The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

The way we consume our media has seen a fundamental paradigm shift over the last decade. It happened in incremental steps — TiVo, VOD, the rise of streaming networks; those advances and many more are all pivotal steps in restructuring the way we approach serialized storytelling formats. At the same time came the rise of smartphone and tablet culture, and the opportunity that comes when most people have a screen in front of their faces for the majority of their waking hours. Naturally, soon after came the rise of binge-watching.

This isn’t to suggest, of course, that people haven’t been bingeing television for decades. As long as there have been nerds and a means of recording, people have been mass consuming their favorite TV shows, whether on DVD or self-recorded VHS. But more recently, binge-watching has become not only something people do, but a driving factor that shapes the way some entertainment is formed on a core level. Netflix, in particular, is known for crafting their series in a way that compels viewers to digest the whole narrative in one or two sittings and, as a result, often blurs the lines between film and television story formats.

But whether you’ve been binge-watching your whole life or recently slid into the habit, there are some shows that are just perfect to mainline as quickly as possible. If you’re on the hunt for a new show to dive into, the Collider staff has put together handy list of our favorite shows to binge-watch below.

Need more bingeing options? Check our roundup of the Best TV Shows on Netflix and Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime.

Game of Thrones

Streaming on: HBO Go / Now

You know a show is going to be a good binge watch when you’re tearing your hair out waiting for new episodes week to week, and new seasons year to year. Building on the structure of shock drama and high fantasy in George R. R. Martin‘s best-selling book series, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss‘ adaptation Game of Thrones translates all the political machinations, royal intrigue, and apocalyptic fantasy underpinnings into TV gold. Backed by a game-changing budget from HBO, Game of Thrones might be the most spectacular sight to ever hit the airwave and that luxurious attention crafts a completely immersive world where anything can happen, anyone may perish, and each new twisted cliffhanger and moment of violent punctuation leaves you clamoring to see what’s next. — Haleigh Foutch

Parks and Recreation

Streaming on: Netflix

Parks and Recreation is a great show to binge-watch because the series evolved so heavily throughout its run. Showrunner Mike Schur was never content to just stick to the status quo, and this love letter to public service revels in shaking up its characters and their circumstances in compelling and engaging ways. Moreover, the tremendous arc of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation department deputy director to potentially President of the United States is executed perfectly. Aside from the rocky first season, there’s really not a false note to be found in this show, and its compassion for its characters and ever-changing circumstances makes it a great binge-watch at any time. – Adam Chitwood

True Detective (Season 1)

Streaming on: HBO Go / Now 

Nick Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga’s engrossing anthology is a rabbit hole of a mystery that had viewers spending an exceptional amount of time trying to guess who the (potentially mythical) killer was. But the visually sumptuous exploration of this Louisiana-Set crime story is really about the two troubled men investigating it over time, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. As True Detective’s story weaves through the horrors committed by The Yellow King, it also zeroes in on the complicated relationship between its two detective leads, which ultimately pulls it together after a wholly southern gothic crescendo. It’s an experience that is both engrossing and hypnotic, and it set a standard that its own Season 2 (with a new cast, directors, and setting) could not come close to matching. — Allison Keene

Stranger Things

Streaming on: Netflix

Here’s where the lines start to blur between TV and film. A show like House of Cards is clearly built and presented like a traditional TV series, just one meant to be binge-watched. But the smash-hit Stranger Things is much more filmic in nature, not just in its reduced number of episodes, but the structure of each. They play like parts of a whole instead of standalone episodes, and bingeing Stranger Things is more akin to reading a great novel in one day than watching a bunch of TV at once. Indeed each season of the show is seen by its creators, brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, as more of a film than a TV series, which makes it possibly the most satisfying binge-watch on this list. Even if the final episode leaves the door open for more questions, the eight-episode first season has a clear beginning and end.  Adam Chitwood

