The arrival of streaming services arguably ushered in the Age of the Binge Watch – a new era of TV in which you, the viewer, retreat to a comfortable hidey-hole with a bumper bag of Kettle Chips, a gallon of tea and a burning desire to consume episode after episode of an addictive television series until you’re not sure what day it is. Here’s our guide to the top Amazon Prime Video box sets.
Prime Video is packed with TV box sets that are perfect for this kind of thing – and we’ve picked our favourites here: comfy sitcoms, riveting space operas, involving crime dramas, sweeping historical sagas and more. Each of these series should keep you entertained for many hours, by which time they’ll probably be countless more added to the service – so do be sure to check back periodically for updates.
Happy bingeing, folks.
Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman brings another comic book to the screen in this animated series following young superhero Mark, who’s just coming to terms with his newfound powers – as well as dealing with the fact that his father is the most powerful masked crusader on the planet. If it starts like a coming-of-age drama with a bit of superhero action on the side, Invincible takes a swift left turn that’s sure to suck you in. Stephen Yuen, J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh, Mahershala Ali and Mark Hamill are among the all-star voice cast.
This Is Us (S1-6)
Even if it’s ‘just’ an elevated soap opera at its heart, This Is Us has cemented itself as a hit with both critics and viewers, and won armfuls of awards for its tear-jerking, funny and innovative portrayal of an American family. Set during two different timelines and in various U.S. cities, it’s both wide and narrow in its scope, aiming for a universality that will leave few viewers feeling left out.
Given a choice between death and eternity as an avatar in a virtual world almost indistinguishable from the real one, many would pick the latter – but before too long we might be questioning our decision.
That’s the setup for Greg Daniels’ (he of the US Office and Parks and Recreation fame) sitcom, exclusive to Prime Video, in which app developer Nathan has his consciousness uploaded to a luxurious digital heaven. He quickly discovers, however, that not only have his earthly problems not suddenly disappeared, they’re now bolstered with a bunch of new ones. Mixing sci-fi, satire, romance and more, Upload is sure to strike a chord with anyone who spends time pondering the future of tech. Like you, Stuff reader!
Ripper Street (S1-5)
Ripper Street is a police drama set in East London in the wake of the Jack the Ripper murders but, despite the show’s name, the Ripper is only one of a host of criminal subjects tackled throughout the series. It manages to weave in plenty of real-life period characters and events without becoming too much of a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of Victorian malfeasance.
Prime Video has the entirety of the series available to stream, so you can settle down to every episode in a massive binge of murder and mayhem, should you wish.
Inspired by the Oscar-winning Coen brothers’ movie of the same name, this anthology series (which means, broadly speaking, that each season of the show is its own self-contained story with its own individual cast and setting) is a blackly comic cavalcade of small-town crime, extreme violence, double-crossing, memorable characters and (we’ve just realised this while writing) some truly awful haircuts.
With a brilliant, starry cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton, Chris Rock, Martin Freeman, Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst and Ewan McGregor, this is ‘prestige’ TV at its best: weird, wonderful, witty and totally engrossing.
In Lee Childs’ stupendously popular series of novels, wandering crime fighter and undoer of wrongs Jack Reacher is a 6’5” man mountain. His size and stature are pretty much the first thing anybody who meets him comments on – so casting the famously diminutive Tom Cruise as Reacher in the two Hollywood movies always seemed like a misstep. Amazon’s series does better by putting towering hunk Alan Ritchson in Reacher’s boots, but it’s also a brilliantly watchable, breakneck thriller that does justice to the novels’ page-turning pace.
Reacher (even his own mum calls him “Reacher”) is built like a brick outhouse and only marginally more talkative, but blessed with a keen intelligence, a heart of gold and the ability to absolutely annihilate any lowlife who steps to him. When he arrives in a small Georgia town and finds himself immediately arrested for murder, his wits, wiles and muscles are all called into action.
The Expanse (S1-6)
A space opera that leans heavily into what fans lovingly refer to as “hard sci-fi” (aka science fiction based strongly on real-world physics and perceived realism rather than space magic), The Expanse is set in a reasonably near future in which humanity has successfully colonised the solar system, only to fall into a cold war-like state as separate factions vie for control of stellar space. We’re introduced to this dangerous world of political turmoil, corporate greed and cold, cold vacuums through the ragtag crew of the Rocinante, a frigate not strictly aligned with any of the region’s major players.
The Expanse will likely appeal to anyone who appreciates sprawling, critically-acclaimed and morally complex dramas – it’s like Game of Thrones with rail guns and zero-g instead of dragons and Valyrian steel. Better yet, it’s all available to stream in beautiful 4K UHD – provided you have a TV with the prerequisite number of pixels, natch.
