The best shows on Netflix right now (December 2018)

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Netflix has a treasure trove of terrific 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 need a new one to fill the void, Netflix is the place to go, given the service’s phenomenal mix of classic, current, and original programming. Below, we’ve rounded up the best shows on Netflix right now, so you can binge-watch without having to hunt for the right title.

In need of more suggestions? Our brother site, The Manual, has pulled together a list of the best documentaries streaming on Netflix at this very moment.

Drama

‘The Haunting of Hill House’

One dark and ominous night, Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas) gathers his children and flees their vast, gothic mansion, leaving his wife, Olivia (Carla Gugino), behind. Olivia dies that night, her death ruled a suicide, and the tabloids run wild with stories of the haunted Hill House. The five Crain children — Steven, Shirley, Theo, Nell, and Luke — all grow up dealing with their trauma in varying ways, whether writing a successful memoir about the haunting of Hill House (Steven), or abusing drugs to numb the pain (Luke). As adults, the Crain siblings are barely on speaking terms, until a tragedy forces them all back together, and back to Hill House. Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House is a character-driven story, delving into the psychological problems of its many protagonists. It’s no mere family drama, though. In addition to their personal demons, there are some very real ghosts haunting the Crains, and Flanagan orchestrates some intense scares in the first episode alone, building tension but also knowing when to bust out a jump scare.

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‘Alias Grace’

Based on a novel by Margaret Atwood (itself based on a true story), Alias Grace begins with a mystery. Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) is serving a sentence for murder, for which her male accomplice was hanged. Grace has numerous supporters, who hire Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) to interview Grace and hopefully reveal a truth that will absolve her. Grace’s story takes her from Ireland to Canada, where she works as a servant for the wealthy man she will allegedly kill. The show is no mere whodunit — as a member of the lower class, and a woman, Grace navigates social hierarchies that grasp at her every moment of every day. In its examination of Grace’s story, her dismal past, and the shifting views society takes of her, Alias Grace weaves a tale about what it is to be a woman in a world governed by men.

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‘Peaky Blinders’

Set in the aftermath of World War I, Peaky Blinders is a crime drama about a British crime family, the Shelbys. After Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) returns from the war, he sets about trying to expand the family’s control of Birmingham, stealing a shipment of guns to give his gang an edge in the world of crime. The show follows Tommy and his family as they move up in the world, butting heads with other crime families and the British government. Peaky Blinders is gorgeously shot, and the story it tells is one of complicated people and muddy morality.

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‘Mindhunter’

In 1977, cultural earthquakes have toppled faith in the American ideal, and the agents of the FBI face an unfamiliar kind of criminal: The serial killer, whose crimes have no basis in reason as far as the agency can see. Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) believes that, with enough research, the FBI can make sense of the seemingly senseless violence. Together with Behavioral Science Unit agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), Ford travels the country, interviewing imprisoned serial killers to understand what drives them, but gazing into the abyss starts to gnaw at the agents. From director David Fincher, Mindhunter is a sleek, eerie production, with a focus on the nature of criminal psychology, rather than grotesque violence.

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‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’

One of the most infamous trials in American history gets a dramatic interpretation in this limited series, which follows the trial of former football star O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. After a televised high-speed chase that captivated the nation, District Attorney Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) brings charges against Simpson, leading to the highly publicized murder trial. The show examines the case from many angles, bringing in the perspectives of the major players in the case, including Simpson, Clark, and Simpson’s legal team — Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance). Like the case that inspired it, The People v. O.J. Simpson is dramatic, emotional, and ultimately leaves the viewer wondering where the truth lies.

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‘Mad Men’

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Set in New York in the 1960s, 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 whose childhood seems to always get in the way of his happiness, and ultra-terse Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), a former secretary who works her way up the corporate ladder. From its first episode all the way through its final season, Mad Men is a tremendous work of art.

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‘Breaking Bad’

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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 burnout named Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Breaking Bad is teeming with moral consequences and family issues, and fittingly, it’s as addicting as the crystal meth White produces in his beat-up van in the desert.