Breaking Bad

Streaming on: Netflix

Binge watching Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould‘s definitive Golden Age series Breaking Bad can feel like an emotional marathon, but the payoff is well worth the tumult of the journey. A masterpiece of long-format storytelling, Breaking Bad is a series that veers left every time you think you have a read on it and is never afraid to swing for the fences with despicable human behavior and the far-reaching fallout from wicked deeds. As Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, Bryan Cranston is a revelation and he’s supported at every turn by an ensemble of prodigiously talented peers. Breaking Bad is a perfectly crafted show, each season feeling like both a tightly-contained unit of storytelling and a part of a bigger whole. It will keep your nerves on end and put a pit in your stomach for a breathless rollercoaster of character drama through crime and punishment. — Haleigh Foutch

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Streaming on: Hulu

Joss Whedon reinvented the rules of genre television with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the timeless teenage drama that chronicled coming of age through the conquest of literal monsters, big and, on at least one occasion, very very small. Twenty years later, Buffy is still an absolute delight to watch, charting the long-haul coming of age of a group of beloved characters from the angst of high school to the disappointments of early adulthood. At the same time, it’s a thrilling monster series, delivering one hellish creature after the next with fantastic practical effects and pure passion for genre storytelling. Buffy is my OG binge, long before the term became a thing. I think I used to call it “marathoning Buffy,” watching the seasons back to back on my well-worn DVDs. Even so, it never grows old. — Haleigh Foutch

Twin Peaks

Streaming on: Netflix

While there’s certainly never been a better time to mainline David Lynch’s landmark network series (that revival’s never been closer), you certainly don’t need much more of a reason to watch than for the series’ unique combo of semi-traditional and propulsive genre pleasure and pure Lynch-brand surrealism. Led by Kyle Maclachlan at his charmer height and nestled in a magical realist dreamscape somewhere in the foggy pacific northwest, Twin Peaks is likely the most accessible of Lynch’s oeuvre, but it’s also possibly his most personal. Emotionally affecting and deceptively deep beneath the glittering madness, if Twin Peaks isn’t quite Lynch at his best, it’s certainly at his most iconic. — Aubrey Page

Battlestar Galactica

Streaming on: Hulu

Everything you need to know about the power of bingeing Battlestar Galactica, you can find in this on-point Portlandia sketch. Eight years after it went of the air, Ronald D. Moore and Glen A. Larson‘s reimagining of the short-lived 1970s series remains the benchmark for serialized political science fiction television. The series falters in the later seasons when it shifts from an intergalactic survivalist story to myth making, where it grapples with finding satisfying resolutions to unanswerable questions, but when Battlestar Galactica is firing on all cylinders, it’s as addictive as television gets. — Haleigh Foutch

Archer

Streaming on: Netflix

It’s rare that a TV show runs for seven seasons (and counting) and remains fresh, but Archer is consistently hilarious, stylish, and surprising. Binge-watching the FX series is ideal as creator Adam Reed is incredibly fond of frequent callback jokes or running gags. Watching H. Jon Benjamin’s highly skilled and incredibly incompetent spy bumble his way through various missions is a delight each and every time. The show also has a penchant for reinventing itself a season at a time, focusing on one long story arc for the duration of an entire season, which also makes binge-watching this animated series an out and out pleasure. Seriously, Archer is basically one giant joy-manufacturing machine. – Adam Chitwood

Westworld

Streaming on: HBO Go / Now

God knows, the tantalizing mysteries of Westworld were delicious when doled out at a weekly pace and it was a delight to have enough time between each chapter to work out the pieces of the puzzle Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy lovingly crafted. That said, the series also rewards tearing through the episodes, especially as a rewatch that allows you to see the full scope of the twisting, time-bending narrative. Set in an Old West theme park where robots are at human disposal for whatever dark urges they may possess, Westworld is a pitch-perfect hybrid of pulpy fantasy and cerebral sci-fi, packing in HBO’s signature sex and death spectacle alongside a heavy dose of complex brain-twisters, and whether you’re watching it week to week or all in one go, both vantage points offer new facets to appreciate. — Haleigh Foutch

