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The Ultimate Recipe for a Netflix Hit


Sunday, February 19

It's the question that has Netflix writers around the world scratching their chins, and consulting data-filled screens: what is it that makes a Netflix hit?

Perhaps there's an actual formula that, when applied, can cause something to become a hit? Or maybe it's all down to chance; an edit of a show happened to go viral on TikTok, or a film features a currently popular actor or actress.

Whatever the reason, there seem to be some definite do's and don'ts that, when followed, can increase the chances of something becoming a hit. As an avid Netflix watcher, I consider myself a good authority on what these do's and don'ts are. Without further ado, here's my list of what makes a Netflix hit.

Realistic Characters

An area where Netflix occasionally goes wrong is their lack of realistic characters. No one wants to watch a show or film where the characters are nothing like real-life people. When people watch television, they want to be sucked into the world of whatever they're watching - having unrealistic characters prevents this from happening, and can in turn decrease the chances of something becoming a hit. It is therefore crucial to have characters who viewers find authentic and convincing.

Creating realistic characters includes having dialogue that people would actually say and convincing character dynamics. For example, I would never come down to breakfast, ruffle my sister's hair and say "hey sis". Rather, have the character throw a muffin at their sister or have them scuffle for the television remote and I'll instantly be convinced that they're siblings.


Leading on from this, is casting. Actor choices are another crucial element that can make or break a Netflix creation. Audiences are generally perceptive and can tell if an actor has no investment in the role that they're playing. Having actors who genuinely like their role can in turn increase viewers' enjoyment of what they're watching, and improve the likelihood of a hit.

Having actors who actually look the age of the characters that they're playing is also important. It's doubtful anyone will find actors in their mid-twenties playing high schoolers convincing (looking at you, Riverdale).

Heartstopper is an example of a show whose casting choices make sense and improve audience enjoyment. The majority of the cast are of similar ages to the characters who they're playing, and if you watch any cast interviews or scroll through their social media, it's clear that the actors are genuinely passionate about their roles, something which is clear to see in their acting.


Perhaps a more subtle - but no less important - ingredient for a Netflix hit is a strong sense of atmosphere. Atmosphere is the mood or vibe that a show or film exudes. It can be created by music, setting and even outfit choices. Atmosphere is crucial; for something to be a hit, it is not enough for audiences to want to watch it - they want to feel it too.

A show that I would argue excels in creating a strong, evocative atmosphere is Netflix's Bridgerton. From its soundtrack which features instrumental pop songs, to the striking outfit choices, every last detail appears carefully thought out, resulting in a show that pulls viewers in and makes them unwilling to climb out again. The power of a compelling atmosphere is demonstrated by the fact that Bridgerton has recently been renewed for a third and fourth season due to the positive and enthusiastic response from viewers.

Strong Plot

Basic, but a necessity. Shows and films require a strong, coherent plot that viewers can easily understand. Less successful shows and films seem to meander along plots, or else introduce plotpoints that don't fit with what has already occurred. For example, the teen show Riverdale began as a crime drama that was well received by both critics and viewers. However, the show's later seasons have expanded to include supernatural themes such as superpowers; Archie develops superstrength, while Betty gains the ability to read auras, to name a few. This sudden change in direction has left many viewers bewildered, and unhappy with where the show has veered.

Having a strong, deliberate plot also allows for things like foreshadowing and Easter eggs that viewers will only notice upon re-watching a show or film. Such elements are often a point of discussion amongst viewers, and can make watching something that much more enjoyable.

Original Writing

Drop the cliches. Seriously. A show or film is never going to become popular if it's oversaturated with tropes and one-liners that have already been used a million times before. It will just make for a boring watch, and decrease the chances of it ever becoming a hit.

However, this is not to say that employing popular tropes is always a bad thing. If done correctly, they can actually draw viewers in. It's simply a matter of putting a new spin on them that will be refreshing for audiences to watch.

This is particularly well done in Netflix's 2022 film Do Revenge which stars Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke. While the film utilizes some classic tropes, such as a makeover scene and the uncool kid transforming into the popular girl, it puts its own spin on it that I will not be revealing due to spoilers. I was already finding the film enjoyable, but the sudden twist that came had me hooked, and cemented Do Revenge's position as one of my new favorite teen films.

So there you have it: my recipe for what makes a Netflix hit. Of course, there are other aspects that can make or break a Netflix film or show, but these are some of the elements that I would argue are non-negotiable, and I believe that getting these right can dramatically increase the chances of something becoming a hit. Netflix writers, take note!

Areesha Ahmed
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Areesha is a student from London. She enjoys going on long hikes, watching horror films and drinking tea. When she is not reading books, she is buying them.