Netflix has had a fantastic year with plenty of releases stacking up on its shelves that boast a variety of content. While the pandemic ravaged the world, we found comfort in streaming endless hours of series and films to escape the harsh reality.
With its burgeoning Original content, the streaming service, which is now a force to be reckoned with, has also introduced all-time fan favourites like Seinfeld, Cowboy Bebop (original anime) and The Office (US), yet again that has led to a sharp rise in viewership.
While they were pretty guarded and tight-lipped about their streaming numbers, the platform has recently started releasing viewership data.
After we ranked the best Netflix Original shows of 2021 as well as the best Netflix Original films of 2021, we decided to make a list, ranking the shows from worst to best on the basis of viewership data in the following way:
Ranking the 10 most-watched shows on Netflix from worst to best
10. Sex/Life (Stacy Rukeyser, 2021)
In what could have been a raunchy thriller, Sex/Life was a comparative mess. A suburban mother is bored of her goody-two-shoes husband. She fantasises about her ex-boyfriend and their torrid romance. She soon finds herself at the crossroads of her current stability and her past rendezvous that threatens to destabilise everything she has built.
Starring Sarah Shahi, Mike Vogel and Adam Demos, the messy storyline does an immense disservice to the unique premise of the lead female protagonist undergoing a mid-life crisis and having a sexual reawakening. Although it became one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, the boring tonality made us lose interest in the middle.
9. Sweet Tooth (Jim Mickle, 2021)
Adapted from Jeff Lemire’s popular graphic novel and set in a dystopian world, the series saw the story of hybrids being born after a post-apocalyptic incident. In a world where humans hunt and persecute hybrids, a human-deer hybrid boyfriend is a loner and travels huge distances to find out about his origin story—all the while struggling for survival in a cruel and complex world where he ends up meeting unexpected allies as well.
With many fantasy and sci-fi elements, boys with antlers, complicated parent-child relationships, and a thrilling tale of survival, the eight-episode series leaves the viewers hungry for more. Luckily, the series has been renewed for a second season. It is a brilliant commentary on genetic experiments and more and is perhaps one of the finest comic-to-film adaptations on Netflix’s behalf.
8. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Eric Goode, Rebecca Cahiklin, 2020)
Exciting and nerve-wracking, this series provides an insight into the fascinating world of Joe Exotic, the eccentric zoo owner, and his long-time feud with Carole Baskin, and Doc Antle. This series abounds in bizarre subjects, starting from big cats ownership, assassination attempts, murder mysteries, alligators, and a “three-way-same sex marriage”.
This miniseries was designed like a docuseries, chronicling Joe Exotifc’s life to the T. Extremely compelling and captivating, the series paints a wonderfully gripping portrait of how an obsession can subsequently lead to downfall. However, somehow, via Exotic’s romanticisation and seeing him turn into a pop-cultural phenomenon, the premise of the show lost its point wherein issues regarding animal cruelty, conservation, and the atrocities meted out to the big cats became a backburner.
7. Bridgerton (Shonda Rhimes, Chris van Dusen, 2020)
Set in an aristocratic English society during the Regency period, it features a house filled with siblings who count on the eldest daughter to find herself a suitable match to help step up her sisters’ respective games in the marriage market. The oldest brother is a preserver of traditions but secretly beds his mistress. There is a dashing young Duke who, despite brimming with sass and trauma, eyes only the beautiful, virginal Daphne. The neighbours try to outdo the Bridgerton clan in the marriage market. However, all plans are thwarted, and all scandals are brought to light by an anonymous woman named Lady Whistledon, who exposes the conspiracies and scandals of this ostentatious society.
With raunchy sex scenes and meaty gossip, Bridgerton has become one of the most popular period shows on Netflix and features the instrumental and orchestral versions of modern-day pop songs. It is adapted from Julia Quinn’s novel of the same name. The opulence is complemented by dramatic and tearful monologues and shocking slander and defamation, and other gossip-fuelling elements of the English high society.
6. Money Heist (Alex Pina, 2017)
Clad in red overalls and Salvador Dali masks, the mysterious Professor leads his ragtag team of delinquents into carrying out a huge heist in the Royal Mint of Spain where they deal with hostages, the police and other enemies while “El Professor”, the mastermind, conducts the entire heist. With a heart-thumping finale, the legacy of Money Heist lives far beyond the mere ratings and revenue. It is alive in the character arcs and their trajectories, a remix bop of the Italian resistance song ‘Bella Ciao’, and the ability to dream of a revolution against tyrannical forces.
The greatest heist in history came to an end with the fifth and final season of Money Heist this month. The nail-biting finish to the riveting premise made long-time fans almost lose hope for the gang’s survival before they saw them dancing and crooning to ‘Bella Ciao’ to signify their ultimate victory against all odds.
