Amazon has become a hub for niche, singular storytelling, whether you’re in the mood for unbalanced superheroes, gruff detectives or refined Manhattan comedy. The platform’s original series often arrive under the radar, only a few of them truly transitioning into the zeitgeist. But they consistently become adored when finally watched.
From The Boys and Homecoming to Mozart in the Jungle and The Underground Railroad, here are the 35 must-see series currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.
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Despite being largely unknown outside of its devoted fanbase, Bosch is in many respects Amazon’s flagship drama – one of its longest-running and most interesting series, built around a rare and much deserved starring role for character actor Titus Welliver. Inspired by Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, it is a grizzled and grimy contemporary noir, with Bosch a gruff LA detective caught up in child murder, sex rings and police brutality.
Grim, nihilistic and incredibly funny, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s adults-only superhero thriller was adapted from a cult comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, and has proven to be one of Amazon’s biggest successes. Set within a world dominated by superhero corporations and two rival factions of super-powered beings, it has tackled sex, violence, masculinity and feelings of emotional disillusionment so far. Season two, which arrived in September, is somehow even gorier and introduces sarcastic rightwing villain Stormfront (Aya Cash).
A surreal, polarising dark comedy from Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, Forever divided audiences throughout its first and only season. But it is unapologetically daring and oddball television regardless of where you stand on it. Armisen and Rudolph are a dull couple who have lived in a form of marital stasis for more than a decade, before both dying tragically. What follows is a series about second chances, renewed feelings of purpose, and the upside of the afterlife.
The Girlfriend Experience
A chilly anthology series loosely inspired by Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film of the same name, The Girlfriend Experience explores the lives of sex workers played by the likes of Riley Keough and Carmen Ejogo, whose work entangles them with crime, politics and big business. Deliberately icy and polarising, it’s one of the strangest, most beguiling shows barely anyone has heard of.
Good Girls Revolt
Despite being cancelled before it was able to truly flourish, Good Girls Revolt is still a treat. A less refined Mad Men entirely fronted by women, it was inspired by the female rebellion within the corridors of Newsweek Magazine in 1970, with a trio of young researchers deciding the revolution occurring in the streets should be replicated in the workplace, too.
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Everything was thrown into the pot for this Neil Gaiman adaptation, and with good reason. A gleefully messy battle of wits between good and evil, Good Omens cast Michael Sheen and David Tennant respectively as their eccentric physical embodiments – long-time friends despite their duelling purposes, who must prevent the coming apocalypse. Surrounding them is a cast of cult favourites, from Frances McDormand as God to Jon Hamm as the Archangel Gabriel.
Homecoming is a compelling mystery thriller filled with Hitchcockian visual flourishes and a central performance from Julia Roberts that practically defines star power. From the wild brain of Mr Robotcreator Sam Esmail, it stars Roberts as an employee of a mysterious government facility, and is awash with conspiracies, repressed memories and paranoia. A second season, which sees Roberts succeeded in the leading role by none other than funk visionary Janelle Monáe, has just been released. A second series saw Janelle Monae replace Roberts. Season two saw Roberts succeeded in the leading role by none other than funk visionary Janelle Monáe.
Al Pacino makes his television debut with this fun blur of horror, thriller and exploitation. He is the commander of a secret troupe of Nazi hunters based in 1970s New York who must try and bring down a secret cabal of Nazis attempting to mount an uprising. Logan Lerman, Lena Olin and Carol Kane also star.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Because everything old is new again, Amazon has turned the beloved Nineties slasher movie into a soapy teen drama series. Directly riffing on the original film – itself an adaptation of a Lois Duncan novel – the show follows a group of high-school students who accidentally kill a man on a drunken night drive and then cover up the crime. A year later, anonymous notes threaten to expose the man’s death, while a hook-handed killer begins slaughtering the ensemble one by one. There’s no Jennifer Love Hewitt or Sarah Michelle Gellar this time around, but try not to let that put you off.
Further turning on its head everything we thought we knew about animated television, Invincible is an animated superhero drama made for adults and with episodes clocking in at around 45 minutes each. Based on a popular comic-book series by Image Comics, it revolves around a teenager with superpowers (voiced by Steven Yeun) who is mentored by a Superman-esque hero who happens to be his dad. Worth noting is also the extensive voice cast here, which includes (deep breath) Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Mahershala Ali, JK Simmons, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Mark Hamill and Walton Goggins.
