25 Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Shows Streaming on Netflix – January 2017
Let’s face it: Netflix may have started as a video/DVD movie rental house, but today it’s got the market cornered on the best television shows available anywhere, both in original programming and from other networks. Whether you’re a binge-watcher or love to take your time with your favorite TV shows, here’s a sampling of the best that Netflix has to offer in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. When you’re done reading our list below, you also might want to check out our list of the best sci-fi movies on netflix.
This sci-fi series based on the book series by Lev Grossman, takes its Hogwarts-like premise, adds sex, nerdy twenty-somethings, drinking and magical hijinks to come up with an overall fun ride. Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) is the semi-cute graduate student addicted to a Narnia-type book series since childhood, who discovers the world of the books is real, but a lot darker and more dangerous than anyone expects. When the series opens, Quentin is having such a hard time with life that he's checked himself into a mental institution. For escape from the drudgery of life, he spends a lot of time thinking about a book series he's loved since childhood: Fillory and Further, about a group of siblings who find their way to a fairytale land. Instead of a wardrobe, they access it through an old grandfather clock. Quentin's best friend, Julia (Stella Maeve) is worried about him, and lectures him about daydreaming his life away in ruminations on Fillory. When he shows up to an interview for Yale graduate school, however, the man who was supposed to interview him is dead, and a mysterious woman slips him an envelope with a never-before-seen sixth sequel to the book series. A flyaway page ultimately leads him to an entrance exam for Brakebills College, a school for Magicians. He aces it, and soon makes friends with Elliot (Hale Appleman), who takes him under his cocktail-making wing, and tries to teach Quentin to stop taking things so seriously. He also meets love interest, Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and his new roommate, Penny (Arjun Gupta). Meanwhile, Julia falls in with a group of rogue witches, and Quentin dreams he's getting advice from Jane Chatwin, the eldest of the Fillory-visiting siblings. Things really get interesting when "The Beast" makes an appearance, bringing the show to a much higher level of scariness. I highly recommend this series for binge-happy hours of fun.
Created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, The Almighty Johnsons sparkles with hilarious dilemmas and witty dialogue. Each Johnson brother, on his 21st Birthday, takes on the powers of a different Norse God in this Syfy series imported from New Zealand. It begins on the birthday of Axl (Emmett Skilton), who disbelievingly takes on the persona of Odin, and is instantly burdened with saving the world. Axl is the youngest of four brothers living at the bottom of the world in Auckland, New Zealand. On his 21st birthday, each brother inherits some watered-down powers and the persona of a particular Norse God, although they don't know which one it will be until it happens. The pilot episode starts out slow, but after a couple of episodes, you'll be hooked. Be prepared for lots of sex and hard drinking.
The OA, created by Brit Marling and Zal Btmanglij, is one of those shows I watched over one weekend because I had to see what would happen. As the season unfolds, the crazy story reels you in with slow-moving suspense that mostly pays off. After being struck blind as a child during a near-death experience, Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) is adopted by a Midwestern couple (Scott Wilson and Alice Krige) and raised until she mysteriously disappears for 7 years. When she returns, she can see, but can’t, or won’t tell anyone how she got her sight back or where she’s been. She enlists a group from the neighborhood to meet at night in an abandoned, half-finished house. The group consists of a teacher and four high school students. Each of them must leave his front door open in order for Prairie to teach them what she needs them to learn for an experiment that can't be described without serious spoilers. I will say that she wasn't just missing for seven years, she was abducted by Hap (Jason Isaacs), a doctor who was experimenting on people who had lived through near death experiences. He wasn't really a monster, he just had to put the science first, you understand. Her fellow captives were an interesting bunch, especially love interest Homer (Emory Cohen). The story group was most interesting, however, as each of them had a serious need filled by the group that helped them to grow as human beings. There's the high school bully, Steve (Patrick Gibson), the overachiever French (Brandon Perea), the forlorn trans boy, Buck (Ian Alexander), and the teacher who needs the group, possibly the most -- Betty Broderick Allen (Phyllis Smith). The show delivers right to the end, which is a little bit of a disappointment after the huge buildup, but not enough that you'll regret watching it.