Mr Robot (S1-4)
A desk-bound drudge by day, Elliott Alderson (played brilliantly by Rami Malek) is also a morphine-dependent keyboard vigilante who hacks into the lives of everyone he meets. That is until Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) convinces him to join the hacktivist group ‘F Society’, whose grand plan is to cancel world debt by attacking ubiquitous conglomerate E Corp (or Evil Corp, as Elliott calls it).
Cue a trip down a rabbit hole that twists through Lynchian dream sequences, episode-long musings about the hackability of human minds, and a mounting sense of paranoia that leaves you suspicious of everything up to and including Elliott’s malfunctioning radiator.
That Mr. Robot resists Hollywood’s ‘computers for dummies’ approach to the Internet is just one of the reasons it’s great. The others are that it’s stylishly shot, unpredictable and offers a new take on cyberpunk, while wearing its influences (The Matrix, Fight Club and American Psycho) as proudly as the badge on its title character’s shirt.
Nathan for You (S1-4)
This brilliant spoof reality series, in which deadpan Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder swoops in to save ailing small businesses with absolutely woeful advice (that somehow seems to work), has largely flown under the radar on this side of the pond, but do yourself a favour and give it a shot. Often so surreal and bizarre you won’t believe Nathan’s clients aren’t in on the joke, Nathan for You is a true comedy original.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1-4)
Finished Mad Men and hankering for a grown-up TV show in a similar vein, also set in mid-century Manhattan? The Marvelous Mrs Maisel might be the ideal series for you. Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, an effervescent middle-class housewife with what she thought was the perfect 1950s New York lifestyle: husband, kids and a beautiful Upper West Side apartment. When things take an unforeseen turn, she stumbles onto a stand-up comedy stage – and discovers she has something of a talent for not only making people laugh, but for hitting upon life’s truths while doing it.
This adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s beloved comic book series isn’t afraid to go its own way. Rather than plunge straight into the books’ storyline, it uses the first season to establish the backgrounds of beloved characters such as Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy and set up themes and adversaries that come to fruition in later seasons. The jury may be still out on how successful this approach ended up being (after four seasons, it ended), but the show’s style, humour and (often incredibly violent) drama have led it to attaining something of a cult status of its own.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars in this riotous sitcom about a single woman’s attempts to navigate the many pitfalls of modern London life. Even if that sounds like a hackneyed synopsis, or one that could describe roughly 10,000 British sitcoms, we suggest you delve in anyway, because Waller-Bridge’s eyes-open approach – acerbic, dry, unashamed, raw – doesn’t feel unoriginal in the slightest. It’s also really, really funny, which is probably worth mentioning too.
This quirky espionage comedy-drama blends deadpan humour, action and a group of memorable characters into something that feels truly original. Michael Dorman excels as the perpetually put-upon CIA spy John Lakeman, who really rather be a folk singer than a spook. Life, needless to say, has other plans for him.
The clever plot takes in Iran, nuclear weapons, a single-minded Luxembourger cop and a lot more info about industrial pipes than you’d ever need know. Patriot is one of Amazon’s best original series, which is why it’s a true shame that there are (currently) no plans for a third season.
The Office (U.S., S1-9)
It may have started life under somewhat uninspired circumstances – US remakes of UK series rarely withstand the dreaded Hollywood “glow up” without losing their fundamental appeal – but The Office swiftly developed its own identity. It might work differently to Ricky Gervais’s original series, but it works all the same.
With Steve Carell in a star-making turn as cringey boss-from-hell Michael Scott and the excellent supporting cast delivering great moments even into the Carell-free final few dozen episodes, it’s hard to think of a transatlantic TV reimagining that’s worked better. You’ll find all nine seasons (that’s 188 episodes by our count) on Amazon Prime.
The Boys (S1-3)
What if superheroes were not only real, but as messed up and prone to bad behaviour as the rest of us? That’s the question posed by this superb comic book adaptation, in which the world’s most famous costumed crusaders are owned and controlled by Vought, a ruthless corporation that keeps their “foibles” – which range from voyeurism to alcoholism to outright murderous psychopathy – under wraps in order to keep the coffers filling up.
When one outrage leaves a young man hellbent on revenge, he discovers a group of like-minded vigilantes, all burning with a desire to bring down Vought once and for all. Effortlessly blending humour, action and drama, The Boys is among Amazon’s finest original series – and has recently returned for a second season.
