The 25 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows on Netflix

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The 25 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows on Netflix

Netflix’s commitment to fans of sci-fi shows can be seen in the fact that eight of the best sci-fi TV series on the streaming service are Netflix originals, including Stranger Things, Altered Carbon, Lost in Space, The OA and Sense8, along with three international productions. But if you like your sci-fi old school, there’s also Twilight Zone, five different Star Trek series (including the original) and tons of shows from the ’90s. Almost all of these made our recent list of the 100 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time list. Sure we’d love the return of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who to Netflix, but what we have is a pretty deep catalog of science fiction TV shows to enjoy.

Here are the 25 best sci-fi TV shows on Netflix:

25. Dark

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Creators: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese
Stars: Louis Hofmann, Sebastian Rudolph, Lisa Vicari, Gina Stiebitz, Carlotta von Falkenhayn
Original Network: Netflix 

Even dashing off a synopsis of Dark, co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, is no simple task. The first episode opens with the promise that “everything is connected”—intoned over photographs of the same people at different ages, in different fashions, pinned to the wall of an underground fallout shelter and connected by stretches of twine—and on this, at least, the series keeps its word. In the remote outpost of Winden, Germany, in 2019, Jonas Kahnwald (Louis Hofmann), reeling from his father’s suicide and the disappearance of a high-school classmate, embarks on a search for the missing boy and becomes embroiled in a supernatural mystery, one that reaches back to 1986—six months after the Chernobyl disaster—and thence to 1953—when Winden’s own nuclear power plant, slated to go offline in 2020, is under construction. If its initial allusions—Einstein, The Matrix, A Clockwork Orange, Goethe, Back to the Future—feel as threadbare as those of Stranger Things, albeit with a certain “highbrow” gloss, Dark nonetheless succeeds in drawing one in; as with countless sci-fi, horror and crime dramas of recent vintage, it suggests the pleasures of puzzles and riddles, plopping us down in the center of its very own Carcosa and inviting us to scrabble our way out. The problem, though, is not that the series tosses these threads to the four winds and expects us to gather them together. It’s that what it delivers, when we tie it all up, has the heft of an empty package. —Matt Brennan

24. The 100

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Creator: Jason Rothenberg
Stars: Eliza Taylor, Eli Goree, Thomas McDonell
Original Network: The CW

This post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama is set 97 years after a nuclear war wiped out almost all life on Earth. Survivors are living in a space station orbiting the Earth, hoping to one day return to their home. As resources on the ship become scarce and oxygen levels enter critical condition, the leadership decides to send 100 juvenile prisoners to Earth to see if the land is inhabitable. The “Lord of the Flies”-esque drama series follows these teens as they uncover surprises of what is left of mother earth. If you’re a thrill-lover, The 100 will keep you pressing “next episode.” —Jane Snyder

23. Lost in Space (2018-)

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Creator: Irwin Allen
Stars: Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins, Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall, Ignacio Serricchio, Parker Posey
Network: Netflix 

Lost in Space’s Molly Parker and Parker Posey generate much the same excitement as the series’ (many, mostly effective) action sequences. Its motor isn’t the force of the soldier, as represented by Toby Stephens’ gruff John Robinson, but the logic of the scientist (Parker), the guile of the con woman (Posey), the problem-solving acumen of Will (Maxwell Jenkins) and his older sisters, Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Judy (Taylor Russell). From using magnesium to melt ice and commandeering a “chariot”—a cross between a Jeep and a tank—to determining the cause of engine distress, the Robinsons are at their best untangling dilemmas, rather than blasting through them. At one point, facing a more complicated calculation than she expected, Maureen quips, “I’m gonna need a bigger whiteboard,” and it resounds as Lost in Space’s central proposition: That there’s room in the genre, and indeed on television, for the “science” in science fiction to be more than the expression of humankind’s worst instincts. In fact, though it’s been (not unreasonably) described as “darker” than Irwin Allen’s original, which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1968, the most important changes in Netflix’s remake—Parker’s top billing, Posey’s casting—reflect more depth than darkness, at least not darkness for its own sake. The series premiere aside, Maureen is John’s equal, if not, at times, the dominant figure in their relationship, one that turns out to be much thornier than it might seem. —Matt Brennan

