As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2016 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.
It used to be that any original series that Netflix put out was widely discussed, examined and enjoyed because the streaming service seemed to put extra time and effort into the handful of shows that it released and viewers responded in kind by making characters and plot lines water cooler fodder.
But with Netflix already producing more content than ever before – with a proposed 1,000 additional hours of originals in 2017, which is more than twice the current amount – the service will and already has a few misses after a near flawless track record during its infancy.
With the winter doldrums set to kick in, allow us to present our favorite Netflix TV shows from 2016.
**EDITOR’S NOTE – MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW**
If there were a single show from 2016 that transcended its medium, it would be Netflix’s nostalgic – and at times terrifying – Stranger Things.
The best embodiment of past classics like The Goonies, Stand by Me and Aliens, the show has the rare distinction of being for adults, but starring kids.
In most instances, we tolerate child actors. But with Stranger Things, it’s as if the show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, found the Marlon Brando’s, Daniel Day Lewis’ and Meryl Streep’s of middle school.
Highlighted by Millie Bobby Brown’s character, Eleven, no other show from 2016 had people pining for a second season more than Stranger Things.
Season three of Peaky Blinders picked up at a time when Thomas Shelby seemed to finally have it all – adding a marriage to Grace to his burgeoning, post-WWI empire.
With the prominent introduction of a Russian element to the Birmingham landscape, we began to see the Shelby family graduate from local shot callers to kinsfolk who had been tasked with sabotaging major facets of the Soviet Union’s weapons systems.
With one bout of treachery after another – and Tommy suddenly becoming a single parent – at times the series felt disorienting, but it was used to great effect by creator, Steven Knight, who wanted the audience to feel what it was like to spiral out of control.
House of Cards
If this year’s election cycle proved anything, it’s that the political realm is one rife with anger, deceit and surprises.
House of Cards has continuously hit those beats since it debuted in 2013 and revolutionized the way we watched TV thanks to its “all-at-once” binge model.
What made season four particularly good was that Machiavellian couple, Frank and Claire Underwood, were at odds – eschewing traditional rhythms where one cigarette was all that was needed to get on the same page with one another.
After Underwood was shot by a disgruntled, Lucas Goodwin, one couldn’t help but ponder if this could possibly be the final season of the show. But good ole Frank is truly resilient. Even in a coma, his treachery continued as he leap frogged patients on the donor list on his road to recovery.
When you’re dealing with a show rooted in mostly facts – and specifically the death of the most notorious drug dealer of all-time – it’s hard to pull the wool over viewers eyes since they know that Pablo Escobar won’t miraculously survive a barrage of bullets on that Medellin rooftop.
Aside from giving Escobar his resounding finale, season two of Narcos did extremely well at establishing the major players moving forward.
In a post-Escobar world, the Cali cartel now has carte blanche and almost complete control over the cocaine industry in South America but also opened up the can of worms that is the Castaño brothers (Los Pepes).
Additionally, Peña’s banishment to the United States opened up the possibility to having a dual narrative instead of total focus on Colombia’s role in the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.
Narcos could have been a limited series. But the creators have done an admirable job of emerging from Pablo Escobar’s immense shadow.
Joe Swanberg’s Easy is Twilight Zone-esque in that each individual episode deals with the pitfalls of modern romance as part of a standalone narrative.
Although there are instances of all the characters existing in a shared Chicago universe – whether it be as neighbors, babysitters or patrons of the same underground brewery – Swanberg is extremely gifted at crafting eight different pilots which are all completely cohesive as a single season of television.
Although the tense thriller first hit Israeli airwaves last December, Fauda has since transitioned to the streaming service after being picked up in November of this year with plans for a second season.
Tracking a deep-cover unit of the Israeli Defense Forces – dubbed the “mista’arvim,” who are trained in the language, dress and mannerisms of Palestinians, and whose undercover work is hailed in Israel for stopping countless terror attacks – the show does an admirable job at not just showing their Palestinian counterparts as one-note Jihadists.
Rather, the Arab characters get equal screen time and equally complex backstories.
In June, Fauda also won Best Drama Series at Israel’s Ophir Awards.
If a show like House of Cards is going to scald you with their piping-hot storylines, The Crown is something more akin to a warm bath that gets exponentially more searing as you become more invested in the exploits of a young Queen Elizabeth.
