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The 50 Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now

Photo: CBS, Netflix and AMC

This post is updated frequently as TV shows leave and enter Netflix.

We’ve already broken down the 100 best movies that you can watch on Netflix right now, but maybe you don’t like movies? Maybe you’re in the mood for a new TV series to binge or a classic you haven’t seen in a generation? A lot of people would rather spend hours or even days with the same characters in a TV series, and Netflix has one for every mood. Here are the 50 best TV shows you could binge right now, updated regularly as new shows enter and old shows leave. Watch all 50 and report back.

American Crime
ABC’s topical drama never quite found ratings success as it always felt like the kind of thing better suited to cable TV than network. The winner of multiple Emmys for Regina King — as well as nominations for Felicity Huffman, Lili Taylor, Timothy Hutton, and Richard Cabral — American Crime told a different story in each of its three seasons, using much of the same ensemble in different roles each year. It’s a riveting, conversation-starting drama. (Three seasons available)

American Crime Story

Both iterations of Ryan Murphy’s hit crime anthology series — The People vs. OJ Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace — are available on Netflix. The first iteration is a flat-out masterpiece with one of the best modern TV performances from Sarah Paulson, and the second is pretty interesting in its own right. You can burn through both of these in a weekend. It’s a show made for binging. (Two seasons available)

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 premieres. 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 2017 Cult. (Seven seasons available)

American Vandal
The first Netflix series on this list is also one of the best, a brilliant spoof of true crime documentaries that also serves as a clever commentary on teen life in the digital age. The first season — about a vandal who sprays male appendages on all the cars in the faculty parking lot — is arguably funnier than the feces-focused second year, but they both have value. And a lot of laughs. Netflix has axed the show, but there are rumors someone else may be interested in picking it up. (Two seasons available)

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
The tragic passing of Anthony Bourdain led a lot of viewers to his food and travel shows, revealing the depth of his charm. Bourdain’s appeal was in his fearlessness and his belief that seeing the world made life more vibrant. This show won five Emmys and ran for twelve seasons on CNN. Five of them (7-11) are currently on Netflix. (Five seasons available)

Arrested Development
Has the current quality of Arrested Development allowed you to forget that the first three seasons were pure genius? Don’t let that happen. Go back and watch the early brilliance of the Bluth family saga, and you may even want to dip your toe in the revival a bit too before it returns on March 15th. (Five seasons available)

Better Call Saul
The prequel to Breaking Bad has arguably surpassed its ancestor in terms of depth and performance. Bob Odenkirk stars as Jimmy McGill, the man who will someday become Walter White’s attorney. If Walter’s story was about a man going bad, this show is about a man trying to stay good. It’s one of the best shows of the ‘10s, and you can catch up now on Netflix before it returns to AMC. (Three seasons available)

Black Mirror
It’s Charlie Brooker’s world, we just live in it. The modern answer to The Twilight Zone (at least until CBS All Access actually revives that show) is one of the most buzzed-about programs of the ‘10s. You simply have to see what all of the hype is about, don’t you? Watch it now before our technological overlords force you to. (Four seasons available)

Bodyguard
The surprise Golden Globe winner for Best Actor in a Drama earlier this year was a Netflix show that most people stateside hadn’t really heard of yet. Their friends across the pond sure knew what it was as Bodyguard was the biggest hit over there in over a decade. Fans of tense spy shows like 24 and Homeland shouldn’t miss this tight, 6-episode mini-series about a guard for a Home Secretary in the U.K. (One season available)

BoJack Horseman
Any conversation about the best animated programs on TV has to include Netflix’s Hollywood parody about, well, a depressed talking horse. BoJack Horseman is a difficult show to explain to someone who’s never seen it. It’s a goofy, pun-filled show about an over-the-hill TV star who happens to be a horse, but it’s also an insightful document of mental illness, depression, trauma, and loneliness. All that and a talking dog named Mr. Peanutbutter too. (Five seasons available)

Breaking Bad
Maybe you’ve heard of it? If there’s any chance you have yet to see one of the most acclaimed shows of the modern age, it’s right here for you to make up for the biggest hole in your personal TV canon. If you’ve been under a rock, Bryan Cranston gives one of the best performances in TV history as an average man who becomes an above-average drug lord. Even if you’ve seen it, it’s worth watching again. (Five seasons available)

