Last Updated: September 25th
Drama. We might not like it in our own lives, but we crave it in our TV shows. A good drama is a bingeable, magical unicorn. It allows us to escape the real world for a bit, to become immersed in the inner workings of someone else’s life. They make us think, they make us cry, they ask grand questions about life and treat us to onscreen meltdowns that feel particularly satisfying. A good drama ticks off all the boxes. Netflix knows that. It’s why the streaming giant has collected a slew of award-winning shows to house in the category.
Here are 10 of the best drama shows currently streaming on Netflix. Get to bingeing.
5 seasons, 62 episodes | IMDb: 9.5/10
By now, we probably don’t have to map out the plot of AMC’s Breaking Bad. The drama, about a family man and ailing science teacher (Bryan Cranston) who launches his own drug empire in order to make secure his family’s financial future has won enough awards, spawned enough memes and made it onto enough “Must Watch” lists to secure its place in the annals of television. Instead, let us wax poetic about Cranston’s performance as a tortured everyman forced to sell drugs to support his family before falling prey to the alluring and addictive criminal underworld. While we’re at it, we’ll also mention Aaron Paul’s turn as Jesse Pinkman, a drug-addict-turned-dealer who becomes the surprising hero of this story thanks to the emotional weight Paul brings to portraying him. Watch this show if only to see what two truly great actors can do with a worthwhile script.
4 seasons, 38 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/10
I think we can all agree, Henry VIII was not the model of royalty anyone would aspire to, but as sh*tty as the historical figure was, his life made for a fascinating, sexually-charged, politically entrenched TV show. The Tudors took the British monarchy – a crusty, aloof ideal – and injected a dose of soap-opera juiciness to it all with Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing the king in question and a host of supporting cast members like Henry Cavill and Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer showing off their own chops. Henry was mercurial, easily-enraged, and led by the brain in his pants most of the time which meant the series featured plenty of scantily-clad rendezvous and epic battle scenes along with the subtler political machinations that took place behind closed doors. It’s everything you could hope for in a period drama.
American Crime Story
2 season, 19 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Ryan Murphy has made a name for himself on TV thanks to his nightmare-inducing anthology series, but this mini-series, which chronicles the events leading up to and following the murder trial of O.J. Simpson proved the showrunner can do drama like no one else. Employing an award-winning cast in Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, Courtney B. Vance, Cuba Gooding Jr., and John Travolta, Murphy charts the fall of one of the most beloved sports stars in a case that gripped the nation. The events are well-known, but it’s the meat added to the behind-the-scenes details, particularly Paulson’s portrayal of Marcia Clark, that’s worthwhile. In its second season, the show moves focus on the assassination of design legend Gianni Versace by Andrew Cunanan. While not as strong as the amazing ensemble in Season 1, Season 2 boasts memorable portrayals of conflicted, complex figures by Darren Criss, Penelope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez, and (surprisingly) Ricky Martin.
2 seasons, 18 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Ryan Murphy’s fashionable ’80s drama imagines the rise of the world of ball culture. Murphy focuses on warring houses in the scene, painting a myriad of queer portraits about gays, lesbians, and trans warriors, forging their own path amidst bigotry and hatred in New York City. There’s couture, there are catfights, and there’s plenty of vogueing, but there’s also nuanced, heartfelt portrayals of figures who paved the way for the acceptance of this fringe community with dramatic flair.
6 seasons, 63 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
This Western crime drama follows an aging sheriff in a fictional Wyoming county, running for reelection while trying to recover after the murder of his wife. Robert Taylor plays Longmire, the antihero of the series, a good guy forced to do bad things in the name of justice. His best friend, a Native American named Henry (Lou Diamond Philips) has his own demons to contend with as he straddles the line between life on the reservation and his duty to his partner. The series is a thrilling look at the hostilities faces by Native Americans in modern America, but it also roots itself in a compelling lead and plenty of personal drama that has you invested in these characters from the get-go.
The West Wing
7 seasons, 155 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
No “Best Dramas” list is complete without Aaron Sorkin’s iconic political drama. Sure, this show receives more than its fair share of praise. It’s got a boatload of Emmys to its name, an enviable cast, and a team of polished writers – it’s not the dark horse of this list by any means – but greatness is greatness and we must recognize it. The show, which stars Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe and a slew of other A-list names too many to list, follows the inner-workings of the president’s inner circle. It’s a whos-who of political masterminds, manipulating events behind the scenes, managing the damage of bad decisions, controlling the press, and trying to lead the free world while fighting their own personal battles. In short: it’s the gold standard of television.
Halt & Catch Fire
4 seasons, 40 episodes | IMDb: 8.4/10
AMC’s 80s-centric tech drama is a seasons-long look behind the invention of the World Wide Web and the tech boom that came to define that era. Lee Pace plays Joe MacMillan, a smooth-talking salesman who worms his way into more than a few tech ventures over the course of four seasons. He’s joined by a couple of married computer engineers and a gifted programmer (Mackenzie Davis) in his bid to control (and make money off) the invention of the internet. Even if the more technical aspects of this series fly over your head, watching this kind of tangible human drama play out amidst a backdrop of Silicon Valley start-ups is more than enough reason to watch.
3 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
Another ode to the British monarchy, this one tackles an era closer to our own with Claire Foy playing a young Queen Elizabeth II just as she ascended to power. Lavish sets and intricate costumes litter this (mostly) accurate portrayal of the beloved royal, but the source of most of the drama comes in the relationship between Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip (Matt Smith), a military man who struggles with his wife’s power in their relationship, especially in the show’s second season. As lush and beautifully shot as this series is, it’s also a striking character study on one of the most famous of world figures and its Foy’s performance that becomes its best selling point.
When They See Us
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 9/10
Director Ava DuVernay’s limited series about the wrongfully accused men in the Central Park Five case is an emotionally heavy reimagining of a truly tragic event in our history. The series sheds light on racial profiling and corruption in the NYPD as a group of young Black men are targeted for a heinous crime and put on trial with little evidence. It’s a gripping, heartbreaking retelling, but one that feels sadly relevant.
6 seasons, 121 episodes | IMDb: 7.4/10
Teen dramas are notoriously difficult to pull off. There’s an unwritten recipe that exists detailing the perfect amount of angst, triviality, romance, and existentialism needed to make a show about the inner workings of high school interesting and enjoyable without being over-the-top and camp. Gossip Girl often walked that fine line, giving us characters to root for (Serena van der Woodsen, Dan Humphrey) and characters we loved to hate (Chuck Bass). The storylines could be trite, sometimes filled with glaring potholes, and eye-roll inducing, but watching this A-list cast enact the lives of those elite Upper East Siders, the ones completely removed from the realities of everyday life, more worried about galas, balls, charity functions, and business takeovers – well, that’s a form of escapism worth anyone’s time.