The 32 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows on Netflix

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The 32 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows on Netflix

Netflix’s commitment to fans of sci-fi shows can be seen in the abundance of sci-fi-leaning Netflix originals and international partner productions. And 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 every show on here made our 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.

Some of these shows have significant elements of fantasy, but as long as they also touched on on scientific elements, we considered them for this list.

Here are the 32 best sci-fi TV shows on Netflix:

1. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: CBS

Watch on Netflix

The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise (And one of the best sci-fi series of all time). Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Those last three seasons in particular were peak Star Trek with episodes and arcs that got to the heart of what it is to be human and what it takes to be maintain a level of decency at all costs. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either. —Josh Jackson


2. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Developed by: Jeffrey Addis, Will Matthews
Stars: Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, Jason Isaacs 
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

There is a moment in Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance—a prequel to Jim Henson’s beloved Dark Crystal movie (which is great but you do not need to have seen it before this)—where two ancient characters are recounting an important tale to our heroes. It’s about the beautiful land of Thra, and an event many years past that caused an imbalance and blight within the crystal that stands at the center of their world. All of the answers they seek will be “brought to life by that most ancient and sacred of arts…” they’re told, with a dramatic pause as the character looks right at the camera and breathes out: “Puppetry!”

“Oh nooo!” our heroes groan, and one immediately falls asleep.

That is the bias that Age of Resistance acknowledges it’s up against—but folks, get over it. Allow this incredible production to sweep you away in an epic fantasy journey, one that is able to so much more deeply and fully explore the world Henson and Frank Oz imagined with the original film. You can liken it to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or any high fantasy series you like, but after ten magical hours it truly stands on its own as a gorgeous, innovative, emotional, joyous, and exceptional wonder. If that sounds hyperbolic, it’s only because that’s exactly the kind of sincere enthusiasm the show engenders. Get past any hesitance over the puppets (which are actually outstanding, as CG is used only to smooth out backgrounds and action), turn subtitles on to help you remember all of the character names, and immerse yourself in this incredible sci-fi/fantasy world that we are so, so lucky to have.—Allison Keene


3. Stranger Things

Created by: 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

Watch on Netflix

Say what you will about the finer points of its storytelling, Stranger Things continues to be an unabashed celebration of the 1980s, from its own filmic references regarding style and story to a cavalcade of literal references from the era. Its plucky set of kid and teen characters battle monsters (real or within themselves) and go to the mall. It’s a nostalgic dream and a creepfest nightmare. But whether it’s set during Halloween or in the throes of a mid-80s summer, the show’s carefully crafted aesthetics always serve to augment the joyful nature of the series’ non-monster moments. And that, really, is where Stranger Things shines. The creep factor is important (and occasionally actually scary or super gory), but it acts as an almost funny juxtaposition to the otherwise happy-go-lucky look at suburban life. Mainly, though, it’s the friendships and coming-of-age stories, the relationships and family bonding, that really make Stranger Things great. For better or worse, the Netflix horror series is as tasty, messy, and fleeting as an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day. Ahoy!—Allison Keene


4. The Twilight Zone

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Created by: Rod Serling
Stars: Rod Serling
Original Network: CBS

Watch on Netflix

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


5. Legends of Tomorrow

Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Stars: Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano, Tala Ashe
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

“Joyful” is an underused and underrated term when it comes to TV dramas. Too many series conflate “prestige” with sorrow, violence, and horror when it can (and should) also mean happiness and splendor. Legends of Tomorrow, though, is a drama that truly understands the meaning of joy. The series—which follows a rag-tag bunch of misfits through space and time trying to “fix” historical anomalies caused by villains and supernatural beings—can be flippant and glib, but it can also be devastatingly emotional. The bottom line is that it’s just good. For those who were turned off by its first episodes or even first season, dive in to Season Two (or even Season Three, if you’re really strapped for time) and go from there. It gets much, much better. Legends is the rare series that learns from its mistakes, always ready to grow and innovate to bring us the most bonkers but wonderful television. And unlike most other series (especially those dealing with superheroes), it isn’t afraid to change out its cast members when things aren’t working, which keeps each season feeling fresh while the stakes remain high.

