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 100 best TV shows you could binge right now, updated regularly as new shows enter and old shows leave. Watch all of them and report back.
Directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho) and written by Sarah Polley, this miniseries adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s brilliant 1996 novel didn’t get enough attention when Netflix dropped it in November 2017. Sarah Gadon is remarkable as Grace Marks, a murderer who may be pardoned for her crimes for reasons of insanity. A deft commentary on women’s issues, Alias Grace deserves comparisons to that other little Atwood streaming hit, A Handmaid’s Tale.
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)
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)
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)
Ash vs. Evil Dead
Since Ash rode off into the medieval sunset in 1989’s Army of Darkness, there were several aborted attempts to bring the cynical killer of the undead back to the big screen, but he actually ended up on the small one, in this three-season wonder from Starz. Bruce Campbell, the star of Evil Dead 2 and living legend, returns as Ash, as do the trademark practical effects and cheesy humor from the Sam Raimi films. It’s a lot of fun.
When a prequel TV series to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho was announced, it sounded like a very bad idea. What more could possibly be said about the life of Norman Bates? However, the A&E series actually developed into an insightful and fascinating examination of the debilitating relationship between Freddie Highmore’s Norman and Vera Farmiga’s Norma, his just-as-twisted mother.
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)
Netflix has been really adventurous in its animated programming for adults with hits like BoJack Horseman, and this raunchy comedy from co-creators Nick Kroll and John Mulaney is one of its best. The voice work in this insightful look at teen horniness is quite simply some of the finest in the history of animation, with great contributions from Kroll, Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Jordan Peele, Jason Mantzoukas, and the scene-stealing Maya Rudolph.
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)
The first season of this Netflix thriller, nominated for an Emmy in 20115, is really one of those that ushered in the second wave of original series success for the streaming service. The show never quite lived up to that brilliant first year, but there’s really great work throughout from Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, and especially Ben Mendelsohn. They all play members of a Florida family caught up in a web of lies and betrayal.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Dead to Me
Christina Applegate does the best work of her career and Linda Cardellini nearly matches her in this mystery-comedy about grief, forgiveness, and murder. Applegate plays Jen, a Californian whose husband was recently killed in a hit-and-run. Jen meets Cardellini’s Judy in a grief support group and comes to learn that Judy has a connection to her husband’s murder. Funny, moving, and clever, this is one of Netflix’s best new shows in a long time.
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)
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)
Matt Groening’s return to animation felt like a disappointment to loyal fans of The Simpsons and Futurama, especially at the rocky start to the first season, but this show developed into something smart and fun by the end of its freshman year and there’s reason to be excited for the upcoming second outing. This clever fractured fairy tale is buoyed by incredible voice work from Abby Jacobson, Eric Andre, Nat Faxon, and a cadre of Groening veterans.
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)
The End of the Fucking World
The darkest of dark comedies, this BBC import stars Alex Lawther as a kid who is kinda considering becoming a serial killer when he runs into a force of nature named Alyssa, unforgettably played by Jessica Barden. Twisting and turning, this bloody teen romance isn’t quite like any other and shall return for a second season later this year.
Everyone with a Netflix subscription apparently watched Friends — it’s often the most-streamed show on the service — so let’s hope a few take the chance to watch Matt LeBlanc’s clever riff on his own celebrity in this Showtime-BBC collaboration. Airing for five seasons on the cable network, Episodes is about a couple of Brits who get mired in the quicksand of the Hollywood TV system. It’s smart, funny, scathing TV.
Sadly, this is a one-season wonder for Netflix, but it’s still one of the best shows on the service — which says something about the cancellation decisions it’s making lately. Jai Di’Allo Winston and Peyton Kennedy star in a delicately written and gentle comedy about growing up in a town called Boring in the mid-’90s. It’s one of the smartest modern shows about complex teen issues like sexuality and mental health — so, of course, Netflix canceled it. Watch it so maybe it’ll correct that mistake.
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)
F Is for Family
Bill Burr is one of the funniest modern stand-ups — watch all of the specials of his you can find — and his viewpoint is deftly captured in this animated comedy that’s been on for three seasons and counting. Set in the early ’70s, this relatively standard family sitcom in animated form is led by Burr, but he’s ably assisted by a great voice cast that includes Laura Dern, Justin Long, and Sam Rockwell.
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.)
The Final Table
There’s a ton of reality programming on Netflix, but most of it is awful. This is an exception, especially if you’re a fan of the gold standard of cooking shows, Top Chef. The setup is wonderfully simple but globe-trotting. Each episode is centered on the cuisine of a different country, judged by a food critic and two celebrities from said country. And the contestants are divided into pairs to take their stab at the Epcot Center of food shows.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
There’s a whole subcategory of shows on Netflix that didn’t get enough time to find an audience on network TV. Take for example this NBC comedy from executive producer Tina Fey, which is very much in keeping with her 30 Rock sense of humor. Briga Heelan is hysterical as a producer on a network news show who is forced to work with her mother, played by the great Andrea Martin. It has that razor-sharp wit of Fey’s other NBC hit, but it never found the audience. Well, not yet.
