The excellent Travelers could be your next sci-fi binge.
From character-driven sci-fi Travelers, to bonkers comedy-horror Crazyhead, your best bet for end-of-the-week viewing might be a hidden gem in Netflix‘s back catalogue. In a time where it can feel like you’ve watched absolutely everything, maybe an older show that slipped under your radar could become your next binge.
Scroll down to see the 50 best TV shows to come out of Netflix’s vault. Otherwise, settle for newer shows such as Love, Death & Robots, the second season of which arrived at the end of last week.
Read more: The 40 best movies to watch on Netflix | The Woman in the Window: Twisty Netflix thriller loses the plot
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Stranger Things (2016—)
It wouldn’t be a best list without Stranger Things. If somehow you’ve missed the Duffer Brothers’ ode to ’80s horror and Steven Spielberg, things are about to get tubular. We follow El, a near-mute girl who was the subject of scientific experiments. She develops telekinetic powers, which she uses to fend off monsters who invade from a frightening alternative dimension. The world of Indiana, Hawkins, is lovingly detailed for anyone in need of an ’80s nostalgia hit and the misfit characters, played by a stellar young cast, are part of everything that makes this show a tour de force.
The OA (2016-2019)
From the minds of Britt Marling and Zal Batmanglij, The OA has it all: mystery, sci-fi, the supernatural and even a dash of fantasy for good measure. We follow Prairie, a young woman who reappears after being missing for seven years. She used to be blind, but not anymore! Now she calls herself the OA and she sweeps a host of Midwestern locals of all ages and backgrounds into her dimension-hopping mission to save lives. Sadly, Netflix cancelled The OA after season 2, but this big, inventive and human sci-fi is still well worth taking a look at.
Full disclosure: Netflix sadly canceled Travelers after its third season, but this tightly-plotted sci-fi out of Canada does manage to end with an ambitious bang. We start with Marcy, a disabled woman who’s beaten up after helping a friend escape thugs. She dies — then comes back to life. This strong character-driven sci-fi reveals its secrets in clever ways, following operatives from the future tasked with preventing the collapse of society, but also navigating the tricky territory of living a double life.
Black Mirror (2011—)
While Charlie Brooker’s bleak tech anthology series can be hit and miss, at its best, Black Mirror packs its mini-movies with an exploration of futuristic technological ideas through painfully human stories. One of those is San Junipero, following two women in the ’80s (cue banging soundtrack) as they fall for each other in ways they couldn’t do in their “real” lives outside the beach city. The tech aspect is revealed with genius timing and, in general, the show explores the consequences of our plugged-in lives in disturbing and occasionally uplifting ways.
The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
How do you make chess the thrilling centerpiece of a coming-of-age tale? You shake it into a cocktail of stylish visuals, a rocking ’60s soundtrack and the magnetic Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, one of the youngest (and few female) chess players in the world. The fictional story in The Queen’s Gambit, named after a chess opening, follows her rise from an orphanage to toppling the best players in the world — as long as her drug addiction and bags of wine bottles don’t get in the way.
This miniseries is based on a memoir and told primarily in Yiddish with painstaking detail. Almost a thriller, Unorthodox follows 19-year-old Esty Shapiro, who escapes her arranged marriage in an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn. She ends up in Berlin, exploring a new life outside the strict beliefs she grew up in, but her community doesn’t let go that easily. Featuring a stunning performance from Shira Haas, Unorthodox lets you take a step into a relentlessly compelling world.
13 Reasons Why (2017-2020)
The first season of this YA show stuck most closely to its source material, a novel by Jay Asher that revolves around a teenage girl’s suicide. Hannah Baker leaves behind a box of cassettes, which her thoughtful friend Clay Jensen listens to to find out why she chose to take her life. This is deep stuff, dealt with in confronting ways (at one time deemed too confronting), but the social issues like suicide, sexual assault and mental health are handled maturely. A high school drama through fragile, lost young adults draws you in and doesn’t let go.
This miniseries carves itself firmly into the Western genre, with a female-led cast boasting Merritt Weaver and Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. With its 1880s New Mexico vistas swirling around it, Godless draws up the violence in a tale that sees an outlaw on the run from his boss seek refuge with an outcast widower. Oh, Jeff Daniels is in this too, if the show wasn’t enticing enough.
The Crown (2016—)