22. The Rain

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Creators: Jannik Tai Mosholt, Esben Toft Jacobsen, Christian Potalivo
Stars: Alba August, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Lukas Løkken, Jessica Dinnage, Sonny Lindberg, Angela Bundalovic, Lars Simonsen
Original Network: Netflix 

If you’ve seen the one show about the telegenic young blonde who barely survives a near-apocalyptic event and now has to overcome her naïvety to fight off both the harsh post-catastrophe elements and humanity’s other remaining survivors in order to protect the last of her family AT ALL COSTS!!!, then you’ve seen The Rain, Netflix’s first Danish original series. This isn’t to say The Rain isn’t worth watching, necessarily; any viewer with the fortitude to overcome subtitles will enjoy, if nothing else, some really sharp cinematography and acting and just general atmospherics. Plus, watching this story play out in a non-North American, non-English speaking country is engaging for its novelty. The emotional arc of the story, too, for all it is a mashup of the seven thousand YA-adjacent dystopian/post-apocalyptic/survival thriller shows and films that have come before it, isn’t bad. After what is essentially an anxiety-fueled bottle episode weirdly positioned as the pilot, the two main characters encounter the rest of the season’s principals in a dire, gripping way, and the circumstances that force the lot of them both into cahoots and into taking the particular trip that they do make enough sense to keep you interested—especially as each subsequent episode turns its lens to a new secondary character to follow back in time to when the apocalyptic implications of the viral rain were still making themselves known, and that character was just becoming the hardened person they are in the present. All of this, remarkably watchable. —Alexis Gunderson

21. 3%

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Creators: Pedro Aguilera
Stars: Bianca Comparato, João Miguel, Michel Gomes, Rodolfo Valente
Original Network: Netflix 

U.S. shows have long been a part of Netflix’s offering in foreign countries, and the streaming service has brought a handful of foreign TV shows to America. But 3% is Netflix’s first original Brazilian production. Set in a dystopian future where only 3% of the population is chosen to live in a Utopian society, while the rest of humanity struggles in destitution, the show follows a group of 20-year-old candidates competing to be among the chosen, some of whom may be part of a revolutionary group called The Cause. Part pyschological thriller, part sci-fi morality play, the eight-episode series is full of characters on both sides of the test, struggling to win a chance at a better life without abandoning their principles. —Josh Jackson

20. Continuum

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Creator: Simon Barry
Stars: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross
Original Network: Showcase

I’m starting to grow suspicious: Do Canadians plug into the walls at night? Orphan Black has made its mark in the U.S. (with Tatiany Maslany finally winning an Emmy), but it’s far from the first noteworthy Canadian sci-fi import. Continuum rises above both the usual fare we find on Syfy and on network television. The show follows the efforts of Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) to thwart the ambitious and destructive terrorist group Liber8. The hook: Cameron and the terrorists are accidental transplants from the year 2077, where corporations subsidized global debt with the subordination of the world’s governments. The collision is not about the obliteration of one perspective, but the slow formation of compromised strengths. The political disconnect encourages us to remain impartial. The show’s character development can come in waves, but Nichols remains capable of carrying whatever material she’s handed to evocative, substantial places. Plus: She takes down do-badders towering over her like ogres more convincingly than any other actress on television. —Kyle Burton

19. Helix

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Creator: Cameron Porsandeh
Stars: Billy Campbell, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kyra Zagorsky, Mark Ghanimé, Matt Long
Original Network: Syfy

