22 Classic Shows You Didn’t Know You Could Watch on Netflix
Grab some popcorn and get ready to stream a whole lot of nostalgia with these classic TV shows on Netflix
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The best classic shows on Netflix right now
Like other streaming services, Netflix offers endless amounts of original programming, not to mention the best movies, from romantic comedies to classic family flicks. But did you know you could also watch classic shows on Netflix? While you definitely won’t want to miss buzzed-about new series like The Sandman and Virgin River, sometimes you just want to go back to rewatching your old favorites—the best TV shows you know and love. It’s like pulling on that old pair of sweatpants from college that you still love to wear.
You could use secret Netflix codes to find all these hidden gems … or you could just take a look at our list below. We’ve done a deep dive to dig up the best TV shows on Netflix, from 1970s sketch comedies available on Netflix to 1990s sitcoms and modern hits from the early 2000s (which was 20 years ago, if you can believe it). So curl up with your spouse, your kids or even just your cat, and enjoy these cherished and unforgettable TV shows.
What you’re in for: Yada, yada, yada, only the best sitcom ever
This “show about nothing” turned out to be one of the best sitcoms of all time, and it’s now one of the must-see classic shows on Netflix. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his buds—neurotic George Costanza (Jason Alexander), eccentric Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) and spunky Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)—take on all of life’s little quirks and frustrations, creating a relatable yet utterly unique sitcom that has yet to be matched. Relive every classic line, catchphrase and episode over the show’s nine seasons, from “The Soup Nazi” and “The Parking Garage” to “The Puffy Shirt” and “The Contest.” Netflix also has a great collection of Seinfeld’s stand-up specials, so you can enjoy even more of his comedic genius while chilling.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969–1974)
What you’re in for: British comedy at its best
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, which incorporated live-action as well as animation. If you can’t get enough of Monty Python’s humor, Netflix also has live shows, documentaries, “personal best” picks from the cast and funny movies, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Knight Rider (1982–1985)
What you’re in for: A high-tech talking car, the Hoff and classic 1980s action
Sure, it’s silly, but this ’80s sci-fi/action series is also a lot of fun—and even in 2022, a sentient talking car is pretty cool. Presumed dead, a police detective is given a new face and a new name, Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff), to fight crime along with the Knight Industries Two Thousand, otherwise known as KITT: a high-tech, computer-controlled Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with artificial intelligence. You can also check out the 1991 TV flick Knight Rider 2000, which is perfect for lovers of action movies.
What you’re in for: A sitcom about the lived experiences of Black women
Netflix, like Hulu, is celebrating content by Black creators and actors. And it’s about time. After all, what were most 1990s and early aughts shows, from Friends to Sex and the City, missing? People of color—specifically, Black women. This sitcom aimed to rectify that, with future Black-ish Emmy nominee Tracee Ellis Ross starring as the matriarch figure of a group of women as they deal with issues at work, at home and with one another. Jill Marie Jones, Golden Brooks and Persia White costar.
The Magic School Bus (1994–1997)
What you’re in for: The field trips you wish you went on in school
Many classic shows on Netflix aren’t just for adults—the streamer has a great collection of favorite children’s programming, along with classic family movies too. Featuring the voice of Lily Tomlin, The 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. Premiering on PBS in 1994, Magic School Bus was lauded as an entertaining show that also exposed kids to science. There’s even a new incarnation of the show, The Magic School Bus Rides Again, which premiered on Netflix in 2017. The revamped series delves into more modern technological advances and features the voice talent of Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon as Ms. Frizzle’s younger sister, Fiona.
Saved by the Bell (1987–1994)
What you’re in for: Lots of ’80s and ’90s teen nostalgia
This relatively wholesome look at the experience of junior high, high school and eventually college is sure to tug at the heartstrings of the show’s original viewers, especially those who now have tweens and teens of their own. One of the best ’80s TV shows, Saved by the Bell follows a group of friends, played by then-teen stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez and the late Dustin Diamond, as they navigate school, friendships and dating.
