Sex and the City
Photograph: Courtesy of HBO

35 best '90s TV shows and where to stream them now

Who doesn't love a heap of TV nostalgia? These are the 35 best '90s TV shows to catch up on and where to stream them

Anna RahmananMatthew Singer
Written by: Matthew Singer
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Television is widely thought to have entered its golden age in the early 2000s, but the road there was paved by the previous decade. In many ways, the ’90s completely changed the idea of what the medium could accomplish. It’s where Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld reinvented the sitcom. It’s where David Lynch actually got a spot in primetime. And it’s where HBO set up the revolution of the coming millennium by introducing a crime drama for the ages. 

If you weren’t around back then – or ‘didn’t even own a TV’, as Gen X liked to brag – it’s a good time to catch up. The ’90s are everywhere again, in fashion, music and all over streaming platforms. Here are 35 can’t-miss suggestions, along with where to find them.

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Best '90s TV shows

1. Twin Peaks

When it aired: 1990-1991, 2017

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Paramount+, Showtime

This horror drama series, created by David Lynch back in 1990, follows the murder investigation of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the fictional town of Twin Peaks. Although the show was canceled due to declining ratings after two seasons, it established a cult following that led to a 2017 revival on Showtime. Many original cast members, including Kyle MacLachlan, reprised their roles almost three decades later. You'll only have access to the first two original seasons on these streaming platforms, but why not see what all the fuss is about?

2. Seinfeld

When it aired: 1989-1998

Where to stream it today: Netflix

Seinfeld famously referred to itself as a ‘show about nothing,’ but that’s not totally accurate. In truth, it was a show about everything: the annoyances, banalities and seemingly trivial social rules that govern daily life – the small but instantly recognisable conflicts that went largely unspoken until the show made them part of the common lexicon. Across nine seasons, series co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David reinvented TV comedy. No longer did sitcoms feel pressure to teach us any grand life lessons, nor was it even a prerequisite to have protagonists that were actually good people. And yet, it was nearly impossible to dislike the Seinfeld crew, because deep down, you always sort of agreed with their point of view, even if you’d never behave like them. In other words, it wasn’t a show about nothing; it was a show about everyone. Or to put it even more clearly: it was gold, Jerry! Gold!

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3. The Simpsons

When it aired: 1990-today

Where to stream it today: Disney+

The longer it continues to air, the less The Simpsons seems to belong to any particular era. But if you were a kid in the early ‘90s, you know the degree to which America’s favorite jaundiced family absolutely ruled popular culture. The Bartman? ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns’? The Butterfinger commercials? The bootleg Bart Simpson shirts sold on every boardwalk in America? Even tangentially related stuff, like the premiere of Michael Jackson’s controversial ‘Black or White’ video following an episode in 1991, are etched into the memories of a generation. And then, of course, there’s the consensus that the show’s first nine seasons represent its undisputed ‘golden years’. Maybe some people prefer everything that’s come after 1999. We don’t know. Frankly, we don’t want to know. It’s a market we can do without.   

4. The Sopranos

When it aired: 1999-2007

Where to stream it today: HBO Max

The Sopranos is considered by many critics to have kicked off the golden age of television. The late James Gandolfini plays Tony Soprano, a mobster living in New Jersey, as he tries to balance his family life with his life of crime. Since its pilot first aired, The Sopranos has gone on to become a favorite of critics and mobsters alike—members of organized crime groups would often call Gandolini to commend him for his authentic performance, so you know you’re getting the real deal. In 2021, a prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, was released, starring the late James Gandolfini's son Michael as Tony Soprano. 

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5. The X-Files

When it aired: 1993-2018

Where to stream it today: Hulu

The science-fiction drama centers around Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, two FBI agents investigating paranormal-related cases, and it is clearly worth catching. After a nine-season run following its first premiere in 1993, The X-Files concluded; however, in 2016, a successful revival led executives to work on a previously unplanned eleventh season, which aired in 2018. The show continues to be a mainstay of pop culture as fans relish the comradery between Mulder and Scully as they crack the most occult cases.

6. Sex and the City

When it aired: 1998-2004

Where to stream it today: HBO Max

With the further adventures of Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte (Samanta, unfortunately, is nowhere to be seen) now playing out in HBO Max’s And Just Like That, there’s no better time to revisit the O.G. series. Sure, some of it has aged worse than Carrie’s old Macintosh laptop, but you can’t deny that revisiting the lives of these four, fabulous and fashionable single women as they navigate the snake pit that is the dating world of New York is still highly watchable. Also, it’s great for any retro fashion inspo.

