The future is now: you no longer have to wait a week between episodes of your favorite sci-fi TV series. Thanks to Netflix, sci-fi shows are now available on-demand for your binge-watching pleasure. And to make things even easier, we’re taking the legwork out of finding your next sci-fi TV obsession by listing the very best sci-fi shows on Netflix.
Now in its fifth season, this dark dystopian series continues to impress critics. The show begins nearly a century after a devastating nuclear war on Earth. After the destruction, residents of a series of space stations that were in orbit above Earth at the time banded together in one unit called The Ark. Resources on The Ark are limited, and all crime is punishable by death.
When the need for supplies hits a breaking point, 100 juvenile offenders on The Ark are sent down to Earth on a suicide mission to see if the planet is still habitable. The teens discover that not only is is possible to survive on Earth, but they're not the only people on the planet: some humans survived nuclear destruction.
Now, the people of the Ark and the people of Earth become locked in a bloody and brutal struggle for power and survival. The 100 is consistently bold, and throughout its five seasons so far has centered women and female power in a way that's rarely seen in dystopian narratives.
Still pining for Lost? You might try and fill the island-sized hole in your heart with USA's Colony, which stars Josh Halloway — aka Sawyer from Lost — as Will Bowman. Although many wrote this series off when it first aired, it has since gained a reputation as an alien invasion story that stands out in the crowded genre.
Will is a former FBI agent struggling to protect his family in dystopian L.A. One year before the start of the series, the city was abruptly cut off from the rest of the world by walls as part of an extraterrestrial invasion.
The aliens, known as the "hosts," have divided the city into a strict caste system with the aid of a group known as the Transitional Authority. The hosts and the Transitional Authority maintain order amongst the occupied by threatening resistance fighters with threats to their loved ones, and promises to send them to the slave labor camp the Factory.
Will and his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) will stop at nothing to find their son Charlie, who was outside of L.A. on a school trip when the walls came down during Arrival. But their strategies for finding him are dangerously different — and put the couple on opposite sides of L.A.'s political divide.
Netflix’s sci-fi/horror anthology series filters technophobic paranoia through a Twilight Zone-like format and, in the process, creates a modern series that somehow makes standalone episodes binge-able. There’s no relation between the self-contained episodes except for the tone, which amplifies information-age fears into stories that range from scary-weird to weirdly scary.
Black Mirror is one of the best sci-fi shows on Netflix, and will be for a long time: seasons two through four are original to Netflix, so the show won't leave the service's library anytime soon.
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This dark horse space opera was cancelled by Syfy after only three seasons, despite its devoted fanbase. Thankfully, the show is currently available in its entirety on Netflix.
Dark Matter follows six people who wake abruptly from stasis on a starship called the Raza. None of them have any memory of who they are, or how they wound up there — and they must act fast to prevent the Raza from destruction. It's a shame the show didn't have a chance to expand beyond its three stellar seasons, but at least it went out with a bang and not a whimper. Come for the gripping mystery behind the series' premise, stay for the impressive writing and acting.
Lost in Space
This Netflix reboot of the classic '60s Lost in Space series (which was already rebooted once, in the 1998 movie featuring Matt LeBlanc) is set thirty years in the future. After a mysterious object lands on Earth, the planet becomes uninhabitable.
A hand-picked group — including the Robinson family — is selected to leave Earth on the 24th flight of the Resolute, a vessel ferrying colonizers to a new planet. But when the Resolute is attacked mid-flight, the Robinsons and their fellow Earth refugees become stranded on a habitable planet after evacuating the ship.
Shipwrecked and forced to quickly adapt to an alien environment in order to survive, tensions grow and new relationships form between the Robinsons and the other colonizers.
DC has a hard time making good superhero movies, but their TV offerings include some pretty solid shows. The cheeky tone of (most of) DC’s TV universe works best with The Flash, which also benefits from lifting plot lines from iconic Flash-centric comic books plot arcs like Flashpoint.
Other shows from DC’s TV world, including Arrow (Green Arrow’s show), are also available to stream. For my money, though, The Flash is the best. Check it out to get the bad taste of DC's Justice League out of your mouth.
Jericho was taken from us too soon (don’t expect a neat ending from the series, which was unceremoniously cancelled during its initial run), but it has gained a small cult following in the years since. Set in post-apocalyptic Kansas, this show anticipates some of the most appealing qualities of future hits like The Walking Dead.
Underappreciated when it was on TV and far from widely known even now, Jericho is now one of the best sci-fi shows on Netflix. For fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, it's well worth taking a look at.
Mystery Science Theater
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a TV show built around bad movies. Each and every episode has the same reliable format: in a goofy sci-fi setting, the main characters sit down for a forced screening of a terrible old sci-fi B movie and proceed to pepper the proceedings with hilarious and harsh commentary. It's a double-dose of sci-fi, with intentionally goofy sci-fi comedy framing unintentional goofy sci-fi of years gone by.
The show’s dedicated fan base knows all of this already, of course, and they don’t need an article to tell them that “MST3K” (as the kids call it) is one of the best sci-fi shows on Netflix. If you did, well, you’re welcome–now go check it out!
Star Trek: The Original Series
No sci-fi series is iconic as Star Trek, and the original series is available for your binge-watching pleasure on Netflix right now. The influential and historic nature of Star Trek would make it a must-watch show even if it didn’t hold up, but for the most part it's just as compelling in 2018 as it was when it first aired.
Sure, TOS is clearly mid-century fare, but the show always felt ahead of its time, and it’s still able to raise interesting questions decades later.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
I just said that Star Trek is still able to ask vital questions years after its release, and that’s true. But Star Trek is not the most contemplative or most serious of its TV universe–that honor belongs to one of its spin-offs.
There are a lot of great Star Trek spin-offs and reboots, but Deep Space Nine might be the most thoughtful of them. Deep Space Nine was more willing than its predecessors to meditate on war and social issues out on the final frontier, and that has helped it age gracefully. For a darker, smarter Star Trek experience, this is the way to go.
Netflix’s best original series blends 80s nostalgia with binge-worthy modern storytelling. The best parts of The Goonies, Stand By Me, It, Poltergeist, and even Aliens are spun together in the brilliant first season and still-pretty-darn-good second.
And it’s not just for viewers who were born in the 80s, of course. The hype around Stranger Things billed it as perfect nostalgia fare, and that’s not wrong. But it’s also a compelling show in its own right, with perfectly paced storytelling and a balanced narrative tone that have earned it a place as one of the single best shows of the so-called “Golden Age of TV.” If you didn’t get into Stranger Things when it was all the rage, now is the time to catch up.
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone is one of the greatest sci-fi series ever, if you ask me (and The Portalist did one time, actually), so every month that it remains available on Netflix is a blessing.
The classic sci-fi/horror anthology series has influenced generations of creators–including the folks behind Netflix original Black Mirror, another sci-fi/horror anthology series that ranks among the best sci-fi TV shows on Netflix. The Twilight zone may be an older show, but its creepy inverted logic and often clever twists hold up well.
Featured still from "Jericho" via CBS