2022 was the year Amazon Prime Video became a major player in the streaming wars. The service finally released the long-awaited fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — the most expensive show of all time — and some other new shows that were big action hits on a more efficient scale, most notably Reacher and The Terminal List. Reality series Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls won the Emmy for Outstanding Competition Program. Amazon launched a free, ad-supported sibling streaming service to Prime called Freevee that got made fun of for its name but quickly established itself as a source for in-demand licensed content and strong original series like High School and Bosch: Legacy. And Prime Video fully established its brand identity as the go-to place for series adaptations of bestselling books — fitting, considering Amazon's origins as the online bookstore.
And as other streaming services contract, Prime Video is only getting bigger. Upcoming shows include big-ticket global event shows like the Russo Brothers' spy thriller Citadel, sci-fi video game adaptation Fallout, and the recently announced Warhammer 40,000 adaptation starring Henry Cavill.
But that's the future, and right now we're focused on Prime Video's present, which is already pretty good. Here are the 10 best Amazon Prime Video shows of 2022, in chronological order of their release.
Jason Katims, creator of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, has another hit on his hands — as in hit you right in the feels — with this heartfelt dramedy series. As We See It follows the struggles and triumphs of Jack (Rick Glassman), Harrison (Albert Rutecki), and Violet (Sue Ann Pien), three twenty-something roommates who are on the autism spectrum (the actors all identify as being on the spectrum as well), as well as their aide Mandy (Sosie Bacon), who helps them navigate jobs, dating, and their relationships with each other. It's a show that will make you laugh in one scene and cry in another, and depicts something rarely seen on television — the lives of adults on the autism spectrum — with dignity and authenticity. Unfortunately, it was canceled after one season, but it's a very lovely season. -Liam Mathews
Reacher is a TV adaptation of author Lee Child's paperback novels about Jack Reacher, a brolic former military policeman who wanders around the country using his brains and his brawn to solve crimes. He was previously played on the big screen by Tom Cruise, who is not built like TV's Reacher Alan Ritchson, who is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger if he played in the NFL. He gets off a bus in a small Georgia town and quickly gets caught up in a conspiracy of currency trafficking, political corruption, and murder, and helps two local cops unravel the mystery using his savant-like investigative skills and willingness to say whatever he's thinking without even the hint of a filter. And when he can't talk his way to a solution, he sure can punch, shoot, and headbutt his way to one. It's a workmanlike detective/action show that isn't very ambitious but is a lot of fun, especially for fans of Amazon's other dad-book adaptations like Bosch and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. Reacher is where Prime Video's brand identity really clicked; Prime Video makes other types of shows, but it's where you go for a show like this. -Liam Mathews
Finally, a reality competition series that prioritizes confidence and joy. Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls — the 2022 Emmy winner for reality competition series — follows the pop icon's search for backup dancers, the titular Big Grrrls, to join her tour. When dance agencies didn't answer her call for big girl dancers, Lizzo took things into her own hands. "We come with the energy, the stamina, the flexibility," she says in the first episode. "Big girls are doing it, honey!" The competition obviously serves up all the tears and drama you'd expect, but it's also warm and empowering. It's like Top Model meets So You Think You Can Dance meets, you know, Lizzo. And that's good as hell. -Kelly Connolly [Trailer]
Josh Brolin stars in this show that was probably pitched as "Yellowstone meets some weird-ass s---, bro!" The Western and sci-fi hybrid series stars Brolin as a Wyoming rancher who finds something inexplicable on his property, and the mystery box opens up for viewers complete with glyphs, strange occurrences, and one giant friggin' hole in the ground. And does Brolin belt out some powerful monologues? You bet. It's a love or hate it show, but we said YEEHAW give us more, and Amazon obliged, renewing the show for Season 2. -Tim Surette
The Boys is about superheroes, but not the Avengers kind. It would probably be more accurate to say that this show is about supervillains, or at least, villains who think they're heroes. Let me explain: The Boys is set in a world where superheroes are revered as celebrities and work for a giant corporation, but outside of saving the world, most are abusing their powers and are pretty bad people. (I'm talking actual Nazi-level bad, in the case of a few characters.) Enter... the titular Boys, a group of vigilantes who have tasked themselves with bringing down the corrupt "heroes." A lot of other things happen, but if you're looking for something that really strives to break the mold Marvel and DC have created, The Boys is it. Season 3 streamed in 2022, as the show settled into consistent, reliable excellence, which is a funny thing to say about a show this gross. -Allison Picurro
This six-part psychological thriller series imported from the BBC follows a woman who is obsessed with her childhood friend's seemingly perfect social media presence. When her friend mysteriously dies, she develops a new alter ego to get into her obsession's inner circle and find out what happened. You know what comes next; the jig gets very much up. It's got some creepy stalker vibes of You with a blazing performance by star Erin Doherty and deft commentary on social media. -Tim Surette
There's no crying in baseball, but there are remakes in Hollywood, and this twist on Penny Marshall's classic 1992 comedy is the right kind of remake. The show, created by Will Graham and Broad City's Abbi Jacobson (who also stars), starts with the same idea as the movie: It's a fictionalized spin on the real-life World War II-era founding of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. But the series populates that world with all-new characters and pushes the story in new directions, spotlighting queer and Black baseball players in a way the movie did not. Add in an all-star cast — which also includes D'Arcy Carden, Chanté Adams, Kate Berlant, Roberta Colindrez, and Nick Offerman — and the bases are loaded. -Kelly Connolly
Want to see what half a billion dollars looks like? Amazon's most expensive bet since same-day delivery is this epic fantasy series set in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy world during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the popular trilogy. But hey, there are still dwarves, elves, and orcs, as well as details on the forging of the Rings of Power and Sauron's rise. It probably isn't as big as Jeff Bezos would like it to be — House of the Dragon definitely won the 2022 fantasy epic competition — but it's still a visually remarkable series with moments of pure exhilaration. -Tim Surette
Indie rockers and LGBTQ icons Tegan and Sara Quin teamed up with actress/director Clea DuVall for this coming-of-age high school story based on their memoir of the same name about growing up as twin sisters in Calgary, Alberta in the mid-1990s. It also happens to be really, really good. With roots in classic high school shows of yesteryear like My So-Called Life and an authentic look at an age and era, High School covers the ups and downs of fitting in, coming out, and getting high. And the soundtrack is rad. -Tim Surette
Emily Blunt stars as a British aristocrat — the titular English — who rides headfirst into the Wild West to avenge the death of her son and teams up with a Pawnee scout (Chaske Spencer) to survive the hostile lands polluted by murderers, opportunists, and criminals. In the hands of writer-director Hugo Blick, it's a stylish and violent take on the genre, filling the lens with expansive vistas and gory corpses to remind you that while beautiful, the era was lawless. -Tim Surette