The streaming landscape is only getting more crowded, as OG players like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are joined by well-funded players like HBO Max and Disney+. Every service is bringing its own splintered back catalog and lineup of originals, including a whole lot of sci-fi and genre fare.
We’ve cut through the noise to spotlight the high-profile genre shows that matter on every service, including the ones that aren’t even out yet. Every service is looking to make a new name for itself and draw in eyeballs, so pretty much every service has at least one ambitious and sure-to-be-buzzy sci-fi project in its lineup (apologies in advance to your budget).
So, from superheroes to short-form Spielbergian scares, here’s the biggest and best of every streaming platform. Just, you know, start saving now to actually afford them all.
Stranger Things: Netflix struck nostalgic, scary, fun gold with this 1980s-set original series. Three seasons in (and with a fourth season on the way), this one is still going just as strong as ever. The series has become a cultural touchstone and a steady performer for the streaming service, ushering in a flush of imitators in recent years, though few have captured just the right amount of Upside Down magic.
Black Mirror: This one was a sneaky hit, starting as a British import before blossoming into a massive original hit all its own. It’s dark, weird, and landed at just the right time to be the Twilight Zone for a new generation, telling twisted stories about the intersection of technology, humanity, and society (and even a Choose Your Own Adventure!). From farm animal sex (ahem) to hard looks at how we form relationships in the 21st century, this one has it all.
The Handmaid’s Tale: This adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel has resonated so much it’s inspired real-life political protests, with the Handmaid’s outfit jumping from screen to reality more than a few times. But what started as a novel adaptation has now grown far beyond the end of the original story, bringing these characters into a burgeoning resistance movement and adding some glimmers of hope to a dark alternate reality.
Runaways: This live-action Marvel series is getting lonelier and lonelier, but don’t get distracted by all those ambitious Disney+ plans — there’s still a little Marvel fun to have over at Hulu (for now, anyway). This series focuses on a group of teens who learn their parents are supervillains, so they strike out on their own to find their own lives and become accidental heroes along the way. It’s a fresh corner of the Marvel Universe we don’t get to see explored very much on the big screen, and the cast and execution are stellar. Unfortunately, it was announced today that this fourth season would be its final one.
Lord of the Rings: Amazon backed up the Brink's truck to land the TV rights to the world of Tolkien, and is sparing no expense to develop an epic fantasy series it hopes can do for Amazon what Game of Thrones did for HBO. Amazon has reportedly already committed to five seasons of the project, which is described as a prequel set in the Second Age, thousands of years before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s set to premiere by 2021.
The Man in the High Castle: What if the Axis powers won World War II? That’s the question at the heart of this alt-history original, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. But, over three seasons, the show has evolved into a fascinating exploration of alt-realities and a secret rebellion to stop the Nazis from spreading across all reality.
SEE: The first big-budget genre series from Apple includes an A-list cast, led by Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa. The story is set in the far-flung future, in a world where humanity has lost the ability to see. That’s led to a twisted society that gets far more complicated when a new generation of children are born with their eyesight intact. It’s big, beautiful, and (yeah) a bit convoluted. But still, a gorgeous swing for the fences.
For All Mankind: One of Apple TV+’s best-received originals, this alt-history series imagines the Russians beat the U.S. to the moon, inspiring NASA to double down on space exploration in the 1970s (as opposed to slashing budgets and scaling back). It comes from Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore, who says he views the project as a way to reimagine the version of NASA he thought he’d get to see as a child, continuing to push boundaries to the moon and beyond.
The Mandalorian: Fans have spent decades waiting for a live-action Star Wars series, and Disney+ is the only place to get it. The big-budget series, set after the original trilogy, follows a mercenary in a world put together by Iron Man director Jon Favreau. It has that same lo-fi, dirty tech vibe, and looks to recapture some of that analog energy of the original Star Wars films.
