Since its launch on January 16, 2007, the trailblazing streaming service Netflix has steadily emerged as one of the entertainment industry’s most lucrative and successful contributors, dazzling the masses with unforgettable content. With 247.15 million paid memberships as of October 2023, Netflix is the most-subscribed video on demand media service and only continues to attract new customers thanks to its constantly-growing and exceptional catalog.
Though Netflix keeps on churning out one exciting hit after another and shows no signs of slowing down, it is fun to look back on the history of the platform’s original shows and the influential programs audiences across the world know and love. These are Netflix’s first 10 original series, ranked.
10 Richie Rich (2015)
- Release Date
- February 20, 2015
- Main Genre
Loosely based on the Harvey Comics character of the same name, the 2015 live-action sitcom Richie Rich starred Jake Brennan as the self-made child trillionaire who, after discovering a way to turn vegetables into sustainable energy, finds himself living the high life in a lavish mansion with his family and closest friends, with plenty of fun and misadventures naturally ensuing. The series chronicled Richie’s rags-to-riches story as he and his loved ones attempted to acclimate to their new wealthy existence.
Lackluster Audience Response
Richie Rich premiered on February 20, 2015, and failed to impress the masses despite a charismatic performance by Brennan and an early career appearance by Jenna Ortega, who would go on to headline the smash hit global sensation Wednesday in 2022. The sitcom only spawned two seasons and 21 episodes, and is now an often forgotten original program by Netflix, with many preferring to remember the classic ’90s adaptation starring Macaulay Culkin.
9 Marco Polo (2014)
- Release Date
- December 12, 2014
Chronicling the life and legacy of the legendary explorer and his time spent at the Chinese court in the 13th century while serving emperor Kublai Khan, 2014’s Marco Polo starred Italian newcomer Lorenzo Richelmy as the famous Venetian merchant, with Benedict Wong appearing as Khan, and depicts the historical figures’ complex relationship.
Memorable stars like Michelle Yeoh, Gabriel Byrne, and Joan Chen are just some of the actors who helped round out the exceptional cast for the historical program.
A Stunning But Costly Production
After originally being developed by Starz, Marco Polo was picked up by Netflix with a massive budget of $90 million, becoming the second most expensive television show in the world behind Game of Thrones.
While the first season failed to impress critics, the drama’s second garnered widespread critical acclaim and earned both a highly-coveted 100% Rotten Tomatoes score and a Primetime Emmy nod. In 2016, Netflix canceled the series in large part because of its hefty price tag, with the streamer losing $200 million on its two seasons.
8 Chef’s Table (2015)
Netflix’s deeply engrossing 2015 documentary series Chef’s Table provides viewers with an intriguing look at some of the world’s most dynamic and illustrious chefs, showcasing their culinary talents and personal philosophies when it comes to creating delicious dishes.
The exceptional program was created by David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and has showcased revered cooking greats from all around the globe, like Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson, Mexico’s Enrique Crenn, and Italy’s Corrado Assenza.
A Major Feast for the Eyes
Lauded for its breathtaking cinematography, exceptional production, and refreshing point-of-view, Chef’s Table has so far released six seasons and three spin-offs and has earned numerous accolades, including seven Primetime Emmy nods and three James Beard Foundation Awards.
Both fans and critics can’t get enough of the fun and captivating program, which was Netflix’s first docuseries and continues to be a knockout with foodies everywhere, and has two additional seasons currently in the works.
7 Hemlock Grove (2013)
Touting a brilliant ensemble cast led by Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård and Dougray Scott, the 2013 horror series Hemlock Grove takes place in the bizarre titular Pennsylvania town where brutal and gruesome murders plague the community and its colorful residents, with many harboring their own dark and twisted secrets.
Splatter film genius Eli Roth helped develop the chilling thriller, which centers on the wealthy-yet-troubled Roman Godfrey (Skarsgård) as he takes teenage town newcomer Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) under his wing to help solve the crimes, only to discover the boy is a werewolf.
An Underrated Horror Hit
Though never a knockout with critics, Hemlock Grove attracted a passionate fanbase who couldn’t get enough of the show’s unapologetic darkness and gore, gothic atmosphere, and sensational performances by its dynamic cast (namely Skarsgård).
Upon its debut, Netflix announced that the series was viewed by more people globally during its first weekend than its political hit House of Cards. Hemlock Grove got progressively better with each season (bowing out after three), and it served as a great horror stepping stone for Skarsgård, who would go on to star as the deranged clown in It.
6 Bloodline (2015)
- Release Date
- March 20, 2015
From the gifted minds that created the legal drama Damages comes the 2015 thriller series Bloodline, which focuses on the complicated lives of prominent Florida family the Rayburns, as they desperately try to keep the many skeletons in their closets from being revealed.
After returning home for his parents’ 45th wedding anniversary, eldest child and family black sheep Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) plans to make his stay permanent, yet finds himself at odds with the community and his siblings, including his detective younger brother John (Kyle Chandler).
A Gripping Original Thriller
With an additional cast of famous faces like Linda Cardellini, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, and John Leguizamo, Bloodline is a gripping family-themed thriller that features countless twists and turns that left viewers on the edge of their seats.
Both Mendelsohn and Chandler garnered overwhelming appreciation for their scene-stealing portrayals, with the former star being the only actor producers met with to take on the lead role. Bloodline spawned three sensational seasons and, though it earned rave reviews during its run, was canceled because of its high production cost.
