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The best dystopian TV shows of all time

The end may be nigh, but it isn't half entertaining.

The best dystopian TV shows of all time
Becca Caddy
10 February 2023

The best dystopian TV shows reflect our collective fears about the future. They show us worlds gone awry, controlled by a strict totalitarian government, experiencing an environmental disaster or suffering from social decay.

Dystopian TV shows might be fictional, but they are captivating for audiences because they often seem eerily plausible. Whether you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller or a thought-provoking glimpse into the future, this guide to the best dystopian TV shows has something for everyone.

The best dystopian TV shows

The best dystopian TV shows

1. The Last of Us

Stream now (Sky Atlantic)

The Last of Us is a 2023 TV adaptation of a super popular video game from 2013. It takes place in an apocalyptic world where a fungal pandemic has wiped out much of the population. The two main characters, Joel and Ellie, are survivors navigating dangerous terrain as they travel across the country in search of answers. With a compelling storyline, excellent acting and tense action scenes, The Last of Us is also an emotional story that might have moments of horror, but at its core is about hope and humanity.

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The best dystopian TV shows

2. Black Mirror

Stream now (Netflix)

Black Mirror is an anthology TV series that explores the deep, dark and disturbing effects of advanced technology on society. Each episode of Black Mirror is its own standalone story, presenting a different vision of a future where technology has altered life in often unexpected and sometimes frightening ways. The storylines are always thought-provoking and often disturbing, challenging viewers to question their own relationship with technology.

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This post-apocalyptic TV series is set 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse wiped out most of life on Earth. The last few remaining humans live in a space station called the Ark, but when resources run low, 100 juvenile prisoners are sent back to Earth to see if it is habitable. They must navigate a new world that’s harsh and dangerous, facing internal conflicts and external threats from other surviving groups. The 100 is a very compelling exploration of power and leadership.

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The best dystopian TV shows

4. The Handmaid’s Tale

Stream now (Prime Video)

The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the classic dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. It takes place in a not-so-distant future in which a totalitarian regime has taken over the United States, and women are stripped of their rights and forced into sexual servitude as handmaids. The story follows June, a handmaid who must learn to navigate this oppressive society and fight for her freedom. This series has been highly praised for its powerful performances and exploration of a dystopian world where women are stripped of their rights and dignity.

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The best dystopian TV shows

5. The Walking Dead

Stream now (Disney Plus)

The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic TV show set in a world overrun by zombies, known as walkers. A group of survivors led by Rick Grimes, a former sheriff, look to find safety and rebuild their lives in a world where the dead are walking around and many of the living are even more dangerous. The survivors face challenges over the show’s 11 seasons as they struggle to maintain their humanity in a harsh world.

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The best dystopian TV shows

6. The Man In The High Castle

Stream now (Prime Video)

The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history TV show set in a world where the Axis powers won World War II. After its defeat, the US has been divided into two parts, one controlled by the Japanese and one by the Nazis. The series is about the lives of characters on both sides of the conflict as they navigate a world where the basic principles of freedom and democracy are threatened. There’s a central mystery too, as propaganda films appear that seem to show an alternate reality in which the Allies won the war. This leads the main characters on a quest to discover the truth about this parallel world, as well as the mysterious figure, known only as “the Man in the High Castle”.

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The best dystopian TV shows

7. Station Eleven

Stream now (Apple TV Plus)

Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic TV series based on the novel of the same name by Emily St. John Mandel. It takes place in the aftermath of a pandemic that wiped out most of the world's population. Station Eleven explores the lives of a group of survivors as they try to live in a world riven with tremendous loss. It also looks at the role art and culture can play in helping people cope in the face of disaster, as a travelling theatre company moves throughout the US, performing plays and bringing hope to people they meet.

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The best dystopian TV shows

8. Snowpiercer

Stream now (Netflix)

This post-apocalyptic TV show is set on a huge, perpetually moving train that tears around the world while carrying the last remnants of humanity, after a failed experiment to stop global warming inadvertently caused a new Ice Age. The train is divided into strict class systems. The wealthy live a luxurious life at the front while the poor struggle to survive at the back. This series recounts a rebellion led by Curtis Everett, a passenger in the lower class who wants to overthrow the corrupt system and give a voice to everyone on the train.Snowpiercer explores social justice and class struggle as characters fight for survival in a harsh world.

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Westworld is a TV series set in a futuristic theme park where guests can live out their fantasies with android hosts. The show explores the evolution of artificial intelligence as the hosts become aware of their existence and treatment at the hands of the park’s guests and management. Over its four seasons, Westworld delves into themes of free will, consciousness and the nature of reality. It’s an often mind-bending look at what happens when the line between human and machine becomes blurred.

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The best dystopian TV shows

10. Y: The Last Man

Stream now (Disney Plus)

Y: The Last Man is a post-apocalyptic TV show based on the comic book series created by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. It's set in a world where all men have died suddenly, and there's only one survivor, a man named Yorick Brown. Yorick must travel through a dangerous world filled with threats while a mysterious government agent pursues him. Yorick must come to terms with the power and responsibility that goes along with being the last man on Earth while trying to figure out what happened.

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