New year, new shows. Maybe your pop culture resolution for 2021 was to keep up with the latest hits; maybe it was to finally get around to watching a great series you haven’t seen yet (we know, we know, Mad Man has been on your list for years!). Whatever your goals, it’s the perfect time to shake up your viewing habits. But if you want to dig into some of the best shows out right now or check out classics that you may have missed, finding a place to start can be overwhelming.
That’s why our staff has curated dozens upon dozens of recommendation lists to help you find the best shows and movies to watch right now. Whether you’re hoping to find a breezy rom-com to sweep you off your feet, a fantasy show that will allow you escape, or a lavish historical drama to whisk you away to another time altogether, the comprehensive lists below feature a bit of everything to help you get through this difficult time.
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Last updated: Jan. 8
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, WandaVision poster
The Most Anticipated and Best New TV Shows of 2021
There is something to be legitimately optimistic about in 2021: TV. We’ve put together a list of shows that we’re most excited for this year, including comedies, sci-fi epics, adaptations, and more.
The Best Movies and TV Shows to Watch on Netflix in January
The best shows to watch on Netflix in January are bountiful, with comedy, romance, animation, reality, and anything else that will please even the pickiest TV watcher.
The Best TV Shows and Movies to Watch on Amazon Prime Video in January
This January, Amazon has a few original movies to keep an eye on, including the film directorial debut of Regina King and an Irish drama that is sure to get the emotions flowing, as well as a couple favorite television shows — though you might want to skip their finales.
The Best TV Shows and Movies to Watch on Hulu in January
Hulu is kicking off 2021 by adding an exciting array of movies to its slate — all the better to keep you indoors while it’s cold and contagious outside. There’s something for everyone, including a modern Western that nabbed plenty of Oscar nominations, a beloved sports romance, and a one-man show that will leave you stunned.
The Best Shows and Movies You Can Watch for Free on Showtime
Until Jan. 11, Showtime has made a number of its shows and films available to view for free on streaming platforms and on demand. The list is a mix of old favorites, new hits, and recent episodes.
Straight-to-Streaming Blockbusters to Watch While Theaters Are Closed
Stay home and stay safe with these cineplex-quality films that are streaming on popular streaming services right now. Just because you don’t have sticky floors and someone talking over dialogue behind you, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Chris Hemsworth murdering dudes in your own living room.
The Best New Shows of 2020
Even though the world came to a standstill in 2020, television kept pumping out television like nothing had changed. And while new seasons of your favorite returning shows provided the comfort you were looking for, it was the brilliant new shows that provided the excitement.
Essential Shows and Documentaries to Learn About Police Brutality and Racial Justice
If you’re ready to learn more about the history of the Black Lives Matter movement and racial injustices in America, here’s a list of some essential viewing.
Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Mad Men
The Best Shows You Can Stream for Free
Not everyone wants to shell out big bucks every month on streaming services, but there are still a lot of great shows you can stream legally, for free, on the internet — as long as you don’t mind putting up with some ads now and then.
Great Movies to Stream for Free
Subscription streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ get all the attention, but the less-heralded ones like Vudu, IMDb TV, and Tubi have a ton of great movies and TV shows in their libraries, too. Here is a selection of the best movies to watch for free right now, both family-friendly and not family-friendly at all.
The Best Historical Dramas on Netflix
While historical dramas might not be super accurate, but they make history exciting, with high-stakes drama and opulent costumes that are most certainly way out of your budget. If you’re among those who can’t get enough of period pieces, grab a cup of tea and settle in with these historical dramas on Netflix.
Excellent Films By Black Directors to Watch on Netflix
The majority of these films are part of Netflix’s Black Lives Matter collection, which highlights feature films, TV shows, and documentaries about Black American experiences. These movies run the gamut from pain to joy, and offer a diverse collection of genres, tones, and topics.
The Best Horror Series on Netflix
Netflix is a treasure trove of spooky series, eerie episodes, and terrifying tales. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for something paranormal, gothic, supernatural, slasher, Satanic, or just straight-up schlocky, the streaming service has you covered.
The Best Feel-Good Shows
Whether you’re having a good day and are looking to ride that wave, or if you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up, sometimes you’re just in the mood for a TV show that will embrace you like a hug and swaddle you like a weighted blanket. These shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Disney+ are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your spirit.
How to Watch Every Marvel Movie
If you want to relive some of your favorite moments from the MCU, or honor the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, you mostly just need a Disney+ subscription, as most of the 23 films are available on the streaming service. However, there are still a few films that aren’t available, so find out where to watch those with this helpful story.
The Best FX Shows on Hulu
While many FX shows were already available to stream, they’re now all in one place, and a few previously unavailable or hard-to-find shows are now also available at your fingertips. These are the best FX and FXX shows streaming on FX on Hulu that you should move to the top of your priority streaming list.
The Best Shows on HBO and HBO Max
If you are new to HBO, you might be looking for a good place to start. We’ve compiled some of the best shows on HBO and its new streaming service, HBO Max. There are old classics to build your resumé as a TV expert and new shows to help you stay current with the series people are talking about right now. Some shows are hilarious, while others will give you some very entertaining nightmare fuel. HBO is, arguably, the best value for quality television programming. Here’s what to watch.
