This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest shows to leave and enter Amazon Prime. *New additions are indicated by an asterisk.
So you probably paid for Amazon Prime for the free shipping and exclusive sales, and now you’re wondering what you could get out of its streaming service, too. We’ve already highlighted the 100 best movies that can be streamed free with your Prime subscription, but maybe you’re in the mood for a TV show? Amazon Prime has a growing catalogue of original series, including shows that have already won Emmys, and it has the most robust catalogue of HBO hits of any streaming service. You’ll find a healthy sampling of both in this regularly updated feature, along with some network-TV classics you may have forgotten or missed the first time around. Happy streaming.
There’s a nice array of FX programming on Amazon Prime, and this is arguably the network’s best program in its esteemed history. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star as Russian spies living like normal ’80s suburbanites, but what first seemed like a straightforward espionage thriller became a rich, nuanced commentary on family and trust. When lists are released of the best programs of the 2010s on any network or streaming service, this will be on most of them.
American Horror Story
The multiple seasons of FX’s hit show have been a rollercoaster in terms of quality but just strap in and enjoy the ride. The latest outing (Apocalypse) isn’t quite on here yet but should be before the newest iteration (1984) premieres in September. The other seven are all here. Start with Murder House, of course, which is still the best of the seven seasons, but almost all of them have interesting beats, especially the underrated 2017 outing Cult.
Television doesn’t get more addictively watchable than this Showtime smash hit, whose first few seasons are now available on Amazon Prime. Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti star in a story of power players who navigate the shark-filled waters of big business and the New York legal scene. It’s a wonderful ensemble piece with razor-sharp dialogue and plotting.
There aren’t nearly as many great original Amazon Prime shows on this list as there are great original Netflix shows on the list we’ve dedicated to that streaming giant. Still, we had to make room for the always-reliable Bosch, an old-fashioned detective drama with a charismatic lead performance from Titus Welliver, who transcends the stale anti-hero setup to do something that feels grounded and subtle.
One of Amazon’s most interesting original programs for 2019 is this satire of superhero culture based on the graphic novel by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The series stars Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, someone intent on bringing down the collection of the most famous superheroes in the world known as The Seven. The dark comedy asks the question: What if superheroes were sociopaths? The first season is a bit rocky, but ultimately satisfying, and it’s already been renewed for year two.
Created by and starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, this British hit is one of the few relationship comedies that feels genuine. Horgan and Delaney are charming and believable as a couple who end up parents after they have a fling while he is on a business trip. A nominee for BAFTA, Peabody, and Emmy Awards, this is one of the most acclaimed comedies of the ‘10s.
J.K. Simmons stars in this sci-fi drama about a man who discovers that there’s an alternate universe, just under our own, and people in power have been accessing it for years. He discovers this when he meets his counterpart, an alternate version of himself who just happens to be a trained operative. Imagine realizing how different you could have been. It’s smart TV that was sadly canceled after only two seasons.
At the peak of the anti-hero, Showtime gave us one for the ages: Dexter Morgan, a serial killer with a code. Played by Michael C. Hall, Dexter is a Florida man who feeds his urge to kill by making sure those he dispatches deserve to die. There’s some bumpy ground over the show’s entire run, but Hall is excellent from the unforgettable premiere to the divisive finale, which is apparently now getting a do-over with a reboot in the works.
You know how when a show is canceled, and its fans rally with online petitions and angry tweets to save it? Every once in a long while, it actually works! When SyFy canceled this adaptation of James S. A. Corey’s books after three seasons, Amazon picked it up, and a fourth season premiered in December of last year. Catch up with a smart sci-fi show that owes a great deal to Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, and some of the best of the Star Trek universe.
Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan star in this Irish crime drama as a detective and serial killer, respectively. That’s really all you need to know because the brilliance of this series is in how carefully and cleverly it unfolds. As of now, it’s only 17 episodes, so you can watch it all relatively quickly, and then keep hoping that creator Allan Cubitt fulfills his promise to return to this story eventually.
The best original series yet produced by Amazon Prime, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy went from good to great in its masterful second season, one of the best things you can watch on any service or any network. PWB plays the title character, a modern woman looking for stability in a tumultuous life, but that makes Fleabag sound like just another generic comedy when it’s anything but. Just see for yourself.