Producer J. J. Abrams’ cult hit series won nine Emmys, including outstanding Dramatic Series for 2005. The series took on the themes of science vs. faith through the two leaders of a group of strangers stranded after a plane crash on a mysterious deserted island. Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox), a surgeon, is tormented by his father’s death and leads the group under the “scientist’s” guise, while John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) is the faith guy, who was crippled until the crash and somehow healed “by the island.” Then there's Sawyer Josh Holloway), the conman who gets into a love triangle with Kate (Evangeline Lily) and Jack. Kate seems like the quintessential (if extraordinarily beautiful) girl-next-door, but like all the inhabitants of the island, has a surprising back story. Other notable members of the ensemble include Jorge Garcia as lotter-winner Hugo, Yunjin Kim as Sun, a Korean woman who secretly speaks English, and Naveen Andrews as Sayid, the former member of the Iraqi Republican Guard, a proficient torturer. The series is best known for its unanswered mysteries, like the "Smoke Monster," the "hatch" and the polar bear.
The 2012 fall season debut of Arrow brought the highest ratings the CW had seen in three years. The series begins as Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), Arrow, is rescued from a desert island after being away for five years. He reunites with his family and friends while forming the group that will be the core of the series. His sidekick, Digg (David Ramsey), and his sometimes love interest, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) make up the muscle and computer expert, respectively, on his team. Willa Holland is great as his troubled little sister, Thea Queen, while Katie Cassidy is unconvincing as Laurel Lance, attorney and Oliver's former fiance. Based on the DC comic character, Green Arrow.
Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them. Avengers director and Buffy creator Joss Whedon’s western sci-fi series stars Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres. The series premiered on Fox and was canceled after airing 11 of the 14 filmed episodes, largely due to mishandling by the network. However, there was a loud outcry from the film’s fanbase and in 2005, Joss Whedon wrote the sequel to Firefly in the form of the movie Serenity. Nathan Fillion plays Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a smuggler who lives outside the law and avoids notice by The Alliance (a Chinese/American government). His second in command is Zoe (Gina Torres). Rounding out the crew are Zoe's pilot husband, Wash (Alan Tudyk), the ship's engineer, Kaylee (Jewel Staite) and Jayne, the muscle (Adam Baldwin). Morena Baccarin is memorable as the ship's resident prostitute, Inara, in a society in which that profession is now legal and highly regarded.
One of BBC America’s highest-rated series, Being Human was created by Toby Whithouse. Annie the ghost (Lenora Chrichlow), George the werewolf (Russell Tovey) and Mitchell the vampire (Aidan Turner) all crave a normal, human life, and living together is an attempt to experience that while they help each other avoid the temptations and tribulations of their respective species’. The show combines Comedy, Horror and Drama to investigate the lives and loves of the three main characters, as each, in his/her own way attempts to divorce from the bad influences of their peers and live as close to a human life as possible. The story is told with compassion and seriousness, interspersed with humor.
The American version of the sexy British show was the first Syfy series watched by more women than men. The American adaptation created by Jeremy Carver began the season with the same premise, but changed the names to Josh the werewolf (Sam Huntington), Aidan the vampire (Sam Witmer from Battlestar Gallactica) and Sally the ghost (Meaghan Rath) and moved them all to Boston. Great chemistry between the actors, terrific performances and pretty good writing make this a show worth watching, although it lacks a little bit of the heart of the original. Aidan was a soldier in the Revolutionary War when he was turned, and works as a nurse in a local hospital to maintain a steady blood supply. Josh was on his way to a successful medical career when he was bitten by a werewolf six months ago, and meets Aidan while working as an orderly in the same hospital. The two become friends and decide to start up the experiment in living as humans, away from other monsters. They move into a townhouse, only to discover it is haunted by Sally, the pretty young ghost who was murdered there.
Masterful writing, incredible acting and impressive source material are only the beginning of what makes Penny Dreadful a great television series. Written by John Logan and starring Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and other heavyweights, the show takes place in London in the 1890s. Mythological monsters abound, as Frankenstein and his Creature, Dorian Gray, Dracula, Wolfman, witches and vampire-hunters are some of the main characters. At the center of the action is the gifted-in-so-many-ways Eva Green as Vanessa Ives, a woman locked in the torment of a life-long struggle against the forces of darkness that threaten to consume her. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The global hit zombie show from Frank Darabont's 2012 season premiere became the most-watched basic cable episode ever. Based on the comic book series of the same name. Detective Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) awakes from a coma to find himself alone in the hospital. It doesn’t take long, however, before he learns the country is overrun by zombies. Also stars Sarah Wayne Callies, Jon Bernthal and Norman Reedus.