Legends of Tomorrow is funny, strange, bizarre, beautiful, and silly. It incorporates puppets and unicorns and sentient lopped-off nipples, but also explores the the devastation of losing loved ones, of advocating for those who need a voice, and an ever-developing journey of self-discovery. Join us for the ride.—Allison Keene


6. Star Trek: The Original Series

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

Watch on Netflix

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


7. The Umbrella Academy

Created by: Steve Blackman, Jeremy Slater
Stars: Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

As a fan of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s comic book, I was a little skeptical of Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy. I assumed it’d flatten out the comic’s esoteric edges in an attempt to make it more like other superhero shows. The first episode almost immediately calms those fears, though, revealing a series as weird and idiosyncratic as the comic. Imagine if Wes Anderson directed a Grant Morrison adaptation, complete with a mansion-spanning sad-superhero dance break to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.”.

The first season of Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is a superhero series for those who don’t really like superhero shows, an exploration of family, failure and the pain associated with being asked to live up to a destiny you never asked for. For the seven Hargreeves children who comprise the titular team, their powers have generally been more of a curse than a blessing, and their resulting mental problems, various substance addictions, and general loneliness are proof positive of that. Yet few moments on television have been as weird or beautiful as watching this group of misfits find ways to forgive each other and come together again.

Yes, its story has multiple apocalypses, but it also never despairs. We literally see the world burning, but things never feel truly bleak. And though this is in the strictest sense a comic book adaptation, at its heart it’s really just a story about family, forgiveness, and hope. This is a show whose whole is much more than the sum of its parts, and that is what makes all the difference. —Garrett Martin and Lacy Baugher


8. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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Created by: 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

Watch on Netflix

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


9. Neon Genesis Evangelion

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Created by: Hideaki Anno
Stars: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hiroyuki Ishidô, Tsuyoshi Kaga
Original Network: Animax, Cartoon Network

Watch on Netflix

Is it a psychodrama about growing up? Is it a giant robot action show about the apocalypse? Is it an allegory for how humans are doomed and can’t communicate? If Neon Genesis Evangelion seems like a figurative roller coaster, guess what: it has an actual VR roller coaster, too. The thing is, Evangelion does manage to find treasure in all its complex digging into those questions, and it never feels bloated or boring in the process. Series director Hideaki Anno frames his characters’ traumas through horror imagery; crucifixion, sexual misconduct, child abuse, and the literal melting of humankind are all ideas he visually worked into this crazy, decades-spanning franchise. In the hands of someone else, it’d probably fall apart completely. Evangelion, however, is beautiful enough to use a cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” as its credits track and make it all work. —Eric Vilas-Boas


10. Black Lightning

Created by: Salim Akil
Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse (just recently valorized by a $400 million cash contract made to keep the universe-runner around until 2024) has been an undeniable success for The CW—and for the DC universe on screen. But it has not, historically, had a great deal to say about the deeply rooted prejudices of the real world that have conspired to create the violence and terror that shape places like the Glades in Green Arrow’s Star City, or that are mirrored in the bigotry metahumans face by “normal” society. Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil’s addition to the fold, Black Lightning, takes that challenge head on, positioning endemic racism and systemic inequity as the central evils a real superhero would find himself (or, in the case of Nafessa Williams’ Thunder, herself) up against. It then uses those injustices, and the tensions they cause within not just communities but individual families (Black Lightning, as played by Cress Williams, is father to two superpowered daughters), to tell a compelling, heady story about what it means to do what is right in a world that resembles our own more than any superhero story to date. (Although Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger may give the show a run for its money). Plus, its soundtrack? Double platinum. —Alexis Gunderson


11. Sense8

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Created by: 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

Watch on Netflix

There may not be a 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


12. Mystery Science Theater 3000

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Created by: 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

Watch on 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 and a second six-episode arc called MST3K: The Gauntlet. 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. —Jim Vorel


13. The Flash

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

Watch on Netflix

Over the past decade, 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. That’s especially true 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. At their 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


14. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

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Created by: Noelle Stevenson
Stars: Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

If you, like me, are coming to She-Ra and the Princesses of Power for the first time—and you should; the magical mermaid princess water is lovely here—then whatever number of robots you’re expecting to see, be ready for double that. Possibly triple. Really, considering the nature of technology on/in Etheria, it’s probably best not to set any bar for how many robots might eventually cross your screen. Let the magic be in the discovery.

