The 15 best Netflix TV shows of 2021 so far, ranked

·9 min read
Lupin Netflix TV show
Omar Sy stars in Netflix's French drama series "Lupin." Netflix
  • Insider ranked Netflix originals based on critics ratings from Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Our list includes all new seasons that have a 60% or higher score from 10 or more reviews.

  • The top shows so far in 2021 include "Lupin," "Cobra Kai," and "Waffles + Mochi."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

"Behind Her Eyes" (limited series)

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Eve Hewson costars in "Behind Her Eyes." Netflix

Netflix description: "Simona Brown plays Louise, a single mother who has an affair with her psychiatrist boss David. Her life takes a strange turn when she later befriends his wife Adele, and she finds herself caught in a web of secrets and lies where nothing is what it seems."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 62%

While some critics found the genre twists and turns in "Behind Her Eyes" to be a whiplash experience, others enjoyed the daring mystery series.

"A fantastically entertaining magic trick of a TV show, so confident in its incongruous genre mashup that you won't be able to look away," Roxana Hadadi wrote for

"The Serpent" (limited series)

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Jenna Coleman and Tahar Rahim costar in "The Serpent." Netflix

Netflix description: "Inspired by real events, 'The Serpent' reveals the story of serial conman Charles Sobhraj and the remarkable attempts to bring him to justice."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 68%

If you're a fan of the true-crime genre, then there's a high chance you'll be drawn into the lurid story of "The Serpent." Some critics felt the miniseries lost its momentum towards the end, though.

"It is excellent at conjuring up an atmosphere, although sometimes at the cost of the story," wrote Guardian critic Rebecca Nicholson.

"Ginny and Georgia" (season one)

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Diesel La Torraca, Brianne Howey, and Antonia Gentry costar in "Ginny and Georgia." Netflix

Netflix description: "Hoping for a fresh start, teenager Ginny and her mother, Georgia, settle in a new town. But the secrets in Georgia's past may jeopardize their future."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 68%

This Netflix series leans into soap-opera drama and teen TV tropes with middling success, according to critics.

"The whole package may be dubiously conceived and overstuffed, but there's enough going on that some of it can't help but work," wrote Vulture critic Kathryn VanArendonk.

"History of Swear Words" (season one)

History of Swear Words Production Stills Nicholas Cage Netflix
Nic Cage is the host of "History of Swear Words" on Netflix. Netflix

Netflix description: "Nicolas Cage hosts this proudly profane series that explores the history and impact of some of the most notorious bad words in the English language."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 70%

The six-episode season of "History of Swear Words" was one of the first new Netflix shows to premiere in 2021.

"For all its brevity, 'History of Swear Words' does a more than serviceable job probing the origins of expletives we too often take for granted," critic Karen Han wrote in a review for Slate. "And if it pushes you to fill up your browser history with curse words after it's done, the research is bound to be a joy of its own."

"Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer" (limited series)

Gil Carrillo (LA Sheriff and homicide detective) in episode four of "Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer." Netflix

Netflix description: "Beneath the sunlit glamour of 1985 LA lurks a relentless serial killer, a willing acolyte of evil. Two detectives won't rest until they catch him."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 73%

This four-episode documentary series is one of many true-crime shows on Netflix's premiere slate for 2021.

"The crimes are disturbing. The police work is intriguing. The interviews cover a lot of ground and bring some emotion into the story," The Hollywood Reporter's critic Dan Fienberg wrote in a review. "Four episodes and I never looked at my watch, and occasionally I felt like I could have watched more."

"Pacific Rim: The Black" (season one)

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Allie MacDonald and Jason Spisak voice characters in "Pacific Rim: The Black." Netflix

Netflix description: "After Kaiju ravage Australia, two siblings pilot a Jaeger to search for their parents, encountering new creatures, seedy characters, and chance allies."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 75%

This animated series expands upon the world moviegoers fell in love with in the 2013 live-action film "Pacific Rim."

"'Pacific Rim: The Black' may take a few episodes to kick in fully, but once you wholly acclimate yourself to these visuals and this tone, it's a rewarding continuation, and extrapolation, of the franchise," critic Matt Fowler wrote for IGN.

"The Irregulars" (season one)

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Thaddea Graham costars in "The Irregulars." Netflix

Netflix description: "A crew of misfits investigates a series of supernatural crimes in Victorian London for Dr. Watson and his shadowy associate, Sherlock Holmes."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 78%

Despite solid reviews from critics, "The Irregulars" was one of the first 2021 shows canceled by Netflix.

"The show is a lot of fun, and exceedingly bizarre, with a delightful low-budget feel like something from the mid-2000s Syfy Channel (this is a compliment)," critic Emma Stefansky wrote for Thrillist.