My Mad Fat Diary

Streaming on: Hulu

The dream of the 90s has never been more alive than in My Mat Fat Diary, a gem of a series from the UK that follows a teenage girl, Rae (the fantastic Sharon Rooney), as she navigates the perils of high school life while being overweight and dealing with depression. The group of friends that the series establishes are familiar and intimate, and Rae’s anxieties that she will never be good enough or that she’s forever misunderstood are universal ones. The series’ glorious Britpop soundtrack (mostly of Oasis, who are Rae’s favorite band) help bring the 90s nostalgia home (though the series was made in the 2010s), as we journey along through both tough times and beautifully real moments of triumph. Like most British series, this one is only 16 episodes over 3 seasons. And while Rae’s therapist Kester would likely encourage us not to binge, in this case, I think he’d make an exception. — Allison Keene

Community

Streaming on: Hulu

Sure, we got our six seasons, but we’re still waiting on that movie. In the meantime, a Community binge watch is always a delight. Dan Harmon‘s irreverent comedy series had its ups and downs over the seasons, but it was always one of the sharpest and most unusual comedies on television, and it never shied from skewering the conventions of the half-hour comedy structure or completely shattering the mold altogether. Ostensibly about a study group at a consummately unimpressive community college, Community waltzes through genres with complete chameleon freedom, but never loses sight over the long term arcs. Ultimately, binge watching Community kind of feels like hanging out with a group of your weirdest friends, and what’s not great about that? — Haleigh Foutch

Weeds

Streaming on: Netflix

Before binge-watching was a thing, there was Weeds, Showtime’s half-hour dark comedy about a suburban single mother who turns to dealing and selling weed as a source of income. Mary-Louise Parker is endlessly watchable in the lead role, and it’s no surprise that creator/showrunner Jenji Kohan would go on to create another highly binge-able show in Orange Is the New Black. Weeds was unique for a half-hour series, regularly taking ambitious leaps in story and focusing as much on shocking plot twists as it did on characters. Some say it never should have left the suburban location, but there’s still quality to be found in the later seasons of the series when the Botwin family took their empire on the road. – Adam Chitwood

Broadchurch (Season 1)

Streaming on: Netflix

A young boy in a quiet English coastal town goes missing, and then is found dead on the beach. From there, the villagers of Broadchurch see all of their worlds turned upside down by the investigation into the killer, who belonged to this tight-knit community. Broadchurch’s success, at least in its first season, is in the way its crime story comes second to the character drama it dives into, thanks to an exceptional cast. From the two sparring detectives (played by David Tennant and Olivia Colman) to the grieving mother (Jodie Whittaker) trying to pull her family back from the brink, the series’ picturesque setting is juxtaposed sharply with the darkness within it, leading to a shocking and brutal conclusion (that should have ideally ended the series). — Allison Keene

Rick and Morty

Streaming on: Hulu

There are pros and cons to bingeing Rick and Morty. On the pro side, it’s a, sometimes painfully, hilarious series that delivers a crazy amount of laughs per episode along with surprisingly robust character arcs. On the con side, you may break your brain. Rick and Morty is hard sci-fi with sharp edges, and the bingeing pace can make it hard to keep up with one mind-bending concept after the next. The thing is, you won’t be able to help yourself. While it’s fun to sit with an episode for a while to break down the layers and implications of everything that buzzes by on screen in each tight half-hour episode, the series is so propulsive, engaging, and utterly twisted, you just can’t ignore the compulsion to hit play on the next bit of insanity. — Haleigh Foutch

Orphan Black

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

It’s about clones, and that’s really all you need to know. But no matter how crazy the plots get in Orphan Black, or how many clones it keeps adding to the original pack, the thing that will always hold the series together is Tatiana Maslany’s absorbing performance as multiple members of Clone Club. She is so distinct with each performance that Alison, Cosima, Sarah, Helena, Rachel, and the others all feel like completely different people, even as they share the same scenes (some of the best ones are when they switch places, so it’s Maslany playing Sarah as Helena, or Alison as Cosima). The mind-bending plots and pseudo-science are best left not closely investigated, but when binged the show takes on a different rhythm that focuses on the character drama, which can be very deeply affecting. Join in, sestra … — Allison Keene

