Cover Need something to binge-watch? These are the biggest Netflix shows of 2021 to add to your list (Photo: 'Squid Game', courtesy of Netflix)

In another year of living with the pandemic, Netflix’s content library has provided us with some much-needed distraction and comfort. Ahead, we’re listing the most popular series of 2021, including survival K-drama Squid Game, French mystery thriller Lupin, and more

With 2021 drawing to a close, it’s time to take a look back at and enjoy some of the greatest Netflix shows you may have missed throughout the year. From rom-coms to sci-fi series and action-packed dramas, it’s no secret that the streaming giant has been writing the playbook for global entertainment since its debut, continuously impressing viewers with an ever-growing collection of programmes.

Although the entertainment industry was still derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic this year, things are now looking brighter with producers and actors returning to the production sites and working on new projects—and this year was packed with excellent Netflix releases.

Not sure which ones are most worth your time? Read on to see our roundup of the biggest Netflix shows of 2021. From survival K-drama Squid Game to French mystery thriller Lupin, these are the best series you need to watch before enjoying all the great shows coming in 2022.

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1. Squid Game

If you haven’t already watched Squid Game, it’s probably the show for you to end the year with. Produced by the celebrated director Hwang Dong-hyuk, the survival K-drama has taken the world by storm thanks to its engaging storyline and star-studded cast.

The fast-paced drama, which follows a group of debt-riddled contestants competing in deadly children’s games for a cash prize, has achieved cult status as the most-watched series in Netflix’s history with 142 million households worldwide watching the show in its first four weeks. Squid Game is also the platform’s first-ever Korean series to reach the top spot in the US.

The show’s popularity has catapulted Jung Ho-yeon, the lead actress to a new level of fame and success as well, who’s now the most followed Korean actress on Instagram and the global ambassador for Louis Vuitton.

Meanwhile, director Hwang Dong-hyuk has confirmed that season two of Squid Game is already in the works.

Watch Squid Game on Netflix here

Read more: Netflix's ‘Squid Game’ Cast and Director Talk About Bringing the Korean Survival Show to Life

2. Lupin

When Lupin was released in January, it was the most-watched non-English language series on Netflix at the time with 70 million viewers worldwide tuning in during its four weeks. Inspired by Arsène Lupin, the famous fictional character by French novelist Maurice Leblanc, the drama follows gentleman thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy) as he plans to take revenge for the injustices his dad had been put through in the past.

With its gripping plot, beautiful Parisian backdrop and great performances from its cast, it then came as no surprise that the second season of the mystery series had also quickly become a smash success for Netflix when it was released in June. And after much buzz from fans around the world, the drama has been confirmed for a third season!

Watch Lupin on Netflix here 

3. Money Heist, Part 5

Even you haven’t watched the show or seen the Halloween costumes taking over social media—chances are you’ve probably heard of Money Heist. Since the platform acquired the global streaming rights to the Spanish crime thriller in 2017, the show has grown to be one of the most-watched non-English series on Netflix globally of all time with all seasons released to universal acclaim.

The drama concluded with season 5 in early December, which was watched by 69 million households in the first four weeks after its release. The story is compelling enough on its own and the performances and direction are equally impressive, and if you find yourself can’t get enough of the show, we’ve got good news for you. Netflix confirmed earlier this year that a Korean remake of Money Heist is in the works, featuring a stellar cast including Yoo J-i-tae, Park Hae-soo, Lee Won-jong and more.

Watch Money Heist on Netflix here 

Read more: 5 Things to Know About Netflix's "Money Heist" Korean Remake

4. Maid

An inspiring, beautiful exploration of a mother’s perseverance that successfully stirred the spirits of audiences, Maid was widely beloved when it landed on Netflix in October. Based on a true story, the series follows young single mother Alex (Margaret Qualley), who escapes an abusive relationship and works as a house cleaner to make a better life for herself and her daughter.

Aside from the heartwarming storyline, the series also features real-life mother-daughter duo Margaret Qualley and Andie MacDowell (who plays Alex’s mother Paula) which makes the drama even more emotionally engaging.

