Gender parity in Hollywood still has a long way to go, baby, but while we wait for the industry to get their collective crap together, what we choose to watch speaks volumes. We’ve combed through Netflix’s streaming sprawl to find the best television shows and limited series from female creators for you to enjoy.
What each of the shows on this stacked list of Netflix heavy hitters has in common is that they were all written, directed, created, or produced by a woman, and frankly? That’s nothing to sniff at these days. This group covers everything from the award-winning to the comforting, the heart-wrenching to the absurd — and every single one of them is at the top of its game.
Women are great. TV is great. TV made by women is great. No further questions, your honor!
After their husbands and long-term business partners announce they’ve been secretly in love for decades, high-strung Grace (Jane Fonda) and crunchy, hippie Frankie (Lily Tomlin) are forced into an unlikely friendship and roommate-ship when the only place they have left to live is the La Jolla beach house their families co-own. This is The Odd Couple for the modern era, a comedy that insists that everyone, no matter their age, can have their fair share of high jinks. (Wait until you get to the episodes about trying to use vibrators with arthritis.)
It’s a deeply charming, zany, and lovable show with a stellar cast featuring Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael, and Baron Vaughn. Created by Marta Kauffman (co-creator of Friends!) and Howard J. Morris, Grace and Frankie is a perfect comfort watch that will leave you feeling like you should give your best friend a call.
How to watch: Grace and Frankie is streaming on Netflix.
Where to begin with the scandalous, sexy, and silly sensation that is Bridgerton? In this period dramedy, Regency-era Londoners look for love under the critical eye of the Queen and a host of courtiers, while dodging scandal at every turn. It’s Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey with a How To Get Away with Murder-type twist that’s undeniably Shonda Rhimes. You’re going to love it, so much so that you should plan on bingeing this one straight-through. — * Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Bridgerton is streaming on Netflix.
Created by Molly Smith Metzler and adapted from Stephanie Land’s bestselling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, Maid is an absolute gut punch that will likely make you cry more than once. Margaret Qualley is excellent as Alex, a young woman struggling to leave an abusive relationship while continuing to care for toddler daughter; she’s paired with her real-life mother Andie McDowell, who is fantastic as Alex’s well-meaning but unreliable mom.
We follow Alex’s agonizing journey from navigating a women’s shelter to facing the baffling catch-22’s of the American welfare system (she can’t get state-sponsored child care without a job, but she can’t get a job without child care), and more. It’s a powerful meditation on perseverance, as well as a brutal examination of how incredibly short the United States falls in supporting those struggling to survive.
How to watch: Maid is streaming on Netflix.
Warm, funny, and unapologetically optimistic, this 2020 adaptation of the hugely popular Ann M. Martin YA book series is a superb watch for audiences of all ages. A group of preteen girls, each with their own distinctive personality, fashion sense, and set of familial issues, band together to start a baby-sitting club in their neighborhood. The friendships are strong, the stories are relatable, and the life lessons are surprisingly sophisticated. The Baby-Sitters Club is the smart but sweet show that celebrates girlhood in all of its many forms, one we wish we had when we were younger — but we’ll settle for it well into our adulthood, thank you very much.
How to watch: The Baby-Sitters Club is streaming on Netflix.
It’s the Gooorgeous Ladies of Wrestling! Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, GLOW is one of those shows that makes you smile just thinking of it. A masterful blend of rage-fueled ‘80s feminism and timeless comedic beats, this half-hour dramedy delivers everything you could want in great TV each and every episode throughout its three seasons. Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin lead an unparalleled ensemble in a journey we’ll never be ready to see end. Here’s lookin’ at you, Season 4. — * A.F.
How to watch: GLOW is streaming on Netflix.
The most culturally significant project Netflix released in 2019, Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us revisits the case of the Central Park Five in excruciating detail. Examining the wrongful convictions of five Black and Latino men for the rape of a woman in 1989 — for which they would be exonerated over a decade later — this poignant true crime miniseries offers a heart-wrenching look at the flaws in our justice system. Not only spectacular viewing, When They See Us highlights the insidious biases that plague our society and the vulnerable people put at risk. — * A.F.
How to watch: When They See Us is streaming on Netflix.
If you missed this impossibly charming British show, please drop everything you’re doing and get to Netflix as quickly as possible. You don’t want to spend another second without this sweet love story in your life! Written by Alice Oseman, adapted from her very popular graphic novel series of the same name, Heartstopper follows an anxious gay high school student, Charlie, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Nick, a charismatic, seemingly straight rugby player at his school. The two are sat next to each other at the beginning of the semester, and they quickly become inseparable. They’re just friends…Or are they?
Heartstopper is a total triumph. The cast is magnetic, the story is fresh, and the love will leave you feeling warm and bubbly for the rest of the day. Seriously, why aren’t you watching this yet?!
