Before you dig in here, some things you should know: The sci-fi tv show experience is a commitment, and you have to be ready to brave the journey there and back to complete these multiverse-spanning stories. (If not, maybe try the best sci-fi movies on Netflix instead?) You've got action, drama, joy, and heartbreak in these outstanding visions of the not-so-distant future, and it's all right at your fingertips now. Here's our list of the best sci-fi tv shows on Netflix (US) right now (in alphabetical order):
Altered Carbon is the perfect type of background programming for cooking, working, or getting over a cold. Set 250 years in the future, the show centers around a previously-dead guy who is hired by a rich guy to solve his own murder 250 years ag...you get it. Now, stir fry?
The third-most intentionally unpleasant programming on the small screen (No. 2 is The Handmaid’s Tale, No. 1 is CSPAN) is a sci-fi anthology series à la The Twilight Zone, but with a lot more pig-fuckin’—literally. The first episode of Charlie Booker’s nightmarish series will grab you by the bollocks and keep you there, provided you can keep up with the show’s heavy-handedness and ever-intensifying feeling of despondency.
The fact that there are subtitles (the show’s German) will undoubtedly deter some viewers, which is a shame because the Stephen King-esque Dark is superbly executed. Complex cinematography mirrors a storyline that’s plausible enough that you’ll be looking forward to the second season, which recently went into production. “Plausible enough?” you ask. For a time-travel story, being plausible is enough.
Knights of Sidonia
Not only will you be blown by how good this mecha anime series looks, you’ll be floored by how accurately it sounds like a Gundam fighting a gigantic alien lifeform in space. And you don’t even know what that sounds like!
Lost in Space
“Danger, Will Robinson!” is right up there with “Beam me up, Scotty” and “Luke, I am your father,” as one of the most memorable lines in science fiction. The story is at least as old as 1812’s The Swiss Family Robinson, but the effects in Netflix’s reboot are totally this decade.
A powerful fugitive becomes Harlem’s hometown hero in Netflix’s adaptation of the Marvel series. While it, and most Marvel stuff, toes the line between action and fantasy, something we can say squarely is that super-soldiers = sci-fi.
The awkward and horny world of SyFy’s “more adult Harry Potter” fits its subject matter, magicians, perfectly. Like magic itself, the series has a lot to unpack: Beth Elderkin of io9 wrote that it “might be one of the most forward-thinking shows on television right now,” while The Mary Sue’s Jessica Lachenal found herself “disagreeing with the creative choices” during a scene where a female character is sexually assaulted.
Brit Marling stars as a disappeared girl who returns home in this multiverse-spanning sci-fi mystery which made its debut on Netflix in 2016. It’s bad-but-good in the same way Roswell was bad-but-good, which is great (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Five of the seven Star Trek series are viewable on Netflix, so take your pick between Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, Voyager, The Next Generation, or the OG starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Gene Roddenberry’s beloved space opera, like any long-running franchise, has its ups and downs, but once you’re a Trekkie, you’re a Trekkie for yIn.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Clone Wars works like a balm for people who are sore about the lousy Star Wars prequels. It also offers a way-more diverse look at the galaxy far, far away, and busts open a lot of the mythical “good and evil” schtick of the Jedi. Its nuanced narratives lend the whole Clone War conflict the grey area that was lacking from the movies, and Anakin is just so much more interesting.
This powerhouse franchise about a group of kids who discover a parallel universe plaguing their small town became an overnight phenomenon largely due to word of mouth. This alone should indicate that most people will enjoy Stranger Things—and you might be one of them! Its way of mulching pretty much everything it touches on will likely irk discerning viewers, but it’s worth trying out for the sake of “getting” what everyone else is into.
Sword Art Online
A guy gets stuck in a virtual reality MMORPG and has to crawl his way out only to become “the guy” who goes into different VRMMORPGs to help people out in this adaptation of a “light novel” series. Basically if TRON and Saw had an anime baby, it might be something like Sword Art Online.
The Twilight Zone
Lots of people have ASMR triggers, like gentle breathing or the sound of a makeup brush. Mine is Rod Serling’s foreboding intonation as he warns me of what’s to come. Awash in as many then-common cold war anxieties as it is classical cautionary tales, the godfather of sci-fi TV is basically Aesop’s fables for the modern era. Standout eps include “One for the Angels,” “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” and the very-famous “Eye of the Beholder.”
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