The Best Shows and Movies on Disney+
Disney+ comes stacked with viewing options thanks to 600-plus movies and shows from the Disney vaults and continuing additions. We’ve picked through the animated classics, the best of the Disney Channel Original Movies, the new Disney+ originals, and more to trim the mountain of possibilities into a manageable stack, emphasizing variety so everyone has something to watch.
The Best Romantic Comedies on Netflix
We’ve rounded up the best rom-coms and sweeping romances Netflix currently has to offer — from Netflix Originals to decades-old acquired titles — so if you’re looking to get lost in a good rom-com or trying to find something that will make you believe in love again, these are the best romantic comedies on Netflix (sorry in advance to The Kissing Booth, which is not included).
The Best Sci-Fi Shows on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu
For those who want to indulge in a little escapism, nothing beats the fantastical worlds of science fiction. From space battles in the far reaches of a galaxy we’ve never heard of to advancements in technology that are changing the way we live here on Earth, sci-fi is television’s most encompassing genre, and in the hands of great storytellers, it can be the most impactful.
The Best Fantasy Shows
There are a lot more fantasy programs out there than just HBO’s Game of Thrones and Netflix’s The Witcher (though both are on this list), and they can take viewers to far-off destinations or open their eyes to new, fascinating worlds right here. These are excellent sources of escape, and we could really use an escape hatch right about now.
The Best Cop Shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon
Whether it’s a Dick Wolf drama in which the bad guy usually gets his due or a prestige cable series that raises complicated questions about the criminal justice system in lieu of a gift-wrapped ending, these captivating cop shows have a way of sucking one in for hours on end. So if you’re looking for a good distraction that offers up some sense of law and order in a world filled with chaos and uncertainty, this list is for you.
The Best Trashy Reality Shows
The reality television we’re highlighting — the kind you feel guilty for watching but also can’t wait to talk to everyone about — has been around for decades, but is finding new life with Netflix getting into the act. That’s why our list has the latest from Netflix, as well as the classics that inspired them and everything in between.
The Best International Shows
Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, it’s never been easier to find quality international programming when you want it. From Dark and Trapped to Babylon Berlin and Terrace House, these popular non-English imports prove there’s always something better to watch than another rerun of Fixer Upper.
The Best International Shows on Netflix You Might Not Have Heard Of
To help you navigate a Netflix algorithm that’s infinitely bigger once you start scrolling through the non-English language shows, this list features some of the most exciting storytelling happening all around the world, focusing on shows that you may not have heard of.
Robson Green and James Norton, Grantchester
Des Willie/Kudos & ITV for MASTERPIECE
The Best British Murder Mysteries
No one does a good murder mystery quite like the Brits; there’s just something about the atmosphere of a crisp morning in the U.K. that really drives home the narrative over there. So, if you’re in the mood to cue up some sleuthing from across the pond while staying in, here’s a look at the best British murder-mystery series available to stream.
The Best Mysteries and Crime Dramas
While the Brits might excel at murder mysteries, they aren’t the only ones producing engrossing whodunnits. This list takes a broader view of mystery and crime dramas and includes some suggestions from the U.S. and other regions as well.
The Best Time Travel Shows
Some of the shows on this list are action-packed dramas, while others take a more whimsical approach to history, but all of them are absolutely binge-worthy masterpieces. Whether you want to travel back hundreds of years or just a couple of decades, you’ll find the perfect time travel show recommendation on the list.
The Best Young Adult Movies on Netflix
If you are looking for some fun, youthful, adventures to take your mind off what’s going on outside, this is the list for you. From rom-coms to soapy thrillers, these are the best young adult movies to watch on Netflix.
Groundbreaking Nature Documentaries to Watch for a Taste of Nature
These are not the boring nature documentaries of middle school; many are educational, yes, but through groundbreaking advances in technology, many more are also breathtaking works of art too.
The Best Comedy Shows to Binge-Watch in One Day
These comedies are all great, and they require minimal time investment. All can be watched to completion in roughly one work day, which, depending on your situation, means you can sneakily put them on in the background while you’re working from home, or will give you something to do while you wait for your $1,200 check to process.
The Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Netflix
The world is a scary, uncertain place right now, and maybe the best way to get through it is through laughing. These excellent stand-up comedy specials on Netflix will help you out in this trying time. Laughter is the second-best medicine, after Sudafed.
The Best Shows to Watch on Acorn TV
Acorn TV specializes in British programming, including a huge selection of those moody international murder mysteries that you can’t get enough of, and it’s relatively cheap to subscribe. These are the best shows to watch, including The Hour and Agatha Raisin. Acorn TV is currently offering an extended 30-day free trial, so sign up now using promo code FREE30.
The Best Adult Animated Shows on Netflix
Netflix has also become a solid provider of grown-up-friendly cartoons, so, if you’re looking to stream another show drawn to satisfy a more mature audience, here are some options to add to that Netflix queue right now.
