This post is updated frequently as TV shows leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NBC’s critical darling is finally on Netflix! Joel McHale leads one of the best comedy ensembles of the modern comedy era, including Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Chevy Chase, and more. There’s a theory that ensemble comedies are only as good as their weakest performer and there’s not a weak one in this cast.
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.
This German import has become a cult hit through word of mouth on Netflix for a good reason. With echoes of shows like Stranger Things and Fringe, Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese’s has a little bit of everything for genre fans, including missing children and the possibility of time travel. It’s a weird little show that feels like it echoes some American genre hits but also has its own distinct voice. A third and final season has already been commissioned, so don’t worry about plot threads never being resolved.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The team behind the reboot of Sherlock that turned Benedict Cumberbatch into a star – Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat – collaborate again on this modern take on the Bram Stoker classic, starring Claes Bang as the legendary bloodsucker. Like Sherlock, Dracula is basically three feature films, these ones using the classic legend to comment on sexuality and religion in a way that feels fresh and new. It’s the first big Netflix show of 2020.
Damien Chazelle (La La Land) directed the first two episodes of this Paris-set mini-series about a jazz club and the vibrant personalities that come in and out of it. Led by the great Andre Holland, The Eddy contains an element of mystery, but it’s really better when it’s a freeform, fluid narrative, allowing each character time in the spotlight like a jazz group that makes sure each member gets a solo.
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.
This unusual CBS procedural is possibly the best show on network television. Catch up with it on Netflix so CBS doesn’t cancel it! It’s basically like The X-Files but with cases of supernatural good and evil instead of aliens. Katja Herbers is the skeptic and Mike Colter is the believer, while the great Michael Emerson messes with both of them. Scary and brilliant.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Wildly inconsistent over its five-year run, there’s still enough interesting material in this FOX look at the early years of Batman’s hometown to warrant a look. Ben McKenzie plays a young Jim Gordon, who meets Bruce Wayne as a child, but this is more about origin stories for the Dark Knight’s coterie of villains than the hero himself. A particularly strong performance from Robin Lord Taylor as the young man who would become The Penguin makes this worth watching.
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.
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.
Bryan Fuller’s NBC masterpiece is finally on Netflix! The fan base of this show continues to grow every time it lands on a streaming platform. Maybe Netflix can get enough people talking about it that we’ll get that long-rumored movie or even another season. Miracles can happen.
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.
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.
Sophia Lillis (It) shines as Sydney Novak, a 17-year-old dealing with the drama of life in high school when she discovers that she actually has telekinetic powers. Part Breakfast Club and part Carrie, this is a clever, dark coming-of-age story that speeds by in a span of only seven short episodes. You can watch it all in one season and then you’ll instantly start searching the web to find out when it’s coming back for season two.
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.
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)
When Alex Trebek revealed he was fighting cancer, the whole world was reminded how much he’s been a part of the pop culture landscape for decades now. In his honor, revisit some of the best episodes in the history of this great game show with collections from throughout the years of Trebek’s incredible legacy.
Vicious and brutal, this is one of the best shows on Netflix for horror fans. Designed as a prequel to the first Ju-on film (remade as The Grudge twice stateside), this series tells interconnecting stories of extreme violence and the supernatural forces that result from such horrific brutality. Warning: this is very much for adults only, and not the squeamish kind.
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.
ESPN’s beloved docuseries about the legacy of one of the best athletes of all time is already on Netflix, where it has been in the top ten since it landed there. Michael Jordan’s six-championship run in the ‘90s is arguably unmatched in any sport. Given the fact that he helped produce it, don’t expect too much criticism of MJ here, but what allows this to stand out is the stunning access in terms of interview subjects. Everybody showed up for this dance.
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.
Netflix made headlines when they announced they were adding some of the most popular Nickelodeon kids shows from the ‘90s and ‘00s. Two of the most popular are Avatar: The Last Airbender and this follow-up, which ran for four seasons on Nick and really built on the first series in a fascinating and honestly progressive way. Since it dropped, it’s been the most-watched thing on Netflix.