Helix is a claustrophobic quarantine thriller that begins with a throwback virus running wild in a Greenland research station. The show takes a couple of episodes to generate the momentum needed to override its missteps. Two days into its outbreak, Helix just about keeps ahead of its logical inconsistencies and muted performances by ratcheting up the horror quotient. The most intriguing aspect of the series may actually be the contagion itself, a kind of “contained rage” virus that promises an intelligent (and equally malevolent) version of the enemies found in The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later. The show skips any initial mystery about who’s behind the infection, with the lead villain—Hiro, the head of the Arctic Biosystems lab—identified in the opening scene. Hiro comes across one of his scientists, Peter, in the grotesque throes of the disease, which he coolly calls “Progress.” As the show progresses, it delves deeper into paranoia, hallucination and self-mutilation. If you like your sci-fi with a slice of madness and horror, Helix may be for you. —Andrew Westney

18. Colony

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Creators: Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal
Stars: Josh Holloway, Sarah Wayne Callies, Peter Jacobson, Amanda Righetti, Tory Kittles
Original Network: USA

Josh Holloway. Need I say more? Okay, fine. Holloway stars as former FBI agent Will Bowman. He and his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies of The Walking Dead) live in Los Angeles, where aliens have invaded and now occupy the city. Nothing can be done without their knowledge. Will and Katie were separated from their son at the time of the invasion and now must decide what lengths they are willing to go to in order to get him back. From executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan Condal, the series plays on the tension between protecting your family and rising up against oppressive invaders and what happens when husband and wife find themselves on different sides of that line. —Shannon M. Houston

17. Star Trek: Voyager

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Creators: Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor
Stars: Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Roxann Dawson, Jennifer Lien, Robert Duncan McNeill, Ethan Phillips, Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, Garrett Wang, Jeri Ryan
Network: UPN

If the original Enterprise explored strange new worlds, sought out new life and new civilizations and boldly went where no man had gone before, Voyager showed what a woman could do. The unflappable Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) guided her crew home when an energy wave transported them across the Milky Way into the Delta Quadrant, home to plenty of new civilizations and dominated by Star Trek’s best adversary of all time, the Borg. Where the first two series were about exploration by a Utopian society and Deep Space Nine was a more honest look at the difficulties of simple co-existence, Voyager was all about the journey home. The crew, made up of Starfleet and Maquis rebels, were brought together out of necessity but had to rely on each other in part of the galaxy that was strange even to professional explorers of space. In addition to the usual human/Vulcan/Klingon characters, the ship was home to a local Talaxian guide, a holographic doctor who developed self-awareness, and a Borg drone separate from her hive and re-learning her humanity. With only each other to rely on, Voyager was the most interpersonal series in the Star Trek universe. —Josh Jackson

16. Supergirl

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Creators: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, Andrew Kreisberg
Stars:: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, Calista Flockhart, Jeremy Jordan, David Harewood, Chris Wood, Floriana Lima
Original Networks: CBS, The CW

Not since Lynda Carter began deflecting bullets with her bracelets has there been such a high-profile debut of a female superhero on network television. The fact that it only lasted a season on CBS before getting shuffled to the CW can’t be pinned on superb lead Melissa Benoist as the titular cousin to the Man of Steel. The series was a bigger hit with critics than audiences, celebrating the feminine strength and innate goodness of its source character in stark contrast to Zach Snyder’s darker vision of Krypton’s most famous son. Kara Zor-El confronts both the responsibilities of her inhuman powers and the difficulties of working for callous media exec Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), while juggling friendships, romances and family dysfunction of world-ending proportions. That this fun, family-friendly action adventure couldn’t make it on CBS says more about network television than anything else. Thankfully Supergirl found a new place to save National City. —Josh Jackson

15. Star Wars: The Clone Wars

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Creator:   George Lucas  
Stars: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane
Original Networks: Cartoon Network, Netflix

