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Best Netflix SA shows: 30 TV series you need to watch

Best Netflix shows
(Image credit: Katalin Vermes)

The Netflix SA shows catalogue isn't quite as strong as its US or UK counterparts, but it still has heavy hitters like Love is Blind, Locke and Key, and Stranger Things to keep us glued to our sofas. Then there are local superstars  like Queen Sono and Blood & Water which are proving that Netflix's investment in the South African film industry are well worth it. 

In the following list we've put together a definitive lineup to suit all tastes. The cream of the Netflix crop. So, let's get to it: these are the 30 best Netflix shows to keep you enraptured for many a long afternoon.

Blood & Water 

(Image credit: netflix)

This one is a proudly South African teen drama meets mystery. Set in Cape Town, a teen becomes fixated on proving that a private-school swimming star is actually her sister who was abducted at birth from the hospital. 

It includes the classic high school drama and one or two true stories, Blood & Water is addictive even though it is a little overrated. 

The show received great reviews worldwide and has been confirmed for Season 2. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

New Girl 

(Image credit: Fox)

If you've marathoned Friends, Brooklyn Nine Nine and The Big Bang Theory, New Girl is worth adding to your watch list. With a surprisingly prolific 145 episodes, New Girl (at first) is about Jess, who moves in with three unusual housemates after her boyfriend cheats on her. Those housemates are Nick, Schmidt and Winston.

New Girl can get a little repetitive, especially with that many episodes under its belt. Wait it out for later seasons which are mixed up with the return of pilot episode star Coach and the addition of Megan Fox to the cast - while Deschanel takes maternity leave. This is one of the best Netflix shows to binge, if you want something light and fun to enjoy.

Seasons on Netflix: 7

Stateless 

(Image credit: Ben King/Netflix)

Stateless is a gripping series but don't get too invested, there are only six episodes. It is based on the real events surrounding Australian Cornelia Rau's life, her mental illness, and her mistaken imprisonment at a detention centre. The character of Sofie Werner is based on Rau, although some details of her life have been changed. 

In addition to Werner's adaptation of psychological deterioration and wrongful imprisonment, there are stories highlighting the tragedy of the Australian asylum-seekers process as shown through the parallel story of Afghan refugee Ameer and his family. Their desperate and futile attempts to be granted safety in Australia is heartbreaking.

It's an interesting, if not entirely undramatised, look into the Australian immigration system which treats people like invaders rather than victims. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1 

Down to Earth with Zac Efron 

(Image credit: Netflix)

No, sadly this is not a High School Musical reboot or off-shoot but rather a totally new direction for the 2000s Disney It boy Zac Efron. Now, the actor is tackling climate change and travelling the world with Wellness Expert Darien Olien to find out how eco-innovators can find ways to make changes so we can live sustainably. 

The premise might not be that original but Efron's charming demeanour brings his loyal fanbase to the show and makes the suggestions for change that much more palatable. It's an informative documentary series and a great way to travel from your couch. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

The Politician 

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Politician is another great offering by Ryan Murphy, creator of American Horror Story and Scream Queens. This time, instead of horror-style gore, Murphy's work takes on the cut-throat world of politics. 

Season one follows Payton, an ambitious student who is hell bent on becoming school president. Him and his team take it way too seriously and characters start behaving as though the high school presidential race is the same as a real political campaign. This doesn't last for long though as we quickly cut to Payton in university when he decides to run for New York State Senate. 

Season Two picks up with this premise and follows Peyton as he campaigns against the longstanding incumbent Dede Standish. 

The first season is a bit all over the place, but needs to be watched to appreciate the second season which is much more polished. In classic Murphy fashion, every episode is peppered with contemporary as well as bygone cultural references and witty dialogue. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1 and 2

Pose

(Image credit: Netflix)

This series centres around a cast of characters involved in New York City's Ballroom scene in the 1980s. A fictionalised version of the kinds of stories seen in the documentary Paris is Burning. The audience follows Blanca, a transgender woman who creates a family with those in her community and struggles with her HIV diagnosis. 

This beautifully shot and powerfully written series is a great watch and provides some insight into the now often forgotten terror of the early years of the AIDS crisis and how people make communities, love, grow and survive despite being rejected and abused by "normal" society.

Seasons on Netflix: 2  

Locke and Key

Locke and Key

(Image credit: Netflix)

We waited patiently for a Netflix adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez' excellent comic, and it was worth it. Set in the unsettling house of horrors that is Keyhouse, three siblings move in after their dad's murder and discover magical keys that unlock mysterious powers. 