Harry Bosch is ex-special forces, contemptuous of authority and grappling with a troubled past – and also one of the best detectives in the LAPD’s Hollywood homicide division. We wouldn’t blame you for thinking this show based on Michael Connelly’s series of novels sounds cliched, but Bosch (an Amazon original series) is actually a surprisingly innovative take on the police procedural. Each season tells an over-arching story, usually about a single major case, while a handful of intriguing subplots bubble along in the background – some, like Bosch’s search for the man who murdered his sex worker mother decades previously, don’t get resolved for several seasons.
Titus Welliver heads up a colourful cast of recognisable character actors, each of whom gets his or her chance to grab the spotlight occasionally. But this is Bosch (and Welliver’s) show ultimately, and the gruff, complex cop makes for a fascinating focal point.
And once you’re done binging this, make sure to catch the spin-off series, Bosch: Legacy, which is available to stream for free (with ads) on Amazon’s Freevee service.
Don’t let the fact that Vikings is funded by The History Channel fool you into thinking that this series is all that bothered about facts and veracity. While some of its characters were real people and the broad sweep of its plot (sort of) lines up with actual events surrounding the Norse invasions of Britain, this is right up there with The Tudors in the “history riotously sexed up for mainstream entertainment” stakes.
And fear not: it’s certainly entertaining, packed to the gills with scheming, bloodshed, romance, betrayal, a smattering of magic (or is it just madness) and the occasional grand battle or siege. It’s often silly too, but that’s a small price to pay for this much fun.
Mad Men (S1-7)
Mad Men is, on the face of it, a drama series about people who work in advertising in 1960s New York, and it succeeds on that level thanks to a fantastic cast of characters, an intriguing plot and an almost absurd amount of attention to period detail.
But really it’s a show about America, identity, consumerism, freedom, family and, without wanting to sound too pretentious, about what it is to be a human being in our modern capital-driven world. You could probably call it existentialist if you were feeling fancy, and you’d be well within your rights – but it’s devilishly witty, moving and entertaining with it. It may be the most painstakingly crafted television series of all time, and it’s certainly among the finest. You can watch every episode on Amazon Prime.
The Walking Dead (S1-11)
The zombie apocalypse scenario has now been covered so many times that when the dead do eventually start clawing their way out of the ground in a shambling tide of brain-hungry terror, it’ll scarcely be worth mentioning.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t make cracking TV, though, and if you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen The Walking Dead, there are a full nine seasons’ worth of horrific violence, bad decisions, cannibalism, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire and more to enjoy!
American Gods (S1-3)
Based on Neil Gaiman’s cult novel, American Gods weaves the strands of ancient mythology, modern mythology, Americana and pop culture into a modern fantasy tale – and one that’s about immigration above other things.
The cast includes the classy likes of Ian McShane, Peter Stormare, Emily Browning and Gillian Anderson, but British viewers may be surprised to see former Hollyoaks hunk Ricky Whittle in the leading role (and doing a very fine job of it). But it might be the visual style that makes this show stand out so much: it’s among the best-looking TV series ever made.
Amazon spent a long time (and a lot of money) trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own prestigious, award-winning TV shows; Transparent was the moment it got it right. For a start, this is really bold – it tells the story of a sixty-something divorcee announcing to his three grown-up kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly humorous, with a sharpness of wit that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three siblings (each of whom is plagued by their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as funny as it is believable. Amazing telly.
The Man in the High Castle (S1-4)
What would the world be like if the Allies had lost World War II, leaving the former USA ruled by Germany in its eastern half and Japan in its western half? Well, you can see for yourself in this big budget Prime Video original series, a thriller which zips around an alternative reality 1960s North America that’s more “Ja wohl!” than “Aw shucks!”.
Dealing with underground resistance groups, various plots and an alternative Cold War (waged between Imperial Japan and the German Nazi Reich, now the world’s only superpowers), it’s the kind of series that’ll appeal to history buffs, sci-fi fans and anyone who’s into high concept, high budget television.
The Handmaid’s Tale (S1-5)
Margaret Atwood’s bestselling sci-fi novel gets the big budget telly treatment here, with Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss outstanding in the leading role. Moss plays Offred, one of thousands of “handmaids” who serve as breeding stock to the ruling class in a brutal theocratic near-future United States, now renamed the Republic of Gilead. Assigned to a senior member of the government who has not been able to conceive with his own wife, Offred’s role is more maid than concubine – but even in a place as authoritarian as Gilead the powerful are able to do pretty much as they please.
The producers have expanded the scope and plotlines of Atwood’s book while retaining its essential feminist premise, making this a grimly involving look at patriarchy taken to the terrifying conclusions of its twisted internal logic.