Talking about Apple TV Plus’ best shows and movies used to be a conversation that lasted minutes and not hours. These days, the conversation is no longer just around the antics of coach Theodore “Ted” Lasso. Yes, while we expected Ted Lasso season 3 to drop this summer, we forgot all about that as For All Mankind soared, Black Bird impressed and Severance broke our brains.
Over the last years since its 2019 launch, Apple TV has slowly built a worthy library, especially for its low price ($4.99 per month). This also includes CODA, which won best picture at the 2022 Oscars. And if you love that movie, we’ve pulled the top Apple TV Plus movies and shows to watch after CODA. This list includes excellent shows about to deliver their third seasons, excellent sitcoms, fantastic films and some neat surprises. Music documentaries, it turns out, may be one of Apple TV Plus’ core competencies.
While Apple TV Plus doesn’t own a slot on our best streaming services list yet, more shows and movies as good as these could get it there.
Best Apple TV Plus shows
For All Mankind
The fascinating “what if” premise is just the start of the amazing, wild ride that is For All Mankind. In the first moments of the series premiere, the Soviets beat America to the Moon. Thus, the space race never ends and an entirely different version of history is born. If the U.S. couldn’t put the first person on the Moon, they want to win at other accomplishments like building the first permanent lunar base, establishing a permanent rotation of residents, and being the first to step foot on Mars.
That said, For All Mankind has quietly become the best Apple TV Plus show by staying strong for three whole seasons. Not only did it begin with an impressive (yet slow-starting) first season, but its thrilling season 2 finale was followed by an equally engaging third season that has us wondering what comes next. All the while, it’s been on par with the other top shows of 2022 — Severance and Better Call Saul come to mind. — Kelly Woo
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Michael Dorman, Wrenn Schmidt, Sarah Jones, Shantel VanSanten
Year: 2019-2023 (Ongoing)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
True crime dramatizations live and fail on one thing: performances. Since we know how the story ends (or can at least google it), shows such as Black Bird have to deliver the goods to make us stop what we’re doing and make us focus on the drama. Black Bird, an Apple TV Plus miniseries about James Keene’s trip into a maximum security jail to try and get himself out of minimum security jail, is told through the eyes of Taron Egerton, who plays Keene with charisma.
That said, Black Bird’s real power comes from Paul Walter Hauser, who is playing serial confessor and prime suspect Larry Hall. Suspected of killing young girls, Hall has already confessed to to the crimes, but he’s not exactly a reliable narrator. So, Keene is tasked to talk some actual evidence out of the truly creepy Hall. Recently finishing its first and likely only season, Black Bird gets better and more haunting with each episode — and it should be a show that gets people to sign up for Apple TV Plus. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, Greg Kinnear, Ray Liotta
Genre: True crime drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Effort is rewarded. That’s not the lesson of Pachinko, a far-reaching historical epic about generations of a Korean immigrant family, but what I learned while watching it. One of the best shows of the year, Pachinko is also dense and layered. It even presents subtitles with different colors, as the use of Japanese and Korean language is intrinsic to the series.
Since so much of the story is told in its language, Pachinko is hopefully benefitting from the current trend where the public isn’t as put off by subtitles as it was prior. But with its subtly-told stories (this is no Squid Game), you’re going to want to pay attention at each step. Beautifully shot, expertly acted and marvelous down to each strand of its proverbial DNA, Pachinko is proof that Apple TV Plus’ eye for quality is strong. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Youn Yuh-jung, Jin Ha, Eun-chae Jung, Min-ha Kim, Jimmi Simpson
Genre: Historical drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Apple had us at Elizabeth Moss, who stars in its time-bending crime mystery series Shining Girls, an adaptation of Lauren Beukes’ novel. In this series, Moss plays newspaper researcher Kirby Mazrachi, who was the victim of a horrific attack that left a mental trauma on her that is extremely difficult to manage. Details in her life, including where she lives, keep shifting without warning.
But when Kirby’s cold case seems to get warm, as similar victims emerge, it seems like she might get some answers. But to figure it all out, she’ll have to work on the case herself. Kirby begins to find clues, despite the fact that her attacker (Jamie Bell) seems to live a step head of everyone. The series’ mind-bending conceit may be confusing, but Moss makes Shining Girls one of the best Apple TV Plus shows. We’re curious to see how it ends, though. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Elizabeth Moss, Wagner Moura, Phillipa Soo, Chris Chalk, Amy Brenneman, Jamie Bell
Genre: Crime drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
The Essex Serpent
Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes), a London widower who is finally pursuing her own interests, finds herself in a very murky situation when she goes to investigate a local legend of a serpent abducting townsfolk in Essex. And while she want to bring a scientific approach to her search, the townsfolk seem to immediately distrust her as an outsider.