Marcella

Streaming on: Netflix

One of the things that binge watching does, for better or worse, is it tends to erase one’s focus on the details of each episode. Marcella is not a great series, but it is a great binge watch, because its pacing and central mystery allow you to get swept up with its story while being able to better ignore some of its faults. Anna Friel gives a fantastic performance as a gender-swapped version of the age-old crime story protagonist: brilliant, haunted, with a failing private life because of her devotion to her job catching heinous killers. And yet, Marcella herself is also prone to blackouts and violent behavior, adding another layer to the mystery as to what crimes she might actually be committing (as well as her dubious choices to cover them up). On the whole, few crime shows become as quickly engrossing as Marcella, which keeps you guessing until the end. — Allison Keene

Futurama

Streaming on: Netflix

For whatever reason, animated series feel like much more satisfying binge-watches than half-hour live-action comedies. This is certainly true of Futurama, which is just as prone to standalone episodes as it is to multi-episode arcs. The strong sci-fi nature of the show makes it incredibly fun to consume in large batches, as you’re transported to different worlds, meet new characters, and explore fascinating sci-fi ideas and themes in each episode. But what makes Futurama compelling is the strength of its core characters, and the writers’ penchant for getting emotional when appropriate makes the show all the more engaging. – Adam Chitwood

Skins (UK)

Streaming on: Netflix

What started out as a UK series that wanted to portray teenagers on their own terms (the writing staff was young, the music is perfectly fine-tuned, the stories are all about raging hormones and parties and awkwardness), Skins became something a little different as it wore on and the cast continued to change. But the first few seasons are still full of exceptional moxie, fun, and the joys of being young and free — even if you feel weighed down by school, parents, and unrequited love. Skins is not always perfect and doesn’t even always make sense, but it’s a raucous journey alongside a number of young actors who have gone on to lead some major blockbusters. — Allison Keene

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Streaming on: Netflix

While Netflix’s ever-expanding programming has brought us a variety of shows designed to be binge-watched, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is still the streaming service’s gold standard in terms of half-hours. The comedy from Robert Carlock and Tina Fey tackles issues of PTSD and trauma in a way that’s hilarious but also truthful. Ellie Kemper’s joy is infectious, and this is a show that you can easily end up watching in five, six, seven-episode batches without realizing. – Adam Chitwood

Happy Valley

Streaming on: Netflix

Of all the crime series I watch (and I watch a lot of crime series), Happy Valley may not only be the most unique, but the most essential. The story takes place in an economically depressed region of Northern England, where tough police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) raises her grandson after her daughter commits suicide. That grandson was the product of a rape, and now the rapist (Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton) has been let out of prison. Catherine wrestles with her darker impulses to go after Royce, who we see is already committing new crimes, and that struggle to curb one’s vengeance while also genuinely investigating Royce makes for breathtaking television. In the second season (which also runs for a quick 6 episodes), Catherine becomes superficially implicated in a string of related crimes, but the real crux of the story is in how she tries to keep her unconventional family together, especially as Royce threatens to undermine everything in new and unexpected ways. A sometimes emotionally difficult, but hugely worthwhile series to devour in one shot (or two). — Allison Keene

Gossip Girl

Streaming on: Netflix

Pure propulsive soap and glamorous high-fashion spectacle. Peak teen drama in the mold of Melrose Place and 90210 before it, Gossip Girl is as juicy and high drama as its name suggests, chronicling the lives of high society private school kids in the Upper East Side of NYC. They’re wildly fashionable, indulgent, and so very pretty as they engaging in a never-ending, ever-evolving chain of courtships and betrayals, each bitchier and better dressed than the next, and more twisted than Blair Waldorf’s perfect curls. It’s delicious, decadent and utterly bingeable. — Haleigh Foutch