Netflix’s full collection includes the first season, which aired on the Disney Channel and was originally called Good Morning, Miss Bliss, in addition to the follow-up series Saved by the Bell: The College Years and the TV movies Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas. The two-season 2020–2021 reboot, however, is available on Peacock.
Sister, Sister (1994–1999)
What you’re in for: A sitcom starring two great Black female role models that’s aged well
Sister, Sister, like Saved by the Bell, is one of those classic shows on Netflix that gives kids of the ’90s a healthy dose of nostalgia—but this show also includes a positive, if unconventional, representation of a Black family. When twins Tia and Tamara (played by real-life twins Tia and Tamara Mowry), who were separated at birth and adopted, are unexpectedly reunited, they form a unique family unit with their single parents, Lisa (Jackée Harry) and Ray (Tim Reid). Although they’re very different, the twins learn to work through conflict at home and at school. Like the best movies about sisters, this show is perfect to watch with your sibling as well.
Gilmore Girls (2000–2007)
What you’re in for: The fastest-talking mother-daughter pair on TV
The titular twosome of Gilmore Girls, played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, are a mother and daughter who are close in age, so they sometimes seem more like sisters in this comforting series set in idyllic Stars Hollow, Connecticut. When the show premiered in 2000, viewers 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 the Amazon 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. Although it incorporates comedy, some scenes could be considered tearjerkers as well. When you’re done, 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 (1993–1995, 2010)
What you’re in for: Campy superhero fun
It’s morphin’ time! Relive the original in the Power Rangers franchise with this fun kids series, which premiered in 1993. The plot? A group of teenagers is 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. You’ll also find a 2010 series reboot on Netflix. Power Rangers action figures also might have been the most popular toy the year you were born.
Arrested Development (2003–2006, 2013, 2018–2019)
What you’re in for: An ensemble comedy that puts the “fun” in dysfunctional
Before there was Schitt’s Creek, there was the original riches-to-rags family of Arrested Development—although the Bluths are way more dysfunctional. The quirky comedy 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.
Danger Mouse (1981–1992)
What you’re in for: A family-friendly animated parody of James Bond
If you’ve already watched all the best ’80s movies available to stream, check out this kids series, which 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 become 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.
What you’re in for: Campfire-style creepy (but not too scary) tales
For more family TV nights, give your kids Goosebumps as a new generation discovers this “things that go bump in the night” anthology series, which parents might fondly remember from their own youth. Premiering in the United States in 1996 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 movie spookiness: Think monsters, haunted houses, possessed objects, eerie ventriloquist dummies and freaky amusement parks.
What you’re in for: Another great 1990s high school sitcom featuring a Black female lead
Kudos to the streamer for bringing back great classic shows on Netflix featuring predominantly Black casts, including the UPN sitcom Moesha. The series starred R&B singer Brandy as the title character, a Los Angeles teen dealing with her widowed father’s marriage to her high school’s vice principal, along with real-life issues including sex, drugs and prejudice. Other notable Black stars in recurring roles on the show include Bernie Mac, Usher, Mo’Nique and Master P.
Stargate SG-1 (1997–2007)
What you’re in for: A sci-fi cult classic that goes where no show has gone before
Move over, Star Trek: This series based on one of the best sci-fi movies ever has garnered its own fan following, and it’s considered one of the best sci-fi shows of all time. Drawing on ancient mythologies, Stargate SG-1 follows an elite military team that uses an alien device, the Stargate, to transport them to other planets to explore space, meet other alien races and fight intergalactic battles. The long-running series starred Richard Dean Anderson; in the ninth season, Anderson left, and Beau Bridges and Ben Browder joined the cast.
