With all the big, cool, shiny stuff hitting major streamers pretty much every week, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s more great TV out there than we could ever hope to watch. But if all the subscription fees are getting a bit much, there’s plenty of great sci-fi TV you can stream free of charge. Yeah, that’s right. Free.
Smaller streaming services like CW Seed, Crackle, IMDB TV and Tubi are free of charge and offer up plenty of great sci-fi shows from recent years — while major streamer Peacock actually has a free tier with several great genre series on tap. So if you’re looking to save a few bucks and drop Netflix for a month or two — or just wanting to dig a bit deeper for a few shows that actually aren’t available on the major services for whatever reason — we’ve put together a rundown of 20 fantastic series you should definitely watch.
From deep cuts, one-season wonders, and major genre hits, there’s plenty to choose from. And you’ll save enough money to Door Dash a nice dinner for your binge session, to boot!
Battlestar Galactica | Full Opening Scenes: Season 1 Episode 1 "33" | SYFY
Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
The streaming service has a splashy reboot of the sci-fi hit in the works, but in the meantime the original SYFY revival is streaming in full — and it’s still as great as ever. The acclaimed series, which was a critical hit and remains remarkably timely several years later now, tells the story of the rag-tag remnants of humanity on the run from a virtually unstoppable robot assault. It delves into politics, terrorism, relationships, and questions of exactly what makes us human in the first place. All wrapped up in a massive, sci-fi world.
BrainDead CBS Trailer #3
BrainDead (CW Seed)
This show is smart, weird, funny, terrifying and fantastic — which makes it an absolute miracle it ever actually made it to the airwaves on a major network in the first place. The short-lived series, which ran for 13 episodes from 2015-2016, was a twisty alien invasion dramedy with brain-eating bugs, set in the politics of Washington, D.C. Yeah, it was a lot to process, but it blended all those genre-busting stories seamlessly. It starred the talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a young staffer trying to unravel the conspiracy, and was created by Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife). It didn’t make much of an impact when it aired, and was quietly canceled — but it’s still a great series if you’re looking for something truly unique that you likely missed on the first go ‘round. Also of note: This series features the greatest “previously on” recaps in TV history. Seriously, I won’t spoil it here, but it’s great.
Haven - Season 1 Trailer
A SYFY original hit that ran for five seasons, this genre series loosely based on Stephen King’s short story The Colorado Kid. The series starred Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant and Eric Balfour, and followed an FBI agent sent to a bizarre small town that’s loaded with weird mysteries. Think a more broad Twin Peaks, with its own deeply-developed mythology and a procedural slant. It was a big, fun fantasy series with a ton of heart. It was also successful enough to go out on its own terms, meaning your binge watch will be rewarded with a fully-realized final season that wraps up the story.
The Tomorrow People - Official Trailer
The Tomorrow People (CW Seed)
On the surface, this short-lived series feels like it was created in a test tube designed to make the “perfect” CW series — good-looking young people, with superpowers, unraveling a big conspiracy and fighting to save the world. But once it gets rolling, this is a story with compelling characters, a great cast, and a stellar sci-fi story tying it all together. The cast includes Robbie Amell, Peyton List and Luke Mitchell; and behind the scenes the series was created by CW producing heavyweights Greg Berlanti, Phil Klemmer and Julie Plec. So, if anything, it’s a surprise the show wasn’t renewed for a second season. But alas, it was one and done — but that first season is well worth a watch, if you’re a fan of The CW’s superhero formula with a more sci-fi slant.
Roswell (IMDB TV)
No, not the new version currently airing on The CW — we’re talking about the OG version that ran from 1999-2002 on The WB and UPN. The show was about a group of high school students who just so happen to be secret aliens living in New Mexico trying to keep their origins hidden from the world around them — including local police, and government agents, out to find them. The cast included early 2000s favorites like Shiri Appleby, Jason Behr, Brendan Fehr and a young Katherine Heigl. To this day it’s a fun throwback to that early 2000s high school drama era with a thrilling alien tale keeping it moving.
Limitless (CW Seed)
This 2015 series ran on CBS for one season, and is essentially a sequel series to the 2011 film that starred Bradley Cooper as a man who takes a special pill that allows him to unlock his brain — giving him almost superhero-like brain powers, essentially. The TV series follows a slacker played by Jake McDorman, who also stumbles upon the pill and uses it to help out the FBI. The show was a smart, funny sci-fi-tinged thriller that was sadly chopped down just as it was getting good. But hey, we’ll always have that first season.
