In 2018, Google split its YouTube Red subscription service into two standalone offerings: YouTube Music and YouTube Premium.
The YouTube Premium service offers ad-free videos, offline viewing, background playback, all of the YouTube Music features and access to YouTube Originals.
What Are YouTube Originals?
Much like Netflix and Amazon, YouTube has started creating its own exclusive content. All of this content is available under the YouTube Originals moniker.
The shows and movies straddle a wide range of genres and a mix of well-known actors and famous YouTubers. All of the shows are available in any market in which YouTube Premium is available, and they are viewable on all your devices.
To help you get started sorting the wheat from the chaff, here are the best YouTube Originals that you can watch right now.
1. Cobra Kai
Cobra Kai is perhaps the most well-known YouTube Original. The storyline uses the four Karate Kid movies as inspiration.
Taking place 34 years after the first film, the 10-part series follows the reopening of the Cobra Kai karate dojo and the rekindling of the rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence.
Actors Ralph Macchio (LaRusso) and William Zabka (Lawrence) both return to reprise their original roles.
A second season will be available in 2019.
Step Up: High Water is another YouTube Original that draws heavily on a movie franchise.
For those who aren’t aware, there were five Step Up films released between 2006 and 2014. They fall into the dance drama genre.
The YouTube show tells the story of twins Tal (Petrice Jones) and Janelle (Lauryn McClain) as they are forced to relocate to Atlanta due to a family crisis. Once they arrive in their new home, they join a free performing arts school run by Sage Odom (Ne-Yo). It’s described as the most cutthroat school in the city.
You can expect lots of music, lots of comedy, and lots of dark moments across the 10 episodes.
The series’ breakout star, Channing Tatum, serves as an executive producer on the YouTube show.
What do you get if you place a group of documentary makers in a city with millions of stray cats? The answer is Kedi. It’s the first movie on our list.
It tracks the lives of seven strays in Istanbul. With a healthy dose of melancholic music and a voiceover that’s sure to pull on your heartstrings, it’s a must-watch for cat lovers.
Created by comedy duo Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, this absurdist comedy show was arguably the first YouTube Original that became popular with a mainstream audience.
When it launched in early 2017, demand was for the show was higher than demand for several big-hitting series from other streaming providers, including Orange is the New Black, Santa Clarita Diet, The Grand Tour, and The Man In the High Castle.
The story follows the lives of Rhett and Link (playing themselves) as they seek to regain control of their morning chat show from a mutual ex-girlfriend.
If you like Felix Kjellberg’s style of content, you’ll enjoy Scare PewDiePie. The series sees the YouTube star put himself into reality-based horror setups.
We reviewed Scare PewDiePie when YouTube Red first launched, giving it a score of 7/10. Our biggest complaint was the seemingly scripted reactions, but we still found it largely enjoyable.
There’s only one season of 10 episodes. The second season was canceled before its release in 2017 after YouTube decided Kjellberg was too divisive a figure to promote in such a way. However, he’s still the most popular YouTuber going by number of subscribers.
Youth and Consequences ticks all the usual boxes for a teenage high school drama.
There’s the school queen struggling to hold on to her status, the ensemble of bullies making crude remarks about everything from sexuality to social class, the ongoing web of love interests, the cliques, and every other high school stereotype you can think of.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but after its release in March 2018 it quickly shot up to the top of YouTube’s most popular shows.
The first season contains eight episodes. There’s been no official word on a second season.
The Keys of Christmas is the second YouTube Original movie on the list. It offers a modern take on the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.
The film enjoys an all-star cast, with Mariah Carey, DJ Khaled, Ciara, Fifth Harmony, Rudy Mancuso, Melanie Iglesias, and Mike Tyson all playing significant roles.
DJ Khaled and Mariah Carey are the do-gooders; they transport YouTube star Mancuso into a winter wonderland in an attempt to teach him about the true meaning of Christmas.
It’s certainly not a classic film, but it’s a fun and welcome addition to the list of Christmas movies worth streaming.
Lifeline takes us into the world of science fiction. The two main protagonists, Conner (Zach Gilford) and Haley (Amanda Crew) work for an insurance firm that has the ability to time travel.
Using their powers, Conner and Haley try to predict their clients’ death by traveling 33 days into the future. They then return to the present day and try to prevent the deaths from occurring.
In some respects, the show feels like Black Mirror. Some of the sub-plots, such as the duo’s slower aging process due to their time travel, are explored in more detail in later episodes.
The series runs for eight episodes. Unfortunately, YouTube has already confirmed that there will not be a season two.
9. Mind Field
Fans of Michael Stevens’ Vsauce channel will be instantly familiar with the premise of Mind Field. The episodes use a documentary-style format, with Stevens discussing various aspects of human behavior.
Each episode contains an experiment which links to the theme of the video. Sometimes Stevens performs the experiment on himself. On other occasions, he uses guests or test subjects.
Experiments have included three days of solitary confinement to test the effect on the brain, making people angry and giving them things to smash up, and asking a group of people to incorrectly answer a question in front of one unwitting participant to test the power of conformity.
10. Single by 30
Single by 30 is a romantic comedy series. Set in Los Angeles, the show starts with two high school students who make a pact to go to the senior dance together if they cannot find a date.
In the aftermath of the dance, they make another pact: They will marry each other if they are both still single by the time they hit 30.
Predictably, they lose touch with each other. But as they approach their 30th birthdays, they reunite after the breakdown of their long-term relationships. They choose to reinstate the old pact, with the series focusing on their feelings for each other as they re-enter the dating world.
Is YouTube Premium Worth the Money?
All these shows are only available to YouTube Premium subscribers. However, some people still might not see the value in subscribing to yet another streaming service.
To help you decide, see our coverage of whether YouTube Premium is worth it and what to know about it. (YouTube Music subscribers can upgrade to YouTube Premium for just $2/month.)