Netflix‘s mailing service had already taken over the movie rental market when it launched its streaming service in 2007, giving subscribers on PC thousands of movies and TV shows for one monthly fee. Since launching that part of the business in 2007, Netflix has revolutionized how we watch movies and television. The streaming service is now available on pretty much any device with a screen and an Internet connection. It’s also become a major player in film and TV production.
The streaming service gave many critically acclaimed TV shows from regular broadcast or cable networks a second life. Some of the best televisions shows ever made are now available for binge viewing on the service. Let’s take a look at the best TV shows you can stream on Netflix, including both original shows exclusive to the service, and older shows first shown by other outlets.
Best shows on Netflix:
Editor’s note: This list will be updated as TV shows leave and other shows make their debut on Netflix.
1. Breaking Bad
Of all of the older shows streaming on Netflix, this series may have benefited the most. Breaking Bad is about a high-school chemistry teacher who slowly descends into evil by cooking meth to pay for his cancer treatments. It could be the best TV show on Netflix, and maybe the best one ever made. Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White is one of the best acting performances ever, TV or otherwise. He is helped by a superb supporting cast, including Aaron Paul, who is equally as good as White’s meth producing partner Jesse Pinkman.
You can watch all five seasons of Breaking Bad now on Netflix, as well as the spin-off show Better Call Saul, a prequel following the life of White’s lawyer before the events of the show.
A ton of sitcoms are streaming on Netflix, but for our money, the show with the most laughs and the most fun is Friends. The classic NBC sitcom followed the adventures of Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe for 10 years in their semi-fantasy version of New York City (seriously, how could anyone in their pay grade afford that massive apartment?). There are so many quotable lines from Friends (“We were on a break!”, “How you doin’?” “Seven!”) and so many great episodes, it’s easily one of the best TV shows on Netflix. It remains so popular Netflix reportedly paid the show’s studio Warner Bros. a whopping $100 million to keep the show on the service until at least early 2020. However, Friends will be leaving after that date to go on the upcoming HBO Max service.
3. Stranger Things
What can be said about this Netflix original show that hasn’t already been said? Stranger Things has become one of the most popular and buzzed-about current TV dramas, period. Created by the Duffer brothers, the show offers great nostalgic entertainment for people who grew up in the early 1980s and watched movies like E.T. and Poltergeist. At the same time, the show is made with a modern sensitivity towards relationships and characters. The kids and adults who live and work in the fictional Hawkins, Indiana have to deal with supernatural threats in the show’s first two seasons, but there’s also plenty of room for teenage romance and more. The long-awaited awaited third season of Stranger Things is now available to stream and a fourth season is in the works.
4. Mad Men
Another great show from AMC helped by Netflix binging was Mad Men. Who knew a show set in a Manhattan advertising agency in the 1960s could be so cool. It also offered a chance to see how workplace culture changed from the beginning of the 1960s to the early 1970s. The rise of the women’s movement, the fallout of the Vietnam War, and more all affect the professional and personal lives of the characters as the show progresses. Jon Hamm’s portrayal of Don Draper is spot-on as he plays the supercool ad executive with a shadowy past. Another big stand out is Elizabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, who personifies the changing role of women in society during that decade.
5. The Office (US)
Many fans of the original UK version of The Office were skeptical that the US remake would be as good. Turns out, the US incarnation of the ultimate workplace comedy might actually be (don’t tell anyone) better than the original. The US version ran longer (all nine seasons are on Netflix), so characters like Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute, and others had more time to develop and become more realistic. We also can’t forget one of the great TV romantic couples in John Krasinski’s Jim Halpert and Jenna Fischer’s Pam Beesly. Their performances, as well as the rest of the cast, make us wish we could visit the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, just to say, “Hi.”
6. Twin Peaks
Before shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad made TV a better place for cool drama than movies, David Lynch and Mark Frost came up with Twin Peaks. The ABC soap opera centered on the titular fictional Pacific Northwest town was all sorts of weird. In it, super-quirky FBI agent Dale Cooper (played to perfection by Kyle MacLachlan) tries to solve the mysterious death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a popular high-school student with a dark secret. In case you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, that’s all we’ll reveal about this show. It goes in a ton of different directions that had never really been done before in a TV show. The last half of the show’s second season is admittedly a bit of a mess, but Twin Peaks is still worth your time.
Brew yourself a damn fine cup of coffee and binge away on this great TV show on Netflix. Hopefully, the recent revival show will make its way to Netflix in the near future, too.
