CLOSE

The 50 Best TV Shows to Binge-Watch Right Now

Though, historically, baseball has always been cited as America's favorite pastime, it's hard not to argue that since the arrival of entertainment streaming networks like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, binge-watching has pretty much usurped that title. But with so much content and so little time, it can be easy to find yourself spending half of your evening just figuring out what you want to watch in the first place. So we're here to help.

Whether your tastes lean toward fun-but-frightening sci-fi anthologies or laugh-out-loud absurd comedies, here are the 50 TV shows we're binge-watching right now—all of which run for more than a single season (sorry, Firefly and Freaks and Geeks)—so that you've got more to watch, and all of them just a click away.

1. ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1955-1962)

Where to watch it: Hulu

With his tack-sharp introductions and tightly-plotted morality plays, Alfred Hitchcock—already renowned for his feature film work—became the prototype for Rod Serling with the 1955 debut of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each episode of the anthology focuses on a different criminal scheme and its inevitable unraveling, from a woman’s novel disposal of a murder weapon (“Lamb to Slaughter”) to the plight of a man being robbed after he’s paralyzed in a car accident (“Breakdown”). If the stark black and white cinematography looks familiar, you have a good eye: Hitchcock used most of the TV show’s crew to film 1960’s Psycho. —Jake Rossen

2. THE AMERICANS (2013- )

Where to watch it: Amazon

To their neighbors in a sleepy D.C. suburb, travel agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings seem about as boring as you can get. But to anyone who gets in their way (including FBI agents), these undercover Russian spies are quick, efficient, and deadly. If you like intrigue, action, steamy sex scenes, '80s nostalgia, and honest, thought-provoking depictions of marriage, you’re going to love The Americans. —Kate Horowitz


Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

 

3. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003-)

Where to watch it: Hulu, Netflix

This smart, snarky series follows the riches-to-rags story of the Bluths, a dysfunctional Orange County family that loses their real estate fortune after the SEC begins investigating the family business for fraud. After the family patriarch, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), goes to prison, his son Michael (Jason Bateman) is left to grudgingly hold the family together. Arrested Development’s intricately crafted plotlines, recurring gags, and relentlessly clever wordplay earned the adoration of a cult following, but didn’t drive ratings high enough to keep Fox from cancelling the show after its third season. After fans lobbied hard to revive the series, Netflix released a disappointing fourth season in 2013 that failed to live up to the original run’s magic. (A fifth season is currently in the works.) —Nicolas Rivero

4. BETTER CALL SAUL (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Before he was Saul Goodman, lawyer to Albuquerque’s favorite chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White on Breaking Bad (more on that below), Bob Odenkirk was Jimmy McGill, the ne'er-do-well brother to one of the city’s most well respected attorneys whose mental issues (or electricity allergy, if you prefer) leave the brothers frequently at odds. Though, deep down, Jimmy clearly cares about people—well, some people—he cares about winning more, and proving to his brother that he's matured since his day of running scams back in their hometown of Cicero, Illinois, where he was known as "Slippin' Jimmy." Fans who lamented the end of Breaking Bad have gotten a stellar prequel with Better Call Saul—one that manages to enrich the backstory of Breaking Bad yet stand alone as its own stellar series. —Jennifer M. Wood

5. BLACK MIRROR (2011-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

OK, full disclaimer: Do not attempt to binge-watch Black Mirror all in a day. With just 13 episodes spread out across three seasons (plus a Christmas episode), you could physically do it—but mentally, you need more breathing room. Though the anthology series has been compared to The Twilight Zone due to its twisty, technology-themed tales, at its heart, Black Mirror is a reflection of society. “The technology is never the culprit in our stories,” creator Charlie Brooker told Vogue. “The technology is just allowing people to do terrible things to themselves or others.” It only takes watching the first episode to understand what Brooker is talking about. —Stacy Conradt

6. BOB’S BURGERS (2011-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In this animated series, Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his family run a struggling burger joint in a seaside town where one of their only regular customers is the mortician next door. The three mischievous but well-meaning Belcher children get up to plenty of hijinks as the family tries to scrape out a living selling Bob’s innovative burgers—which have now been released as a real-life cookbook. Its musical interludes—enough to put together into a 112-song album—fart jokes, and regular burger-themed puns put a hilarious spin on what is, underneath it all, a sweet show about a deeply loving family. It’s the kind of show that’s jam-packed with enough jokes to make it worth watching again and again. —Shaunacy Ferro

7. BREAKING BAD (2008-2013)

Where to watch it: Netflix

If you haven’t seen what is probably the most critically-acclaimed show that has ever aired on television, now is as good a time as any to start watching. Breaking Bad follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a down-on-his-luck high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Desperate to provide for his family before his death, White teams up with a former student and small-time drug dealer (Aaron Paul) to cook and sell crystal meth. As Walter finds his footing in New Mexico’s criminal underworld, he discovers that both his ambitions and his ego extend far beyond his medical bills and his children’s college funds. Breaking Bad brims with dark secrets, surprising humor, and a pulsing humanity that renders this gritty drama all too believable. —NR

8. BROADCHURCH (2013-2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Though it was a bona fide television phenomenon when it premiered in its native England in 2013, it took a while for American audiences to catch on to Broadchurch—and it’s a good thing they finally did. Like a less strange version of Twin Peaks, the series follows two newly partnered detectives (David Tennant and Olivia Colman) tasked with solving the murder of a 12-year-old boy in a tiny seaside town where everyone knows each other, and everyone is a suspect. In addition to being a phenomenal crime procedural that keeps you guessing until the very end, Broadchurch is not afraid to take its viewers into the darkest corners of the human psyche, yet still maintains a message that tells us we have the power to bounce back from even the worst tragedies. —JMW

9. CATASTROPHE (2015-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

It’s the classic story: American boy meets Irish girl while traveling for business, boy and girl have a fling, boy gets girl pregnant, boy and girl decide to have the baby. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, who write and star in the Amazon original, have an acerbic (usually foul-mouthed—this show isn’t for the kids!) sense of humor that will leave you in stitches, and rewinding to catch the joke you missed while you were laughing. With only 18 episodes to date, it’s the perfect length to devour over a lazy weekend. —Abbey Stone

10. CHEWING GUM (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

The most embarrassing day of your life has nothing on a normal day for Tracey Gordon. The first episode of this laugh-until-you-feel-sick series opens with its adorable and painfully inept 24-year-old protagonist trying desperately to lose her virginity, and it just gets more awkward from there. Michaela Coel created and stars in the BAFTA-winning show, which makes ample use of her astonishingly expressive face and talent for physical comedy. —KH

