ENTERTAINMENT
17/03/2020 11:32 GMT | Updated 08/08/2020 11:27 BST

21 Netflix Films And TV Shows To Stream If You Need Some Escapism In Your Life

With the news cycle as bleak as ever, these may help you take your mind off the real world.

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You may well have noticed that the news cycle in the last couple of weeks has turned a little... bleak. And if the constant news updates are making you feel a little anxious, then you probably need a bit of an escape.

Fortunately, Netflix could well hold the answer – here’s just a handful of the best TV shows and films you can dive into to take your mind off the real world...

1. Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing

Patrick Swayze’s moves. Mid-60s summer as seen through the eyes of the mid-1980s. The ultimate summer romance. And that soundtrack. Dirty Dancing has all the ingredients for some perfect film escapism, and if you’re not tearing up even a tiny bit when they finally perfect that lift at the end (spoiler alert), then we really don’t know what to tell you. 

2. Call Me By Your Name 

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You’re probably well aware of the love story at the centre of Call Me By Your Name, but even if romance isn’t usually your bag, this film is still worth a watch for the gorgeous locations and fashion alone. And if you do find yourself single-tear crying along with Timothée Chalamet over that perfect final scene, trust us, you’re not alone.

3. Sex Education

Netflix

A lot has been made about how Sex Education handles difficult and often taboo sexual subjects better than any show of its kind, which is all true, but there’s so much more to love about the show than just that. Aside from looking great and showcasing some timelessly fabulous fashion, Sex Education is also packed with both laughs and heart, with the emotional relationships between the mostly-teenage characters forming as much of the show as its sexual content.

4. La La Land

REX/Shutterstock

It’s never really a bad time to stick La La Land on, but if anyone is in need of cheering up, then this is undoubtedly a film for you. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling obviously do a brilliant job as the lead couple (they were both nominated for Oscars for this film, with the former picking up Best Actress), and their shared dance sequence is obviously adorable, but we’re honestly more about the opening group number than anything else.

5. RuPaul’s Drag Race 

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Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to spend their days in a world where your biggest concern is which queen is going to choreograph a dance number, and which of your wigs is most likely to bring a smile to Michelle Visage’s face? Jokes aside, Drag Race obviously packs in the laughs and the drama, but it’s also a reality show that takes you on an emotional journey – albeit a glorious, technicolour emotional journey.

6. Legally Blonde

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On the surface, Legally Blonde is a fairly standard romantic comedy, but there’s a reason it’s stood the test of time in the last 20 years. Yes, there are countless funny lines, it features a very cute dog and it’s fun to try and guess what Reese Witherspoon’s hair will look like from one scene to the next. But above all, Legally Blonde is a lesson in not judging a book by its cover and defying the odds, and it makes you feel good. Plus there’s the “bend and snap” scene, which is just iconic. 

7. Booksmart

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An absolutely hilarious comedy led by the fabulous Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Unbelievable), as two high-achieving teenagers who decide to cut loose, after spending their entire time at high school following the rules. Not only is it laugh-out-loud throughout (it’s definitely one for fans of Bridesmaids or The Hangover), the friendship at the centre of it all is brilliantly portrayed by its lead stars.

8. The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

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Arguably the ultimate 90s nostalgia trip, all six seasons of the Fresh Prince are streaming on Netflix. Expect plenty of Carlton dancing, questionable fashion choices and, of course, a mandatory rap-a-long every time the opening titles start. 

9. Grace And Frankie

Ali Goldstein/Netflix/Kobal/Shutterstock

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play two elderly women, themselves complete opposites, who become unlikely roommates and companions when their respective husbands announce that they are gay, and in a relationship. Not exactly a tough sell, is it? If that doesn’t entice you, how about the fact it’s from the same team as Friends and features guest appearances from Lisa Kudrow, RuPaul and Nicole Richie? Happy streaming.

10. Steel Magnolias

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Tissues at the ready for this quintessential late-80s treat, starring the incredible Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field and Olympia Dukakis as a team of Southern belles who all meet up at the same beauty salon to laugh and cry together. It’s also the breakout role of rising star Julia Roberts, who you may have seen in one or two films since. 

11. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

The CW

Come for the catchy musical numbers, fantastic and diverse cast and California sun. Stay for the sensitive depiction of mental illness and complicated female friendships. There’s no show really like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and if you’re a fan of musical theatre who hasn’t checked it out yet, we implore you to dive in if you’re among those who suddenly have a lot of time on their hands.

12. Easy A

Moviestore/Shutterstock

There’s a lot we could say about how clever and subversive and hilarious Easy A is, but we could just say… Emma Stone! Stanley Tucci! Patricia Clarkson! Penn Badgley! Lisa Kudrow! Amanda Bynes! Emma Stone again because she’s just that good! A teen drama with a brilliant message that’s also full of laughs around every scene, if you’ve officially exhausted Mean Girls, this is definitely worth checking out. 

13. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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And while we’re on the subject of teen dramas, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is like Gen Z’s version of a John Hughes film. Lana Condor is absolutely adorable as leading lady Lara Jean, while Noah Centieno is… well he’s Noah Centieno, surely that’s enough? Plus, if the Subway product placement doesn’t throw you off, there’s also a sequel, which debuted earlier in 2020.

14. Instant Hotel

Netflix

If you need some relief from the constant news cycle, then a bit of Aussie sun could be just what you need. Instant Hotel is essentially a Four In A Bed or Come Dine With Me-type show but for five couples who each run AirBnBs all over Australia. After staying at each other’s properties, they then rate them on a variety of criteria, meaning we as viewers get to enjoy poking around some fabulous properties while also watching people competitively slagging them all off.

15. Absolutely Fabulous

BBC

If ever there were a time to allow Edina and Patsy to take you over to the dark (yet Absolutely Fabulous) side, this would be it. Netflix has five series and four stand-alone specials available for streaming so pop a bottle of bolly and get comfortable, sweetie darling.

16. Dumplin’

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Let’s face it, before the likes of Roma, Marriage Story and Uncut Gems came along, Netflix didn’t always get it right when it came to their original films. But with Dumplin’, they pulled off something brilliant. We could talk about this film at length, but we’ll keep it short and sweet, and say it includes drag queens, Jennifer Aniston and a Dolly Parton-heavy soundtrack. You’re welcome.

17. Spirited Away

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Not only is this film critically acclaimed (it holds an impressive 97% on review site Rotten Tomatoes, something not many animated films can boast) and totally groundbreaking (it remains the only non-English-language film to have won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars), it’s also just really, really lovely. Spirited Away looks beautiful, and has a coming-of-age story that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, at the very least, if not a tear to your eye.

18. Nailed It!

Netflix

Essentially it’s the Great British Bake Off, but for contestants who can’t actually bake. Expect lots of rubbish cakes, which are sometimes more show-stopping than actual Bake Off successes, but it’s all in good fun. And if that’s not enough, the show is worth watching for the always-enthusiastic host Nicole Byer alone.

19. Maniac

Netflix

Considering it was headed by Oscar nominee Jonah Hill and Oscar winner Emma Stone, we were surprised at just how little impact the miniseries Maniac actually had when it debuted in 2018. Although it’s not always the most chipper of shows, it’s so unique in its styling, effortlessly mixing futurism and nostalgia while bouncing from Lord Of The Rings-esque fantasy sequences to crime noir in the space of one scene, that it’s perfect should you want to zone out from the real world for a while.

20. Burlesque

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Not the most high-brow entry on this list (even if the final act does bizarrely descend into a row about planning rights), but when you’re dealing with a film that stars Cher as the leader of a burlesque house, also starring Christina Aguilera in the lead role, who cares? And trust us, when you get to the Welcome To Burlesque number and think you’ve reached peak Cher, then hang on, because there’s a power ballad 11 o’clock number just around the corner...

21. Mariah Carey’s Merriest Christmas

Hallmark

There’s escapism and then… well, then there’s this. But when things in the world are looking bleak, sometimes you need to bring out the big guns. And by that we, of course, mean a Mariah Carey Christmas special.