How to watch: Heartstopper is streaming on Netflix.
Created by the Wachowski sisters and J. Michael Straczynski, Sense8 is, well, exactly as trippy as you’d expect a sci-fi drama created by those three to be. The series follows eight strangers who discover in quick succession that they’re linked by a single mind and soul, and that that makes them a target for certain mysterious forces. Thrills ensue, in the form of cool superpowers, deadly chases, sinister conspiracies, and intricately choreographed fight scenes, all shot and edited together with dazzling precision.
But what makes Sense8 feel truly special is its emphasis on emotional connection. It’s a show that feels almost radical in its earnestness — in its plea for empathy, in its faith in humanity, in its celebration for love. It wears its tender, beating heart on its sleeve, and invites you to touch it, and then asks you if, perhaps, you wouldn’t like to open up your own heart to it, too. – * Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
How to watch: Sense8 is streaming on Netflix.
Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, this smart, sweet coming-of-age story was among the most fulfilling new Netflix binges of 2020. Then, it came back and wowed us again.
Lead Maitreyi Ramakrishnan will steal your heart as Devi, a high school sophomore reeling from the loss of her father the year before — but with big plans for a future as vibrant and fearless as she. Culturally important as it is authentic, Never Have I Ever serves not only as a critical step for representation but also as a dreamy teen rom-com you’ll adore. — * A.F.
How to watch: Never Have I Ever is streaming on Netflix.
When a South Korean heiress goes paragliding, a freak storm sends her flying off course and she crash lands in the North Korean DMZ. For most people, this story would end in a swift execution. Luckily, Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) is found by understanding North Korean army captain Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin) — and total dreamboat! As the two navigate their precarious situation and deep cultural divides, they somehow form a connection and, you guessed it, begin to fall in love.
This smash hit drama series, written by Park Ji-eun and directed by Lee Jeong-hyo, has everything: action, social commentary, and a gut-wrenching forbidden romance. Crash Landing on You has become a global phenomenon, acclaimed in China, Japan, and the Philippines, and frequently topping K-drama lists in the U.S. A must-watch. *
How to watch: Crash Landing On You is streaming on Netflix.
Russian Doll gets as close to a perfect Netflix binge watch as possible.
It’s short, with eight 30-minute episodes forming its first season. It’s bold, covering themes of mortality, trauma, and human connection against the backdrop of New York’s East Village. And it’s flat-out hilarious to boot. Natasha Lyonne co-created and starred as Nadia, a woman who becomes trapped in a time loop after dying on her 36th birthday. Nadia’s Groundhog Day-esque adventure becomes increasingly complex as the series progresses and she races against the loop to discover why she can’t stop dying — and what her loop has to do with Alan, an alleged stranger who’s experiencing the exact same cycle. — * Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Russian Doll is streaming on Netflix.
Jane is a young woman in Miami who is deeply in love with her sweet, loyal boyfriend, and also, well, it’s there in the title, a virgin, so naturally she was pretty confused when she found out she was accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine gynecological visit. Now the religious Jane is pregnant with another man’s baby — specifically, the handsome playboy and married hotelier she used to have a crush on years ago. And we’re just getting started, folks!
Developed by Jennie Snyder Urman (Gilmore Girls, 90210, Reign, Charmed), Jane the Virgin playfully employs and parodies telenovela tropes in its storytelling while also taking the time to explore the real emotional consequences of these wild plot twists. (Jane is loosely adapted from the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen). It’s a delightful and captivating combination that sets Jane in a class of its own. A heartfelt comedy boasting both absurdity and grounded emotional depth — there’s simply no other show like it!
How to watch: Jane the Virgin is streaming on Netflix.
The Chair isn’t without its flaws, but you do get a lot for a little with this smart dramedy from creators Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyman. Set on the campus of the fictional Pembroke University, Season 1 of The Chair follows English department head Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) as she grapples with a scandal involving her fellow professor and love interest (Jay Duplass). Choppy pacing and some muddled messaging around cancel culture make this an imperfect, yet worthy binge, clocking in at six episodes in just three hours. — * A.F.
How to watch: The Chair is streaming on Netflix.
Nothing hits quite like a Tina Fey show, with its laugh-a-minute scripts, heightened realities, and absurdist humor. Running from 2015 to 2019, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was one of the best of the bunch co-created by the SNL alum, who also occasionally made an appearance onscreen. Ellie Kemper is perfectly cast as Kimmy Schmidt, a young woman who spent most of her life in a kidnapper’s underground bunker and, now free, is trying to navigate the modern adult world with the life experience of an 8-year-old child with significant trauma. It’s silly, it’s wildly optimistic with a streak of dark humor, and it made the impossibly funny and talented Tituss Burgess the star he was always meant to be. Plus, Carol Kane is Kimmy’s cranky landlord — what could be better?
How to watch: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is streaming on Netflix.
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