With Lucasfilm wrapping up the Skywalker Saga soon with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian is the perfect test case to see if fans are jonesing for fresh Star Wars content outside the mainline films. (The answer so far seems to be a resounding "Yes!")
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Marvel has a whole slate of MCU-connected superhero shows on the way, but this should be the first to hit the airwaves (internet-waves?). The show connects directly to the big-screen Marvel action and features movie stars Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, and Daniel Bruhl. The duo of Sam and Bucky have been a favorite on the big screen, and giving them a solo series should be a safe, warm (and really successful) way to ease fans into this new phase of the MCU.
Battlestar Galactica: The fan-favorite sci-fi franchise already scored an acclaimed reboot at SYFY a few years ago, and NBCU’s new streaming service is aiming to recapture some of that beloved genre magic. The reboot comes from Mr. Robot producer Sam Esmail. The series follows a ragtag group of humans on the run from killer robots — and offers plenty of opportunities to explore issues of militarism, racism, and scarcity. All wrapped around a story packed with action and intrigue.
Brave New World: Peacock is tackling Aldous Huxley’s iconic sci-fi novel for a high-profile adaptation. With a cast featuring Harry Lloyd, Alden Ehrenreich, Hannah John-Kamen, and more, the series looks to adapt the tale of a utopian society with some dark flourishes under the surface. As Peacock looks to get out of the gate with something that will attract genre eyeballs, bringing Huxley’s classic to the big screen could do the trick.
Creepshow: Yes, even the niche horror streamer Shudder has its own originals — led by an adaptation of the classic scarefest anthology Creepshow. The Creeper is back, taking horror fans through terrifying little mini-tales inspired by everything from Stephen King to folktale classics. The show has proven a hit for Shudder, and the service has already renewed it for a second season.
Green Lantern: Little is known about this DC Comics project at HBO Max, but it’ll certainly carry a whole lot of hype for genre fans. The project is coming from Arrowverse architect Greg Berlanti, and Green Lantern is easily one of the biggest DC properties still left on the bench (a film reboot has been in and out of development for years, with little real news). It’s a whole new world for DC TV, and could finally take the small screen into the galactic corner of the DCU.
Dune: The Sisterhood: Another flagship genre series will also be heading to HBO Max: Dune, or, more exactly, a female-focused spinoff. The mainline story is eyeing a big-screen reboot, and this TV series will reportedly tie in to that universe. As streaming services vie for top-tier properties, Dune is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Spielberg’s After Dark: This short-form horror project marks one of Steven Spielberg’s first actual writing projects in years. Little else is known about it, but coming from Spielberg, it obviously has some A-list pedigree. One interesting gimmick? The show will only be available to watch, well, after dark — literally. The series will only be available to stream after sunset.
Untitled Guillermo del Toro Project: He’s a master of horror, and Guillermo del Toro is bringing his particular brand of terrifying to the short-form streaming service. Little is known about the project (not even a title at this point), but it’s being described as a modern zombie story. Considering del Toro’s out-of-this-world design sense, fans should be champing at the bit to see what fresh approach he brings to the tried-and-true zombie genre.
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Star Trek: Picard: Yes, Star Trek: Discovery is also great — but fans are geeking the heck out to see the long-awaited return of Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard, diving back into the fray for one last adventure. The series finds Picard teaming with a younger group of characters, while also bringing back plenty of familiar faces from The Next Generation era. The action picks up about 20 years after the final big-screen TNG-era Trek film, Nemesis.
The Twilight Zone: Fresh off the success of Get Out, Jordan Peele tackled this revival of the legendary anthology sci-fi series, successfully bringing it back to life for a new generation (complete with a follow-up or two connected to some of those iconic, old episodes). It features A-list actors like Adam Scott, John Cho, and Zazie Beetz, and the streaming service is already hard at work on a second season. Sure, Black Mirror steals a lot of the buzz these days, but there’s something still inherently relevant about the new-look The Twilight Zone.