The 21 best Netflix TV shows and movies of 2021

Get the Full StoryFrom the TV shows that we binged during social distancing to the movies we could actually go see in theaters, Netflix's 2021 lineup has been full of titles worth talking about. At the start of the year, we queued up returning staples like Cobra Kai alongside new favorites like Sweet Tooth. By the summer, we were reveling in the weirdness of Army of the Dead and the aching insight of Bo Burnham: Inside. Finally, fall arrived and with it an onslaught of spectacular TV and Oscar-worthy movies, from Squid Game and You Season 3 to The Power of the Dog and tick,tick...Boom! So what rose to the top of our queues?Listed in no particular order, here are the 21 best Netflix original movies and TV shows of 2021.1. Bo Burnham: Inside

Yeah, I feel like sh t!

Credit: Netflix

Among the more impressive pandemic projects to hit the market, Bo Burnham: Inside is an unconventional comedy special that takes a painfully precise look at the traumatic experience of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. With his characteristic wit and self-deprecation, Burnham takes musical aim at everything from aging "30" to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "Bezos I" and "Bezos II" . More remarkable, he made the project while stuck at home like the rest of us. It's not an easy watch. Mashable's Alexis Nedd actually described it as an "upsetting in a good way? musical recap of shared psychic trauma." If that's the kind of viewing experience you can manage, then you definitely should cue it up. But if you need to sit this one out, we get that too. The "I am not well" scene is genuinely hard to watch. Alison Foreman, Entertainment ReporterWhere to watch: Bo Burnham: Inside is streaming on Netflix.2. Bad Trip Revel in the ridiculousness of Bad Trip. Brought to you by three of the dudes behind The Eric Andr Show, this mostly improvised romantic-comedy stars Eric Andr as Chris, a hopeless romantic seeking a second chance with his high school crush. Lil Rel Howery co-leads as Bud, Chris' best er bud ha! , who agrees to a moonshot road trip in hopes of finding his friend's lost love. Tiffany Haddish steals the show as Bad Trip's main antagonist, Bud's sister Trina, who is newly escaped from prison and wildly unpredictable.It's hands-down one of the funniest movies of the year, and also one of the most inventive. The movie's meandering plot features a lineup of outrageous hidden camera pranks that cast innocent bystanders as extras in this rom-com from hell, and their genuine reactions make for an entertaining and surprisingly wholesome watch that you'll remember for a very long time. A.F.Where to watch: Bad Trip is streaming on Netflix.3. Sweet Tooth

"Sweet Tooth" has some of the best special effects of Netflix's year.

Credit: Netflix

Sweet Tooth was a surprisingly fantastical addition to the Netflix lineup this year, and its big bet on childlike wonder paid off in spades. Though set after a deadly virus has decimated the human population and caused the collapse of civilization yikes , Sweet Tooth is more of a fairytale told from the perspective of one of the other side effects of the apocalypse. The eponymous hero is a human-deer hybrid named Gus nicknamed Sweet Tooth , whose father sheltered him from the worst of the world until shelter became untenable. Gus's journey through the world he barely knew existed is a beautiful coming-of-age story with a talented supporting cast and a flawless cute-to-concerning ratio. Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment ReporterWhere to watch: Sweet Tooth is streaming on Netflix.4. SirFirst-time feature director Rohena Gera sticks the landing with 2018's Sir, which only released in cinemas in November 2020 and hit Netflix early in 2021. It's essential Indian cinema. Tillotama Shome stars as Ratna, a live-in housemaid to upper-middle-class Ashwin Vivek Gomber . Housemaids are common in India, where the film is set, but Ratna and Ashwin develop a slow-simmering and socially unthinkable love. With Gera's writing and direction, this unlikely story never feels forced. The love blooms organically, in furtive looks and hefty silence and the trust they develop as Ashwin recovers from a broken engagement and Ratna tells him about her late husband. The result is a film so soft and stirring that it will stay with you long after it ends. Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter Where to watch: Sir is streaming on Netflix.5. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Just some good old-fashioned family fun.