The Parkers (1994–2001)
What you’re in for: Mother-daughter laughs in this Moesha spin-off
Moesha’s best friend, Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn), and her mother, Nikki (Academy Award winner Mo’Nique), left the original show after its fourth season to star in their own sitcom. After Nikki got pregnant as a teen, she was forced to drop out of high school. Now, in The Parkers, she decides to go back to school to graduate and then attend college—alongside her daughter. How they navigate that relationship is the source of much of the show’s humor, and its heart.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005–2008)
What you’re in for: Anime-influenced animation with serious themes
No, not that Avatar. Unlike James Cameron’s movie, this title refers to someone who can “bend,” or wield power over, the four elements of fire, water, earth and air in order to keep harmony in the world. Widely regarded as one of the best cartoon shows, this Nickelodeon series deals with some grown-up themes, including systemic oppression and war, which has given the show continued relevance over the years and earned it an Emmy and a Peabody Award. A live-action remake will also be coming soon to Netflix; production wrapped in June 2022.
Friday Night Lights (2006–2011)
What you’re in for: A critically acclaimed sports drama
Based on the 1990 nonfiction book and the 2004 movie adaptation, Friday Night Lights is considered one of the best dramas ever on television. The show was always a hit with critics, if a little low in the ratings—but luckily for us, we can rediscover it on Netflix. Following a small-town Texas football team and their coach, the show was an exploration of Middle America and also a deep dive into specific character development. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton star; young actors who started out on the series include Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Michael B. Jordan and Jurnee Smollett. The show garnered numerous accolades, including several Emmys, a Peabody and a Humanitas Prize.
Zoey 101 (2005–2008)
What you’re in for: A family-friendly teen series
Fifteen years before costarring in Netflix’s original series Sweet Magnolias, Britney’s little sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, starred as the title character in this early 2000s Nickelodeon show. The series followed a group of friends at a boarding school in California; other familiar faces include Victoria Justice and Austin Butler (who recently starred as the King in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis). Although Zoey 101 had its share of off-screen controversy, including rumors of bullying on set and Spears’s real-life teen pregnancy, which was announced after the show finished filming its last season, it was still critically acclaimed, earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children’s Program.
What you’re in for: Season after season (after season) of this military procedural
Can a show be considered a “classic” if it’s still airing new episodes in prime time? We’re going with yes—if that show premiered way back in 2003. NCIS, which stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is still going strong after 19 seasons (season 20 premieres on CBS in September 2022), and 15 of them are currently available on Netflix. Mark Harmon, who’s been with the show since the beginning, leads a team of special agents investigating crimes connected with the Navy or Marine Corps in this procedural drama. If you like thrillers or crime shows, this series has action and intrigue galore.
Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide (2003–2007)
What you’re in for: A tween’s guide for getting through middle school
Like the title implies, this thoughtful, funny show is all about the ups and downs of life as a middle school adolescent. Luckily for young viewers, the title character of Ned (Devon Werkheiser) is here to help you deal, adding helpful entries to his survival guide along the way, full of tips for getting though school. Even though this Nickelodeon show aired in the early aughts, today’s tweens may find Ned’s experiences enlightening—or at least entertaining—as well.
What you’re in for: A King Arthur adaptation you might have missed
This hidden gem from Britain premiered across the pond on the BBC. When it came to America, poor ratings on NBC led to its being somewhat buried on cable network Syfy before it recently resurfaced on Netflix. The family-friendly reimagining of the legend follows Merlin’s adventures with a young Prince Arthur. Unfortunately, Arthur’s father, the king, has banned magic, so Merlin must hide his supernatural gifts. The special effects are a little basic, but like the best fantasy books you can’t put down, this fantasy show is still binge-worthy.
What you’re in for: A critically acclaimed treasure trove of comedy and pop-culture references
If you didn’t catch this cult classic when it aired on NBC, watch it now on Netflix. Trust us—you won’t be sorry. The premise of Community, which features Joel McHale at the helm, involves a group of friends attending a community college, but the show goes way beyond that to explore pop culture tropes in almost every genre, including “concept episodes” that play with its own genre as well. The ensemble cast includes Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong and Chevy Chase. Once you’ve Netflixed and chilled to your heart’s content, check out our favorite shows on Amazon Prime Video TV, HBO Max TV and Apple TV.