Netflix makes it possible to find a great TV show (just released or from yesteryear) and stream the entire run, from start to finish — possibly even in one sitting, depending on how many snacks and beverages you have handy. If you’re ready for a new favorite, here are the best shows on Netflix.
If you’re looking for what to watch off the beaten path, check out our roundup of the best Netflix hidden gems. And if you’re looking for films, see our roundups of the best movies on Netflix and the best family movies on Netflix.
Netflix News and Updates (September)
- Apple TV Plus will cost only $4.99 per month (much less than Netflix), but it looks to pack a smaller lineup.
- In amazing news for Paul Rudd fans, Netflix’s next great new TV show looks to offer “two for the price of Rudd.” Coming Friday, October 18, Living With Yourself shows what happens when Miles (Rudd) is shocked to discover a duplicate of himself exploring the world after he tries a “novel spa treatment.”
- Check out Netflix’s September 2019 schedule to see what else is coming soon.
Russian Doll (2019) — Comedy/Drama — 1 Season
Coming in under the radar in Netflix’s Feb. 2019 releases, this dark, druggy delight subverts a ton of traditions to positive results. A lot of that comes from audiences coming in hopefully-cold, and getting surprised by the show’s premise and inner workings, so let’s stay spoiler-free. The first thing you should know is that Russian Doll is the funny and emotional the series that Natasha Lyonne (its star, co-creator, writer, and director) has long since deserved, as she’s spent most of her career as a co-star and not a lead. Next up, as Todd VanDerWeff pointed out, Russian Dolls goes beyond having a strong, brash female lead, and places men in supporting roles — that aren’t quite fleshed out, but help drive the story — typically made for women.
Sex Education (2019) — Comedy/Teen Drama — 1 Season
If you ever thought that puberty would become a stale topic for a TV series, you thought wrong. Sex Education, a British Netflix Original series, shakes up the formula with one of TV’s most reliable veterans: Gillian Anderson. Yes, that’s right, the star of X-Files and Hannibal breathes life into the genre as Dr. Jean F. Milburn, a sex therapist and single mother of Otis (Asa Butterfield), an insanely awkward teen who’s having trouble coming to grips with his own sexuality. This is more than just a family sitcom, though, as Otis’ classmates — including his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and local bully Adam (Connor Swindells) — provide tons of tension and drama. And while Otis is beset by trouble from all corners, he’s getting help from the most unlikely of sources, including Maeve, the local bad-girl.
Love, Death & Robots (2019) — Animation, Sci-Fi — 1 Season
What if you took the dystopic futurism of Black Mirror, but made it slightly less depressing and animated it? You’d get David Fincher’s new Love, Death & Robots, a new Netflix original anthology series that’s comprised of 18 episodes that run about 15 minutes a piece. Sure, there’s some brutality, it’s not toothless, but it won’t leave you looking for a therapist in the same way that Black Mirror did. Also, its animation style manages to pull off detailed CGI, without descending into the uncanny valley.
I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson (2019) — Comedy — 1 Season
Critics are raving about this new sketch comedy series from SNL alum Tim Robinson (Detroiters), which manages to make you cringe in a brand-new way. His characters manage to stretch jokes out far longer than you’d expect, and the show’s tone is so over-the-top that you’ll find yourself laughing so hard you’ll need a chance to pause and breathe. Thankfully, I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson episodes run 15 to 20 minutes a pop, giving you a chance to pause between laughs. Also, it’s only 6 episodes long, so you’ll be done before you know it.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018 – Present) — Animated — 3 Seasons
For once, a modernized update isn’t a lifeless, gritty reboot, as She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is the best new animated series on Netflix and a ton of fun. Sure, it might start in a dark place — as protagonists Adora and Catra did grow up as orphaned child soldiers — but it doesn’t live in that despair. Before you know it, She-Ra and the Princesses embraces everything we love about Steven Universe, from its glowing palette to a strong, winking sense of humor. If show-runner Noelle Stevenson gets the chance to fill She-Ra with the inventiveness she made her name for with the fantasy comic Nimona, this series has a true chance to remake its titular hero for generations to come.
Its third season, which features a massive game-changing twist, came out in August 2019.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) — Horror/Supernatural — 2 Seasons
What if you took everything people love about the hit show Riverdale — including its beautiful look, campy fun and dark storylines — but added horror sensibilities and made it even funnier? That’s what you get with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a new Netflix original that will have viewers forgetting about the sitcom led by Melissa Joan Hart that was rooted in the same characters. Also, this series benefits from an excellent lead in Kiernan Shipka, who’s taken everything she learned as Sally Draper and is applying it to a show with much more room to be weird.