HISTORY's "Project Blue Book" Season Two | EXCLUSIVE | Episode 206 "Close Encounters" | History
Project Blue Book (Peacock)
One of the newer shows to make the cut, the period-set alien investigation drama Project Blue Book recently wrapped up its run on History. The show starred Aidan Gillen, Michael Malarkey and Neal McDonough, and is based on the real-life 1950s government investigations into UFOs. The show was a critical hit, but the ratings weren’t quite high enough to keep the show around after its second season. Fans are still pushing to save the series, in hopes it’ll land a new home, but no news as of yet. But for now, the first two seasons are available for some twisty, UFO mysteries.
Constantine | The Darkness Beneath Scene | CW Seed
Constantine (CW Seed)
Before he was tearing it up as a cast member on The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, Matt Ryan’s small screen version of Constantine was anchoring his own solo series over at NBC in 2015. The series only ran for 13 episodes, but it was enough to establish Ryan as a seminal take on the DC character — which led to him jumping over to the Arrowverse proper not long after that. But this show is where it all began, as we get to see Constantine’s life before joining the Waverider as he takes on cases, fights forces of evil, and tries to generally keep his life from spiraling out of control. It’s dark, and not afraid to be dark, and is a great bit of connective tissue if you’re a fan of Constantine, or the Arrowverse.
Fringe Season 1 Preview
Fringe (IMDB TV)
This show is arguably super-producer J.J. Abrams at his best, with a reality-bending sci-fi series that is essentially the modern day version of The X-Files — and arguably just as seminal as that series. It starred Anna Torv as an FBI agent who teams up with a scientist (John Noble) and his estranged son (Joshua Jackson) to take on the weirdest and wildest cases in the world. That’s just the warm-up for a full-fledged, multiverse conspiracy that brings in the legendary Leonard Nimoy for a key role. The show is one of the smartest sci-fi series of the modern era, and nailed the balance between serialized storytelling and heartbreaking standalone episodes.
Warehouse 13: Comic-Con Reel 2013 | SYFY
Warehouse 13 (Peacock)
A team of government agents tasked with tracking down the weirdest and wildest supernatural items from across all of history, with tech designed by everyone from Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison? Yeah, it’s a fun one. This SYFY original series was a hit, running from 2009-2014, and nailed the light, fun, wild, procedural vibe from the jump. Along the way it developed an excellent supporting cast, including Aaron Ashmore and Allison Scagliotti. It has a great steampunk vibe, a fantastic core duo played by Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly, and told a whole lot of fascinating, history-twisting stories along the way.
Peter Practices Flying | Heroes
To be honest, this one doesn’t quite hold up as well a decade or so later — but this late 2000s series was a monster hit at the time and helped pave the way for superhero stories on TV. The show followed a group of regular people who develop superpowers, as we see how that impacts their lives and the world at large. The cast was littered with future stars, including Hayden Panettiere, Greg Grunberg, Ali Larter, and Milo Ventimiglia. As for the story? Well, compared to the modern era of superhero storytelling, it can come off as a bit paint-by-numbers now, but the show remains a fascinating artifact of all those ideas and concepts being explored in a serious way in primetime. Is it kind of a mess? Sure, but it’s still a fun mess.
Moonlight | Series Trailer | CW Seed
Moonlight (CW Seed)
This series, about a private investigator who happens to also be a vampire, might sound like a knockoff of Angel — but it’s not! The short-lived 2007 CBS series found its own vibe fairly early, with vampire Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) falling in love with a human reporter played by Sophia Myles. It does a good job of telling a love story, mixed in with plenty of vampire action along the way. This was one that largely flew under the radar, and was cancelled after one season. But if you’re missing Angel, or that era of vampire-y storytelling, it’s the perfect binge.
Helix: "Virus" Extended Trailer | Season 1 | SYFY
After striking genre gold with his Battlestar Galactica revival, Ronald D. Moore turned his attention to the sci-fi horror series Helix. The show followed a team of scientists investigating a mysterious outbreak at an Arctic outpost. It only gets weirder, grosser and more terrifying from there. Season 2 takes the story in a bigger, even twistier direction. It’s an ambitious swing for a show, and Moore absolutely nails the horror aspects of it all. If you missed it when it first aired on SYFY from 2014-2015, it’s a good winter scare to rediscover.
