The 15 Best Political TV Shows on Netflix

TV Lists Netflix
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The 15 Best Political TV Shows on Netflix

Looking to escape the crushing 24 hour news cycle but can’t quit politics? Netflix offers a strong selection of political television in its vast catalog. Diving into historical dramas like Medici: Masters of Florence or Versaille, or visiting alternate realities where aliens have taken over Los Angeles like in Colony, there’s a range of offerings currently available on the streaming giant.

Below are the 15 best political TV shows on Netflix:

section_break.gif

15. Medici: Masters of Florence

Created by: Frank Spotniz, Nicholas Meyer
Stars: Richard Madden, Annabel Scholey, Stuart Martin, Alessandro Sperduti, Dustin Hoffman
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Historical intrigue can make for excellent TV, and though Netflix’s Medici: Masters of Florence goes too far to manufacture drama when the truth is more entertaining, it nonetheless boasts an exceptionally captivating historical premise. Season One commences with the untimely death of the family’s founding patriarch, Giovanni de’Medici, and focuses on his son Cosimo’s push to assert authority over the Florentine Republic. Through a series of flashbacks, we get a clearer sense of the rocky relationship that Cosimo (Richard Madden) has with his wife, Contessina (Annabel Scholey), and how he’s long stood in the shadow of his overbearing parents. A great deal of attention is paid to the threat of rival families like the Albizzi. We are shown a Cosimo who is very much going it alone. He’s unable to trust even his brother, Lorenzo (Stuart Martin), or to put his faith in the abilities of his soft-spoken son, Piero (Alessandro Sperduti). This Cosimo is determined to gain power over the city, but we often find him at the helm of a ship taking on water. —Christine Contrada


14. Versailles

Versailles S3.jpg

Created by: Simon Mirren, David Wolstencroft
Stars: George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, Tygh Runyan, Stuart Bowman, Amira Casar, Evan Williams, Noémie Schmidt, Anna Brewster, Sarah Winter
Original Network: Ovation

Watch on Netflix

The wonderfully opulent and soapy drama Versailles focuses on the reign of France’s King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. The expansion of France, and the increased taxation that lead towards revolution, plays out against the building of the magnificent Versailles, as the series leans into the courtly drama and scandals that defined the era. Blagden is fantastic as a monarch who truly believes he was chosen by God (which leaves him both bold and conflicted), and is matched in confidence by Vlahos as Louis’ brother Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, who often wore women’s clothing and had a long-running affair with the Chevalier of Lorraine. There are mistresses and sexual romps to spare in the series, but also mysteries, double-crossings, and witchcraft. This is not a stuffy historical drama, but a modern-feeling escapade with a minimal glance towards accuracy. We wouldn’t want it any other way. —Allison Keene


13. Reign

reign.jpg

Created by: Laurie McCarthy, Stephanie SenGupta
Stars: Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, Torrance Coombs, Toby Regbo, Jenessa Grant
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

While it’s true that Reign strays from historical facts quite a bit, the sets, costumes, and performances are delightful. Through her marriage, Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane), also becomes Queen Consort of France in 1542. But she, and many others, feel that Mary is the rightful Queen of England, not Elizabeth. Two heads, one crown. Spoiler alert for Reign fans who are not history nerds: When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die… and let’s just say Mary does not become Queen of England. —Madina Papadopoulos


12. Designated Survivor

designated-survivor.jpg

Creator: David Guggenheim
Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett, Tanner Buchanan, Kal Penn
Original Networks: ABC, Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Designated Survivor has proved itself to be quite the show for mid-week network television (though Season Three has been picked up by Netflix after the series’ cancellation at ABC). One-hour dramas on broadcast TV tend to be very soapy—lots of scandalous sex, melodramatic secrets and convoluted plot twists. But this series displays strong writing with various multi-dimensional characters, gripping conflicts and edge-of-your-seat plot twists. Kiefer Sutherland is fantastic as the lead, even if he occasionally goes into that signature whispery voice thing made famous on 24. And the overall premise remains fascinating, not just in terms of exploring the scenario of the designated survivor becoming president, but what happens in the aftermath. —Kristofer Seppala


11. The Last Kingdom

last-kingdom.jpg

Created by: Bernard Cornwell, Nick Murphy
Stars: Alexander Dreymon, Toby Regbo, David Dawson, Tobias Santelmann, Emily Cox, Adrian Bower
Original Network: BBC Two