For many outside of the UK, the Royal Family is something we know exists, but don’t necessarily understand their role in British society given that the Prime Minister and Parliament are the ones tasked with dealing with matters of international relations.
From the outset, we understand the importance of the monarchy, and know that Elizabeth has been thrust into a position she wasn’t ready to assume just yet.
Cut very much from a similar cloth as Easy, the Judd Apatow-scripted, Love, is a singularly-titled series that explores a very complicated emotion.
Starring Gillian Jacobs as Mickey and Paul Rust as Gus, on paper, these two couldn’t be any different than one another. But as the saying goes, opposites attract, even though each person seems to be trying their hardest to avoid any real commitment.
The Get Down
Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s name doesn’t immediately evoke thoughts of the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx in the early 1980s. Thus, when it was announced that he would be spearheading a lavish series which cost $10 million USD per episode, it forced a collective “really?” from both fans of the musical genre and film buffs alike.
Yet, somehow The Get Down works. Instead of choosing a dark and sinister tone for the show, Luhrmann relied on his propensity to execute nearly flawless musical numbers – like in The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge – to great effect.
One of the greatest strengths of The Get Down is also its historical accuracies. Although certain aspects have been changed for heightened dramatic effect, each facet of the production – from songs, to wardrobe, to the gangs stalking the streets, are very much rooted in true fact.
It’s clear that Netflix and Marvel enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship. Having already ushered titular heroes like Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage to the small screen, they have additional plans to expand the universe in 2017 with Iron Fist and The Defenders.
In 2016, Luke Cage earned the distinction of becoming Marvel’s first African American lead in a title series or movie. Not only did that speak to issues of inclusion, but the usage of Harlem as the show’s backdrop also allowed the show to explore much more than good vs. evil scenarios which are common comic book tropes.
Happy Valley has always done a masterful job at making people feel the crimes that have been committed on the show. The victims and circumstances don’t exist solely as a plot points for Sergeant Catherine Cawood. Similarly, Cawood can’t casually move on once she’s solved a particular crime. She’s invested in these people and she’s invested in this rural sprawl in Calder Valley, West Yorkshire.
With the looming tension between she and her daughter’s rapist, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), once again at the forefront of season two due to Royce’s mother being found murdered, Cawood not only has to try and solve that case, but also clear her name as well.
While it would be presumptuous to assume that Happy Valley and The Fall are spiritual siblings due to both their UK settings and grisly subject matter, they are indeed similar due to the strong female characters at the forefront.
Whereas Catherine Cawood is the type of copper to pull you out of your car and stick a boot on the back of your head, Stella Gibson is much more poetic and introverted when it comes to her investigations.
Season three served as a denouement of sorts for the cat and mouse game between Gibson and serial killer, Paul Spector, who had last been seen bleeding out after being shot in the abdomen.
What transpires is not what you expect. We know Spector is guilty. But actor Jamie Dornan attempts to humanize his character once again as he grapples with amnesia following his surgery. We even suspect he might be telling the truth about. And then… Spector shows us who he really is.
The first two seasons of Black Mirror for BBC were already something of a phenomena, but with Netflix at the helm the sci-fi anthology expanded its scope into cinematic new heights. The stunning season-opener “Nosedive” has a level of attention-to-detail in its color scheme and set design rarely found outside a Wes Anderson film, “San Junipero” is a time-traveling queer love story with the best-curated soundtrack of the year, and the feature-length finale “Hated in the Nation” convincingly portrays a horde of killer robot bees with Hitchcockian levels of suspense. And as always, each story is told with a frightening amount of realism and prescience for a not-so distant future. For its third season, Black Mirror proved that bigger can indeed be better.
With his career and self-esteem hitting new heights at the end of season two, it was only a matter of time before Bojack would royally screw himself over again. Sure enough, the third outing of everyone’s favorite acting horse continues to portray his limitless capacity for self-destruction with more wit and nuance than most comedies have in a single episode. This season in particular saw the show push itself into uncharted new territory; the almost entirely silent “Fish Out of Water” reworked tropes of classic Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films in their most experimental work yet, while season finale “That Went Well” addresses the surprise death of a character with astonishing poignancy.
Now that you’ve checked out the best TV 2016 had to offer, find out which 10 movies were the best of the year.