The best Netflix Australia shows of 2019

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For its unrivalled range of content, from the gripping to the quirky and downright strange, Netflix Australia has you covered. If you’re wondering what to watch this weekend, fire up the telly – or tablet – load Netflix and settle in for some binge watching.

Netflix is one of the most popular streaming services in Australia as people move away from traditional free-to-air TV, sick of all the ads and mindless programming. The beauty of Netflix is that it’s constantly updating and expanding its library to deliver even more exciting content – both ‘Original’ and licensed. After Netflix announced that it will aim to make 50% of its content ‘Netflix Original’, there is growing anticipation about what the streaming giant will offer up next. Here are the top 20 shows to watch on Netflix, with many being Originals.

Netflix Australia – Top 20 Shows to Binge

Below are – in this author’s opinion – the top 20 shows you should take a look at on Netflix right now. Cast aside the clichéd Orange is the New Black and House of Cards recommendations for now – there are some left-of-field suggestions here, listed in no apparent order! Or prefer to watch a movie? See our list of the best movies on Netflix here.

The Spy

“If your country needed you to lie to your friends, your family and your wife, would you do it?” Sacha Baron Cohen stars in The Spy, a series inspired by the real life story of former Mossad agent, Eli Cohen. Set in the 1960s, the Israeli clerk accepted a job as a secret agent and went deep undercover inside Syria. After spending years on the dangerous mission, Cohen eventually succeeded his mission and transformed Israel’s history.

Criminal

If standard rom coms and year-long available Christmas flicks are making you rethink about continuing with your Netflix subscription, prepare to lock yourself up in what is widely claimed to be a unique and highly anticipated police interrogation series. Criminal is expected to serve viewers 12 different stories set across four countries, and is even filmed in the local language of these different locations. Criminal will sit you inside the police interview room and deliver what Netflix describes as a “stripped down, cat-and-mouse drama” which “focuses on the intense mental conflict between detectives and suspects”.

Top Boy

What are you willing to risk to make it to the top? Top Boy follows two seasoned drug dealers who return to London with their eyes set on getting their hands on all the money and power the city has to offer. But it isn’t easy, especially when there’s a young hustler who’s planning on doing the same. Created by Ronan Bennett, the TV drama stars Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson and Micheal Ward.

After Life

Feel bored to death after seeing the same old romantic comedies in your list of recommendations? Well, you might be happy to hear that Ricky Gervais has finally revived Netflix with the refreshing and popular new series, After Life. Flexing his directing, writing and acting muscles, Gervais takes on the role of journalist Tony Johnston.

In the wake of the death of his wife Lisa (Kerri Godliman), who passed away from cancer, Tony becomes unapologetically honest with everyone around him. Going against the survival plan Lisa optimistically left in a video, Tony gives up and tries to push away anyone who attempts to help him cope with his wife’s death. But despite his rudeness, he is only met with the kindness of others. This leads to a string of heartbreaking, yet hilarious, experiences that many critics have praised as a perfect balance of poignancy and humour.

The cast of After Life includes Tom Basden, Tony Way, Ashley Jensen, Roisin Conaty, Diane Morgan, Mandeep Dhillon, David Bradley, Tim Plester, Penelope Wilton and Paul Kaye.

When They See Us

Ava DuVernay’s latest film has reportedly been the most-watched U.S. series on Netflix ever since it premiered in May, and Aussie audiences finally have the chance to see why. When They See Us tells the powerful story of Antron McCray, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond – five black and brown teens who were falsely accused of a violent attack on a woman in Central Park, New York City. The boys were imprisoned between six and 13 years for assault, rape and attempted murder, until they were found innocent and exonerated of the crimes.

The ‘Central Park Five’ were interrogated for up to 40 hours, and during this time were deprived of any food, water, legal representation and denied from seeing any of their parents. There were also no DNA matches with the sample from the rape kit.

When They See Us is gripping, searing, and often hard to watch, but in the best way possible. It portrays the wrongful imprisonment and over-representation of marginalised groups, an issue that hits home for many people around the world just as hard as it did for Americans when the trials for the five men ran in 1990. Some of the talented all-star cast in When They See Us include Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris and Ethan Herisse.

