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A man in a hooded raincoat fastens a mysterious device to the temples of a young boy bound and gagged in a chair in Dark. Photo: Stefan Erhard/Netflix

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The best sci-fi TV to watch on Netflix

Alternate dimensions, time-travel conspiracies, and robots who can cry

What do you look for in a good sci-fi show? Brave new worlds, time-travel conspiracies, wise-cracking automatons, and freaky speculative weirdness? We’ve all got our own personal favorites, especially when it comes to the best sci-fi TV available on Netflix.

We’ve pooled together our collective passion and knowledge of the genre to bring you our list of the coolest under-the-radar series to watch if you’re looking for a bold new adventure to get lost in. With high-concept psychological thrillers, globe-spanning mysteries, and odysseys that brave the farthest known corners of the universe (and beyond), we’ve hand-picked the best series for you to watch.

Here’s our list of the best sci-fi TV series to watch on Netflix.


Bodies

Shira Haas as DS Maplewood kneeling beside a body in a courtyard overrun with plants in Bodies. Image: Netflix

Episodes: 8
Creator: Paul Tomalin
Cast: Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Shira Haas, Amaka Okafor

Four detectives in London are attempting to unravel a century-spanning conspiracy involving a mysterious dead body. Here’s where the sci-fi weirdness comes in: It’s the exact same body, left in the exact same location, rediscovered again and again in 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053.

Jumping back and forth between these four time periods, the series deftly interweaves period storytelling and speculative fiction to create a tangled web of shocking discoveries and poignant personal epiphanies. Bodies is at its most fun during moments when one of the detectives picks up on an intriguing clue left behind by another detective more than a lifetime ago, sharing almost nothing in common aside from the nature of their profession and their indefatigable pursuit of answers and justice. If you haven’t seen Bodies since it quietly premiered on Netflix last October, you absolutely should. —Toussaint Egan

Dark

A young man wearing a yellow raincoat stands in front of the partitioned entrance of a large cave in a forest in Dark. Image: Netflix

Episodes: 26
Creators: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese
Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari, Gina Alice Stiebitz

It’s not a spoiler to say that Dark is a time-travel show. In fact, it’s more like a starting point. But if your typical problem with time travel is that they don’t take the issue seriously enough, or don’t get into the weirdness and complications of it, then Dark is the perfect sci-fi series for you.

The German-language series follows the residents of a small town full of secrets as they experience the tragedy of a child who has mysteriously disappeared. Of course, the disappearance is only the beginning, and things get a whole lot more complicated from there. The more the characters travel through time and discover about their little town, the more complicated and exciting the series’ mystery becomes.

Dark is a lot of things. It’s a compelling family drama, a time-travel mystery, one of the twistiest shows on TV, and a journey to the end(s?) of the world. But more than anything else, it’s one of the best and most complicated sci-fi shows ever produced. —Austen Goslin

The OA

Prairie Johnson in a coat, knit cap, and fingerless gloves pressing her hands against a smudged glass pane in The OA. Photo: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Episodes: 16
Creators: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Jason Isaacs

Sci-fi has a rep for being Big: big set-pieces, new worlds, grandiose social commentary. The OA is a great example of these — namely by doing almost none of them. It’s a much more small-scale story, about a young woman (Brit Marling) who returns after being missing for seven years, now calling herself “the OA” (which stands for “the original angel”), and who is no longer blind.

The story goes to some wild places, but never loses the feel of a sci-fi enhanced by its narrow focus and limited budget. But what the story is lacking in hifalutin VFX it makes up for with its Big Heart and Big Ideas, making The OA the no-brainer cult hit it is today. —Zosha Millman

Pluto

Inspector Gesicht aiming an arm-mounted projectile canon in a forest. Image: Studio M2/Netflix

Episodes: 8
Creator: Toshio Kawaguchi
Cast: Shinshū Fuji, Yoko Hikasa, Mamoru Miyano

Based on Naoki Urasawa’s legendary manga, Pluto is a small miracle of a show: an 8-episode sci-fi thriller about an amnesiac robot detective tasked with hunting down a serial killer hellbent on murdering the most powerful robots in the world.

The miniseries was quietly produced over the course of six years, and it shows: Each of the roughly hour-long episodes is bursting with dazzling visuals, impressive action sequences, and creatively implemented CGI. It’s a roller coaster of a story that lovingly recreates the world and characters of Urasawa’s manga beat for beat and nearly shot for shot, paying tribute to its highly acclaimed universe while adapting it to take advantage of modern animation at its best. Pluto isn’t just one of the best anime of 2023, but one of the best shows of 2023, period. If that doesn’t earn it the distinction of being one of the best sci-fi shows on Netflix, I don’t know what else will. —TE

Sense8

A group of people, including the principal cast of Sense8, standing over the shoulder of two people typing on laptops in Sense8. Image: Segolene Lagny/Netflix

Episodes: 24
Creators: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, J. Michael Straczynski
Cast: Aml Ameen, Bae Doona, Jamie Clayton

Canceled before its time due to its (understandably extreme) per-episode cost, the Wachowskis’ series Sense8 nevertheless managed to wrap its major plot points and come to a reasonably satisfying conclusion. Even so, looking back on the first season’s pacing, it feels like The Matrix writer-directors and Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski thought they had all the time in the world to complete this story. It starts when eight adult characters in eight countries around the world all become connected as “sensates,” capable of communing telepathically and sharing sensations and skills. (And also having sex with each other; this is one of the horniest shows on Netflix.)

There’s a thriller-movie overplot involving a frankly terrifying sensate hunter who wants to dissect the protagonists For Science, but for a lot of its run time, Sense8 is much more of a wish-fulfillment fantasy about human connection, where these eight people offer each other companionship, caring, and skill-sharing support in emergencies. And, again, sex: This is a sense-and-sensuality-driven feast for the eyes, shot on location in the characters’ eight countries, with an eye for gorgeous locales and beautifully bared bodies. It’s a flawed show in so many ways, but it’s wildly sincere and swoony, and it’s one of the most ambitious productions Netflix has ever taken on. —Tasha Robinson

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