Between the three major streaming services, there’s a boatload of stuff out there to binge for sci-fi fans. But where should you start your stream?
We dug through the catalogs at Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu to figure out which sci-fi and fantasy shows you should absolutely be checking out. From new shows to streaming originals, deep cuts and everything in between — there’s a boatload of material out there to check out. So whether you’re into superheroes, hard sci-fi or fantasy, there’s something for everyone.
Check out our picks for 12 great genre shows you should be streaming, and let us know what you’re jamming:
Updated August 30, 2016. Added: Young Justice, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and Quantum Leap. Removed: Fringe, Batman: The Animated Series, and Firefly.
Updated October 19, 2016. Added: Smallville, Luke Cage, Continuum, 12 Monkeys. Removed: Mr. Robot, Young Justice, Lucifer, Limitless.
Updated: March 1, 2017: Added: Black Mirror. Removed Farscape.
Black Mirror, Netflix
This series is basically the modern day Twilight Zone, trading on allegories about how technology affects our lives, telling telling dark and poignant stories that strike a chord. The show is a near-future anthology, with each episode featuring its own (often A-list) cast and original story. The good thing about that? It makes it super easy to pick up and watch, because each episode is a self-contained story.
Orphan Black, Amazon Prime
BBC America’s risky foray into sci-fi originals has sadly never proven to be a ratings hit, but there’s no doubt Orphan Black has become a legit cultural force. The twisty saga of clones trying to figure out their mysterious origins — and survive the process — is one of the most compelling stories on television. Oh, and it also features one of the most talented actresses on the planet in Tatiana Maslany, who plays at least half a dozen roles per episode.
Quantum Leap, Hulu
Regardless of if you discovered the series during its original run in the late 1980's and early 1990's, or in syndication years later, Quantum Leap is arguably a cultural sci-fi touchstone. It perfected the sci-fi procedural concept, and turned Scott Bakula into a star. In a sense, it's almost like the American version of Doctor Who (when Who is doing historial stuff, obviously), and the entire run is now available to stream at the click of a button.
Before there was Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl — there was Smallville. The original modern-day DC series ran for a decade on The WB, tracking the origin story of Clark Kent and his evolution into Superman. The series has been in a streaming purgatory for a long time, but Hulu finally landed a deal for the entire run. Knowing just how big the superhero genre would become now, digging back into the annals of Smallville lore is a fascinating look at how the formulas and tropes were evolving a decade ago.s
The Flash, Netflix
The CW’s superhero universe shows no signs of slowing down, and though Arrow helped kickstart the whole thing, The Flash is inarguably the pinnacle of small screen super-perfection. The saga of Barry Allen’s journey to become a hero embraces all the comic book-y elements in just the right way, takes the canon seriously, and still manages to tell a truly compelling story that attracts fans and laymen alike. Sure, you’re probably already an ardent fan. But, if not, take the plunge. You won’t regret it.
Luke Cage, Netflix
Netflix's latest hit is one heck of a fun Marvel series, but it's so much more than that. This series marked Marvel's first superhero show focused on a black hero, and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker took full advantage of everything that could represent. Along with being a story about a bulletproof hero standing up to bullies, Luke Cage dug into what it means to be black in America, and took a very nuanced approach to how people can try to do good things in a bad way. Sweet Christmas, just watch it.
Stranger Things, Netflix
Netflix’s claim to fame for genre fans might be its Marvel fare, but the streaming service showed it can shake things up a good bit with this Spielberg-ian throwback series. It basically takes everything you loved about 1980’s sci-fi films and throws it into a blender, then makes it all feel new again. It’s a legit modern (throwback) masterpiece, and well worth the price of admission for a Netflix subscription.
12 Monkeys, Hulu
This ambitious Syfy (Corporate owner of Blastr -Ed) series has far surpassed the 1990's sci-fi film that inspired it. At its core, it's the story of a rag-tag team trying to avert the apocalypse by sending one man back in time to unravel what really ended the world. But it's so much more than that. The show has turned time travel tropes on their heads, and built a compelling mythology that keeps you coming back for more. It's one of the smartest sci-fi shows on television, and one you should absolutely be watching.
Jessica Jones, Netflix
Sure, Daredevil is the more prototypical superhero series, but Jessica Jones is one of the most inventive and creative takes on the genre to ever be put to screen. It’s a brave, empowering, and tough story — all wrapped in a hard-boiled superhero’s origin story. It also features former Doctor Who star David Tennant as one of the most deliciously evil villains. It also won a Peabody Award, so there’s that.
The Man in the High Castle, Amazon Prime
Amazon’s ambitious alt-history series imagines a world where the Nazis never lost power, and the United States is occupied by Germany and Japan. The series weaves an ambitious narrative focusing on citizens and rebels, combined with a lingering mystery surrounding a series of newsreels that show an alternate world where the United States is a world power. The first season ends with one heck of a twist, and if you haven’t watched, it’s the perfect time to catch up before Season 2 hits this fall.
This series really had no business being this good. A low-ish budget import series from Canada's Showcase network, Continuum ran on Syfy (Corporate owner of Blastr -Ed) in the U.S. Here's the pitch: The series followed a future cop who is sent back in time to stop a group of terrorists trying to change history. But from there, it delves into questions of right and wrong, and freedom and corporatization. By the end of the series you realize there really are no "good" guys or "bad" guys. It's just characters trying to do what they believe is right, along with a lot of really fun sci-fi twists and action. The full series is on Netflix, and it's well worth a binge.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Netflix
This critically acclaimed BBC fantasy drama is fantastic, plain and simple. Lucky for all of us, it recently landed on Netflix (with relatively little fanfare, though that's quickly changing). The series is an adaptation of Susanna Clarke's best-selling novel of the same name, and is set in the early 19th century, where it deftly weaves magic into an excellent period tale.e