7. Bojack Horseman
If you thought an animated show about a talking horse would be funny, you would be correct. However, what’s really surprising about Bojack Horseman is how it deals with serious issues while making you laugh. This adult Netflix series (no, this show is not for kids) features Will Arnett’s spot-on vocal performance as Bojack, a talking horse who once was the star of a hit TV show, and wants to make a big comeback. You can catch six seasons on Netflix right now.
8. The Walking Dead
Based on the long-running Image Comic book series by Robert Kirkman, this AMC show became an instant hit for the cable network, and continues to find new fans as one of the best TV shows on Netflix. This chronicle of a series of characters dealing with the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse transcends its pulp story roots and explores what would really happen if civilization really ended. It was also one of the first TV shows to regularly kill off major characters, so if you are watching this on Netflix blind, don’t get too attached to the people you see in early episodes. The Walking Dead, even with its long history, remains a show that can regularly shock and surprise you, and it’s helped by great performances and some of the best horror makeup ever made.
9. Parks and Recreation
This NBC show might be considered to be a spiritual sister show to The Office. It’s filmed in a similar documentary style, and follows people doing their jobs in the Parks Department of fictional small town Pawnee, Indiana. However, Parks and Recreation has a lighter tone than The Office, with perhaps even more eccentric characters. No one fits that category better than Ron Swanson. In a role seemingly made for actor Nick Offerman, Swanson is the man everyone comes in contact with at some point in their lives. He’s good at his job, knows it, and won’t let you forget it. The rest of the cast is excellent, and you can watch this show to see Christ Pratt just before he turned into, well, movie Chris Pratt.
10. The Good Place
This is another comedy, but one that deals with life after death. The Good Place begins after Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell, turns up in The Good Place after her unfortunate demise. Her afterlife guide Michael (played by the always great Ted Danson) tries his best to help, but as with Twin Peaks, we really don’t want to say anything more. Surprises and twists by the bucketful await your viewing. This show is all about revealing your true self, which apparently isn’t as easy as it sounds after you find yourself dead.
11. Black Mirror
The spiritual successor to The Twilight Zone, Black Mirror is all about how today’s technology could morph into tomorrow’s major problems. Creator Charlie Brooker has crafted some truly classic TV episodes that challenge our beliefs in mass media, social networks, artificial intelligence and more. There’s even a special episode, Bandersnatch, that gives the viewer the chance to pick where the story will go next, with several different possible endings. While not all of Black Mirror’s episodes are home runs, they all try to make us think, which is more than most TV gives us these days.
12. Russian Doll
This Emmy-nominated comedy series is a new take on the “Groundhog Day” time loop premise. Natasha Lyonne, who co-created the series, stars as a woman who is reliving the night of her 36th birthday over and over again. While the basic idea of the show is nothing new anymore, Russian Day still manages to be funny, and Lyonne is perfect as the lead character who can’t believe this situation is happening to her. The show has already been renewed for a second season.
Best Netflix TV shows – Honorable mentions
Obviously, our picks for the 10 best TV shows on Netflix leaves out a ton of other shows also worth your time. Here are just a few honorable mentions.
- The Twilight Zone — The OG sci-fi anthology show might have a few dated episodes, but ones like “It’s a Good Life,” “To Serve Man,” and many, many others still pack a punch.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — We are going out on a limb here. This show, with its deep characters and serialized storylines, is the best of the six live-action Star Trek TV shows.
- The West Wing — We still wish this drama about the people who work in the White House was like how the real one worked, but at least we have this idealized fictional version to watch on Netflix.
- Sherlock — The TV show that made Benedict Cumberbatch a household name also refreshes Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day setting, without forgetting why the character became popular over 100 years ago.
- The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story — The real-life crime story about how the U.S. football star was accused and tried for the murder of two people remains one of the most powerful TV limited series ever made.
- GLOW — This comedy about a fictionalized version of the very real TV show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is funny and occasionally thought-provoking.
- Dexter — The show about a serial killer who kills, well, serial killers, remains one of the best crime drama ever made, thanks in large part to Michael C. Hall’s portrayal of the title character.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 — Whether you watch the new version, or some of the original episodes, MST3K offer more laughs in one episode than some comedies do in an entire season.
- Dark Matter — Much like another sci-fi show, Firefly, this series about a group of rag tag characters who just try to live their lives on board their spaceship was canceled well before its time, but its three seasons are still worth watching.
These are the best shows currently available on Netflix in our opinion. We’ll update this post with new ones once they launch.