Credit: Netflix

Take your typical family road trip comedy, toss in a robot apocalypse, and top it all off with a heavy smattering of meme-worthy filters, doodles, and GIFs, and you might end up with something like The Mitchells vs. The Machines: a truly fun-for-the-whole-family feature that hinges on whether an artsy teen voiced by Abbi Jacobson and her Luddite dad voiced by Danny McBride can set aside their differences long enough to save all of humanity from being launched into space by Siri Pal. Come for the jokes about our impending AI-led dystopia, stay for the heart-tugging moments of Mitchell family bonding. Director Michael Rianda crushed it. Seriously, we might never hear T.I. and Rihanna's "Live Your Life" without tearing up ever again. Angie Han, former Deputy Entertainment EditorHow to watch: The Mitchells vs. The Machines is streaming on Netflix.6. MoxieWith a script from Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer, Amy Poehler directs this charming film about budding feminist Vivian Hadley Robinson . Inspired by her mother's Riot Grrrl past, Vivian decides to expose systemic sexism at her high school through the anonymous zine MOXiE!, and ends up spearheading a cause that other students support. Robinson hits the perfect balance of fired up and unsure that feels so familiar to young women. Plus. she s surrounded by a strong and thoughtfully diverse ensemble including viral hit band The Linda Lindas . Moxie will make you want to get up and start something, even if the plan is a little half-baked but your heart is in the right place. P.K.How to watch: Moxie is streaming on Netflix.7. Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder does zombies. Again.

Credit: Netflix

The best part of Army of the Dead is probably the first 15 minutes. But there's plenty more to keep you entertained through the whole action-packed, two-hour-and-28-minute journey. Dave Bautista stars as a mercenary among the undead, tasked with carrying out an impossible post-apocalyptic heist. In a vault beneath Las Vegas, lies more than 200 million dollars. But can he and his crew get it out without falling prey to the living dead? Mashable's Angie Han described the Zack Snyder-directed movie as "a gleefully gory good time." And, in an interview with yours truly, the Zombie Research Society argued the flick was a solid addition to the genre Snyder first took on with 2004's Dawn of the Dead. So yeah, pretty good! A.F.Where to watch: Army of the Dead is streaming on Netflix.8. LupinReportedly the first French series to break the U.S. top 10, Lupin stars Omar Sy as Assane Diop, a cunning thief whose brilliant crimes are inspired by famous French literary character Ars ne Lupin. The series begins with Assane attempting to rob The Louvre of a historic necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette. Then, it only ramps up its high-stakes heisting from there. Across 10 extraordinarily binge-worthy episodes, series creators George Kay and Fran ois Uzan maintain taut suspense at every turn. When you're not watching an ingenious scheme unfold, you're getting an intimate portrait of a charismatic antihero whose magnetism rivals the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood. More episodes are on the way, but we don't have a release date quite yet. A.F.Where to watch: Lupin is streaming on Netflix. 9. Shadow and Bone

This is one great adaptation.

Credit: Netflix

Shadow and Bone is the rare book-to-TV adaptation that took full advantage of the time between publishing and premiere, using it to improve the source materials in multiple directions. Leigh Bardugo's original novel was a smash hit, but Shadow and Bone the series makes the cast more diverse, adds a subplot starring characters from the companion series Six of Crows, and brings forth some of the book's messed-up romantic politics in a thoughtful and entertaining way. Casting Ben Barnes as the Darkling long thought to be the ultimate fancast is only the very, very good-looking cherry on top of a series that takes the thematic responsibilities of YA fantasy seriously while being a dang entertaining show. A.N.Where to watch: Shadow and Bone is streaming on Netflix.10. To All the Boys: Always and ForeverLara Jean Covey's famous love letters went out in 2018, and we've been obsessing over her romance with Peter Kavinsky ever since. This year, that love story finally came to a close with the release of the last film in the TATBILB series To All the Boys: Always and Forever. As Mashable's Proma Khosla pointed out in our official review, not a lot actually happens in this movie, but it's a charming expansion on the fictional world we've come to cherish. Struggling with her suddenly long-distance relationship after Peter leaves for college, Lara Jean spends the movie deciding on a future for herself in this bittersweet finale. A.F.Where to watch: To All the Boys: Always and Forever is streaming on Netflix.11. Cobra Kai Season 3

Season 4 arrives Dec. 31!