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7. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

When it aired: 1990-1996

Where to stream it today: HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+

The ’90s were a boom time for mainstream Black sitcoms, owing to the culture-shifting success of The Cosby Show a decade earlier, but if any TV family were true descendents of the upper middle-class Huxtables, it was the plainly upper-class Bankses. We say ‘descendents’ rather than ‘successors’, because The Fresh Prince seemed pitched directly at a generation too young to connect with Cosby, or Bill Cosby himself for that matter. (And, well, good on them for that.) Instead, it shifted the perspective to teenage Will Smith, a streetwise smartass from Philadelphia sent to live with his rich relatives in Southern California. Smith was already a rap star, of course, but this is where he flashed his A-list charisma – and, in the Very Special Episodes, his awards potential. The moment when he collapses into his uncle Phil’s arms, sobbing over his absentee biological father, is nearly as memorable as the mega-parasitic earworm of a theme song he wrote and performed himself.

8. Friends

When it aired: 1994-2004

Where to stream it today: HBO Max

Friends is arguably the biggest sitcom of all time. About a group of six friends who live in New York City, it helped turn its cast – Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer – from relative newcomers into household names. Even 27 years after it premiered, the show is still beloved, gaining a whole new cohort of fans when it was previously streaming on Netflix. It remains so popular that there are constantly calls for a movie sequel or reboot, and the cast even got together in 2021 for an emotional reunion special, which not only served up some delicious gossip from behind the scenes but was a reminder of just how much we all still love Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe.

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9. Beverly Hills, 90210

When it aired: 1990-2000

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Paramount+, Pluto TV

The teen drama that spawned hundreds of others, Beverly Hills, 90210 is still referenced today as an emblem of the '90s. Over its four seasons, we’re able to see the characters transition from high school through college and into the adult world in a spiraling development of friendships and romantic relationships. The show was notable for tackling a variety of topical issues including teen pregnancy, divorce, drugs, sex, homophobia, eating disorders, and more.  As such, it stands the test of time. 

10. Law & Order

When it aired: 1990-2010

Where to stream it today: Peacock, NBC

Not only did Law & Order air for 20 years, but current reruns still gather huge audiences—and for good reason. The police and legal drama centered around the legal system and was filmed on location in New York. The majority of the episodes are inspired by actual media headlines, and the show led to plenty of different spin-offs, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: LA, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

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11. Martin

When it aired: 1992-1997

Where to stream it today: BET+, HBO Max

Based in Detroit, Martin stars Martin Lawrence, the show's star and namesake, who plays a radio DJ with a bit of a smart mouth. The show centers around Martin's escapades with his girlfriend, played by Tisha Campbell, and his friends. Importantly, Martin was influential in showing that TV shows centered on African American culture could be successful. However, it should be noted that co-worker Tichina Arnold filed against Lawrence for sexual harassment and abuse by the show's fifth season.

12. Will & Grace

When it aired: 1998-2020

Where to stream it today: Hulu

Will & Grace, a sitcom about the friendship between a gay lawyer (Eric McCormack) and a straight interior designer (Debra Messing) in New York City, aired on NBC until 2006 for a total of eight seasons. In 2017, the show was revived with the same cast on the same network, picking up 10 years after the end of the first run and running for three additional seasons (also streaming on Hulu). Will & Grace was influential in normalizing LGBTQ+ relationships, as it was the first prime-time show with a gay lead character. 

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13. The Nanny

When it aired: 1993-1999

Where to stream it today: HBO Max

The always great Fran Drescher became a household name by playing a Jewish ‘fashion queen’ from Queens who becomes a nanny to three upper-class, New York British kids. The show was developed by Drescher and her husband at the time Peter Marc Jacobson and is based on her experience growing up in Queens, with characters based on real people in her life. The show has won an Emmy and Rose d’Or, and Drescher was nominated twice for a Golden Globe and Emmy.

14. Boy Meets World

When it aired: 1993-2000

Where to stream it today: Disney+

On the surface, Boy Meets World seems like just another touchy-feely Friday evening sitcom about a suburban family living, learning and loving in the corniest way possible. And to a certain degree, that’s what it was. As the show went on, though, with its young cast graduating from middle school to high school to college, it grew along with its audience, evolving into a surprisingly clever, sometimes touching, sometimes straight-up weird generational touchstone. (Justice for older brother Eric, though, who went from dim dreamboat to Homer Simpson-stupid by the end.) It might even be considered lightly influential: watch the very meta Halloween episode with the Jennifer Love Hewitt cameo and tell me it doesn’t remind you of a teenage version of Community.