The Best Anime Shows and Movies on Netflix
These imported animated series from Japan are more made up of more than just beat-em-ups and giant robots, though there are plenty of those, too, and some of them are really darn great. There is actually plenty of variety, if you know what to look for.
The Best Thriller Movies to Watch
In the same way you watch a family drama to make yourself cry, you watch a thriller to feel controlled anxiety. This is a list of some of our favorite thrillers and where to stream them. It’s an admittedly incomplete and arbitrary list, but that’s only because we had such a hard time choosing what to put on it.
Docs Just as Crazy as Tiger King to Binge
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two weeks (which, to be fair, is a perfectly decent way to ride out a pandemic), you’ve probably binged Netflix’s newest hit, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. If you’re ready to dive into more outside-the-box true-crime documentaries that would be the talk of the water cooler (if you weren’t stuck at home), these seven recommendations will blow your mind.
The Best Superhero Shows Right Now
If you feel like escaping to a world where the good guys always save the day, there’s no problem a utility belt of gadgets can’t fix, and crossovers are practically mandatory at this point, this is the perfect list for you.
The Best Musical Series to Watch Now
One of the sure-fire ways to soothe a stressed-out soul is with music, so there may never be a better time to watch (or re-watch) some of the greatest musical series ever. These are some of the most enjoyable musical series to hit the small screen on broadcast, cable and streaming, and they’re sure to make you break out in jazz hands and forget about your troubles, even if only for a little while.
Alba Baptista, Warrior Nun
The Best Supernatural Shows Right Now
Much like its genre neighbor science-fiction, supernatural shows allow viewers to escape into a world full of the unknown. Sometimes, they’re scary and full of things that go bump in the night; at others, they’re funny and inject a nice dose of levity into stressful situations; and often, they’re full of hunky teenagers who are also werewolves. The storytelling options here are truly limitless.
The Best Supernatural Shows on Netflix
If you only have access to Netflix, have no fear! There are a number of great supernatural shows streaming on the service, and our list includes some international gems and newer programs that you might not have gotten around to watching yet. You’ll also find a variety of supernatural elements, aka there’s more to the supernatural genre than just vampires and werewolves, which means there’s a nice selection to choose from as well.
The Best True Crime Shows on Netflix
Netflix is the streaming home for true crime shows, and we’ve done the work for you, finding the best of the true crime docuseries currently available, from the buzzy new releases to the reliable standards and everything in between.
The Best Teen Shows on Netflix
Between Netflix’s expansive Originals slate and acquired titles, the service is unrivaled when it comes to coming-of-age TV shows. It has every type of teen show you could desire, from irreverent comedies and heartfelt dramedies, to sci-fi thrillers and supernatural love stories, to juicy soaps and tender family fare.
The Best Old-School Sitcoms to Watch
Sometimes all you wanna do is unwind with the familiar comforts of a show you already love and know like the back of your hand. From big hitters like the nothingness of Seinfeld to the haziness of That ’70s Show, these are the best sitcoms of the 1990s and 2000s you can stream right now.
The Best Apocalypse Shows and Movies on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu
If you’re looking for the best post-apocalyptic, end-of-the-world TV shows and movies to watch, look no further. These programs offer a look at life after civilization and offer glimpses of what the world will look like after we’ve destroyed it.
The Best Horror Movies on Netflix
There really is never a bad time to watch any one of the best horror flicks available to stream — and there are a ton of options just on Netflix alone! Whether you’re looking for classic B-movie fare, something grim and gory, an over-the-top slasher flick, or some of the genre’s most seminal films, there’s a streaming option for you.
Gillian Anderson, The Fall
The Best Shows on BritBox
From BBC Studios and ITV, BritBox has everything from your favorite British sitcoms and classic sci-fi programs to irresistible crime dramas. And in the case of ongoing series, you can often see the new episodes not long after they air in the U.K.
The Best Reality Competition Shows on Netflix
There’s nothing like the unscripted drama of real people fighting to see their dreams realized, which is why reality competition shows are so addictive. From amateur bakers to interior designers, we’ve got you covered with a carefully curated list of the best reality competition shows streaming right now on Netflix.
The Best Shows on Showtime
Showtime is no longer the destination for serious dads with shows like Ray Donovan and Dexter, or harried moms with shows like United States of Tara and The Big C. (No offense, serious dads and harried moms.) The network has undergone serious changes in recent years, and Showtime is better than it’s ever been, choosing complicated, emotionally complex dramedies to represent its most recent facelift.
Terrible Romantic Comedies That Are Actually Great
There is no such thing as a bad romantic comedy. Even when rom-coms are objectively terrible, they still have the ability to inspire feelings of warmth and happiness in all of us. This list honors those terrible movies that are actually totally great, and definitely worth your love.
The Best ’90s Movies to Watch Right Now
While no means a comprehensive list of the best films from the 1990s, this list features a lot of really great ones. In the interest of being open, some of the major movies on this list will require that you buy or rent them from Amazon Prime. But that’s the price you pay for wanting to watch Titanic again.