Netflix has a ton of shows on offer but one genre it seems to have in abundance is sci-fi.
We’ve already covered the best sci-fi movies on Netflix, but the streaming giant really made its name producing extended sci-fi series. Heard of Stranger Things? Hundreds of millions of hours have been spent watching that show.
The best sci-fi gives you a break from the real world, expanding your mind with epic ideas and vistas.
These shows come in all shapes and sizes too: smart satires, metaphysical musings, knowing pastiches, gripping thrillers, and plenty of shows that don’t really belong in any one category. Heck, we’re not even convinced every show on the following list definitely is science fiction beyond a gut feeling.
Whatever the case, each of the following shows has a certain conceptual ambition in common. They all have something speculative about them, and are fantastical without straying into the realm of fantasy – except for the ones that do.
So which of the following Netflix sci-fi TV shows is your favourite? Be sure to vote below.
The very best sci-fi shows on Netflix
1. Stranger ThingsStream now on Netflix
If you haven’t heard of this one, you must have been living in a shadowy mirror dimension for the past seven years. Stranger Things is an exercise in weapons-grade nostalgia, folding Spielbergian sci-fi, Stephen King-esque horror and nerdy Dungeons & Dragons tabletop gaming references into one ’80s-soaked soufflé. It’s all tied together by a hugely likeable cast who have literally grown with the series, helping it to weather a few narrative bumps and retain its immense popularity. With the fifth and final season confirmed, it’s time to get caught up.
2. Love, Death & RobotsStream now on Netflix
Executive produced by David Fincher (Fight Club) and Tim Miller (Deadpool), Love, Death & Robots is an anthology series made up of three volumes containing 35 bite-sized episodes in total, each with their own distinct story and animation style. Besides a vaguely shared cyberpunky sci-fi aesthetic, the main thing that each short film has in common is a decidedly NSFW tone. They’re extremely graphic, in every sense of the word. An awful lot is thrown at the wall here, but more than enough sticks to make Love, Death & Robots worth a look.
3. DarkStream now on Netflix
No other series on this list requires such intense concentration to watch as Dark, and that’s got nothing to do with the need for subtitles in this German-language production. This is a dense, cerebral sci-fi mystery about a spate of missing children in a sleepy, densely wooded German town. It’s all wrapped up in a baffling time travel conspiracy that affects multiple generations, but it’s the believable family dynamics that provide the vital anchor point for Dark.
4. Squid GameStream now on Netflix
This South Korean viral hit appears to be set in the present day, and there’s nothing particularly outlandish or futuristic about the level of technology on display. But the nature of the deadly game show that its desperate contestants are forced to play is pure dystopia, as if it’s been beamed back in time from some hellish near-future. Of course, it doesn’t really matter when Squid Game is supposed to be set. As with all good sci-fi, it’s really an incisive commentary on the world in which we’re living right now.
5. Black MirrorStream now on Netflix
Charlie Brooker’s dark-hearted science fiction anthology series is currently in its sixth season, with a couple of memorable specials stirred into the mix. It might have gotten a lot glossier and more ‘Hollywood’ since it made the move from UK terrestrial TV to Netflix, but Black Mirror has not lost any of its satirical bite. The British creator always seems to have his finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to technology and its often unhealthy relationship to our wider culture.
6. BodiesStream now on Netflix
This all-British entry to the Netflix sci-fi TV show list is a twisty, turny time traveling crime mystery starring Stephen Graham. Based on a DC Vertigo graphic novel, it concerns a strange murder that somehow takes place in the same London street across four distinct time periods. We follow the progress of four different detectives as they each attempt to solve what seems to be the exact same case, tackling the unique demands and limitations of their own eras along the way.
7. Altered CarbonStream now on Netflix
An ambitious show firmly in the cyberpunk sub-genre, Altered Carbon has it all – lavish Bladerunner-influenced production values, a killer cast led by Joel Kinnaman in the first season and Anthony Mackie in the second, and plenty of high-concept sci-fi action. It’s set in a rain-drenched dystopian future where the rich and powerful get to transfer their consciousnesses to new bodies when they die. It all kicks off with mercenary Takeshi Kovacs being resurrected in a new body to solve the murder of Earth’s wealthiest man, and things only get more outlandish from there.
8. The Umbrella AcademyStream now on Netflix
Based on the comic book series by Gerard Way (yes, him from My Chemical Romance) and Gabriel Bá, The Umbrella Academy offers one of the quirkiest and most distinctive spins on the superhero genre of recent times. Following a group of super-powered students at the titular school for the gifted, it favours grand sci-fi elements above the usual overplayed superhero tropes. From missions to the moon and Machiavellian alien infiltrators to time-travelling assassins and alternate timelines, this one has some big ideas.
9. The OAStream now on Netflix
Another sci-fi show that was cut off in its prime, The OA may just have proved too darned weird and distinctive for the Netflix algorithm masters to make sense of. Brit Marling stars as the enigmatic Prairie Johnson, a woman who went missing seven years prior. Now fully sighted having been blind before the disappearance, Johnson attracts a small cult following with her outlandish story and claims of angelic powers. The OA is an odd one alright, but its two seasons are well worth watching, even if it doesn’t get the satisfying wrap-up it deserves.