Eight strangers from cities around the globe begin having experiences that defy explanation, as they are suddenly linked to each other's minds. The original premise from the Wachowskis (The Matrix) delivers on its promise, as this sometimes silly but always highly enjoyable series travels the world over. We are introduced to each character’s life as the eight refreshingly diverse central characters learn to use each others’ strengths to overcome their personal troubles and adjust to a life with seven people psychically connected to them. Just to make things interesting, the eight are being hunted by Whispers (Terrance Mann), the bad guy who, once you've looked into his eyes, can see what you see and can only be hidden from with heavy drug use. There's Sun Bak (Doona Bae), who is reminiscent of an anime character when she's using her incredible martial arts skills to fight the enemy, either for herself or the others. Riley Blue (Tuppence Middleton) plays a lovable Icelandic DJ in London who gets in trouble when a drug deal goes awry. Tina Desai plays Kala, the sweet, smart Mumbai career girl who is engaged to a terrific guy, and very guilty because he's perfect but she doesn't love him. Wolfgang (Max Reimelt) is the German safecracker with a heart of gold. Miguel Angel Silvestre plays Lito, the closeted gay Mexican movie star and Brian J. Smith plays Chicago cop Will Gorski. Then there's Jamie Clayton as Nomi Marks, a San Francisco trans woman and hacktivist. Not for kids, as stand-out sequences feature orgy scenes and other adult content.
They have arrived from a bleak and hopeless future to save us all from our greatest enemy: ourselves. A group of operatives from far in the future is sent back to the 21st Century to fix some of society’s problems and avoid systemic collapse. In order to do this, each “traveler” is placed into the body of a person, seconds before their death. Once here, they work in teams to complete missions sent to them by the mysterious "Director."
Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Buffy Summers, a high school girl who is also the chosen “Vampire Slayer” on this beloved series by Joss Whedon. With the help of her watcher, Giles (Anthony Head), her two best friends, Willow (Alison Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Buffy fights the forces of evil and makes all the necessary sacrifices, while wishing the whole time to be a normal girl. Outstanding as first an opponent and later a member of the team is the vampire, Spike (James Marsters)
In Hawkins, Indiana, a boy disappears, and a telekinetic girl turns up at the same time. The series pays homage to 1980s culture and the films of Steven Speilberg, John Carpenter, Stephen King, Robert Zemeckis and George Lucas, among others. A word of warning – leave time to binge, because once you start watching, it’s very hard to stop. This show gets better as the season unfolds. The cast of kids is remarkably talented, especially Millie Bobby Brown as the mysterious Eleven, and Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler. The adults who round out the cast include Winona Ryder as the mother of the missing boy, whom she portrays with compassionate craziness and convincing hysteria. David Harbour plays Jim Hopper, the Sherriff, and Matthew Modine is quietly terrifying as Dr. Martin Brenner. In the vein of E.T. and Poltergeist, it may at first seem as though this is a series for kids, but trust me--it's way too scary for little ones, and is definitely a story for those 14 and up.
Jessica Jones is a “super” private eye hired to find a pretty NYU student who’s vanished. It quickly turns out to be more than a simple missing persons case. Kristen Ritter is fabulous in the title role, and David Tenant is terrifying as Kilgrave, her mind-controlling, sociopath opponent in the Marvel Comic-based series. Through most of the first season, Jessica's love interest is Luke Cage (Mike Colter in the precursor to his own series, Luke Cage), the super-strength wielding bartender with unbreakable skin. This show is surprisingly dark and scary, and very hard to turn off.
This sci-fi, horror, fantasy series focuses on demon hunters Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) as, unbeknownst to society, they keep normal people safe and ignorant of the forces of evil. They travel the country in a muscle car searching for supernatural crimes and defeating the various demon species they encounter. Currently mid-season twelve, this long-running series is beloved among it's following. Supernatural abounds with mythology that generates buzz on fan fiction and social media sites. To fight demons, the brothers travel the country in Dean's '67 Oldsmobile muscle car, listening to 80s rock and living off stolen credit cards. Evidently, demon hunting doesn't pay very well. They pose as FBI agents taking the names of rock gods, which hardly anyone ever notices. As in, "I'm Agent Plant, this is Agent Daltry." Pick a season, any season, suspend your disbelief, and go along for a fun ride.
The 100 was created by Jason Rothenberg. A century after Earth was devastated by a nuclear apocalypse, 100 space station residents are sent to determine whether Earth is habitable. Interestingly enough, those 100 happen to be gorgeous young people who were in jail on the space station and have been sent to Earth as penance for their crimes, before the space station runs out of oxygen and everyone aboard dies. Sort of like Lost, with spaceships and teens. As everyone knows, CW is best at hiring the most delicious eye candy to be found anywhere, acting be damned. These teens make up for lack of talent by getting really dirty and bloody.
