There's more happening on your television (or computer, or phone) screen now than there's ever been before. There is just too much TV for the average human brain to sift through at any given time! And with television budgets skyrocketing, genre TV looks and sounds better than ever -- especially in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. There are a ton of those shows out there too, some better than others, so we've taken it upon ourselves to curate the best, weirdest, and most creative stories out there about aliens, magic, robots, dragons, and everything in between. If you're looking for something totally new to watch, or need one last incentive to go ahead and start that one show you've been curious about, allow us to suggest some of our favorites. If you're in the market for the best sci-fi movies from this year instead, we've got that too.
Season 1. 10 episodes. Magic schools have been in vogue since even before Harry Potter took the whole world by storm, and the fantasy subgenre isn't about to die out anytime soon. If you've already re-read and rewatched J.K. Rowling's series too many times to count and are looking for something new, you might want to give Netflix's The Order a shot. The show follows freshman college student Jack Morton while he navigates a world full of frightful creatures and hot-tempered bullies in his quest to join Belgrave University's secret society, unearthing dark powers and even darker family secrets along the way. Oh, and also werewolves. Lots of werewolves.
Season 1. 10 episodes. If you're still hankering for more period-set weirdness, look no further than Syfy's Deadly Class, which is set in a heightened 1980s in which teen recruits join a prestigious crime school that houses and educates the offspring of some of the most lethal families in the world. After Marcus Lopez Arguello is accepted into the school, he has to choose between keeping his moral code intact and giving in to the darker instincts of his fellow classmates and their sinister teachers. Plus, Doctor Strange's Benedict Wong plays one of the professors, and Lana Condor of To All the Boys I've Loved Before gets to sink her teeth into a way more sinister role.
Season 1. 10 episodes. A Netflix series based on an edgy comic written by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way about a bunch of masked superheroes with weird powers who all grew up in a mansion and hate their dad sounds like a very elaborate, very specific joke. But we assure you, it's real, and it's actually pretty good once it finally hits its stride. You'll come for the explosions and time travel and chimpanzee butler, but you'll stay for the oddly affecting portrayal of how sibling relationships grow and powerfully shape each other, for better or for worse.
Season 5. 3 episodes. The fifth season of Black Mirror is a weird one: with every installment, the show seems to be getting less imaginative, especially when stacked against standout episodes like Bandersnatch (yes, it's good!). Season 5 has an episode that is little more than a "don't text and drive" PSA (Simple Plan did it better), but its other two are actually not bad, and much more grounded than something like "San Junipero" or "USS Callister." One of them imagines a future in which VR gaming tech makes things a little awkward between a guy and his best friend, and the other traps a pop star's consciousness inside a little toy robot. It's not exactly the heavy stuff you'd get from Season 1, but if you're looking for more ways in which technology could ruin your life, you know where to turn.
Season 2. 9 episodes. Amongst Netflix's huge stable of children's programming are a few shows that are surprisingly, genuinely great. The Dragon Prince is one of those, done in an anime-like computer animation style that might take some getting used to, but the story, created by Aaron Ehasz (the head writer for Nickelodeon's masterwork Avatar: The Last Airbender), is a fascinating dive into and rejection of the most familiar of fantasy tropes. A young elf warrior and two human boys are tasked with returning a dragon egg to its rightful parent in order to avoid all-out war between dark magic-wielding humans and the rest of the creatures on the magical continent of Xadia. The show is for kids, but it's also infused with a very Ehasz-influenced empathy for both sides of a conflict: Few of the show's antagonists are truly evil, while even the notion of "goodness" is realistically complicated.
Season 2. 10 episodes. Netflix's grungy Sabrina reboot took the bones of the original show and comics and turned it into a delightfully rich series about witches, magic, temptation, love, and terrifying creatures. Now that Sabrina's written her name in the Devil's little red book, she has to navigate the world of witches and the world of mortals at the same time, still unable to choose between them. In the second season, friendships grow between some and sour between others, while Satan's nefarious plan for Sabrina's soul starts its gears turning.
