Slowly but surely, Apple TV+ is finding its feet. The streaming service, which at launch we called “odd, angsty, and horny as hell,” has evolved into a diverse library of dramas, documentaries, and comedies. Now, it’s library is so packed, we’ve declared it “the new HBO.”
Curious but don’t know where to get started? Below are our picks for the best shows on the service. (Also, here are our picks for the best movies on Apple TV+.) When you’re done, head over to our guides to the best shows on Netflix, best movies on Hulu, and best movies on Amazon Prime, because you can never have too much television.
Masters of the Air
Generally speaking, “World War II drama” and Steven Spielberg is probably enough to get anyone to click Play on this series, but it’s got a lot more than just a good elevator pitch. Based on Donald L. Miller’s Masters of the Air, this series dives deep into the lives of the 100th Bomb Group—aka the “Bloody Hundredth”—a group of pilots tasked with risking their lives to fight Nazi Germany from the air. Spielberg and Tom Hanks serve as executive producers, and the cast features Elvis himself, Austin Butler, as well as Saltburn’s Barry Keoghan and Doctor Who’s new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa.
The New Look
Keeping with the World War II theme, The New Look follows Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Pierre Balmain, and Cristóbal Balenciaga as they lay the path for modern fashion in Nazi-occupied Paris. The cast features Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior, Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel, and Maisie Williams as Catherine Dior, and also has a soundtrack courtesy of Jack Antonoff that’s chock full of early 20th century music covered by the likes of Perfume Genius and Florence Welch.
Apple TV+’s dramas are on a hot streak lately. Now that stellar series like For All Mankind and Slow Horses are finally getting audiences, the streamer is putting more in their queues with Criminal Record. Starring former Doctor Who Doctor Peter Capaldi, the crime drama follows two cops—Capaldi’s Daniel Hegarty and Cush Jumbo’s June Lenker—as they try to get to the bottom of a long-settled case. Daniel worked the case originally and got a confession; June got a fresh tip and wants him to reopen it and find out whether the man who went away for murder is actually innocent. Might sound a bit overdone, but the series also works in elements of law enforcement shortcomings and race in a rapidly-changing Britain for a series that’s about more than just one case.
There’s this face Idris Elba does. He’s been perfecting it since he was Stringer Bell on The Wire. It’s the look of total calm even when he’s talking about the most harrowing thing you can imagine. That face gets a full workout in Hijack, in which Elba plays a corporate negotiator who finds himself trying to settle things with a group of, yes, hijackers who have taken over the flight he’s boarded to get home to his family. This series is seven episodes, roughly seven hours—the same length of the flight, and it follows the drama in the air and the political maneuvering below before attempting to stick the landing. Do stay around until the end.
For All Mankind
Long before Foundation, there was For All Mankind. The show not only set the tone for the kind of glossy prestige sci-fi Apple TV+ had ambitions to make, but it was also the streaming service’s attempt to plant its flag in the realm of streaming giants. A solid slice of alternate history, the show starts with a very smart premise: What if the US had been edged out in putting a man on the moon? How would the space-race rivalry between the Americans and the Soviets have played out? It’s mostly a slick, stylish, NASA-heavy period drama, but as this is from the brain of Ronald D. Moore, there are a few standout moments and episodes with attention shared around the large ensemble cast. It might be the best sci-fi show you’re not watching, and if that’s true you now have four seasons to catch up on.
Messi Meets America
If your home screen hasn’t made it obvious, Apple TV+ is super stoked about soccer these days. The streamer’s latest foray: Messi Meets America, a six-part docuseries about all-star player Lionel Messi’s move to Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami club. The first three episodes aired on October 11, 2023, and subsequent episodes aired in conjunction with last year’s MLS season. Messi Mania, indeed.
Lessons in Chemistry
Based on the debut novel from science writer Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry is the story of Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson), who gets hired to host a cooking show after she’s fired from the lab she was working in for doing science while female. Obviously, the show Elizabeth puts on ends up being about a lot more than just having dinner on the table at 6 pm, but we suggest you watch to find out just how revolutionary it is.
The Morning Show
Every streaming service needs a flashy mainstream drama with Hollywood heavyweights to pull in viewers. Apple TV+ has The Morning Show. When Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) loses her morning news program cohost Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) following sexual misconduct accusations, she gets paired up with Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon). What unfolds is a #MeToo-era drama full of TV network intrigue and Sorkin-lite dialog. In its second season, it went deep on Covid-19, and in the third season the series’ fictional network, UBA, finds itself dealing with the aftermath of a cyberattack. With that new season launching September 13, now is a good time to dive back in—or watch for the first time.
This Elisabeth Moss psychological thriller/murder mystery came out in 2022 and never really got the buzz it likely deserved. All of that to say, you should probably watch it if you haven’t already. Moss plays Kirby, a woman who believes a recent Chicago murder may be linked to an attack on her many years prior. She teams with a Sun-Times reporter to investigate, but the deeper she digs the more her own reality starts to shift. Based on the book The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, this series may seem like just another murder mystery, but its sci-fi twists put it one step ahead.
WIRED called Foundation a “flawed masterpiece” in our review of the first season. Considering the complexities of adapting a sprawling Isaac Asimov book series, it was high praise. Now, the dizzyingly ambitious Foundation is back for its second season. Starring Jared Harris as Hari Seldon, a math professor who, along with his loyal followers, is exiled for predicting the oncoming end of the galactic empire that rules over them, the show often suffers under the weight of its own massive scope. But it also features wonderful performances from Lee Pace and beautiful images inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope. If you have a soft spot for big sci-fi dramas, this Game-of-Thrones-in-space wannabe is a must-watch.
The Crowded Room
Set in the late 1970s, The Crowded Room stars Tom Holland as Danny Sullivan, a young man arrested after a grisly shooting in New York City. Following his arrest, this 10-episode limited series unfolds into a twisty whodunit as interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried) tries to suss out what happened with the shooting and the peculiar events in Sullivan’s past that may have shaped how he ended up involved. Holland told Extra that the shoot for The Crowded Room, which he also produced, “broke” him, leading to him taking a yearlong hiatus from acting. Want to see why? Watch now.
As WIRED’s Kate Knibbs noted in the wake of Silo‘s release, this show is prestige sci-fi gold. Based on a dystopian book trilogy by Hugh Howey, the series focuses on a subterranean bunker—the silo of the title—where humanity has sequestered itself after the apocalypse. Some are hoping to win the chance to reproduce, some are trying to solve mysterious murders. Everyone watching is enjoying figuring out what’s going on in this underground city—and what’s happening outside of it.
On paper, Ted Lasso sounds terrible. The inconceivable story of an American football coach who has never watched a game of soccer somehow landing himself a job as coach of a (fictional) Premier League club and trying to make up for his total lack of qualifications by being a nice guy. Sounds unwatchable, doesn’t it? And yet Ted Lasso has captured the hearts and minds of viewers on both sides of the pond with its large-as-life cast and irresistibly wholesome messaging, hoovering up awards in the process. The third and final season wraps up on May 31, so now is the perfect time to binge it all.
The Patricia Arquette–aissance doesn’t get as much ink as Matthew McConaughey or Keanu Reeves did during their second comings, but it’s here—in part thanks to the rise of streaming. Between The Act and Severance, Arquette has received some of the highest accolades of her long career recently, and High Desert seems poised to keep the award nominations coming. While coming to terms with the death of her mother, Peggy (Arquette)—an addict—decides she wants to pick up the pieces of her life and become a private investigator. She finds an unwitting employer/sometime mentor in Bruce Harvey (Brad Garrett), but not everyone is onboard with Peggy’s career decisions—namely, her straitlaced sister (Christine Taylor). It’s an odd duck of a show, which is perfectly suited to Arquette’s ethereal acting style, allowing her to seamlessly flit between moments of tragedy and laugh-out-loud comedy, with the audiences doing their best to keep up. The all-star cast is made even more impressive by recurring appearances from Bernadette Peters as Peggy’s late mom.
Look, Discovery doesn’t get to corner the market on animal documentaries—and this 10-part docuseries proves it. Featuring elephant seals, brown bears, orangutans, giant otters, and all kinds of massive mammals in between, it’s the perfect thing if you just want to escape and learn a few tidbits about nature. But the best part? It’s narrated by Tom Hiddleston, and there’s just something charming about hearing the voice of Loki talk about a bunch of different animals he could turn himself into in the blink of an eye.
