Netflix has released some pretty intense and surprising dramas throughout its run, from House of Cards to Narcos, Marco Polo to Mindhunter. And the hits kept coming in 2020.
From horrors to psychological thrillers, period dramas to romantic dramas and more, the themes have run the gamut. But which have been well-received by viewers?
Netflix has begun to launch many foreign language dramas and series in other genres as well. But when it comes to English-language content that was released in 2020, these 10 drama series reign supreme. And interestingly, the top-rated series is one that was also the most recently introduced.
10 Locke & Key – 7.4
This supernatural horror drama is based on the comic book series of the same name written by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Premiering in February with a 10-episode first season, Locke & Key has received a second season renewal.
The story begins when Rendall Locke is murdered by a former student, and his widowed wife moves with their three children to an old family Keyhouse. There, the kids begin to find mysterious keys, each of which can unlock a different door in a magical way. But there’s a demonic force looking for the keys as well to fulfill its nefarious purposes.
9 Sweet Magnolias – 7.4
Fans were also in the mood for some romance in 2020, with this romantic drama, which was released in May, ranking ninth highest on the list. Sweet Magnolias follows three long-time best friends in South Carolina who help one another through the trials and tribulations of life, including romance, family, and career.
Two months after the first season of 10 episodes began streaming, the show was renewed for a second season. There are plenty of other shows to stream like this one, too, on both Netflix and other streaming sites.
8 The Haunting of Bly Manor – 7.4
Follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House, this Gothic romance drama was released in October 2020 but has already made the top 10. As part of an anthology series, this story is loosely based on the stories by Henry James.
While many of the same cast members returned for The Haunting of Bly Manor, this series and Hill House are not connected at all, each following its own distinct narrative. In this story, a young governess gets a job looking after the niece and nephew of a man when the kids end up in his care. But shortly after arriving at Bly Manor, she begins to see apparitions that haunt the country home, including a series of creepy dolls that represent residents of the home.
7 Messiah – 7.6
One of Netflix’s more controversial series, this thriller was about a man claiming to be the Messiah, gathering followers in the Middle East and soon, expanding his group of believers by performing what appears to be miracles. Is he really a Messiah, though, or just a clever con artist? The CIA investigates.
Messiah premiered on New Year’s Day but was cancelled a few months later. Overall reviews lauded the series’ promise but found the story bland. And the show received some negative feedback from Muslim audiences who felt it contained too much controversial religious content.
6 Outer Banks – 7.6
In the action-adventure category, this mystery teen drama is about a group of teenagers living in the Outer Banks of North Carolina who are known as “Pogues.” John B is the leader, and he and his comrades set out on a mission to find out what happened to his missing father. Along the way, they discover a legendary treasure. But to reach the end, they must fight off a rival group called the “Kooks” along with other temptations.
Outer Banks, which is widely considered to be one of Netflix’s best teen series, premiered in April 2020 with 10 episodes and has received a second season renewal.
5 Hollywood – 7.6
The star-studded case of this period miniseries about aspiring actors and filmmakers in post-World War II, a time known as the Hollywood Golden Age, is impressive. It includes names like Darren Criss, Dylan McDermott, Holland Taylor, Jim Parsons, and Patti Lupone.
Created by Ryan Murphy, the man behind such hit series as American Horror Story, American Crime Story, and Glee, Hollywood premiered in May 2020 and earned a dozen Emmy nominations, ranking it among Murphy’s best shows to date.
4 The English Game – 7.6
A British historical sports drama, this miniseries tells the story of the origins of modern football in England, and how it began in the 1870s as a sport only for the wealthy. But when two stars, one from the working class and one from the upper class, come together, they change the face of the game.
There are just six episodes of the series, which is the first for Netflix by Downtown Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. But it’s one of many TV series and movies on Netflix that are centered around soccer.
3 Spinning Out – 7.7
Despite receiving such high praise from viewers, Spinning Out was surprisingly canceled after just a single season. The story centers around Kaya, a young ice skater who, when given the chance to re-start her career after a serious injury, must battle to keep her family’s history of mental illness, and her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a secret.
Alongside the main cast, January Jones stars as Kaya’s mother, who also suffers from bipolar disorder, and real-life professional ice skater Johnny Weir appears in a recurring role.
2 Unorthodox – 8.0
Technically, a lot of this series is offered in Yiddish with subtitles, and some in German as well. But there’s enough English dialogue to warrant inclusion on this list. And Unorthodox, which earned several Emmy Award nominations, is deserving, offering a heart-breaking look into the life of Etsy, a 19-year-old Hasidic Jewish woman who escapes to try and live the life she wants, not the one expected of her.
Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s 2012 autobiography, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, the story features plenty of shocking scenes and follows Etsy as she flees to Germany where she meets new friends and explores her love of music. Her frantic husband, meanwhile, is desperately trying to find her and bring her home.
1 The Queen’s Gambit – 8.9
The newest drama from Netflix also ranks as the top-rated one, as fans have enjoyed this riveting story of a young orphan girl and chess prodigy. As Beth grows up in an orphanage, she continues to hone her skills, with the goal of becoming a chess champion. But she has to fight demons along the way, including emotional issues and drug and alcohol addiction.
The fictional story includes seven episodes. In addition to ranking tops by IMDb viewers, review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a perfect 100% score from 57 reviews thus far. Once done watching this show, check out some movies about chess.
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