5. The Witcher (Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, 2019)
Based on the eponymous book series by Andrzej Sapowski, as well as the acclaimed video game series, the show has amassed a massive cult-like following and is set to premiere its second season this Friday. Starring Henry Cavill as the brooding and rugged Geralt of Rivia, a mutated Witcher who is well versed in battling various monsters in a world where he is considered an abomination. The show set the premise for the further trajectory of the series to continue as Geralt navigates his destiny that crosses path with various others, namely Princess Ciri and Yennefer, played by Freya Allen and Anya Chalotra, respectively.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the second season of the show that will most likely focus on Geralt and Ciri mentorship as he guides the latter towards her destiny. Cavill has said that the second season will be more closely related to the books. Meanwhile, Hissrich is busy expanding the Witcher-verse. After the animated film, they are also set to release a prequel series that focuses on the origin story of how witchers came into being.
4. Lupin (George Kay, Francois Uzan, 2021)
This French thriller was based on the exploits of the “gentleman thief” Arsene Lupin, who inspired 39 novellas and 17 novels penned by author Auric Leblanc, on which the widely acclaimed show is based. Stuffed full of wit, humour, action and mystery, the show abounds in jewels, necklaces, diamonds, troubled past stories, engrossing characters and riveting heist sequences; the show became Netflix’s most viewed shows in 2021.
The show is, essentially, based on the exploits of the professional thief Assane Diop whose father had fled from Senegal to France to provide his son with a better future. He is wrongfully framed for stealing a diamond necklace by his corrupt and affluent employer Hubert Pellegrini, prompting the former to hang himself out of embarrassment, leaving the young Assane orphaned. Assane vows revenge, and inspired by the books about Arsene Lupin, Assane decides to seek vengeance by resorting to his wit, charm and sharp presence of mind to help him get to his desired place and expose Pellegrini’s true self.
3. The Queen’s Gambit (Scott Frank, Allan Scott, 2020)
The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional story set in the mid-1950s and continues to the 1960s. It revolves around an orphaned chess prodigy Beth Garmon who embarks on a quest to become the world’s greatest chess player. However, various obstacles stand in her way, including emotional problems and dependency on alcohol and drugs.
A riveting watch, The Queen’s Gambit is most definitely one of Netflix’s finest creations and has been well-received by the chess community. The members were hopeful that it would ignite interest within youngsters to start partaking in the game, especially among young female players. Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth delivers a stellar performance and has received high praise, including taking the number one spot in our list of 2020 greats.
2. Squid Game (Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021)
Starring Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo and Jung HoYeon in lead roles, this Netflix K-original survival thriller series took the world by storm with its brilliant commentary on capitalism, economic and class conflict and power structures, all of which was contained within a riveting and gruesome premise that was set in a dystopian modern-day Korea. Not only did it become Netflix’s most popular show but also induced the Korean wave that has helped increase interest in the language and culture.
The premise involved 456 participants taking part in a series of survival games that include a perverse twist on the innocence of children’s games. They are all ridden with debts and loans and need to go to great lengths to win staggering prize money of 45.6 billion Korean Won. With increasing vulnerability, frustration and paranoia, the contestants find themselves trapped in confined spaces under the watchful panoptic gazes of strange masked men. While the show has officially been renewed for a second season, fans can seemingly no longer wait to see how the ambiguous ending of season one leads to a hopefully even more gripping second season.
1. Stranger Things (Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, 2016)
Created by the twin Duffer brothers, Matt and Ross, Stranger Things is undoubtedly one of Netflix’s most popular shows, one that attained meteoric success revolving around the classic theme of child endangerment situated in a fictitious Indiana town of Hawkins. The wide range of characters includes brave kids riding bikes to locate their missing friend before encountering and befriending a young girl with telekinetic abilities. These children, as well as the helpless adults, encounter various dangerous species who are involved in inter-dimensional travel while battling the corrupt bureaucracy and other pervading threats. A dream concoction of children’s imagination, the series focuses on how the goofballs manage to stay floating amidst hostilities, brimming with fun and quirks.
With an undeniable impact on the future of streaming services like Netflix, the show also helped resuscitate the sci-fi genre from the 80s. The show is the Duffer brothers’ nostalgic tribute to the glorious time period and has proved crucial in helping establish the careers of various child actors, namely Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp and Caleb McLaughlin. The show also sees David Harbour and Winona Ryder in prominent roles besides a huge ensemble cast who make up the various interesting characters. With its fourth season on its way sometime in 2022, Stranger Things reigns supreme, in all its madness and glory, in the hearts of die-hard fans.