The Wire is an American crime drama series that is praised for its literary themes, its portrayal of the law enforcement community, and American society. It was created by David Simon, a former police reporter and author, and aired on the HBO network from June 2, 2002 through March 9, 2008. Now you can watch The Wire streaming online. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, each season of the series takes the viewer through a different portion of the law enforcement community while pushing the story forward from season to season. The focus is on five key areas: the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, city government/bureaucracy, education/schools, and print news media. In addition, real-life figures in the Baltimore area made guest starring appearances on the series. The series stars Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, and Lance Reddick. This is your guide to watch The Wire streaming online.
How to Watch The Wire Online & Stream the Complete Series
In the United States, all five seasons of The Wire are available on both Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Here’s how to watch via either service:
If you have Prime, or if you want to sign up for a free 30-day trial of Prime, you can watch every episode of The Wire on your computer right here, or you can watch on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Amazon Video app.
There are two different options when signing up for Hulu:
Hulu With Live TV: If you want to go from watching their on-demand library to watching MLB games or other live TV without changing the app, you can sign up for “Hulu with Live TV”. This option gives you access to Hulu’s extensive on-demand library, as well as a bundle of 50-plus live TV channels. It costs $39.99 per month for the plan that includes limited commercials with the on-demand content or $43.99 per month for the plan that includes no commercials with the on-demand content.
When signing up for either of the above options, you’ll also need to add the HBO add-on to watch every episode of The Wire. You can watch on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead
How Many Seasons of The Wire Are There?
There are five seasons and 60 episodes of The Wire, along with three prequel short films. The series premiered on HBO on June 2, 2002, and the finale aired March 9, 2008; each episode ran between 50 and 60 minutes. Here are the seasons for The Wire:
13 episodes | June 2, 2002 – September 8, 2002
The Wire begins by introducing viewers to Baltimore Police and the Barksdale drug family. Police are investigating the acquittal of D’Angelo Barksdale, who was charged with murder. Detective Jimmy McNulty spurs the investigation, which centers on arresting low-level gang members; these arrests do little to bring down the gang. The break in the case comes when a Barksdale associate agrees to cooperate with police. D’Angelo Barksdale is arrested for transporting drugs, and his mother encourages him to take the fall for the whole family.
12 episodes | June 1, 2003 – August 24, 2003
In Season Two, the series focused on how the drug problem effects urban residents, especially poor people, and highlighted Baltimore port workers. McNulty, who has been reassigned from the homicide unit to the marine unit, holds a grudge against his superiors for the transfer. Thirteen women are found dead in a container at the dock and McNulty tries to place the murders under his old commander. A union leader for dock workers, who are finding it hard to find work, tries to get more work by appealing to local politicians, and a smuggling ring, working through the port, is uncovered.
#12 episodes | September 19, 2004 – December 19, 2004
Bringing the series back to the Barksdale gang, season three adds political elements to the storyline. The residential towers where the gang had their home base is demolished, making their dealers push into the streets. Stringer Bell, part of the organization, is trying to cooperate with other drugs lords, creating a kind of drug dealers “union” to share customers, profits, and work together to outsmart the cops. Dealer Marlo Stanfield doesn’t join in, pushing the Barksdales open a drug war against him. Avon Barksdale is arrested and later released from prison. Stringer Bell, who wants to create a legitimate business empire, offers the police information against rival Marlo Stanfield. The Barksdales are raided by police.
13 episodes | September 10, 2006 – December 10, 2006
Season four switches the focus to the school system and the mayoral race. Marlo Stanfield’s drug ring controls most of the West side of Baltimore, and begins taking out his competition and hiding their bodies in abandoned homes throughout that side of the city. McNulty is on patrol detail and refuses to join a major crimes unit investigating Avon Barksdale’s political contributions. The mayoral primary heats up when Royce’s political moves are uncovered and it is discovered that he has accepted donations from criminals. Bunny Colvin begins studying middle schoolers to determine their proclivity to become criminals. The bodies Stanfield’s underlings hid are found and high schoolers Dukie and Michael join Marlo’s gang. Major Crimes turns their focus on to the Stanfield organization.