Contrary to popular belief, Lucasfilm did manage to create an engaging storyline set in the “prequel” universe. Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Acting as a bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the show finds Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with new character Ahsoka Tano, battling against the forces of Dooku and General Grievous. What started as a series full of fun, exciting space battles, however, soon grew into a much deeper and richer story that explored the complications and brutality of war. Moreover, The Clone Wars did more to set the stage for Anakin’s inevitable turn to the Dark Side than any moment in the films. While the show’s brand of photo-realistic animation may not be for everyone, there are few who will deny that the sophisticated storytelling on display would not have been greatly welcome in the traditional Star Wars movie universe. —Mark Rozeman

14. Altered Carbon

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Creator: Laeta Kalogridis
Stars:: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Conner, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh
Original Network: Netflix 

Netflix’s recent sci-fi series Altered Carbon rivals HBO’s Westworld in terms of both beautifully constructed future worlds and naked bodies that are essentially ciphers, devoid of human soul. The cyberpunk noir show follows a resistance fighter revived into a new body, or “sleeve,” centuries after his revolution has failed. To win his freedom he must solve a murder mystery for one of the super-elite ancient Meths (short for that Biblical old-timer Methuselah), who buy new cloned bodies to house their back-up personalities, housed in a data core at the base of the brain stem. The technology, which allows for resurrection of the dead and instant travel across star systems, raises questions about religion, justice and familial relationships, like when agnostic police detective Kristin Ortega brings her grandmother home in the body of a pierced, tattooed convict to celebrate All Hallows Eve—her neo-Catholic family believes a soul brought back from the dead can never rest. It’s hard sci-fi without much of a sense of humor, but the acting (Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Renée Elise Goldberry), directing (Game of Thrones’ Miguel Sapochnik handles the pilot) and visual effects give the genre a claim to prestige television, and the hardboiled drama and blockbuster-worthy fight scenes have so far kept me coming back for more. —Josh Jackson

13. Dark Matter

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Creators: Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie
Stars: Melissa O’Neil, Anthony Lemke, Alex Mallari Jr., Jodelle Ferland, Roger Cross, Zoie Palmer, Marc Bendavid
Original Network: Syfy (U.S.), Space (Canada)

Based on the Dark Horse Comics series of the same name, Dark Matter kicks off as six people wake up on a spaceship with no memories of who they are or how they ended up there. What follows are three seasons of adventures that gradually ratchet up the stakes while still focusing on glorious character development. Because when you don’t know whether you’re a hero or a villain, you have to redefine your identity. Dark Matter also boasts three kickass female protagonists, including one of the most endearing Androids on television. So it was disheartening when Syfy recently made the shortsighted decision to cancel the show. We need more three-dimensional leading ladies interacting on our screens, and Dark Matter has them in spades. Luckily, you can still binge every season on Netflix. —Frannie Jackson

12. Sense8

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Creators: The Wachowskis, J. Michael Straczynski
Stars: Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith, Doona Bae, Aml Ameen, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Jamie Clayton, Freema Agyeman, Terrence Mann, Anupam Kher, Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah
Original Network: Netflix 

There was no bigger WTF TV show in the world than Sense8. This globe-trotting and glitzy sci-fi series, created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (co-directors of The Matrix trilogy) and former Babylon 5 showrunner J. Michael Straczynski, drops us into a world where eight strangers in different parts of the planet are somehow psychically and emotionally linked. Through the first season’s 12 episodes—and the recent Christmas special follow this assortment of confused and beautiful people as they try to understand this connection, use their newfound abilities to help one another, and engage in not one but two blissfully queer orgies. As wacky and over-the-top as Sense8 can often get, the series remains important as it deals with issues of sexuality and gender identity through the work of trans actress Jamie Clayton and performers Miguel Silvestre and Alfonso Herrera’s portrayal of a gay couple in Mexico City. —Robert Ham

11. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Creators:   Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen
Stars: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennett, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki
Original Network: ABC

