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The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch (and how to stream them)

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch
(Image credit: Hulu; BBC Amxerica; Fo)

American viewers aren’t the only ones bingeing on Netflix shows. Netflix now streams in almost dozens of countries around the world. But due to licensing agreements with the shows’ production studios, the lineup of what’s available to watch varies by territory. 

So, there are many shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch.Some of these titles are streaming only on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, etc. — or aren’t even streaming at all, anywhere. 

But they are available on Netflix in other countries. These include popular hits like Modern Family, Big Bang Theory and 24. Americans can still watch these geo-restricted shows by using one of the best Netflix VPNs

Those VPN services are the ones that do their best to avoid Netflix's attempts to block VPNs and proxy services. Netflix, in theory, could possibly cancel your account if the service catches you viewing content from overseas, although its terms of service are vague on the issue. 

Our top pick is ExpressVPN, which wins for its ease of use and streaming speeds (important factors when all you want to do is watch TV).

Here’s a guide to the best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch.

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch

Modern Family

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Modern Family

(Image credit: ABC)

On Netflix in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

The extremely successful, award-winning sitcom wrapped up its series run in April 2020 after 11 seasons. The documentary-formatted show revolved around three families: Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), his second wife (Sofia Vergara) and her son; Jay’s daughter Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), her husband Phil (Ty Burrell) and their three kids; and Mitchell Pritchett (Tyler Ferguson) and his partner Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) and their adopted daughter. As with any family, there were petty squabbles and grievances, but there was also a lot of love and laughs. — Kelly Woo

Doctor Who

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

On Netflix in the United Kingdom

The iconic British series has become a worldwide favorite for viewers with a penchant for adventure, wit, humor and quirkiness. The time-traveling sci-fi series centers on the titular character, who’s been played by five different actors in the modern era of the show. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to go to explore different eras and uses his or her intelligence, ingenuity and pluck to prevent evil forces from hurting innocent people or changing the course of history. It’s a fun, often silly but always heartfelt ride. — Kelly Woo

Star Trek Discovery

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Star Trek Discovery

(Image credit: CBS All Access)

On Netflix everywhere but U.S. and Canada

One of the newest Star Trek series, Discovery is only available on CBS All-Access in the US. But thanks to Netflix, international viewers can also boldly go to the final frontier once again. The show is set about 10 years before the original series, when rival Klingon houses unite against the Federation. The Discovery becomes an important asset in the war, as does its science specialist Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The story evolves in season 2, when the Discovery explores mysterious signals sent by a figure called “the Red Angel.” — Kelly Woo

Orphan Black

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Orphan Black

(Image credit: BBC America)

On Netflix in Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

The Canadian sci-fi thriller kicks off con artist Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her. Sarah figures out the woman is police detective Beth Childs and assumes her identity. As she digs deeper into her doppelganger’s life, Sarah uncovers a shocking conspiracy — she is one of many clones who were part of an illegal experiment. Can these “sisters” band together and protect themselves from nefarious actors? — Kelly Woo

Prison Break

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Prison Break

(Image credit: Fox)

On Netflix in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

How far would you go to save your brother from the death sentence? In the case of Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), he’d commit a crime, go to prison and get a body-covering tattoo to get himself and brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) out of there. They have some help, in the form of other inmates, a sympathetic prison doctor (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Lincoln’s determined lawyer (Robin Tunney). But the prison walls aren’t the only obstacle in their way; a shadowy organization called The Company is their very formidable foe. — Kelly Woo

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

(Image credit: NBCUniversal Television)

On Netflix in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

The cop comedy comes from Parks and Recreation creator Michael Schur and writer/producer Dan Goor, so it’s got impressive bona fides. The show is set in Brooklyn’s fictional 99th Precinct, which is overseen by the stern Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher). His crew includes detectives like the immature but talented Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), the organized and efficient Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) and BS-hating Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) among others. They investigate cases, catch bad guys, compete in silly challenges and get on each other’s nerves. Like many other workplaces, the Nine-Nine is really a family at the end of the day. — Kelly Woo

Big Bang Theory

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: The Big Bang Theory

(Image credit: CBS)

On Netflix in Australia, France, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