Watch on Netflix

Set in the 9th and 10th centuries when a united England was just a dream, The Last Kingdom was based on Bernard Cornwell’s historical fiction series, The Saxon Stories, following Uhtred of Bebbanburg, the son one of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy, who is captured as a boy and raised by Danish Vikings. Originally produced for BBC Two, Netflix picked the series up after two seasons, continuing the story through book 8 of the series (the 13th book, War Lord is due for publication in fall of 2020). Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) is pulled in two directions by his loyalties to his Danish adoptive brother Ragnar the Younger (Tobias Santelmann) and the Saxon ruler of Wessex, King Alfred (David Dawson), who has promised to restore him to Bamburgh Castle. It’s a gripping tale of politics and war that should scratch that Game of Thrones itch without the magic and weird choices for late-series character development. Netflix has renewed the show for a fifth series, scheduled for a late-2021 release. —Josh Jackson


10. Colony

Created by: Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal
Stars: Josh Holloway, Sarah Wayne Callies, Peter Jacobson, Amanda Righetti, Tory Kittles
Original Network: USA

Watch on Netflix

Josh Holloway. Need I say more? Okay, fine. Holloway stars as former FBI agent Will Bowman. He and his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies of The Walking Dead) live in Los Angeles, where aliens have invaded and now occupy the city. Nothing can be done without their knowledge. Will and Katie were separated from their son at the time of the invasion and now must decide what lengths they are willing to go to in order to get him back. From executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan Condal, the series plays on the tension between protecting your family and rising up against oppressive invaders and what happens when husband and wife find themselves on different sides of that line. —Shannon M. Houston


9. Ingobernable

Created by: Epigmenio Ibarra, Natassja Ibarra, Verónica Velasco
Stars: Kate del Castillo, Eric Hayser, Fernando Lujan, Eréndira Ibarra, Alberto Guerra
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Ingobernable begins with a little domestic tussle. You know how it goes. You’re Emilia Urquiza (Kate del Castillo), the first lady of Mexico, and your hubby, the charismatic and once-popular young President Diego Nava (Eric Hayser), is a little upset because you’ve served him with divorce papers and caused his ratings to plummet. You know how charismatic and popular young Presidents can have a dark side the public doesn’t see? Well—that. So you’re in your hotel suite and the guy bursts in in a towering rage. He’s beside himself. There are accusations. Someone has screwed someone and/or screwed up everything they’ve worked for, someone’s betrayed someone, someone has in fact betrayed the entire country—holy backstory, this is one freighted tiff! A viewer might be forgiven for developing the impression that the title, “Ungovernable,” is a multi-layered one.

The title sequence, which owes more than a little to James Bond, clearly telegraphs that we’re in for some intrigue and some melodrama, and the series delivers. Del Castillo’s dramatic performance is very strong, and the supporting cast likewise. The frying-pan-to-fire leaps are paced to keep you on the edge of your seat—this woman is trying to flee a world where everyone knows who she is, half of them are looking for her, and almost no one turns out to be very trustworthy. She’s like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, except that we’re only mostly sure she’s been framed. —Amy Glynn


8. Marseille

marseille.jpg

Creator: Dan Franck
Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Benoît Magimel, Géraldine Pailhas, Nadia Fares, Stéphane Caillard
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Drugs, poverty, wealth, violence, and a setting unfamiliar to many-an-American eye? Marseille isn’t quite the French Narcos, but its compelling enough to hook anyone on the prowl for their next binge. Gérard Depardieu plays Robert Taro, the mayor of Marseilles, and the series’ opening shot makes it clear that he’s got a bit of a drug problem. Taro is supposed to be on his way out of office, but the love for (or addiction to) political life keeps him in the game once he sees that dirty dealings are underway. Lucas Barre (Benoît Magimel) is his protégée?turned-faux responsible for said dirty dealings. The series follows the two as they try to uncover each other’s weaknesses, while maintaining their rock-n-roll lifestyles. Barre is a ladies man, whose bedroom affairs are inextricable from his political life. Depardieu is a recovering addict who appears to have things under control for now, but is back to using on the job. There are little dramas unfolding everywhere that contribute to the political tension of the series, but one of the most interesting facets right now has to be the role Taro’s daughter plays in everything. Julia Taro (Stéphane Caillard) is a budding journalist, desperate to make a name for herself away from her father’s shadow—so much so that she refuses to use his last name in her work. Her reporting sends her into the projects of Marseilles, as she’s fascinated by the unique positioning of this very much other world among her home life. The drug deals and violence she encounters there trickle down to the political world of her father—or, the violence, drugs and power struggles in her father’s world are trickling down to the projects. Like Narcos, Marseille seems interested in the effects of the drug world for those living in poverty, versus those in power. Drugs, violence and corruption exist in both worlds, so Marseilles asks what Narcos (along with a show like The Wire) asked: Who are the real criminals? —Shannon M. Houston