Credit: Netflix

Netflix continued the impeccable legacy of The Karate Kid this year with Cobra Kai Season 3. Picking up where that doozy of a cliffhanger left us back in 2019 was messy business to be sure. Series hero Johnny Lawrence William Zabka was on the outs with his dojo after star fighter Miguel Xolo Maridue a was injured in a high school brawl. Thankfully, Cobra Kai gradually founds its way out of those somber beginnings, building to some of the funniest and most entertaining episodes of the show yet. That we're already counting down the days until Season 4 should be sales pitch enough. A.F. Where to watch: Cobra Kai is streaming on Netflix.12. MaidBased on a memoir by Stephanie Land, Maid is a heartbreaking viewing experience more often than not. Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a young woman who leaves her abusive husband and encounters a seemingly endless string of hardships as she tries to get on her feet. The series shines a harsh light on how the United States treats women and the poor, to say nothing of people of color, who bear the brunt of broken systems. Qualley gives an exceptional performance with every shade of love, panic, and perseverance, resulting in a finale that will leave you in inevitable cathartic tears. P.K.Where to watch: Maid is streaming on Netflix.13. Never Have I Ever Season 2

Another great outing with "Never Have I Ever."

Credit: Netflix

Never Have I Ever Season 2 struggles with its secondary characters and storylines, but the primary focus on Devi Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and her personal growth is stronger than ever. In Season 2, Devi juggles two boyfriends, loses two boyfriends, deals with her besties being in relationships, and faces what seems to be her ultimate nemesis in new girl Aneesa Megan Suri . She s still in therapy, still working through her dad s death, a turbulent relationship with her mother, and bouts of selfishness and rage. But the show stays true to Devi s journey and so many others by not solving her internal problems overnight. Ramakrishnan outdoes herself, especially when paired with Poorna Jagannathan as mother Nalini, a crackling duo that keeps the show s emotional core strong. P.K.Where to watch: Never Have I Ever is streaming on Netflix.14. Colin in Black & WhiteNetflix, Ava DuVernay, and Colin Kaepernick delivered a genuine surprise in the limited series, Colin in Black & White. Across six episodes, viewers embark on a guided tour through the NFL quarterback-turned-activist's childhood. The focus is on how a prodigious young athlete's journey through high school led him to professional sports in a way that inseparably linked his career choice to the unjust reality of life in the United States as a Black man.Most importantly: Kaepernick is our narrator. He's telling us his own story, and he's also contextualizing that very personal look back against the history of the Black experience in the United States. Reality blurs with fantasy in this narration space, where Kaepernick draws an explicit line from the early American slave trade to the modern NFL Combine, where young prospects are measured and assigned value as potential pros.Running alongside that narration is a dramatized flashback to Kaep's younger years, propelled most of all by actor and star Jaden Michael. Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker are excellent too as Colin's well-meaning yet fundamentally ignorant parents. Together, the two halves of this limited series make for potent television that's as entertaining as it is instructive. Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment ReporterWhere to watch: Colin in Black and White is streaming on Netflix.15. You Season 3

Hello, you.

Credit: Netflix

Three seasons in and Joe Goldberg still has us hooked on You. The latest and greatest outing in Netflix's popular psychological thriller series kicks off with homicidal homemakers Joe Penn Badgley and Love Quinn-Goldberg Victoria Pedretti adjusting to life as parents of a newborn. Of course, it doesn't take long for their strained relationship to start racking up a body count. You Season 3 didn't reinvent the formula that made this show work. Instead, it put a finer point on everything it already did well, elevating its universe to a new era of excellence. Coming back after Season 2 could have been a mistake. But the addition of Baby Henry re-centered Joe's focus just long enough for us to want to take a closer look at this dastardly dad. It's a good thing too, considering that this season the writing is sharper, the acting is more refined, and the reveals are somehow even more jaw-dropping.If there's a 2021 binge I remember in my bones, it's You. Joe is expected to return next year. A.F. Where to watch: You is streaming on Netflix.16. Sex Education Season 3What better way to celebrate back-to-school than with a new season of Sex Education? The exploits of Moordale High a.k.a. the sex school have spread far and wide at the top of Season 3, when new headmistress Hope Jemima Kirke arrives to clean up shop. Sex Education Season 3 upholds the humor and heart of the series with some of the best work by its young cast including Kedar Williams Stirling proving to be a very promising director . Despite the title, it s still a show about love above all else; love between friends, family, and romantic partners, and a growing sense of kinship between the Moordale students different though they may be in sexual experience and social standing . Do not come for the sex school if you can't handle the mess. P.K.Where to watch: Sex Education is streaming on Netflix.17. Vivo

You haven't lived until you've seen 'Vivo'.

