Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender is an unfulfilling remake – watch these 5 exciting fantasy shows instead

Aang prepares to do battle on a snow-filled field in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender
Netflix's live-action remake has divided fans and critics. (Image credit: Robert Falconer/Netflix)

After its unexpected success with the iconic manga/anime One Piece adaptation, it's back down to Earth with a bump for Netflix in the live-action remake space.

Indeed, Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender – the streaming giant's latest take on a beloved animated series – has divided fans and critics alike. At the time of writing, critical reviews for the show are mixed, with Netflix's retelling holding a 59% score on popular review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes (RT). General viewers have enjoyed it far more, though, with Avatar sitting pretty on a more positive 75% rating.

Like many critics, we weren't particularly impressed by Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender. In our review, we called it a "gutsy but frustrating remake that blows hot and cold", so we can't say it's an unmissable slice of television. The following similarly positioned shows, though, are all must-sees, so stick one of these five fantasy series on Netflix instead of the streamer's latest big-budget offering.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Seasons: 3
RT score: 100% (critics); 98% (audience)

Widely considered one of the best anime of all time, Avatar: The Last Airbender's original series, which initially aired on Nickelodeon, is a stunningly animated and emotional roller coaster of a TV series.

Michael Dante DiMartino and Brian Konietzko's TV show tells the same story as Netflix's remake – Aang, the 12-year-old sole survivor of the Air Nomads and latest reincarnation of the all-powerful Avatar, must reluctantly accept his destiny and stop the tyrannical Fire Nation from ruling over its fellow nations.

That brief story synopsis, however, doesn't do justice to how epic the Avatar animated series is. It's funny, heart-wrenching, action-packed and filled with compelling characters who evolve as the series progresses. It also tackles difficult themes (genocide, imperialism, and death, to name just three) often overlooked in programs aimed at kids. A rare breed of anime-style show, it's as terrific now as it was in 2005.

Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender is also available on Paramount Plus (US, UK, and Australia) and Prime Video (US and UK), and Sky (UK).


Seasons: 4
RT Score: 94% (critics); 89% (audience)

Based on Konami's beloved 2D side-scrolling dark fantasy horror games of the same name, Castlevania is an R-rated animated show that deserves far more attention than it had during its four-season run on the world's best streaming service.

Trevor Belmont, the last living member of a once-feared and legendary family of monster hunters, joins forces with magician Sypha Belnades and Alucard – the son of Dracula – to fight the iconic vampire lord and his undead army and free the nation of Wallachia from Dracula's dictatorial rule.

Netflix's Castlevania plays a little fast and loose with its source material – primarily Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness – but it weaves the stories in Konami's games into a highly entertaining, gore-laced package that's devilishly delightful to watch. The spin-off series Castlevania: Nocturne is equally brilliant, too.

One Piece

Seasons: 1
RT score:
85% (critics); 95% (audience)

The only one of Netflix's three live-action remakes of iconic anime – the others being Cowboy Bebop and the aforementioned AvatarOne Piece is a largely faithful adaptation that captures the charming essence of its animated and manga namesakes.

It tells the story of Monkey D. Luffy, an enthusiastic, big-hearted pirate who dreams of becoming King of the Pirates. Alongside his eclectic crew (collectively known as the Straw Hats), Monkey embarks on a globe-trotting mission to find the titular One Piece, a fabled treasure that would help him achieve his goal.

Netflix's One Piece was king of the streaming high seas after its first season sailed to the number one spot on the streamer's TV charts in August 2023. Given its unprecedented success, it didn't take long for Netflix to greenlight a second season of One Piece, either. You can read up on everything we know about it in our One Piece season 2 guide. You know, once you've watched its eight-part first installment.

Six seasons of One Piece's anime series are also available to stream on Netflix (US and Australia). Various other seasons are viewable on Hulu and Pluto TV (US), and Crunchyroll (US, UK, and Australia).

The Sandman

Seasons: 1
RT score: 88% (critics); 80% (audience)

It took 35 years for Neil Gaiman's legendary, mind-bending, and creatively assembled graphic novel series to finally get a live-action adaptation befitting its source material. That's exactly what happened in mid-2022, though, with the arrival of The Sandman season 1 on Netflix.

Gaiman's seminal works follow Morpheus (also known as Dream), one of the seven immortal beings known collectively as the Endless, whose kingdom falls into disrepair when he's unexpectedly captured by a cult in 1916. When he finally breaks out over a century later, Morpheus sets about rebuilding his realm, but there are many obstacles standing in his path before he can fulfill his *ahem* dream.

In our review of The Sandman season 1, we called it a "remarkably authentic adaptation that's oh-so-nearly brilliant". It's packed with big-brain ideas and philosophical conundrums that can be a tad off-putting and might confuse you. Mostly, however, The Sandman is a fantastic fantasy series that deserves its spot on our best Netflix shows list. Read up on what we know about The Sandman season 2 once you've streamed it.

Shadow and Bone

Seasons: 2
RT score: 84% (critics and audience)

Despite its unceremonious cancellation after two seasons – an ongoing fan campaign isn't pure fantasy, even four months after the show was dumped – Shadow and Bone is a fun-filled young adult fantasy that's less high-brow than The Sandman.

Its first season introduced audiences to Alina Starkov, a seemingly ordinary cartographer who's unearthed as the Grishaverse's new Sun Summoner, a rare breed of Grisha (this universe's word for magicians) who can create light and battle dark forces across the world. Essentially, she's like The Last Airbender's Aang, aka a character who reluctantly accepts the thankless task of being her world's savior.

In our season 1 review of Shadow and Bone, we suggested it was "a faithful fantasy TV adaptation to rival The Witcher". Unfortunately, Shadow and Bone season 2 couldn't live up to the lofty expectations set by its forebear – indeed, we called it "a magic-fuelled mishmash" – which no doubt led to Netflix pulling the plug instead of renewing it for a third outing. Still, based on its RT scores, it's worth checking out.

For Netflix TV show-based coverage, read our guides on Arcane season 2, Stranger Things season 5, Wednesday season 2, and Cobra Kai season 6.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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