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)
How to Get Away With Murder
There are a gaggle of network mystery-of-the-week shows on Netflix — and, apparently, Criminal Minds is one of the most-streamed shows on the service. This one is just a tick above that one in terms of quality, largely because of the gravity brought to everything she does by Viola Davis. She plays a law professor at a Philly university, and, well, there’s murder. All you need to know is that Davis became the first black woman to ever win the Emmy for Lead Actress for this show. She’s always great.
I Think You Should Leave
If you’re a fan of left-of-center humor like Mr. Show or the 12:55 p.m. SNL sketches written by Kyle Mooney, you owe it to yourself to watch one of the most-buzzed-about Netflix Originals of 2019, Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin’s totally bizarre already-a-cult hit. How do you describe one of the weirdest comedy shows on Netflix? You really can’t. Just watch it.
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 spinoff 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 both critically acclaimed and nominated by BAFTA for Best Situation Comedy each year it aired in the U.K.
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)
Yes, that Jeopardy! There are five “collections”’s worth of arguably the best game show of all time just sitting on Netflix. Who needs Game Show Network? Jeopardy! has actually been on the air in some capacity since 1964, although this is the version with Alex Trebek, of course, who took over when it went into syndication in 1984. There have been over 7,000 episodes of Jeopardy! in the history of the show. So there could be a whole Jeopardy! Netflix one day.
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.
The Last O.G.
Jordan Peele created this wonderful vehicle for Tracy Morgan, a show that beautifully works off his comedy persona but also allows him new rhythms to play other than the ones he did on 30 Rock. Morgan plays an ex-con who has returned to his Brooklyn neighborhood to find that the city he grew up in is gone. Not only is the hood gentrified, but his ex-girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish) is with a new man.
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)
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)
Making a Murderer
For many people, this is on the Mount Rushmore of true-crime docu-series. It certainly helped kick-start the current love affair people seem to have with crime stories on Netflix to the degree that they even returned for a second season (which you can mostly skip). The first season became such a phenomenon that the president himself had to weigh in on whether he would pardon Steven Avery. And the debate about his guilt or innocence rages still today.
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)
Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Arguably the best of the Netflix Marvel shows, this 2015 adaptation stars Krysten Ritter as the title character, a private eye with superpowers. Not only is Ritter phenomenal but this is one of the few Netflix Marvel shows that has actually been thematically ambitious, working issues of trauma and gender into the excellent first season, anchored by a great villain performance by David Tennant as well. The third season will be the last, as everything Marvel starts to move over to Disney+, but history will be kind to what remains here.
Marvel’s Luke Cage
In close competition for the best Netflix Marvel show is its third offering — and for similar reasons as Jessica Jones: a great lead performance and thematic ambition. Mike Colter gives a charismatic performance as the title character, an ex-con who happens to be superhumanly strong and unkillable. What elevates this show above some of the other superhero offerings is a sense of personality and visual style. Mahershala Ali helps too.
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)
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)
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
If this were a ranked list of the most influential shows you could watch on Netflix, this might be at the top. The men of Monty Python changed comedy forever when this show premiered a half-century ago on BBC. Since then, the most popular sketches in Python history have been played and replayed literally hundreds of times, influencing comedy forever with their wit, playfulness, and unique voice. There have been dozens of imitators, but there’s only one Monty Python.
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman
When David Letterman retired and grew the most impressive beard in TV history, everyone expected him to just enjoy his time off. Letterman couldn’t stay away, and Netflix subscribers are happy about that. What’s great about this interview series is how it allows Letterman to focus completely on one guest. The first year included Howard Stern, Barack Obama, and George Clooney, and the second season (launching May 31) includes Kanye West, Tiffany Haddish, and Ellen DeGeneres.
Doesn’t it feel like if New Girl had aired a decade or two earlier, it would have been a massive hit? It was still popular enough to produce 146 episodes, and this is some of the best sitcom comfort food you can find on Netflix. Zooey Deschanel is great, but this show really became better when it developed into a true ensemble piece, including great supporting work by Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone, and, especially, Jake Johnson.
It’s pretty cool how many Showtime shows you can find on Netflix — there are a grand total of zero HBO shows — from Dexter to Weeds. Don’t forget this scathing dramedy anchored by yet another great performance from one of the best TV actresses of all time, Edie Falco. The former Carmela Soprano plays Jackie Peyton, an ER nurse who has some pretty serious problems of her own.