Locke and Key season 2 isn't guaranteed, but we're crossing our fingers for more creepy original stories to complement the adapted ones from the comic.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Sex Education

(Image credit: Sam Taylor)

Sex Education feels like a beautiful culmination of Netflix’s push for progressive and diverse programming. Set in the picturesque British countryside, Sex Education follows the misadventures of the students, faculty and parents of Moordale Secondary School as they navigate the turbulent waters of sexuality. The show has resonated deeply with fans thanks to its balance of heartwarming character work and informative approach to topical issues such as varied sexual identities, gendered power structures, family dynamics and so much more.

Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield lead a stellar cast of fresh faces in this unmissable deep dive into the various ways we express ourselves as sexual beings. Sex Education season 3 is on the way. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

The Witcher

(Image credit: Katalin Vermes/Netflix)

The Witcher is the perfect fantasy drama to watch right now if you're still hurting over the end of Game of Thrones (whether that's because you miss watching it, or because you didn't like the ending). Based on the books by Andrzej Sapkowski, this eight-episode first season introduces us to monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), witch Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) and Princess Cirilla of Cintra (Freya Allan), whose lives are destined to collide in a world at war. 

But really, the show's appeal lies in its monster-of-the-week episodes, where Geralt is tasked with slaying a fantasy creature of some kind, usually with a big twist that prevents each kill from being nice and straightforward. This show makes for easy viewing with the perfect star in Cavill and a great ensemble, and it's no surprise that The Witcher season 2 is on the way.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Queen Sono 

(Image credit: Netflix )

A South African twist on the spy drama genre, Queen Sono is high-paced and full of intrigue against a fictionalised backdrop based on South Africa's real past. Putting international espionage intrigue alongside Sono's own past, the show puts a well-trod formula in an African context. 

The first season has been a hit, with rave reviews and a number one spot on Netflix at the time of its release. There are rumours of a second season, with nothing confirmed as of yet. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1 

You

(Image credit: Tyler Golden/Netflix)

Adapted from the novel series of the same name, You is peak escapist television for a millennial audience. It follows the bloody escapades of Joe Goldberg as he manipulates, stalks and even kills his way into the hearts of the women he obsesses over and professes to love. Its sharp script and committed performances pull off a brilliant magic trick in getting viewers to root for its deeply problematic protagonists, reveling in the thrilling chaos that ensues.

The first two seasons have been a smash hit, as audiences have connected with the darkly satirical lens the show casts on thriller tropes. You season 3 is aiming for a 2021 release. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

The Umbrella Academy

(Image credit: Netflix)

Based on the comic books written by My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, The Umbrella Academy is Netflix's latest superhero original. 

After 43 babies are born to women who showed no signs of pregnancy, seven are adopted by billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who trains them to save the world using their powers. 

After the family becomes estranged, they are reunited once more when their father dies and are forced to come to terms with their past and the danger that lurks in their future. 

Fronted by Ellen Page, The Umbrella Academy is flamboyant, dark, and gratifyingly violent: all the ingredients you need for a great superhero series. The Umbrella Academy season 2 should be with us this year.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Star Trek: Discovery

(Image credit: Netlfix)

Well, this series went to places we never thought it would. Set before the exploits of the Starship Enterprise, the show features a fair few characters from older Trek projects. But while the original series had shades of light, this is a much darker look at space exploration. 

Sonequa Martin-Green is great as the first officer who has a past intrinsically linked to a Star Trek character we know and love – although Discovery is clearly at its best when it's tackling new parts of Trek lore, as the weaker parts of season 2 proved. Star Trek Discovery season 3 is coming in 2020, too, presumably to Netflix UK as well.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

Unorthodox 

(Image credit: Netflix)

Although only a miniseries of ten episodes, Unorthodox introduces the audience to the hidden world of the Satmar Hasidic Community in incredible detail. Based off a book by the same name, follows a 19-year-old women as she flees the restrictive community and an unhappy marriage in search of her identity and independence in Berlin. 

Season on Netflix: 1

Top Boy

(Image credit: Netflix)

Top Boy is a gritty story of two drug dealers in East London. If the name sounds familiar, it's because it's the third season of the series, which was cancelled by Channel 4 a whole six years ago. It took time, and the intervention of music superstar Drake, but we're grateful it finally made it back to our screens. Season 4 will arrive in 2020.

Season on Netflix: 1

Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

Stranger Things is a brilliant homage to '80s pop culture. Leaning heavily on Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King - so much King - the story revolves around a small town, a group of friends, a missing person and a dodgy science lab. Writing anything else would give away the myriad twists in a show that is full of brilliant creepy fun.

