The Best TV Shows You Can Actually Download From Netflix
Download now, watch later.
Did you know that you can download TV shows from Netflix onto your laptop or phone, so you can watch your favorite shows even when you don't have an internet connection? Well, better late than never, buddy! Not only does the streaming service rotate its offerings every month, it's constantly looking for ways to deliver the movies and TV shows you want, wherever you are.
You'll need to download the Netflix app (iTunes and Android), and once you start browsing, you'll see a downward-pointing arrow for titles you can download (unfortunately, not everything is downloadable... yet). To get you started, we picked our favorite downloadable TV shows, but if you can't find something you like, your best bet is to check out the complete list of the best shows on Netflix. Never buffer again!
Altered Carbon (2018- )
Adapted from the 2002 Richard K. Morgan novel of the same name, Altered Carbon is a flashy, jargon-y, and, at times, dizzying descent into sci-fi decadence. The show follows a 22nd-century mercenary (Joel Kinnaman) who's hired to solve the murder of a highly influential aristocrat. The catch? Said aristocrat is still alive, because in this version of the future, the wealthy can't really die -- instead, their consciousness is essentially uploaded to the cloud and downloaded into new bodies. In a world without death, the ensuing caper boasts the same jaw-dropping visuals and world-building as Blade Runner and the same thought-provoking intrigue as HBO's Westworld. What looks like a complicated murder mystery detours as a complicated love story and a complicated look at social stratification. In other words, showrunner Laeta Kalogridis packs A LOT to digest in here, but that means there's A LOT to appreciate if you're patient.
American Horror Story (2011- )
Why do people love Ryan Murphy shows so much? Because they're infused with equal parts camp, drama, suspense, and humor -- even this ostensibly scary one. Whether you're watching the Murder House, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, or the 2016 election-inspired Cult installment, you're in for unforgettable characters, stomach-curdling gore, jaw-dropping plot twists, and brutal finales.
American Vandal (2017-2018)
American Vandal, about teen documentarians who investigate the innocence of a classmate accused of vandalism (Jimmy Tatro), is much more than a four-hour dick joke. After the first couple episodes, the phallic material fades into the background, allowing the show to satirize high school and today's criminal justice system in a meaningful way. To pull it off, the co-creators studied the techniques that made them so invested in such true-crime titans as Serial, Making a Murderer, and The Jinx. It's parody, homage, addictive teen drama all wrapped in one -- an underrated win for the streaming service.
Better Call Saul (2015- )
It wasn't all that long ago that Bob Odenkirk, long a comedy icon, was stealing scenes in AMC's Breaking Bad. Now, he's signed on to appear in Steven Spielberg's new film and carries the Breaking Bad prequel as its star. With the (re)introduction of ice-cold supervillain Gus Fring, this slow show shows no signs of slowing down.
Black Mirror (2011- )
Each installment of Charlie Brooker's addictive anthology takes a current techno-social phenomenon -- topics that range from hashtags to five-star ratings -- to its extreme and asks whether human nature can coexist with it. Part satire and part (unintentional) prophecy, the series presents an appropriately grim view of the future, one that will definitely make you worry for the next generation and maybe even galvanize you into action. Binge this delicious platter of paranoia cautiously.
BoJack Horseman (2014-2020)
Netflix's animated series goes all in on the depression, failure, and slovenly behavior of its titular star, who's always on the verge of a comeback that never actually happens, at least not the way BoJack thinks it will. With plenty of gags to lighten the mood between the morose moments, BoJack Horseman asks us to laugh -- and we do, because we can't imagine this beleaguered equine's life getting any worse, which, invariably, it does.
Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Despite originally airing on AMC, Breaking Bad is the ultimate Netflix show. Filled with moments of shocking violence and wry humor, the rise and fall of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) -- and his co-conspirators Jesse, Skyler, Gus, and Mike -- is probably best experienced in wild, indulgent weekend binges. That's what many fans did throughout the show's five-season run, catching up on old episodes on Netflix to prepare for the must-see moments that occurred during its final stretch. With the acclaimed spinoff Better Call Saul now inspiring similar conversations, there's never been a better time to take the dive. You don't just watch this show; it consumes you.