Nothing in S.H.I.E.L.D. ever stays the same for long. It is this vital characteristic that allowed the show to endure a series of early rough patches that not even Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) flying car could avoid. This element would also end up making the series unique. A re-watch of the beginning of the show’s first season almost feels like the launching point for a different series. Each week found Coulson and his team of agents going on a wacky new spy-laden adventure. Though intended to be fun and lively, the show reached a little too far over the top, resulting in an awkward feeling of camp (think Roger Moore’s Bond films) that simply didn’t mesh with the world the Marvel films established. Then, in 2014, as the show’s first season began its final arc, Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened. The events of the Captain America sequel tied in heavily with the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, and it finally felt like it belonged within the MCU instead of being relegated to the outside looking in. Ironically, H.Y.D.R.A.’s attempt at destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. proved to be the show’s saving grace. The series often turns on a dime, but the viewer never feels whiplash. An impressive accomplishment given the multitude of times this show could have easily veered off the rails. Always remaining in a state of reinvention, no two seasons are alike. Revolving team lineups keep the character dynamics fresh, and the audience can never fully guess which direction the series is going to head next. This sense of ballsy exploration keeps the narrative from ever becoming stale, resulting in a show that is both criminally underrated and underappreciated. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. absolutely belongs in the upper echelon of Marvel’s catalogue, be it works from the small screen or the silver one. —Geoff Miller

10. The OA

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Creators: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling 
Stars: Brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Scott Wilson
Original Network: Netflix 

Brit Marling  and Zal Batmanglij’s flawed, transfixing science (or is it spiritual?) fiction asks its audience, as the title character (Marling) does hers, for trust—to the point that the suspension of disbelief emerges as the subject of The OA, and not merely its mechanism. As the OA, or Original Angel, also known as Prairie Johnson, unfurls a tale of unimaginable trauma for four high school students and their math teacher (the surprising Phyllis Smith), the decision to focus on images of their rapt faces might appear premature, given the first season’s meandering course. And yet, mirroring the OA’s inscrutable message, Marling and Batmanglij’s snarled stories ultimately straighten, as if diagramming an indecipherable sentence or lining a complex hymn: When its nesting narratives come taut, when its forked paths converge, The OA rewards the faith it requires, coming to a climax of such sublime conviction it continues to reduce me to sobs even now, after countless viewings. —Matt Brennan

9. The Flash

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Creators: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Stars: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh
Network: The CW

Over the past five years, the CW, born from a merger of The WB and UPN in 2006, has taken full advantage of its close ties with Warner Bros. to hand over much of its primetime slate to DC superhero shows, and it’s one of the most fun line-ups on television, especially with Barry Allen zipping around National City in The Flash, taking out bad guys with a quip and a smile. The Flash has tackled everything from the classic Flashpoint storyline about alternate realities to the giant, super-intelligent Gorilla Grodd, and fans are eating it up. At heart, comic books were designed as a fantastical distraction from everyday life. That doesn’t mean they can’t tell meaningful stories that push us to reexamine our world, but it’s taken time for the balance we see on the page to make the leap to the screen. With big-screen superhero stories becoming so bruising, both mentally and physically, small-screen comic stories are now a light-hearted oasis for fans just looking to have a good time, with a little angst thrown in for good measure. —Trent Moore

8. Black Mirror

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Creator: Charlie Brooker
Original Network: Channel 4 (UK)

There are probably times in most of our lives when we see our technological world as more of a dystopia than a utopia. The way it curbs our freedom, diminishes our privacy, and subjects us to anonymous attacks can feel like an unforgivable violation. But the worst part is, we’re complicit—we’ve accepted the intrusion, and in some cases, or even most cases, we’ve become addicted. The ubiquity of technology is a reality that we can’t fight against, and to maintain our sanity, we have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth questioning, which is exactly what Black Mirror is all about. The title is nearly perfect, as explained by creator Charlie Brooker: “The black mirror of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” The job of this show is to reflect our society in an unflattering light, and they do it with a new cast and a new story in each episode. This is not fun watching—it’s mostly horrifying—but even if our brave new world is inescapable, the show represents a kind of protest that feels more necessary than ever. —Shane Ryan