Maya Rudolph does arguably the best work of her career in this fantasy-comedy opposite her SNL colleague Fred Armisen. It’s a show that works best if you nothing about it going in, but let’s just say that it’s about the possibility of really spending the rest of eternity with the same person. It’s smart and poignant in ways TV isn’t often allowed to be. So, of course, it was cancelled after one season.
Billy Bob Thornton headlines an eccentric legal drama that has had a revolving door of fantastic guest stars over its three-season run, including William Hurt, Maria Bello, Mark Duplass, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dennis Quaid, and Beau Bridges. Some of the plotlines don’t make a lot of sense, but it’s a great vehicle for Thornton, who has done consistently entertaining work over three seasons now.
It took almost three decades for Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s beloved fantasy novel to be adapted to the big or small screen, after several aborted attempts to do so, but it may have been worth the wait just to have Michael Sheen and David Tennant in the shoes of the angelic Aziraphale and the demonic Crowley. They’re the main reason to watch this spotty, six-episode adaptation that ambitiously tackles the source material with clever gusto.
Julia Roberts and Stephan James headline one of the most daring original shows on Amazon Prime, this thriller-drama about memory, conspiracy, and connection. Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) directs this adaptation of the hit podcast about a social worker played brilliantly by Roberts. She’s the head of a project designed to help soldiers reacclimate to civilian life, but there’s something suspicious going on. Bobby Cannavale and Shea Whigham give wonderful supporting performances. Janelle Monae, Hong Chau, and Chris Cooper star in season two.
No offense to the ensemble of this Fox hit, which was pretty solid, but this is one of those network shows that lived and died on the strength of its charismatic leading man. In this case, it was Hugh Laurie, as Dr. House, the smartest man in any room and someone not afraid to wield his intelligence like a weapon. At a time when it felt like there were no new stories to tell in the medical-drama subgenre, House proved that theory wrong.
How I Met Your Mother
Hulu may have the reboot in How I Met Your Father, but you can watch the beloved comedy original on Prime Video with over 200 episodes of this hit CBS comedy. One of the best Friends mimics, this ensemble relationship comedy stars Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan, and Cristin Milioti.
Al Pacino stars in one of the most daring shows on any streaming service, a period piece about Nazi hunters that owes more to Quentin Tarantino than actual history. Controversially violent, this is a grindhouse slice of Americana, an action-drama about men and women hunting down some of the worst people that ever lived and giving them what they deserve.
*I Love Dick
People have come to recognize Kathryn Hahn as an incredible talent after dramas like Private Life and through the Emmy-nominated success of WandaVision, but new fans should check out her work in the one-season wonder from 2017. A Prime Video original, I Love Dick also features a wonderful turn from the consistently underrated Kevin Bacon, who becomes the object of obsession for Hahn’s NYC transplant to the artistic community of Marfa, Texas.
I Love Lucy
There’s an odd obsession with Lucille Ball over at Prime Video, as they’ve launched the awards season hit Being the Ricardos and will premiere a doc about Ball and Desi Arnaz in March called Lucy and Desi (directed by Amy Poehler). Why not refresh with the show that started it all?
Do you like raunchy teen humor with a Brit bent? Don’t sleep on this excellent coming-of-age sitcom that aired on E4 from 2008 to 2010 (before a spin-off movie and sequel). It’s your standard teen boy comedy — four guys trying to get by and get laid — but it’s done with a good amount of heart and clever dialogue. It’s the rare teen comedy that was very critically acclaimed and nominated by BAFTA for Best Situation Comedy both years it aired in the U.K.
Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) adapted his own comic book into one of Amazon Prime’s best original shows, an animated series that subverts the expectations of the genre in fresh, unpredictable ways. Steven Yeun expertly voices the son of the most famous superhero in this world (J.K. Simmons), but he has no idea that dad harbors a deadly secret.
What do Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, and John Kraskinski have in common? They’ve all played this iconic Tom Clancy character. In fact, the former star of The Office is the current JR, reimagined as a bit more of an intellectual hero than one of pure heroic brawn. Co-created by Carlton Cuse of Lost fame, this is smart spy television for adults, including great production values and on-location shooting.
The Kids in the Hall
One of the best sketch comedy shows of all time ran from 1989 to 1995 on the CBC in Canada before really finding a loyal audience in repeats on HBO and Comedy Central. The “Kids” are Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson — all so brilliantly talented that you will have trouble picking your favorite.
Amazon Prime is a bit behind Netflix when it comes to the true-crime docu-series, as its main competition seems to spew out another one every other week. But Amazon Prime has arguably the best one in this searing, fascinating look at the story of Lorena Bobbit, the woman who became internationally recognized after severing her husband’s penis. You may think you know this story. You really don’t.