Broadchurch
Forget the American remake and go watch the amazing first season of this BBC mystery, starring David Tennant of Marvel’s Jessica Jones and one of our newest Oscar winners, Olivia Colman, giving one of her best performances. The first season, which has a self-contained mystery about a boy’s body found on a beach in a small town, is a masterpiece. The other two not so much. (Three seasons available)

Cheers
Any list of the best TV comedies of all time that doesn’t include Cheers is just wrong. For most of the ‘80s, this was quite simply the best show on TV, and it’s held up incredibly well over the years. It’s still laugh-out-loud hysterical, anchored by one of the best ensembles in comedy TV history and razor-sharp writing. There’s a reason this show won 28 Emmys. (Eleven seasons available)

The Crown

One of Netflix’s most beloved shows is really just getting started. Peter Morgan’s creation is designed to chronicle the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and well, she’s been in charge since 1952. Claire Foy played the young Queen in the first two seasons, but she’s been replaced by Oscar winner Olivia Colman for the next two. Catch up before they get to Princess Diana. (Two seasons available)

Dear White People
One of Netflix’s most underrated and smartest shows comes courtesy of Justin Simien, who has adapted his Sundance comedy into a brilliant commentary on race relations on modern campuses. With a great ensemble and razor-sharp writing, this is the best current show about what it’s like to be young in the digital age. (Two seasons available)

Dexter
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. (Eight seasons available)

Documentary Now!
Created by Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader, this IFC hit parodies some of the most famous documentaries of all time. Now on the network for its third season, Netflix is the place to catch up on the first two, including hysterical spoofs of Grey Gardens, The War Room, Stop Making Sense, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. (Two seasons available)

Extras
Everyone points to Ricky Gervais’ The Office as the controversial comedian’s best TV creation, but this is a very close second. Created with Stephen Merchant, Extras stars Gervais as, well, a professional extra. The structure allows for a different famous guest star every week, including unforgettable episodes with Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, and Ben Stiller, all playing variations of themselves. (Two seasons available)

Fawlty Towers
Just as there’s not a lot of truly classic films on Netflix, there’s a dearth of truly classic TV too. You won’t find I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke Show. However, fans of British comedy would almost certainly point to this ‘70s hit. The BFI did name it the BEST British Television Show of all time back in 2000. The show starrs John Cleese as the owner of the titular seaside hotel. That’s really all you need to know. That and it’s still very, very funny. (Two series available.)

Five Came Back
Whether or not a four-part documentary is something that should qualify as a TV series is an argument for another time, but this probably would have played on PBS or HBO were it not a Netflix Original, so it qualifies for us. It’s a phenomenal docuseries based on Mark Harris’ book about five classic directors who experienced World War II first hand as filmmakers: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. (Three episodes available)

Frasier
What’s better: Cheers or Frasier? And is this the best spin-off ever? Why don’t you watch the massive NBC hit that won so many Emmys that they practically had to disqualify it to let other people get a chance and get back to us? In all seriousness, the saga of Frasier Crane and his put-upon brother Niles has held up marvelously. Frasier’s regularly-defeated pomposity will never not be funny. (Eleven seasons available)

Friends
When it looked like Netflix might lose rights to this beloved show recently, fans lost their minds. Apparently, there are already legions of people revisiting Central Park and hanging out with Rachel, Ross, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, and Chandler like it’s the ’90s all over again. Why don’t you join them while you still can. (Ten seasons available)

GLOW
The show about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is way more than just a parody of leotards and ‘80s hairdos. Over two seasons, it’s become a delicately balanced look at female friendship and competition, anchored by great performances from Alison Brie, Marc Maron, and Betty Gilpin. (Two seasons available)

Godless
The super-talented Scott Frank turned his pen to crafting this limited series Western, and it’s one of the best genre pieces of the last few years. Jeff Daniels plays a great villain as Frank Griffin, the bad guy chasing his former protégé, Roy Goode, played by Jack O’Connell. A great supporting cast includes Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, and Merritt Wever – both Daniels and Wever won Emmys for their work here. If you even remotely like Westerns but haven’t visited La Belle, you should correct that oversight. (One season available)

The Good Place

The best comedy currently on network TV is this existential laugher about a woman who dies and goes to the titular location, but not everything is exactly as it seems. This is a show that works better in binge format than it does week to week as it’s incredibly difficult to watch just one and it’s really structured like one long film with the end of one episode often opening on the same scene in the next. The less you know about this great show’s twists and turns, the better. Just trust us. (Two seasons available)