10. Alice in BorderlandStream now on Netflix
Netflix has a somewhat spotty history when it comes to translating popular manga into live action series, but Alice in Borderland is one of the better attempts – as evidenced by the fact that it received a second season, with a third on the way. This Japanese sci-fi thriller follows contestants in a dark game show forced to compete in deadly games in order to escape a seemingly abandoned Tokyo. There are definite shades of Battle Royale and Squid Game here, but Alice in Borderland is well worthy of such lofty comparisons.
11. The Silent SeaStream now on Netflix
This eight-part South Korean sci-fi series follows a crew of future astronauts on a mission to the moon to retrieve a sample from an abandoned research facility. Pretty soon the mystery behind the facility’s present situation starts to unravel, and evidence of an unsettling cover-up begins to emerge. Featuring some top South Korean talent (Bae Doona, Gong Yoo, Lee Joon) in its cast, this is a high quality production shot through with a creeping sense of paranoia.
12. Russian DollStream now on Netflix
Is Russian Doll sci-fi in the strictest sense? There’s certainly nothing in the way of speculative science here. Its tale of a whip-smart New Yorker (played by the wonderful Natasha Lyonne) living the same day again and again is probably better described as a metaphysical dramedy than anything else. But the core time loop conceit of the first season and the body-swapping time travel of the second is enough to merit it a place on this list. That first season in particular is among the very best TV Netflix has produced.
13. Lost in SpaceStream now on Netflix
This remake of a classic 1960s sci-fi show bears only a superficial resemblance to the hammy original – which was itself a futuristic reimagining of The Swiss Family Robinson. Our space-faring family and their wider colonist community become stranded on a mysterious planet, and have to contend with environmental threats, deadly robots, strained family dynamics, and a devious stowaway. After a somewhat underwhelming start, the series worked its way to a satisfying three-series-long arc.
14. ManiacStream now on Netflix
Maniac is a limited miniseries where the talent alone should be enough to get you in the front door. You’ll stay for its surreal sensibility, retro-futuristic aesthetic, and compelling sci-fi dramedy storytelling. Emma Stone and Jonah Hill play two troubled participants in a strange pharmaceutical trial run by Justin Theroux and Sonoya Mizuno, which aims to end all human suffering. The resulting show is trippy, thought-provoking, and of course beautifully shot by Cary Fukunaga, the director behind season one of True Detective.
15. Final SpaceStream now on Netflix
Don’t let Final Space’s external trappings fool you. It might present as another light-hearted adult-oriented sci-fi cartoon in the mould of Futurama or Rick and Morty, but it goes to some interesting places. Yep, it is centred around a heroic astronaut named Gary Goodspeed and his alien buddy Mooncake, but this is no mere adventure-of-the-week fluff, content to provide a few yucks before restoring the status quo. There’s an epic overarching plot here, with some seriously impactful story beats littered across its three seasons.
16. ColonyStream now on Netflix
This glossy sci-fi show from one of the showrunners of Lost starts with a bold setting – a near-future world where Earth has been colonised (hence the name) by highly militarised force run by an unseen alien invader. In its depiction of an occupied Los Angeles, it’s a very obvious but no less effective inversion of America’s modern day incursions onto foreign soil. Starring genre veterans Josh Holloway (Lost) and Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), its three seasons prove well worth a watch.
17. SnowpiercerStream now on Netflix
This reboot of Bong Joon-ho’s criminally underrated 2013 movie –itself an adaptation of a French graphic novel – depicts the last vestiges of humanity living through a calamitous ice age on a huge train perpetually circumnavigating the frozen Earth. As you might expect from such a fanciful dystopian sci-fi concept, there are both haves and have-nots in this claustrophobic environment, and there’s insurrection in the air. The big bads in Snowpiercer are perhaps its strongest suit, first in the form of Jennifer Connolly’s inscrutable Head of Hospitality, and then against Sean Bean’s scenery-chewing mastermind.
18. ManifestStream now on Netflix
Featuring a Lost-like premise, but with the added satisfaction of a properly executed four-series arc, Manifest is the rare show that gains momentum and a sense of purpose throughout its run after an admittedly ropey start. When Montego Air Flight 828 lands following turbulence, its 191 passengers discover that they have been missing for five years. Even more spookily, they begin to experience mysterious visions of future events. Stick with this metaphysical drama throughout, and you’ll be rewarded.
19. Sense8Stream now on Netflix
This ambitious TV show from The Matrix creators Lana and Lilly Wachowski and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski has attracted a dedicated cult following. There was some outcry when it was cancelled after just two seasons, but you can kind of understand why – this is an expensive-looking show, with an international cast and a correspondingly globe-trotting plot. Eight disparate individuals discover that they are somehow mentally linked, granting them access to one another’s skills. Naturally, there’s a sinister organisation on their tail, forcing them to work together to survive.
20. 3%Stream now on Netflix
Brazil might not be quite as prolific a sci-fi TV show producer as South Korea, Japan, or the US, but that just gives 3% an extra spritz of freshness. That’s handy, because this first ever Portuguese-language Netflix original series has a decidedly familiar YA premise. In a dystopian future, 20-year-olds compete in a murderous game show with the promise of a more affluent lifestyle for the winners. So far, so Hunger Games, but 3% follows through on this set-up with style and poise, not to mention a roster of memorable characters.
- These are the best sci-fi movies of all time