"This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist" (season one)

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This docuseries takes you inside a mysterious cold case about 500 million dollars worth of missing art. Netflix

Netflix description: "In 1990, two men dressed as cops con their way into a Boston museum and steal a fortune in art. Take a deep dive into this daring and notorious crime."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87%

Another true-crime docuseries, "This is a Robbery," charts how investigators are currently reviewing the cold case mystery about where millions of dollars worth of art went after a robbery at a Boston museum.

"In all, this makes for a fascinating portrait of an incident that lives on in the memory of a city that has both high culture and organized crime encoded in its DNA," Variety critic Daniel D'Addario wrote.

"Shadow and Bone" (season one)

Ben Barnes and Jessie Mei Li costar in "Shadow and Bone" on Netflix. David Appelby/Netflix

Netflix description: "Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87%

Based on a book series by Leigh Bardugo,"Shadow and Bone" is an epic sci-fi fantasy talethat most critics thoroughly enjoyed.

"'Shadow and Bone' is not a perfect adaptation of Bardugo's novels," Lacy Baugher wrote for Den of Geek. "Yet, as a whole, the series feels often feels downright magical, a thrilling adventure that always remains firmly anchored in the story of the complex heroine at its center."

"Murder Among the Mormons" (limited series)

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This is a three-part miniseries documentary about "one of the most shocking crimes to have ever taken place among the Mormon community." Netflix

Netflix description: "A three-part documentary series on a trio of bombings in 1985 that shocked the Salt Lake City Mormon community and threatened the historical foundations of the church altogether."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%

Critics overall enjoyed the docuseries, which added to Netflix's already-robust slate of crime shows in 2021.

"Though Hofmann's story is disturbing, there's a warmth and curiosity to the series that helps it stand out from more traditionally grisly true crime fare, shedding light on how a master of deception can move through the world with such relative ease," critic Dan Jackson wrote for Thrillist.

"Pretend It's A City" (limited series)

Fran Lebowitz as Fran Lebowitz in Pretend It's a City Netflix show
Fran Lebowitz in "Pretend It's a City." Netflix

Netflix description: "Wander the New York City streets and fascinating mind of wry writer, humorist and raconteur Fran Lebowitz as she sits down with Martin Scorsese."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

Over the course of seven episodes, writer Fran Lebowitz digs into the marvelous nature of New York City and her place in its culture, all though the lens of acclaimed director Martin Scorsese.

"Is there anything more delightful than watching Martin Scorsese enjoy someone?" critic Naomi Fry wrote for the New Yorker. "One of the best things about his new documentary series, 'Pretend It's a City,' is getting to see the filmmaker react to his subject."

"Cobra Kai" (season three)

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William Zabka stars in "Cobra Kai." Netflix

Netflix description: "With a new sensei at the helm of the Cobra Kai dojo, a three-way feud takes center stage. Old grudges — like Cobra Kai — never die."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

After moving from YouTube Red to Netflix, "Cobra Kai" premiered its third season at the start of 2021 to positive reviews from critics.

"In an age of reboots and sequels, 'Cobra Kai' continues to make the case that there are still ways to recycle 40-year-old characters and stories and make them feel fresh, timely, and necessary," critic Rafael Motamayor wrote for Slashfilm.

"Yasuke" (season one)

Lakeith Stanfield is one of the lead voice actors in "Yasuke." Netflix

Netflix description: "A peaceful boatman once known as the Black Samurai is pulled back into conflict when he takes a little girl with mysterious powers under his wing."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%

This new anime series from Netflix is one of the best-reviewed shows of the year so far, with many critics praising its stunning visuals and solid character work.

"To the tune of six brisk half-hour length episodes, ['Yasuke'] hits the spot for any anime lover while offering new subversions to the samurai genre," critic Robert Daniels wrote for

"Waffles + Mochi" (season one)

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Zach Galifianakis and Michelle Obama on "Waffles + Mochi." Adam Rose/Netflix

Netflix description: "Curious puppet pals Waffles and Mochi travel the world exploring the wonders of food and culture while learning how to cook with fresh ingredients."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 95%

Former first lady Michelle Obama (who executive produced the series alongside former President Barack Obama) hosts this kid-friendly educational seriesthat all members of a family will enjoy.

"Warm, witty, and unabashedly brilliant, 'Waffles + Mochi' is truly spectacular," critic Meghan O'Keefe wrote for Decider.

"Lupin" (season one)

Lupin TV show Netflix Emmanuel Guimier
Omar Sy stars in "Lupin." Emmanuel Guimier/Netflix

Netflix description: "Inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family."

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%

"Lupin," a French original series that premiered at the start of the year, is currently the best Netflix show of 2021, according to critics. Reviewers love the incredulous heist plots, clever twists, and thrilling drama contained in its first season.

"The series also doesn't waste a single minute, packing each and every moment full of suspense," critic Karen Han wrote for Slate. "Put all of that together, and it's an early front-runner to steal a spot as one of the best shows of the year."

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