11. DEADWOOD (2004-2006)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Like many of the prestige dramas that HBO aired in the wake of The Sopranos's success, David Milch's Deadwood managed to attract a small but rabid fan base that has only grown with time, as new generations get the chance to discover the series via streaming networks like Amazon. Set in the late 1800s, not long after Custer's Last Stand, the show mixes fact with fiction as characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp make their way in and out of Deadwood, South Dakota. Its main characters, Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Sol Star (John Hawkes), and Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) are also real people. And while it includes all of the fun tropes we've come to expect of a great western—including gunfights, gold rushes, and fun-filled brothels—the series, which ran for just three seasons, is really about the evolution of civilization and how we build communities out of chaos. And with a lot of f-bombs dropped (mostly from McShane). —JMW

12. DOCTOR WHO (1963-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, BritBox

Originally making its debut in 1963, Doctor Who is the kind of sci-fi juggernaut that can seem a bit daunting to non-hardcore fans of the genre. While the earlier incarnation (which you can watch on BritBox) has a definite sense of humor, the reimagined version of the series—which made its triumphant return in 2005—offers loads of kitschy fun. The series follows a time-traveling alien who travels through space and time to help save the world with the help of his trusty (and ever-changing) companion. Though the reboot kicked off with Christopher Eccleston playing the Ninth Doctor, part of the fun is that regeneration is canon—so while The Doctor is technically always the same character, he can regenerate into a new face and body every time an actor leaves the show. (David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi followed). With 26 seasons and more than 900 episodes (or 10 seasons and 275 episodes if you stick with the reboot), there’s a lot to get through—but the kitschy nature of it all keeps it light and fun. Plus, with former Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker making her debut as the first female Doctor in the series’s history later this year, now is the perfect time to invest in the otherworldly series where anything’s possible. —JMW

13. DOWNTON ABBEY (2010-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

In the picturesque English village of Downton, the Earl (Hugh Bonneville) and Countess (Elizbaeth McGovern) of Grantham have got a problem: They’ve just received word that the Earl’s nephew and heir (and the kinda sorta fiancé of his eldest daughter, Mary) has died aboard the Titanic. Unfortunately for Mary (Michelle Dockery), there’s no such thing as a female heiress in 1912 England. So in addition to getting her married off to some well-to-do gentleman who will keep her social status intact, they need to track down the stranger who will end up inheriting their beloved estate and the bulk of their fortune. Enter Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a middle-class lawyer from Manchester, England, and his meddling mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton), who must find a way to adapt to the Crawleys’ way of life, and who the family must learn to accept. Though the series straddles the line between historical drama and nighttime soap opera, even when it’s at its soapiest, the show’s impeccable attention to detail—thanks in large part to historical adviser Alastair Bruce—and its Upstairs, Downstairs-like balance between the dramas that face a 19th-century aristocrat and the troubles of the trusty servants downstairs keep it rather addicting, even when the plotlines seem to be stretching it a bit. —JMW

14. EASTBOUND & DOWN (2009-2013)

Where to watch it: Amazon

First things first: Eastbound & Down is not for the easily offended. If you’re familiar with Danny McBride’s body of work, you’ll understand why. (Even the clip above could be considered NSFW.) From 2006’s no-budget indie The Foot Fist Way to his current HBO series Vice Principals, McBride is at his best when he’s acting like a raging a-hole—and he does that to an astonishing degree as Kenny Powers, an obnoxious former pro baseball player whose well-documented rise and fall in professional sports has left him with no choice but to move in with his brother and become a P.E. teacher. Created by McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best (the trio also responsible for The Foot Fist Way), the series tracks Powers’s epic highs and painful lows—almost all of which he brings upon himself—and isn't afraid to say, do, or show the things that no other series would dare. —JMW

15. THE FALL (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Though it steered a bit off course in its second and third seasons, The Fall is one of those crime dramas that is compelling enough on the “crime” level that it’s easy to overlook some of its flaws (like the fact that the police seem pretty inept a lot of the time). Before he was getting nasty in 50 Shades of Grey and its sequel, Jamie Dornan played a masochist of a different kind in The Fall as Paul Spector, a family man and bereavement counselor who just so happens to have a penchant for stalking and murdering women. Part of what makes the show so watchable is that we know his deep, dark secrets from the very beginning—there’s no whodunit guessing game. Instead, you’re waiting for the police force, which has enlisted the help of badass detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), to catch up. —JMW


Eamonn M. McCormack / Getty Images

 

16. FARGO (2014-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Making the jump from movie to television screen has rarely turned out to be a great idea (see the small-screen versions of: Ferris Bueller, Serpico, Uncle Buck, and Casablanca). But Fargo is an absolute exception to this rule. Brilliantly crafted, the show is technically designed as an anthology series (though there are connections between each of its three—and hopefully counting—seasons). Even better: It doesn’t try to retell the Coen brothers’ 1996 film, but it does pay tribute to their work—not just with its title or setting, but with its unique tone, quirky characters, and perfectly honed black comedy. Plus, serious Coen fans will recognize all sorts of Easter eggs that relate not just to the Oscar-winning big screen version of Fargo, but several other movies in their filmography—like the inclusion of Billy Bob Thornton in season one (who starred in The Man Who Wasn’t There), who plays a sociopath not unlike No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh, whose evil seems to know no bounds. —JMW

17. GAME OF THRONES (2011-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Based on the fantasy book series by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is a brilliantly realized power struggle that pits various factions against each other for the fate of the land of Westeros. Multiple plot threads are woven together to form a tapestry of violence, deception, and infighting, with a colorful army of characters that will either delight or disgust you (or maybe a bit of both). The cast is highlighted by breakout performances by Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Kit Harington, and Lena Headey; though be cautious when getting attached to any of the show’s characters—showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have no problem killing off even the most beloved characters. Even if you’re not a fan of high fantasy, the familial struggles and blockbuster action should be more than enough to keep you hooked. —JS

18. GILMORE GIRLS (2000-2007; 2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Enter the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut and follow Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) as they drink coffee, talk fast, and tackle the challenges of life. Gilmore Girls explores themes of friendship, romance, generational problems, and class issues in fast-paced episodes packed with fantastic dialogue. The show has many distinctive characters that will have you coming back and singing the theme song along with each episode. Once you’re all caught up, don’t forget to check out the Netflix revival series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life! Renee Borcas

19. HANNIBAL (2013-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Prior to taking on a TV adaptation of American Gods, auteur showrunner Bryan Fuller took on Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, which aired on NBC from 2013 to 2015. The series extrapolated storylines from author Thomas Harris’s novels Red Dragon and Hannibal, and presented the infamous cannibal psychiatrist before he’d been unmasked as a psychotic serial killer. Hugh Dancy stars as unstable FBI profiler Will Graham, who is able to reconstruct serial killers’ methods in his mind and understand their motivations and behaviors to capture them. As each case takes its mental toll, his boss, Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne), insists that he see psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Lecter manipulates both Graham and the FBI as he continues to kill—and serve up killer human-based meals to unsuspecting dinner guests.

