Last Updated: January 30th
Judging by the shows available on Netflix, ’90s kids had it good.
The streaming platform has a handful of hidden gems — TV series that managed to capture the essence of the decade — from the era. From political dramas and Emmy-winning mysteries to stoner comedies, fantasy series, and a kids’ show about a magic school bus, there’s something for everyone who’s feeling a bit nostalgic for the good ol’ days of grunge, Tamagotchis, and dial-up.
Here are all of the best ’90s shows on Netflix that will transport you back to the best decade ever.
2 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
If small-town murder mysteries full of camp and supernatural phenomenon are your thing, well then why wouldn’t you watch (or re-watch) Twin Peaks? The series, crafted all the way back in the ’90s by David Lynch, is a cult-favorite and for good reason. With Kyle MacLachlan playing Special Agent Dale Cooper, a poor schmoe who’s called in to investigate the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, he’s met with more than he bargained for. Conspiracy theories and otherworldly beings, time travel, and dwarves in red business suits soon follow. The original series may have ended with cliffhangers and unexplained plot-holes, but with the recent Showtime revival, now’s as good a time as any to catch up on all the strange events that seem to plague this sleepy town.
The West Wing
7 seasons, 156 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
Television’s all-time best political drama, The West Wing, is Aaron Sorkin at his absolute best, working with one of the finest ensemble casts in television history. The show wavers after the fourth season (when Sorkin left), but it picks back up in its final season (with Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda). It’s celebration of the greatest fictional president of all time to get you warmed up for it.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
1 season, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
The brand new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, featuring a cast a crew of old-hands and newcomers alike, is on Netflix now but that’s no excuse to ignore 20 of the original series’ classic episodes, made available by the streaming platform for both longtime fans and lollygagging greenhorns to enjoy. So before new human host, Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) and his robot companions come along to participate in new sketches while vilifying more awful movies, watch these old favorites with your old favorites.
8 seasons, 179 episodes | IMDb: 7.1/10
Charmed is the OG fantasy series, a show about a trio of magical sisters who fight the forces of evil from their model Victorian home in modern-day San Francisco. Prue (Shannon Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), and later Paige (Rose McGowan), are The Charmed Ones, the most powerful of good witches who protect innocent humans from warlocks, demons, and other nasty creatures that go bump in the night. Each sister has her own magical ability – telekinesis, teleportation, premonitions, and so on – but they’re strongest when they fight their enemies together, even though doing so puts them at risk of discovery by non-magical humans.
That ’70s Show
8 seasons, 200 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
Before Laura Prepon was causing trouble on Orange Is the New Black, before Mila Kunis was starring in spy comedies with Kate McKinnon, and before Ashton Kutcher was her husband, the gang was hamming it up on this stoner comedy series. The show centered around Erik Forman (Topher Grace) and his group of slacker friends, who spent most of their time getting high in his parents’ basement and avoiding their responsibilities. Plenty of mishaps, love triangles, and ridiculousness ensued, but the show excelled when it focused on relationships between the main cast, giving us a somewhat realistic view of what it was like to grow up there in the decade of hippies, flower power, and free love.
The Magic School Bus
4 seasons, 52 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Sure, technically The Magic School Bus is a children’s educational program, but don’t act like you haven’t revisited this work of art as an adult. Lily Tomlin voices the heroine, Ms. Frizzle, an eccentric grade school teacher who treats her students to all kinds of inventive, informational field trips through her shape-shifting, logic-defying school bus. Whether it’s a tour of the human immune system from inside the body of a student or a wild ride through the skies during a thunderstorm, Ms. Frizzle manages to make learning fun in the most unbelievable of ways. If you haven’t checked this show out in a while, do yourself a favor and bask in the nostalgic fun it provides.
Star Trek: Voyager
7 seasons, 170 episodes | IMDb: 7.7/10
Voyager is rarely the first Star Trek installment on people’s must-watch list, but there’s still plenty to love about this iteration, even without Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart present. Kate Mulgrew helms this ship, leading a crew of capable heroes trying to return to the Federation after being stranded on the edge of the cosmos. Like other Star Trek storylines, this one relies heavily on character development, tackling big themes with some thrilling action sequences thrown in. Plus, Mulgrew in anything is worth your time.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
7 seasons, 176 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
As significant as Star Trek: The Original Series is, Gene Roddenberry’s television successor broken even more ground in the science-fiction genre and beyond. TNG fans are just as stalwart as TOS proponents, if not more so, and the generational differences between the two groups produce more positivity within the series’ larger fan community than anything else. Plus, there were four more and far longer seasons of TNG for viewers to watch, re-watch and discuss frequently — both at the time, and decades later with the arrival of the Internet, message board and social media. And sure, technically this show came out in the late 80s, but it perfectly encapsulates the 90s approach to sci-fi.
5 seasons, 74 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Another kids series that still feels just as watchable into adulthood, Goosebumps is a show that existed solely to give ’90s kids nightmares. Watching it now, some of those show’s more bizarre storylines seem even more f*cked up, and therefore, more thrilling than when they did when we watched it as kids. The show is an anthology series — a collection of stories from famed horror author R.L. Stine — but unlike recent film adaptations, the series manages to hold onto a bit of the original fright and delight Stine imagined for younger minds.
Tales of the City
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 8.4/10
Sure, PBS’ controversial 1994 mini-series got a reboot on Netflix with original cast members like Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis joining newcomers Ellen Page and Charlie Barnett to tell more wild stories of the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, but the first iteration of this incredibly important addition to “Queer Stories Told On TV In The 90s” focused on Linney’s character, Mary Ann Singleton, a naive woman from the Mid-West who moves to San Francisco in the ’70s and explores a scene of drugs, sex, and gender non-conforming inhabitants. And it’s worth a watch.