50 best TV shows to watch on Netflix right now: 'Girlfriends,' 'Good Place,' arrive in September

Kelly Lawler

Every month Netflix giveth, and every month Netflix taketh away

The streaming giant regularly updates its vast library, adding TV shows and films for your binge-watching pleasure and removing those it no longer has the licenses to stream. Mix in the huge number of original series and films Netflix debuts each weekand there is a ton of programming to sort through if you're just looking for something new to offer distraction and calm amid a crazy world. 

We have curated the best of the TV shows Netflix has available to stream as of September 2020 (in alphabetical order), from its smart new originals to absolute TV classics. 

Don't have Netflix?The 50 best TV shows to watch on Hulu right now

Sarah Gadon as Grace Marks on 'Alias Grace.'

1. “Alias Grace”

Starring Sarah Gadon and Anna Paquin, this dizzyingly beautiful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel about a historical murderess is haunting in its storytelling. The miniseries far outpaces, in both style and substance, the more famous Atwood adaptation on Hulu. 

2. “American Crime Story”

Between “The People v. O.J. Simpson” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” Ryan Murphy’s true-crime anthology has delivered narratives that lack the seedy exploitation so often associated with the genre. Instead, each season is a historical reckoning with huge cultural moments, portrayed with impeccable acting and writing. 

3. “American Vandal”

A hilarious mockumentary poking at true-crime documentaries like Netflix’s own “Making a Murderer,” this series treats teen problems with the gravitas of a murder investigation. And considering most emotions and dramas feel like life or death in adolescence, “Vandal” is deeply moving in how it brings high school to life. 

Legend of Korra

4. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and "The Legend of Korra"

A kids’ animated series with a devoted adult following, “Airbender” is a fantasy epic in kids’ clothing with drama to rival “Game of Thrones.” The gorgeously drawn series takes place in a world torn apart by war and genocide, where a pint-size chosen one might be able to save lives, if he can train hard enough and face his greatest fears. A follow up series set a generation in the future and aimed at an older audience, "Korra," surpasses its source material in maturity and storytelling complexity, becoming a modern classic. 

5. “Better Call Saul”

A rare spin-off to outpace its source material in quality and complexity, Bob Odenkirk’s “Breaking Bad” prequel continues to reach new heights in every season, and has long since stepped out of its parent show’s shadow. 

The full list:Everything coming to Netflix in September 2020, and what's leaving

6. “Blown Away”

Netflix’s little reality series about competitive glass blowing is mesmerizing to watch, as its highly talented contestants stretch molten materials into stunning works of art. Breezy, funny and surprising, it’s a supremely satisfying series to binge-watch. 

7. “BoJack Horseman”

A misanthropic Hollywood horse (Will Arnett) leads this animated satire series that is deeper, more clever and more thought-provoking than most live-action series even aspire to be. 

8. “Call the Midwife”

This British period drama, set among nurse midwives serving poor families in 1950s London, is like an epidural injecting joy, tears and adorable babies into your life. Although it gets a little repetitive in later seasons, its raw emotion and British sensibility make it a must-watch for the “Downton Abbey” crowd.

9. “Cheer”

The cheerleading documentary from the producers of Netflix's also-wonderful "Last Chance U" captured hearts and minds early this year. Beyond memes, "mat talk" and full-outs, the documentary is a shrewd look at a dangerous, mostly unregulated sport in which often vulnerable young adults trade their physical safety for a small chance at glory.

Ted Danson and Kirstie Alley in "Cheers."

10. “Cheers”

Sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name, even if you’re staying at home. The classic Boston bar-set sitcom still holds up after all these years. 

11. "Cobra Kai"

The fantastic revival of "The Karate Kid" franchise, featuring, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka in their original roles, is one of the smartest ways to bring a kids' story into adulthood. It picks up three decades after the All Valley Karate Tournament, as Zabka's Johnny Lawrence a gentler hero and Macchio's Daniel LaRusso playing the villain. 

12. “Community”

Wacky, weird and often wonderful, NBC’s comedy about a diverse group of friends at a community college defies genre and label in its first few excellent seasons to create engrossing television. The later seasons are fine, but never as good as the first three. 

13. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

A magnificent melange of musical might, the four-season CW series ambitiously put original song and dance on network TV week after week. Anchored by creator/star Rachel Bloom as struggling heroine Rebecca Bunch, “Crazy Ex” mixed earworms with one of the best depictions of a mental health journey ever on TV. 

14. “The Crown”

For devoted anglophiles and royal rejecters alike, Netflix’s dramatization of the reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II makes a juicy soap out of the royal family, in a prestigious, Emmy-winning package. 

15. “Dear White People”

Stronger and more self-assured than the movie on which it’s based, this series, about Black students at an elite university full of microaggressions and outright racism, “Dear” is whip-smart and often hilarious. 