Locke & Key
Carlton Cuse of LOST fame is one of the producers of this hit young adult take on the Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez graphic novel that almost became a film and TV series several times before. The first season of Locke & Key is a bit rocky, but it really does distill a lot of the themes of the source material into something new, and anchors it all with really excellent performances from its young, talented cast.
There are a ton of mystery-of-the-week series on Netflix, including hits like Criminal Minds and How to Get Away with Murder, but we’ll suggest this Western-Crime hybrid that was canceled by A&E but then picked up by the streaming service, who produced three more original seasons. Robert Taylor is wonderful as the title character, an irascible Wyoming sheriff, and he’s ably supported by Katee Sackhoff and Lou Diamond Phillips. People who love Longmire really love it. Find out if you’re one of those people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mindy Kaling wrote this clever coming-of-age comedy that sounds totally generic on paper – a 15-year-old, played by the incredibly likable Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, navigates the treacherous world of being a teen girl. However, a show like this elevated by two things: a great cast and funny writing. This one has both.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first season of FX’s Emmy-nominated series has dropped on Netflix, and you really need to see what all the buzz is about. There’s really no show quite like Ryan Murphy’s blend of soap opera, fashion show, and character drama about gender-nonconforming culture in New York in the mid-‘80s. It sometimes veers into excess, but that’s also part of its undeniable charm, and it’s always anchored by phenomenal performances, especially from Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore, and the Emmy-nominated Billy Porter.
One of the best shows of 2020 is this drama from the great Scott Frank (Godless), who adapts Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name. Anya Taylor-Joy is phenomenal as a chess prodigy in the ‘50s and ‘60s who has to fight the sexism of a male-dominated world and her own demons at the same time. Lavish and nuanced, it’s a must-watch.
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.
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 descendant of Twin Peaks in the way it subverts our expectations of what’s going on behind the white picket fences. It’s pretty great.
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.
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.
The Wachowskis’ Sense8 is precisely the kind of show that an ambitious streaming service like Netflix should be making more of, and certainly not cancelling after only two seasons. That’s what happened to this show, a program that apparently cost too much money, but has an incredibly loyal following to this day. The concept barely hints at what this show is “about” – eight strangers across the world suddenly become linked in inexplicable ways — as this program isn’t quite like anything else on Netflix. Or any streaming service for that matter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the best original dramas in Netflix history stars Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) as a woman raped in her own bedroom, and then called a liar by the investigating authorities. As we watch her life unravel, we see two brilliant detectives, played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, investigating crimes clearly committed by the same monster. It’s a deeply empathetic series with phenomenal performances all across the board, especially from Wever.
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.
Shira Haas is a revelation in this four-part mini-series about a Hasidic Jewish girl who flees her arranged marriage in Manhattan to travel to Berlin and try and start a new life. Opening a window to a world that hasn’t really been seen in fiction, Unorthodox feels genuine, but it’s the performance by Haas that you’ll never forget. She doesn’t strike a single false note.
Netflix has relaunched the network TV classic that once starred Robert Stack and one hopes it never ends. The approach is different with one case per episode instead of multiple and no narrator, but the result is similar in that these are stories of crime or the inexplicable that viewers could ultimately end up solving. On a streaming service filled with true crime original series, this is one of the best.
The most acclaimed series yet to premiere on Paramount Network is now on Netflix for people to catch up with the story of what happened at the Waco standoff in 1993 between the FBI, the ATF, and the Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh. Taylor Kitsch is great as Koresh, but this is a remarkable ensemble piece all around, including supporting roles played by Michael Shannon, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Sparks, Shea Whigham, Julia Garner, John Leguizamo, and more.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
2019 ended with the launch of Netflix’s big-budget adaptation of the hit fantasy novels and video games that have been compared to Game of Thrones in their ambition and complexity. The critics have been mixed on this Henry Cavill action show, but fans have been falling in love with its quirky humor and memorable characters. Check it out and see why.
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.
Penn Badgley does great work in this fan favorite, a show that launched on Lifetime in 2018 but didn’t really get noticed until it landed on Netflix. Badgely plays a serial killer and stalker who ends up manipulating the lives of the women with whom he becomes obsessed. The second season of this incredibly watchable study of toxic masculinity was just produced exclusively for Netflix and people can’t stop talking about it.