7. Mystery Science Theater 3000

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Creator: Joel Hodgson
Stars: Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, Jonah Ray, Baron Vaughn, Hampton Yount, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Michael J. Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Patrick Brantseg
Original Networks: KTMA, The Comedy Channel, Comedy Central, Sci Fi Channel, Netflix 

From the depths of Minneapolis public access TV came MST3K, the show that forever changed how comedians (and comedy audiences) viewed the act of watching bad movies. Joel Hodgson’s brainchild transformed an act carried out by stoned college kids watching late night TV into some of TV’s sharpest comedy writing, leaving an indelible mark on the comedy world and inventing an entire subgenre of professional comedic exploration while he was at it: Movie riffing. At its creative peak during both the Hodgson and Michael J. Nelson years, there wasn’t a show on television that featured denser, more joke-packed episodes, while simultaneously covering such a wide, eclectic range in its pop cultural references. That cosmopolitan comedy legacy now lives on via the Netflix revival of the show, MST3K: The Return, which has one season in the tank and another on the way. Although the reboot hasn’t quite reached the heights of the show’s original run just yet, there’s reason to hope that it will continue rounding into form. Check out our massive ranking of every single episode of MST3K ever made. —Jim Vorel

6. Futurama

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Creator:   Matt Groening  
Stars: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, David Herman, Frank Welker
Network: Fox

Totally underappreciated in its original run, which just caught the tail end of the ’90s, one gets the sense that Futurama at first suffered from misplaced expectations. Knowing it was coming from Matt Groening, perhaps people expected a futuristic version of The Simpsons, but Futurama is fundamentally different in quite a few aspects. Although it was similar in its satirical lampooning of modern (or futuristic) daily life and media, it was also capable of being surprisingly—even shockingly—emotional at times. Just ask anyone who remembers the end of “Jurassic Bark” or “The Luck of the Fryrish,” among other episodes. Likewise, its self-contained continuity was unlike almost every other animated sitcom, with events unfolding in both its first and second run on TV that fundamentally affected the viewer’s perception of earlier plot points. It’s now rightly recognized as one of the best animated comedies ever. —Jim Vorel

5. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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Creator: Rick Berman, Michael Piller
Stars: Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Michael Dorn, Nicole de Boer
Original Network: Syndication

Deep Space Nine was an experiment in a different type of Star Trek property, one not built around a spaceship/warship traveling and exploring the edges of the known universe. Rather, DS9 was an advanced but static outpost where emissaries of various alien races came to congregate, trade and conduct business. The show featured the first and still only black commander-in-chief as lead protagonist and was noted for the diversity of its alien cast and their well-defined characters. It also tackled topics of religion more effectively and extensively than any of the Star Trek series to date, as the Bajoran Wormhole near DS9 was integral to both the series’ plot and the religious beliefs of the Bajoran people, several of whom served as crew. It was never quite as popular as Next Generation, but that was a tough assignment to follow. —Jim Vorel

4. Stranger Things

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Creators: The Duffer Brothers
Stars: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine
Original Network:** Netflix

The only question viewers tend to ask about the quality of Netflix’s Stranger Things isn’t “Is this a fantastically entertaining show?” but “Does it matter that the show is so homage-heavy?” Our take: No. Since springing into the cultural consciousness immediately with its 2016 release, Stranger Things has been hailed as a revival of old-school sci-fi, horror and ’80s nostalgia that is far more effective and immediately gripping than most other examples of its ilk. The influences are far too deeply ingrained to individually list, although imagery evoking Amblin-era Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper films drips from nearly every frame. In Season One, the stellar cast of child actors and several different characters whose hidden secrets we desperately want to see explored hits every note necessary to motivate a weekend-long Netflix binge. Season Two is full of the same kinds of joyful moments of television—’80s nostalgia, plucky kids, pre-teen awkwardness, scary-but-not-terrifying monsters, goofy minor characters and emotional reunions. The world gets a little bigger than Hawkins, Indiana, and the stakes get a little higher, but at its heart, six kids must face up to their monsters, metaphorical and real, to a perfect ’80s soundtrack. —Jim Vorel and Josh Jackson