Season 4 of Stranger Things is already in the works, following a third season that was arguably the show's best yet.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

Love is Blind

(Image credit: Netflix)

Testing whether emotional connection can triumph over physical attraction, the endlessly addictive Love is Blind follows singles that get engaged without seeing each other. It's Blind Date taken up several notches as the freshly-paired couples reveal themselves to each other, then go on holiday, move in together, and meet each other's parents. It's a fascinating sociological experiment, and, naturally, we really want to see more in a potential Love is Blind season 2.

When They See Us

A still from When They See Us, a new TV show on Netflix UK

(Image credit: netflix tv)

Created by Ava DuVernay for Netflix, this hard-hitting drama follows the story of five teens - four African American men and one Hispanic - who were accused of attacking and raping a woman in New York in 1989. It's a gut-wrenching story that shines a light on systemic racism in the US.

Season on Netflix: 1

Russian Doll

(Image credit: Netflix)

Orange Is The New Black's Natasha Lyonne stars in this dark comedy as Nadia, who keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party in a surreal time loop – much like Groundhog Day. 

With its cynical and witty examination of living and dying, Russian Doll switches rapidly between laugh-out-loud hilarity and devastating sadness – it's a must-watch. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1 

Bojack Horseman

BoJack Horseman

(Image credit: Netflix)

Yes, Bojack Horseman is hilarious. Yes, it’s the best thing Will Arnett has done since Arrested Development. And, yes, it should be the next thing you watch if you are into anthropomorphic comedy about a once great TV star who has fallen on hard times. It’s all of that, but it’s also a pretty accurate portrayal of depression and should be celebrated as such.

For those who are worried it may be too dark for them, fear not - there's loads of slapstick humour, word play, and stunning animation to keep everything balanced.

Seasons on Netflix: 6

The Crown

(Image credit: Netflix)

Is The Crown Netflix's crowning glory? It could be, as a sumptuous look at one of the world's most famous families: the Royal family. Charting the early years of the relationship between the Queen (Claire Foy) and Prince Philip (former Doctor Who Matt Smith), the show was written by Peter Morgan and, at £100 million for its first two seasons, is one of the most expensive TV series ever made. Which means there's enough pomp and ceremony to keep those pining for a Downton Abbey replacement happy.

Season 3 recast the Queen as Olivia Colman and Prince Philip as Tobias Menzies. It's as engrossing as ever. 

Seasons on Netflix: 3

Orange is the New Black

(Image credit: Netflix)

Orange is the New Black has now ended its seven-season run, and it's one of the first Netflix Originals that put the streaming service on the map. This is a compelling women's prison drama with a fantastic ensemble cast, and while it's pretty funny in places, it naturally gets pretty dark given its subject matter. 

Seasons on Netflix: 7

Breaking Bad

(Image credit: AMC/Sony)

Breaking Bad is must-watch TV and one of the reasons Netflix has risen to the popularity it has in the UK. Picking up the streaming rights to this show was a winning decision, especially when it risked being forgotten by UK broadcasters.

Breaking Bad is ostensibly about a high-school teacher with cancer who goes on to sell meth to pay for his hospital bills. It goes without saying, if you haven’t yet spent time with Walter White and Jesse, do so now! But, be warned, the show is as addictive as the stuff Walter is peddling. 

Fans of Breaking Bad probably already know that a Breaking Bad movie, called El Camino, has been released on Netflix. Technically not a TV show, we think it's more like a satisfying long final episode than a movie anyway. You'll also want to check out the spin-off Better Call Saul, which Netflix screens exclusively in the UK. 

Seasons on Netflix: 5 (and a movie, and Better Call Saul)

Mad Men

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Mad Men is a slow-burning drama about ad execs in the '60s, and it's undoubtedly the best 'prestige' drama of its era. All seven seasons are on Netflix now, and it's a beautiful-looking and amazingly cast show, from its multi-faceted protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to ambitious receptionist-turned-ad-exec Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss). 

While its first four seasons are perhaps its strongest, this is one of the most consistently rewarding dramas around, with deep character development and frequent twists. 

Seasons on Netflix: 7

The Good Place

(Image credit: Netflix)

Comedy is in a good place right now and, funnily enough, The Good Place is a perfect example of that. Starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, this off-the-wall comedy focuses on a recently deceased woman who is sent to a heaven-like utopia called the Good Place completely by accident. In order to stay there she goes to any lengths to hide what a terrible person she was when living. 

