Completed Netflix? Exhausted Prime Video? Done with Disney+? Apple TV+ is a streaming service that’s packed with exclusive movies and series – and at just $6.99/£6.99 a month it’s pretty gentle on the wallet, which is most unlike Apple. Here’s our guide to the best Apple TV+ shows and movies to catch today,
In fact, if you’ve bought a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV or iPod Touch (LOL) recently you’re eligible for a year’s free trial, which is a bit of a no-brainer, although you’ll need to make sure you activate it within three months of setting up your new bit of kit.
Apple TV+ membership is also part of Apple One, an all-in-one bundle of Apple’s services that includes various combinations of Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+ and some iCloud storage, depending on how much you fork out each month. All signed up? Here’s our pick of the stuff that’s worth watching.
Words by Matt Tate, Esat Dedezade, Sam Kieldsen and Tom Wiggins
Set in a dystopian future where the outside world is so toxic and deadly that society has been confined to a giant underground colony, Silo is arguably Apple’s best series of the year. With its gripping first episode immediately drawing you in by posing a raft of questions, this show’s myriad mysteries bring to mind the likes of Lost – although with a cast including Rebecca Ferguson, David Oyelowo, Rashida Jones and Tim Robbins, there’s a lot more star power on show here. Philosophical and challenging, it’s as much an involving crime thriller as it is a mind-bending sci-fi vision – and the world-building is handled masterfully by showrunner Graham Yost.
It’s not often that we find ourselves simultaneously loving and hating a show with such vigour, but Hijack manages to skirt a maddeningly fine Schrödingeresque line from start to finish. Starring Idris Elba (who plays one of many unfortunate passengers on a hijacked plane from Dubai to London), the tense events unfold in real-time as things go from bad to worse during the seven-hour flight.
The production quality and cinematography are up there with the best we’ve seen, and Elba’s performance is, as expected, superb. It’s the plot and actions of many of the characters that throw a spanner in the works. Anyone with even the slightest shred of critical thinking can expect to unravel around 10-15 potholes and nonsensical actions per episode, but there’s something about the blend of twists, cliff-hangers and action that make it all-too-easy to binge. Dive into it by suspending as much disbelief as you can muster, and it’ll be seven hours well spent.
Black Bird (S1)
Black Bird (based on a true story) is a gripping, grown-up crime yarn that, at a tight six episodes, doesn’t feel padded out or exploitative.
After being sentenced to 10 years for drug trafficking, Taron Egerton’s former high school football hero is offered a way out: enter a brutal maximum-security prison, befriend a suspected serial killer (brilliantly played by Paul Walter Hauser) and find out where he buried his victims. Can he elicit a confession and win his freedom, or will he become a pawn in a sociopathic murderer’s mind games?
Charlie Hunnam plays an escaped convict turned slum physician in this lush 12-part adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ epic novel, which take us back to the 1980s and from Australia to India to Afghanistan. Love, crime, war and Charlie looking pensive while riding a motorbike for the first time since Sons of Anarchy? We’re in, and so should you be – just so long as you can stomach Hunnam’s sometimes jarring attempt at replicating an Aussie drawl.
A quiet psychological drama with a light touch, Causeway is one of the best Apple TV+ shows and follows Jennifer Lawrence’s Lynsey, wounded in Afghanistan and forced to convalesce in her hometown of New Orleans – which, poisoned by bad memories, seems to be the last place on Earth she’d like to be. Lawrence’s restrained performance is one of her best in years, while Brian Tyree Henry is fantastic as mechanic James, an unlikely new friend with whom Lynsey discovers she shares a strong bond.
The term ‘work-life balance’ takes on a whole new meaning in this sci-fi comedy-drama about the joys of office toil. Adam Scott plays a manager at huge corporation Lumon Industries, leading a small team in a secretive department where employees agree to have their minds and memories surgically divided into two separate sections: one for work, one for personal life.
These personalities never cross over or ‘meet’ (that’s the intention, anyway), making each employee essentially two distinct people living in a single body. The so-called ‘severance’ procedure throws up all sorts of ethical, moral and existential questions, each of which the show explores in entertaining fashion while unravelling the mystery of what actually goes on at Lumon, and why it’s so important that the people doing it can’t take their work home with them – not even as a memory.