When a ferocious contagion sweeps through Atlanta, authorities impose a precarious quarantine on the city while scrambling to find a cure in this uninspired CW clunker.
Orphaned twins who must suck the life force out of people to stay alive move to a strange, old boarding school to explore their dark family history. Sofie (Julie Zangenberg) and Sebastian (Sebastian Jessen) enroll in Ottmannsgaard, a Danish boarding school once attended by their late mother, hoping to uncover why they have been cursed. This show is a surprisingly dark and sexy teen drama, bringing in aspects of horror, supernatural and the occult to make a highly watchable and entertaining show. With English subtitles.
The Mikaelsons move to New Orleans and form an alliance with local witches in an effort to rule the city once again in Julie Plec's The Vampire Diaries spinoff. Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) is the original vampire-werewolf hybrid who, along with his brother and sister, Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah (Claire Holt) returns to his home city of New Orleans after being exiled for a century. Also appearing in the French Quarter is pregnant werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), searching for clues to her family history. Klaus' rival and protege is Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), the vampire that has taken over as leader in Klaus' absence.
When animal species all over the world begin attacking humans, controversial zoologist Jackson Oz (James Wolk) tries to discover the cause of the sudden change. Zoo was created by Josh Appelbaum and is based on the novel by James Patterson. Jackson Oz and Abraham Kenyatta are African Safari guides who begin to notice animals are acting strangely. In Los Angeles, halfway around the world, animal attacks are also on the rise. In addition, house cats are disappearing. a reporter, Jamie Campbell (Kristen Connolly) believes a corporation called Reisden global is to blame. She teams up with a veterinary pathologist, Mitch Morgan (Billy Burke) to figure out what's happening. This is a fast-moving show with a global scale, with the characters always in peril. To make the animal attacks most realistic, CGI takes a backseat to the use of real animals. Zoo is definitely worth watching.
A medical student-turned-zombie (Rose McIver) tries to retain her humanity by eating brains at the morgue and finds she has an uncanny new gift for solving crimes. When her promising career is thwarted by her undead status, Liv gets a job in a morgue where the dead bodies are aplenty. Many of them are murder victims, and Liv gets clues to what happened as she eats their brains. She puts the insight to good use and helps the police department solve crimes. iZombie makes for lighthearted, refreshing zombie fun.
With magic long since lost to England, two men are destined to bring it back; the reclusive Mr. Norrell and daring novice Jonathan Strange. So begins a dangerous battle between two great minds. Adapted from Susanna Clarke’s best-selling fantasy novel, this seven-part BBC miniseries features BAFTA-winning visual effects. Set in England in the early 19th Century, during the Napoleonic Wars, everyone knows magic exists, but for the last three-hundred years, at least, hardly anyone practices it. Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan), a brilliant but arrogant practicing magician comes to London to change that. Once there, he meets another practicing magician, Dr. Strange (Bertie Carvel).
Based on the 2011 film of the same name starring Bradley Cooper, who makes a cameo appearance in the pilot. Limitless is the stylistically-filmed story of a failed musician, Jake McDormand (Brian Finch) who unleashes his brain’s full powers with a new drug, NZT-48, and is hired to solve the FBI’s hardest cases alongside Agent Rebecca Harris (Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter). No one knows that behind the scenes, Senator Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) has given McDormand an injection that counteracts the terrible, ultimately fatal effects of continued use of the drug. The only catch is that if McDormand tells anyone about the injections, he won't receive them anymore. The show was cancelled after one season.
This hit series is still running on the CW, where it's in its eighth season. The Vampire Diaries stars Ian Somerhalder (Lost) and was created by Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek). A pair of vampire brothers, Damon (Somerhalder) and Stefan Salvadore, turned in 1865, are both in love with the same human girl in Mystic Falls, Virginia. Her name is Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), and she's a dead ringer for Katherine (also Nina Dobrev) the 500-year-old vampire who turns out to have turned the brothers. Like moths to a flame, the brothers return to Mystic Falls to be near her, although they've been estranged. For good reason, it turns out. The good brother, Stefan, refrains from drinking human blood, preferring to live on squirrels and rabbits and maybe the occassional deer, while Damon, the bad one, drinks human blood with gusto and wrecks havoc wherever he goes. Of course, the innocent Elena falls head over heels in love with Stefan. Damon, in the meantime, starts an affair with Elena's peppy friend Caroline (Candice King), who doesn't know she's being compelled. Then there's Bonnie, the witch (Kat Graham), who's ancestors escaped the Salem witch trials and settled in Mystic Falls.