7. Borgen

borgen.jpg

Creator: Adam Price
Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Søren Malling
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

One of television#8217;s best political dramas, Borgen was historically hard to find in the U.S., but that changed in 2020 when Netflix picked up the streaming rights for the show’s first three seasons and even signed on to produce a fourth. Following Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudson), a minor centrist politician who, through a series of convenient circumstances, finds herself the first female prime minister of Denmark, the show is one of a handful of Danish series that helped redefine the global TV landscape in the early 2010s. Over the course of the 30 episodes that made up the show’s initial run, Birgitte struggles to hold onto power without compromising her principles and ideals, facing attacks not just from the left and the right, but from within her own cabinet and the dogged press as well.

But while the political intrigue is what ultimately keeps Borgen’s overarching narrative moving, one of the more interesting aspects of the show is its investigation of how Birgitte approaches her career and her home life, engaging with the double standard that women can’t have it all while seemingly also understanding how unfair it is that Birgitte must deal with these issues while men in her same position do not. Much like the political drama at its center, this remains messy and complicated throughout, but always makes you root for Birgitte to succeed. —Kaitlin Thomas


6. Madam Secretary

madam-sec.jpg

Creator: Barbara Hall
Stars: Téa Leoni, Tim Daly, Patina Miller, Geoffrey Arend, Erich Bergen, Željko Ivanek, Bebe Neuwirth, Wallis Currie-Wood
Original Network: CBS

Watch on Netflix

In an era when cable and streaming platforms regularly kick the broadcast networks collective asses up and down the field, it’s a nice surprise when quality programming shows up over the air. After a slow-ish start, CBS’ Madam Secretary had developed into a solid hour of political intrigue, delivering a heady mix of domestic and foreign politics with a soupçon of humor and an interesting portrayal of home life. While the show doesn’t name the president’s party affiliation, it does tackle both real world potentials like dirty bombs on US soil and a coup in Iran, as well as “ripped-from-the-headlines” bits like increased relations with Cuba and Boko Haram kidnappings. Tea Leoni is everything you’d want as a TV Secretary of State, and rather than simply using her family (including the always exceptional Tim Daly as husband Henry) and staff (I’d watch Bebe Neuwirth read a phone book) as occasional one-note props, creator Barbara Hall has developed well-rounded characters and given them all meaningful plotlines, something that’s often difficult to do with a large cast. —Mark Rabinowitz


5. Bodyguard

Creator: Jed Mercurio
Stars: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

In Jed Mercurio’s exquisite actioner, there are no rooftop chases, no ticking clocks, no fisticuffs with the villain’s henchmen. Instead, the six-part series finds suspense in watchful camerawork and careful pacing, and it’s this thorough control that makes Bodyguard worthy of your next TV obsession: It refuses shortcuts, rejects ellipses, until it approaches the effect of real time. Rather than treat this as a gimmick though, star Richard Madden and directors Thomas Vincent and John Strickland use the technique to create potent echoes of protagonist David Budd’s torturous vigilance, and indeed the nation’s. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, David receives an assignment to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), a rising political star with her eye on 10 Downing Street—and a reputation as a national security hardliner. The result is an ingenious layering of form atop function, all within the context of a taut political thriller: The series is less 24 or House of Cards than Homeland at its most momentous, stripped of all but its hero’s ability to see what others miss. —Matt Brennan


4. Scandal

Creator: Shonda Rhimes
Stars: Kerry Washington, Guillermo Díaz, Joe Morton
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Netflix