Dirty John: The Dirty Truth

Shows like ‘You’ make 2019 the year of creepy, yet charismatic, partners. And it doesn’t look like the train is about to stop. The show Dirty John follows businesswoman Debra Newell, played by Connie Britton, on her search for love online. It doesn’t take long until she meets Eric Bana’s character, John Meehan but Newell’s daughters, Veronica (Juno Temple) and Terra (Julia), aren’t convinced about him.

Unsurprisingly, the girls are right. The honeymoon period for Newell and the man she barely knows is cut short once she starts digging deeper into John’s life. It turns out John is definitely the manipulative and menacing man Netflix viewers love to hate. And as a side note, Dirty John is based on a true-crime podcast that goes by the same name. That’s right, it’s yet another dark and chilling real-life romantic comedy gone wrong.

You

The world is obsessing over the latest cult hit ‘You’, an anti-romantic comedy which spins the classic “boy meets girl” story into a nail-biting psychological thriller. Penn Badgley kills it as Joe Goldberg, a charismatic bookstore manager who falls in love with an aspiring writer and goes to extreme lengths to prove he’s “the one”. The leading lady is played by Elizabeth Lail (“Guinevere Beck”), the drop dead gorgeous woman driving Goldberg madly in love.

“At the end of the day, people just turn out to be disappointing.” But trust us, this Netflix smash is better than anything you could have hoped for. The final few seconds of season one also ends in a major cliffhanger, but die-hard fans will have to wait until season two hits later this year to see what happens next.

The must-see You is created by Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti, and features notable performances from Shay Mitchell and Luca Padovan. More importantly, it has just topped our survey of Australia’s favourite Netflix shows.

The Kindness Diaries

Kindness makes the world go round – just ask Leon Logothetis. Since leaving his life as a broker in London, the host of the Netflix show now spends his time giving back to unsuspecting Samaritans and relies on kind strangers to help him make his way around the globe.

Take a seat in the yellow VW Beetle Kindness Two and learn about the value of sharing compassion and empathy with others. See why the motivational speaker, philanthropist, and best-selling author believes what we do in life shouldn’t always be about money or self-interest. Whether it’s wild weather, car trouble or lack of food and shelter, there’s nothing a little kindness won’t fix.

Tidelands

Raise the alarm because Sirens have washed ashore, determined to overtake a local fishing village and take control of everyone in it. Critics are lapping every second of Tidelands, a new supernatural series which made big waves as the first Netflix original series to be created in Australia. It follows the story of Cal McTeer, a woman who returns home to Orphelin Bay after spending ten years locked up in juvenile detention and jail. She ambiguously sets out to unravel the town’s string of juicy hidden secrets, and investigate the dangerous commune of half-Sirens, half-humans known as ‘Tidelanders’.

Tidelands stars Elsa Pataky, Madeleine Madden, Aaron Jakubenko, Marco Pigossi and Mattias Inwood.

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Back to Netflix Shows

The Protector

What would you do if you found out you were connected to a secret, ancient order, destined to protect your hometown? Well, that’s something young Hakan has to figure out. Life can’t be any more different for this former shopkeeper, who is suddenly tasked with saving Istanbul from mysterious Immortals.

The 10-episode superhero fantasy brings together the East and West, and the past and present. It stars Cagatay Ulusoy, who is joined by Ayca Aysin Turan, Hazar Erguclu, Okan Yalabik, Mehmet Kurtulus, Saygin Soysal, and Burcin Terzioglu.

Bodyguard

The hugely popular UK political thriller, Bodyguard, has hit Australia, and military man turned police officer David Budd didn’t take long to win over fans. The heart-stopping series starring Richard Madden revolves around his time as the principal protection officer assigned to British Home Secretary, Julia Montague. Montague, played by Keeley Hawes, is a controversial figure determined to pass a strict piece of national security legislation that civil libertarians are desperate to stop.

The action-packed series is so full of twists and turns, you’ll need to redirect your mail to the edge of your seat. It’s no wonder Bodyguard is one of the most highly anticipated additions to Netflix, and one of the biggest shows of 2018.

The Last Kingdom

Game of Thrones will soon hand over its reign as a 21st century fantasy cult favourite when its final episode airs next year. But which series will take its royal place? Viking drama The Last Kingdom is one of the titles being thrown around, with Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin even hailing the show as one to watch.

