What were the best streaming shows of 2019? Some of our top choices, like our No. 1, Stranger Things, won’t be a surprise, but there’s sure to be twists you don’t expect.
In order to add some different spice to this list, we aren’t including HBO Go/HBO Now. It’s streaming that’s more closely tied to pay TV at the minute, and HBO Max will have everything under one roof in May.
We love HBO shows like Barry, Chernobyl, His Dark Materials, Succession and Watchmen, among others. Since those are innately worth mentioning, though, this list opens up other possibilities for other shows you might’ve missed in 2019.
Of course, there are some favorites us nerds are a little more impassioned about expounding upon. Read on to see what else made the cut with Stranger Things 3.
10. Unbelievable (Netflix)
Kaitlyn Dever is having quite a year. Between co-starring as a lead in the hilarious, heartfelt Booksmart and her central performance in Unbelievable, she’s crushing it on the silver and small screens.
Unbelievable is based on the true story of Marie Adler, who’s accused of lying about a sexual assault. Toni Collette and Merritt Wever co-star as detectives who investigate the case.
The eight-episode miniseries is well-acted, shocking and already immensely popular after its September release.
9. Castle Rock (Hulu)
The second season of Castle Rock builds on the strengths of the first, and yet improves in many ways. That’s largely thanks to an awesome lead performance by Lizzy Caplan.
After starring mostly in comedies, Caplan is unsettling as the famed Annie Wilkes from Misery. This Stephen King adaptation has fun Easter eggs and tie-ins that’ll satisfy big fans of the prolific author.
8. Good Omens (Amazon Prime Video)
When Neil Gaiman creates something, it promises to spark the imagination with all kinds of big ideas and fascinating concepts. Good Omens delivers on all those fronts.
Plus, when you have two scenery-chewing, epic actors such as David Tennant and Michael Sheen starring, it only elevates the material. They star as a demon and an angel respectively, so we’re talking stakes of biblical proportions.
7. Mindhunter (Netflix)
The sophomore season of this crime thriller went live in August. David Fincher directed the first three episodes, and this is the type of genre he thrives in. It shows by Mindhunter‘s quality in craft and story.
One of Season 2’s highlights is Damon Herriman’s portrayal of Charles Manson. He plays the same role briefly in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and crushes it in this show.
6. Servant (Apple TV+)
As of this writing, only half of the 10-episode first season is live. However, Servant is already making its way into this top list.
With a compelling, creepy and mysterious premise along with strong central characters, Servant is binge-worthy. This comes from M. Night Shyamalan, so you know it’s going to be unpredictable.
5. The Boys (Amazon Prime Video)
Some people might complain about superhero fatigue, but The Boys is a fresh take on the genre that’ll convert such consumers.
There’s a ton of humor packed into this series, and the “Boys” are essentially underdog antiheroes competing with a superior group called the “Seven.” Even before the show premiered, Amazon renewed it for a second season. That faith was well-placed after July’s successful eight-episode run.
4. After Life (Netflix)
Ricky Gervais is a snappy, quick-witted comedian and among the best of his generation. What makes him stand out is his willingness to tackle existential concepts in irreverent ways.
After Life sees Gervais star as a suicidal widower who’s only staying alive to cause chaos and spread negativity. Other people upend his plans, and the dark comedy clicks once again in a short, sweet, six-episode series.
3. The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Not going to apologize for ranking the first live-action Star Wars series this high. For as divisive as the sequel film trilogy has been, everyone’s uniting around one thing: Baby Yoda.
The Mandalorian has a compelling titular character portrayed by Pedro Pascal, but his little companion largely steals the show. Almost all episodes are up on Disney+, so watch it now if you haven’t.
2. The OA (Netflix)
We’ll go a little longer with this: One of the biggest travesties in recent streaming memory is Netflix canceling this show after two seasons. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything more imaginative, bonkers, risky, bold and groundbreaking.
The OA might be the most creatively ambitious TV series ever — not only one of the best streaming shows of 2019. Does everything work? No, but you applaud the efforts to even go there.
Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling are co-creators, and Marling is the star of the show. The OA: Part II, or the second season that released in March of this year, received a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 percent audience score.
Fans were clamoring for a third season. There was a #SaveTheOA hashtag movement. It even got to the point where fan-supported advertisements hit Times Square in New York City. I’m not going to link out to any of that stuff, because it’s a mild spoiler for the series.
Alas, barring a change of heart, The OA is finished. The good news? You can binge it all right now to see why so many people and reviewers are passionate about it.
1. Stranger Things (Netflix)
To wrap our best streaming shows of 2019: Season 3 of Stranger Things. After a strong but slight letdown in their sophomore effort, the Duffer Brothers outdid themselves even from the debut season that sparked a worldwide phenomenon.
Maya Hawke is probably the most notable addition to the cast as Robin. She joins forces with Steve, Dustin and Erica for a thrilling, Cold War-style plot. The fact that their side quest is as good or better than the main narrative makes Stranger Things 3 is a cut above the other two.
MORE honorable mentions: Fleabag (Amazon Prime Video), Russian Doll (Netflix), See (Apple TV+), Sex Education (Netflix).