Since its launch in 2019, Apple TV+ has steadily built up a high-quality original library. Its selection may be smaller than other streaming services, but it’s more carefully curated. Here are the best original movies and series on Apple TV+.
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Filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine capture a microcosm of the American political system in the documentary Boys State. The movie documents the Boys State program in Texas, which brings together more than 1,000 teenage boys to form a mock government, including establishing political parties, running campaigns, and holding an election.
Moss and McBaine combine personal profiles of several participants with an overview of the week’s events. They highlight the divisiveness of modern politics while also finding sympathy and nuance in their portrayal of eager, impressionable high schoolers.
Exuberant animated series Central Park, from the producers of Bob’s Burgers, features original musical numbers that make each episode into a Broadway-caliber production. Central Park follows the Tillermans, who live in New York City’s Central Park, where father Owen (voiced by Leslie Odom Jr.) is the park manager. Owen deals with everyday Park events and crises, while his wife and two children navigate their own individual travails. It’s a sweet, adorable, and very funny cartoon for both adults and kids, with multiple catchy, memorable tunes in each episode.
A comedy series about famously morbid poet Emily Dickinson seems like a counterintuitive idea, but Dickinson finds humor in its title character’s life, while also taking her artistry seriously. Hailee Steinfeld plays Emily as a young woman still exploring her own voice and identity, often stifled by 19th-century standards of gender and sexuality.
Creator Alena Smith adds playful meta touches to the series, dramatizing Emily’s poems in various ways and making connections to writers and activists from Emily’s era and later. The show maintains its self-aware humor while delivering pointed social commentary.
In the post-apocalyptic drama Finch, Tom Hanks is the only human actor onscreen, playing the movie’s title character, an engineer who is one of the few survivors of the end of civilization. Finch is slowly dying from exposure to deadly radiation, but his main concern is making sure his dog is taken care of after he’s gone. So he builds a bumbling robot named Jeff (played via motion capture by Caleb Landry Jones), and the oddball trio set out on a road trip across the U.S. Finch is a touching drama about friendship and hope, with some goofy robot antics along the way.
Filmmaker Sofia Coppola takes a laid-back approach to the comedy On the Rocks, starring Rashida Jones as a novelist who suspects that her businessman husband (played by Marlon Wayans) may be having an affair. Bill Murray plays the flaky father who comes back into the protagonist’s life to help her uncover the truth. There’s not much more to On the Rocks than Jones and Murray tooling around New York City, but Coppola captures a perfect low-key comedic vibe between two smart, emotionally guarded people who’ve never quite had the closeness that either would hope for.
Both a tribute to and a parody of old-fashioned musicals, Schmigadoon! stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a couple who stumble into a mystical village full of singing and dancing residents. Melissa and Josh are on a couples’ retreat attempting to address their relationship issues when they find themselves trapped in the town of Schmigadoon, forced to participate in lavish musical numbers.
The show’s creators meticulously replicate the style and tone of musicals like Carousel and Oklahoma!, cleverly mocking their inspirations while also adding to the musical tradition.
Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd star in the miniseries The Shrink Next Door, a sort of absurdist true-crime story inspired by the podcast of the same name. The true-crime genre is full of murder and kidnapping, but The Shrink Next Door is about a different kind of crime, the long-term fraud and embezzlement conducted by a smooth-talking psychiatrist (Rudd) who’s manipulating his naive, trusting patient (Ferrell).
The show combines dry wit with a melancholy character study of a lonely man who places far too much trust in the one person who seems to show him compassion and understanding.
Mahershala Ali stars in both lead roles of the somber sci-fi film Swan Song. Ali plays an artist with terminal cancer, who agrees to undergo an experimental procedure to clone himself, and then allow the healthy clone to take over his life, undetected. The near-future story is a meditation on identity, grief, guilt, and other serious considerations, always grounded in the emotions of the nearly identical main characters. Ali delivers nuanced performances as both versions of the character, aided by sensitive supporting turns from Awkwafina, Naomie Harris, and Glenn Close.
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The biggest hit show on Apple TV+ to date, Ted Lasso is a warm, feel-good comedy series about an American college football coach who becomes the unlikely choice to lead a professional soccer team in England. Jason Sudeikis co-created the show and plays the title character, an upbeat and deceptively wise mustachioed mentor to a team of misfits. With an ensemble full of charming characters, Ted Lasso celebrates positivity and inclusiveness without turning away from complex challenges and emotions.
Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon continues its exploration of Celtic folklore with the gorgeous feature film Wolfwalkers. Set in 17th-century Ireland, Wolfwalkers follows a young girl who discovers a secret pack of shapeshifters in the forest outside her town. She must protect these so-called wolfwalkers, who can transform from humans into wolves, from being hunted and killed by intolerant local leaders. The movie combines lovely, storybook-style animation with vibrant characters and a rousing adventure story.