Chef's Table (2015- )
With an explosion of food television comes elevated standards; Netflix's Chef's Table forages for those standards, brings them to the restaurant for dinner service, treats them with respect, turns them into a whimsical play on a dish remembered from childhood, and earns a couple Michelin stars and the admiration of its peers in the process. The point is that Chef's Table, from creator David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), is an exceptional food show that manages to make humans the centerpiece.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (2012- )
Jerry Seinfeld has a shitload of expensive cars lying around, so he decided to film himself giving other funny people rides in them. It's pretty entertaining! And after a run as Crackle's only viable original program, Seinfeld took his talents to the king of the streaming game (for now).
There's a reason Dan Harmon's community college ensemble comedy amassed a devoted cult following for its six-season run, despite it nearly always being on the brink of cancelation. The series focuses on a lovable study group of misfits played by both comedy veterans and those then just on the brink of breaking out -- including consummate cool guy Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), lovable ditz Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), TV-obsessed Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), anxious genius Annie Edison (Alison Brie), tough-but-firm mother Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), high school jock Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), and the baffling, bored, former CEO Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) -- as they navigate their way through Greendale Community College. It’s a sitcom that’s goofy and delirious, but forever a lesson in how to become a better person.
The Crown (2016- )
The Crown is a well-made (and very expensively made) show, with standout performances in its first two seasons from Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. (Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies took over for them in Season 3.) Its period costumes are legendary and its sets designed with impeccable attention to detail. If only The Crown would choose its potential storylines as meticulously! Modern audiences would be better served if the showrunners examined the macro geopolitical shifts that have characterized Elizabeth II's long reign -- for example, decolonization receives scant attention, but the Great Smog of London merits a multi-episode storyline. Still, The Crown is confident in its soapiness, opulent in every respect, and quite possibly Netflix's best choice for escapism (albeit using a subject that should probably be anything but). If you love royalist porn or British period dramas like Downton Abbey, this will be like a long, slow massage.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019)
Many armchair critics tried to dismiss former YouTube sensation Rachel Bloom's CW series for what they presumed to be a sexist title -- a notion she bites back at from the opening credits on. In fact, the series is quietly revolutionary, offering sharp yet subtle commentary about the way women treat each other and themselves, and casually featuring one of the most diverse casts on TV. CXG draws its rom-com antics from heroine Rebecca's compulsive behavior and past traumas, all while satirizing the conventions of musicals with song-and-dance numbers worthy of Sondheim. It's a downward spiral, for sure, but psychosis has never been this entertaining.
Dubbed the German version of Stranger Things, this foreign supernatural drama following a boy who goes missing is an absolute mind fuck. While the show sees comparisons to the Duffer Brothers’ ode to ‘80s sci-fi, Dark is in a league of its own, following several families each with secrets of their own as they deal with a disappearance that shakes their eerie German town and might be a hint to a greater looming threat. There’s a handful of twists and turns, time travel (and lots of it), and a terrifying feeling you can’t shake until you see the entire first season through.
Dear White People (2017- )
Justin Simien's scorching send-up of post-racial America received the green light from Netflix for 10 30-minute episodes, with Logan Browning stepping in for Tessa Thompson. As in the movie, the streaming version follows a diverse group of students pushing back against discrimination at a mostly white Ivy League school. Contrary to what the trolls want you to believe, Simien's work is not white-genocide propaganda; it's an illuminating look at what equality means in the 21st century. As he's explained already, "I'm a storyteller. My job isn't to protect your feelings. It's to show you who you are. Sometimes that will be joyful. Sometimes it'll hurt."
The End of the F***ing World (2017-2019)
Somehow, a show about a teenager who's convinced he's a psychopath and wants to find his first human kill manages to come off as a charming love and coming-of-age story. The tone demands a lot of the audience: Can you empathize with the human struggle of a kid who wants to kill, kill, kill? It's a compelling premise that tackles the question with necessary nuance.
Fauda (2015- )
Fauda, an action thriller about an elite team of undercover Israeli commandos working in Palestine, is perhaps the best of Netflix's recent foreign-language shows, a frantically paced and politically charged melodrama filled with sequences of white-knuckle suspense straight out of Homeland or 24. But unlike those spy dramas, Fauda spends nearly as much time on the private lives of Palestinians as it does on its gun-toting heroes. It's got a moral complexity that its more simplistic American counterparts often lack.