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)
On My Block
Coming-of-age comedies don’t get much more current than this 2018 offering, which has already aired two acclaimed seasons and been renewed for a third. What separates On My Block is cultural veracity, shining a spotlight on a diverse cast in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative or cheap. It can sometimes slide into sitcomish writing, but the cast and crew find a way to make even the broadest jokes and plot twists resonate. This is one of the best shows you’re probably not watching.
One Day at a Time
Speaking of cultural veracity, TV doesn’t get much more inclusive than Norman Lear’s brilliant reworking of one of his biggest hits from the ‘70s. The pitch is simple — reimagine the hit family sitcom with a Hispanic cast — but what makes this show so lovable is the cast and writing, which stays true to its character and the modern era while also feeling like a throwback to sitcoms we loved as kids. It’s a true shame that Netflix canceled it after three seasons, although there are allegedly discussions to pick it up elsewhere.
Orange Is the New Black
It’s crazy how it seems like people don’t really talk about one of the foundational shows of Netflix anymore. Believe it or not, young readers, there was a time when Netflix wasn’t known for original programming and there were two shows that really changed that — House of Cards and OITNB. The latter is coming to a close with its seventh season this summer. See what all the buzz was about way back in 2013 and watch the entire run.
Silverback Films, the producer of Planet Earth, is behind this Brit docu-series about the beauty of the natural world and how climate change is basically destroying it. Made in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, this isn’t your average nature series, employing not only the detailed, HD camerawork that Planet Earth is known for but also serving as an angry rallying call for change.
It kind of feels like the in-house people at Netflix are building a Noah’s Ark of every hit show from every other network. If it works somewhere else, expect an iteration of it here. And this hit drama is Netflix’s Breaking Bad. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star in a show about a family that jumps from the frying pan into the fire when they get caught up in the criminal underworld in the Ozarks.
Sometimes you want to be challenged by satire or an anti-hero — sometimes you just want a good family drama. This is for those latter times. Underrated when it aired — all family dramas are — Jason Katims’s show based on the Ron Howard movie brings us into the lives of the Bravermans and their extended family and friends. People who love this show really love this show. Why not see if you’re one of them?
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)
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)
This 2014 Showtime horror-drama never quite got national traction — which led to its cancellation after three years — but it has a loyal-enough following that it’s actually returning in a spinoff called Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. The period piece includes a number of familiar names, including Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, Victor Frankenstein, Henry Jekyll, and even Count Dracula. It’s a lot of fun, and Eva Green arguably should’ve taken three Emmys for it.
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)
It’s kind of amazing that Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s edgy, left-of-center sense of humor had a home for eight seasons in this IFC hit. Now that’s over, see what so many loyal fans fell in love with in all 77 episodes now on Netflix. Sketch comedy that often skewered the hipster culture of the northwestern United States, Portlandia is smart comedy with its own defiant, uncopiable voice.
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)
French TV! Also known as Les Revenants, this is one of the best genre TV shows of the decade in any language. Based on a 2004 French film, this 2012 show has an irresistible hook — people who died years earlier suddenly return to the small French mountain town in which they lived. Why are they back? What does it mean? Tightly written and beautifully directed, this is one you’ll down in a weekend.
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)
Not all TV needs to be as challenging as Mad Men or Game of Thrones. Sometimes you just want some televised comfort food after a long day at work. There was a time in TV history when the USA Network was one of the kings of this brand of entertainment, and Royal Pains was one of their best. Mark Feuerstein and Paulo Costanzo star in a show about beautiful, rich people in the Hamptons and the doctor who cares for them. It’s not going to be your favorite show of all time, but it goes down easily, and sometimes that’s what you need.
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)
Santa Clarita Diet
Victor Fresco’s pitch-black comedy just launched its third season, and the show’s increasingly vocal and loyal fans were flabbergasted to learn it would be the last. Drew Barrymore stars as a California Realtor who, well, dies. She wakes up, though, and finds out that she has a craving for human flesh. Timothy Olyphant nearly steals the show as her put-upon-but-supportive husband. Somebody better pick this show up while Barrymore and Olyphant still have room in their schedules to do it.
This Canadian import took a season to find its rhythm, but it’s basically brilliant from season two on. Created by Daniel Levy and his father, Eugene Levy, it tells the story of a rich family forced to relocate to a small town after losing their fortune. Both Levys are hysterical, and the show really became something special when it started sketching in the eccentric characters who make up the small town that gives it a title. It’s one of the funniest shows of the decade.
File this under Guilty Pleasures. If you’re looking for a way to turn off your mind and just enjoy a slasher TV show, you can do no better really than this MTV series that aired on the cable net in 2015 and 2016. There have been rumors of a rebooted third season in some state of production, but just bask in the silliness of beautiful people being killed in creative ways for the 24 episodes we have to date.