Fuller’s fantastical fingerprint is all over the florid murder scenes, which are as beautifully staged as they are gruesome. (You will frequently ask yourself how this show ever aired on network TV.) Hannibal’s cooking scenes, scored with classical music, are lush, and filmed like the most gorgeously wrong cooking show of all time. Your mouth might water—but you will definitely cringe when Hannibal’s guests take a bite.

At a criminally-short three seasons, Hannibal is easy to devour; the last episode of season three was filmed before the show was cancelled, and its post-credit cliffhanger will leave you hungry for more. (And if Fuller has anything to do with it, a fourth season that delves into Silence of the Lambs territory will be dished up soon.) —Erin McCarthy

20. HOUSE OF CARDS (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In a way, House of Cards is really the show that kickstarted the whole binge-watch trend in a serious way. As one of the first series to debut on a streaming network (in this case, Netflix), it almost begged to be consumed in one sitting—and not just because all 13 episodes in its first season dropped at one time, but because it was impossible not to be seduced by Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a South Carolina Congressman and Democratic House Majority Whip who vows revenge when newly elected POTUS Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) reneges on his promise to appoint Frank as Secretary of State. The more havoc Underwood wreaks, the more powerful he grows—aided by his equally cunning wife Claire (Robin Wright). Though the series has stumbled a bit in its more recent seasons (season five arrived on Netflix earlier this year), it’s still fascinating to watch the political machinations and wonder just how on-the-nose they are regarding real life in the nation’s capital. —JMW

21. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (2005-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

FX’s longest-running (12 seasons and counting) series is also television’s most tasteless, with plots that sound cobbled together from the depths of internet sub-forums. The Gang (a.k.a. the going-nowhere owners of a seedy Philly bar) finds a dumpster baby and decides to profit by casting him in commercials; the Gang uses CSI-level techniques to find out who pooped in one of their beds. Almost every episode could be titled “The Gang Learns Absolutely Nothing.” So why watch? Because greed and incompetence—and Danny DeVito—have made the show a cult classic. —JR

22. JANE THE VIRGIN (2014-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Jane the Virgin follows Jane Villanueva (played by Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez) as she navigates the aftermath of her accidental artificial insemination. The show is a little more grounded than the Venezuelan telenovela it’s based on, but with family drama, a steamy love triangle, and a face-changing crime lord (and that’s just in the first season), it packs plenty of action into each episode. —Michele Debczak

23. JUSTIFIED (2010-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

On its surface, Justified looks and feels like your standard cop procedural: Displaced lawman Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) returns to his Kentucky hometown to face old demons and an oppressive supervisor. (Yes, he’s even asked to turn in his badge.) But it sure doesn’t talk like one. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, Justified has an ear for dialogue that approaches music, with Givens trading verbal jabs as easily as he exchanges bullets. While Olyphant has the laconic-hero approach down, it’s Walton Goggins as onetime friend-turned-foe Boyd Crowder who, as The New York Times observed, “makes a habit of being the best thing about television shows he’s in.” —JR

24. THE LAST KINGDOM (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series of historical fiction novels, The Last Kingdom follows the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon who was kidnapped by Danes as a child and grows up in the middle of two warring worlds upon his return home. The fictionalized tale of Uhtred is set against the backdrop of the rise of Alfred the Great (David Dawson), the real-world King of Wessex in the 9th century who fought off Viking invaders, promoted literacy and education, and helped build toward a unified England. Amidst all the history lessons, the series features a twisting plot, complex characters, and plenty of sword-and-shield warfare. Originally airing on BBC, The Last Kingdom is a Netflix exclusive in America. —Jason Serafino

25. THE LEAGUE (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Netflix

The League is not the kind of show where you’re really rooting for the characters to succeed. This gang of NFL uber-fans who put together a hyper-competitive fantasy football league is full of characters who are deeply offensive, completely incorrigible, and a delight to watch. The fast-paced, crass show was created by husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jackie Schaffer, who modeled the semi-improvised series after Jeff's own obsession with fantasy sports. (They run their own league with the cast, giving the show an extra boost of realism.) Even if you couldn't care less about football, you’ll love watching a group of sharp-tongued friends completely debase themselves in service of winning a trophy that’s worthless to everyone but them. —SF

26. THE KNICK (2014-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Renaissance man filmmaker Steven Soderbergh directed and shot this two-season Cinemax series, which is not for the faint of heart. The drama is set in a New York City hospital in the early 20th century, and features gory and historically accurate surgical techniques. Clive Owen toplines the cast as John Thackery, the talented but damaged chief surgeon of the eponymous Knickerbocker Hospital who is hiding a serious addiction to cocaine; André Holland plays Algernon C. Edwards, the brilliant Europe-educated African-American surgeon who joins the Knick as assistant chief of surgery, to objections from other surgeons on staff; and Eve Hewson (daughter of U2's Bono) is Lucy Elkins, a young nurse at the Knick caught between her religious morals and her torrid affair with Thackery.

From Thackery’s inventive surgical techniques and one doctor’s wife going insane, to an illegal abortion business and the hospital manager’s shady dealings with contractors and mobsters, there’s plenty of life-or-death drama both inside the hospital and outside of it—and there are so many historical Easter eggs (keep an eye out for Typhoid Mary!) that history buffs will find themselves as addicted to the 20-episode show as Thackery is to his drug of choice. —EM

27. LUTHER (2010-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

For just about as long as there have been cop shows there have been conflicted cops starring at the center of them, and this gritty British crime series is no different. What makes it stand out is Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, a detective who regularly finds himself on the wrong side of London's most unhinged criminals. But Luther will stop at nothing to make sure he gets the bad guy—even if he has to bend the law, or befriend a sociopathic genius (Ruth Wilson) who murdered her parents, to do it. Even the most deranged criminal is no match for Elba's hulking intensity. With just 15 episodes over the course of four seasons, you've got plenty of time to catch up on Luther before Elba returns for a fifth season. —JMW

28. MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES (2012-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) is Melbourne’s finest detective … even if she’s not actually employed by the police. Set in 1920s Australia, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a lighthearted detective show that follows the amateur investigator’s capers as she solves some of the city’s toughest crimes. The self-assured, thoroughly modern Fisher ruffles the feathers of the old-fashioned detectives on the police force, but she can’t stop herself from following the clues, and more often than not, they lead her straight to the bad guy while the real police struggle to catch up. The show has a little jazz, a little romance, and plenty of shootouts. Oh, and a lot of great flapper fashion. —SF

29. THE OFFICE (2001-2003)

Where to watch it: Netflix

With all due respect to Greg Daniels's American version of The Office (which is also available on Netflix and worth your time), when it comes to the fine art of awkward comedy, there's no more talented a practitioner than Ricky Gervais. Whereas Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott is a sort of sweet social misfit who just wants to be liked, Wernham Hogg's David Brent is more of a self-centered jerk who regularly tries, and desperately fails, to command respect from those around him. And when things don't go Brent's way, he unleashes the childish beast inside—and those are the series's finest moments. His attempt to out-dance his immediate superior, who has everything David wants, is the kind of thing you'll want to rewind and re-watch. Especially to witness that Martin Freeman has a perfect facial response to every situation. —JMW

30. ORPHAN BLACK (2013-2017)

Where to watch it: Amazon

You want great sci-fi? We’ll give you great sci-fi. The Canadian breakout hit Orphan Black raised the bar for storytelling, cultural commentary, hair and makeup design, and unparalleled acting. Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany’s star-making turn as dozens of unique, complex, lovable (okay, mostly lovable) characters—all clones—is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. —KH


ROBYN BECK / Getty Images


ROBYN BECK / Getty Images

 

31. PARKS AND RECREATION (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Parks and Recreation proved that the bureaucracy of small-town government is a goldmine for comedy. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, the optimistic deputy director of Pawnee, Indiana’s parks and recreation department. She’s joined by established names like Rob Lowe as well as burgeoning stars like Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, and Aubrey Plaza. Even when the gang is losing political battles, or planning a memorial service for a tiny horse (RIP Lil' Sebastian), the show remains a feel-good sitcom at heart. —MD

32. PARTY DOWN (2009-2010)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Before Glee and Parks and Recreation made them famous, Jane Lynch and Adam Scott ate lots of canapés together while starring in Party Down. The short-lived TV series—which ran from 2009 to 2010 on Starz—follows a group of struggling actors (and one screenwriter) as they moonlight as caterers to pay the bills. Along the way, they encounter colorful party guests, experience awkward hookups, and struggle to hold onto their dreams. —Kirstin Fawcett

33. PEAKY BLINDERS (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

This BBC series, created by Steven Knight, is essentially the British Godfather, and was inspired by the real-life gang that operated in Birmingham, England, during the 19th and 20th centuries. (They reportedly got their name from the razor blades they sewed into the brims of their caps.)

Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby, the sprawling gang’s reluctant but fiery leader, who must take over the family business out of a sense of criminal duty. Scored with a modern soundtrack (it’s the best use of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” ever) and shot with a classically staged intensity, Peaky Blinders gets its binge-ability from constantly confronting the viewer with how people doing such wrong could seem so right. The series also guest stars actor Tom Hardy as marble-mouthed Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons, the ruthless leader of a rival gang, which is among the more intense roles of the infamously intense actor’s repertoire.

Each season is just six episodes—easy enough to devour over a weekend. You can catch up before season four, which will feature Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, airs. —EM

34. PENNY DREADFUL (2014-2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In a way, it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly where Penny Dreadful went wrong. Perhaps if it had aired on HBO as opposed to Showtime, we'd be deep into season four already. But seemingly just as quickly as it appeared, this beautifully shot series created by John Logan (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall, and Alien: Covenant) ended after 27 episodes, with viewers only realizing that we'd officially come to the end when the words "The End" actually appeared on the screen. Like a highbrow monster movie mashup, the series takes several familiar characters from literature—including Victor Frankenstein and his Monster, Van Helsing, Renfield, Count Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll—and throws them all together in Victorian England. Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Josh Hartnett lead a formidable cast of characters telling dark stories that will have you wishing the series had not yet concluded. —JMW

35. PUSHING DAISIES (2007-2009)

Where to watch it: Amazon, CW Seed

In the words of Stefon, Pushing Daisies has it all: a cruise ship murder, agoraphobic aunts, a piemaker who can reanimate the dead, and Swoozie Kurtz. This brightly colored "forensic fairytale" stars Lee Pace as the proprietor of The Pie Hole pastry shop, but piemaking is just one of his talents. He can also revive the dead with a single touch. Unfortunately, a second touch kills them again. His gift proves especially problematic when he revives his childhood sweetheart after she’s mysteriously murdered. Sadly, Pushing Daisies kicked the bucket too soon: It was canceled after just 22 fantastical episodes. Reboot whisperings have been swirling for years, but until someone reanimates this corpse, you can binge the original episodes on CW Seed. —SC

36. SCHITT’S CREEK (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

If you’ve enjoyed Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy in any of their past film roles as oddball parents, you won’t be let down by the Canadian television series Schitt’s Creek. In it, the two return to familiar cringe-comedy material—this time as rich narcissists clumsily trying to adjust to their new, unglamorous lives in the small, rural town of Schitt’s Creek after losing all of their money. They’re joined by their two lovably vain children, David—who is played by Levy’s real-life son, Dan—and Alexis (Annie Murphy), who provide an additional layer of chaos to the series as they attempt to maintain normal twenty-something social lives. At just 22 minutes an episode, it’s more than possible to accidentally finish off a season (or two) in one sitting. —Colin Gorenstein

 


Mike Windle / Getty Images

 

37. SHERLOCK (2010-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In 2012, Sherlock Holmes (the character) became a Guinness World Record holder when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective nabbed the title for "the most portrayed literary human character in film & TV," with a total (at the time) of 254 onscreen depictions. But you don't have to have seen every single one of them to know that Benedict Cumberbatch, as the consulting detective, and Martin Freeman as his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson have brought a totally new spin to Doyle's works with Sherlock. Set in modern-day London, the series imagines a world in which Holmes would have the benefit of Google and social media to help him in his investigations, with Watson regularly blogging about their strangest cases (which turns Sherlock into a kind of social media star). Though it may sound like a breeze to get through just 15 episodes, most of them run about 90 minutes apiece—the length of a kids' movie—so it can be a longer investment. But approaching each episode like a standalone film allows the show to experiment a bit, even creating one episode which sends Holmes and Watson back to the era for which they were created. —JMW