After a Sabrina holiday special debuted on Dec. 14, its a second season arrived on April 5. Vulture’s Angelica Jade Bastién noted that the sophomore effort “ricochets from near-perfectly pitched dark fantasy to rote considerations of normal life, only striking the right balance when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it still has enough magic and wonder to enthrall.”
Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018) — Cooking — 1 Season
This four-part series adapts chef Samin Nosrat best-selling book into a joyous adventure breaking down the essential elements of great-tasting food. Not only does the beautifully-shot show encourage audiences to believe in their ability to cook (even if it’s not there yet), but it educates audiences on the cultures that spawned these culinary marvels. By the end of the series, you’ll not only be starving, but you’ll be imbued with a bit of confidence to make the step from the audience to the chopping block. Salt Fat Acid Heat has some influence from Anthony Bourdain’s work, but could be the start of the new best cooking show on Netflix.
You (2018 – Present) — Drama — 1 Season
It’s time to meet You, your next guilty pleasure binge watch. A thrilling drama, You is the talk of social media these days thanks to how much the show plays with our own addictions to Instagram and other apps. You stars Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) as a bookstore manager named Joe, who falls in love with Beck (Elizabeth Lail), a grad student, and cyber-stalks the ever-loving heck out of her. Co-star Shay Mitchel is earning raves for her performance as Peach, Beck’s rich-and-horrible bestie, who feels like a female riff on Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass.
Women’s wrestling — heck, all pro wrestling — has historically been laughed at, and called a side-show. Netflix original Glow looks to flip the script on how this predetermined spectacle is viewed, by showing how a group of misfit actors and wanna-be celebrities (portrayed by Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Britney Young and others) went from nobodies to the stars of the hit 1980’s program GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Podcaster and comedian Marc Maron also stars, as aspiring film director Sam Sylvia, who can’t stand any of his performers.
Read our full Glow Season 3 review here.
Stranger Things (2016 – Present) — Adventure/Horror — 3 Seasons
While I won’t spoil the events of Stranger Things 3, I can say that the more I got spoiled about it, the more I needed to binge watch the show to avoid more details leaking out. Why? In short, a lot happens this season, which breathes life back into the series after a mixed bag of a second season, more than earning its 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.
We’re eagerly awaiting an announcement of a fourth season. So break out the waffles and sit down for the addictive tales of Dustin, Mike, Lucas, Will, Max and Eleven, who keep finding themselves in the center of supernatural predicaments. Laugh at the dry wit of police chief Jim Hopper, find the joy in Winona Ryder’s over-the-top performance and smirk at the show’s excellent retro soundtracking choices.
And while there is no confirmed Season 4 yet for Stranger Things, show runners The Duffer Brothers are already talking about how it would differ vastly from previous seasons.
The Good Place (2016 – Present) — Comedy — 2 Seasons
What if you woke up in heaven, but knew you didn’t deserve to be there, and had to hide your imperfections? That case of impostor syndrome is at the root of the critically-praised The Good Place, which stars Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, and is the creation of Michael Schur, the writer and producer best known for his work on The Office (US), Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In terms of currently active programming that’s still on the service — which is currently leaning more toward its own originals than shows that aired on TV — The Good Place is one of the best shows on Netflix.
The Crown (2016 — Present) — Drama — 2 Seasons
Claire Foy and Matt Smith (Doctor Who) have garnered praise from critics and audiences alike for their portrayals of Queen Elizabeth II and Philip the Duke of Edinsburgh. The Crown tells the story of Elizabeth. from her time as Princess Elizabeth and her 1947 wedding, up to the present day. Not only do the two display a fantastic on-screen but they’re fleshing out these historical figures with humanity and gravitas, earning them some of the sympathy they never gained in the court of public opinion.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones (2015 – Present) — Superhero — 3 Seasons
Even superheroes can fall for the wrong man. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) works as a private eye, but her full-time profession might as well be “alcoholic” after an abusive relationship with a manipulative supervillain known as the Purple Man (David Tennant). When a mysterious murder occurs in Hell’s Kitchen, Jessica might be the only one who can get to the bottom of it. Its second season focused on unraveling the mystery of how Ms. Jones got to be so strong. Jessica Jones Season 3 forced Jessica and Trish to work together, and also served as the final chapter of the Netflix and Marvel relationship.