A sprawling look at corruption and grief, this 2018 limited series won Regina King a much-deserved Emmy for Best Actress in a Limited Series. One of the best TV actresses of the modern era plays the mother of a boy who is murdered in a hit-and-run by a Jersey City police officer. The writing doesn’t always work, but the cast totally does, including King, Russell Hornsby, Beau Knapp, and Michael Mosley.
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)
Jessica Biel does the best acting work of her career in the first season of this USA Network mystery series. She stars as an ordinary mother who snaps during a beach outing and stabs a man to death in front of dozens of people. It’s not so much of a whodunit as a whydunit, and Biel is joined by great supporting turns from Bill Pullman as the cop who investigates the case and Christopher Abbott as her husband. A second season has aired (with Carrie Coon!) and a third is in production. This could be your new obsession.
One of the most critically acclaimed British imports of the Peak TV era, this coming-of-age dramedy is notable for its fearlessness, often tackling issues that other shows avoid like the plague. It’s also notable because the cast was replaced every two years, and the show’s fans went with it, realizing that it was the writing that really matters here. However, you should know that Nicholas Hoult of Fury Road basically started his path to stardom with the first generation, as did Oscar nominee Dev Patel.
So much of the modern obsession with true-crime docu-series owes a great debt to this French examination of the death of Kathleen Peterson, such a hit that it was actually resurrected and expanded for the Netflix edition last year. In December 2001, Kathleen Peterson fell down a set of stairs and died. Well, that’s what her husband said, but the police and prosecutors tried Michael Peterson for her murder. What’s so captivating about The Staircase is that your opinion on his guilt or innocence will change roughly a dozen times.
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.
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)
Isn’t it kind of appropriate that a show about ghost hunters wouldn’t die? Supernatural premiered way back when the CW was still the WB in 2005 and has been on the air for an amazing 14 seasons—the upcoming 15th one will be the last adventure for Sam and Dean Winchester, two of fantasy television’s most beloved characters. Supernatural has vacillated wildly in quality over its 300-plus episodes, but there are some true gems in here, especially for fans of urban legends and things that go bump in the night.
That ’70s Show
If you’re of the right age, one of your favorite shows from when you were a teenager is just sitting there on Netflix waiting for you to revisit it and see if it holds up. Return to Point Place, Wisconsin, and hang with Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Laura Prepon in Eric Forman’s basement.
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)
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)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
One of the most acclaimed Netflix comedies of all time, this laugher stars Ellie Kemper as the title character, a woman released from the custody of a doomsday cult leader (played hysterically by Jon Hamm) and thrust into a ridiculous circle of friends in New York City. Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski, and Tituss Burgess take turns stealing focus in this broad, ridiculous, very funny show.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead helped redefine appointment television just when ratings were starting to erode to streaming services and DVRs. They became a massive hit because everyone had to watch it on Sunday night, largely so they wouldn’t hear spoilers about a major character death. It doesn’t quite have the fan base it once did, but it’s still lumbering along on AMC and likely will be around in some form for many years to come. Eight seasons are on Netflix as of this writing.
For the first few seasons, Showtime’s Weeds was one of the smartest comedies on television. Jenji Kohan’s award-winning show stars Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin, a widow who has to resort to selling weed to make ends meet. The show really lost its way at some point, but those first few seasons are still gems, anchored by a great performance from Parker and supporting work by Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk, and Romany Malco.
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)
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp & Eight Years Later
If you want a great example of a modern cult hit, look no further than 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer,
a comedy that couldn’t even crack $300,000 at the box office but went on to become such a hit — and see its ensemble become stars — that Netflix funded two spinoff series, a prequel and a sequel. Like the movie itself, both are pretty uneven, but both are also at times damn funny.
When They See Us
Ava DuVernay directed Netflix’s best mini-series to date in this searing, fearless look at the story of the Central Park Five, a quintet of young men of color who were forced into confessing to a crime they did not commit. DuVernay doesn’t sugarcoat anything, showcasing a group of boys who were caught up in a racist, corrupt, vile system. Filled with stunning performances — especially Jharrel Jerome and Michael K. — it’s the kind of artistic accomplishment that used to be exclusively the kind of thing that one would see only on HBO or maybe FX. It’s further proof that Netflix is taking risks with artists, and that some of them are truly redefining the streaming landscape.
Wild Wild Country
You really must hear the story of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Ma Anand Sheela and what happened to them in a small county in Oregon. Not your typical story of a cult gone awry, this Duplass Brothers production is captivating in the way it transports viewers to this little corner of the world and refuses to judge the people who fell under the Bhagwan’s spell. And Sheela is one of the most fascinating real characters you’ll ever meet.
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)