38. THE SHIELD (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Television has traditionally been more hospitable to antiheroes than feature films have been, but none have been quite as arresting as Vic Mackey, the “different kind of cop” who murders, plunders, and lies his way through the politics of Los Angeles law enforcement. Michael Chiklis won an Emmy for his portrayal of Mackey, and it’s easy to see why: As Mackey’s lies and deceptions continue to pile up, the actor does a fantastic job of keeping him (almost) sympathetic. It’s not that Mackey wants to blur the line between good and bad—he wants to erase it altogether. —JR

39. SILICON VALLEY (2014-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Mike Judge’s obsessively detailed satirization of life in the tech industry follows Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) as he attempts to build a startup around a revolutionary algorithm he created in his spare time. Pied Piper’s rag-tag team of coding misfits have the technical skills to change the world, if only they could stop getting in each other’s (and their own) way. The series shows comedians like Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, and Zach Woods at their best, trading quick barbs and dealing with the outsized egos of Bay Area billionaires who do things like hire a “blood boy” to supply them with regular transfusions of youthful blood. (Like most of the show’s most ridiculous plot lines, that was inspired by a real Silicon Valley startup.) —SF

40. SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

As the title implies, death is everywhere in Six Feet Under. Alan Ball's critically-acclaimed HBO series begins with the death of Fisher family patriarch Nathaniel (Richard Jenkins), who runs the Fisher & Sons funeral home (out of the family's California home) with youngest son David (Michael C. Hall, in his first television role), who is struggling with his sexual identity. When Nathaniel passes the family business on to David and his older brother Nate (Peter Krause), it forces Nate to move back to California and get to know his family again—including mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) and teenaged sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Though it's a show about death—each episode kicks off with a death sequence, some of which can be truly bizarre and even disturbing—it's really about family and making every moment of the life we do have. Which isn't to say that it's not utterly heartbreaking at times. Though you'll want to keep watching, it's best to limit the number of episodes you watch in any given day, lest you spend your non-watching hours questioning the meaning of life. —JMW

41. THE SOPRANOS (1999-2007)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

The Sopranos was never going to be shackled to the clichés of a mob series. The show is just as comfortable with shootouts and whackings as it is with the dissection of Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) psyche on a therapist’s couch. And when his day as a mobster ends, he has a strained marriage to Carmella (the brilliant Edie Falco) and two hormonal teenagers at home to contend with. The characters are relatable, the plots are always engrossing, and there are plenty of quotable moments that will keep you binging through the show’s six-season run. —JS

42. STRANGERS WITH CANDY (1999-2000)

Where to watch it: Hulu

In high school, Jerri Blank was the kid your parents warned you about. The self-described “boozer, user, and a loser” dropped out of school, worked as a prostitute, and ultimately ended up behind bars. Now, at the ripe and reformed age of 46, Jerri is back at Flatpoint High School and ready to earn her degree—and learn a few life lessons along the way. Written as a spoof of after school specials of the 1970s and 1980s, Strangers With Candy reminds us that fashion trends come and go, but the humiliations of adolescence remain eternal. —KF

43. SUPERNATURAL (2005-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Soon to be entering its 13th season, Supernatural is the longest running fantasy series on American television. This show follows the adventures of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively) as they travel around the country hunting demons, ghosts, and monsters, all while listening to an epic soundtrack of classic rock hits. The series may have its origins in the horror genre, but its numerous laughable and heartfelt moments are what have truly enabled Supernatural to stand the test of time. —RB

44. 12 MONKEYS (2015-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Though it shares a name and some basic plot points with filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie (which was itself based on the French short film La Jetée), Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, co-created by Travis Fickett and Terry Matalas, is its own beast by the second episode. Post-apocalyptic scavenger James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is sent back in time—“splintering,” in the show’s terminology—by mad scientist Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) to find Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), the one person the future freedom fighters hope can help them stop a plague that will wipe out most of humanity. They enlist the help of Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), the maybe-crazy daughter of Leland Goines, the CEO of a biomedical engineering company. He's in league with a mysterious organization, known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and its mysterious leader, The Pallid Man (Tom Noonan), who want to bring the world to an end.

Depending on the episode, the characters find themselves anywhere from post-apocalyptic 2043 to 1800s London or 1980s New York City to the trenches of World War I. As the characters splinter through time to unravel the mysteries of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and stop its prophet, The Witness, things get complicated—and more compelling. With each time period recreated with incredible attention to detail and each episode shot like a mini-movie, it’s hard to stop watching 12 Monkeys once you’ve started. Regular viewers had to wait between multi-episode and season-ending cliffhangers (and there are a lot of them), but lucky binge-watchers won’t have to. You can catch up before the show’s fourth and final season airs next year. —EM

 


Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

 

45. THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964)

Where to watch it: Netflix

A must for fans of "the odd, the bizarre, the unexpected" (as Serling once described his show to TV Guide), The Twilight Zone made an indelible mark on pop culture by showing Americans that sci-fi could be smart. Yes, there are robots, aliens, UFOs, and time travel, but those are often just props in larger stories about human nature and Cold War-era social anxieties. Almost every sci-fi/fantasy show on TV today owes something to the show, which is a reason to watch in and of itself—as is Serling's mastery of the twist ending. While you're savoring the well-crafted plotlines and brilliantly macabre touches, keep an eye out for early appearances from famous names like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, and George Takei. —Bess Lovejoy

46. TWIN PEAKS (1990-1991; 2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix

“Diane, I’m watching a dramatic series on television called Twin Peaks. It premiered in 1990 and centers around an FBI agent’s attempt to solve the murder of Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen of a small Pacific Northwest logging town. It seems like every character is filled with secrets—her boyfriend Bobby Briggs, her best friend Donna Hayward, her rival Audrey Horne, and especially her father Leland. The further I get into the show, Diane, the murkier it gets. I’ll give this series two seasons at most, but I have a feeling they’ll be the strangest, most inventive 30 episodes that ever aired on broadcast TV.” —Kat Long

47. VEEP (2012-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Unlike The West Wing’s high-stakes drama (see below), Veep puts a comedic spin on the White House that is no less effective. The show focuses on Vice President Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who has taken home her fair share of awards for the role), and a supporting cast that includes hapless colleagues and political enemies. Veep pokes, prods, and skewers the bubble of Washington, D.C., while at the same time diving into the complexities of the political arena. It’s a refreshing take on a political series—one that knows it’s dealing with heavy subjects without taking itself too seriously. —JS

48. THE WEST WING (1999-2006)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Aaron Sorkin’s benchmark political drama was prestige TV before we even started using the term. The West Wing focuses on the presidential administration of the fictional Democrat Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen. With its signature lightning-quick dialogue and eye for authenticity, the series is as close as most of us are ever going to get to seeing how the White House operates during both moments of mundanity and complete chaos. This is required viewing for any political junkie that missed this show’s initial run. —JS