16. “Derry Girls”

You may have to watch with subtitles to parse the strong Irish accents, but this series about Catholic teen girls in Northern Ireland during the 1990s portion of the “Troubles,” the violent religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, is one of the funniest shows on TV, even for Americans unfamiliar with the history. 

Stars of "Girlfriends," Jill Marie Jones, far left, Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks and Persia White pose for a picture.

17. "Girlfriends"

Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White and Jill Marie Jones anchored this hilarious and affecting 2000-2008 UPN sitcom about the love lives and friendships of four Black women in Los Angeles. 

18. “The Good Place”

NBC's recently ended afterlife sitcom feels like a dose of palliative care with its bright colors, puns and visual gags. Underneath its appealing aesthetics, "Place" has great performances, great writing and some sincere thoughts about ethics and philosophy. (Season 4 available Sept. 26.) 

'Grace and Frankie': Our protagonists (Lily Tomlin, left, and Jane Fonda) are still coping with the fallout of their husbands having married each other.

19. “Grace and Frankie”

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are a magnetic duo in this sitcom from the “Friends” creators. The actresses play the eponymous retirees who learn their husbands are leaving them (for each other). The sometimes raunchy series proves it’s never too late to start over. 

20. “The Great British Baking Show”

Warm, friendly, full of soggy bottoms, underproved loaves and decent people doing their best, this British import is one of the happiest TV series ever made. Don’t miss one of the early seasons (which aired in 2012 in the U.K.), which is billed separately from the rest on Netflix under the title “The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings.”

21. “Grey’s Anatomy”

Shonda Rhimes' seminal hospital drama is still on the air after 16 seasons for a reason. Sure, the series crossed over from soapy to full-on soap opera early in its tenure, but amid its constant barrage of tragedy and medical grotesquery are compelling relationship dramas that are emotionally honest. 

22. “Halt and Catch Fire”

This short but impactful drama started as a “Mad Men” knockoff about the 1980s computer industry, but greatly improved on a so-so first season. “Halt” evolved into a complex story about communication, connection and women's struggles to achieve power at home and work. 

23. “I Am Not Okay With This”

Another series in the long TV tradition in which superpowers are a metaphor for puberty, "I Am Not Okay" is a zippy teen supernatural drama. It stars Sophia Lillis (Beverly in "It") as Sydney, a teen girl angry about her father's suicide, her family's poverty and the declining Rust Belt town she lives in. What makes Sydney's anger stand out is that when it boils over, she breaks things with her mind. 

24. “Jane the Virgin”

The telenovela-style story of a virgin who's artificially inseminated by accident started strong and rode high for five excellent seasons. Although the moving series isn't a laugh-out-loud sitcom, its moments of joy and levity are plentiful.

25. Ken Burns documentaries

This one is a cheat, because there are just so many great documentaries from the legendary filmmaker. But if you want to be educated, entertained and potentially shocked all at once, try some of the great ones available on Netflix: “Prohibition,” “The Civil War,” “The West” and “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

26. “Lovesick”

If you like a sweet (but not too saccharine) romantic comedy, this short British series is a good choice. The story starts with a man diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease reaching out to his former flames, and morphs into a touching and surprising will they/won’t they love story. 

Based on the series of novels by Lev Grossman, "The Magicians" follows Jason Ralph, who discovers the world of magic is actually real – and it's a danger to humanity.

27. “The Magicians”

Like an R-rated mashup of “Game of Thrones,” "Harry Potter" and "The Chronicles of Narnia," the superb fantasy series follows a group of adult magicians who discover a fictional world from popular children's books is real – and deathly dangerous. 

28. “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”

There are comedy classics, and then there are the genre’s very foundations. If you are a fan of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” but have never seen the hysterical, groundbreaking sketch TV show from comedians Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin that came first, now is the time to correct that error.  

29. “Nailed It!”

Netflix's empathetic and riotously funny baking competition celebrates the failures of amateur cooks even more than their successes, and might just make you feel better about whatever you just pulled out of the oven. 

30. “Never Have I Ever”

Mindy Kaling's teen sitcom is a breath of honest, awkward fresh air. Loosely based on Kaling's experiences, the series follows Devi (sparkling new talent Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), an Indian American teen fumbling her way through an angry, frustrating adolescence. 

31. “Nurse Jackie”

After years of excellent supporting work on “The Sopranos,” Edie Falco got her own star vehicle in Showtime’s “Jackie,” which follows a New York City nurse dedicated to helping patients no matter the cost. She also happens to be addicted to painkillers and cheating on her husband. It’s complicated. 

32. “The Office”

There is just no getting sick of the ultimate workplace sitcom, no matter how many times you watch Michael Scott (Steve Carell) burn his foot on a George Foreman grill. Enjoy it on Netflix before it jumps to NBCUniversal’s new Peacock streaming service in 2021. 

