In 2012, Netflix offered its first exclusive content with the Norwegian crime series Lilyhammer starring The Sopranos’ Steven Van Zandt. One year later, House of Cards became the first television series produced by Netflix. In the 10 years since House of Cards, Netflix has produced over 1,500 original series globally.
In the beginning, House of Cards was the streamer’s premier television series. However, the trajectory of Netflix changed with the release of Stranger Things in 2016. With four seasons over seven years, Stranger Things is now one of the most recognizable television properties in the world. In 2022 alone, Netflix had a string of hits that included as Wednesday, Inventing Anna, and the return of Bridgerton. In the history of the service, what are the most popular shows of all time?
Squid Game is Netflix’s most popular show, clocking in at 1,650,450,000 hours viewed in the first 28 days. However, this list will focus on the 10 most popular English-language TV shows on Netflix.
Note: The number next to each series represents the number of hours viewed in the first 28 days.
In season 1 of Ginny & Georgia, Georgia (Batwoman’s Brianne Howey), a 30-year-old, recently widowed mother, moves to Wellsbury, Massachusetts, with her 15-year-old daughter, Georgia (Raising Dion‘s Antonia Gentry), and 9-year-old son, Austin (La Brea’s Diesel La Torraca). The show tackles themes of abuse, sexuality, and racism as a mother and daughter look to put their past mistakes behind them.
Season 2 picks up with the family continuing to form a new life together. Ginny continues to process the news that her stepfather’s death was no accident. On the other hand, Georgia’s violent past continues to rear its ugly head as she prepares to marry Mayor Paul Randolph.
Anna “Delvey” Sorokin made headlines in the 2010s as a socialite and wealthy heiress in New York City who convinced the city’s elitists to invest money in her businesses. Delvey also forged checks, conducted illegal bank wires, and tricked realtors into loaning her money. Meanwhile, Delvey was nothing more than a con artist, as she used the money to fund her extravagant lifestyle.
Delvey’s schemes became the subject of Inventing Anna, with Ozark’s Julia Garner starring as Delvey. The series explores Delvey’s rise to fame as a German Instagram sensation who, in actuality, was a Russian-born immigrant. As Delvey’s stock rises, journalist Vivian Kent (Veep’s Anna Chlumsky) investigates the so-called heiress, learning about her fraudulent backstory. If anything, check out Inventing Anna to listen to Garner imitate Delvey’s over-the-top accent, which is an almost spot-on imitation of the real thing.
Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) traded in his cape for a silver sword in The Witcher. The fantasy drama is based on a collection of short stories, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, from author Andrzej Sapkowski (The Witcher saga). The Netflix series revolves around three characters: Geralt of Rivia (Cavill), the monster hunter known as the Witcher; Ciri (Into the Badlands‘ Freya Allan), the crown princess of Cintra; and Yennefer of Vengerberg (Wanderlust’s Anya Chalotra), a sorceress.
The first season jumps back and forth between each character’s timeline before the battle of Sodden Hill. Geralt and Ciri are linked by destiny since birth, and season 1 chronicles their journey toward meet.ing The Witcher is not quite at the level of fantasy works like Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings, but it has some enticing horror elements and plenty of fight sequences to keep your attention.
If the Devil liked women, wine, and music, he would be living the life of Lucifer Morningstar (Isn’t It Romantic’s Tom Ellis). Based on the DC Comics character, the handsome and charming Lucifer was a former angel kicked out of Heaven who became the Lord of Hell. However, Lucifer hated hell and abandoned his post in favor of Los Angeles. In his new city, Lucifer indulges in his inner desires and starts a nightclub called Lux.
When a murder occurs outside the nightclub, Lucifer meets Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), the police officer charged with investigating the crime. Inspired to help, Lucifer aids Decker in the investigation by using his manipulation powers to pry answers from people. Because of his successful work, Lucifer accepts an invitation to work with the LAPD as a consultant. The series first aired on Fox for three seasons. After its cancellation, Netflix rescued the show and aired three more seasons, including season 5.
It’s the summer of 1995, and Hawkins is finally free of supernatural entities like demogorgons and the Mind Flayer. Nope. That’s not how this works. The people of Hawkins can never live normal lives no matter how hard they try, but at least the kids get to hang out at the new Starcourt Mall. Season 3 separates the group, as multiple factions go on different missions. Eleven (Enola Holmes’ Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Pinocchio’s Finn Wolfhard), Max (The Whale’s Sadie Sink), Lucas (Concrete Cowboy’s Caleb McLaughlin), and Will (Hubie Halloween’s Noah Schnapp) believe the Mind Flayer has possessed Max’s brother, Billy (Elvis’s Dacre Montgomery).
