With a growing number of streaming sites offering huge libraries of new and old content, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the wealth of options. So, let’s break it down and start slow. What are the best original streaming shows?
Below, you’ll find our top picks, organized according to where you can watch them among the massive number of streaming service currently on the market.
From Netflix to HBO Max to Disney Plus to Peacock, we’ve rounded up the heavy hitters and hope to help you cut through the noise to find what you want to binge tonight.
See also: What are the best streaming services?
Best original streaming show: GLOW
Netflix has been in the game for a while now, launching its first original streaming series, House of Cards, in 2013. Since then, it has put out a slew of hits like Orange Is the New Black, The Umbrella Academy, Stranger Things, BoJack Horseman, The Crown, and a string of Marvel shows. But of all of them, the women’s wrestling comedy GLOW takes the cake. The series follows a group of women in the 1980s finding strength and solidarity as the Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling. The all-female wrestling crew lights up the local airwaves before a move to live performance in Vegas. Despite being canceled ahead of its fourth season, GLOW remains one of the very best original streaming shows on Netflix.
- Ozark: When a white-collar criminal angers the wrong people, he moves his family to the Ozarks to start fresh, while not exactly leaving his criminal past behind. What sounded like a Breaking Bad knockoff at first has proven to be a great crime drama.
- Sense8: The Wachowskis’ and J. Michael Strackzynski’s sci-fi series is one of the most ambitious Netflix projects, spanning the globe and following eight characters who suddenly find themselves bonded mentally and emotionally. The show was canceled after two seasons, but thanks to fan outcry, there’s also a film that wrapped up the sprawling narrative.
Best original streaming show: The Flight Attendant
When Cassie Bowden, the titular flight attendant, wakes up after a characteristically boozey one-night-stand with one of the travelers on her flight to Bangkok, she finds herself embroiled in a deadly conspiracy. Her bedmate, as luck would have it, is dead, seemingly murdered while Cassie slept soundly beside him. This dark, witty, and fun modern-day send-up of Hitchcock classics like The 39 Steps and North By Northwest helped launch HBO Max as part of an early slate of originals last year. It remains a top choice if you’re looking for something to stream.
- Raised by Wolves: Space colonists clash with cyborgs on an alien world in Raised by Wolves. One of the WarnerMedia streamer’s first originals, the series is produced by Ridley Scott and blends some of the best elements of his own sci-fi classics Alien and Blade Runner.
- Search Party: Originally on TBS, this sleeper hit has found a second life as an HBO Max original. A group of friends in New York gets entangled in a possible missing persons case in this satirical dark comedy.
Best original streaming show: WandaVision
Following a few Marvel shows tied to varying degrees to the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney invested hard in MCU television on its dedicated streamer, Disney Plus, in early 2021. The first MCU original streaming show released on Disney Plus remains its best. WandaVision explores Wanda’s emotional state following the events of Avengers: Endgame as she copes with the loss of Vision. Retreating into the illusion of classic sitcoms, she struggles to contain her pain as magical forces conspire against her. It’s a smart and moving addition to the MCU and allows us to spend some quality time with characters who haven’t previously gotten a whole lot of screen time.
- The Mandalorian: One of the first original series to launch with Disney Plus, The Mandalorian takes the Star Wars universe back to its roots as a space western (emphasis on the western), following a mysterious bounty hunter trying to make things right when he finds that his latest assignment involves an innocent child.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society: A critical hit and fan favorite, this adaptation of the children’s books by Trenton Lee Stewart tells the story of an eccentric genius who puts together a team of orphans to stop a global emergency.
Apple TV Plus
Best original streaming show: For All Mankind
One of Apple TV Plus’ flagship shows, For All Mankind explores an alternate American history. What if the Soviet Union had put a man on the moon before NASA? What if the moon landing became the central battleground in the Cold War, with both sides investing more heavily in space exploration? The show follows a group of astronauts and other NASA employees as they adjust over many years to a vision of American ingenuity that cleverly pushes back against the reality we know. With sharp writing and top-notch performances, For All Mankind is Apple TV Plus’ best show. Frankly, it’s one of the best shows on any platform.
- Servant: M. Night Shyamalan‘s Servant is a slow-boiling horror story about a live-in nanny to a couple whose child died and was replaced by a life-like replica. But with the new addition to the household, something strange is happening. The child may be alive and well after all.
- Ted Lasso: Feel-good hit Ted Lasso is one of Apple’s most beloved shows. When American football coach Ted Lasso is brought to England to coach pro soccer, he has to fight an uphill battle to win over his new colleagues who are rooting for him to fail.
Best original streaming show: High Fidelity
Hulu’s High Fidelity is an absolutely brilliant re-imagining of the Nick Hornby novel of the same name. The book was first adapted by Stephen Frears as a film starring John Cusack in 2000. The series recasts white, straight, male, Gen-X music snob Rob as a Black, bisexual, millennial woman, played by Zoë Kravitz. (Kravitz’s mother, Lisa Bonet, appeared in the original film.) Rob still owns a record shop in the newer series, and she struggles with the same relationship woes, working her way through past boyfriends and girlfriends to figure out why she can’t find love. The show sadly wasn’t picked up for a second season, but season one is easily one of the best original streaming shows on the Disney-owned platform.
- The Handmaid’s Tale: This adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic sees a future where fertile women become child-bearing slaves to the upper class. The Emmy-winning series has been a massive hit, and the image of its titular handmaids has been repurposed by activists across America.