The popular sitcom about a group of geeky (and not-so-geeky) friends came to an end in 2019, but continues to live on Netflix — at least for international viewers. Americans can find the series on HBO Max. The show, created by Chuck Lorre, follows roommates Leonard (Johnny Galecki) Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), both physicists at Caltech. They live across the hall from the very pretty Penny (Kaley Cuoco), who catches Leonard’s eye. Despite his social awkwardness, he hopes to date her, which the wry Sheldon thinks is unlikely. Over the 12 seasons, their relationships grow and they add more members to their group. Call it a triumph of the nerds. — Kelly Woo

Sons of Anarchy

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Sons of Anarchy

(Image credit: FX)

On Netflix in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

The drama follows Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the vice president and later president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original). The close-knit outlaws in the club assemble guns to rake in money. But when Jax finds a manifesto written by his late father, he begins to question the club, himself and his relationships. That causes conflict with his stepfather Clay (Ron Perlman), who’s been running the club since marrying Jax’s mom Gemma (Katey Sagal). Loyalty is the number one rule of SAMCRO; will Jax betray his biker brothers?  — Kelly Woo

24

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: 24

(Image credit: Fox)

On Netflix in: Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and more

The action-packed drama stars Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, an agent in the Los Angeles bureau of the Counter Terrorist Unit, which protects America from attacks. The story unfolds in real time, so each episode takes place over the course of one hour (with a clock boosting your adrenaline and counting the time as it passes). Season 1 is set on the day of the California presidential primary and Bauer is charged with protecting Senator David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) from an assassination plot. Later seasons follow Bauer’s other missions to save the city, region and country from sinister plots. — Kelly Woo

Borgen

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Borgen

(Image credit: DR1)

On Netflix in Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden and more

A shocking turn of events makes moderate politician Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) Denmark’s first female prime minister. The gripping, nuanced plot sees the formidable Nyborg and her staff maneuvering the choppy waters of Danish politics, dealing with the media and handling equally difficult personal relationships. Borgen is the show that made a name out of Pilou Asbæk, who went on to play Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. And the first three seasons were so good that Netflix is reviving it for a fourth installment, due sometime in 2022. — Kelly Woo

Castle Rock

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Castle Rock

(Image credit: Hulu)

On Netflix in India, Singapore, Thailand and more

The anthology horror series is a Hulu exclusive in the US, but can be streamed on Netflix in several territories. The stories are inspired by the work of Stephen King (Castle Rock is a fictional town he created). Season 1 centered on Henry Matthew Deaver (Andre Holland), a criminal attorney who grew up in Castle Rock and returns upon a strange request. Season 2 shifts focus to a mentally ill nurse Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan) who gets stuck in town. — Kelly Woo

How I Met Your Mother

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: How I Met Your Mother

(Image credit: CBS)

On Netflix in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and more

If you can forget about the series finale (easily one of the worst in television history), How I Met Your Mother is an easygoing, affable often very clever sitcom that's sweet without being cloying and romantic without being sappy. Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) is on a quest to find his one true love, and the journey is full of false starts, failed experiments and relationships that almost worked. With his four best friends by his side, he'll take the misadventures in stride and maybe have a laugh or two along the way. — Marshall Honorof

Line of Duty

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Line of Duty

(Image credit: World Productions)

On Netflix in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and more

A cop show where the ones being policed are the police themselves, Line of Duty follows the activities of AC-12, a police anti-corruption unit. Each season, or series in British parlance, investigates a new officer who is alleged to have broken the rules. The centerpieces of the show are the long interrogation scenes that play out more like scenes in a legal drama. In the background, "The Caddy," a police insider working for underworld bosses, pulls strings, giving the show an overarching narrative from season to season. — Richard Priday

Red Dwarf

The best shows Netflix won’t let Americans watch: Red Dwarf

(Image credit: BBC)

On Netflix in the United Kingdom

Sitting where Star Trek meets sitcom, Red Dwarf became a cult hit on the BBC 30 years ago. Winking at a half-century of science fiction, the story follows Lister — a lazy, working-class stiff with a proclivity for vindaloo — who ends up as the last human alive in the universe, stuck floating through deep space on the mining ship Red Dwarf. Keeping him sane (and aggravated) is a motley crew of shipmates. While some of the earlier seasons look a bit dated, the excellent writing and cast chemistry make Red Dwarf a sci-fi comedy classic. — Nick Bush