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The 50 Best Streaming TV Shows of All Time

Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other services, there have been some amazing shows changing the way we think about television.

catastrophe-bojack-dear-white-people-good-fight

Amazon/Netflix/CBS All Access

It’s crazy to remember it’s only been about seven years since Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu began making original series. From the humble beginnings of shows like “Lilyhammer,” “Alpha House,” and “Battleground,” the industry has witnessed a massive seismic shift — a complete explosion of the very concept of how we approach “television.”

Today, these platforms have added literally hundreds of shows to the TV landscape, which inspired IndieWire to evaluate and rank the 50 best that have debuted since those early days. From terrifying dystopias to intimate relationships, these are series which have made the most of opportunities presented by the distribution revolution — and transformed them into great storytelling.

50. “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (Netflix, 2015-present)

Marvel's Jessica Jones

“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

The best of the Netflix/Marvel series, “Jessica Jones” begins with a bang, introducing a new kind of hero to Marvel fans: a super-powered young woman whose internal demons are stronger than anyone she has to fight on the streets of New York. As Jessica investigates the darker side of the city as a private investigator, the viewer comes to understand the depths of her trauma, and the corner of her heart which still hopes for some sort of happiness. Or, at least, another bottle of the good stuff and a night off from assholes. Tough, uncompromising, and yet deeply vulnerable, from the beginning of the series Jessica, courtesy of creator Melissa Rosenberg, opens up the possibilities for what a darker, sexier take on superhero stories can look like. – LSM

49. “Forever” (Amazon, 2018)

Forever Maya Rudolph Fred Armisen

“Forever”

Amazon

Explaining what makes this series from Master of None co-creator Alan Yang and long-time “30 Rock” genius Matt Hubbard so special requires spoiling it. So don’t read on if you don’t want to know the show’s true premise! Suffice to say that you should take the title very, very literally, as the series depicts a marriage between stars Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph that has slowly slouched toward boredom and frustration, a situation that is shaken up considerably when Armisen’s character dies. But Rudolph’s strange mixture of sadness and relief at her husband’s death is punctured when she, too, dies, stranding both in the afterlife — forced to truly be together forever. – LH

48. “Castle Rock” (Hulu, 2018-present)

CASTLE ROCK -- "Severance" - Episode 101 - An anonymous phone call lures death-row attorney Henry Denver back to his home town of Castle Rock, Maine. Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek) and Henry Deaver (Andre Holland) shown. (Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Sissy Spacek and Andre Holland in “Castle Rock”

Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason turned Stephen King’s most famous fictional setting into their horror-streaked playground in the first season of this new Hulu hit. Though the show didn’t always hit every target it aimed for, its blend of terror, trauma, and family drama made for an intoxicating mix, especially in its standout seventh episode, “The Queen.” In it, Sissy Spacek’s Ruth Deaver flits between past and present, as writer Shaw and director Greg Yaitanes capture what it’s like to struggle with dementia in the context of an hour-long show. It’s this focus on the emotions of horror as much as the raw scares that sets “Castle Rock” apart. – LH

47. “The Crown” (Netflix, 2016-present)

The Crown(L to R) Elizabeth, Prince PhilipQueen Elizabeth II formally makes Philip a British Prince

“The Crown”

Robert Viglasky / Netflix

There’s an impressive sense of ambition baked into this royal drama, trying to capture the full weight of regal expectations through the lens of the 20th century’s most famous monarch. Cutting against being the Buckingham version of “Forrest Gump,” “The Crown” still manages to highlight certain vital points in time for the entire nation’s history. Emanating from Claire Foy’s riveting central performance, the shifting fate of Britain localizes itself in the way Elizabeth’s successes and failures extended out on a global scale. Brought to life with an impressive, immersive craft that recreates decades’ worth of history through wardrobe and location related details, the interpersonal sagas of “The Crown” draw their strength from the visual artistry surrounding them. Time will tell how the impending, time-jumping Season 3 continues this project, but as it stands, it’s a lush portrait of a larger-than-life institution that manages to go beyond the normal trappings of a standard period piece. – SG

46. “Mozart in the Jungle” (Amazon, 2014-2018)

Mozart in the Jungle Season 4

“Mozart in the Jungle”

Sarah Shatz

Despite multiple wins at the Golden Globes, one of Amazon’s longest running series to date was always an under-the-radar entry — which remains a shame, because the light but sensitive dramedy about life in the strange and highly competitive world of classical music is one which deserves consideration. The cast was peerless, including a bravura lead performance by Gael Garcia Bernal as the maverick composer who comes in to take over a New York orchestra, Lola Kirke as the aspiring oboist who discovers new passions within her field, Bernadette Peters charming the pants off every scene she’s in, and Malcolm McDowell having a lot of fun on camera. But “Mozart” is also fascinating thanks to producers Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Weitz, whose experiments with form and function are a treat for any film nerds. “Mozart” is a show about artists, artistry, and the costs and joys associated with that pursuit. And the music is so, so beautiful. – LSM

45. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix, 2018-present)

Kiernan Shipka, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

Kiernan Shipka in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Something wicked this way came to Netflix with this devilishly dark reimagining of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” In the series, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her high school friends face down ghosts, demons, and witches in a ghoulish horror homage-filled romp. But the series also uses those horror trappings to explore bigger themes of empowerment and accountability, adding surprising depth and gravitas to this provocative coming-of-age tale. Satan is a real presence on the show, and his followers are not to be taken lightly, even if the series embraces camp as much as gore. Thus far, “Sabrina” is a worthy successor to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and has the potential to last as long. – HN

44. “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Netflix, 2017-2019)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events Neil Patrick Harris Louis Hynes

“A Series Of Unfortunate Events”

Joe Lederer/Netflix

Lemony Snicket’s wonderfully idiosyncratic novels had been a young adult favorite for years before finally getting the perfect on-screen treatment. It turns out three seasons was just the right format for bringing to life the complete story of the tragic Baudelaire orphans, forever chased by the loathsome Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris, operating at a whole new level of commitment) for their vast fortune. With rich production design, an addictively gloomy tone, and great performances from both its young cast and the strange adults they encounter on their way toward a happy ending, “Unfortunate Events” is the perfect example of a show intended for children and adults alike… as long as those children and adults aren’t at all put off by the terrible nature of the horrible tales being told. – LSM

43. “The Looming Tower” (Hulu, 2018)

THE LOOMING TOWER -- "Now it Begins..." - Episode 101 - The chief of the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit, John O’Neill, invites rookie Muslim-American agent, Ali Soufan, onto his squad. Fighting to get information from the CIA, they soon realize their work is just beginning… as two American embassies are bombed. John O'Neill (Jeff Daniels), shown. (Photo by: JoJo Whilden/Hulu)

“The Looming Tower”

JoJo Whilden/Hulu

It takes a lot of hard work to keep a tragic and true story from feeling like a history lesson, but the combined talents of Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright did just that. Tracking the rise of Osama bin Laden while the American government bickered blindly amongst itself, “The Looming Tower” is packed with valuable lessons and timely sentiments. But it’s also lively, engaging, and light on its feet — until it drops the hammer. Jeff Daniels, as FBI Agent John O’Neill, brings a ferociousness to his work that’s only matched by his casual charm off the clock. Bill Camp gives a masterclass in interrogation, Tahar Rahim is all bubbly, youthful energy, and Michael Stuhlbarg will make you hope you’re never called into his office for the wrong reasons. (He’s not angry, he’s just disappointed.) There are so many little things to appreciate in the 10-episode series, it’s easy to forget the horrific end. Of course, you can’t, but the distractions only make the ultimate takeaway stronger. – BT

42. “Red Oaks” (Amazon, 2015-2017)

Red Oaks

“Red Oaks”

Amazon Prime

Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi’s endearing ‘80s coming-of-age comedy is one of the few nostalgia-driven stories to work without all the homages. Sure, the smart but lost tennis pro who falls in love with the club president’s daughter is the kind of story you’d expect from John Hughes or Harold Ramis, but they didn’t make this. With its amazing body swap episode and regular references for cinephiles, “Red Oaks” is an ode to the ‘80s. But more than that, it’s an ode to that fleeting moment between adolescence and adulthood, when you’re carefree and crazy pressured at the same time; when you don’t feel the need to do anything important, but know if you don’t do something you’ll be lost for a long time. Funny, sweet, and surprising, Amazon’s three-season comedy is worth checking out, no matter what element draws you in. – BT

41. “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix, 2013-2019)

"Orange is the New Black."

“Orange is the New Black”

Netflix

In 2016, Netflix made the unprecedented move of renewing “Orange Is the New Black” for not one, but three seasons — which means that when the show unveils its seventh and final season at some point in 2019, it’ll hold the title of Netflix’s longest-running series to date. That’s a huge accomplishment for the hour-long prison dramedy, which isn’t a perfect show, but does so much, so well thanks to the way in which it evolves. Its strengths are found not in the story of a privileged white woman confronting the prison system as an inmate, but in the stellar inclusive ensemble. “Orange” made award-winning stars of actors like Laverne Cox and Uzo Aduba, who might never have found purchase in this industry, while always aiming to tell stories about the sort of women who might never be featured in a prestige drama. – LSM

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