There, she meets Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston), the local vicar who she bonds with at first. But as the people of Essex start to blame Cora, her new friend doesn’t seem like he’s going to be able to help her. The Essex Serpent is a limited series that just started, but its strong first episodes have us eager to recommend it.
Cast: Claire Danes, Tom Hiddleston, Clémence Poésey
Genre: Period piece/Mystery
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
High school reunions shouldn’t have any more drama than old crushes potentially renewed and long-settled rivalries that could bubble up. The Afterparty, though, revolves around the least-likely high school reunion, one that turns into a crime scene as someone is mysteriously killed. On top of that? This whodunit is also a comedy. We won’t spoil who dies, but with a murder’s row of comedic greats — Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Ben Schwartz, Ilana Glazer, Ike Barinholtz and Dave Franco to name a few — the show is almost too-full of funny folks. One had to die.
Even better, The Afterparty is a perfect binge-watch because of the show’s format. As each main suspect is interrogated, they tell their own awkward reunion story and the show takes the form of how they see the world. One episode is a romantic comedy, another an action movie. One episode is an animated adventure, another is a thriller. The Afterparty is such a hit that Apple TV Plus has ordered The Afterparty season 2. While the series sounds like it could have mostly different casts between seasons, it’s been confirmed that Tiffany Haddish isn’t the only returning cast member next year. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Ben Schwartz
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
Little in our personal everyday lives these days is more frustrating and relatable than a poor work/life balance. Some of us take our frustrations with our bosses home with us on a nightly basis, while others can’t stop working. Severance asks, “But what if there was another way?” No, not by developing a healthy balance or seeking therapy. But by severing the nerves in your brain that connect your work and non-work memories. That mind-boggling premise is the center of Severance, which you need to binge watch now.
Severance works so well because Adam Scott is perfectly awkward for the role of Mark Scout. Mark is one of the many worker-bees at Lumon, the company that performs severance on its employees, who then live two lives. Your “innie” lives a life of only work, while your “outie” doesn’t know anything about their day-job and lives the rest of the life. A less satirical and more horrifying spin on Black Mirror, Severance is replacing Ted Lasso as Apple TV’s most heralded show.
The Severance finale, though, was one of the most exhilarating TV episodes in recent history. Revelation after revelation had us almost screaming at our TVs, and the amazing performances of supporting cast members Zach Cherry and Britt Lower made it all the more intense. We cannot wait for Severance season 2. Can’t we just get our own “severance” that lets us fast-forward to the next episode? — Henry T. Casey
Seasons: 1 (9 episodes)
Cast: Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Britt Lower
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Fans of Broadway musicals — particularly mid-century musicals — should make a plan to visit Schmigadoon!, Apple TV Plus’ stab at a show where everyone’s prone to breaking out into song. Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong play a couple out on a hike who stumble into the mythical village of Schmigadoon and discover that anything from a lover’s spat to a bowl of corn pudding is likely to trigger a big Broadway production number. They also discover that they can’t escape Schmigadoon until they’ve found true love. It’s hard to say which discovery is more horrifying.
Schmigadoon is packed with a supporting cast of Broadway heavyweights including Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana DeBose and Aaron Tveit, among others. And the references to everything from Carousel to The Music Man to Oklahoma! fly thick and fast. That the songs are actually pretty toe-tapping will make even people who shy away from musicals succumb to Schmigadoon’s charms. — Philip Michaels
Cast: Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Armisen, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming
Genre: Musical comedy
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
If any Apple TV show needs no introduction, it’s Ted Lasso. The story of the titular American college football coach who manages to find himself in over his head coaching the other football (call it soccer if you must) in the United Kingdom is likely the most-loved Apple TV Plus series, if not the most buzzed about online. It’s not hard to see why Ted Lasso drew a strong fandom in short order, either.
Arriving during the Covid-19 pandemic, when everything was dire, Ted Lasso’s brand of wholesomeness (from the character and the show) was a winning strategy. As a coach of a losing team, Lasso’s upbeat energy completely upended the toxic masculinity that was always just about to rip AFC Richmond apart. And the show’s upbeat energy helped it stand out from the sea of depressing prestige TV (which we still love). And while season 2 wasn’t always a crowd pleaser, the latter half ended well enough to have us excited for Ted Lasso season 3. Speaking of which, Want a refresher on what comes next for Coach Lasso? Check out our 5 big questions for Ted Lasso season 3. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein
Year: 2020-2021 (ongoing)
Rotten Tomatoes scores: 92% (season 1), 97% (season 2)
Tailor-made for fans of musicals and the animated series Bob’s Burgers, Central Park posits that families actually live in NYC’s iconic park. In this case, it’s the Tillerman–Hunter family, which makes sense as patriarch Owen Tillerman (voiced by Leslie Odom Jr.) is the park manager. Much like Bob Belcher, though, Owen doesn’t get much respect from anyone around him, even as he does his best to make sure the park stays in pristine condition. Filled with excellent songs, a fantastic cast and plenty of laughs, Central Park is probably the best Apple TV Plus show that more people should be watching. — Henry T. Casey
Voice cast: Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, Josh Gad, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Stanley Tucci, Emmy Raver-Lampman
Genre: Animated sitcom
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
The Morning Show
The Morning Show has been a story of the reinventions of television, not just in the show-within-a-show hosted by Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), but the series itself. While season 1 of TMS focused on the downfall of talk show host Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) due to sexual impropriety at the workplace, the series was never meant to take that angle on — but was later reworked to do so (following the news of Matt Lauer’s misconduct).