10 episodes | January 6, 2008 – March 9, 2008
Season five puts the focus on the series on newspapers and reporting in a series of ripped-from-the-headlines episodes. Mayor Carcetti cuts the police budget to push more budget dollars into education, which causes the Stanfield gang to shut down operations. Senator Davis is prosecuted for corruption and McNulty returns to homicide, but fakes evidence to make it appear that a serial killer is on the loose, hoping to return more of the budget to the police department. Stanfield lures drug kingpin Omar Little out of retirement and uses Proposition Joe to learn how to evade police before having Joe killed. Omar returns to Baltimore with revenge on his mind, and while he causes problems for Marlo, he is killed by Marlo’s gang. Freamon, who is supposed to setting McNulty straight on his serial killer plot, instead helps him create more “evidence”, and The Greek, part of the smuggling ring, returns to the port.
What Are the Best Episodes of The Wire?
The Wire has been praised for its gritty portrayal not only of drug dealers and criminals, but of how criminals can infiltrate politics, law enforcement, and schools. Here is a list of the best The Wire episodes:
Season 5, Episode 10: “30”
The series finale was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series; it was also nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and a Gold Derby award for Drama Episode of the Year. The mayoral staff learns the serial killer was a hoax, Carcetti is elected governor, and Dukie goes to his teacher for help but really just wants drug money.
Season 3, Episode 11: “Middle Ground”
Nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. Omar and Mouzone have a stand-off, Carcetti goes to Colvin for information, Bell asks Levy why his contributions to Senator Davis aren’t yielding returns, and Avon and Stringer talk about dealing with Marlo.
Season 5, Episode 4: “Transitions”
The episode won a Directors Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series. McNulty and Freamon try to increase the profile of their “serial killer”, Michael’s drug crew is nearly arrested, Templeton wants a new job and interviews at the Washington Post. The Greeks take on Marlo as an insurance policy.
Season 4, Episode 3: “Home Rooms”
The episode was nominated for an Image award for Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series. Carcetti uses a murder to gain poll points against Mayor Royce, McNulty is on the wagon but goes for a drink with an old friend. Marlo gets Bodie to sell drugs for him. Colvin is working security at a hotel but agrees to join a University of Maryland project to study the likelihood that middle schoolers will become criminals.
Season 5, Episode 6: “The Dickensan Aspect”
This episode was nominated for an Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series. Omar hides out from Marlo’s crew, McNulty realizes Templeton made up new aspects of their “serial killer”, and Phelan disapproves a wire tapping order from McNulty.
Who Are the Actors in The Wire Cast?
The ensemble cast of The Wire is filled with character actors from Hollywood including Lance Reddick, Deirdre Lovejoy, John Doman, and Glynn Thurman. There series also served to introduce viewers to actors who are now stars. Here are the actors remembered for their starring roles on The Wire:
McNulty is a good cop whose penchant for justice sometimes gets in the way of making a case the “right” way. He is a drunk and a philanderer. Dominic West is best known for his role on The Wire, he has gone on to star in Punisher: War Zone and The Forgotten.
Omar is a notorious criminal in Baltimore; he loves the hunt for his victims and only goes after other criminals. He take pride in knocking off stronger criminals. Michael K. Williams got his big break on The Wire, and has gone on to star in Assassin’s Creed, 12 Years a Slave and Boardwalk Empire.
Freamon has been sidelined to work in a pawnshop unit for thirteen years. The Wire was Clarke Peters first big role; he has gone on to star in the John Wick franchise and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
The leader of the Barksdale crew, he is a powerhouse in the Westside drug trade. Wood Harris is best known as Julius from Remember theTitans. After starring in The Wire, he would go on to star in Dredd and Ant-Man.
Bunk is a veteran homicide detective and a drunk. Wendell Pierce has had a long career in Hollywood, starring in The Wire as well as the films Horrible Bosses and Selma.
Judge Phelan wants to take the corruption out of the city and he regularly goes out on a limb for police and prosecutors who are trying to clean up the city. Peter Gerety is a verteran character actor known for his roles in Flight and Charlie Wilson’s War.
An honest cop in a dishonest city, Colvin won’t reclassify felonies like other district supervisors. Since starring in The Wire, Robert Wisdom has gone on to appear in The Loft. The Dark Knight Rises and Ray.
Stringer is a criminal, but he wants a legitimate empire and so begins buying real estate. But he remains indebted to the Barksdale’s. His role on The Wire put Idris Elba on the Hollywood map. He has gone on to make guest appearances on series like The Office and to star in The Mountian Between Us and Luther.