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15. Frasier

When it aired: 1993-2004

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Peacock, Paramount+

A spin-off of Cheers, Frasier became one of the most critically acclaimed sitcoms of all time, winning a total of 37 Emmys through its 11-year run. The series follows the life of psychiatrist-turned-radio advice show host Frasier Crane, played by the always remarkable Kelsey Grammer, as he reconnects with his family and makes new friends. The show takes place in Seattle, which is about as far away from Boston as one could get, but clearly, it was the right choice to let Dr. Crane shine.

16. That '70s Show

When it aired: 1998-2006

Where to buy it today: Amazon Prime Video

It aired in the '90s, but it's obviously all about the '70s. The sitcom follows a group of friends "on the verge of adulthood" living in Wisconsin and all that comes along with their coming of age, along with the groovy fashion, politics, and social issues of the ‘70s. The show also launched the careers of several Hollywood stars, including Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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17. Freaks and Geeks

When it aired: 1999-2000

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Paramount+, Pluto TV

To this day, critics lament the premature cancellation of Freaks and Geeks after a single season. Few people know that the now-renowned Judd Apatow actually executive produced this show, or that many of today’s stars, including Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Jason Segel, and Busy Philipps, were part of the cast. This is also a must-watch for music lovers since its rock-heavy soundtrack features hits from Van Halen, Joan Jett, The Who, and more.

18. South Park

When it aired: 1997-today

Where to stream it today: HBO Max

What started off as a quirky animated film from two college kids in Colorado wound up as the third longest-running animated tv series—and it’s still going strong. The cartoon sitcom uses four fictional boys to explore a range of topics defining the world of today and to remind us of the mischief and innocence that childhood brings. Profanity and dark humor lead to a lot of laughs.

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19. My So-Called Life

When it aired: 1994-1995

Where to stream it today: ABC, Hulu

To this day, over 25 years from the end of the first and only season of My So-Called Life, fans are upset about the cliffhanger ending. The show follows the lives of a set of teenagers—notably played by Claire Danes and Jared Leto, among others—who live in the suburbs near Pittsburgh. Show creator Winnie Holzman expected ABC to pick up a second season, which never happened, despite critical acclaim and receiving multiple major award nominations, including Danes winning the Golden Globe for her performance in the series.

20. Ellen

When it aired: 1994-1998

Where to buy it today: Amazon, Google Play Store, Apple TV, Vudu

Ellen follows an erratic bookstore owner as she navigates eccentric friendships, family members, and daily life in sunny LA; and the show introduced Ellen DeGeneres to mainstream America. Ellen has earned its spot on TV's best-of canon after becoming the first US series with the main character to come out as gay with "The Puppy Episode", which aired shortly after DeGeneres decided to come out in real life.

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21. Party of Five

When it aired: 1994-2000

Where to stream it today: Tubi

Five siblings, ranging in age from one to 24, are forced to fend for themselves and take over the family restaurant after their parents get killed in a car crash. The show follows the siblings as they deal with their new responsibilities, the effects of parental loss, and substance abuse. A reboot on Freeform just wrapped up with a similar premise: five siblings must learn to take care of themselves after their parents get deported to Mexico.

22. NewsRadio

When it aired: 1995-1999

Where to stream it today: Fubo, Roku, Plex, IMDb TV

Wit is the name of the game on this NBC sitcom about the personal and professional travails of a New York AM news radio station's staff. Episodes often satirize pop culture events or take a surreal turn, like setting the cast onboard the Titanic. Expect a young Andy Dick, an always great Maura Tierney, and a wonderful Dave Foley to round out the cast. In a total of 97 episodes with farcical storylines, often playing off a satirical take on pop culture, news, and historical events, the show presented a laugh-out-loud way to take in current events.

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23. 3rd Rock From the Sun

When it aired: 1996-2001

Where to stream it today: Peacock, Roku, Hoopla, Vudu, Tubi, Pluto TV

An extraterrestrial family is sent to Earth, which they deem an "insignificant" planet, to observe human behavior. Everyday events and emotions (like just the sensation of sneezing) become humorous ordeals for the alien family as they navigate our quotidian social customs and culture while getting used to their human forms. The premise might sound weird, but it will certainly tickle your fancy as early as season one.

24. Sabrina the Teenage Witch

When it aired: 1996-2003

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Paramount+, Roku, Pluto TV

Melissa Joan Hart plays Sabrina Spellman, a teenager with a big secret which is that—you guessed it—she is a teenage witch. In addition to jamming out to No Doubt and Britney Spears, Sabrina also has to deal with magical spells gone awry, family secrets, and failing her test for her witch's permit. As cherished as Hart's character was, fans still fondly remember Sabrina's 600-year-old aunts, Hilda and Zelda, and her talking cat, Salem.

