The Best YouTube Premium Originals

YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) has been producing originals for three years now, since its debut in late 2015. A YouTube Premium subscription not only gives you access to a library of original TV and movies, but you also get an ad-free YouTube experience, the ability to download and play YouTube videos in the background while on other apps, and as access to their newly relaunched music service.

It seemed like the perfect idea at first, to have YouTube pay their stars to create original content. Logan Paul aside, there have been notable, positive contributions produced by the streaming giant, including This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, a landmark documentary about a famous YouTuber who chronicled her gender affirmation on the site. A logical extension of YouTube vlogs, this documentary represents the best of YouTube, a site where AutoTune remixes of people were once considered the height of entertainment.

YouTube Premium has yet to have a major hit, and many people are still unaware of the service, but hopefully that will change soon, with YouTube teaming up with bigger creators like Jordan Peele. There are a number of great under the radar originals available on the platform. Here are the best YouTube Premium movies and television shows.

Bodied

Year: 2018
Director: Joseph Kahn
Stars: Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Rory Uphold

A bizarre mix of 8 Mile and Dear White People (and notably produced by Eminem), Bodied is the sophomore feature of famed music video director Joseph Kahn and the most audacious film released by YouTube yet. Kahn is best known for directing some of the most iconic pop videos of the past two decades, including the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” Britney Spear’s “Toxic,” every Taylor Swift video since “Blank Space,” and many, many more. His kinetic music video style translates into a very singular hyperactive style present in Bodied. The movie follows privileged white grad student Adam (Calum Worthy) as he studies battle rap for his thesis and discovers that he has an incredible talent for it, in all of its offensiveness. Bodied is essentially a treatise on identity politics, touching on cultural appropriation, slurs, and code-switching in hilarious, irreverent fashion. The battle rap sequences are shot right out of one of Khan’s music videos, in all their exhilarating action. Despite all of the offensive things you’ll hear in this movie (and you’ll hear a lot), the movie takes a refreshingly clear and vital position: you can ultimately say whatever you want, but people will rightfully hate you if you’re a jerk. —Andy Herrera

Cobra Kai

Year: 2018-present
Stars: William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Xolo Maridueña

YouTube Premium’s original series Cobra Kai is a pleasant surprise. Similar to how Creed follows the son of the titular rival of Rocky Balboa, Cobra Kai explores the story of Daniel LaRusso’s rival Johnny Lawrence from the original Karate Kid. Lawrence (William Zabka, reprising his role from the original) is a drunken, divorced loner constantly taunted by the success of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) who now runs the best car dealership in town. After witnessing a defenseless teenager get terrorized by bullies, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo from the original movie and teach karate to a new generation. Cobra Kai is a surprisingly emotional exploration into the character of Johnny, who’s been reevaluated as more of an antihero than a villain in the decades since the original Karate Kid, as he finally begins to grow and find a satisfying life purpose. —Andy Herrera

Dance Camp

Year: 2016
Director: Bert & Bertie
Stars: Nadji Jeter, Meg DeAngelis, Jake Paul

This was the first YouTube Original movie to ever be released, and although it is apparently aimed at a younger teenage crowd, it’s one of those classic “I found the love of my life at summer camp” kind of stories that is heartwarming for anyone who gives it a shot. Hunter isn’t very excited about being forced to dance all summer, but that all changes when he meets Cheyenne, and through the power of puppy love and dance, they attempt to beat a competing troupe at the camp’s competition. —Julia Pimentel

Ghostmates

Year: 2016
Director: Jack Henry Robbins
Stars: Ian Hecox, Anthony Padilla, Francesca Galassi, Cristina Spruell, T-Pain
 

When Charlie moves into a new place, he realizes that the last tenant, Eddie, who died while in the apartment, is a ghostand Charlie’s the only one who can see him. Eddie has some unfinished business on Earth with his girlfriend, who is kind of the reason he’s dead (not in the way you’re thinking though), so he needs Charlie’s help before his soul can rest and he can leave Earth. The best part? T-Pain is also dead (???) and is kind of like Eddie’s guardian angel. Watch out for T-Pain’s surprisingly great comedic timing and a well-placed Tupac joke. —Julia Pimentel

Kedi

Year: 2017
Director: Ceyda Torun
Stars: n/a

Can YouTube Premium content have reached its peak this early? Kedi, a documentary about Istanbul’s stray cats, certainly makes the case for peak YouTube Premium content. Following the lives of seven cats through the streets of the largest city in Turkey, this documentary appeals to the number one rule of the internet: Cute animals will always get attention. It might seem odd that these cats have titles like “The Gentleman” and “The Hustler,” and perhaps the melancholy violin music in the background of the trailer is overkill, but behind the drama lies a story of how these enchanting and intelligent animals help shape the unique and beautiful culture of an ancient city. After all, if, like the voiceover in the documentary trailer argues, cats “are aware of God’s existence,” then we all should begin to learn more about our potential feline overlords. —Julia Pimentel

The Keys of Christmas

Year: 2016
Director: Dave Meyers
Stars: Rudy Mancuso, Mariah Carey, DJ Khaled, Ciara, Melanie Iglesias

This isn’t your grandma’s Christmas special. Starring DJ Khaled and Mariah Carey, and with appearances from Ciara, Fifth Harmony, and more, this is a truly #millennial musical. Vine star and famous YouTuber Rudy Mancuso plays a big ol’ grinch who can’t stop hating on all the Christmas spirit when Mariah Carey of all people leads him into a magical alternate universe in which a bunch of different fantastical characters collaborate to show him the true meaning of Christmas. Don’t expect Oscar-winning performances or writing here, but you can certainly look forward to an inoffensive, potentially entertaining addition to your holiday movie round up, full of some of your favourite music stars pretending they can act. Bless up *praying hands emoji.* —Julia Pimentel

Lazer Team

Year: 2016
Director: Matt Hullum
Stars: Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Allie DeBerry, Colton Dunn

A ragtag team of small-town dorks randomly discover a legit alien spaceship complete with outer space battle gear and weapons. They are then tasked with saving the planet from an impending enemy, but they have to figure out how to use the damn alien machinery first. This is a lighthearted, easy-to-watch adventure movie calling on classic tropes of unexpected heroes and inner strength, featuring the guys from Rooster Teeth, the hugely popular gaming YouTube channel. —Julia Pimentel

The Thinning

Year: 2016
Director: Michael J. Gallagher
Stars: Logan Paul, Peyton List, Lia Marie Johnson, Calum Worthy, Ryan Newman

A new form of population control is introduced when, in a dystopian future in which the Earth’s resources are massively depleted, the planet can no longer support all of its own people. Only the smartest will survive; every individual’s intelligence is to be determined by a single standardized test, and those who do not achieve a certain grade will be eliminated. LOL, and you thought the SAT was hard. —Julia Pimentel

This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous

Year: 2017
Director: Barbara Kopple
Stars: n/a

Directed by Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple (American Dream, Harlan County U.S.A), This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous is a touching documentary about Gigi Lazzarato, a transgender woman who became famous on YouTube for her beauty tutorials as Gregory Lazzarato. She was a champion diver and was a shoe-in for the Olympics, but her heart wasn’t in it, and the documentary chronicles her journey of self-discovery and acceptance, which was also placed on display for her millions of YouTube followers in real-time. The film features interviews with Gigi’s family and also benefits from exclusive footage of Gigi’s many surgeries to provide a compelling and intimate view of a truly inspiring transformation. —Julia Pimentel