The Most Popular Netflix Shows of 2020
When Covid-19 emerged in the early months of the year, we never would have predicted that we would be sat here in December, social distancing and navigating the festive season in the new normal. In a year of cancelled plans and staying home, we've turned to distractions old and new to keep us occupied. Some have turned their attention to online courses, productive at-home activities and even board games to pass the time, while many have sought the simple pleasures of Netflix.
A little escapism has never been so needed, with some of 2020's biggest shows offering just that. From Korean dramas, to bonkers reality shows, dramatic series and more––if you haven't already watched these Netflix hits, where have you been?
1/10 Crash Landing On You
Released back in March, Crash Landing On You made a huge splash on Netflix. The series is said to have reinvigorated—or jumpstarted, in the case of some audiences—K-drama mania.
One of the highest rated Korean dramas in television history, the series tells the story of Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin), a wealthy South Korean heiress, who paraglides into North Korean territory after a tornado blows her off course. This sends her crash landing—literally—into the arms of Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin), a captain in the North Korean Special Police Force.
Aside from its well-executed romantic plot and stellar ensemble cast performance, the drama also received high praise for its portrayal of everyday life in the North, showing a cultural aspect of the country rarely explored in any fictional capacity.
The plot alone didn't just draw in viewers, but fans also couldn't get enough of Yoon Se-ri's fashion. Not only did we note the Chopard wrist candy worn in the series, but Swarovski sales were also sad to increase due to the character wearing earrings by the brand.
2/10 Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
After the Crash Landing On You mania, came a different kind of mayhem. Landing on Netflix at the end of March, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness was an instant hit worldwide––watched by 34.3 million people in the first ten days of its release.
For those that haven't caught up, the true crime documentary focuses on self-proclaimed "Tiger King" Joe Exotic, owner of G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma. Starting out as a straight up bizarre and shocking documentary, the series takes a dramatic turn as Joe's feud with Florida animal park owner Carole Baskin dramatically escalates. Giving a unique insight into the America underworld of big cat breeding, this true murder-for-hire story is a must watch.
Binge-watched by many, Tiger King also paved the way for lovers of leopard print to come out of the closet, inspiring some of this year's most popular Halloween costumes.
(Related: The Best Shows to Watch on Netflix While You're Social Distancing and Staying Home)
3/10 It's Okay to Not Be Okay
Along with Crash Landing On You, several other Korean dramas gained cult popularity in 2020, with It's Okay to Not Be Okay emerging as one of the most watched series.
Released in June, the series stars Kim Soo-hyun as Moon Gang-tae and Seo Yea-ji as Ko Moon-young, and tells the story of an unlikely romance between a caretaker at a psychiatric ward and a successful children's book author.
As well as being a hit on Netflix Hong Kong, as It's Okay to Not Be Okay was one of the most popular shows in South Korea, Australia, India, Japan, and South Africa, praised for its unique premise, visual storytelling telling, acting and importance given to mental health.
Plus, it's worth a watch for Ko Moon-young's envy-inducing wardrobe.
(Related: All the Luxury Designer Brands Worn in the Hit Netflix K-Drama, It’s Okay To Not Be Okay)
4/10 The Crown, season 4
Now in its fourth season, The Crown is not exactly new to our screens, but like its previous runs, the dramatic depiction of Queen Elizabeth II's life and reign has viewers hooked.
Launched on Netflix in Singapore back November––coinciding with the fourth wave of infections and more people staying home––the series is set from 1977 and 1990, and stars Olivia Coleman as the Queen––with the Oscar-winning actress reprising her role for a second season.
Main storylines of the fourth instalment include the Queen's clashes with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the early days and marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, with the series also introducing the characters of Prince Harry and Prince William for the first time.
(Related: The Crown on Netflix: Princess Diana Makes Her Highly-Anticipated Debut)
5/10 The Queen’s Gambit
Another relatively new addition to Netflix Hong Kong, The Queen’s Gambit debuted at the end of October and has since sparked a new found appreciation for the world of chess––not to mention Gibson cocktails.
Beginning mid-1950s and proceeding into the 1960s, the story follows an orphaned chess prodigy, Beth Hammond, as she rises to the top of the chess world while struggling with emotional problems and drug and alcohol dependency.
Quickly becoming one of Netflix's most-watched series of the year––with Netflix stating that by November 23 it had been watched by 62 million households since its release––The Queen’s Gambit gained acclaim for its cinematography, production values and wardrobe, along with Anya Taylor-Joy's performance as Beth.
(Related: Trending on Netflix: Why The Queen's Gambit Has Sparked New Interest in Chess)
6/10 Indian Matchmaking
If you've been in need of a little light-hearted escapism this year, you're not alone, with a range of reality shows topping the charts.
One such example is Indian Matchmaking––a reality series following matchmaker Sima Taparia as she helps clients in the US and in India to find suitable matches for arranged marriages. The series was released in mid-July and was in the top 10 for several months, with many praising the series for its unique insight into the traditional custom in the modern era.
Although some have labelled the show cringe-worthy––with others casting shade on the representation of women and how the match matching process differs for the two sexes––it's still most definitely worth a watch to see what all the fuss is about.
7/10 The Umbrella Academy, season 2
The first season of The Umbrella Academy was the third most popular TV series on Netflix in 2019, with season two proving to be just as popular in 2020.
The second season of the popular superhero series was released on Netflix on July 31. After the estranged superhero siblings reunited in season one to uncover the truths of their family history and extraordinary powers, season two sees all of the Hargreeves kids back in action––and back in the 1960s after the fallout at the end of season one.
After the continued success of the series, in November 2020, Netflix confirmed that The Umbrella Academy has been renewed for a third season.
8/10 Love Is Blind
Another dose of reality escapism, Love Is Blind hit our screens in February and instantly had viewers hooked.
The premise is simple: single men and women meet with the hopes to fall in love and get engaged––the only the thing is, during an intense 10 days of dating, they never actually see each other. With the couples only getting to meet in person after becoming the proposal.
Married at First Sight meets The Bachelor, expect lots of twists and turns as couples meet each other’s families, deal with old flames, move in together and of course—plan their weddings.
9/10 Emily in Paris
Love it or loathe it, Emily in Paris was one of the most talked-about shows of the year––for good and bad. Telling the story of Emily (Lily Collins) as she leaves her hometown of Chicago for a new life and job in Paris, many praised the series for the fashion, the locations and the cheesy rom-com storyline, while others picked apart the lazy plot, clichés and stereotypes––even going say far as labelling Emily herself as fully-fledged basic.
Whichever camp you're in, it didn't stop Emily in Paris from being a hit, with a second season already confirmed.
(Related: As We Await Season Two, Here's "Emily in Paris" Star Ashley Park on Newfound Fame and Her Friendship With Lucas Bravo)
10/10 Alice in Borderland
Rounding up our list, Alice in Borderland was released on Netflix recently and has held the number one position in the Top 10 ever since.
Based on the Japanese suspense manga series of the same name, the thriller is set in a dystopian Tokyo and follows directionless gamer, Ryohei Arisu (Kento Yamazaki) who finds the once-bustling city now abandoned after meeting with friends in Shibuya station. A voice directs him to a game they're required to play but it's not just any other game, it's a game they have to play in order to survive.
A second season has already been confirmed by Netflix, so there's even more excuse to binge your way through the first eight episodes.
Watch on Netflix here