If you have even a passing familiarity with Netflix and Dreamworks’ thoroughly of-our-time reimagining of the legacy Masters of the Universe property, you might have been expecting me to lead with any number of other facts. Like say the fact that, led by the creative sensibilities of Noelle Stevenson, the graphic novelist behind Nimona and Lumberjanes, the series places both monster girls and the tender tenacity of friendship dead center. Or the fact that, also under Stevenson’s watch, the majority of the show’s creative staff and cast are female. Or the fact that—again, with Stevenson’s deliberate blessing—the new She-Ra is super, super queer.

For a kids’ show, this is a lot. But there is something so chillingly familiar in it, especially at this moment in history, that it’s impossible not to be impressed—and just as impossible not to hope that the tools Adora, Glimmer, Bow and the rest of their friends fight back with as the series continues will be ones we can use in our own lives, back here in the real world. —Alexis Gunderson


15. The OA

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

Watch on 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


16. Black Mirror

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Created by: Charlie Brooker
Original Network: Channel 4 (UK)

Watch on Netflix

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


17. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

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Created by: Seiji Mizushima
Original Network: Adult Swim (US)

Watch on Netflix

For many, Brotherhood is the essential anime experience, and it’s easy to see why. A more faithful adaptation to Hiromu Arakawa’s mega-popular manga series, Brotherhood contends with loss, grief, war, racism and ethics in mature and unique ways, ahead of its time in nearly every aspect. What’s more, the show is paced perfectly, with neatly wrapped arcs that lead into each other and bolster a greater global narrative on selected themes. Brotherhood is just the right length, never overstaying its welcome and proving how versatile and malleable the conventions of shounen anime can be.

Brotherhood has a sizeable cast of characters all of different nationalities and ideologies, with motivations that often oppose one another—the show manages to use these moving forces to form factions, alliances and foils that flow in multiple directions, paralleling the often messy, always chaotic nature of human relationships during wartime. The show’s emotional core revolves around the plight of the Elric brothers, Ed and Alphonse, two alchemists sponsored by the authoritarian Amestris military. It’s not your classic military drama, though, as Ed and Alphonse quickly learn how far Amestris’ authoritarianism stretches.

Where Brotherhood excels lies in the sensitivity it expresses for every one of the characters’ fighting for their desires and contending with their mistakes, with particular highlights on the plights of minorities and women. Ed and Alphonse struggle with the fallout after attempting forbidden alchemy to revive their recently deceased mother. Later, their childhood friend Winry is portrayed heroically for acting as an emergency midwife. Scar, initially introduced as a brutal serial killer, is one of the last remaining indigenous Ishvalans, an ethnic group purged during a colonial war at the hands of Amestris—his odyssey continues to ring more and more resonant as we stray further into a post-terror world. It’s why the series continues to wow today: it eschews cliche to make cogent points on human consciousness. —Austin Jones


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

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Created by: 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

Watch on Netflix

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


19. Dark Matter

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Created by: 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)

Watch on Netflix

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


20. Altered Carbon

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

Watch on 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


21. Star Trek: Voyager

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Created by: 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

Watch on Netflix

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


22. Dark

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

Watch on 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


23. Colony

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

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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


24. 3%

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

Watch on 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


25. The Rain

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Created by: 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

Watch on 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


26. Supergirl

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Created by: 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

Watch on Netflix

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


27. Lost in Space

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

Watch on 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


28. The 100

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

Watch on Netflix

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


29. Mars

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Created by: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Rosenberg
Stars: Ben Cotton, Jihae, Sammi Rotibi, Clementine Poidatz, Anamaria Marinca
Original Network: Nat Geo