33. “Orange Is the New Black”

Netflix’s groundbreaking series had ups and downs over its run, but especially its first three seasons are exquisite character portraits in a space we’ve rarely seen: The inside of a women’s prison. 

34. “One Day at a Time”

Like Norman Lear's original, which premiered in 1975, this family sitcom reboot, about a Cuban American family in Los Angeles, is expert at combining frank discussion of social issues with hilarity. The most recent season of the series jumped from Netflix to cable channel PopTV, but the first three wonderful years are still streaming on their original home. 

Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins and Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in "Parks and Recreation."

35. “Parks and Recreation”

There is something bittersweet about watching “Parks and Rec” in our current era, a series centered around a group of dedicated people trying to make the world a better place against a resistant public. But its jokes and character moments still land. 

36. “Person of Interest”

“POI” follows a billionaire and an ex-CIA operative who use the government’s surveillance system to protect ordinary people from crimes that haven’t yet happened. Eventually it turns to straight-up science fiction about artificial intelligence. It’s the kind of mindless-but-really-thoughtful crime procedural you sometimes crave. 

37. “Pose”

The LGBTQ drama, set in 1980s ballroom culture, is ambitious, tragic and complex. It’s gorgeously filmed with especially strong performances from Emmy winner Billy Porter as Pray Tell, Mj Rodriguez as Blanca and Indya Moore as Angel. 

38. “Queer Eye”

Inspiration, triumph, overcoming obstacles; all those heartwarming attributes are here when the Fab Five swoop into someone's life to offer as much help as they can in a week. 

39. “Schitt’s Creek”

Full of beautiful romance, sunny settings and plenty of humor, Pop TV's sitcom about a rich family that loses it all but gains a little perspective is always a mood booster.

40. “Star Trek”

The iconic TV show that started it all still holds up after all these years. The other installment in the franchise have plenty to offer, but the original series is so wonderful and smart it’s worth watching at least once through during your life. 

Sadie Sink, Noah Schnapp, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and Caleb McLaughlin in a scene from Netflix's "Stranger Things" Season 3.

41. “Stranger Things”

The nostalgic and paranormal series became one of Netflix’s first real sensations, and it almost lives up to all that hype. With fantastic kid actors, terrifying horror homages and all the 1980s pop culture references you can handle, the three seasons of “Stranger” are compelling and alluring. 

42. “Supernatural”

Sometimes you just want a series that feels like it will never end. CW’s drama about two brothers (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) fighting supernatural forces of evil has enough episodes, with enough magic, mystery and tragedy, to satisfy you for weeks, months or years of watching.  

43. “The Twilight Zone”

Sometimes it feels like we’re living in the twilight zone, so it can be comforting to revisit the iconic mid-century anthology series. Its science fiction stories are still so sharp and clever, with twists that surprise, delight and horrify. 

44. “Twin Peaks”

David Lynch’s mystical 1990s crime drama was a ratings bonanza for a reason. (Although it flickered out in a semi-disappointing Season 2.) It’s unlike anything that had been on television before, and still stands out among similar series that popped up in its wake. 

45. “Unbelievable”

Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica article, "Unbelievable" is both infuriating and triumphant, highlighting the deep flaws in our criminal justice system while also celebrating justice eventually done. With a stellar cast, “Unbelievable” tells the story of a rape victim (Kaitlyn Dever) who isn’t believed by police, and the two detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) who bring her attacker to justice years later – after he raped several more women.

46. “Unorthodox”

This slightly under-the-radar miniseries is based on the true story of a woman who escapes an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York and runs away to Germany. Often using Yiddish dialogue and authentic costuming, the series is an immersive, addictive journey.  

47. “The West Wing”

The simplicity of politics in Aaron Sorkin's White House drama feels almost quaint in 2020, but the rousing speeches of President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) still inspire and captivate.

"When They See Us" (Netflix) with Aunjanue Ellis and Ethan Herisse.

48. “When They See Us”

Ava DuVernay’s striking miniseries gives voice to the so-called Central Park Five, a group of five Black and Latino boys wrongly convicted of assault in the 1980s. With a talented group of rising stars as the falsely accused adolescents – Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Emmy-winner Jharrel Jerome and Marquis Rodriguez – “Us” brings history to the screen as a brutal, unrelenting tragedy.

49. “The Witcher”

There are TV series that are so bad they’re good, and then there’s “The Witcher,” a bacchanalia of B-movie tropes, nonsensical plots, unnecessary nudity and terrible dialogue that finds the sweet spot of being silly and sensational at once. The writers and actors, including star Henry Cavill, take this fantasy thriller both too seriously and not seriously at all, making it one of the most surprisingly delightful series on Netflix.

50. “You”

The soapy stalker thriller starring Penn Badgley was a pleasant surprise in its original home on Lifetime, and became a sensation once it moved to Netflix. Of all the current series that traffic in bad men doing bad things, “You” remains one of the few that asks interesting questions about its bad guy.