31 TV Shows You Can Watch on Netflix With Badass Women Front and Center
Few things in life are quite as satisfying as settling down for a nice, long TV binge. Streaming has made having a TV marathon easier than ever before, and if you’re going to have a marathon, then why not choose a show with a strong woman lead at its center? Thankfully, Netflix has plenty of shows that tell the stories of complicated, diverse women who are strong in a myriad of ways. Are you looking for some traditional ass kicking? Jessica Jones has you covered. Want to watch an optimistic woman politician get stuff done? Then it’s time to stop putting off watching Parks and Recreation. Are you enthralled by tough-as-nails women antiheroes? Why hello there, Nurse Jackie.
As a genre, it took TV a little while to fully understand that shows about strong women can mean many different things, but the medium is getting so much better at producing series that allow women to be just as multifaceted as their male counterparts (in fact, they’re more so in some cases). With so many series to choose from, you’ve surely missed out on a few of TV’s best women-led shows. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, it is never too late (or too early) to jump into a show with a strong woman lead, so pour yourself a glass of wine and start popping the popcorn, because these fictional women are ready to wow you.
– Additional reporting by Lauren Harano
Looking for a laugh? The girls of Derry are here to give you two seasons of adventures so wild, you won’t be able to hold back the laughter. This British sitcom follows the personal exploits of 16-year-old Erin Quinn and her four best friends during the tough times that her small town face in the early ’90s.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Sabrina Spellman (played by Kiernan Shipka) must live her life as half-human and half-witch, and save her family from the evil forces beyond, all while trying to fit in with her high school peers. This badass teen defies the gender bias of the witch world, proves she can use her powers for good, and shows that growing up as a teenage girl (mortal or not) is harder than it’s cracked up to be.
After a brutal breakup, Jess, a fun-loving young woman, moves into an apartment with three single men. From parties and dating to hardships and growing up, the storyline of New Girl is heartwarming, funny, and a definite must-watch.
Based on the founder of the online retailer Nasty Gal, Girlboss tells the story of Sophia Amoruso and how she followed her dreams of becoming a fashion designer, regardless of the challenges that came her way. Complete with the highs and lows of living in a city, dating in your 20s, and everything else that comes with growing up, this one-season show is a quick watch for anyone looking to add a little humor to their day.
Based on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, The Crown is an American-British biographical drama series that has the strong woman lead you’ve been looking for. From romances to rivalries, this show proves that being a queen is not always as glamorous as it looks.
Dead to Me
When Jen’s husband is killed in a hit-and-run, she is consoled by a new friend in her therapy group, Judy. The two form an inseparable bond and test how strong friendship can really be, even when faced with lies, secrets, and murder.
After civilization on Earth is completely destroyed, a group of teenagers are sent to see if it is at all inhabitable. The group is held together by Clarke Griffin, a fierce girl who’s just trying to figure things out for herself, and basically all of humanity.
Orange Is the New Black
The women of Orange Is the New Black are a diverse bunch, and the show is committed to telling all of their stories no matter how heartbreaking or startling they may be. Set inside of a women’s prison, each episode focuses on a different character’s backstory, while simultaneously weaving in the reality of living in a minimum-security prison. It’s funny, socially aware, and the true definition of must-see TV.
Katilyn Dever, Toni Collette, and Merritt Wever lead this excellent true crime series ripped straight from the headlines. The show explores how one young woman’s horrific rape was mishandled by authorities, while simultaneously digging into a series of similar rapes being investigated by two female detectives a few states over.
Who knew a show about the world of women’s wrestling could be so entertaining? GLOW‘s eclectic group of characters includes Alison Brie as “the heel,” a star-making turn from Betty Gilpin as the quintessential all-American hero, and Sydelle Noel as the only character who knows what she’s doing in the ring. Together this rag-tag group defies expectations at every turn.
Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin follows three generations of Hispanic women all living under the same roof, but at its heart, the series is a coming-of-age tale centered on Jane (Gina Rodriguez). After going in for a routine checkup, Jane is accidentally artificially inseminated, which changes her life forever. Watching Jane grow with the support of the amazing women in her life is an absolute joy that just gets better with every season.