A showcase for the charismatic brutality only Jason Momoa can muster, Frontier is a rollicking Netflix and Discovery Channel Canada co-production about the (literally) cutthroat 18th-century North American fur trade. The adventure series has more in common with breezy syndicated fare like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys than it does with Momoa's star-making Game of Thrones, but if you squint hard enough at the right moment you'll swear that it's Khal Drogo himself cutting off that poor sap's ear.
GLOW (2017- )
It's odd that it took so long for someone to make a fun comedy about professional wrestling. Where Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler turned the plight of a washed-up grappler into a Sisyphean struggle in spandex, GLOW, which was inspired by a real-life wrestling women's wrestling promotion from the '80s, takes a sunnier but still no-holds-barred approach. Community's Alison Brie excels as an actress who gets cast by a washed-up filmmaker (Marc Maron) to play the villain in the rag-tag operation, but, like producer Jenji Kohan's Orange Is the New Black, it's the side characters, like Britney Young's second-generation brawler Machu Picchu, who really help this show get over. It's one of the few pieces of pop culture that actually captures this "fake" sport's very real appeal.
The Good Place (2016-2020)
Created by Parks and Rec mastermind Michael Schur, this whimsical comedy sends the World's Most Selfish Woman, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), to the afterlife. More specifically: the titular Good Place, something like heaven minus all the religious stuff. Things go swimmingly until Eleanor realizes she's been mistaken for someone else -- a glitch in the system that sends the utopia into a downward spiral. It's tons of fun seeing Bell and her onscreen soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper) try to fool everyone into believing this Eleanor can be a good person and deserves to stay. By the time you get to the incredible season finale, it's clear you've been sent straight up to TV heaven. Or, as Eleanor herself might put it: This show is forkin' good!
Grace and Frankie (2015- )
Netflix users of a certain age have likely overlooked this dramedy from Marta Kauffman (Friends) and Howard J. Morris (The Starter Wife), about two septuagenarian friends (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) who shack up together after their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) announce they're in love and intend to marry. With notes of The Odd Couple and The Brady Bunch -- both couples have grown kids as equally knocked out by the news -- Grace and Frankie is down-to-earth viewing that's rich with observational wit on the progressive notion of being true to one's identity, and the time-worn cliche that everyone gets older with age. If you've indulged in the low-key, picture-perfect comedies of Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give), give this one a try.
Lady Dynamite (2016-2017)
Maria Bamford's semi-autobiographical, surreal spin on mental illness in Hollywood was a summer sleeper hit for Netflix. The comedian's self-aware hijinks share obvious DNA with Arrested Development: Mitch Hurwitz and Pam Brady are executive producers; there are sight gags, wordplay, and mockery of Los Angeles idiocy galore; and it features countless comedy-world cameos, extended fantasy sequences, and genuine self-introspection. It'll take you a few episodes to get invested, or even to wrap your head around WTF you're watching. But once you're hooked, you're hooked.
Making a Murderer (2015-2018)
What begins like a standard-issue Dateline episode about Steven Avery, a rural Wisconsin ne'er-do-well wrongfully convicted of rape, turns, over the course of its 10 episodes, into a sharp, twin rebuke of unchecked law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system.
As the documentary team behind this essential Netflix binge, which rivals The Staircase and Serial season one in its capacity to inspire righteous anger and rabbit-hole quests for the truth, details without exceeding skill, justice for Avery and his nephew, tragically swept up in the deplorable affair, has most definitely not been served. This one is the bleakest on the list, so we advise you spread out your binge as much as possible.
Mindhunter (2017- )
David Fincher loves serial killers. The director of Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo launched Netflix into the world of original television when he applied his dark, brooding aesthetic to a different kind of sociopath: obscenely ambitious politician Francis Underwood, focal point of House of Cards. But where House of Cards feels a bit like a desperate child crying out for attention -- "Look at me!" -- Mindhunter arrives fully mature, concerned more with exploring the depths of headlines already written than creating new ones. The show follows a young, self-assured FBI agent, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff); his mentor, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany); and psychologist-turned-consultant Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) as they establish a division of the Bureau tasked with solving a "new kind of crime" that lacks what most law enforcers think of as rational motives. In short, they're inventing what will become the famous "FBI profiler" department, responsible for ferreting out criminal sociopaths, but Mindhunter's success arises from its ability to generate what serial killers lack: empathy and nuance. You feel not only for the agents and their decidedly second-priority romantic partners, but also for the killers, some of whom possess knife-edge intelligence and a caustic self-awareness, while others inspire near-instant revulsion. Add in the time-tested conventions of true crime mysteries, plus a steadfast unwillingness to write another FBI hagiography, and Mindhunter is highly bingeable, yet offers a depth that rewards slow-burn viewing.
This thriller is a treat for history buffs, unpacking the horrifying, drug-laden history of Colombia during the reign of legendary kingpin Pablo Escobar. As Escobar, Wagner Moura is both terrifying and captivating, and his opposition, two DEA agents fighting their way through a convoluted mystery, give a scarily real sense of the American efforts to end the war on drugs. Moura is SO convincing that I'd probably spit on him if I ran into him on the street on behalf of the Colombian people -- he's that good at being bad. Narcos' mix of archival footage and contemporary fictionalization keeps you engaged, and reminds you that a literal genocide had to happen just so yuppies could blow coke in the Hamptons during the '80s (only kind of kidding).
Amid the Homelands and Zero Dark Thirtys of the world, it's easy to forget that the United States' decades-long global war on terror is just that: global. The coalition of nations that fought with America in Afghanistan included Norway, and it's in a foreign camp that the show begins with a tense military operation to take out a suspected suicide bomber. Make no mistake, though: This is not a war series, but a political one, focusing on the treacherous ripples terrorism sets off through national politics. In this case, the political implications are told through the lives Erling Riiser (Aksel Hennie), who served in Afghanistan, and his wife, Johanne (Tuva Novotny), a government worker who must navigate the business interests related to Norway's involvement in the region.
The OA (2016-2019)
If Stranger Things was a little too basic for you, give this wonky sci-fi series from co-creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij a shot. The otherworldly Marling stars as Prairie, a blind woman who returns to society after years in captivity and quickly starts a youth group with some troubled teens. It gets crazier from there. Yes, there's interpretive dance. Yes, there are weird flashbacks to Russia. Yes, it will leave you scratching your head and searching the internet for clues. But sometimes the crazy shows are the ones you love the most.
The Office (2005-2013)
Go ahead and try to prevent your brain from firing off loads of oxytocin as soon as those opening piano notes hit your eardrums. As scenes from Scranton and the Dunder Mifflin office play across the screen, you'll find it difficult to resist falling into a wormhole of nostalgia, knowing all along that (SPOILER) Jim and Pam get together in the end. If you're watching for the first time, you'll understand why so many people fell for Michael Scott and the soft-bellied, straight-faced humor that reinvented network television.
One Day at a Time (2017- )
Like The Ranch, its red state cousin, One Day at a Time is a throwback family sitcom in a world that can be unkind to audience laughter, big comedic performances, and that stage-bound multi-camera look. But single-camera purists should get over their hang-ups. This clever remake of Norman Lear's '70s hit about a single mother raising two teenage daughters is more charming and funny than many of its seemingly "edgier" peers. Anchored by a lived-in performance from Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), the show finds familiar laughs in the way generations clash and families wage war, but it's also culturally specific, socially engaged, and leisurely paced in a way that makes it stand out from your average CBS family show -- or Netflix's own dire Fuller House. Though Netflix canceled the series after Season 3, Pop picked it back up and it's since continued over there.
Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)
The scripted original that put Netflix on the map (sorry, House of Cards!), Orange is a comedy that will make you cry or a drama that will make your sides split, depending on how you want to categorize it. Featuring one of TV's best ensembles made up largely of unknown actresses, Jenji Kohan’s show about life in a women’s prison is full of fascinating, nuanced characters from all walks of life, who elicit empathy even as they make difficult -- sometimes morally reprehensible -- choices in order to get by.