49. THE WIRE (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

“Have you ever watched The Wire?” is one of those questions you’ve likely been asked far too often by classmates, coworkers, and family members, but don’t take that annoyance out on the show. The truth is, The Wire is one of the most acclaimed series of the 2000s for a reason. The show focuses on different aspects of the city of Baltimore, including the criminal elements, the police, the politicians, and the media. A complex plot brings these facets of life together and shows how each one impacts the other. It’s an examination of our relationship with subjects like class, race, and capitalism, punctuated by a superb cast including Dominic West, Idris Elba, Sonja Sohn, and plenty more. —JS

50. THE X-FILES (1993-2002; 2016-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Deep in the bowels of FBI headquarters, Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) try to solve cases that the bureau doesn’t really want publicized. In their investigations of extra-terrestrial abductions, UFOs, government cover-ups, and randomly occurring monsters, Mulder, the Kool-Aid drinker, and Scully, the weary skeptic, develop a dramatic chemistry that propelled the series through nine seasons from 1993 to 2002 (plus a reboot last year that will get another season). Blast through its 208 episodes in one sitting and you’ll believe in aliens, too. —KL

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Aidan Monaghan/AMC
arrow
History
What AMC's The Terror Got Right (And Wrong) About the Franklin Expedition
Aidan Monaghan/AMC
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Terror. If you haven't finished the show, don't read further!

We know the outcome of Captain Crozier's battle with Tuunbaq in the AMC series The Terror, and that he chose (as some rumors have suggested) to live with the Inuit rather than return to London when he has the chance. Now, it's time for a post-mortem (sorry) of the show's historical highlights. While Dan Simmons, author of the book on which the show is based, created Lady Silence and her supernatural evil spirit—Tuunbaq definitely wasn't stalking the men of the Erebus and Terror back in 1847—much of the show is faithful to the actual events of the Franklin expedition, one of the most enduring mysteries in polar exploration. Here's a rundown of what The Terror got right, and where the show slipped up.

RIGHT: THE TERROR’S ARCTIC ATMOSPHERE

A scene from AMC's The Terror with Sir John Franklin and James Fitzjames
Capt. James Fitzjames (Tobias Menzies), left, and Sir John Franklin (Ciaran Hinds) survey the ice.
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

Right off the bat, The Terror envelops viewers in an icy world that increasingly mirrors the crews’ isolation and desperation. In the first tragic scene, a sailor falls overboard into a sea of accurately rendered pancake ice. In another scene, Captain Francis Crozier sees a sun dog—a solar phenomenon caused by sunlight refracting through clouds of ice crystals, often witnessed by polar explorers. The officers' uniforms and caps are also recreated with authentic details. As the hopelessness of their predicament dawns on the officers and men, summer’s 24-hour daylight vanishes, replaced by the 24-hour darkness of winter. The imprisoned ships tilt with the pressure of the pack ice.

There were a few hiccups noticed by sharp-eyed viewers in the Remembering the Franklin Expedition Facebook group, however. Caulker's mate Cornelius Hickey has a fondness for cigarettes, but most sailors probably smoked pipes at the time, and definitely not inside the ship. (Good thing they had that fire hole bored into the ice!) And assistant surgeon Harry Goodsir’s technique with the Daguerrotype camera in the blind would have produced a terrible photo. His 20th-century stopwatch wouldn’t have helped.

WRONG: FRANKLIN’S BACK-UP PLAN

A scene from AMC's The Terror with Sir John Franklin and Capt. Francis Crozier
Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris), right, tries to convince Sir John that they're going to need rescuing pretty soon.
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

In a flashback in Episode 3, Sir John Franklin’s good friend Sir John Ross asks the soon-to-depart commander if the Admiralty had any plans for his rescue. When Franklin says one won’t be needed—since the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are the best-provisioned ships ever sent to the Arctic—Ross warns him that he’s being naïve. In real life, this conversation was much different, and it didn’t take place at the Admiralty.

Franklin and Ross knew firsthand how a well-provisioned expedition can become a fight for survival. (In Episode 6, Captain James Fitzjames hears the story of Ross’s disastrous Victory expedition from the Erebus's ice master Thomas Blanky, who was really there in 1829-1833.) Ross instead offered to rescue Franklin himself, and captained (at age 72!) a privately funded schooner in search of his lost friend in 1850. And because Ross and the Admiralty had had a major falling out decades before, Ross wouldn’t have been chatting with Franklin at the Admiralty's HQ in Episode 3, and he definitely wouldn’t have been there to hear Lady Jane Franklin’s plea for a search party in Episode 4.

Sir John Ross was the uncle of Sir James Clark Ross, whom we see in the first scene of Episode 1 and its replay, from a different point of view, at the end of Episode 10. In real life, Sir James was one of Crozier's closest friends.

WRONG (MAYBE): KILLER CANS

In a foreboding sign of things to come, Franklin removes a tiny blob of lead from his mouth while eating dinner with Fitzjames in the first episode. By Episode 4, the ships’ cooks are complaining that much of the canned meat is spoiled, and able seaman John Morfin shows up in Goodsir’s infirmary with a blackish line along his gums, an ominous sign of lead poisoning. To test that hypothesis, Goodsir feeds the monkey Jacko some of the canned meat, and then reveals his theory to the surgeon Stephen Stanley: The meat is contaminated with lead and the men have been eating it for more than two years.

The storyline is built upon a famous theory that is now in doubt. In the mid-1980s, forensic anthropologists found high levels of lead in Franklin crewmembers' remains. They suggested the source was poorly sealed food cans, and that lead poisoning led to the men’s deaths. But recent research has pointed to the Erebus’s and Terror’s unique water systems [PDF], which used lead pipes, as the primary source of contamination. And, a 2015 study compared lead content among seven crewmembers’ remains and found wide variation, suggesting some men may not have been debilitated.

RIGHT: SERIOUS SCURVY

A scene from AMC's The Terror with Goodsir and Young
Dr. Goodsir (Paul Ready) tries to save David Young (Alfie Kingsnorth).
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

David Young, the first fatality of The Terror, doesn’t show any signs of scurvy in Goodsir’s autopsy. But by the summer of 1848, the remaining crew camped on King William Island hasn’t eaten fresh meat in three years, and the Navy-issued lemon juice rations have either run out or lost potency. Signs of severe Vitamin C deficiency appear: Fitzjames’s old bullet wounds, which he boasted about at the officers' table in the first episode, begin to open up, and a rough-looking Lieutenant George Henry Hodgson loses a tooth as he chews the leather from his boot (a nod to Franklin’s awful 1819-1822 Arctic expedition) in Episode 9. The scenes match what most, though not all, historians and researchers now believe: that a grim combination of scurvy, starvation, exposure, and underlying illnesses spelled the end for Franklin’s men.