Beastie Boys Story
Shot at the Kings Theatre in (No Sleep ‘til) Brooklyn, Beastie Boys Story is a strange proposition. Essentially a nostalgic TED talk hosted by Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz and Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond, the two surviving members tell the story of the legendary hip-hop group in their own words, from their early days as a punk band and inadvertently becoming the poster boys for frat houses across America, to going broke in LA and the late Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch’s untimely death in 2012.
Of course, it would be far better to see them do it in the flesh, and something is undoubtedly lost in the transfer from stage to screen, but Mike D and Ad-Rock are easy-going, engaging hosts – and if the latter’s recollection of their final live appearance together doesn’t have you chopping onions, there’s a brass monkey where your heart should be.
Watch Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV+
Slow Horses (S1-2)
When MI5 agents screw up in a publicly embarrassing fashion, they find themselves sent to work at Slough House, a paper-pushing purgatory for British intelligence’s rejects and has-beens – henceforth known as ‘slow horses’.
Led by the slovenly and seemingly dispassionate Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman), the slow horses are usually given tasks so menial and insignificant that they eventually quit the service altogether, but when the current crop stumbles across a sinister plot that threatens the stability of Britain itself, these written-off spooks sniff a second chance to prove their worth. Kristin Scott-Thomas, Jonathan Pryce, Olivia Cooke and Jack Lowden also star.
For All Mankind (S1-3)
This sci-fi drama flips history on its head, exploring a parallel universe where the Soviet Union was the first nation to put a human being on the moon, reinvigorating an outraged America’s emotional investment in the space race. This ‘what if’ scenario gives the show’s creators scope to delve into the hypothetical ramifications for technology, aeronautics and politics, but there’s thankfully plenty of human drama front and centre too.
Fast-forwarding a decade to the early 1980s, the second season sees the Cold War threaten to warm up as American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts vie for control of lunar resources. The stakes couldn’t be higher: a dust-up on the moon could lead to nuclear war back on Earth.
Tom Hanks both writes and stars in this frenetic World War II naval drama, playing the staunchly Christian captain of a US Navy destroyer taking his first voyage across the Atlantic. The mission? To escort the unarmed merchant vessels bringing vital goods to Great Britain, otherwise easy prey for a circling wolfpack of German U-boats. With no air cover, freezing conditions and depth charge supplies limited, can his creaking vessel (the titular Greyhound) avoid the torpedoes and make it across the ocean in one piece? This film’s simplicity – it focusses solely on a single voyage over a couple of days with almost everything seen from the crew’s perspective – is its strength.
On the Rocks
Almost two decades after Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray are reunited in this similarly bittersweet rom-com drama. Murrays stars as Felix, an irascible, flirtatious New York art dealer and father to Rashida Jones’ writer Laura. When Laura begins to harbour suspicions about her husband’s fidelity, Felix suggests they team up to investigate. What follows is a charming, witty and surprisingly laid-back dramedy, with one of Murray’s most enjoyable recent on-screen performances.
In the mood for something truly epic? This lavish small screen adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s influential sci-fi saga fits the bill. Set tens of thousands of years in the future, when humanity has forged an empire spanning the entire galaxy, Foundation centres on mathematician Hari Seldon (the ever-dependable Jared Harris). Seldon’s pioneering predictive model ‘proves’ that the empire is doomed to fall in apocalyptic fashion, followed by 30,000 years of terror, chaos and darkness – a prophesy that brings him into conflict with the ruling powers even as he seeks a way to minimise the collapse’s aftermath.
The Velvet Underground
Todd Haynes’ documentary about the influential New York rock band is as outwardly stylish and consciously artistic as the Velvets were themselves (at least in their early, Andy Warhol-steered and black-clad days). Mixing archive footage and talking heads interviews with surviving members, associates and famous fans, it provides a brilliantly engaging two-hour overview of the band’s genesis, rise and eventual breakup, and gives some indication of why they’re considered sonic pioneers, and such an important part of rock and roll history.
Ted Lasso (S1-2)
Who would have thought that a daft NBC promo from all the way back in 2013 would go on to inspire perhaps Apple TV+’s biggest success story? In this feel-good dramedy, Jason Sudekis plays the titular Ted Lasso, a loveably buffoonish American football coach who somehow lands a job managing AFC Richmond, a fictional Premier League football team based in London. Jumping between sports is already unheard of, but it quickly becomes clear that Ted would struggle to tell you how many players he needs to name in a team, let alone what the offside rule is.