The same thing happened in the second season, where The Morning Show — which is practically required to be topical — fit the Covid-19 outbreak into its story. While the second season is a bit more soapy, it seems to have discovered a better sense of the kind of drama it is. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Steve Carell
Year: 2019-2021 (ongoing)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%
In the annals of “shows we never knew we needed,” Mythic Quest ranks highly, because a live action series about the life of video game developers just didn’t sound riveting. Our opinions changed, though, when we met the egotistical Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney), the timid Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) and the rest of the dysfunctional team behind the online game Mythic Quest.
The secret sauce of Mythic Quest is that McElhenney isn’t the only veteran of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on hand. Both Charlie Day, Megan Ganz and David Hornsby (who is also in the cast) executive produce Mythic Quest. While Mythic Quest’s characters are less heinous than the Sunny gang, you can see that the show carries the excellent banter from that series over. — Henry T. Casey
Seasons: 2 + 2 special event episodes
Cast: Rob McElhenney, Ashly Burch, Jessie Ennis, Imani Hakim, David Hornsby, Charlotte Nicdao, Danny Pudi, F. Murray Abraham
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
The show about one of America’s greatest poets is fittingly lyrical, beautiful and brief. Hailee Steinfeld stars as Emily, the often-misunderstood middle child of her family who has a penchant for penning verses that cut right to the bone (and heart). Dickinson is brimming with anachronisms in the language, casting and needle drops. But they’re never jarring; instead, they connect the modern viewer to the still-relevant difficulties faced by a young, ambitious, talented woman. As she grapples with her place in the world, her sexuality and her legacy, Emily turns her feelings into poems that will ultimately transcend time. — Kelly Woo
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Toby Huss, Adrian Blake Enscoe, Anna Baryshnikov, Ella Hunt
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
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Best Apple TV Plus movies
Beastie Boys Story
The Beastie Boys (MCA, Mike D and Ad Rock) were one of the most popular rap groups of their era, but never got to tell their own story until this Spike Jonze-directed feature. But the film isn’t your standard documentary. Instead, it’s a recording of a live stage show with Mike D and Adam Horovitz telling their stories on stage, with archival footage mixed in. A true must-watch for any Beasties fan, Beastie Boys Story is easily one of the best Apple TV Plus movies. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch, Spike Jonze
Genre: Music documentary
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
The acronym in the title stands for “child of deaf adults,” and in this case, it’s 17-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones). Living in Gloucester, Ruby interprets for her deaf parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) and deaf older brother (Daniel Durant), plus helps out with the family’s fishing business. Encouraged by a music teacher, Ruby develops a passion for singing, which mystifies her parents. It also hurts them — her mother asks if she would want to paint if they were blind. With a big choir audition coming up, Ruby feels torn between her dreams and the needs of her family. The heartwarming story, fine performances and excellent sound production made this one of the best movies of 2021. — Kelly Woo
Cast: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Take it from me, someone who is no fan of the works of William Shakespeare, and never really got a grip on the way he writes: The Tragedy of Macbeth is a phenomenal film. Director, producer and writer Joel Coen brings an artfully minimalist look to The Scottish Play, though it’s Denzel Washington’s gripping performance as Lord Macbeth that makes the film emotionally powerful whether you can translate each line or not. Additional points are given for how this take on Macbeth shows an actually positive and loving relationship between the Lord and his Lady Macbeth (Frances McDormand). — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Corey Hawkins, Harry Melling
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
The Velvet Underground
Much like Beastie Boys Story, the 2021 documentary The Velvet Underground is a huge treat for fans of the band. The film’s success is derived from director Todd Haynes, who’s created a visually dynamic collage from the source material provided to him. Interviews with John Cale and Maureen “Moe” Tucker help ground the film in storytelling, as Haynes isn’t interested in narrative arcs. — Henry T. Casey
Cast: Mary Woronov, Jonathan Richman, John Cale, Maureen Ann Tucker, Sterling Morrison, Lou Reed
Genre: Music documentary
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
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