The Big Door Prize
Continuing the “big” theme, The Big Door Prize, in which Chris O’Dowd plays a 40-year-old high school teacher named Dusty who’s pretty content with his life until a magic machine shows up in his small town. The machine, you see, tells people their life’s potential, and as soon as people around him start using it, everything changes. Marriages end, paths divert, and eventually Dusty must confront whether he’s happy in his own life.
Do you enjoy In Treatment but wish it was, you know, fun? Then Shrinking may be right for you. Created by Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein—of Ted Lasso fame—and Jason Segel, the show is about Jimmy (Segel), a therapist struggling to get over the death of his wife and reconnect with his daughter and patients. That may sound like a downer, and the show isn’t without its harder moments, but it’s buoyed by the fact that it’s also a workplace comedy focusing on the therapy practice where Jimmy works alongside Harrison Ford’s Paul and Jessica Williams’ Gaby. Shrinking, ultimately, is about the things people do to cope, but it also features a dream team of a cast and one very memorable party scene featuring an (unrelated) vomit-soaked piano and a super-stoned Ford.
Cinematically, M. Night Shyamalan can be a little hit-or-miss, but Servant, which the filmmaker executive produces and occasionally directs, is stellar. It’s about a Philadelphia couple—a chef and a news anchor—who lose a child only to have it mysteriously come back to life (maybe) with the arrival of their new nanny. (You really just need to watch the show for any of this to make sense.) Moody, freaky, and occasionally even funny, it’ll suck you in. And now that it wrapped its fourth and final season, there’s plenty to enjoy.
The Essex Serpent
Claire Danes doing her best trembling-chin acting in period garb; Tom Hiddleston as a town vicar; rumors about a mysterious mythological serpent—is there anything not to love about this show? No, there’s not. The Essex Serpent, based on the novel by Sarah Perry, follows a recent widow (Danes) as she heads to the countryside in Essex to investigate a “sea dragon.” There, she meets a vicar, Will (Hiddleston), who is far more skeptical of the serpent’s existence. Lush and inviting, it’s the ideal period mystery.
Out of all the shows on this list, Severance may be the one that firmly established Apple TV+ as a streaming player with edgy prestige content. Adam Scott plays Mark, a man distraught by the death of his wife who opts to undergo Severance, a procedure that divides his memories of work from those of his life at home. He’s quite happy with the setup until a former Lumon Industries coworker tracks him down when he’s out-of-office, setting off a series of events that makes him question not only Severance but the work his company does. From there, it only gets more weird and bleak with each passing minute. Tense and heartbreaking, this show, the bulk of which was directed by Ben Stiller, will keep you guessing and questioning the whole way through.
Originally released when Donald Trump was still president of the United States, Little America was and remains a timely reminder of what actually makes America great. Each episode of this anthology series focuses on a different story of immigrants living in America. From an undocumented high school student who discovers a talent for squash to a “bra whisperer” in Brooklyn, every one of these 30-minute vignettes—all of them based on real people—is inspiring and important viewing.
An all-too-rare example of a video game TV show that really works, Mythic Quest is one of the best new workplace comedies of the past few years. Presented in perfectly bingeable half-hour episodes, the show follows a fictional game studio known for its World of Warcraft–like MMO, Mythic Quest, as the people who make it slalom through their many quirky relationships. The writing is excellent, consistently funny and emotionally impactful when you least expect it, and the show manages to confront real issues in the industry without sacrificing laughs.
Hailee Steinfeld is a riotous young Emily Dickinson in this half-hour show from creator Alena Smith. It was part of the original Apple TV+ lineup and quickly distinguished itself thanks to its off-kilter vision of 19th century Amherst, Massachusetts. The first season is a set of sharp, surreal vignettes, inspired by Dickinson’s work and tracing the imagined life of the young poet, who is rebelling against her father, the town’s societal rules, and just about everything else. The second and third seasons go deeper, examining not only the poet’s life, but also the roles that race, gender, sexuality, and class played in the early days of America. If you’re a Dickinson stan, love a bit of smart queer dramedy, or just have a penchant for a modern soundtrack in a Civil War–era show, you’ll dig this.