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25. Everybody Loves Raymond

When it aired: 1996-2005

Where to stream it today: Peacock

The classic, super successful sitcom stars Ray Romano as the central character, an Italian-American Newsday sports writer from Long Island juggling family life with work. While Ray's dry and sarcastic demeanor is clearly loved in the states, it also was quite successful abroad, with spin-offs popping up in The Netherlands, Egypt, Poland, and Russia; the latter became one of the most beloved shows in the country.

26. Daria

When it aired: 1997-2002

Where to stream it today: Paramount+

The animated series is a spin-off of the popular show Beavis and Butt-Head, ordered by MTV to speak to a young, female audience. Today, Daria, the brainy and sarcastic title character, enjoys a sort of cult-following since the show’s depiction of teen angst, family life, relationships, and other social issues still strike a remarkable chord with the modern world. Fans are currently anticipating a reboot that follows Daria's friend Jodie, which was recently picked up by Comedy Central, courtesy of Tracee Ellis Ross.

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27. Ally McBeal

When it aired: 1997-2002

Where to stream it today: Hulu

Ally McBeal, played by Calista Flockhart, is a funny—and dramatic—lawyer seeking love, self-fulfillment, and happiness in Boston. The program took home the Golden Globe for best TV Series, Musical or Comedy in 1997 and 1998, and it won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1999. Ally McBeal is still referenced in modern tv shows such as The Good Place, and it could be returning to the small screen soon—word on the street is that a reboot is possibly in the works.

28. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

When it aired: 1997-2003

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Amazon Prime

This supernatural drama stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as the title character, a regular teenage girl chosen by fate to become a literal slayer of vampires. While the show was snubbed for several Emmys, it has been named the most studied pop culture work in academia. To this day, feminist think pieces and cultural essays delight fans and scholars who seek to dissect the various metaphors peppered throughout each episode.

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29. Sports Night

When it aired: 1998-2000

Where to buy it today: Amazon, Google Play Store, Apple TV

Anything by Aaron Sorkin is worth a watch, but this half-hour comedy-drama about a fictional sports news show is some of his best work. Unfortunately, it was canceled after a mere two seasons, and then Sorkin went on to better things (namely The West Wing). Nonetheless, Sports Night still enjoys a cult-like following, and we’re so thankful we can still enjoy it in the age of streaming.

30. Felicity

When it aired: 1998-2002

Where to stream it today: Hulu

New York is as much of a character in this drama as Felicity Porter (Keri Russell), a high school graduate who follows her crush to the Big Apple and attends the University of New York (yes, that would be the fictional version of New York University). As a critic’s darling, Felicity was nominated for 38 awards and continues to make it on to ‘Best Of’ lists.

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31. Dawson's Creek

When it aired: 1998-2003

Where to stream it today: Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max

Dawson’s Creek is loosely based on the adolescence of Kevin Williamson, the shows’ creator, albeit with a few creative liberties. Yes, the supposed ‘teen’ characters have a tendency to talk like very smart, very responsible, very witty adults. Yes, the storylines are (mostly) unrealistic. But, it introduced the ever-popular love triangle to teen dramas, and for that alone, we promise that this show is so worth watching.

32. Charmed

When it aired: 1998-2006

Where to stream it today: Peacock, Roku

We all need a little magic in our lives, and who better to deliver it than a trio of witchy, demon-fighting sisters? Charmed was full of drama both onscreen and off; following a falling out, Shannen Doherty dropped out after starring as Prue Halliwell for three seasons. She was eventually replaced by Rose McGowan, who took on the role of a fourth sister.

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33. Futurama

When it aired: 1999-2013

Where to stream it today: Hulu

This adult animated science-fiction sitcom has lived through three lives: on Fox from 1999 to 2003, on Comedy Central from 2008 to 2013, and today as a streaming and re-run favorite. We won't get into plot-related details as they're way too convoluted, but we guarantee this to be one of the top animated series to sink your teeth into. After all, it has won six Emmys.

34. Living Single

Living Single

When it aired: 1993-1998

Where to stream it today: Hulu

Following six neighbors (led by the legendary Queen Latifah) who live in a Brooklyn brownstone, this series explores the bonds they form from heartbreaks and triumphs all while navigating adulthood. The show, which aired for five seasons, provided important representation for African Americans on television, and it paved the way for sitcoms like Friends and Sex and the City, though it remains criminally underrated.

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35. Full House

Full House

When it aired: 1987-1995

Where to stream it today: HBO Max

Dubbed ‘The Brady Bunch of the ‘90s,’ Full House will forever go down for its sweet-yet-corny humor and for launching the careers of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Much to the delight of their fans, which is practically everyone, the show got a reboot in 2016 called Fuller House on Netflix, so you can catch up with the current version of DJ and the Tanners' immortal family home.

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