Life in Pieces
There was a time when these gentle, middle-of-the-road American sitcoms (filmed in front of a live studio audience à la Friends) ruled supreme. Today, they’re cancelled after a few seasons and left to be unearthed on a streaming site somewhere, where viewers become fans long after episodes stop being produced. Life in Pieces is one such show, starring Colin Hanks, James Brolin and Dianne Weist as members of an extended family, their stories told in short vignettes every episode.
Little Fires Everywhere
Reese Witherspoon’s recent career has been dominated by explorations of power, privilege and motherhood. Now, after Big Little Lies and The Morning Show, comes Little Fires Everywhere, a limited series that casts her alongside Scandal’s Kerry Washington. There are no heroes here, nor easy villains, just a dizzying portrait of suburbia in the 1990s, where egos, classes and races collide.
I Love Dick
This adaptation of Chris Kraus’s seminal and polarising 1997 novel was never going to be widely embraced, particularly when it was long argued to be unfilmable anyway. But the resulting series, a short-lived intellectual adventure featuring startling, brilliant work from Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon, is still worth seeking out. Hahn is Chris, an artist and filmmaker shackled to her academic husband and underwhelmed by life; Bacon is Dick, an artist and philosopher who unravels Chris’s sexual repression and artistic boundaries.
From producer Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us), this documentary series explores the bizarre and (in hindsight) problematic story of Lorena Bobbit – a woman famed in US tabloid lore after slicing off her husband’s penis. Bobbit herself takes centre stage, granting intimate access to one of the most talked-about true crime stories in modern history, albeit one we’ve only known one side of.
This four-part docuseries tracks the rapid rise of LuLaRoe, a multi-level marketing company selling women’s clothing over social media. Accused of being a pyramid scheme and – by at least a handful of people – akin to a cult, LuLaRoe has been dogged by controversy since its birth, with LuLaRich exploring how the company isn’t just an example of toxic capitalism in the Instagram age, but of the American dream fraying at the seams.
Making the Cut
Naomi Campbell and Nicole Richie are among the judges for this fashion competition series, which sees Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn reunite after their years on the superficially similar Project Runway. Unlike that show, Making the Cut is dripping in money, its contestants fighting for a million dollar prize that will turn their small-scale fashion businesses into veritable “brands”.
The Man in the High Castle
This alternate-history thriller takes a while to find its feet, despite brilliant source material in Philip K Dick’s terrifying 1962 novel of the same name. Don’t let that put you off, though. The Man in the High Castle is still propulsive entertainment, driven by narrative conundrums, scenery-stealing villains and a sprawling cast of characters.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
Currently the jewel in Amazon’s crown, The Marvellous Mrs Maiselhas proven to be a bigger hit with awards ceremonies than it has with actual audiences. But it was also never going to be a serious zeitgeist breakout, either, with creator Amy Sherman-Palladino retaining the lightning-fast dialogue of her series Gilmore Girls, and the show driven by the niche specifics of Fifties stand-up comedy. It is very good, though, and in the starring role of an aspiring comedian slowly climbing the ranks, Rachel Brosnahan is a revelation.
Modern Love is a gentle, funny throwback to classic Nineties romantic comedies about wealthy New Yorkers plagued with problems of the heart. Inspired by the much-adored New York Times column, it is glossy, tender and endlessly charming, as well as stacked with A-listers including Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel and Andy Garcia.
Mozart in the Jungle
The epitome of a smart, unassuming comedy, Mozart in the Jungle quietly chugged away in the background before being cancelled after four seasons. It has an intriguingly unique premise (the soapy romantic entanglements of musicians in the New York Symphony) and a dreamy cast that includes Gael Garcia Bernal, Malcolm McDowell, Lola Kirke and Bernadette Peters. It’s talky and low-key and very New York – think Woody Allen without any real-world baggage – and stays charming for the entirety of its run.
Nine Perfect Strangers
A starry ensemble lead this limited series adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s bestseller. Nicole Kidman – who previously led Big Little Lies, another Moriarty adaptation –stars as a strangely accented new-age health guru who invites the damaged souls of the title to a spiritual retreat. Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Luke Evans and Regina Hall are among the supporting players desperate to make themselves healthy again.
An autobiographical vehicle for comedian Tig Notaro, One Mississippi is today something of a relic, embodying Amazon’s early interest in downbeat, female-driven comedies designed for niche audiences. It’s quietly brilliant, with Notaro a radio host returning to her hometown and dealing with her mother’s death and her own health traumas and feelings of grief.