(VERY LIKELY) WRONG: FRANKLIN’S CAUSE OF DEATH

A scene from AMC's The Terror with Sir John Franklin and Tunnbaq
Tuunbaq takes a deadly swipe at Sir John.
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

The terrifying scene in Episode 3 in which Tuunbaq mauls Franklin to death and shoves him down the fire hole is most likely not the way it actually happened. Historically speaking, just after the men abandon ship in April 1848, Crozier and Fitzjames updated the note left in the cairn the previous spring. They reported that “Sir John Franklin died on 11th June 1847”—just 19 days after Lieutenant Graham Gore and mate Charles Des Voeux had left the same paper behind on May 24, 1847 and reported the crews “all well.” Unfortunately, it’s the only record ever found about the expedition’s progress, and no one knows for sure how Franklin died or what happened to his body. Inuit oral histories collected by Franklin scholar Louie Kamookak suggest Franklin was buried under a flat stone somewhere on King William Island, but to date, no trace has been found.

RIGHT: THAT CRAZY CARNIVAL

The wild masquerade party in the middle of the bleak and frozen Arctic, which Fitzjames orders as a morale-booster for the men in Episode 6, may seem like a total anachronism. In real life, it was a time-honored tradition. (We don't know for sure if the Erebus and Terror had a carnival because no logbooks from the expedition have been found, but it's likely that they did.) In 1819-1820, Sir Edward Parry led the first polar expedition to purposefully overwinter in the Arctic. He worried about how the men would fare psychologically during the months of darkness and teeth-cracking cold, so he brought along trunks of theatrical costumes and launched the Royal Arctic Theatre, a fortnightly diversion for the officers and men to perform silly plays and musicals. It kept the men busy writing shows, practicing their parts, and building sets, which Parry thought was the key to staying sane. The scheme was such a success that subsequent expeditions kept the tradition going. But unlike in The Terror, the frivolities didn’t end in fiery conflagrations and mass casualties. 

(POSSIBLY) WRONG: HICKEY’S MURDEROUS MUTINY

A scene from AMC's The Terror with Cornelius Hickey
Mr. Hickey (Adam Nagaitis) cooks up a mutiny.
Aidan Monaghan/AMC

In Episode 7, Hickey plans a mutiny and convinces enough of the desperate men to follow him, splitting the remaining officers and men into two groups and, in Episode 9, taking Crozier captive. Hickey also kidnaps Goodsir because, as the expedition’s sole remaining surgeon, he is the only one who knows how to wield a bone saw. We don’t know, though, if there was an actual mutiny among the Franklin survivors. The remains of some of Franklin's men were found in different locations, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a breakdown of order. Smaller groups may have split off from the main group because they simply couldn’t march any farther or had decided to return to the ships. Despite the harsh conditions of service in the Royal Navy, mutinies were quite rare.

RIGHT: CANNIBALISM

Hickey’s followers, starving and desperate, dine on morsels of steward William Gibson in one of Episode 9’s most wrenching scenes with historical precedent. Hudson’s Bay Company trader John Rae discovered the truth about the Franklin expedition from interviews with Inuit in 1854, including testimony that the men resorted to cannibalism to survive. In his infamous letter to the Admiralty, he wrote, “from the mutilated state of many of the bodies, and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last dread alternative as a means of sustaining life.” Victorian England refused to believe it—but Inuit testimony and forensic research [PDF] supported Rae’s account, finally revealing the expedition’s fate.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
arrow
entertainment
15 Actors Who Could've Played Han Solo
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Before Harrison Ford (watch his audition tape here) and Alden Ehrenreich were cast as Han Solo in the Star Wars film franchise, a number of young and famous Hollywood actors had a shot at playing everyone’s favorite “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerfherder.” Here are 15 of them.

1. AL PACINO

After the massive success of the first two The Godfather films, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, Al Pacino was the toast of Hollywood. He was given the script to Star Wars and was offered the Solo job, but turned it down to star in Sydney Pollack’s Bobby Deerfield instead.

“It was at that time in my career when I was offered everything,” Pacino told MTV in 2014. “I was in The Godfather. They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role, if I could act or not act. ‘He’s in The Godfather. Offer him everything!’ So they offered me this movie. And I remember not understanding it when I read it. Another missed opportunity!”

2. MILES TELLER

 Actor Miles Teller attends the 2018 DIRECTV NOW Super Saturday Night Concert at NOMADIC LIVE! at The Armory on February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Christopher Polk, Getty Images for DirecTV

Fresh off the success of Divergent and Whiplash in 2014, Miles Teller’s name appeared on the shortlist of young actors being considered to play the title role in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Believe it or not, he had never watched a single movie set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” before his audition with Lucasfilm.

“I had never even seen any of the original Star Wars movies until maybe a month or a couple weeks before my first audition because I was like, ‘I should check this out,'" Teller told MTV’s Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “I just love Harrison Ford, I think that’s a great character. I love his brand, I mean so many guys would’ve played that part so wrong and he has humor at the right times.”

3. SYLVESTER STALLONE

Before he wrote and starred in Rocky, Sylvester Stallone met with George Lucas and auditioned for the part of Han Solo. He knew he wasn’t going to get the job based on the director’s ambivalent demeanor during his reading.

When asked about the audition in 2010, Stallone told Ain’t It Cool News in 2010, “It didn’t meet with much approval since when I stood in front of George Lucas he didn’t look at me once, obviously being very shy. Then I said ‘Well obviously I’m not the right type.’ but it all worked out for the best since I don’t look good in spandex holding a Ray gun.”

4. ANSEL ELGORT

 Ansel Elgort attends New York City Ballet 2018 Spring Gala at Lincoln Center on May 3, 2018 in New York City
Steven Ferdman, Getty Images

The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort was one of the names on Lucasfilm’s shortlist of young actors for Solo. While he has the good looks to play the rugged space pirate, Elgort was relieved that Alden Ehrenreich was selected instead. 

“Yeah, I was pretty worried, honestly,” Elgort told The Huffington Post. “I was pretty worried that if I got it, I’d have to change my DJ name. So I’m relieved.” (Elgort is also a musician and singer with the DJ name of “Ansølo.” He publishes electronic dance music and remixes on Soundcloud under the pseudonym.)

5. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN

Before his breakout appearances in Annie Hall and The Deer Hunter, a struggling young actor named Christopher Walken auditioned for Han Solo in Star Wars. Although the role went to Ford in the end, Walken was reportedly Lucas’s second choice for the space smuggler.

6. DAVE FRANCO

After starring in hit comedies like Neighbors, Dave Franco auditioned for Lucasfilm. During pre-production in 2016, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—who both also directed Franco in 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie—were set to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story. The pair left the project well into filming due to “creative differences.” Despite a strong audition, Franco ultimately didn’t get the role.

“I’m not good with impressions or anything like that,” Franco told MTV. “I think that’s the reason why it’s so hard to cast this role. Do they want someone to perfectly embody who Harrison Ford is, or do they want to go a completely different route? Do they want someone to look really similar to him? I don’t know, I think they’re struggling with that.”

7. KURT RUSSELL

During the mid-1970s, Kurt Russell auditioned for both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, but Lucas wasn’t sure he was right for either job. While the director was still making up his mind, Russell dropped out of the running altogether to be a series regular on a TV Western called The Quest instead.

“[I was] interviewing for the part of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo," Russell told USA Today. "On tape, it exists. I didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. Something about a Death Star and a Millennium Falcon. I was actually pretty [close], in the final running, but I needed to give an answer to ABC to do a western show. I asked George, ‘Do you think you’re gonna use me?’ He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to put you with him, or those two guys together.’ I got to go to work, so I did the western. Clearly, made the right choice.”

When later asked about his decision to work on The Quest, which lasted just one season, Russell told Vanity Fair: “I don’t have any regrets. As an actor you can’t dwell on those things or you’ll go crazy. Things happen for a reason and I’m happy how things turned out in my career. My life and career may have been different, maybe for better or for worse, if I did Star Wars, but you can’t focus on it. You move on.”

8. SCOTT EASTWOOD

 Scott Eastwood attends the 6th Annual Hilarity For Charity at The Hollywood Palladium on March 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

In 2016, Lucasfilm auditioned more than 2500 actors roughly between the ages of 20 and 25 for Solo. The production company wanted an actor who was young enough to grow with the character through multiple movies. The list was whittled down to just eight names after screen tests, with actor Scott Eastwood—son of Clint—among those in the running. Although he was a favorite with Star Wars fans, Eastwood was 29 years old at the time and the oldest actor on the shortlist.

9. ROBERT ENGLUND

Before he was known as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Englund auditioned for Han Solo. While he didn’t land the gig, Englund took the script home with him, because he thought his roommate would be perfect for the role of Luke Skywalker—and he was right! Englund’s roommate at the time was Mark Hamill, who played the iconic role for more than 40 years, most recently in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“At that time, Mark Hamill was always on my couch,” Englund told ForceMaterial.com. “So there he was, halfway through a six-pack, watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I went in and I said to him, ‘Look at these sides, I think you’re right for this, man. This character is like a space prince, and it’s George Lucas!' ... I was just saying, ‘Wow, what if you got to be in a George Lucas movie, Mark? You’re the kind of actor he loves!’ So he got on the phone to his agent and the rest is history.”

10. LOGAN LERMAN

After gaining critical and commercial success in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Fury, Logan Lerman was reportedly on Lucasfilm’s shortlist of young actors to play Solo. While he didn’t end up landing the gig, Lerman said of the role to MTV, “I don’t think I’d be intimidated. It would just be fun.”

11. JACK REYNOR

 Jack Reynor arriving at the 'Detroit' European Premiere at The Curzon Mayfair on August 16, 2017 in London, England
Tristan Fewings, Getty Images

While audiences might know him as the lead character in the Irish drama What Richard Did or as the love interest in Transformers: Age of Extinction, Irish actor Jack Reynor was on the shortlist for Solo, and was ultimately happy he didn’t get the gig.

“That Han Solo movie is going to be really tough,” Reynor told The Irish Times. “I think the guy who is doing it is a really good actor, but, for myself, I was afraid of it. I kept thinking: if you f**k this up you’ll ruin people’s childhoods. If it doesn’t turn out great, you won’t be forgiven. That’s a lot of responsibility. And even if it goes great, you’ll do it, people will know you only from that and that defines your career. That would be very difficult. For me, working on original material is very important.”

12. BILL MURRAY

While still on Saturday Night Live, it was rumored that Bill Murray was up for Han Solo in A New Hope. In 2015, while at San Diego Comic-Con, Murray addressed the nearly 40-year old rumors: “I don’t know if I was up for it. I can’t tell you for sure. But I am working out in hopes of getting this new thing,” he joked. “I’m doing a lot of swimming and pilates."

13. TARON EGERTON

 Taron Egerton attends the EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) nominees party at Kensington Palace on February 17, 2018 in London, England
Jeff Spicer, Getty Images

Welsh actor Taron Egerton, who starred in Kingsman: The Secret Service and its sequel, was reportedly one of the three names (alongside Reynor and Ehrenreich) on the final shortlist for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Like Reynor, Egerton admitted he was very apprehensive of the role.

“Roles of that level are always going to be life-changing,” Egerton told The Guardian in 2016. “I wouldn’t run into it blind. It would definitely be a shutting-a-door-behind-me moment. That is something that I’d be wary of.”

14. GLYNN TURMAN

Coming off his breakout success in Cooley High in 1975, actor Glynn Turman auditioned for Lucas—but he didn’t even realize he had auditioned for the part of Han Solo until he read about it in Dale Pollock’s book, Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, in 1983.

“In those days it said ‘black actor,’ ‘white actor,’ ‘Hispanic actor’ for every role, but it didn’t say either for the Han Solo part,” Glynn Turman told Empire Magazine in 2017. “It didn’t specify ‘black actor.’ I was rather pleased because I was just being called in as a talent. I remember George was very professional.” Turman must have impressed Lucas, as he was apparently considered for the role of Lando Calrissian as well.

“Later, I was approached for the role, in that same franchise, that [was given to] Billy Dee Williams,” Turman told Yahoo! Entertainment. “Handsome, swashbuckling, dashing Billy Dee. I hate him! Not true. Dear friend and a talented man. Lando Calrissian! That wouldn’t have fit me anyway. But it fits a Billy Dee Williams.”

15. EMORY COHEN

 Actor Emory Cohen attends the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival after party for Vincent N Roxxy at Black Market on April 19, 2016 in New York City
Cindy Ord, Getty Images for 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

In 2016, New York City-born actor Emory Cohen, a.k.a. “the cute guy from Brooklyn in Brooklyn,” was among the contenders to play Han Solo. "I read for it once," he later told The Daily Beast, and joked that, “They don’t even want me!”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER