20 Classic Shows You Didn’t Know You Could Watch on Netflix
Grab some popcorn and get ready to stream a whole lot of nostalgia.
Netflix and other streaming services offer endless amounts of new programming, so much that it might make you feel like you’re missing out if you skip the hot new true-crime documentary or binge-worthy drama series. But sometimes you just want to go back to an old favorite, a show you know and love, like pulling on that old pair of sweatpants from college you know you still like to wear. We’ve found all the classics Netflix has to offer, from 1960s sci-fi to 1980s feel-good drama to modern hits from the early 2000s (which was 20 years ago, if you can believe it). So curl up with your spouse, your family, or even just your cat, and enjoy these cherished and unforgettable shows.
Fans of thriller books will be drawn in by this crime drama with a mix of horror and mystery. Murder, drugs, revenge: What more can you ask for from a TV show? When you’re done with these seasons on Netflix, check out the long-awaited follow-up episodes, a continuation of the original series that premiered as a “third season” in May 2017, on Showtime On Demand.
Highway to Heaven
Beloved television actor Michael Landon (also known for his roles on Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie) starred in this feel-good series about an angel earning his wings on Earth with a little help from a cynical ex-cop (Victor French). Along the way, the duo gets people through difficult times, sometimes with the aid of “The Boss.” All five seasons of the show, which ran from 1984 to 1989, are available for viewers looking for some hope and inspiration to get through the often tough world we live in.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
If you’re looking for some truly wacky, witty, and very British comedy, join Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran from 1969 to 1974. The Monty Python comedy group, which consisted of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, and Terry Jones, came up with the idea for this unique, absurdist sketch show, with live-action as well as animation. If you can’t get enough of the Monty Python humor, Netflix also has live shows, documentaries, “personal best” picks from the cast and feature films including Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
That ’70s Show
The opening lines of the theme song to That ’70s Show pretty much sums it up: “Hangin’ out, down the street, the same old thing we did last week.” Set in (when else?) the 1970s and premiered in 1998, the surprise hit series featured a group of high schoolers who spent a lot of time hanging out in Eric Foreman’s (Topher Grace) basement. It’s nostalgic without being cheesy, incorporating the real-life happenings of the decade, such as recession, feminism, and a major generation gap, into relatable stories about adolescence with smart, light comedy. Running gags include “the circle,” in which the camera spins from character to character while they’re clouded in a haze of smoke from an unnamed source. The show also launched the careers of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
True crime may be one of the hottest streaming genres today, but Forensic Files started off the trend way back in 1996. On the heels of the OJ Simpson trial, which first put the forensic science of crime scenes into the public eye, Forensic Files went on to run until 2011. Never sensationalized, the show took a scientific look at solving mysteries, using the voiceover talent of the late Peter Thomas. Even though today’s technology may seem much more advanced, it’s still a fascinating series that pulls viewers in with real-life “whodunit” cases cracked by investigators in each episode. You can also check out the most addictive hospital shows on Netflix.
Magic School Bus
Featuring the voice of Lily Tomlin, Magic School Bus took Ms. Frizzle and her class—and the animated show’s young viewers—on rides to unusual places, including outer space, under the sea, and even inside the human body, learning all about science along the way. Premiering on PBS in 1994, Magic School Bus was lauded as an entertaining show that at the same time exposed science education to kids. And where the original show left off from more modern technological advances, the new Magic School Bus Rides Again, which premiered on Netflix in 2017, picks up. The revamped series features the voice talent of Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon as Ms. Frizzle’s younger sister, Fiona.
For more family TV nights, give your kids Goosebumps as a new generation discovers this “things that go bump in the night” anthology series that parents might fondly remember from their own youth. Premiering in 1995 and based on the books by R.L. Stine, Goosebumps had just the right amount of creepy without being too scary—although it’s still probably more suited to older elementary and middle-school kids. The show features your average Halloween spookiness: Think monsters, haunted houses, possessed objects, eerie ventriloquist dummies, and freaky amusement parks. Netflix viewers can also stream the new Goosebumps 2 flick from 2018, one of the best kids’ Halloween movies.
The West Wing
This long-running political drama has landed on many a “best TV series of all time” lists, and won 26 Emmys, including four in a row for best drama series, making it one of the top-winning series of all time (tied with Hill Street Blues and only beat by Game of Thrones). Following the administration of fictional president Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), the show looked at the inner workings of the senior White House staff. The West Wing, which premiered in 1999, also strove to humanize politicians, showing them working for the greater good rather than for their own power; it also was influenced by real-life events that happened during the time the show was on the air. The ensemble cast included Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Alan Alda, Jimmy Smits, Stockard Channing, and Rob Lowe.
Any show that earns a remake should be considered a classic, including this supernatural tale of three witch sisters. Premiering in 1998, the show followed the Halliwell sisters, Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs), and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano), who use their powers to protect people from evil beings from the Underworld, hiding their identities as witches and their role in this secret battle. Three seasons in, Doherty left the show and was replaced by a fourth sister, Paige (Rose McGowan). The influential cult classic led to many other witch and supernatural-themed shows, including a reboot of the original that premiered in 2018. The new Charmed is currently finishing up its second season on The CW (a third has already been confirmed), and the first season is also available on Netflix.
Before there was Schitt’s Creek, there was the original riches-to-rags family of comedy series Arrested Development—although the Bluths are way more dysfunctional. The quirky show first premiered in 2003 and has had perhaps the oddest run of any series ever: After three seasons of critical acclaim, it was canceled by Fox; then it was picked up for a fourth season on Netflix in 2013. Five years later, a fifth season made an appearance on Netflix—well, half of it anyway. The rest appeared nearly a year later in March 2019. Arrested Development‘s hilarious ensemble includes Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, and Portia de Rossi.
The titular mother-daughter pair, played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, are close in age, so they sometimes seemed more like sisters in this comforting series set in idyllic Stars Hollow, Connecticut. When the show premiered in 2000, viewers also couldn’t help but get caught up in creator-writer Amy Sherman-Palladino’s now-trademark fast-paced dialogue (she’s also the creator of streaming hit The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). All about the bonds between family and among friends, Gilmore Girls is the kind of show parents and kids can watch together. Then binge the follow-up, four-episode Netflix original Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, set a decade after the original show’s conclusion.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
It’s morphin’ time! Relive the original in the Power Rangers franchise with this fun kids’ series, which premiered in 1993. A group of teenagers were given transformative powers and martial-arts moves in order to defeat a series of evil aliens who want to take over Earth. Now superheroes, they become the Red, Black, Yellow, Pink, Blue, and Green Rangers. There’s a ton of additional Power Rangers content on Netflix from over the years, but fans of the original series might enjoy sharing its campiness with their own children—or, just reliving their childhood on their own. Power Rangers action figures might also have been the most popular toy the year you were born.
Take a trip back in time to the male-dominated, cigarette-smoking, politically incorrect world of the 1960s with this instantly classic series about ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm). Despite its time period, the show also featured strong female characters who come into their own as the show (and the world it depicts) progressed. Don Draper is something of an anti-hero, and the repressiveness of the show’s era is sometimes overwhelming. But as one of the first “prestige TV” series, Mad Men is so well-acted and glamorously atmospheric in its period sets and costumes that it’s almost impossible for viewers not to love it—and secretly wish you could travel back in time, if only for a little while. But if watching with your significant other, make sure you’re not Netflix cheating—it could ruin your relationship.
In this soapy teen series, an anonymous, all-knowing “Gossip Girl” voiced by Kristen Bell posts social media blogs about a group of rich, Upper East Side Manhattan high schoolers, including socialite Serena Van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and her star-crossed, less well-off Brooklyn boyfriend Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley). This modern classic, which premiered in 2007, was one of the first shows to use social media prominently in its storylines and was also influential in fashion trendsetting. Just who is Gossip Girl? XOXO, you’ll have to wait until the end of season 6 to find out. Then catch Badgley in his original Netflix series, You, with two seasons released so far. A Gossip Girl reboot will also be heading to new streaming service HBO Max.
One final kids’ series on our list will no doubt bring a bit of nostalgia to all the children of the 1980s. This long-running British animated show, which premiered in 1981, featured the James Bond-like secret agent and his bumbling hamster sidekick, Penfold. But it wasn’t just British children who enjoyed Danger Mouse—the show crossed the pond to be a hit in the United States, too. At once ridiculous and completely entertaining, the show follows the duo as they thwart the evil plots of villains like Danger Mouse’s archenemy Baron Silas Greenback, a toad. For an updated version, viewers can also check out the reboot that joined Netflix in 2016. Could you give up Netflix for a week? Find out what happens when a Netflix addict quits cold turkey.
The Andy Griffith Show
Sometimes the smallest towns are the most interesting, and that’s especially true of Mayberry, North Carolina. Trouble always finds a way to show up in the fictional setting for The Andy Griffith Show, whether as local moonshiners or out-of-town criminals. But no one’s better than Sheriff Andy Taylor at restoring the peace of his beloved sleepy town.
Good news, Trekkers: Netflix has the original Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. So whether you prefer the classic series or a more modern spin-off, you can live long and prosper with your favorite Star Trek show. But if you’re binge-watching, make sure you turn off the television before bed.
After a long, busy day of trying to make your way in the world, wouldn’t you like to have a getaway? Maybe to a place where everybody knows your name? Netflix has you covered with all 275 episodes of Cheers and its iconic Boston bar. Or as they say in Poland, “Na zdrowie!”
The Twilight Zone
The only genre scarier than horror is a psychological thriller—and The Twilight Zone covers both. Not to mention—the vintage episodes will definitely make you want to sleep with the lights on. Netflix has seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5: The somewhat notorious season 4 deviated from the half-hour format to hour-long episodes, and for that reason is often left out of syndication packages, including on Netflix. These are the 35 scariest movies of all time.
Who could forget that Afro and the happy little painter hiding underneath it? Netflix streams two Bob Ross collections, Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere and Chill with Bob Ross, each of which has 26 episodes. That’s 52 opportunities to let our good friend Bob brighten your mood with his relaxing voice and love of nature. Find out why Bob Ross always made three copies of his paintings.