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‘Better Call Saul’

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Starring Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul takes fans of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad back to the New Mexico desert for a look at Saul Goodman’s origin story. Before Goodman became the quirky, crooked lawyer Walter White played like a fiddle, he was Jimmy McGill, an aspiring lawyer who just couldn’t seem to keep his hands clean. The show is set six years prior to the events of Breaking Bad, and throws out the convention that a spinoff must pale in comparison to its source material. It also proves Gilligan and company remain at the top of their game.

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‘The West Wing’

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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 Aaron Sorkin’s razor-sharp dialogue, and even now, the show lives on through multiple Twitter handles for several West Wing characters. Netflix offers all seven seasons.

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‘The Returned’

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An A&E exclusive, The Returned is a French supernatural thriller set in a tiny mountain town that’s experiencing rather odd occurrences with its deceased — they somehow keep coming back to life. However, this isn’t your typical zombie fare, but rather, the dead come back to life as if nothing’s happened at all. Car crash victims reappear in town, unharmed and emotionally stable despite the horrific way in which they passed. As the resurrected people attempt to live ordinary lives, those around them try to pick up the pieces and find out exactly what’s going on.

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‘Halt and Catch Fire’

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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. Boosted by superb writing, brilliant acting, and its unique inside look at one of the most influential eras in human history, Halt and Catch Fire has binge-worthy written all over it. Although season 1 is rough, season 2 essentially reinvents the show.

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‘Rectify’

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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 sets 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.

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‘Penny Dreadful’

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Crossovers are not a new concept — superheroes have been doing it for decades — but Penny Dreadful’s gothic milieu helps it stand out, particularly in the television landscape. The show is a who’s who of 19th-century icons, including Victor Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, as well as several original characters. The show begins with stately adventurer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and his compatriot, the psychic Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), recruiting American gunslinger Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) to investigate the disappearance of Murray’s daughter, Mina. The case takes them to dark places, but all of them carry their own secrets that may be darker still. True to it genre roots, Penny Dreadful takes things slow, building relationships between characters and coyly unfurling its mysteries. The show’s unique atmosphere and mastery of tone set it apart from everything else on television.

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‘Easy’

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Joe Swanberg’s eight-episode anthology, Easy, explores the many incarnations of romance, with almost every episode presenting a stand-alone story set in Chicago. One story follows a long-married couple trying to spice up their love life, another a pair of artists whose personal and professional lives collide after a night together. The stories are heavily improvised, with a focus on interactions between characters, rather than plot. As expected of an anthology series, not every episode of Easy is great, but at its best, it is one of the most intimate, honest explorations of love and sexuality around.

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‘The Fall’

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Following a series of murders in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) arrives to supervise the investigation. The killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), is a family man and therapist who’s trying to maintain his personal and professional lives while hunting young women. Unlike many police procedurals, The Fall makes its villain known very early. Thus, for the audience, the tension comes not from trying to guess the killer’s identity, but from watching the detective and murderer go about their days, never knowing who is about to get the upper hand. The Fall is a psychological procedural, focusing more on the lives and motivations of the central characters than hunting for clues. A simmering detective story, to be sure, but one well worth the time investment.

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‘The Crown’

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Britain’s current and longest-reigning monarch is also one of its most unassuming. Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in the aftermath of World War II, at a time when the monarchy had ceded much of its power to Parliament and the Prime Minister. Despite a lack of governmental power, the Queen remains one of the most important heads of state in the world, and civic duties abound. Netflix’s The Crown traces Elizabeth’s (Claire Foy) life from her marriage to Prince Philip (Matt Smith) in 1947 to the present day, digging into the web of agendas and alliances the Queen must navigate. Heavy on political intrigue, The Crown is sure to satisfy viewers who appreciate Machiavellian television, as well as those who love the decor of series like Downton Abbey. However, the show also has a deeply intimate side, in that it examines Elizabeth’s personal relationships and the toll exacted by her duties as Queen.

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