But Lasso’s good nature and relentlessly optimistic outlook on life eventually starts to win people over, and as viewers the show’s gentle sense of humour and wholesomeness becomes hard to resist. The show features some brilliant performances from the like of Juno Temple and Nick Mohammed, with the latter getting one of the more memorable character arcs in recent years. Ted Lasso isn’t prestige TV, but it’s fantastic fun and often quite moving.
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything
We have a hunch that 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything would have been massive if it had landed on a streaming service more widely subscribed to than Apple TV+ was when it first released. It’s from Asif Kapadia of Senna, Amy and Diego Maradona fame, and adopts the director’s signature documentary-making style, which sees the story told entirely using amazing archival footage.
The series, as you might have guessed, focuses on 1971, a year in which politics, society and culture were inextricably linked, and the music of Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Alice Cooper and Elton John filled the airwaves. It’s brilliant.
Mythic Quest (S1-3)
Video game TV shows don’t have a much better track record than video game movies, but Mythic Quest succeeds as both a very funny workplace comedy and a show that understands gaming. The show follows a fictional studio known for making the biggest online game in the world, Mythic Quest.
Rob McElhenney might be best known for his work on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but as creative director Ian Grimm he’s at his hilarious best, and his squabbles with lead engineer Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) provide some of the biggest laughs. Mythic Quest gets gaming culture, but it’s the human relationships that will keep you hooked. Stick with this one, as the second season is when it really gets going.
Little America (S1)
This understated anthology series is an Apple TV+ gem that everyone should watch. While Donald Trump is never mentioned in the series, its release in the wake of him becoming president is important, with each episode focusing on a different story of an immigrant in America, their journeys showing us what really makes the country great.
Every one of the 30-minute vignettes featured in Little America is based on a real person, from an undocumented high school pupil who soars through the local squash ranks, to a Nigerian student who finds himself drawn to cowboy culture, and they all make for uplifting viewing.
Central Park (S1-2)
From the makers of Bob’s Burgers comes this animated musical comedy that follows a dysfunctional family who happen to live smack bang in the middle of New York’s most famous park. The fourth wall-breaking narrator, a busker named Birdie, played by Josh Gad, guides us through their incident-ridden lives, as they fight to save the park from elderely business entrepreneur Bitsy Bradenham (voiced by Stanley Tucci) while dealing with all the usual familial challenges.
Central Park isn’t stuffed with big laughs, but it’s elevated by great animation and some truly Broadway-worthy bangers that’ll bury themselves in your head for weeks.
The Afterparty (S1)
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are probably best known writing, directing and producing some of the best animated movies of the last 20 years, but the duo’s first Apple TV+ project is a classic whodunit for the millennial generation.
We learn straight away that a murder has taken place at a high school reunion afterparty, with each episode focusing on a different character’s account of what happened. Like most of Lord and Miller’s work, The Afterparty is definitely a comedy, and is worth watching just to see the likes of Tiffany Haddish and Jamie Demetriou share a screen. But a genuinely compelling murder mystery unravels in its eight-episode run, keeping you scratching your head as you laugh along.
The Morning Show (S1-2)
Apple’s star-studded drama was its then new streaming service’s flashiest launch show, and while it’s a messy watch, the boldness of its subject matter and irresistible chemistry between its Hollywood heavyweights makes for compulsive viewing.
Jennifer Aniston plays Alex Levy, the resilient co-host of America’s most-watched breakfast news show, whose career is turned upside down when her longtime on-air partner and close friend, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) is suddenly fired following allegations of sexual misconduct. Things only get trickier for Levy when the network brings in up-and-coming reporter Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), who she immediately sees as a rival for her chair.
With frequent direct references to the #MeToo movement, The Morning Show isn’t scared to tackle weighty topics, and as cringeworthy as some of the dialogue can be, it’s easy to become invested in all the internal politics of this back-stabbing current affairs behemoth.
There are some great films on Apple TV+, but none have stuck with us more than Wolfwalkers, a mesmerising animated fantasy that was nominated for (and should have won) Best Animated Feature at the 2020 Oscars. The third film in Tomm Moore’s Irish Folklore Trilogy, Wolfwalkers follows a young hunter, who along with her father travels to Ireland to wipe out the country’s last remaining wolf pack. But a magical discovery means her allegiance soon changes.
Everything about Wolfwalkers, from the boundless imagination of its hand-drawn animation, to its superb voice cast (featuring a typically committed Sean Bean) and clear love of the Celtic fable that inspired it, screams quality, and if you’ve just signed up to Apple TV+, it should be one of the first things you watch.