Available on: Hulu Seasons: 11 If you clicked on this gallery, there’s at least a 50-50 chance you’ve already seen this genre classic, whose final seasons were an early sign of the “revival” trend now familiar to networks. With more than 200 episodes, The X-Files isn’t a binge, but it’s a journey worth taking for any sci-fi fan. The basic premise? Mulder and Scully, two FBI agents, try to solve cases that might or might not involve supernatural elements.
Available on: Hulu Seasons: 2 (and a movie!) Had Firefly been made recently, fan outcry might’ve saved it from cancellation much like The Expanse. This Joss Whedon space western still has a large following, and supplemental materials, such as comic books, have been released since 2005, when the wrap-up movie was made. Despite the brief duration of its original run, Firefly played a huge part in establishing television sci-fi as we know it today.
Available on: HBO Go, HBO Now Seasons: 2 (Season 3 airs in 2020) “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” You will after watching this futuristic drama, which sees robot “hosts” in a western amusement park come to terms with, and fight back against, the awful treatment they’ve received for decades at the hands of wealthy human visitors. The star-studded cast alone makes this worth a watch: it includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton (who won an Emmy for her role), Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, James Mardsen, Ben Barnes and Jimmi Simpson. Be prepared to do some serious thinking and theorizing about the show’s layered narrative and morally gray characters — in Westworld, nothing is as it seems.
Available on: Netflix Seasons: 3 (Season 4 likely airs Christmas 2020) Let’s be honest: If you like sci-fi, you’ve probably already seen (or at least heard of) this Netflix hit. July 4 saw the release of its Fourth of July-themed third season, which — along with the rest of the series — is definitely worth a watch for fans of government conspiracies, super-powered teenagers, heartwarming humor and, of course, the iconic ‘80s nostalgia for which the show is known.
Available on: Hulu, Amazon Prime Seasons: 4 If you like Westworld, you’ll probably like Battlestar, and vice versa. The two shows deal with extremely similar themes — what it means to be human vs. being a robot/Cylon/host, the nature of violence in wartime and what’s justifiable, and a few tragic love stories to boot. This reimagining of the 1978 original picks up in the aftermath of a Cylon attack, which leaves the sole human survivors on a set of ships adrift in space. Without a home base, they set their sights on Earth, but it’s a long journey to get there, and they’re pursued by the mechanical Cylons across the galaxy.
Available on: Hulu Seasons: 6 A huge part of the foundation on which today’s network sci-fi programming rests, Lost played a giant role in bringing genre programming to large audiences — and it remains relevant today, for good reason. This mid-2000s phenomenon about a group of passengers on a plane who crash-land on a strange island still holds its compelling and mysterious nature nearly ten years after the final episode aired.
Available on: Amazon Prime Seasons: 5 Instead of zombies or robots, Orphan Black focuses on clones — and, specifically, a woman who steals the identity of another woman, only to find out she was her exact copy. Tatiana Maslany won an Emmy for her role(s) on this sci-fi thriller, and considering how many distinct characters she ends up playing, it’s undeniable she deserved the award.
The Walking Dead
Available on: Netflix, AMC Premiere Seasons: 9 (Season 10 premieres in October) TWD is a zombie show that’s not really about zombies. Sure, there’s plenty of bada**ery to go around — and if you’re looking for gore and/or horror, this fits the bill — but at its core, it’s a story about a group of people struggling to survive when the dead return as flesh-chomping “walkers.” With quite a few seasons under its belt, it’s not the best for a binge-watch, but after a spectacular Season 9 helmed by showrunner Angela Kang, now is a great time to get started or catch up.
Fear the Walking Dead
Available on: Hulu, AMC Premiere Seasons: 4 (Season 5 currently airing, renewed for Season 6 to air in 2020) FTWD, spinoff two of three in AMC’s Walking Dead Cinematic Universe, has seen its ups and downs over the years. It started out as a prequel to Rick’s adventures, showing how the apocalypse began in a crowded city setting, but after a few time jumps, it’s gotten harder to distinguish from its parent program. For fans of the zombie genre or the main show, it’s still worth a watch — especially for its stellar third season, which is easily one of the best in the franchise.
Amazon Prime Video
Available on: Amazon Prime Seasons: 3 With a fourth season arriving later this year, now’s the time to join the Rocinante crew. Equal parts political thriller and science fiction adventure, The Expanse imagines a future where humanity has colonized Mars — but of course, there’s still a sizeable difference between society’s classes. With that unrest as a backdrop, an heiress goes missing, and the search for her draws a group of unlikely comrades together across the solar system.
Available on: Netflix Seasons: 2 Check out what all the controversy is about by giving Netflix’s recently cancelled The OA a watch. Though it seems like the show won’t be getting a movie to wrap up its storylines, it’s still worth viewing all its glorious weirdness involving mysterious disappearances and parallel dimensions.
Available on: HBO Go, HBO Now Seasons: 3 Many consider this HBO drama to be not just one of the best sci-fi shows out there, but one of the best shows. With just three seasons and a fulfilling conclusion, it’s an easy enough, self-contained binge watch about what happens to the survivors when a significant percentage of Earth’s population randomly disappears.
Diyah Pera/The CW
Available on: Netflix Seasons: 6 (Season 7 airs in 2020) At first glimpse, you might be fooled into thinking this CW drama is a typical “teen show.” Nothing could be farther from the truth of what this brutal, heartbreaking, intense and contemplative program really is. The 100 finds humanity sending teenage delinquents back to Earth to determine its survivability decades after a nuclear apocalypse left the planet unsuitable for life… or was it? The kids on the ground and the adults still in space soon find there are no good choices, and there are no good guys: There’s only survival.
Star Trek: Discovery
Available on: CBS All Access Seasons: 2 (with a third on the way) A variety of Star Trek shows and movies are available across streaming platforms, but the most recent is led by Sonequa Martin-Green (whom sci-fi fans might remember as Sasha on The Walking Dead). Most also probably already know the basic premise: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Theme parks with eerily humanoid robots. Zombie-infested wastelands (and equally terrifying nuclear-irradiated wastelands). The vast expanse of space, offset only by mysterious, captivating new worlds. If these settings sound like places you'd want to explore, then the shows in this gallery are perfect for you.
With the advent of streaming services, it's gotten easier to be a fan of television that strays beyond hospitals, courtrooms and living rooms in middle-class America. New shows that embrace the supernatural, the unexplained, and the just plain weird are getting easier to find, and even a single subscription offers plenty of access to unique shows that step outside the boundaries of the "real world."
Here are 14 science fiction shows we'd recommend to anyone who enjoys genre TV.