Watch on Netflix

We have a never-ending fascination with Mars. Is there life there? Can we send an astronaut? The planet has been fodder for countless documentaries and imaginary tales. This six-part miniseries stands out as a hybrid by interspersing the fictional story of the first mission to Mars in 2033 with interviews with Mars experts including Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Neil deGrasse Tyson, and NASA administrator Charles Bolden. TV is constantly reinventing itself, and this fusion of fiction with reality could spawn a whole new genre. (The series returns for a second season in fall 2018). —Amy Amatangelo


30. Travelers

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Created by: Brad Wright
Stars: Eric McCormack, MacKenzie Porter, Nesta Cooper, Jared Abrahamson, Reilly Dolman, Patrick Gilmore
Original Network: Showcase, Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The degree to which Netflix’s excellent sci-fi series Travelers has continuously flown under the radar is so spooky, one might almost be convinced that psychic time travelers from a post-apocalyptic future really have been quietly taking over the bodies and lives of our friends and family at the moments of their historic death as part of a slow-growth conspiracy to prevent nuclear apocalypse, and we’re all just too wrapped up in our current cultural shitstorm to have noticed. Travelers, whose third season dropped on Friday only to be immediately drowned for oxygen by the flash of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina holiday special and the bang of the final season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, has been quietly compelling sci-fi storytelling since its low-key beginning, and from what I’ve treated myself to of Season Three so far, is only getting more creatively self-assured and philosophically complex as time goes on. Plus: It continues to feature a knockout performance from Patrick Gilmore as non-Traveler David Mailer, who is one of the most endearing models of television’s “new masculinity; I’ve seen in the past couple years. —Alexis Gunderson


31. Roswell

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Created by: Jason Katims
Stars: Shiri Appleby, Jason Behr, Katherine Heigl, Majandra Delfino, Brendan Fehr, Colin Hanks
Original Network: The WB/UPN

Watch on Netflix

Roswell is one of those shows that died before its time, likely a victim of network tinkering. I know it’s a running gag to blame “the suits,” but more often than not it is their fault. With Roswell, they took a perfectly good high school drama about aliens and the Earthlings who love them and ratcheted up the science fiction elements to extreme, often absurd levels. Season One was by far the best ,and actually did a great job of capturing high school on a number of levels. There’s the love triangle between Liz (Shiri Appleby), Max and Kyle (Nick Wechsler) and there’s Michael (Brendan Fehr), the bad boy with the (deeply hidden) heart of gold, and of course Alex (Colin Hanks), the nerd who’s in love with Isabel (Katherine Heigl) the (literal, it turns out) princess. And really, who doesn’t feel like an alien at least a few times during high school? The show also had some nice touches, like the aliens’ addiction to Tabasco and the casting of John Doe, bassist of the seminal LA punk band X, playing Liz’s father. At least the series was allowed to end with a real finale, rather than being canceled mid-story. But the silliness and muddled plotlines mean that the ending came as more of a relief than a disappointment—it’s the perfect example of a good show being murdered by tinkering network execs.—Mark Rabinowitz


32. Nightflyers

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Created by: Daniel Cerone, George R. R. Martin
Stars: Eoin Macken, David Ajala, Jodie Turner-Smith, Angus Sampson, Sam Strike, Maya Eshet, Brían F. O’Byrne, Gretchen Mol
Original Network: Syfy

Watch on Netflix

George R.R. Martin’s latest screen adaptation may not have all the incestuous complexity (or dragons) of Game of Thrones, but it’s certainly got his penchant for ruthless bloodshed. The first episode of Syfy’s Nightflyers opens with a vignette that asks, “What if The Shining went according to plan for Jack Nicholson and was also in space?” then flashes the mouth-agape audience back in time to the moment that everything begins to go wrong for the Nightflyer crew. With psychics, advanced AI and more threatening to tear the minds and bodies of the adventurers apart, making contact with alien life is the least of their problems. The show is stuffed with homages to famous horror and sci-fi, only stopping the Where’s Waldo reference game to shock and strangle your good time. It might not be the most elegant beginning to a show, but the adaptation’s certainly brutal and ballsy enough to keep an eye on. —Jacob Oller



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