When so much of a show’s plot is made up of infuriatingly dramatic cliffhangers, it can be deeply satisfying to experience a series, like Scandal, on Netflix. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, have no clue what a Gladiator in a suit is, and don’t know whether you’re Team Jake or Team Fitz, there’s no time like the present. Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, a lawyer and crisis management expert who represents high-profile politicians and other clientele in Washington D.C. AKA the people running this great nation, who always seem to find themselves in the midst of a scandal. Based on real-life D.C. fixer Judy Smith (the former Bush Administration aide who has represented folks like Monica Lewinsky, Kobe Bryant, and former Senator Larry Craig), Pope is a formidable character, often as much of a scandalous megalomaniac as her clientele. Sure, Rhimes (also the Created by of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice) draws on many-a-cliche for this series—endless love triangles, characters killed off at a moment’s notice, etc. But Scandal is, simultaneously, a refreshing and forward-thinking experience, with a black woman at the head of a very bizarre Scooby gang (brought to us by Weeds actor Guillermo Díaz, along with Darby Stanchfield, Katie Lowes, and Columbus Short), one of the first gay villains on television, and a stark quality that seeks to peel the mask off of American politics. Funny, sexy, downright frightening at times, and complete with an amazing ‘70s soundtrack for every episode, Scandal is the stuff Netflix binge-watching dreams made of. —Shannon M. Houston


3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

star-trek-ds9.jpg

Creator: Rick Berman, Michael Piller
Stars: Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Michael Dorn, Nicole de Boer
Original Network: Syndication

Watch on Netflix

Deep Space Nine was an experiment in a different type of Star Trek property, one not built around a spaceship/warship traveling and exploring the edges of the known universe. Rather, DS9 was an advanced but static outpost where emissaries of various alien races came to congregate, trade and conduct business. The show featured the first and still only black commander-in-chief as lead protagonist and was noted for the diversity of its alien cast and their well-defined characters. It also tackled topics of religion more effectively and extensively than any of the Star Trek series to date, as the Bajoran Wormhole near DS9 was integral to both the series’ plot and the religious beliefs of the Bajoran people, several of whom served as crew. It was never quite as popular as Next Generation, but that was a tough assignment to follow. —Jim Vorel


2. House of Cards

house of cards 75.jpg

Creator: Beau Willimon
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

It’s been called a gamble. It’s been called a revolutionary step in television. However you look at it, House of Cards is certainly something you need to witness. Whether you watch all the episodes in one sitting or spaced out over a few weeks, the show has an undeniable draw that will suck you in. The political thriller, starring the now disgraced Kevin Spacey, is an adaptation of BBC’s show of the same name (also worth checking out on Netflix). It sets out to take on drama juggernauts from HBO, Showtime and AMC; succeeding in part. The most compelling aspect of the show is Spacey’s take on Frank Underwood. He’s able to carry scenes and sometimes entire episodes. The series focuses on Underwood’s ruthless rise to power alongside—and, at times, in opposition to—his icy, ambitious wife, Claire (Robin Wright). The show lies somewhere between the exceptionally boundary pushing Homeland and the intelligence of the early West Wing episodes. —Adam Vitcavage


1. The Crown

Creator: Peter Morgan
Stars: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Jeremy Northam, Victoria Hamilton, Anton Lesser, Matthew Goode
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

In its first two seasons, creator Peter Morgan’s lavish treatment of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II hinges on Claire Foy’s utterly captivating performance as the flinty monarch; the impeccable period detail; a sense of historical scope that outstrips its forebears, Morgan’s 2006 film The Queen and 2013 play The Audience. But to call The Crown simply “lavish” seems unfair. Rather, as time marches on from the early days of Elizabeth’s reign, we move in to the Suez Crisis of in 1956, and the Profumo affair of 1963. Through the series, its elaborates, thoughtful style and episodic structure fleshes out the supporting characters, including Elizabeth’s husband, Philip (Matt Smith), and sister, Margaret (the standout Vanessa Kirby), by turning the focus away from the queen herself. It’s a surprisingly full-throated examination of Britain’s public life, and its public figures’ private ones.

The new chapter of Netflix’s opulent celebration of the monarchy opens in 1964 and concludes with her Silver Jubilee in 1977. In an era of binge, Peter Morgan’s historical drama continues to distinguish itself as a series devoted to episodic storytelling, almost acting like an anthology within itself. To that end, Season 3 introduces us to a new cast to reflect the new timeframe: Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies is now Prince Philip, Margaret transforms into Helena Bonham Carter, and we are introduced to Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), Princess Anne (Erin Doherty).

The weight of the crown itself is felt throughout, mainly in how unhappy it makes all of these very privileged people who constantly consider “the life unlived.” Each of these serve as a brief glimpse of possibilities that are never allowed to materialize because of the realities of position and duty, but that sacrifice in the face of something greater becomes increasingly harder to defend as the years go on. But in this moment, Elizabeth is at a point where all she knows is that she must simply carry on. And so, indeed—as the series takes great pains to argue—must the crown. —Matt Brennan and Allison Keene



For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

More from Netflix