The West Wing

Streaming on: Netflix

Television in the 90s and early 2000s was certainly not made to be binge-watched, but that doesn’t keep The West Wing from being a swell fit for that specific mode of consumption. Granted, as one of the greatest TV series of all time there’s really no wrong way to watch The West Wing, but basking in Aaron Sorkin’s rat-a-tat dialogue for hours at a time is a particular delight—at least until that awful fifth season. – Adam Chitwood

Fleabag

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

Running an economical six half-hour episodes, Fleabag stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the titular character who faces the pitfalls of dating in London while managing to avoid every trope of the genre. Disarmingly raw, honest, and genuinely emotional, Fleabag occasionally conspires with viewers by breaking the fourth wall and confirming that yes, everything we are seeing is real and absurd. Despite the humor of her dating escapades, through the course of this first season we start to see a darker undercurrent surfacing about the unexpected death of her best friend. The way it’s handled is masterful, making Fleabag one of TV’s best, smartest, and funniest series. — Allison Keene

House of Cards

Streaming on: Netflix

This is it, the show that started it all. As one of Netflix’s first original series, House of Cards was by default one of the first shows specifically made to be binge-watched. Not only that, but the first season was carefully guided by filmmaker David Fincher, who directed the first two episodes and hand-picked directors to come in and finish out the season. While the show has waned a bit in recent years, it’s still a cool and compelling watch, with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright chewing the scenery as if their lives depended on it. The show is basically the Pringles of television—you can’t just watch one episode, and once you pop, well, you just can’t stop. – Adam Chitwood

Enlightened

Streaming on: Amazon Prime, HBO Go / Now

Four years since the final episode aired on HBO, much of the talk around Mike White’s sharply funny and emotionally vulnerable series Enlightened references its untimely cancellation. And it’s true – the series, of a planned three season arc, was only given a piddly two by the network – but often lost in the shuffle is the artistry of a show too understated for its time. Hitting the airwaves during what could be titled the first phase of #PeakTV, Enlightened stars Laura Dern as the frustrated, flawed and utterly human Amy Jellicoe whose emotional breakdown at a bougie corporate firm triggers a well-meaning search for personal enlightenment. The catch? Amy is really, really bad at channeling her chill. Bravely political and almost uncomfortably real, Enlightened is a near-perfect series with a hyper-watchable expose-style hook that will keep you watching – even through the tears. –Aubrey Page

The Wire

Streaming on: Amazon, HBO Go / Now

The Wire is one of those shows that people heard about more after it’d been on the air for a few seasons or already run through its scattershot schedule. There were occasional editorials about how it was one of the best shows ever made and needed a new season but the method of binging was via DVDs which somehow seems harder to fathom now with the modern method where Netflix or whatever program you use actually needs you to decide when to stop watching because they’ll autoplay you into oblivion, giving you mere seconds to decide if you’re going to continue or not. After finishing a five season order that had more than one year-long break (because the ratings were so low) The Wire has achieved mythological status and is an instant conversation starter at parties. It was never designed for a binge but buzz from friends and trusted critics made the binge necessary for many.

The Wire was my first true binge and it might be the most perfect series to binge. Using Baltimore as a setting (a city with drug issues, poverty lines, violence, and elected corruption all above the national average), each season offers up one side of a polygon about the drug trade and how it corrupts neighborhoods, politicians, trade, education, and journalism. David Simon‘s immensely intelligent series shifts settings and introduces entirely new characters but organically keeps the fan favorite drug dealers and investigators organically close enough to the story. They’re all bones in an immense skeleton. And what Simon is digging up is the shame of the war on drugs and how it’s weakened every aspect of American society.If you haven’t seen The Wire here’s your 1,000,000th plea to watch it. You might not think it’s a binge-worthy affair since it’s often described with such heady acclaim, but trust me, once you start you’ll have to clear your schedule, cancel social plans, call in sick because you’ll be hooked. There are 60+ hours of The Wire. Your friends and co-workers will wonder where you went. And you’ll emerge from your binge paler and unclean—but with more empathy for communities that have been ravaged by drugs. — Brian Formo

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