Season 3. 8 episodes. The newest season of Netflix's Stranger Things, coming July 4, takes our favorite '80s kids to a place they've never gone before: the mall! The show is even more vibrant and technicolor in its third season, introducing a few new characters, and at least one new monster into the mix. The demodogs are gone, but the Mind Flayer is far from beaten, sending a hew horror into the town of Hawkins, Indiana -- something to do with rats, creepy fog, and body-snatching. Without spoiling too much, this season makes you actually root for Billy, the scary brother with the cool car from Season 2 -- or, at least, root for him to not, you know, get eaten by something.
Season 1. 10 episodes. CBS All Access' reboot of the classic science fiction TV show The Twilight Zone has a lot going for it: an amazing cast that includes actors like Kumail Nanjiani, John Cho, and Zazie Beetz, plots that both reference and invert memorable storylines like "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (the terrifying plane creature one), and a vaguely sinister Jordan Peele taking over the role of host from Rod Serling. It's a delightful mix of old and new, with stories about a comedian who can make people disappear and a time-traveling camcorder that keeps close to the original thesis of the show: there's a lot out there, and a lot of it is scary, but all of it is fantastic.
Season 4. 13 episodes. The Magicians is one of those shows you don't know you're missing until you just say, "screw it," and dive in. If you're not familiar with the series, which is based on Lev Grossman's bestselling novel, it begins with our hero Quentin Coldwater joining Brakebills University to be trained as a magic man, discovering along the way that the fairytale world of his childhood is in fact very real -- and increasingly dangerous to the world of humanity. And that's only the starting point. In its fourth season, the show is more intricate and bizarre (and sexy) than ever, with magic finally restored to our heroes -- albeit in small bits at a time -- not to mention monster possessions, people dying and resurrecting themselves over and over, and split personalities for everybody! Also, Santa Claus is a major character.
10. Good Omens (Amazon Prime)
Miniseries. 6 episodes. It's always a bit of a tense thing when a really, really good book is adapted into a film or a TV show. Most of the time, adaptations take too many liberties or switch up too many characters or generally just don't get what it was that made the source material great in the first place, so when one really works, it feels like a miracle. The Good Omens miniseries, adapted from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's cult classic 1990 apocalyptic farce, is one of the good ones, its best moments, naturally, centering around its two leads: slimy-cool demon Crowley, played by David Tennant, and his friend/frenemy/partner-in-crime the angel Aziraphale, played by Michael Sheen.
Season 1. 8 episodes. If the English language is the only one you speak, it can be a little intimidating to try to wade into Netflix's stable of foreign language TV. There are a lot of really good ones, though, and earlier this year, the streaming service added Osmosis, a twisty, high-concept sci-fi that's like if a Black Mirror episode was expanded into an entire season of television. Paul and Esther Vanhove run a tech company that claims to have invented a technology that can find everyone's definitive one soulmate. The problem is, of course, that that might be true. In the midst of beta testing the "implant," things start to go wrong, relationships dissolve, and an artificially intelligent computer becomes dangerously sentient.
Season 1. 18 episodes. There's a certain artistry to making entertaining, effective, and imaginative short films, and Netflix's new animated series Love, Death + Robots blends all three of those strengths with some really crazy sci-fi stories. The title pretty much says it all: Every episode will have elements of love (read: sex -- the show is very rated R), death, and/or robots, and sometimes a combination of all three. From a tourist party of androids traipsing through a post-apocalyptic Earth, to a monster-fighting ring where the creatures are powered by human minds, to an ancient civilization thriving in a couple's refrigerator, to a beautiful fable about an artist in the future who only paints using one shade of blue, Love Death + Robots is a multifaceted collection of some of the most exhilarating and inventive storytelling out there.
7. The Society (Netflix)
Season 1. 10 episodes. Netflix's newest summer sensation blends the anxious social politics into the modern day, introducing us to a group of high school students who suddenly and inexplicably find themselves without parents, siblings, or anyone else at all populating their small town. When a bus full of kids is whisked off to a woodsy retreat only to be brought back home a few hours later due to bad weather, the bus's cargo soon find out that no one's coming to pick them up. Everyone except them seems to have been erased from the world, and their town has been neatly cut off from outside society. It's up to a bunch of high school students to form a pseudo-government, make sure no one starts killing anyone else, and, hopefully, figure out what the hell is going on.