The fourth season, now complete, is sadly the last, but it gets a fitting finale, even if the show arguably peaks in its first year. A great cast, clever writing and an original concept make this a must-watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

(Image credit: NBC)

Following the brilliant but immature NYPD detective Jake Peralta, this Golden Globe-winning series is a laugh-a-minute, with plenty of deadpan jokes, physical comedy, and crackpot characters. The jokes are arguably a little stronger in The Good Place, but hey, it's not a competition. 

With around 20 episodes per season Brooklyn Nine-Nine is ideal for binging, and the fifth season is now available to stream on Netflix.

Seasons on Netflix: 5

Black Mirror

(Image credit: Netflix)

Season 5 of Black Mirror is out now and, although we're sure we said the same thing for the fourth season, this one could be the darkest, most varied season of the show yet. 

Before Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker was best known for his snarky look at the news in Weekly Wipe. Now, the show has given him superstar status, for good reason. Black Mirror is fantastic TV with each episode taking on a different dystopian idea, mostly framed around technology going very wrong. 

While the quality of episodes tends to vary based on how good the idea is, every season has at least one all-time classic. Check out Bandersnatch, too, an interactive episode containing over two hours of footage. 

Seasons on Netflix: 5 (and Bandersnatch)

Dark

Un'immagine tratta dalla serie TV DARK

(Image credit: Netflix)

Dark is a German-language supernatural thriller in which the disappearance of two children in a small town brings the fractured relationships and dark pasts of the people living there to the surface. 

Adding a touch of Scandinavian crime thriller to American drama, so far there are two seasons to watch on Netflix. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

Neon Genesis Evangelion

(Image credit: Netflix)

This critically-acclaimed anime is exclusively on Netflix, with all 26 episodes of the original series as well as two additional films, Death True and The End of Evangelion (though you should only watch the series and the latter). Given how hard it's been to get hold of in recent years, the anime coming to a streaming service is nothing short of a miracle.

Charting a battle between giant human mechs (piloted by high schoolers, of course) and invading monsters known as Angels, this is an anime that spends as much time looking at the internal lives of its protagonists as the flashy action sequences they find themselves in. Dark, raw, and unafraid of facing emotional trauma, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a must-watch for any anime fan.

Seasons on Netflix: 1 (and two movies)

Our Planet

A promo shot for Our Planet on Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Narrated by everyone's favourite nature expert, David Attenborough, the Our Planet documentary is a beautiful and breathtaking look at planet Earth in all its glory. 

Produced in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the new eight-part series took more than four years to make and is Netflix's first nature documentary. 

Although the way it captures our planet is truly awe-inspiring, the documentary was made to address issues of conservation and show the impact climate change has on animals across the globe.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Queer Eye

Queer Eye

(Image credit: Netflix)

Need a dose of feel-good TV to help cope with today's rocky political landscape? Check out Queer Eye, a show about being the best you with help from five of the coolest dudes on the planet. The show has four seasons already and we're still loving the premise of taking people stuck in a rut and hoisting them so they become the self-respecting, self-loving person we all want to be. Werk.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

RuPaul's Drag Race

(Image credit: BBC)

It's been going strong for 10 years and 11 seasons, but RuPaul's Drag Race is still giving fierce fans a heavy dose of fabulous. For those not already in the know, the elimination-style reality show sees RuPaul go on the hunt for America's next drag superstar - expect lots of glitter, drama, and fun. 

Now that the show has been picked up by Netflix, its sister show Untucked is also available to stream. You've got 11 whole seasons to watch. 

Seasons on Netflix: 11

Netflix SA FAQ: quick questions answered

How much does Netflix cost in SA? There are a few different plans you can choose from depending on whether you want to watch in SD, HD, or Ultra HD (4K) – depending on the strength of your internet – and how many separate devices you want to watch on.

Basic: R99 per month. With the cheapest membership option, you can watch one one screen at a time in Standard Definition, and download videos to one mobile device. 

Standard: R139 per month. This membership allows you to watch in HD on two screens at a time and download videos to two mobile devices.

Premium: R169 per month. The most expensive subscription allows you to watch in HD and Ultra HD on four screens at a time, and download videos to four mobile devices. 

How can I get a free Netflix account? Netflix offers new customers a free month of the service as a trial period – simply choose a membership type and payment plan and your first month will be free.

At the end of this period, if you choose to continue watching Netflix, you'll be charged one "low monthly fee" regardless of how much you used the service and on how many devices you watched videos on. 

Netflix will send you a reminder towards the end of your trial period – if you want to cancel your membership, you can do so at any time during this period and you won't be charged. 

Can I watch live TV on Netflix? No – you can only watch films and TV series from Netflix's rather extensive library.

Is Showmax better than Netflix? The answer to that question really depends on the shows and movies you want to watch. Both offer different kinds of viewing experiences.