Halt and Catch Fire
Audiences and awards-giving bodies never gave enough attention to AMC’s brilliant show about the tech boom of the ‘80s. This is a program that deserves mention in the same breath as acknowledged AMC masterpieces like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. It’s that good. It’s about way more than just early computer programming. It’s about competition, pride, and that feeling that most people have that they just might miss their one chance to make their dreams come true. (Four seasons available)

The Haunting of Hill House
Mike Flanagan’s hit show is arguably Netflix’s best current offering, a program that distilled its influential source material into something altogether new, terrifying, and heartbreaking. Quick, name a great horror TV show that’s honestly scary. That’s right, they don’t really exist. Hill House was such a smash that they opened the checkbook to get Flanagan to return with The Haunting of Bly Manor. We can’t wait either. (One season available)

House of Cards
It may have ended in a disastrous final season (and had some bumpy years before that), but the saga of Frank and Claire Underwood still demands a spot on this list for how impactful and watchable those first few years were. This was the first Netflix show that everyone was really talking about, and it changed the game. There’s arguably no more influential program in the ‘10s if you consider how much Netflix now dominates the market. See where the sea change began. (Six seasons available)

The IT Crowd
As you can tell by now, there’s a lot of good British comedy on Netflix, and this might be the best one that you haven’t heard of yet. A cult hit about a put-upon IT group, this Brit comedy launched Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade, as well as a dozen or so GIFs that you probably use all the time and have no idea where they come from. (Five series available)

The Keepers
There is a lot of true crime material on Netflix waiting to fill your need to learn more about serial killers and unsolved mysteries. This is the best of the docuseries created by Netflix so far, a stunning, 7-episode piece on the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, whose death may have been a part of a cover-up of rampant sexual abuse by priests. You have to see this one. (One season available)

Ken Burns Documentaries
No one makes documentaries like Ken Burns, and some of his best productions for PBS are available on Netflix. You’re going to want to set aside some time for these, all of which are exhaustive, definitive documents of their subject. Burns doesn’t just casually or superficially research his subjects – he devotes years of his life to them. Highlights on the service include The War, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, The Civil War, Prohibition, The West, and The Vietnam War.

Luther
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 looking 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, and even though it appeared to be over back in 2015, a fifth series just aired in the U.K. Catch up before it makes the trip across the pond. (Four series available)

Mad Men
If someone were to write a piece on the most acclaimed shows of the current millennium, AMC’s Mad Men would have to be included near the top. The winner of multiple Emmys, Matthew Weiner’s drama is a masterpiece of tone and style, a document of the decline of an antiquated version of the working man in the ‘60s. TV doesn’t get much better than Mad Men, a show that worked from its series premiere through to its series finale. (Seven seasons available)

Maniac
Cary Joji Fukunaga’s trippy mindfuck is arguably the most divisive show on Netflix right now. Some people adore this Emma Stone and Jonah Hill journey into the recesses of insanity. Some people hate it. It’s the kind of show that people were talking about at the end of last year, and there’s some solid writing out there about its themes and reference points. Be a part of the conversation. (One season available)

Master of None
Personal, creator-driven comedy has produced some of the best TV of the ‘10s, and this Aziz Ansari vehicle is a perfect example. His real-world controversy doesn’t take away from the quality of these two seasons, which are insightful examinations of life as a twentysomething in the modern era. The second, Emmy-winning season is particularly masterful, as Ansari and his collaborators took the creative cache from year one and created something truly original and unforgettable. (Two seasons available)

Mindhunter

Joe Penhall and David Fincher’s loose adaptation of the story of the man who invented profiling serial killers is a tense, riveting drama with some of the best performances and visual language to date in a Netflix series. The first season saw the creation of the Behavioral Science Unit and interviews with real serial killers based on actual conversations. It’s a fascinating, terrifying look at the darkness of which men are capable. (One season available)

The Office
Both the U.K. and U.S. versions are on Netflix, so consider this an entry for both iterations of this great show. The British one that made Ricky Gervais a star is a masterful study of extremely awkward behavior whereas the U.S. version almost becomes like a family sitcom. It was on so long that we got to know and love the people of Dunder Mifflin, even if the show didn’t exactly hold up for all nine seasons. It’s still a surprisingly more consistent program than most of what’s on the air today. (Two series & nine seasons available)

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 & 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. (Seven seasons available)

