Fauda: Last but not least, I’m a sucker for spy shows and espionage thrillers, and Netflix has quite a gem on that front in the form of Fauda — a 4-season thriller from Israel about an elite military team that engages in covert operations to keep the population safe — sometimes relying on extreme means to do so.

Often in this genre, TV shows and movies rely on the same old tired tropes, but one of the things that makes Fauda so gripping is that its creators Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz are both veterans of the Israel Defense Forces. About the show (the title of which means “chaos” in Arabic), one Rotten Tomatoes critic raved: “In terms of command of character, narrative complexity and themes of moral ambiguity, [this] series is as good as long-form streaming television gets.”

Fauda on NetflixImage source: Netflix
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.