Marvel’s Daredevil (2015 – 2018) — Superhero — 3 Seasons
Daredevil represents the dark side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the Avengers take down supervillains and win glory, it’s folks like Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) who fight for the little guy. Lawyer by day and masked crime-fighter Daredevil by night, Murdock takes on corrupt landlords, dirty cops, murderous vigilantes and, of course, a few mystical ninjas for good measure.
While its Daredevil season 3 gained critical praise for fixing the pacing problems that plague Marvel’s Netflix shows, a Deadline report on Nov. 29 revealed that Netflix had cancelled the show. While many now think Daredevil and his fellow canceled superheroes (Luke Cage and Iron Fist) will show up on the upcoming streaming service Disney+, TV critic Alan Sepinwall tweeted that “The execs have already said they don’t want these shows on the Disney service. And even if they did, the nature of the contracts would make it virtually impossible. They’re done.”
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015 – Present) — Musical — 4 Seasons
Everyone has had a story about an unexpected opportunity for love in his or her life, but not everyone has the presence of mind to sing about it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend stars Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Nora Bunch: a New York City lawyer who packs up and leaves for California, only to find her first love living nearby. Naturally, the whole cast makes the situation into a musical revue.
Better Call Saul (2015 – Present) — Drama — 3 Seasons
A spinoff of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul casts slick, shady lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) as the central character. Both a sequel and a prequel to the show that inspired it, Better Call Saul reveals Saul’s sordid past as two-bit con man Jimmy McGill and the family drama that led him to pursue ambulance chasing rather than a more noble profession in elder law.
BoJack Horseman (2014 – Present) — Animated — 5 Seasons
BoJack Horseman is a hilarious and profound meditation on the nature of depression that just happens to be about an anthropomorphic horse. BoJack (Will Arnett) is a washed-up Hollywood TV star with plenty of money but no real goals or joy left in his life. As his oddball friends urge him on, he realizes that failure doesn’t define him, but neither does triumph make him whole. A fifth season, which many at the Tom’s Guide offices are hailing as one of the show’s best, just hit Netflix.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013 – 2018) — Travel/Food — 5 Seasons
Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown brought viewers around the world on grand culinary tours. Exploring everywhere from the Congo (the season 1 finale) to the Mississippi Delta (season 3, episode 7) the series allowed Bourdain to educate audiences about the people and culture that create these delicacies. While the series was meant to be taken off Netflix in June, the streaming service announced it will keep streaming the show for the upcoming months, following fan outcry after Bourdain’s shocking death. Currently, only 4 of the show’s 11 seasons are on Netflix.
Orange is the New Black (2013 – Present) — Seriocomedy — 7 Seasons
Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) realizes she can’t escape the mistakes of her past when she winds up in a minimum-security women’s prison on a drug smuggling charge. Granted, it’s not all bad, as she befriends the quirky inmates and reflects on the bizarre backstory that brought her there. Both funny and insightful, Orange is the New Black is one of the most popular Netflix original series.
Its seventh and final season arrived on July 26 to mightily positive responses.
The Fosters (2013 – Present) – Drama – 5 Seasons
In this ABC Family/Freeform drama. Callie and her brother Jude are welcomed into the home of the Foster family after spending much of their lives in foster homes. The rest of the family includes their new parents — Stef and Lena — and a mix of diverse children, both biological and adopted, in this blended-family series geared toward teens. The Fosters earned critical acclaim and two GLAAD Media Awards for its portrayal of LGBT topics and themes.
House of Cards (U.S.) (2013 – Present) — Drama — 6 Seasons
A remake of the popular UK series of the same name, House of Cards is all about the inner workings of federal politics and just how dirty and deceitful they can get. Kevin Spacey stars as Frank Underwood: an amoral American congressman who will do absolutely anything to gain political power. As the show progresses, Frank becomes more influential and more unhinged. A new trailer for the show’s final season suggests Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood will be taking control of the executive branch, as she’s sitting behind the desk in the oval office, before the words “Hail to the Chief” appear on screen. Kevin Spacey, who was fired following sexual assault allegations, is nowhere to be seen.
The House of Cards reviews for the 6th and final season say the series isn’t hurting without Spacey in the show.
Black Mirror (2011 – Present) — Sci-Fi Thriller — 5 Seasons
If you were concerned about technology being a detriment to privacy, sanity and human relationships, then the sci-fi thriller series Black Mirror will only serve to confirm your worst fears. While its first episode, the sexually explicit “The National Anthem” only needs the present day’s social networks to upend the United Kingdom, later episodes — such as “Fifty Million Merits” and the Jon Hamm-starring “White Christmas” — predict how future advances in in-app purchases, reality TV and privacy filters will stunt our future. The series won two Primetime Emmy awards in 2017 for its San Junipero episode, and “USS Callister,” the first episode of its fourth season, proves that the show hasn’t run out of insane mind-bending ideas.