Season 2. 10 episodes. A German-language TV show about the complexities of time travel might sound like an exhausting way to spend a Tuesday night, but I promise you, Dark is well worth the mindmelt of trying to understand the intricacies of dimension-hopping while words like Zeitreise and Umwelt are washing over your brain. The show follows Jonas Kahnwald, a boy living in the fictional town of Winden, who finds his family and his hometown wrapped up in a mystery that spans three generations, involving multiple disappearances and a spooky cave containing a wormhole that, depending on how you go through it, can transport you to the past or to the future.
Season 1. 10 episodes. DC Universe's Swamp Thing is their buzziest and most expensive project yet, with a beloved comic book hero as its protagonist and a production credit from none other than Aquaman's James Wan -- and, somehow, the most doomed. Not even a week after its first episode appeared on the streaming service, the show was canceled, some say due to operator error when it came down to a few zeroes on a Warner Bros. paycheck. What's most unfair is that the show is really good: if you can get past all the guh-ross slimy plant stuff, there's a crazy -- and plenty terrifying -- superhero origin story wrapped up in a fascinating Outbreak-style disaster tale with a dimly lit, Deep South aesthetic.
Season 8. 6 episodes. Game of Thrones! HBO's wildest, most expensive undertaking returned for one last round earlier this year, and... let's just say reactions were mixed. After nine years, a gajillion character deaths, and lots of intrigue, betrayal, and trauma, we finally found out how it all ended, and got to feel a little smug about all those weirdos who named their kids Khaleesi. Wrapping up eight seasons' worth of great houses, wars, armies, dragons, spells, old gods, new gods, true gods, poisons, lies, belated truths, incest, loot trains, and lots and lots of ravens was no easy task, but, however you feel about it, you can't deny that the show went out with a real bang.
Season 2. 8 episodes. The OA was Netflix's first puzzle-box show, with a maddening flair for the bizarre and a poorly-timed finale episode that left a lot of viewers cold. Season 2 proves that The OA is still worth a shot -- more than that, it's close to a masterpiece. O.A. is back, tossed into another dimension where she must find out the secrets of her alternate self, moving ever closer to revealing the truth about her nature. Co-creator and star Brit Marling's ideas are allowed to blossom to their full extent, revealing a master plan more intricate and more thrilling than the first eight episodes of the show even cared to dream of, and the second season's finale is so bold it'll leave you questioning the nature of your own reality.
2. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Season 2. 14 episodes. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery was a thrilling, fiery new addition to the Star Trek family, and pretty much reason number one for adding CBS All Access to your bevy of streaming service subscriptions. (Number two is The Good Fight.) Season 2 is even better, focusing lots of its energy on a plot arc involving Spock himself, as well as a time-traveling angel dressed in a mechanical suit, and adding a new character, the particularly dashing Captain Pike (a character whom long-time fans are sure to recognize from the very first Star Trek episode). There's still plenty of room, though, for some classic Trek-style one-off episodes, including a particularly touching story early on that throws into sharp relief the strange hypocrisy of Starfleet's Prime Directive.
Season 1. 8 episodes. With Natasha Lyonne's Russian Doll, Netflix might have actually invented the perfect show. It's eight episodes, each shorter than 30 minutes, and it's incredibly good. When Nadia keeps dying in horrifying ways and waking back up in the bathroom the night of her birthday party to the same Harry Nilsson song, she realizes that it's up to her to figure out why it's happening, why it's happening to her, and how she can stop it. What starts off as a weird, dingy Groundhog Day-inspired horror-comedy becomes an unexpectedly moving meditation on self-acceptance and our responsibility towards others in a world in which everyone only cares about themselves. As soon as you finish, you'll want to go back in time and rewatch it immediately.
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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.