Watch Maid on Netflix here  

5. Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth is another Netflix show that made waves in 2021 and deserves a spot on your year-end watchlist. Based on a DC comic book of the same name, the drama follows a boy-deer hybrid (Christian Convery) as he embarks on a perilous adventure in search of his mum.

The show is set in a post-apocalyptic world, which takes place ten years after a viral pandemic that killed most of the human population. Part fantasy, part sci-fi—for the most part it’s a moving, visually stunning work that’s filled with beautiful landscapes of nature—but at its core, Sweet Tooth is an expertly crafted drama that explores human-nature relationship and the concept of empathy.

This series has proven a success with fans, which was watched by 60 million households in its first four weeks of release in June.

Watch Sweet Tooth on Netflix here

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6. You, Season 3

Loosely based on the thriller novel by Caroline Kepnes, You is a psychological thriller that follows Joe (Penn Badgley), a charismatic bookstore manager in his violent pursuit of love interests. Over 40 million households around the world watched the show in its first four weeks of release back in 2018, with season two (2019) being just as popular and gripping as its predecessor.

The series made a triumphant return with its third instalment in October this year, which brings fans a story of Joe’s new life with his wife Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti) and their newborn son. There are many shows that delivered their best run in their third season, and You is no exception. Apart from the cast’s great performances and compelling character development, it’s the producer’s outstanding technique of using pacing and cliffhangers that makes the series great for binge-watching.

Watch You on Netflix here 

7. Hellbound

When we heard the news that Yeon Sang-ho, the director of Train to Busan was the brains behind the K-drama Hellbound, we know the series was going to make a splash on Netflix. Featuring a dark fantasy plot revolving around a webtoon of the same name by director Yeon, Hellbound tells the story of mysterious otherworldly beings that appear out of nowhere to condemn individuals to hell.

The series instantly captivated audiences worldwide and topped global streaming ratings within 24 hours of its debut in November, with its examination of belief, sins, fear and human frailty drawing the most attention—all while serving up a host of great performances from a star-studded cast including Yoo Ah-in and Min Hye-jin.

Watch Hellbound on Netflix here 

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8. Shadow and Bone

There was quite a lot of positive buzz around Shadow and Bone before its release in April—and it certainly lived up to the hype. The series brings to life Leigh Bardugo’s popular novels, which revolves around Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li)—an orphan and soldier who discovers her magic powers of being able to summon light that could free her country. From the stellar storyline to phenomenal effects work and beautiful costumes, the series has proven to be a solid show for anyone who loves fantasy, as evidenced by its whopping record of 55 million household views in its first 28 days.

If you like magic, action, and unexpected twists, this is a must-watch. A second season has already been confirmed and will begin filming early next year.

Watch Shadow and Bone on Netflix here

Read more: Jessie Mei Li Talks Bringing Alina Starkov To Life In ‘Shadow And Bone’

9. The Witcher, Season 2

Based on popular fantasy literature by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski of the same name that rose to international fame with its successful launch of video game adaptation, The Witcher allows us to dive into an imaginary universe and leave the mundanity of everyday life behind.

Revolving around the story of Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), a mutated monster hunter who struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts, the beloved series was back for season two last week with a thrilling plot and more impressive high-production visuals to delight the fans. Less than one week since the new season was launched, the show has already garnered a lot of well-deserved attention and critical acclaim, continuously topping Netflix’s weekly chart for the most-streamed shows globally.

Watch The Witcher on Netflix

10. Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

Whether you’re a K-drama fan or simply looking for something heartwarming to watch this holiday, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha won’t disappoint. The hit series brings audiences a love story that follows Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-a) as she quits her dentist job and takes a road trip to a picturesque seaside village of Gongji to relive her childhood memories.

Featuring a masterful mix of comedy, romance and drama, the show ticks all the boxes of rom-com genres, as evidenced by the top rankings it received on Netflix top 10 lists in more than ten countries for weeks since launching in August. The cast’s excellent performances and the refreshing countryside setting that steers away from the usual cosmopolitan cities, make the series even more enjoyable and addictive. 

Watch Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha on Netflix


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