LOST - 15 Years After Leaving The Island | SYFY Wire
Lost (IMDB TV)
One of the biggest hits of the modern era, Lost ran for six seasons on ABC and established J.J. Abrams as one of the key creatives in the business. If you’re unfamiliar, the show followed passengers of an airplane that crash lands on a mysterious island. It was big, gorgeously shot, and featured a fantastic cast (Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, and Josh Holloway just to name a few). The show features one of the best uses of flashback storytelling, as episodes delved into the lives of the various passengers before they were stuck on the island. In the later seasons, the mythology gets even more ambitious, as that tale of survival evolves into a saga of good vs. evil.
Odyssey 5 Opening
Odyssey 5 (Crackle)
A true deep cut, this short-lived series ran for 19 episodes on Showtime back in 2002. The concept was a big one, with a team of astronauts sent five years into the past to try and avert a global apocalypse. In addition to the big sci-fi story and the stakes, we also get to dive into the lives of the crew (which includes Peter Weller, Christopher Gorham, and Sebastian Roche), as they have a chance to literally rewrite their lives and make different decisions with the full knowledge of where they ended up in the original timeline. The execution was a bit clunky at times, but the high-concept was more than enough to keep you locked in.
Pushing Daisies | Series Trailer | CW Seed
Pushing Daisies (CW Seed)
Hailing from Bryan Fuller, this two-season series ran from 2007-2009 on ABC — and remains in the upper echelons with cult hits like Firefly for shows that are universally beloved and mourned for being cancelled too soon. The show starred Lee Pace as a pie-maker with the ability to bring anything back to life with his touch. But, let’s just say that power isn’t as cut and dry as it sounds. Pace’s ned uses his abilities to help solve murder cases (you know, since he can literally wake up a corpse and ask what happened). The world-building is meticulous and unrivaled, and the two-season run remains a fantastic little tale that’s just as great the first time as it is the 100th time.
Alcatraz | First Look | CW Seed
Alcatraz (CW Seed)
Produced by J.J. Abrams and co-starring Lost alum Jorge Garcia and Jurassic Park star Sam Neill, this is arguably one of the super-producer’s few semi-flops. As the title suggests, the show followed the mysterious reappearance of prisoners and guards who vanished without a trace from the famed prison in the early 1960s. In classic Abrams fashion, it was a big mystery box, and it was really working up to some weird and wild ideas by the end of Season 1. But unlike most Abrams projects, this one only ran for one, 13-episode season due to a decline in ratings.
Eureka Series Trailer - Season 5 on DVD
Arguably one of SYFY’s biggest hits of the mid-to-late 2000s, this series was set in a high-tech town where all the scientists and thinkers from the fictional research company Global Dynamics. It’s a weird and wild cast of characters, tied together by the “average Joe” sheriff played by Colin Ferguson trying to keep the town from blowing up or being taken over by everything from rogue tech to time travel. The show is a broad, bright and extremely fun binge — just what the doctor ordered after making it through 2020.
TERRA NOVA THE COMPLETE SERIES TRAILER ON DVD NOW
Terra Nova (IMDB TV)
Think time travel meets Jurassic Park meets Avatar, with a splashy budget and Steven Spielberg signed on to produce. So how did this show only last one season? Your guess is as good as ours (okay, it was probably declining ratings and the show’s massive budget). The series followed an expedition from the 2140s, sent back in time to establish a human colony in the far-flung past where dinosaurs still roam the globe — and this being Spielberg — there was some family drama at its heart. The cast included plenty of A-listers, such as Jason O’Mara, Naomi Scott and Stephen Lang. If you want something big and full of adventure, this is a great 13-episode romp to dive into.
The Tick - Elevator Fight (Episode 1)
The Tick (Crackle)
Years before Amazon Prime rebooted the superhero comedy adventures of the Tick and Arthur, the wacky heroes got a short-lived live action run on Fox way back in 2001. The show starred Patrick Warburton as the namesake, dim-witted hero, with a hilarious cast of D-list heroes around him. Though it only ran for nine short episodes, it quickly became a cult hit among superhero and comedy fans. It’s also just as hilarious today as it was two decades ago. Don’t believe us, scream “Spoon!” and dig in.