Mad About You
One of the most beloved shows of the ‘90s, NBC’s Mad About You won a dozen Emmys over the course of its original run (ignore the limp reboot in 2019). Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are marvelous in this very traditional sitcom about a married couple in New York City. It may not be groundbreaking, but it’s comforting, old-fashioned comedy television. Sometimes that’s all you want.
The Man in the High Castle
Now that this loose adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story has completed its four-season run, you can sort of watch it like a 40-hour movie. So many shows hook you without any promise of a resolution, but Man in the High Castle does legitimately wrap up a lot of its loose ends while ending ambiguously enough to make Dick fans happy. And Rufus Sewell gives arguably the most underrated performance on TV of the 2010s.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Amazon Prime’s Emmy winner for Best Original Comedy Series has become a beloved property in an incredibly short amount of time. It’s easy to see why. Rachel Brosnahan gives a delightful, charming performance as the title character, an unexpectedly great stand-up comedian, but it’s the ensemble that really elevates this show, including Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, and Marin Hinkle — all Emmy worthy in their own right.
It doesn’t get the attention of highbrow prestige TV, but USA Network’s Monk is one of the most essential shows of its era, one that redefined the entire network on which it aired. There’s no Suits, White Collar, Burn Notice, and so forth without the adventure of Adrian Monk, played unforgettably by Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub. It’s just a fun mystery-of-the-week series, anchored by one of its era’s best actors doing a riff on classic crime solvers like Columbo.
It lost some of its spark over the years, but there was something worth watching in all four seasons of USA’s hit show, and the first three are now available on Prime (you can buy the fourth, as of this writing). Rami Malek plays a hacker named Elliot, who is recruited to join an elite group of tech revolutionaries, and, well…things get weird. You should definitely check out at least the first season, an award winner that really stands on its own.
The Night Manager
AMC presented this adaptation of the hit novel by John le Carré, which was nominated for and won awards around the world, including two Emmys and three Golden Globes. It’s a story of international intrigue and betrayal, starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Holllander, and Elizabeth Debicki. And it’s a self-contained story, the perfect thing to binge on a weekend on Amazon Prime.
Two living legends anchor this sci-fi drama with a human center. J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek play a couple who happen to have a portal in their backyard that goes to a viewing room on a distant planet. They travel there to chat and stare at a sky other than Earth’s. The first season can be a little scattered but the performances from the two Oscar winners keep it emotionally engaging.
Brian Watkins created an odd hybrid of Western storytelling and sci-fi elements with Outer Range. The great Josh Brolin plays a Wyoming rancher who is struggling to hold his family together when he finds, well, something unexplainable on his property. A blend of old-fashioned family drama with something closer to LOST, Watkins’ series is one of the most fascinating shows currently on any streaming service.
Lauren Oliver created and wrote this YA series based on her 2014 novel of the same name, and it’s an effective and unique coming-of-age tale. In a small town in America, recent graduated participate in a game called Panic, a series of increasingly intense games that will net the overall winner $50k.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
Imagine an anthology series like The Twilight Zone that works exclusively from short stories by the master of science fiction, Philip K. Dick. Like all anthology series, the results are hit and miss, but the hits are strong, especially a stunning piece of work called “The Commuter” starring Timothy Spall. It’s one of the best things you could watch on any streaming service, directed by Tom Harper (Wild Rose, The Aeronauts).
James Roday and Dule Hill star in this massive USA Network hit that ran for nine seasons before a spin-off movie (and another one to come on the launching Peacock streaming service in July). Roday plays a man with such a good memory that he can basically convince people he has psychic powers. Clever and funny, it twisted the mystery-of-the-week formula away from the grisly trend of shows like CSI to something fun again.
Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green produced this Amazon original that ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2017. It’s a simple coming-of-age comedy about a kid growing up in New Jersey in the mid-‘80s, but it’s smarter than its description might lead you to believe. Set mostly at the Red Oaks country club, it examines adolescence in the ‘80s in a way that transcends pure nostalgia and feels genuine instead.
*The Red Road
Before he played Aquaman, Jason Momoa had an interesting career in television. Of course, everyone remembers Game of Thrones, but he flexed more dramatic muscle in a 2014 series that first aired on Sundance TV. Martin Henderson (X) plays a police officer with serious baggage who crosses paths with Momoa’s character in a thriller that also co-stars the great Julianne Nicholson, Tom Sizemore, and Lisa Bonet.