Davis is a state senator and hustler who isn’t afraid to use his street smarts to his advantage. Isiah Whitlock has had a long career in Hollywood. He is an actor and writer best known for Pete’s Dragon and 25th Hour.
Marlo makes up for his lack of criminal smarts with muscle, but he is learning more every day. The Wire was one of Jamie Hector’s first roles, he has gone on to star in films including Max Payne and the series Bosch.
Who Are the Top Guest Stars on The Wire?
In addition to the main cast, some real-world Baltimore residents made appearances on the series. Real-life drug kingpin Melvin Williams played a drug dealer on the series, Law & Order: SVU alum Richard Belzer makes a cameo in a bar, and Jay Landsman played Dennis Mello instead of playing the part of himself. Here are the actors remembered for their guest starring roles on SHOW
Delaney Williams as Jay Landsman
Squad supervisor Jay Landsman is loyal to the men and women in his department. Delaney Williams is a veteran of Hollywood with roles in Godless, Law & Order:SVU and Bull as well as Jay Landsman on The Wire.
Amy Ryan as Beadie Russell
A police officer without much experience, Beadie spends most of her time directing traffic, but then finds the bodies of thirteen women in a shipping container. Amy Ryan is known for her roles on The Office, Gone Baby Gone and Escape Plan. The Wire was her first big break.
Aiden Gillen as Tommy Carcetti
A City Councilman who wants to be more than a political figure in the city. He is idealistic and willing to work hard to make Baltimore a better place. Aiden Gillen is best known as Littlefinger from Game of Thrones; The Wire was is first big break. He has also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises and King Arthur.
Tristan Wilds as Michael Lee
Loyal and smart, Michael is raising his younger brother because his mother is an addict. He is a keen observer of the world around him. The Wire was one of Tristan Wilds first roles, he has gone on to star in the films Red Tails and The Secret Life of Bees.
Sam Freed as James C. Whiting III
Whiting is an old-school reporter who is determined to win a Putlizer. Sam Freed has held smaller roles in a variety of Hollywood series and films; his best known roles include the films Coneheads and American Gangster. In addition to The Wire he has appeared on the TV series Kate & Allie and House of Cards.
Who Are the Writers & Creators Behind The Wire?
The Wire was created by David Simon, a former crime reporter from Baltimore; he was also the showrunner and head writer for the series. Simon brought in other crime authors to fill various writing roles for the series. Here are the producers and writers remembered for the part in The Wire
David Simon: The Wire, Creator, Showrunner, Head Writer, Executive Producer
David Simon is a writer and producer known for the series The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street. His is known for his docu-drama style of writing and producing and began his career as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. His book A Year on the Killing Streets was the basis for the series Homicide: Life on the Street.
Ed Burns: The Wire, Writer and Producer
Ed Burns is known for his work on several TV series and movies including The Wire, The Corner and Deadly Games. A Baltimore native, he graduated from Loyola College, and worked as a city detective for 20 years before beginning his writing collaboration with David Simon.
Dennis Lehane: The Wire, Writer
Dennis Lehane is best known for the crime fiction novels Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River. He was brought in to write for The Wire along with authors George Pelecanos and Richard Price.
George Pelecanos: The Wire, Producer
George Pelecanos is an author best known for his novels A Firing Offense and Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go. He was brought in to write for The Wire along with crime fiction authors Dennis Lehane and Richard Price.
Richard Price: The Wire, Writer
Richard Price is a writer and producer best known for his work on Ransom, The Color of Money, and Sea of Love. He was brought in to write for The Wire along with Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos.
Where The Wire Ranks in the Television Pantheon
The Wire is famous of using real-world residents of Baltimore in guest starring roles, portraying life in Baltimore. The law enforcement drama has been praised for its realistic portrayal of the illegal drug trade, shipping, and law enforcement. It was created by former police reporter and author David Simon. The London Telegraph calls it “the greatest television programme ever made”, Entertainment Weekly named it to its 10 All-Time Greatest shows, Rolling Stone ranks the series at two on its list of 100 Greatest Shows of All Time, and TV Guide named the series to its 60 Greatest Crime Dramas of All Time and ranked it at six on it’s 60 Best Series of All Time. The Wire was nominated for 51 awards, and won 14, including three AFI Awards, for Program of the Year in 2004, 2007 and 2009, and a Directors Guild of America award.