Amazon Prime is full of classic and recent TV series available free for subscribers. If you’re looking to pick up a new show or revisit an old favorite, here are some great shows you can stream for free with Amazon Prime Video.
Update, 11/19/21: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best TV shows you can watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Before he took on some of the biggest movie franchises in Hollywood, J.J. Abrams established his action credentials as the creator of the spy drama Alias. Jennifer Garner stars as Sydney Bristow, a CIA double agent infiltrating an even more secret, rogue spy agency.
The show is full of double and triple crosses and shifting allegiances, but even when the plotting gets convoluted, Garner keeps it grounded as the capable and determined Sydney. Abrams delivers exciting action and suspense while never losing sight of the complex characters who drive the story.
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The Americans in The Americans are actually Soviets, spies hiding out in the Washington, D.C. suburbs posing as an average married couple in the 1980s—a premise that could have been silly provides for riveting drama over the course of six seasons as the agents who go by the names of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) are torn between their loyalty to their homeland and their manufactured American life.
Deconstructing the structure of horror movies is old news by now, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer pioneered the clever subversion of horror clichés while also creating a rich mythology of its own. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays the titular character, a seemingly superficial teenager who is designated as the chosen one to fight vampires and other evil forces. Buffy and her friends mature and change over the course of seven seasons while taking on a series of complex and captivating villains.
There might have been a popular Saturday Night Live sketch about a game show host asking contestants “What is Burn Notice?”, but the breezy crime drama makes for perfect low-stakes viewing. Burn Notice stars Jeffrey Donovan as a former CIA agent subject to a “burn notice,” which ousts him from the intelligence community and freezes his assets.
Stuck in Miami, he takes on odd jobs helping people in tough spots and aided by various former associates of his, while trying to figure out who’s responsible for his predicament.
Much more than a sitcom about community college students, Community uses that basic framework for a self-aware deconstruction of multiple TV genres and traditions. Creator Dan Harmon comes up with brilliant, hilarious parodies of typical TV episode structures while also building strong emotional connections among the core characters.
Community features the kind of intricate weirdness that attracts a devoted cult following, along with the kind of romantic tension that inspires deep fan investment in potential relationship pairings.
Creator Julian Fellowes brings gentle human drama to the British class system in Downton Abbey, which focuses equally on the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants living at the titular estate. It’s an engrossing domestic drama that’s more concerned with relationships than social change, although the six seasons take place over the course of 15 years and chronicle shifting attitudes in British society.
The show is full of charming characters, from the eccentric, outspoken Crawley matriarch Violet (Maggie Smith) to the stalwart, stuffy butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter).
U.K. import Fleabag is a perfect example of the benefits of the concentrated, self-contained model of British TV series. Creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge tells a bitingly funny and heartbreakingly sad story within the first season’s six episodes. The unnamed main character navigates her disastrous personal life while making frequent snarky asides to the audience. She even matures a bit in the belated second season, which tells an equally hilarious and poignant story of its own.
One of the best Amazon original series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an exuberant love letter to the pop culture of the 1950s and ’60s. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino tells the story of the title character (played by Rachel Brosnahan), a privileged New York City housewife who gives up her life of comfort to pursue a career in stand-up comedy.
The show is full of rapid-fire witticisms delivered by fascinating characters in colorful costumes. It’s a celebration of the time period with insight from the present.
Creator Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek wasn’t widely appreciated in its original three-season 1960s run, but it has gone on to become possibly the most influential sci-fi TV series of all time. Much of it still holds up remarkably well, delivering self-contained adventures as the crew of the starship Enterprise explores strange new worlds. Star Trek examines serious philosophical issues via alien civilizations, with a crew of unique characters who are still pop-culture icons.
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