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. These are all the series you should stream this August on Netflix, from undeniable classics, to cyberpunk thrillers, to genre-bending new originals. Press play and get ready to be transported.
One of Netflix’s best original series, Stranger Things 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. The third season lands on the streaming service July 4th.
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.
Love, Death & Robots
This animated Netflix original anthology series has received critical acclaim since it hit the streaming service mid-March. Unlike many of the other titles on this list, the series has lots of adult content (often made particularly outlandish due to the creative license offered by depicting certain acts via animation, rather than live action) and probably isn't suitable for young viewers. For older sci-fi fans though, Love, Death & Robots is a wild delight. The first season features 18 episodes, some of which are as short as six minutes. Many of the episodes are adapted from short stories by acclaimed science fiction writers like John Scalzi, Alastair Reynolds, Ken Liu, and Marko Kloos. Love, Death & Robots' incredible animation highlights the impact of these short stories, and proves that concise fiction can sometimes have the longest-lasting effect.
When this underrated Canadian Showcase series was canceled after two seasons, Netflix brought it back for a final third round. Currently, the entirety of the series is available to stream. The time travel show is set in a dystopian future where special agents are sent back in time to attempt to prevent the apocalypse. These operators are placed in the body of 21st-century humans who otherwise would have died, and must assume their host's identity for the course of a mission. Tasked with maintaining their host's life for the duration, these agents face the difficult (and often impossible) task of trying to save the future, without getting attached to the vulnerable individuals from the past they must pretend to know as friends, family, and lovers.
Based on the comic book of the same name, this SyFy weird west series follows Wynonna, the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp. When she reluctantly returns to her hometown of Purgatory following a death in the family, Wynonna finds she can't outrun the family business: killing monsters that are the reincarnated form of outlaws her great-great-grandpappy killed. Wynonna Earp is funny, stylish, and scary, plus it consistently has some of the best women-loving-women representation on the small screen. Check out the first two seasons on Netflix tonight.
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This CW reboot of the late '90s-early aughts Roswell series is so much better than you might expect. If you've got a soft spot for smart teen dramas or for alien conspiracy theories, you'll quickly become addicted to this story of Liz (Jeanine Mason), who returns to her hometown of Roswell, New Mexico ten years after graduating from high school.
There, she reconnects with her high school crush Max (Nathan Parsons), who is now a police officer. When Liz learns a truly shocking secret about Max, she's determined to keep him safe from people who'd be less than thrilled about an extraterrestrial visitor cosplaying as a human cop. But a threat to Earth safety complicates the dynamic between Max and Liz, and threatens everyone in Roswell. A sexy and savvy reboot that remains true to what made the original a classic, while also using the story as a lens to explore contemporary issues, Roswell will have you saying 'take me to your leader.'
Described by a number of outlets as 'Lord of the Flies meets Riverdale,' this Netflix original follows a group of high school seniors and juniors from an idyllic, privileged New England town. The students are bussed out of town for a field trip in a national park. When they're dropped back in New Ham afterwards, they're surprised to find their parents aren't waiting to bring them home. In fact, the other residents of New Ham are nowhere to be found — and neither are the roads in or out of town. Once the buses left, it seems like the teenagers of New Ham became cut off from the entire world. Have they traveled back in time? Fallen into an alternate universe? Or are they test subjects in an exceptionally cruel experiment? The teens must figure out where they are, and how to get back home to the real West Ham from there. But first, they'll need to find a way to keep from killing each other.
This Netflix original is based on the Dark Horse comic series of the same name, written by Gerard Way with art by Gabriel Ba. The series opens in 1989, when 49 women around the world simultaneously spontaneously give birth, despite having not been pregnant. Reclusive billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopts seven of the surprise babies from around the world, and raises six of them to form a superhero team he dubs "the Umbrella Academy." Hargreeves keeps the seventh child, Vanya (Ellen Page), separate from her superhero siblings, because he believes she has no powers. The show follows the seven strange siblings throughout their adulthood as they attempt to stop an apocalypse, while also disentangling the threads of their dysfunctional, exceptional childhood.
This Netflix Original series is by turns fascinating and frustrating. Co-created by frequent partners Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling — who also stars — The OA challenges what we expect from sci-fi storytelling, with mixed results. The first season opens by introducing a young woman named Prairie (Marling). Prairie appears on the side of a highway after going missing for seven years. Before Prairie disappeared, she was blind. Now she can see, and calls herself 'The Original Angel,' or 'The OA.' The OA is insistent about needing to contact people from the existence she had in between her disappearance and reappearance, and recruits locals from her hometown to connect with and rescue other people who have vanished into alternate dimensions.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is currently in its ninth season on AMC, and right now you can catch up on all previous eight seasons on Netflix. The show has had its highs and lows since the inaugural season in 2010, but even at its worst moments, the series' scope and special effects are undeniably impressive. Based on the comics by Robert Kirkman, the series follows a group of survivors in the American south after a zombie apocalypse. In addition to contending with the flesh-eating undead, former sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), his family, and the survivors they meet along the way soon realize that the violent living may be even more dangerous than zombies.