Pee-wee’s Playhouse
There should be some kids stuff on here, right? Most of the family offerings on Netflix are pretty generic (even if the Captain Underpants show has its moments), so why not go back to an absolute classic? It’s the twisted, inspired, loony adventures of the man-child known as Pee-Wee Herman. You can watch the 2016 revival movie Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday when you’re done binging the show that made him a household name. (Five seasons available)

Planet Earth
We should have some educational content on here too outside of Ken Burns, and this is one of the best documentaries ever made for television. Make sure your TV is fully calibrated for the best HD picture and start watching a show that’s more than just a travelogue and more than just a nature program. It will seriously make you look at our planet in a new way, marveling at how much of it is truly beautiful. (Two seasons available, as well as the Blue Planet series)

Rectify
Probably the least-hyped and least-seen show on this list, this Sundance TV drama aired for four seasons. It’s the best show you’ve probably never watched. Aden Young stars as a man released from death row after 19 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. This gentle, complex character drama is more about the impact of something that tragic on a family and a community than a mystery, and it’s easily one of the best dramas you could watch on Netflix. (Four seasons available)

Riverdale
Yes, that Riverdale. Sometimes you just want to escape, and nothing right now provides the same wonderfully scripted escapism as this very modern update of Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead. There is a lot of dark material on Netflix — you could spend days in their true crime section — and so it’s nice to have something that doesn’t tax the brain or strain the heartstrings. But don’t get it twisted — Riverdale is not pure fluff. It’s much smarter than you think. In many ways, it’s an ancestor of Twin Peaks in the way it subverts our expectations of what’s going on behind the white picket fences. It’s pretty great. (Two seasons available)

Russian Doll
The first major hit of 2019 for Netflix already deserves placement on this list. It’s the show everyone has been telling you to watch, the one that uses a Groundhog Day premise of a day lived over and over again to comment on trauma, isolation, and the modern midlife crisis. Natasha Lyonne plays a woman who keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party, and … well, that’s all you need to know. This is one you’ll probably do in a straight, 4-hour blast. And then you’ll want to watch it again. (One season available)

Sherlock

The BBC hit that made Benedict Cumberbatch a star and redefined the legend of Sherlock Holmes is just sitting there on Netflix waiting to occupy your weekend. More like a series of films each time they release a new installment than a traditional American TV season, this is smart mystery television with two magnetic performances from Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. You may notice a lot of Brit TV on this list — they do it well. (Four series available)

Star Trek
Don’t start yelling at us — we’re not dumb enough to pick a favorite and so are just bundling all the current Star Trek offerings on Netflix into this one entry. The truth is you could spend DAYS watching just Star Trek episodes on Netflix. They have 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.

Stranger Things
The cult phenomenon that is Stranger Things has kind of diminished its critical appraisal. This is a really good show, more than a guilty pleasure and more than just a nostalgic nod to the ‘80s movies that inspired it (although it’s those things too). Most of all, while WAY too many Netflix shows suffer from sags in the middle of their seasons (there’s even a phrase for it — Netflix Bloat), both seasons of Stranger Things absolutely fly. This is how a genre show should be paced. (Two seasons available)

The Twilight Zone
One of the best shows of all time is about to be rebooted again, this time by the one and only Jordan Peele. Why not catch up with Rod Serling’s wildly influential and brilliant creation, a show that still works brilliantly more than a half-century after it first aired before you return to The Twilight Zone? This is the kind of TV that will never truly grow old, visions that tap into our greatest fears, anxieties, and needs. It was a masterpiece then and it’s a masterpiece now. (Four seasons available – season four is missing for some reason as of this writing)

Twin Peaks

Those of us old enough to remember when the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer dominated the cultural conversation will never forget it. There had never been anything like Twin Peaks on television and there wouldn’t really be anything like it again until David Lynch returned to this world 25 years later. Sadly, the Showtime reboot isn’t on here yet, but catch up with the original and mark the days until it is. (Two seasons available)

The West Wing
Remember the days when dramas on TV could get political without Twitter tirades being an inevitable result? There’s almost something quaint about the idealism of Aaron Sorkin’s hit drama, now almost twenty years after it premiered. Come back, President Bartlet! We need you! (Seven seasons available)

Wormwood
Errol Morris latest could technically qualify as a film but it was split up into episodes for its Netflix presentation, so we’re calling it a TV show. The maestro of true crime documentaries takes an ambitious look at the death of Frank Olson, who may have been a part of a government testing program. It’s trippy and fascinating. It may not be your typical true crime TV series, but it’s an essential one. (One season available)

The 50 Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now