Red Oaks is wonderful as both a silly pastiche of John Hughes movies, and as a heartwarming tale of young adulthood and discovering your passions. Starring Submarine’s Craig Roberts as a New Jersey college student working for a country club during the summer, it feels like a deliberate throwback to the coming-of-age tales crafted by Richard Linklater and Cameron Crowe.
Matthew Weiner’s expensive follow-up to Mad Men was a polarising affair, an anthology series that swung haphazardly between enormous highs and middling lows. But it was always captivating, with a consistent sense of urgency and confidence and a cast direct from the gods. Isabelle Huppert, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Diane Lane, Aaron Eckhart and Kathryn Hahn were among the names tasked with being tart, neurotic and moneyed.
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A twisty family drama underpinned by cons and betrayals, Sneaky Pete is in many ways a throwback to the glossy US dramas of the late Nineties and early Noughties – with small, self-contained stories serenaded by larger story arcs. At its centre is Giovanni Ribisi’s fresh-from-jail con man, whose impersonation of his cellmate and subsequent immersion into the man’s estranged family gives the show its pulse. Margo Martindale, that most ubiquitous of great supporting actors, is his “grandmother”, and unsurprisingly steals the show on a regular basis.
Stargirl is the most visually and tonally distinct of the glut of DC Universe TV shows currently flooding the market (among them Legends of Tomorrow, Pennyworth and The Flash). Inspired by the 1950s DC “golden age” comic books, it is bright and nostalgic and awash in signifiers of small-town Americana. Brec Bassinger is a young high schooler who discovers she has superpowers courtesy of an ancient device known as “the cosmic staff”. Intergalactic adventures ensue.
Star Trek: Picard
More contemplative than even Star Trek: The Next Generation, this belated revival sees Patrick Stewart return to one of his most famous characters: Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He remains captivating in the role, all tenderness and quiet strength, and is the show’s strongest asset.
Cruelly cancelled in 2001, and then cruelly cancelled again just as it was hitting its stride on Amazon, Ben Edlund’s The Tick is a delicious, hyper-real satire adapted from his own cult comic book. The latest version stars British comic Peter Serafinowicz as a superhero sporting an enormous blue muscle-suit and determined to fight crime. Broadcast in easily digestible half-hour chunks, this is a smart, inventive comedy very much worth your time.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
Doing exactly what it promised on the tin, Amazon’s Jack Ryan adaptation delivers action, spectacle and all-American patriotism, with John Krasinski upending all pre-existing expectations in his role as the heroic CIA analyst of the title.
Too Old to Die Young
Despite coming and going with surprisingly little fanfare considering the cult filmmaker responsible for it, Too Old to Die Young was one of the coolest shows of last summer, with Drive’s Nicolas Winding Refn presenting another murky slice of surreal, neon-soaked LA noir. Part crime drama and part horror movie, the limited series sees Miles Teller play a grieving cop embroiled in an underworld odyssey. Jena Malone, John Hawkes and William Baldwin are among the freaks and monsters he encountered along the way.
Transparent has been mired in disappointing controversy since the misconduct allegations levelled at star Jeffrey Tambor, and his subsequent firing from the series. But it still remains one of the most important TV shows of the past decade – a moving, heartfelt depiction of trans identity that grew stronger and more politically astute as it went on.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s first TV collaboration since Spaced is a very funny melding of the mundane and the fantastical – think The X-Files meets Detectorists. Frost is a broadband installation expert who unexpectedly becomes involved with an international conspiracy involving supernatural forces. Pegg, in a smaller role, plays his boss.
The Underground Railroad
Potentially the most beautiful TV show in recent memory, The Underground Railroad is a sprawling, ambitious and magical realist take on history. From Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning director of Moonlight, it depicts the construction of a secret network of escape routes and safe houses for escaped slaves in 1800s America. Disappointingly, this limited series somewhat flew under the radar when it arrived on Amazon Prime earlier this year, but it remains an experience worth savouring.
From the creator of BoJack Horseman comes this brilliantly undefinable animated mystery series about a young woman who discovers she can move backwards and forwards in time. It also looks spectacular, made using rotoscope animation akin to Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, where live-action footage is then traced and turned into striking, cartoon-like imagery.
Very much in the vein of Black Mirror, Upload is a sci-fi thriller from Greg Daniels, the co-creator of The US Office and Parks & Recreation. Robbie Amell stars as a computer engineer who dies and is then uploaded into a digital afterlife.