5 House of Cards (2013)
Netflix’s first original series, the 2013 political thriller House of Cards offered a riveting look at the cutthroat world of politics in Washington, D.C. as ruthless politician Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) plotted to become the President of the United States with the help of his ambitious and equally determined wife Claire (Robin Wright).
The taut program is widely credited for helping make Netflix the epic platform it has since become, and has been deemed a pioneer show, and one of the first television projects that helped launch the “streaming era.”
A Trailblazing Series
House of Cards took the world by storm and became a must-watch, bingeworthy series, playing a crucial role in the overall success and popularity of streaming platforms. During its six-season run, it received a whopping 56 Primetime Emmy nominations (winning seven), a Peabody, and two Golden Globe Awards, with both Spacey and Wright winning the prestigious accolade.
In 2017, Netflix terminated its contract with Spacey over allegations of sexual misconduct, and a final sixth season was greenlit, which many felt gave a lackluster send-off to the trailblazing thriller.
4 Grace and Frankie (2015)
Hollywood legends and beloved dynamic duo Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin teamed up for the fan-favorite comedy series Grace and Frankie, following the complicated lives and surprising friendship between the two polar opposite lead characters as the no-nonsense Grace and free-spirited Frankie.
The two women must deal with their respective husbands (Martin Sheen & Sam Waterston) leaving them after they finally reveal their decades-long love affair. The delightfully mismatched women end up forging an unbreakable bond that made audiences everywhere fall in love with their wholesome and hilarious connection.
The Ultimate Comfort Comedy
The endearing comedy reunited longtime friends and frequent collaborators Fonda and Tomlin, who previously showed off their stellar chemistry in noteworthy projects like the classic ’80s hit 9 to 5. While the first season of Grace and Frankie garnered a mixed bag response from critics, it truly found its footing and reception warmed tremendously over time, becoming one of Netflix’s most charming, feel-good originals.
The acting greats were the recipient of numerous accolades during the show, such as multiple Primetime Emmys and a Golden Globe nod, and became Netflix’s longest-running series with an impressive seven seasons.
3 Daredevil (2015)
- Release Date
- April 10, 2015
Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and based on the comic book character of the same name, the 2015 action crime drama Daredevil centers on the blind lawyer-turned-vigilante Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) as he leads a dangerous double life by fighting crime and catching bad guys at night when he assumes the eponymous identity. Murdock must contend with many nefarious foes, like brutal crime lord Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), who emerges as the vigilante’s most lethal adversary.
Netflix’s First MCU Series
Netflix made a lucrative and extremely worthwhile deal when the streaming juggernaut partnered with Marvel to produce a series of individual programs revolving around exciting Marvel Comics characters, as the success of Daredevil led to the creation of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Punisher.
Fans were riveted by Cox’s wondrous portrayal of the famed superhero, as well as D’Onofrio’s exceptional performance as Kingpin. The show’s massive popularity helped it earn three seasons on the platform, which was shockingly canceled after Disney regained ownership rights to the domain. Luckily, the upcoming Daredevil: Born Again is set to premiere on Disney+, with Cox and D’Onofrio reprising their roles.
2 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)
The Office breakout star Ellie Kemper delivered one of the finest performances of her dazzling career when she starred as the 29-year-old titular heroine in 2015’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy is a perpetually optimistic young woman who, after being held captive underground for 15 years by a doomsday cult, is finally rescued and given the chance to live the life she always dreamed about.
Kimmy heads to New York City for a fresh start, where she makes colorful friends with unforgettable personalities, like the vivacious struggling actor Titus (Tituss Burgess) and the arrogant-yet-insecure socialite Jacqueline (Jane Krawoski).
Feel-Good Viewing for Everyone
Kimmy’s can-do attitude and childlike wonder quickly hooked audiences, and the comedy was swiftly deemed “the first great sitcom of the streaming era” by the news magazine The Week. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the series featured plenty of heart, humor, and fantastic writing, with Kemper shining as the whimsical Kimmy.
Not only was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a slam dunk with viewers, it also proved to be a critical darling throughout its four seasons, amassing 20 Primetime Emmy Award nominations as well as two Webby Awards and a Critics’ Choice Television Award, before it’s heartwarming finale.
1 Orange is the New Black (2013)
Based on author Piper Kerman’s memoir and her personal experiences at FCI Danbury low-security prison, the groundbreaking 2013 dramedy series Orange is the New Black stars Taylor Schilling as newly-convicted criminal Piper Chapman, who is sentenced to 15 months at Litchfield Penitentiary for a crime committed a decade before and struggles to acclimate to her new life behind bars.
While doing her time, Piper is reunited with her former flame and international drug smuggler Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), while also navigating the prison’s many complex and intimidating fellow inmates.
A Universally Adored Television Triumph
Orange is the New Black was lauded for its refreshing inclusivity and its exceptional cast, as series creator Jenji Kohan set out to make Piper her Trojan Horse so that she could craft a diverse and powerful female cast. Kohan told NPR shortly after the dramedy’s debut:
“You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories.”
The exceptional Netflix staple quickly became the platform’s most-watched series and, throughout its seven-season tenure, was one of television’s most decorated and acclaimed programs: it took home four Primetime Emmys, six Satellite Awards, and a Peabody (among countless other accolades).
Orange is the New Black has landed on numerous best of critics’ lists and placed number 58 on The Guardian’s ranking of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century.
For more of Netflix’s modern fare, here are the best british crime dramas to watch on the streaming platform: