This list is continually updated to reflect recent Netflix availability as TV shows are frequently added and removed.
Netflix has a treasure trove of awesome movies that you can stream right now, but if you’re looking for more than just a two-hour commitment, it’s also got a boatload of great TV shows you can delve into to keep yourself occupied for days, or even weeks on end. If you just finished a good series and you need a new one to fill the void, Netflix is the place to go. Nothing beats a weekend-long marathon with no commercials, so without further ado, we give you our tightly-curated list of the best Netflix Instant TV shows.
Set in New York in the 1960’s, Mad Men follows one of the city’s most prestigious ad agencies on Madison Avenue. The agency is doing well, but as the industry grows the competition begins to stiffen. The agency tries to survive in a time when everything, including the ad industry, is undergoing a radical shake-up. The two protagonists are the enigmatic Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a self-made executive who’s childhood seems to always get in the way of his happiness and ultra-terse Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss), a former secretary who works her way up the corporate ladder.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. To secure his family’s finances before he dies, White uses his chemistry background to cook and deal premium blue meth. His partner is former student, and burn-out Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). It’s teeming with moral consequences and family issues, and fittingly, as addicting as the crystal meth Walt produces in his beat-up van in the desert.
The Netflix-produced series is one of the best political dramas since The West Wing. The show revolves around protagonist Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), the U.S. Senate Majority Whip who uses every political secret and inch of his clout to dethrone enemies and leverage his way to the top. His alliance with environmental lobbyist Claire (Robin Wright) is arguably one of the best alliances on TV, brilliantly showcasing just how the two characters are willing to go to beat their opponents and catapult — or destroy —approval ratings.
This one has family melodrama written all over it: the Rayburns have a slew of secrets that unravel when family black sheep Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) arrives home during his parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. The show is narrated by John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) the middle brother and Florida Key’s detective who instantly clashes with Danny’s lawless ways. Bloodline debuted in March of this year and received immediate positive reception. So much, in fact, that Netflix has already signed on for 2016.
Quite possibly the best political drama of all time, The West Wing follows fictional President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and his staff as they fight various personal and political battles, through his two terms as president. Critics and people close to the White House praised the show for its accuracy and the Aaron Sorkin’s razor sharp dialog, and even now, the show lives on through multiple Twitter Handles for several West Wing characters. Still, Netfflix offers all seven seasons.
Director Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights never excelled in terms of viewership, but it was frequently lauded for its deep characterization and emotional portrayal of heartland America throughout its five-season run. The series is based around a high school football team in the fictional town of Dillion, Texas, and as such, it frequently deals with family troubles, drugs, racism, and the swath of problems students encounter growing up. It’s not so much the acting that renders it sublime — though, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are standouts — but the realistic writing and accompanying cinematography. We only wish Billy Bob Thornton could have made the crossover from Berg’s film of the same name.
While cable network A&E is best known for its bevy of reality shows, its foray into thrilling drama with Bates Motel is as impressive as anything in its lineup. The show follows the lives of Norma and Norman Bates some time prior to Norman’s infamous turn in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, Psycho. After Norma’s husband passes, she sets out for the fictional city of White Pine Bay, Oregon with Norman where they purchase a small hotel to begin anew. As expected, things begin to unravel mere days after arriving at said hotel, with each move made by Norma and Norman setting the stage for the latter’s eventual fondness for butcher knives and showers.
With the NBC series Heroes Reborn set for 2015, it’s time for a rehash. The original story revolves around a group of ordinary people who discover they posses superpowers, like the ability to read minds or regenerate. Of course, there are several “non-gifted” individuals who attempt to kill off all the gifted. The show has the feel of a comic book, with a strong focus on the visual and major plot arcs that span entire seasons and give birth to smaller more nuanced personal stories.
AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, another period piece in the same vein as the network’s smash hit Mad Men, takes place in Texas during the technology boom of the 1980s. The show centers around former IBM sales executive Joe MacMillan, Cardiff Electric engineer Gordon Clark, and programming whiz Cameron Howe as they navigate the tumultuous landscape of the personal computer revolution. Headlined by superb writing, brilliant acting, and a unique inside look at one of the most influential eras in human history, Halt and Catch Fire has binge-worthy written all over it.
Glenn Close and Rose Byrne star in this legal thriller which features all of the same twists, turns, and storytelling which made Law & Order a bonafide hit. Though, instead of featuring one case per episode like the Dick Wolf classic, Damages tackles just once case over the course of an entire season. During its successful five season run, Damages garnered heaps of critical acclaim due to its expert use of nonlinear storytelling, along with superb performances from its star studded cast; it’s not the least bit surprising the show was a mainstay at the Golden Globes and Emmy’s during its tenure.
How would you handle readjusting to life after being wrongfully imprisoned for 19 years of your life? Sundance TV’s Rectify addresses this quandary as it follows the life of Daniel Holden. Convicted and sent to death row as a teenager for the rape and murder of his 16-year-old girlfriend, new evidence vacates Holden’s original trial, setting the stage for his return home to Paulie, Georgia. Now in his late 30s, Holden attempts to rekindle relationships with his family and friends, something not easily accomplished for someone whose name had been denounced for so long.
Set after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, the original House of Cards features as much backstabbing and morally corrupt political drama as its current day, Netflix-only counterpart. Similar to the Kevin Spacey-starring drama, House of Cards concerns a Chief Whip of Britain’s Conservative Party who attempts — at all costs — to slither his way to the seat of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Ian Richardson and Diane Fletcher star as the infamous power couple Frank and Elizabeth Urquhart, bearers of a black heart, twisted moral compass, and insatiable need for immense control. With a gripping storyline and incredible performances from the show’s impressive cast, House of Cards Trilogy is a wildly fun ride, even if you’ve seen the remake.
Dancing on the Edge takes place during 1930s London and follows the ups and downs of a local black jazz band. After scoring a gig at the legendary Imperial Hotel, the band becomes an instant success and starts playing shows for many of London’s elite, including the Royal Family. Before any of the members have a chance to take a breath, the group’s star power soars to astronomical levels. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Angel Coulby, and John Goodman star in this period piece which garnered heaps of critical acclaim for both its storytelling, as well as the performances of its actor, when it aired on BBC Two in 2013.
Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe star in this British dark comedy about a Russian doctor who recounts a period in his life where he worked at a tiny village hospital. The show constantly shifts between a present-day version of the doctor (played by Hamm), and a version of the doctor some 16 years prior (Daniel Radcliffe). As the story unfolds, viewers get an up-close and personal look at his humble beginnings during the Russian Revolution, as well as how he became wildly addicted to morphine – and how it ended up ruining his life. Based off book of short stories of the same name, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is gripping drama that begs to be binged.
The latest Netflix-produced piece of content to grace subscribing TV sets is Narcos, a chronicled take on the story of Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar. With its fast-paced style of storytelling, brilliant acting, and the fact the show was filmed on-location in Colombia, the series appears to be yet another impressive win for the massive streaming company. Brazilian actor Wagner Moura plays the role of the iconic Escobar, while Boyd Holbrook fills the shoes of DEA agent Steve Murphy, the one tasked with tracking and killing Escobar. If you’re a sucker for such dramas as House of Cards or Breaking Bad, you’ll no doubt want to dive into the cocaine-filled world of Narcos.
Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, and Taraji P. Henson star in this science fiction drama about an ex-C.I.A agent who’s recruited by a mysterious man to fight violent crimes. By using an advanced AI system called “The Machine,” the duo sniffs out various persons of interest before they can cause serious harm. This CBS-airing show features the production expertise of Jonathan Nolan — the lesser-known Nolan sibling — and J.J. Abrams of, you know, Fringe, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens fame. With 90 episodes under its belt, Person of Interest is the perfect companion piece for the changing season (i.e. the onset of rainy days).
iZombie (October 6)
A morbid, yet mildly funny, take on the tried-and-true procedural cop drama, iZombie concerns the life of a recently zombified medical student who takes up a job with a local Coroner’s Office so she can eat its stock of brains. After enjoying a few delicious meals of local gray matter, Liv (our zombie medical student) soon realizes she absorbs the memories of each brain she consumes. In light of this shocking discovery, she uses her newfound power to help the police solve mysteries surrounding these people’s deaths. Based off a DC comic book series of the same name, iZombie is a refreshing take on a genre that is no doubt starting to dry up.