Ozark (2017- )
It's easy to see why early critics compared Ozark to Breaking Bad: Drug money and morally gray characters abound in both. But as Marty Byrde -- a brilliant Chicago-based financial advisor who moves his family to Missouri's Ozarks on a life-or-death deadline to wash truck loads of cash for Mexico's second biggest drug cartel -- Jason Bateman never goes full Heisenberg. In fact, his character's main motivation for doing anything is to protect his family. Along with Bateman, Laura Linney (Marty's wife), Jason Butler Harner (an undercover fed), and Julia Garner (one sketchy family's substitute don) deliver particularly memorable turns to help make this slow-burn work wonders over its tense 10-plus hour runtime. The Byrde saga might not yet be as good as its spiritual forefather, but it's better than a lot of its cousins (even Bloodline!). It'd be a mistake to not give it a shot.
Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
In the vein of workplace "reality" comedies like The Office, creator Michael Schur's take on a local parks and rec department finds humor in the mundane -- like bosses who take themselves way too seriously. Watching this show now is like being treated to a buffet of comedic royalty; there's Amy Poelher! Adam Scott! Donald Glover! Aubrey Plaza! Aziz Ansari! And more! Their performances cemented Parks and Rec's place in network comedy lore.
Peaky Blinders (2013- )
Cillian Murphy stars in this early-20th-century period drama as Thomas Shelby, a World War I vet-turned-patriarchal crime boss who wants to up his family's social and financial status in England. The Shelbys' story plays out as historical fiction, loosely inspired by the exploits of real-life gangs based in Birmingham around the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rivaling bands of thugs clash for underworld influence here in a way that is not unlike on Game of Thrones just on a less fantastical scale: high-stakes political power plays, shady back-room dealings, and gritty tussles abound, with enough blood to rival the Red Wedding. (The show's name comes from the razor blades stitched in the Shelbys' flat caps, after all.) And if you still miss GoT, take comfort in appearances from Locke (Noah Taylor), Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), and the Night King (Richard Brake).
Pose (2018- )
Focusing on the queer ball communities as well as the upper crust businessmen of New York in the 1980s, Pose was destined to be an important show from its debut, especially considering it features the largest regular cast of trans actors ever on TV. But the show from Ryan Murphy proved to be even more fabulous than anyone anticipated, with thanks to nuanced storylines and incredible performances from talent like Janet Mock and Indya Moore. It's an ode to an overlooked community, keying in on the story of an ambitious dancer named Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), but Pose is also a testament to resilience, and one of the most joyful viewing experiences in recent TV memory.
Riverdale (2017- )
A modern CW take on the yuk-yuk teen comic Archie may sound like a shot of arsenic to prestige TV binge-watchers, but with a murder mystery undercurrent, soap drama worthy of The O.C., and a sheen that looks like Twin Peaks by way of 300, Riverdale rises above everything you think you should be watching. Each young actor on the show is a discovery (OK, maybe not Arch himself, but this is why the comics always emphasized "& Friends") and the fully packed episodes earn all the twists and turns. Watch Riverdale and you'll be sifting through grocery store comic shelves in a week.
Sex Education (2019- )
Creator Laurie Nunn's British teen dramedy about Otis (Asa Butterfield), the son of a sex therapist who somewhat unwittingly parlays his secondhand sexual knowledge into a successful business counseling fellow students, took Netflix subscribers by storm when it premiered in January 2019. A cast anchored by Butterfield, Emma Mackey (who plays Maeve), and Gillian Anderson (as Otis' mom, Jean) adds nuance to a story that could have gone low and focused merely on the sex, but opted for a more thoughtful route. The incredible chemistry between all of the cast members and an undeniable John Hughes vibe (think Pretty in Pink) elevate this easily binged show above a sea of mediocre angsty teen programs.