Its fifth season, which ran a mere three episodes, hit Netflix on June 5 and proved to be a mixed bag. Tom’s Guide’s Monica Chin critiqued these episodes for talking down to her generation.
MORE: Black Mirror: We Ranked Every Episode, From Worst to Best
Sherlock (2010 – Present) — Mystery — 4 Seasons
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective comes to life for the 21st century in Sherlock. When Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) returns from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, he takes a room with the brilliant but antisocial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). Together, the two must solve bizarre, complicated murder mysteries, protect state secrets and even undermine a criminal empire.
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is the boss you wish you had. Perpetually chipper and driven, even in the face of her supremely apathetic co-workers, Leslie’s fondest wish in life is to keep the parks in suburban Pawnee, Indiana, running in ship shape. Parks and Recreation takes aim at government bureaucracy, but also a fun, earnest side about how local government can be a positive force.
Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013) — Drama — 5 Seasons
One of the most intense and ambitious shows of the last decade, Breaking Bad is a story about disease and drugs, family and friendship, profit and power, and much, much more. High school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) needs money for his cancer treatment, and realizes he can put his scientific know-how to good use: making methamphetamine and starting an illicit empire.
Mad Men (2007 – 2015) – Drama – 7 Seasons
While day-drinking lothario Don Draper may think that the Sterling Cooper ad agency revolves around him, Mad Men is more than just its lead. The show also tells the tales of Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway (a creative and an office manager, respectively) who are fighting to climb the ladder of an industry run by men. And while we only saw Don’s daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) sporadically in the first three seasons, her dramatic arc as a child seeing the worst of her parents, turns her into a regular for the rest of the series.
Skins (2007 – 2013) — Drama — 7 Seasons
If you’re looking for another great teen drama, check out Skins, a hit series from across the pond. The show’s early seasons — which features Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones) — shocked many, by showing risque view of youth culture that many fear. The show depicts adolescence as a world where parents are absentees, teachers are having affairs with students and drugs are easily accessible. Rather than rely on sensationalism, though, the show dealt with these topics with respect and fleshed out its characters and their complex personalities.
“Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” If you’ve ever tried to explain a simple piece of technology to someone who just doesn’t get it, you know how Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd) and Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) feel. On The IT Crowd the two best friends work in the IT department of a big company under their clueless boss, Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson), with hilarious results.
Supernatural (2005 – Present) – Fantasy – 14 Seasons
Now the longest-running American fantasy series of all time, Supernatural is the story of Sam and Dean Winchester. This pair of brothers fights the paranormal, and battles both heaven and hell for a living. There’s an argument to be made that their ’67 Chevy Impala is the true star of the show, but it’s actors are Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, who play Dean and Sam Winchester, respectively.
The West Wing (1999 – 2006) — Drama — 7 Seasons
Being the president of the United States is arguably the toughest job in the world, unless you’ve got some good friends. In The West Wing, President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and his affable senior staff confront problems both great and small, which concern both the American public and their own lives. The show’s a bit more dramatic than real politics, but it’s also more uplifting.
Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991) — Drama — 2 Seasons
Who killed Laura Palmer? This mystery lies at the heart of Twin Peaks, a small-town drama from visionary filmmaker David Lynch. Kyle MacLachlan plays FBI investigator Dale Cooper as he explores the quiet town of Twin Peaks, looking for clues to a brutal murder of a prominent figure in the community. The show is clever and eerie, but features the hallmark Lynch humor and surrealism.
Star Trek (1966 – 1969) — Science-Fiction — 3 Seasons
Join Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the starship Enterprise as they boldly go where no man has gone before. Star Trek is a groundbreaking science-fiction adventure that had profound things to say about such concepts as exploration, war, racism and cultural differences. Some of the special effects are dated, but the stories and characters feel as fresh as ever.
The Twilight Zone (Original Series) (1959 – 1964) — Drama, Suspense — 4 Seasons
If you love Black Mirror, then you should take a look at the series inspired it. Yes, Netflix is streaming The Twilight Zone, the original TV series with seriously thrilling stories, introduced by the stern Rod Serling. Must-see episodes include the shocking and tragic “Eye of The Beholder,” as well as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Time Enough at Last,” which have been referenced in popular culture for decades.