Joyce (Gone in the Night’s Winona Ryder) and Hopper (Hellboy’s David Harbour) investigate strange magnetic disruptions in Hawkins. Jonathan (The New Mutants’ Charlie Heaton) and Nancy (Things Heard & Seen Natalia Dyer) research the Mind Flayer’s powers. Meanwhile, Dustin (Honor Society’s Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Free Guy‘s Joe Keery), Robin (Do Revenge’s Maya Hawke), and Erica (Hamster & Gretel’s Priah Ferguson) uncover a Russian conspiracy involving the Upside Down. It all culminates with one legendary battle at the Starcourt Mall.
In 2017, producer and showrunner Shonda Rhimes, the powerful mind behind massive hits like Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, signed a massive deal to exclusively release her shows through Netflix. Rhimes’s first show for Netflix under the Shondaland banner was 2020’s Bridgerton. The first season became the most-watched original series of all time, a distinction it held until Squid Game passed it in October 2021.
Based on the series of novels by Julia Quinn, the series follows the eight siblings of the Bridgerton family. The series takes place in London during the Regency era and focuses on the social season where the young girls are “introduced” into society as they attempt to find a husband. Season 1 is based on The Duke and I, which focuses on Daphne Basset (Fair Play’s Phoebe Dynevor), the fourth Bridgerton child and eldest daughter, and her courtship with Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings (The Gray Man’s Regé-Jean Page). With beautiful costumes, juicy drama, and exciting music, Bridgerton is a binge-worthy series combining a romantic teen drama with Pride and Prejudice.
The only way Bridgerton could top its record-breaking first season is by surpassing its viewership. Well, that’s exactly what happened as Bridgerton season 2 became Netflix’s most-watched English-language series of all time, a record it held until Stranger Things 4.
Bridgerton season 2 is based on The Viscount Who Loved Me, which follows the eldest Bridgerton sibling, Anthony (Jack Ryan’s Jonathan Bailey), and his search for love. Anthony starts to court Miss Edwina Sharma (Alex Rider’s Charithra Chandran) after she’s named the season’s diamond, meaning Edwina is the top prize of the social season. To get to Edwina, Anthony needs to win over her protective older sister, Kate (Sex Education’s Simone Ashley), which ends with surprising results.
Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most notorious serial killers and sex offenders in American history, a homicidal monster engaged in horrible practices with his victims, such as mutilation, cannibalism, and necrophilia. Dahmer targeted teenage boys and men for over a decade in Wisconsin. Ryan Murphy (The Watcher) decided to explore the controversial figure in Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
Starring as Dahmer is Evan Peters (Mare of Easttown), who described the role as ” one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do in his life.” Aside from Peters, the cast includes Niecy Nash (Claws), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club), and Michael Learned (The Waltons). Though Dahmer is the titular character, the series is told through the eyes of the victims.
The death-obsessed member The Addams Family is the star of the new series Wednesday. Jenna Ortega (Scream VI) stars as Wednesday Addams, a strange high school student obsessed with death and mischief. Sent to the Nevermore Academy after her expulsion from a previous school, Wednesday soon discovers her psychic powers and uses them to investigate a local murder.
Wednesday became an internet sensation, as the dance scene was viewed or recreated over 400 million times on TikTok. The series broke the record for the most hours viewed in a week for an English-language TV series on Netflix, with an astonishing 341 million hours. Wednesday tied Stranger Things season 4 by going No. 1 in 83 countries.
It’s only fitting that the number-one most-watched English-language show on Netflix stems from its landmark franchise, Stranger Things. After a three-year hiatus, Stranger Things season 4 returned with two volumes: seven episodes in volume 1 and two episodes in volume 2. Season 4 picks up eight months after the events from season 3 as Joyce, Jonathan, Will, and Eleven are now living in California.
Like season 3, there are multiple storylines. In California, Mike flies out to visit Eleven, Jonathan, and Will. The reunion is short-lived as Dr. Sam Owens (Aliens’ Paul Reiser) recruits Eleven to regain her powers at a secret facility in Nevada. In Hawkins, local troublemaker Eddie Munson (Strike’s Joseph Quinn) is wanted for the murder of a local cheerleader. However, Dustin, Robin, Max, Steve, Nancy, Lucas, and Erica discover that Eddie is innocent and the murder can be attributed to a creature from the Upside Down known as Vecna. Finally, Joyce receives a secret message that Hopper is alive in Russia, so she teams with Murray Bauman (Fleabag‘s Brett Gelman) to rescue the former chief of Hawkins.