She's Gotta Have It (2017-2019)
Nola Darling is an artist, an activist, a Brooklynite, and a sex-positive polyamorous pansexual with three emotionally volatile boyfriends. But who is she? Spike Lee made his directorial debut with 1986's She's Gotta Have It, and 30 years later, expands the character study (with the help of a writer's room including his sister Joie Lee, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage) into his first TV series, a rhythmic exploration of sex, Brooklyn, and black life. Lee's signature, syncopated style -- bright colors, up-close-and-personal confessionals, jolts of pop music and album art, Bruce Hornsby's melancholy piano filling the gaps -- is intact, tracking Nola through the gentrifying brownstone labyrinth of Fort Greene like an epistolary novel. The joy of the series is in the updated casting, DeWanda Wise's Nola beams with wisdom, fear, artistic knowledge, and carnal desire, while the men and women in her life are fleshed out and… fleshed out, allowing the many sex scenes to play to the senses while reaching for something deeper.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Sherlock Holmes, albeit in the present day, solving crimes with the refined intelligence characteristic of Arthur Conan Doyle's hero, and accompanied by his sidekick, Dr. Watson. With three hour-and-a-half-long installments in each series, you can solve a single mystery in the course of a single night -- or, if you're more ambitious, you may find yourself glued to the couch for an entire weekend, trying to catch up with the rapid wit and near-impossible intellect of one of fiction's legendary characters.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
After a string of The Original Series-inspired movies and miscalculations on how to revive the sci-fi franchise for television, Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek boldly went where no concept had gone before with The Next Generation, a shinier, headier, all-around better (yeah, we said it) saga in the United Federation of Planets' history. Led by Patrick Stewart and helped by an iconic supporting cast, The Next Generation followed the TOS mission to speculate about and empathize with social issues of the day, filtered through a lens of A-grade sci-fi writing that stands the test of time.
Stranger Things (2016- )
If you haven't binged Netflix's '80s paranormal throwback... what gives? It's all your friends talked about last summer, and the second season, due in October, looks bonkers. If you've already done your time in the Upside Down, bide your time with the time-jumping Travelers, the alien-invasion saga Colony, the goofy fantasy series Shannara, and the one-season mind-bender Awake.
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
Every lauded sci-fi movie or television show owes Rod Serling residuals. Over 156 episodes, Serling speculated and dreamed, refracting his present day through the trippiest scenarios to ever beam through mild-mannered American homes. The Twilight Zone’s visual prose took us to jungles, to space, to 20,000 feet, and to the sunny block from every person’s childhood, where the worst existential revelations tended to lurk. The Twilight Zone still speaks volumes. Buckle up and fly into a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
David Lynch and Mark Frost's detective series is often credited with instilling television with artful potential. Without Twin Peaks, there'd likely be no Mad Men or Breaking Bad, (and both shows nodded to the ABC series). And yet, the show's dreamy, saturated look is really a cherry on top. Twin Peaks is a steady stream of oddball characters and fantastical twists, encountered by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he hunts for the murder of a small town teenager. Your weird friends love this show. You should, too. It's finally time to understand those Log Lady Halloween costumes.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2019)
Tina Fey and 30 Rock producer Robert Carlock’s comedy tracks the adventures of an Indiana naïf after she is freed from being held captive by a doomsday cult leader for 15 years -- what a premise! Ellie Kemper plays the freed kidnapping victim, who heads to the Big Apple without a clue on how to exist in the modern world. Luckily, Titus, a penny-pinching, Broadway-belting man in desperate need of a roommate, takes her in and trains her in the art of living. Kimmy Schmidt clings to 30 Rock’s goofy sense of humor and drops the cynicism. Beware: it’ll take three binges just to catch all the jokes.
The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017)
Here's the pitch: not one, but two hot vampire brothers. While it premiered back in 2009 at the sparkly peak of Twilight mania, this supernatural teen soap has more in common with co-creator Kevin Williamson's witty '90s work -- Dawson's Creek and Scream -- than it does with Stephenie Meyer's po-faced novels. Based on a series of books by YA writer L. J. Smith, the show brings you into the inner life of a newly orphaned high-schooler named Elena (Nina Dobrev) who gets pursued by sultry, good vamp Stefan (Paul Wesley) and his equally sultry, evil bro Damon (Lost's Ian Somerhalder). There are love triangles, complicated mythology, crazy plot twists, and countless scenes where yokels get bit in the neck by pale guys with great hair. But it's the wry, almost Buffy-like comic tone that keeps you coming back.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp/10 Years Later (2015; 2017)
Reboots and spinoffs often fall flat; not so with Netflix's prequel and sequel to the 2001 cult comedy classic Wet Hot American Summer. The strength of this series is its willingness to poke fun at the very nature of the repetitive, sequel-driven boom TV and movies are experiencing, with the same actors playing the characters they originally portrayed as though no time has passed in the decade-and-a-half since the movie appeared. A-listers Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, and Elizabeth Banks give game performances that are bolstered by new faces like John Slattery and Jordan Peele. The show never makes you feel as though you're participating in a cynical nostalgia play (though, let's face it, you kind of are), and while 10 Years Later took a dip in quality, succumbing to the dopiness of its own premise, the steady laughs have us recommending both seasons.