Credit: Netflix

Vivo makes such sweet, beautiful music on Netflix.The animated feature from writers Quiara Alegr a Hudes and Kirk DeMicco, who also directs, tells the story of the eponymous kinkajou. The furry, little singing-and-dancing cutie pie named Vivo sets out on a journey from Havana to Miami, hoping to fulfill the dying wish of his best friend and musical partner, Andr s. Along the way he finds help from an unlikely source: Gabi, the music-loving but rhythmically dense niece to Andr s who also happens to be a sweet-natured agent of chaos.Their emotional journey is propelled most of all by song. That's where Vivo's true superpower lies. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote them all, and he infuses each with crackling energy as the voice of Vivo. Alongside Gabi actor Ynairaly Simo, the two embark on a deeply moving adventure that's all but guaranteed to leave you in joyous, heartfelt tears. A.R.Where to watch: Vivo is streaming on Netflix.18. Squid Game Do we really have to recap? Netflix s South Korean superhit Squid Game landed on the service in mid-September and exploded like none other, shattering the record for the most-watched Netflix show of all time. The record has since been beaten by Arcane . Its dystopian premise, in which indebted civilians compete with each other in death-match versions of schoolyard games for money, is as dark as it comes. But Squid Game's candy-colored aesthetic makes the deadly proceedings substantially creepier. Squid Game is a whip-smart satire that calls out the loss of individual humanity in late-stage capitalism, which for some weird reason resonated with millions of people all over the world. A.N. Where to watch: Squid Game is streaming on Netflix.19. tick, tick...Boom!

Andrew Garfield is spectacular.

Credit: Netflix

Lin-Manuel Miranda s feature directorial debut packs a potent musical theater punch from every angle. He brings to life the selective reality and theatrical phantasmagoria of Rent writer Jonathan Larson s life and career, based on an autobiographical show from 1992. Miranda, whose In the Heights was spectacularly adapted for film by Jon M. Chu, proves as adept at moving from stage to screen as he does sucking the marrow of his medium. Andrew Garfield fully inhabits Larson, from voice to body to towering, buzzing hair and a frenetic urgency to create to write, to sing, to matter, as Larson so clearly did to legions of dreamers who followed. P.K.How to watch: tick, tick...Boom! is streaming on Netflix. 20. The Power of the DogThere are movies that hit you like a freight train looking at you, Titane and movies that wash over you like a wave. Celebrated writer director Jane Campion's latest is the latter, pulling us in with the gritty grandeur of a West on the verge of becoming less wild, yet no less dangerous. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Phil Burbank, a rugged rancher, who can rope, ride, and run down anyone with his cruel wit. Once his bullied brother Jesse Plemons marries, Phil's favorite target becomes his gentle and genteel sister-in-law Kirstin Dunst , who could well crumble under his cold stare. Toxic tensions burn slow and mean as Campion smoothly unfurls a story unpredictable, unnerving, and outstanding. With gorgeous cinematography, a nerve-rattling score, and performances that are already winning awards from critics guilds, The Power of the Dog is an early frontrunner for Oscar's Best Picture. But the reason it made our list is that it's a movie that only grows more compelling the more you watch and rewatch it. Give yourself over the sickening swoon and you'll understand what has critics raving. K.P.How to watch: The Power of the Dog is streaming on Netflix. 21. Fear Street Trilogy

Watch all three, you won't regret it!

Credit: Netflix

Netflix s Fear Street trilogy, based on the works of R.L. Stine, didn t have to go so hard but it did, and for that we are grateful. Co-written and directed by Leigh Janiak, the saga immersed us in the world of Shadyside, a town haunted by grisly murders ever since its founding in the 17th century. Deena Kiana Madeira and Sam Olivia Scott Welch find themselves at the center of 1994 s bloody episode, determined to not only survive but find and reverse the Shadyside curse. The cast returns and reorders itself in Part Two: 1978 and Part Three: 1666, pulling irresistible performances from its young actors and weaving together a thrilling mystery. The first two chapters pull from the best slasher movies, while the third leans into the supernatural. Best of all, it sticks the landing, which just makes us want to keep coming back. P.K.How to watch: Fear Street: Part One:1994 is streaming on Netflix.How to watch: Fear Street: Part Two:1978 is streaming on Netflix.How to watch: Fear Street: Part Three:1666 is streaming on Netflix.Asterisks indicate the entry comes from another Mashable streaming list.

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