Tracey (Michaela Coel) has lived a sheltered life, there’s no doubt about that. Her mother is overprotective and deeply religious, the man she’s supposed to marry seems vaguely repulsed by her, and she’s definitely never had sex. However, as heroines go, Tracey is outrageously funny and determined to start living her life on her own terms, even if that means making out with a poet who hangs out in dumpsters.
She's Gotta Have It
Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) is a sexually free artist who moves through life taking what she wants. She’s by turns a feminist, an activist, and a woman who has no time for the people who don’t understand the way she’s chosen to live her life.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Despite its dark premise – Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) begins the show as an ex-mole woman who has been held captive in an underground bunker since she was a teen – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is an uplifting show about the power of optimism and never giving up. Kimmy’s journey of self-discovery can switch from hilarious to heartbreaking in the matter of a scene, but what makes this show so great is just how irrepressible Kimmy’s belief in humanity is even after she’s witnessed the very worst of it.
Grace and Frankie
When two women of a certain age discover that their husbands have been having an affair with each other for years, they do the only thing that makes sense – they move in together and start their second acts. There’s just one catch: Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) aren’t exactly best friends. In fact, they’ve only tolerated each other all of these years for their husbands’ sakes. Still, the unlikely pair end up forming a bond that allows them to explore dating, entrepreneurship, and the power of women friendships in the most stunning beach house you’ve ever seen.
As Jackie, Edie Falco relishes exploring the darkest corners of her character’s psyche. Jackie is a person with a whole lot of demons, including addiction. She makes mistakes every single day, but she also does a lot of good as a nurse. Her sharp edges make Jackie a true antihero, and one you’ll find yourself rooting for no matter how many times she falls off the wagon.
One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time is an old-school sitcom in the best way possible. It centers on an Army veteran named Penelope (Justina Machado) and her day-to-day family life, but the show does an exquisite job of weaving in social issues like coming out, dealing with PTSD, and the threat of deportation. Add in a star turn from the legendary Rita Moreno as a proud, sexually active 70-something, and you have a comedy with heart and a whole lot to say.
Yes, Jessica Jones is a Marvel superhero show, but Jessica isn’t your typical hero. She’s a hard-drinking, sarcastic survivor who takes cases to make enough money to buy more alcohol. Krysten Ritter is mesmerizing as Jessica, who is a mess of a human being with a past that’s pitch black. However, deep down, Jessica still believes in justice, and her fight to save women from the mind-controlling Kilgrave in the first season is intense, thrilling, and important TV.
Three teenagers from vastly different backgrounds and levels on the high school social hierarchy strike up an unlikely friendship after running into each other at a shoplifters anonymous meeting.
From the creator of The Killing, Veena Sud, comes a new cop drama with an even more emotionally-charged center. Seven Seconds stars the magnificent Regina King and Clare-Hope Ashitey. King plays a mother grieving over the death of her son, a young black man who was killed by a white officer in a hit-and-run incident. Ashitey stars as the prosecutor trying to find some justice in a system that feels stacked against her and for the young man who lost his life so senselessly.
Fantasy and sci-fi shows still sometimes struggle when it comes to female representation, but that’s not the case with Wynonna Earp. This fast-paced, fun show includes LGBTQ+ characters, a hero with a unique backstory, and a whole lot of demon hunting. This show may be flying under the radar, but trust us, you need Wynonna in your life.
Supergirl is the rare superhero series that focuses on hope. As Supergirl, Melissa Benoist imbues Kara with a sense of wonder and optimism that is uplifting without being cloying. If you’re looking for a hero who still believes in the goodness of people, then Kara Danvers is here for you.
The Halliwell sisters are the perfect example of just how powerful the bonds between sisters can be, but they’re also witches who take down demons on the daily. That dynamic makes Charmed a unique and fun female-driven supernatural series that never gets old.
Call the Midwife
Bringing new life into the world is bloody hard work, and Call the Midwife follows both the women who are there to assist new mothers every step of the way and the mothers themselves. Go ahead and call this show heartwarming – because it is – but don’t overlook the fact that it explores women’s health issues like nothing else on television.
Set in a Wild West town run by women, Godless challenges every trope Hollywood has ever established for the Western genre. Here, the women aren’t waiting to be rescued, they’re running the show. And while their town is no utopia, it’s a place where they are all free to be exactly who they are without fear of judgment.