- The Great: The Great is a black comedy about the early days of Catherine the Great as she acclimates to life in Russia with her new husband. Pitch-perfect performances by Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult make this essential viewing for Hulu subscribers.
Amazon Prime Video
Best original streaming show: The Underground Railroad
Amazon’s stunning miniseries The Underground Railroad literalizes the historical Underground Railroad. The network of abolitionists who worked to help secure freedom for individuals escaping slavery by providing shelter and access to secret routes here becomes a genuine railroad built underground, tracks and all, for the same purpose. Creator and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) adapts the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. Using magic realism, breathtaking cinematography, and a beautiful score by Nicholas Brittell, Jenkins and his gifted cast tell a haunting, beautiful, disturbing, dream-like story about America’s shameful past.
- The Boys: Amazon’s superhero series takes a gritty approach to capes, presenting a team of egomaniacs competing for fame. But they’re also competing for endorsements and PR representation, and a coveted seat among well-funded supergroup The Seven. What happens when a team of regular folks, The Boys, stands up to them?
- The Expanse: Cancelled after three seasons at Syfy, The Expanse has been an Amazon original since season four. In a future where space is being colonized, different factions fight for resources and self-determination.
Best original streaming show: Succession
HBO Max replaced older HBO streaming services, but the premium cable channel still has its own library of original titles, so it seems fair to single a few out, even though you’ll be finding them over on HBO Max. One of the top titles you’ll find at HBO is Succession. The family drama premiered in 2018 and follows the Roy clan, a family of spoiled rich kids vying to take over the family media conglomerate from their father. Succession feels like it captures everything that’s wrong with the world, all condensed into one over-privileged family. And somehow it’s still tremendous fun to watch.
- Watchmen: This adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic superhero deconstruction feels less like a new take on the original comic and more like an engagement with its core concepts, updated for the current day. It’s a brilliant piece of television and well worth checking out.
- I May Destroy You: Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, co-produced with BBC, is a raw look at a woman taking stock of her life, relationships, and career after she’s sexually assaulted in a nightclub. It’s smart, moving, devastating, funny, and brilliant.
Best original streaming show: Black Monday
Showtime’s Black Monday offers an irreverent look at the world of investments. Taking place in the 80s, it follows a group of outsider investors. The rag-tag group takes on the establishment to eventually cause Black Monday, the worst stock market crash in Wall Street history. Don Cheadle is at the top of his game as Maurice “Mo” Monroe. Mo is a ruthless stock trader who’s in it for himself (but, hey, it’s Wall Street, who isn’t?). He’s joined by a terrific cast including Andrew Rannells, Regina Hall, Paul Scheer, Casey Wilson, and more. Black Monday isn’t as high-profile as some of the other titles on this list, but it’s one of the best original streaming shows around (that is if you watch it on the Showtime app and not when it airs on cable).
- City on a Hill: A fictional account of the “Boston Miracle,” City on a Hill follows a new Boston assistant district attorney and crooked FBI agent as they work together to clean up the city and stamp out police corruption.
- Ziwe: Absurdly talented and wickedly clever writer, comedian, and internet star Ziwe brings her unique brand of comedy to a hilarious variety show featuring celebrity interviews, musical numbers, and sketches.
Best original streaming show: The Amber Ruffin Show
Anyone who’s watched Late Night with Seth Meyers likely knows the singular talent of Amber Ruffin. A writer on the storied NBC late-night talk show since 2014, the comic has been an on-air personality with Meyers in recent years. Recurring bits like Jokes Seth Can’t Tell and Amber Says What have been standouts of the show. Thankfully, the folks at NBCUniversal were wise enough to recognize Ruffin’s talent. In 2020, Peacock launched The Amber Ruffin Show, a huge critical hit that blends monologues and sketch comedy. It’s a top streaming choice for anyone trying out Peacock.
- Dr. Death: One of Peacock’s prestige dramas, based on a true story and the podcast of the same name, Dr. Death tells the story of a star neurosurgeon whose colleagues begin to notice disturbing patterns among his patients’ health outcomes.
- A.P. Bio: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton plays a disgraced Harvard philosophy professor who returns to his hometown to teach advanced placement biology at the local high school. There, he uses his bright young students to further his own goals.
Best original streaming show: Star Trek: Lower Decks
Paramount Plus’ streaming-only animated Star Trek series is a wonderful send-up of previous Treks and fandoms. The series follows Starfleet’s lower-profile employees. The folks who keep ships running without ever touching much of the glory and praise that the main casts of shows like Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation are used to. One of the great pleasures of Star Trek: Lower Decks is its sense of humor about Star Trek as a whole. It’s sometimes an outright parody. But, like all great parody, it’s crafted by folks who clearly love what they’re poking fun at.
- Younger: Originally on TV Land, the clever Younger has been a Paramount Plus original since its seventh season launched this year. The show follows a 40-year-old woman who pretends to be in her 20s to avoid the ageism of her publishing industry job.
- The Stand: Adapting Steven King’s epic dystopian classic, The Stand is an ambitious miniseries that has polarized viewers. Love it or hate it, a prestige drama about an apocalyptic pandemic released in 2020 surely feels timely.
That’s just a sampling of the best original streaming shows you can catch up with on all the major streaming services. Click through to our longer pieces on each site for a more complete list of available content.