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Previously, director Cary Joji Fukunaga brought his talents to TV with the acclaimed first season of HBO's True Detective. Now, he's brought his unique sensibilities to Netflix with Maniac, a trippy near future/alternate history series about a group of people brought together by a trial for an experimental new drug. Owen (Jonah Hill) is the newly cut-off troubled son of a wealthy family. Annie (Emma Stone) has consequential family drama of her own. The two both agree to participate in a trial for a new medication via Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech. Through extraordinarily vivid dreams induced by the medication — known as the B-pill — Annie and Owen explore their most diverse fantasies with each other. Maniac is a truly hallucinatory, dazzling watch that will intrigue fans of weird, surreal sci-fi.
The first season of this excellent new addition to the DC TV universe is now up on Netflix, and it's not to be missed. Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) hung his vigilante mantle up long ago when his high-risk alter-ego lifestyle took a toll on his family. Now, he's fulfilled as a high school principal — but an uptick in local violence draws him back into the secret superhero game. Meanwhile, Jefferson's daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) is starting to manifest powers of her own. The two now share an incredible secret, and Jefferson grapples with balancing his role as father, mentor, and super-powered crimefighter.
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.
Combine Top of the Lake with Stranger Things and you've got Dark, Netflix's first-ever German-language original series. The series is primarily set in the present, and follows a teenager grieving the death of his father by suicide, and a police officer whose brother has disappeared. Without giving away too much of the show's surprises, though, it also involves storylines set in 1986 and 1953. Atmospheric and addictive, Dark explores the unbelievable secrets and phenomena impacting families in one small town.
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Kiss Me First
Kiss Me First is a Netflix original from Bryan Elsey, who showed his ability to tell authentic, compelling stories about teenage angst with his 2007 Skins series. His latest project follows Leila (Tallulah Haddon), a lonely teenager reeling from the death of her mother. Leila escapes her bleak reality by retreating into the virtual reality world of Azana, where she has an alternative life as the warrior Shadowfax. During her hours logged in Azana, Leila/Shadowfax falls in with a group of charismatic outsiders, including Tess (Simona Brown). Tess and Leila become friends — and then something more—exploring their relationship both in Azana and IRL. But when Tess disappears, Leila becomes caught up in a sinister web that expands throughout both worlds.
Like Skins, Kiss Me First explores serious issues teenagers face, like mental illness, suicide, and isolation. But Kiss Me First never uses the lens of virtual reality to explore those themes with as much nuance as Elsey's seminal series. Still, for viewers interested in narratives like Ready Player One that explore the real-life repercussions of virtual experiences, Kiss Me First still makes for an interesting sci-fi thriller.
Although set in the same universe as Z Nation, Black Summer couldn't be more tonally removed from its semi-comedic predecessor. Each of the eight episodes in the first season is an incredibly tense, quiet, and almost real-time depiction of a small group of people attempting to make their way to the rumored safety of a local baseball stadium during the earliest days of a zombie pandemic. If the exposition of Walking Dead has begun to wear on you, give Black Summer a try — we get to know the series' characters and the world they inhabit all through frenzied, zombie-fueled action, rather than dialogue. The chaotic and tense first season is one you'll want to finish in one sitting.
Based on the novel of the same name, Season 1 of the Netflix Original Altered Carbon stars Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs, a highly-trained rebel who has recently been 'resleeved' in a new body, 250 years after he was killed during the destruction of his rebel group the Envoys. In the far-future San Francisco of Altered Carbon, death as we know it today is virtually over; when the body dies, a person's cortical stack is resleeved in another synthetic or organic form. Takeshi is re-sleeved, but his new body also comes with a dangerous new task: solving the murder of one of the wealthiest men in the galaxy. Netflix recently announced that a Season 2 of Altered Carbon is on the way, so now's the perfect time to catch up on the first installment of the slick cyberpunk series.
Into the Badlands
The first two seasons of this extremely fun post-apocalyptic AMC show are currently available on Netflix. Approximately half a millennia ago, a war decimated society. Although electricity and some other elements of modern life are still used in the future, guns are taboo, and conflicts are settled via cross-bows, hand-to-hand combat, and other techniques. The area that was once known as Oklahoma is now called the Badlands, and ruled by a feudal system of barons who often conflict with groups of bandits and nomads. This aesthetically delightful series explores the conflicts that arise in this new society.
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.
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.
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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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.
This Netflix original was co-created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, and has received critical acclaim since it debuted on the streaming service February 1st. It stars Lyonne as Nadia, a woman who dies during her 36th birthday party in New York city — and then returns to life, condemned to repeat a variation of the day's events, from party until death, over and over again. To give more specifics risks spoiling many of the incredible surprises in this thoughtful and often bitingly hilarious series. If you're a fan of stories that use time travel to explore how humans relate to each other and our own regrets, Russian Doll will delight you.
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.
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 "Love, Death & Robots" via Netflix