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner returned to the form of television with a 2018 anthology series that divided audiences and critics. It’s a series that features a different cast and narrative every episode, playing out more like a series of short films about privilege and family. Some of them don’t work, but there are stand-outs, and the ensemble is uniformly fantastic.
Some of the films in this series are on our movie list but the whole anthology deserves a spot here too, especially as Amazon Prime is seeking Emmy recognition for the 5-film series. Whatever one calls Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s accomplishment here is one of the most essential streaming offerings anywhere. It consists of five geographically connected but distinct films, starring John Boyega, Letitia Wright, and many more.
Giovanni Ribisi headlines this three-season Amazon original as a man who decides to take the identity of his cellmate after being released from prison. He kind of learns the hard way that he picked the wrong guy to pretend to be. The supporting cast includes phenomenal actors like Peter Gerety, Jane Adams, Margo Martindale, and Bryan Cranston, who co-created this edgy dark comedy/thriller.
Tales from the Loop
This show is almost impossible to describe in a blurb. It’s a sci-fi show that plays more like a drama, centering on the people who live in a small Ohio town that also happens to house a mysterious underground facility. Rebecca Hall is phenomenal but let’s take a minute to list some of the behind-the-scenes talent, including directors Mark Romanek, Andrew Stanton, Ti West, and Jodie Foster. Oh, there’s also a gorgeous all-new Philip Glass score. Yeah, you need to watch this now. It’s one of the best shows of 2020 anywhere.
Who would have guessed that MTV could turn a beloved Michael J. Fox teen comedy into a dark series in the 2010s? And that it would run for 100 episodes? Very loosely based on the original film, this is the story of a young man who is bitten by a werewolf, and how he then has to keep his supernatural secret while also living the life of a normal teenager. Listen, this probably only exists because of the success of Twilight, but it moved from that shadow to develop a loyal fan base of its own. Check it out and find out why.
*Too Old to Die Young
Prime Video subscribers didn’t really know what to do with Nicolas Winding Refn’s crazy miniseries when it premiered in 2019. Starring Miles Teller, it’s a Lynchian tale of a police officer who ends up working in the criminal underworld. Maybe. Sorta. It’s really an exercise in style from the director of Drive and The Neon Demon that’s like nothing else on Prime.
The Underground Railroad
Barry Jenkins wrote and directed the television event of 2021, a highly acclaimed adaptation of the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. Thuso Mbedu plays Cora Randall, an escaped Georgian slave that viewers follow through the center of the country, chased by a vicious slave catcher played by Joel Edgerton. Alternatingly lyrical and brutal, this is a must-see.
There’s not enough formal experimentalism on streaming services, which really should be free to take more risks than they do. That’s one of the reasons this animated drama is never leaving this list – because there’s nothing else like it. The story of a woman investigating her own past and mental illness is rotoscoped animation (like Waking Life) and the form allows visual ingenuity that feeds the emotion of the plot. Be patient with it. It starts slowly, but really comes together.
A Very English Scandal
Amazon Prime doesn’t have as many standout miniseries as some of the other streaming giants, but it has one of the best in this dark comedy about one of London’s most notorious political scandals. The BBC One co-production details the saga of Jeremy Thorpe, unforgettably played by Hugh Grant, and how he tried to have his lover murdered. Ben Whishaw matches Grant in the acting department, and the direction by Stephen Frears and writing by Russell T. Davies are both award worthy.
Yes, the plotting on this British series can be a little clunky and ridiculous, but the great Kate Beckinsale keeps it grounded and interesting. Watch it for her turn as Georgia Wells, a woman who sees a news story about a riot in the Congo and spots what she thinks is her husband in the footage. The small problem is that her husband died in a plane crash three years ago. She travels to the war-torn area to find the truth.
The elevator pitch is simple: “LOST with teenage girls.” But this series rises above that simplicity with sharp, nuanced writing and great performances from a cast of future stars. It’s the story of a plane full of teen girls headed to a retreat that crashes on a deserted island. As the girls figure out how to survive, they discover that they may not have ended up there by accident.
The international production found a loyal audience and critical acclaim after it premiered in 2020. It’s an ambitious, multi-layered piece that examines the cocaine drug trade across multiple plots (and featuring the great acting trio of Andrea Riseborough, Dane DeHaan, and Gabriel Byrne), spread across the world.