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15 of the Best Science Fiction TV Shows of All Time, Ranked


We love science fiction for its expansive plots and limitless universes. The genre charismatically uses the backdrop of space or advanced technology to explore big ideas, such as the value of life and what it means to be human. What better place to explore the genre’s infinite possibilities and difficult themes than in a long TV series?


Showslike Eurekaand Lost are famous for providing thought-provoking character development along with sophisticated storylines. Science fiction TV shows range from the ridiculous and funny to the serious and scary. Whether you are looking for a show to make you laugh or want to stretch your brain, here are some of the best science fiction shows of all time to satisfy your craving.

Updated May 13, 2023: If you love Science Fiction shows, you’ll be excited to know this list has been updated with additional content by Amira Abdel-Fadil.

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15 The Jetsons

Screen Gems

Yes, it’s a cheesy cartoon from the ’60s, but there is still something heartwarming and fun about this classic cartoon that makes it a joy to watch. The Jetsons is not for the serious hard science-fiction fan but can act as a gateway for kids and families looking to enjoy more of the genre together. The sitcom follows the daily life of a family living in 2062, 100 years after the show aired, and captures the optimistic feeling of scientific possibility that was so present in the ’60s and in a lot of sci-fi before Star Wars.

The science obviously does not accurately depict what we expect to see in the next decades, but the ridiculous ease of technology makes for a lot of jokes that have influenced science fiction. For example, George Jetson works a 9-5 job where all he does is push a button to turn on the machines. We love The Jetsons for its innocent sense of humor and old Hanna-Barbera-style animation.

14 Timeless

Timeless
National Broadcasting Service

This show only has a small cult following and did not bring in great big numbers of viewers when it aired, but we still love Timeless for its humor, creative premise, and relatable characters. It allows viewers to completely step into American History in a way no other time travel show does. In Timeless, a historian, scientist, and soldier team up to stop a time-traveling terrorist. The terrorist seems to be intentionally changing the timeline to destroy reality as we know it.

13 Star Wars: Clone Wars

Star Wars: Clone Wars cast with guns and lightsabers
Lucasfilm

This cartoon is a little more serious than The Jetsons. With intense lightsaber duels, intricate stories about political intrigue, and timeless characters, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is sure to interest children and adults alike. Under the careful direction of George Lucas himself, The Clone Wars carved its place into Star Wars canon.

Related: Star Wars: Why Jedi Should Utilize The Force More in Combat

Its episodic story structure allows the show to explore both familiar and new characters all over the galaxy far, far away. A lot of the newest TV shows and movies within the Star Wars universe are still drawing from this show for ideas and material and is arguably the best of every Star Wars TV series so far.

12 Firefly

Nathan Fillion and the Firefly cast
Fox

In the space Western Firefly, Nathan Fillion stars as a captain on the titular ship in Joss Whedon’s colorful universe. He and some members of his crew fought on the losing side of the war, and now try to stay off the government’s radar. They mainly take jobs stealing and smuggling materials. Firefly is a cult classic for its attention to detail, creepy villains, and surprising heroes; its hilarious ensemble of characters and the chemistry among the actors who play them is delightful. Ultimately, Firefly really highlights the strength of the everyday hero.

Unfortunately, Firefly did not receive a lot of positive reviews and remained one of the most underrated TV shows until home media and streaming created a massive fan base. Joss Whedon did receive funding to finish out the story in the follow-up movie, Serenity. An expected reboot from Disney+ will create a new story, without the involvement of Whedon, who has been accused of workplace harassment.

11 Stranger Things

Stranger Things cast
Netflix

Stranger Things became one of the most popular streaming shows around because of the writers’ ability to combine multiple genres. The show has something for everyone with its science fiction, coming-of-age, and horror elements. It draws on just enough ’80s references to bring in nostalgia while keeping the magic of modern special effects. Set during the Cold War, Stranger Things tells the story of members of a small town trying to unravel the mystery of a missing boy. As they investigate, they discover sinister secrets and operations and come of age, paying tribute to ’80s horror along the way.

10 Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica
NBC Universal Television Distribution

The 1978 version is classic, but it is fun to watch a timeless premise re-imagined with more modern technology and storytelling. Battlestar Galactica is the story of the only surviving military ship in deep space after the attack from advanced robots called Cylons, which have been developing the ability to appear remarkably human.

As the crew struggles with drama on board and the waging war outside, they fight a battle on two fronts. Few shows tackle the “man versus machine” conflict as perfectly as Battlestar Galactica, which also creates fascinating allegories for the war on terror and politics from the 21st century. Its complicated intellectual themes with a dark and steamy plot make this show enjoyable for hardcore science fiction fans.

9 Stargate SG-1

The Main Cast from Stargate SG-1
MGM Television

Stargate SG-1 became so successful that it paved the way for six other spin-off tv series and movies (not including the non-canon French animated series). It is loved for its expansive universe tied to realistic elements of our world. The Stargate is an ancient Egyptian artifact that turns out to open wormholes to other Stargates throughout the universe. The military team protecting and operating the Stargate face threats both from their own government and from aliens across the universe. The show is filled with great action sequences and is just downright fun, with its greatest element being the winning humor and chemistry between characters.

8 Babylon 5

Babylon 5 Cast
Warner Bros.

