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.
One of the best network comedies of all time has moved over to Amazon Prime so you can relive the glory days of Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, and the rest of the gang at 30 Rockefeller Center. Some of the humor is a bit dated now, but most of it still works, and it’s hard to find a better comedy ensemble in recent memory.
Who could have guessed that this ABC spy drama would have such an impact on the industry? It really launched not just Jennifer Garner but J.J. Abrams and a little supporting actor named Bradley Cooper. The show plays as well now as it did in the heart of the ‘00s, revealing not only that it was ahead of its time but how many pretenders inspired it in the years to follow.
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.
There may be no sports on TV in this spring, but there is Ken Burns’ incredibly detailed and loving ode to America’s pastime. Airing on PBS way back in 1994, this incredible document of the history of baseball runs for over 18 hours. It’s an exhaustive and riveting study of the entire breadth of a sport that really mirrored the American experience. As he so often does, Burns really hits it out of the park. (Sorry.)
Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who) created this spectacular fantasy series that aired in the UK from 2008-2013 and was broadcast stateside on BBC America. It’s like Three’s Company but with a ghost (Leonara Crichlow), werewolf (Russell Tovey), and vampire (Aidan Turner). It’s a clever series that reimagines classic monster archetypes for a modern world.
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.
Kelsey Grammer will always be best remembered for playing Frasier Crane, but he’s an underrated dramatic actor too. Just take a look at this dark anti-hero drama that aired on Starz in 2011 and 2012. Grammar plays Tom Kane, the mayor of Chicago, a power-hungry monster whose bad habits get out of control after he’s diagnosed with dementia. Connie Nielsen, Kathleen Robertson, and Martin Donovan co-star in a show that feels at times like a precursor to Succession.
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.
Effortlessly cool, this USA series ran from 2007 to 2013 and tells the story of Michael Westen, played by the underrated Jeffrey Donovan. As the narration in the opening credits makes clear, Westen has been burned, which means he’s former spy without an identity or a support structure. The series smartly mixes cases of the week with an overall story of who burned Michael and why. It also features great supporting work from Gabrielle Anwar, Sharon Gless, and Bruce Campbell.
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.
The charming Zachary Levi plays an average Geek Squad guy who becomes a super-spy when the entirety of the country’s greatest espionage secrets and techniques get downloaded into his brain. This NBC spy drama mixed a sharp sense of humor with stories of super spies and top-secret missions. Fans of this show really love Chuck. Maybe you’re one of them and you don’t even know it yet.
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.
*Escape at Dannemora
Ben Stiller produced this highly-acclaimed mini-series about the 2015 escape of two prisoners from a New York correctional facility. Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano are excellent as the convicts, but the series really belongs to Patricia Arquette as the woman they manipulate into helping facilitate their escape.
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.
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.
The Good Wife
Was CBS’s award winner the last great network-TV drama? This political-legal drama aired on CBS from 2009 to 2016 and barely registered in terms of ratings, which means you probably haven’t seen most of it. You should correct that oversight, then go and check out the spinoff The Good Fight on CBS All Access, which is arguably even better. Even CBS has moved its best programming to subscription services. It’s the future.
This NBC Friday night hit ran for six seasons and over 120 episodes! Of course, that long a run is hit and miss, but this is an underrated fantasy/mystery show overall. David Giuntoli stars as a Portland detective who learns that he’s a Grimm, the keeper of that thin line between the world as we know it and a realm of mythological creatures. The great Russell Hornsby co-stars.
It will never be easy to explain how something as daring, violent, and downright strange as Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of the world of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter made it to network television. For three seasons, NBC aired one of the most ambitious dramas in the history of TV. Mads Mikkelsen slid suavely into the giant shoes of Anthony Hopkins and made this character completely his own, but this was Fuller’s show most of all. One only hopes he someday gets the chance to revisit this world and make the fourth season, in which they had planned to introduce their take on Clarice Starling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you only know Idris Elba from The Wire, you only know part of his greatness. He’s even better here as DCI John Luther, a violent, obsessed cop who has looked into the dark side so many times that it has forever changed him. It’s simultaneously a great cop-mystery show and a fantastic character piece, anchored by a fearless performance from Elba.
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.
The first season of this BBC/Starz anthology series is a stunner, one of the most moving and captivating mystery seasons of the 2010s. James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor play the parents of a boy who goes missing in a case that recalls the disappearance of Madeline McCann in its frustrating inconsistencies. An investigator played by Tcheky Karyo bridges the two seasons.
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.
*The Office (U.K.)
It may not be the beloved NBC remake, but the original Ricky Gervais hit that spawned that show is on Amazon Prime for you to see where it all began. Gervais and Stephen Merchant redefined awkward cringe comedy with this worldwide success, a show that not only led to the beloved remake but inspired almost every workplace comedy to follow.
There are two kinds of people: Those who think Tatiana Maslany is an incredible actress and those who have never seen Orphan Black. It’s impossible not to be wowed by what Maslany accomplished over the five seasons of this show, really giving multiple performances instead of just one. It’s a modern sci-fi classic that feels like it will only grow in popularity as new viewers find it on services like Amazon Prime.
Parks and Recreation
If The Office has a challenger in the department of best modern network workplace comedies, it’s this brilliant program, a show that took a few seasons to really find its groove but then never looked back. By season three, when Rob Lowe and Adam Scott are on the show and the writers have learned how to write for their amazing ensemble, this was one of the funniest shows on TV. We still miss it.
*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.
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.
Don’t start yelling at us — we’re not dumb enough to pick a favorite and so we’re just bundling all the current Star Trek offerings on Amazon into this one entry. The truth is you could spend DAYS watching just Star Trek episodes on Amazon. It has the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. Why not watch ’em all and pick your favorite? We’re too scared.
Another USA hit! There are a bunch of them on Amazon Prime. And this is another one that ran forever. Okay, not forever, but nine seasons and pretty much the entirety of the 2010s. It’s the story of a college dropout named Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) who basically cons his way into a law firm, where he’s partnered with the ladder-climbing Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). The two work cases from very different angles, while trying to hide Mike’s secret. It’s also got a future Princess in the cast!
*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.
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.
Netflix is about to bring back this iconic entry in the true crime TV genre but the original still resides on Amazon Prime for you to relive all those crazy stories of missing spouses, haunted buildings, and alien encounters. Willing to tackle any kind of story that just didn’t add up, this Robert Stack vehicle really changed the game.
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.