The medieval drama is based on the Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell and looks at the journey of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon warrior raised by Vikings. It takes place as Alfred the Great is determined to defend his kingdom from Norse Invaders, while Uhtred looks to claim his ancestral birthright.

The Last Kingdom will enter 2019 with its highly anticipated fourth season, with recent figures also revealing it to be one of the most-in demand original titles across a variety of streaming platforms in the United States.

The Haunting of Hill House

Just in time for Halloween, Netflix has dropped its stunning and spooky adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, the critically acclaimed 1959 gothic horror novel from Shirley Jackson. Although the story has been adapted into film twice previously, this is the first time Jackson’s story has been re-imagined for television, and all ten episodes are available now for your binge-streaming pleasure.

The series focuses on the Crains, a dysfunctional family who, two decades later, are still coming to terms with their traumatic experiences in the haunted Hill House. In 1996, Hugh and Olivia Crain and their five children – Steven, Shirley, Theodora, Nell and Luke – move into the empty Hill mansion in order to restore and resell it, but Hugh’s The Block-style home reno plans quickly go south. Naturally, things soon start going bump in the night; but if you think this a straightforward ghost story, think again.

Jumping between present day drama and past memories, The Haunting of Hill House focuses on both the tragic events of the Crain siblings’ childhood, and how that tragedy has shaped each character’s adult life. Ultimately, the surviving Crains will be forced to revisit the past and confront the truth about Hill House – leading to plenty of thrills, chills and ‘sleeping with the lights on’ moments for viewers.

Ozark

When Netflix wants you to tune in to a new show, or season, it has a habit of trying to ram it down your throat, keeping it in your eye’s view until you eventually give in and click. It’s like that with Ozark, but in this instance you really should take the advice. Ozark could be described as the new Breaking Bad given it tells the story of a main character pretty much out of his depth dealing with a Mexican drug cartel. But instead of making drugs, our main character here is instead involved with laundering money on behalf of the bad guys. Said main character is played by none other than Jason Bateman (playing Marty Bryde), ably supported by Laura Linney (who plays Marty’s wife, Wendy).

The couple and their kids quickly find themselves having to move from Chicago to the seemingly idyllic Ozarks region to escape their cartel-related problems. But surprise, surprise, things don’t go accordingly to plan. Be aware, this show is not as funny as Breaking Bad often was, and is in fact a lot darker at times. But it’s essential viewing for fans of the genre. Season 2 is now playing!

First and Last

If there’s one genre Netflix has nailed right now, it’s real-life crime. The latest jaw-dropping series tells the story of inmates during their very first, or very last, day in jail. From repeat offenders to ‘wrong-place-wrong-time’ types, we learn exactly what happens to those who fall foul of the law across middle America. Perhaps the most eye-opening insight is how these new prisoners are left to beg or borrow the money they need from friends or family to ‘make bond’ and avoid spending longer than they have to behind bars waiting for their day in court. For some, this is a game they’ve played before, but for others, it’s a terrifying first impression of what prison will be like.

On the flip side, we see prisoners preparing to leave jail on their last day before tasting freedom once again. In most cases, the show only tells the story of relatively short-term prisoners of just a month or two for the odd misdemeanor, so no Shawshank-style tearjerkers here. Nevertheless, it still seems quite groundbreaking to see such access to ‘behind the scenes’ footage of inmates at arguably their most vulnerable moments. Like a lot of similar Netflix shows, each episode in the series follows something of a ‘template’, which can be good or bad depending on your view. But one thing’s for sure, it’s compelling viewing.

The Staircase

Hot off the press, the Staircase is a demonstration of what Netflix seems to do best – gritty ‘whodunnit’ documentaries. The Staircase is actually a 2004 French miniseries that was picked up and expanded upon by the Netflix productions team in June 2018. It documents the trial of Michael Peterson, an American man accused of killing his wife Kathleen in 2001. She was found dead at the bottom of a staircase and the series plays out in the courtroom, not dissimilar to that of ‘Making a Murderer’. It’s a meticulous and thought-provoking documentary that’s sure to take you out of the sun for a few hours.