When They See Us (2019)
Given the wide scope of the material, juggling multiple families scrambling to protect the ones they love and a vast grinding legal apparatus attempting to pin a crime on innocent victims, the most impressive aspect of When They See Us, director Ava Duvernay's powerful docudrama about the Central Park Five, is the way it zeroes in on small moments of human anguish, bravery, and cruelty. Focusing on the aftermath of a rape and assault of a female jogger in the park, the miniseries combines the tick-tock storytelling of a true-crime police procedural with a more curious, empathetic eye. Like she did with 2014's Selma, Duvernay, who also co-wrote all four episodes of the series, moves elegantly between tactics-obsessed storytelling and more intimate passages. That sense of purpose -- and the show's relative brevity in comparison to many Netflix shows -- makes it stand out on a platform that often emphasizes comfort at the expense of concision.
The Witcher (2019- )
You might not believe that The Witcher is a show on Netflix that you can actually watch 10 episodes of, right now. Based on the books that inspired the video game series, The Witcher stars Henry Cavill, Superman himself, as Geralt of Rivia, a magical mutant "Witcher" who hunts stuff and drinks lots of potions and grunts "hm" often. There are also other characters, arguably too many, but really, the one to know is Geralt. It's confusing, yes, and it leaves a lot of questions lingering for Season 2, but it's one of Netflix's best originals. Also, it features the best song ever included on a Netflix show.
Wynonna Earp (2016- )
Wynonna Earp is a faster, sexier, funnier show than it has any right to be. The pitch is simple: the great-great-granddaughter of legendary gunslinger Wyatt Earp must lead the charge against an army of zombies. A hero fighting the undead? A badass woman in charge? If you love action TV, this one's for you. Earp totes a gigantic, legendary magic pistol called Peacemaker. She has a bumbling, moronic Justin Bieber-lookalike as a sidekick/comic relief. There are several love triangles with the undead. One of those love triangles happens to involve Doc Holliday in the present. Perhaps the best summary of the show is this one-liner in its pilot: "I am the girl. With the big-ass gun." If you can't get on board, you may not like fun.
You (2018- )
Oh, You -- you are the beautiful trash of Netflix, the junk food that millions of binge-seeking viewers simply couldn't resist. Originally a Lifetime series that went mostly under the radar during its cable run, You picked up a huge following when it hit Netflix, and continued on as a Netflix original in Season 2. What's all the fuss about? Penn Badgley stars as Joe Goldberg, an attractive, sensitive bookstore manager who happens to be an obsessive serial killer who fixates on women. You'll follow along with his inner monologues as he murders his way to his love interests' hearts with a mix of next-level stalking and timely violence. It's ridiculous, but it's hard not to find Joe oddly irresistible.
3% (2016- )
If you relish the dystopian drama of The 100, The Hunger Games, or other narratives about attractive people living under unattractive regimes, then this Brazilian Netflix Original is for you. The hook of 3% is simple: The world is divided between a world of wealth called the Offshore and a world of poverty called the Inland. (Sounds familiar, right?) The Elysium-like premise is explored with real emotional depth, and director César Charlone, the cinematographer responsible for City of God's stunning visuals, shoots everything with a gritty glow.
The 4400 (2004-2007)
Produced by The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, this underrated sci-fi series imagines what would happen if 4,400 people suddenly vanished from the face of the planet in the early 20th century... then flashed back into reality decades later. The mystery unfolds through the eyes of some superlative performances, including Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as a US Air Force pilot who disappeared but somehow has a daughter in the present.
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