Babylon 5 is beloved for its expansive universe, a vast and diverse array of characters, and interconnected plot. The first season runs like many other science fiction episodic shows in order to establish the in-depth characters, but the second season picks up with an intricate story arc that brilliantly develops throughout. Babylon 5 may have ended a season too soon, but it still acts as an iconic story within the science fiction genre.

Related: Explained: Dune & Why We’re Enthralled by Science Fiction

In this series, Babylon 5 is a space station that acts as the universe’s hub for diplomacy and interplanetary relations. The show follows the crew of the space station as they work with aliens and humans alike to bring peace, though there is political intrigue and a great threat brewing. The show is incredibly meticulous in its writing, inserting small details in some episodes that have massive payoff down the line, expertly plotting its trajectory.

7 The Mandalorian

Mandalorian Star Wars
Disney Platform Distribution

Star Wars has one of the oldest fan bases in science fiction, and it’s no wonder that more than one of their TV shows made it on this list. The Mandalorian takes place after the collapse of the Empire, as the galaxy struggles to maintain order. The Mandalorian works as a bounty hunter, but when The Empire asks him to find and capture Grogu (Baby Yoda, who blew up the internet), the Mandalorian is forced to deliberate between his religious code and personal ethics. We love this show for the nostalgia it brings to fans of the original trilogy. The references to old westerns, dry humor, and of course Baby Yoda all add to its excitement as well.

6 Doctor Who

The doctors in Doctor Who
BBC

As one of the longest-running series of all time, Doctor Who is a science fiction staple. The series that originally set out to teach children about history, has now become sophisticated entertainment that people of every age can enjoy. Fans of the franchise love Doctor Who for its quirky humor and creativity throughout the plot. The Doctor is a Time Lord who travels through time causing trouble and preventing catastrophe everywhere he/she goes.

If The Doctor dies in the heat of battle, he/she actually “regenerates” and takes on a new human form (hence why the show has been able to continue for so long). With a built-in premise that could ostensibly go on forever, the show is an epic delight to sci-fi fans of all ages.

5 Star Trek

Stark Trek
CBS Paramount Television

Star Trek has rightfully earned its place as number one on the list. While The Next Generation may be more beloved, the original is more important, credited with forming one of the first fandoms and modernizing sci-fi as we know it. The TV show has inspired countless comic books, satires, movies, and spin-off shows.

Star Trek features an expansive universe full of exciting characters, romance, and action. The friendship between the overly logical Spock, and the incredibly optimistic Captain Kirk (not to mention the kind Bones) makes for not only exciting stratagem and fight sequences but great chemistry which would extend into some wonderful films. Stark Trek‘s larger-than-life heroes overcome challenges big and small and infuse all of its viewers with hope for humanity’s future.

4 Dark

Dark
Netflix

Dark is a Netflix-produced German science fiction that is of impressive quality. Set in the puzzling town of Winden, the show zooms in on the lives of four families whose fractured relationships and lives get exposed when two children disappear from the town. It’s a brilliant take on family ties and how they affect the past and the future.

At its center, there is an interplay between time travel, a mysterious cave, and a power plant that will need your full attention as each setting, scene, and interaction add to the complex tale. Dark will absorb you in a captivating sensory experience with its top-notch cinematography, score, acting, and premise. It’s the kind of series you need to watch a few times to fully grasp.

3 Black Mirror

black mirror the national anthem
Netflix

Black Mirror is an anthology show that took the world by storm with its mind-bending concepts. Most of the episodes are written by Charlie Brooker, and they explore modern society and the way it could evolve given the advancement of technology. Each episode lays out a different theme, bringing out thought-provoking questions and disturbing ideas to the surface.

Related: Why USS Callister Is Still the Best Black Mirror Episode

The deeply original and fresh series is science fiction at its best when it comes to the genre as it masterfully blends in imagination and futuristic concepts and high-tech to the point of perfection. It explores themes such as memory, surveillance, privacy, politics, and consumerism. However, it is not for the faint-hearted and is far from a feel-good series because of its cynical and often depressing ideas. Each episode can be watched independently of the others and has a different cast. It is often considered The Twilight Zone of the 21st century.

2 The Boys

The Boys
Amazon Studios

The Boys is a series that takes a different approach to superheroes. In a world where superheroes always save the day with their morals and superpowers, The Boys does the opposite. It presents a different model where seemingly good superheroes are corrupt, greedy, and abusive of their powers and fame behind the scenes.

They work for Vought International, a corporation driven by profit more than anything else. They are monitored by the CIA team. The Boys work together to fight evil, which results in great tension and violence. It’s a dark commentary on what society would be like if it potentially had superheroes. Its complex and emotional storylines make it gripping as it brings out the gray area found in all humans. On a larger scale, it reflects and looks at the social and political problems of the West.

1 The X Files

Terry O'Quinn in The X-Files
Fox

The 16 times Primetime Emmy long-running winning show The X-Files, delves into the lives of two F.B.I agents who investigate strange phenomena with one being a believer in the paranormal and the other a skeptic who believes in science.

With their contrasting views, they dive into conspiracy theories, the U.S. government, and the potential existence of life on other planets. The hit show was one of the most defining shows of the ’90s which helped in hyping the science fiction genre. The episodes are exciting, mysterious, horror, and filled with a cast that has boundless chemistry. Unfortunately, the anticipated reboot didn’t get the praise the original series got which has left fans upset.



This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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