The miniseries picks apart the private lives of the Petersons and the husband so ‘obviously’ did it – or did he? It’s an interesting insight into how both prosecution teams and the defence mount their arguments, what they latch onto, and how they present their cases.

Safe

Another ‘whodunnit’ series – but this time fictional – Safe details a widowed surgeon whose teenage daughter goes missing and uncovers some dark secrets about the affluent town he lives in, and some people closest to him. In an eight-episode suspenseful miniseries, Safe is a British drama series that features crisp cinematography, sweeping British countryside and Michael C Hall from Dexter sporting a British accent.

In many ways ‘Safe’ is a sociological insight into the extremes people go to, to keep their secrets. Think sex scandals, dead bodies and unruly teenagers in a quaint upper-class English town. In typical Netflix fashion, it’s made for bingeing with cliffhangers and easily-digestible runtimes. The first season is out, with the opportunity for a second.

Flint Town

If you’re in Australia and reading this, then congrats because you probably have access to running water that’s safe to drink. The residents of Flint, Michigan currently – largely – do not have this privilege. Since 2016, the water in Flint has been deemed unsafe to drink, containing toxic amounts of lead. A foreign concept to anyone in a first world country, there are many more issues in Flint than having to ship in bottled water.

Situated an hour or so outside of Detroit, Flint experienced a boom time in the mid-2oth century. However, after car manufacturer GM pulled out, the city steadily descended into one of the most violent in the US. This documentary series details the seriously understaffed and underfunded Flint Police Department, with fewer than 100 officers for over 100,000 residents. On top of the water crisis and heady levels of crime, they must deal with political struggles, racism and a mistrusting public. It’s not pretty – even though the series is shot beautifully – but it’s important to learn about Flint and cities like it.

The Confession Tapes

If you’ve seen Making a Murderer then you’ll probably love this. The Confession Tapes is exactly as the name describes – the series follows six different cases with guilty verdicts largely based on confession tapes used as evidence. Except, these confessions seem dodgy at best – devious police tactics are used and confessions are only given after hours of interrogation. The first two episodes depict the very same case, arguably the most compelling presented. There is always doubt cast over the guilty verdict and viewers can’t help but to and fro between their opinions on the matter.

As Netflix did with Making a Murderer, producers’ filmmaking did become quite heavy handed, so extracurricular reading may be needed for a more balanced view. Nevertheless, the Confession Tapes is a series that ticks all the right boxes for ‘binge-ability’. Each episode ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger with no obvious answers, the episodes are long enough to draw you in, and the production quality is top notch. Seven episodes with 45 minutes per episode – that’s an easy weekend.

Wormwood

If conspiracies don’t scare you enough, are you familiar with the secretive twisted world of the CIA? Wormwood is a combo of dramatic recreation and documentary series. While the dramatic recreation cuts starring Peter Sarsgaard as Frank Olson are worthwhile if a bit dull, the real ‘meat on the bone’ is the documentary side of things.

In 1953 at the peak of nuclear fear and the Cold War, CIA agent Frank Olson, ‘fell’, ‘jumped’ or was ‘dropped’ out of a window in a New York City hotel. Frank was part of the notorious ‘Project MKUltra’ CIA program and was covertly dosed with LSD and the death was ruled a suicide – but there’s more to it than that. Eric Olson – Frank’s son – has tirelessly sought to seek the truth his whole life, and now he has reached a conclusion even though ‘what happened’ is still up in the air. Think conspiracies, the dark world of the Cold War and the murky undertakings of the CIA. It’s slow, but fascinating.

What should I binge watch on Netflix?

No matter your TV tastes, Netflix has new shows and new seasons releasing all the time. The beauty with Netflix is the large majority of its TV series are released all at once, meaning you can binge watch instead of having to wait weekly for the new episode. If you’re new to Netflix, get caught up with these shows and you’ll soon be at the cutting edge of the water cooler conversation, playgroup chat, or school drop-off catch-up.

Netflix has plenty on offer here, and if you’re looking for something new to watch, or you have a free weekend, the above shows may be suitable. So grab the popcorn and snacks, get in your pyjamas and have a weekend in full of bingeing delight! It’s also worth checking out the very best shows on Stan and Amazon Prime.

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