3. Star Trek: The Original Series

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Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig
Original Network: NBC

What began as a pitch by writer and producer Gene Roddenberry about a small spaceship exploring the galaxy has since grown into a worldwide cultural phenomenon inspiring millions of viewers (as well as astronauts, scientists and inventors) for more than half a century. A multi-billion dollar franchise spanning eight TV series, 13 films, countless books, comics, magazines and videogames—that all starts here. Four pinging notes ring out in the silence of space. The voice of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) suddenly echoes out among the stars, explaining his crew’s five-year mission via voiceover narration. Their vessel is the Starship Enterprise, which appears in all its glory, orbiting planets and traveling at high warp, faster than anything that 1960s audiences had ever seen, as fast as progress itself. An alien operatic soprano suddenly wails out, then the theme song by composer Alexander Courage, then the titles: STAR TREK. Everything about this new science fiction TV show would break the mold, from its diverse cast and thought-provoking plots to its art direction. At the end of Season Two, when word had spread that Star Trek was at risk of cancellation, NBC received hundreds of thousands of letter in protest from fans, including doctors, professors and even New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.The Original Series would be canceled in 1969, the last episode airing fewer than two months before Apollo 11’s successful manned mission to the Moon. But its effect was permanent and immeasurable. Roddenberry had built a series that dared to face the unknown, overcome impossible challenges and stretch social conventions for the better. His dream of the future set the stage for a show that would boldly go where no other TV series had gone before. —James Charisma

2. The Twilight Zone

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Creator: Rod Serling
Stars: Rod Serling
Network: CBS

It is, in the estimation of any sane person, one of the greatest science fiction series of all time without a doubt, with its myriad episodes about technology, aliens, space travel, etc. But The Twilight Zone also plumbed the depths of the human psyche, madness and damnation with great regularity, in the same spirit as creator Rod Serling’s later series, Night Gallery. Ultimately, The Twilight Zone is indispensable to both sci-fi and horror. Its moralistic playlets so often have the tone of dark, Grimm Brothers fables for the rocket age of the ‘50s and ‘60s, urban legends that have left an indelible mark on the macabre side of our pop culture consciousness. What else can one call an episode such as “Living Doll,” wherein a confounded, asshole Telly Savalas is threatened, stalked and ultimately killed by his abused daughter’s vindictive doll, Talky Tina? Or “The Invaders,” about a lonely woman in a farmhouse who is menaced by invaders from outer space in an episode almost entirely without dialog? Taken on its own, a piece of television such as “The Invaders” almost shares more in common with “old dark house” horror films or the slashers that would arrive 20 years later than an entry in a sci-fi anthology. —Jim Vorel

1. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Network: Syndicated

Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: Syndicated
The only question is, great Star Trek series or greatest Star Trek series? The debate will always rage on endlessly, but I think time has been especially kind to peoples’ fondness for Next Generation, to the point where I expect it would be the winner of a poll of 1,000 Trekkies. And with good reason—TNG basically takes the original Star Trek’s exploration premise and goes further with it, expanding the boundaries of the universe and creating a richer, more compelling backdrop to the action. Everyone loves Patrick Stewart as the empathetic, cordial Captain Picard; the dude’s appeal is universal. Likewise, there are so many other fan-favorite characters, from good-guy Klingon warrior Worf to Brent Spiner as the charming android, Data. It’s probably the best pure cast in terms of acting talent that any entry in the series has ever had. Its reruns still draw good ratings—what other sci-fi show that started airing in 1987 can make that claim? —Jim Vorel

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