The 13 Best Political TV Shows on Netflix

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The 13 Best Political TV Shows on Netflix

Are you looking to escape the crushing 24 hour news cycle but can’t quit politics? Interested in following politics in a world that isn’t a total nightmare? Well, the latter might not actually be possible, but Netflix still offers a strong selection of political TV shows (or at least political-adjacent) in its catalog. Whether you’re interested in diving into historical dramas out of Europe like The Crown or staying closer to home with The Night Agent and Designated Survivor, there is a range of offerings currently available on the streaming giant.

Below are the 13 best political TV shows on Netflix, or check out our full list of the best TV shows on Netflix.

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13. Kingdom

 

Created by: Kim Eun-hee, Kim Seong-hun
Stars: Ju Ji-hoon, Ryu Seung-ryong, Bae Doo-nam, Kim Sung-kyu
Original Network: Netflix

If you’re up for it, Kingdom is a political drama wrapped inside a horror series. American (or even just Western) zombies are almost always the driving point of the narrative—representing big nasty threats like national anxiety about disease, nuclear war, capitalism, the collapse of society, and racism—often limiting the genre’s possibilities and focusing their plots largely on external forces. By contrast, in Kingdom (transported to South Korea’s Joseon period) these stories become more interested in how existing structures (and the normal people living inside them) handle the threat, and how coping makes them better equipped for the inevitable return to normal. Western zombie shows allow their audiences to appreciate how society adapts to these monstrous allegories, forming the factional city-states of The Walking Dead (Alexandria, Hilltop, Woodbury) or the religious zeal of Santa Clarita Diet’s Anne Garcia (Natalie Morales); Korean zombies rage in a society that ultimately stays the same. The latter’s evils are amplified and exposed by the zombies, but the infected undead also catalyze a satisfying hero’s journey in the midst of misguided magistrates, fear-based isolationism, and class warfare. —Jacob Oller

 


12. Designated Survivor

The 5 Best Moments from Designated Survivor: "The Results"

 

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

Designated Survivor proved itself to be quite the show for mid-week network television (though Season 3 streamed on 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

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

Set in the 9th and 10th centuries when a united England was just a dream, The Last Kingdom is 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 several of the books. 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. The show ultimately ran for five seasons, while a follow-up feature known as Seven Kings Must Die completed the story. —Josh Jackson

 


10. The Recruit

Spy Thriller The Recruit Is a Nifty Netflix Upgrade for Noah Centineo

Creator: Alexi Hawley
Stars: Noah Centineo, Laura Haddock, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Aarti Mann, Colton Dunn, Fivel Stewart, Daniel Quincy Annoh, Kristian Bruun
Original Network: Netflix

Netflix heartthrob Noah Centineo stars in this political thriller that gets by on a lot of smarm and sexual tension before you remember that all the witty coolness is in service of making the CIA look cool. Still, writer Alexi Hawley has clearly done a commendable amount of research in the rigorous and baffling codenames and procedures CIA agents have to go through to avoid getting blamed for shitstorms, and it’s a perfect fit for someone we know from teen movies to be thrown in for maximum overwhelming-ness. The story clips along fine, thanks to a flashy visual style courtesy of spy-action pro Doug Liman, but admittedly feels cluttered—just try to remember all the names and motives that relentlessly pile up halfway through the show. Still, if Netflix are gunning for a big hit, it could be a lot worse! –Rory Doherty

 


9. Ingobernable

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

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

Drugs, poverty, wealth, violence, and a setting unfamiliar to many-an-American eye? Marseille isn’t quite the French Narcos, but it’s 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 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 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. The Night Agent

Creator: Shawn Ryan
Stars: Gabriel Basso, Luciane Buchanan, Hong Chau, D.B. Woodside, Eve Harlow, Phoenix Raei, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Sarah Desjardins, Enrique Murciano
Original Network: Netflix

Created by Shawn Ryan and based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quirk, The Night Agent quickly became one of Netflix’s most successful shows when it debuted in March 2023. Gabriel Basso stars as Peter Sutherland, an employee of the FBI recruited to monitor a basement emergency phone that never rings… that is, of course, until one day it does. When Peter answers, it’s Rose Larkin (Luciane Buchanan), a former cybersecurity CEO whose aunt and uncle—members of the mysterious Night Agent program—were just murdered. As Peter works to protect Rose from the assailants, he finds himself thrust into a massive political conspiracy involving family secrets and a mole in the highest levels of the U.S. government. With plenty of action, surprising twists and turns, and steady performances that elevate the narrative, The Night Agent is an easy and fast binge. It’s exactly the type of series that Netflix should be making more of. —Kaitlin Thomas

 


6. The Diplomat

The Diplomat on Netflix

Creator: Debora Cahn
Stars: Keri Russell, David Gyasi, Ali Ahn, Rory Kinnear, Ato Essandoh
Original Network: Netflix

Following hits like The West Wing, Veep, and The Thick of It, how do you make a serious political show, or at least one that takes the diplomatic game seriously? Netflix’s answer is The Diplomat, starring Keri Russell as ambassador Kate Wyler and Rufus Sewell as Hal Wyler, a disgraced ambassador who also happens to be her husband. Kate is on the verge of a career posting to Kabul, charged with picking up the pieces from the Afghanistan mess, when fate intervenes with a terrorist attack on a British warship that results in over 40 dead. The general belief is that it’s an Iranian attack designed to send a message to the United States, and as rhetoric escalates on the U.S. and U.K. side, she’s sent to London as a peacemaker. Hal comes along, and things quickly get complicated as it emerges that Iran is likely not behind the attack, but that diplomatic momentum may be propelling the two sides into a war anyway. If misinterpreted intelligence leading to a war in the Middle East sounds familiar, The Diplomat is also aware, and references Iraq with some frequency. But deep down, this show isn’t about Iraq, Iran, or really even global politics at all. It’s about the strange interplay between husband and wife, which has become complex enough that divorce seems imminent. This dynamic between Kate and Hal saves the show, which is otherwise stuck between sincerity and cynicism, comedy and drama. Russell and Sewell are worth the price of admission, and if you treat The Diplomat as the story of a really screwed up marriage, rather than a tale of international intrigue, you’ll come away pleased. —Shane Ryan

 


5. Borgen

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

One of television’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 signed on to produce a fourth (known as Borgen: Power & Glory). 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

 


4. Madam Secretary

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

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’s Madam Secretary 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 developed well-rounded characters and gave them all meaningful plotlines, something that’s often difficult to do with a large cast. —Mark Rabinowitz

 


3. Bodyguard

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

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

 


2. House of Cards

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Creator: Beau Willimon
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly
Original Network: 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. 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, Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, Josh O’Connor, Erin Doherty, Emma Corrin, Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki
Original Network: 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 on to the Suez Crisis of 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 second 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, Morgan’s historical drama distinguishes 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 Prince Philip, Margaret transforms into Helena Bonham Carter, and we are introduced to Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty). In Season 5, the show transforms yet again as the royals age and time marches on. Imelda Staunton takes over as Elizabeth, Jonathan Pryce portrays Philip, and Lesley Manville is the new Margaret. Meanwhile, Dominic West succeeds O’Connor as Charles, while Elizabeth Debicki steps into the shoes of Princess Diana (portrayed in Season 4 by Emma Corrin).

The weight of the crown itself is felt throughout the series, 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 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


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