10 Must-Watch Sci-Fi TV Shows of the 21st Century

Discover the top sci-fi TV series of the 21st century, from 'Battlestar Galactica' to 'Severance'. Exciting adventures, deep themes, and streaming info.

An AI-generated image of characters from several science fiction television series.
Our picks for the ten must-watch science fiction TV shows of the 21st Century so far.

You are in for a treat if you have ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what is out there. To help you find out, I compiled my hand-picked list of the twenty-first century's most captivating sci-fi TV series.

With an array of thrilling space adventures and perplexing technological marvels, this lineup will surely spark your curiosity and have you itching for the next episode. Think of it this way: these shows are your pass to an amazing world of compelling tales, regardless of your science-fiction experience. So gather your snacks, settle in, and prepare for a fantastic journey.

No. 1: Battlestar Galactica (2004-2008)

Forget laser fights and sparkly uniforms; this sci-fi series punches you in the gut.

Imagine the desperate survivors of humanity crammed onto a ragtag fleet of spaceships and chased across the galaxy by relentless Cylons (not your friendly neighborhood robots).

Thus, Battlestar Galactica is not just a space opera; it's a masterful blend of complex characters, moral dilemmas, and thrilling action set in a richly imagined world. The series explores profound themes like the nature of humanity, the impact of technology, and the nuances of leadership and survival.

Battlestar Galactica Series Trailer

Battlestar Galactica is known for its deep philosophical underpinnings and social commentary, making it relevant and thought-provoking. The show's intense storyline, top-notch special effects, and compelling character development create an immersive experience.

Whether you're into intense drama, ethical quandaries, or just stellar space battles, Battlestar Galactica offers something for every kind of sci-fi fan, elevating it beyond typical genre conventions. In fact, the Guardian called it "a cult classic of 21st-century TV." Meanwhile, SyFy reported, "Ronald D. Moore's reboot of the 70s-era series remains a shining example of how to successfully revive a TV property."

Trust me; you'll be yelling at the screen, cheering for underdog heroes like Starbuck and Adama, and cursing the manipulative Cylon leader, Number Six.

At the time of writing, Battlestar Galactica was streaming on Amazon Prime, YouTube Movies, Google Play Movies, Peacock, and Vudu. If you like DVD or BlueRay, here is a link to the complete Battlestar Galactica series on Amazon (if you do purchase from Amazon, we get a small revenue share, so thank you).

No. 2: Black Mirror (2011-present)

Get ready to have your tech-worship tested and your existential fear heightened. Not only does Black Mirror delve into the darker side of technology, but it also throws viewers into a dystopian funhouse where every episode is a bizarre thought experiment.

The trailer for season 6 of Netflix's Black Mirror

Remember that creepy social media episode where everyone rates each other, and conformity becomes a life-or-death game?

The episode is a compelling and critical look at social media's influence on our lives, exaggerating the importance of online approval and the pressure to conform to societal expectations. This episode is particularly effective in highlighting the potentially dangerous consequences of letting social media dictate one's self-worth and societal value. It's a thought-provoking reflection on contemporary social media culture.

Looking back more than a decade at this Black Mirror episode, it reminds us that, to some extent, China is actually doing some of the things Black Mirror predicted. Yeah, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Get ready for incisive satire, chills down your spine, and questions that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

At the time of writing, Black Mirror is an ongoing series that you can stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

No. 3: Doctor Who (2005-2024)

This British titan of a television series is like a warm cup of tea with a sonic screwdriver thrown in for good measure.

It's been around for ages, but, for the most part, the Doctor Who series knows how to keep itself fresh.

Come along with the wacky Time Lord and his dependable allies as they traverse through time, fending off Cybermen and Daleks, and encounter oddball extraterrestrials like murderous clowns and sentient trees.

It has enough heartfelt humor and ridiculous adventures to fill a TARDIS. Be ready for the occasional regeneration shock, as the new faces always bring something fresh and exciting. Saying goodbye to beloved Doctors is always difficult.

Doctor Who in 2024 trailer.

Unfortunately, the Doctor Who series ended with controversy, and the BBC canceled it (the last being aired in December 2024) when its writers became too woke and fans revolted. Nerdrotic called the recent seasons a "casualty of the culture war."

As a result, we only recommend the show through 2016. Watch at your own risk after that. As of early 2024, the show was available on just about every streaming service you could think of.

No. 4: The Expanse (2015-2022)

The Expanse is a science fiction television series that Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby developed.

The Expanse is based on the novel series of the same name by James S. A. Corey.

The series premiered on Syfy in 2015. It features a future where humanity has colonized the Solar System and follows a disparate band of characters as they unravel a conspiracy threatening peace and the survival of humanity.

The series received critical acclaim for its visuals, character development, and political narrative. Syfy initially canceled it after three seasons but was later picked up by Amazon Prime Video, where it continued for three more seasons.

The Expanse season 6 trailer from Prime.

I think of The Expanse as science fiction for adults. Imagine "Star Wars" and "Game of Thrones" —minus the dismemberment— colliding in our solar system.

Belter rebels face off against Earthen politicians and Martian militarists in a struggle for power and resources.

The science in The Expanse appears surprisingly realistic, making one think Mars colonization might be possible for a second or two. Then, all of the actual science about the cancer risk from cosmic rays and the devastating effects of microgravity on the human body reminds us that it is unlikely.

In fact, some of the belters have elongated bodies in the series due to living in space; oh, and one word of caution: space is not always pretty. Be ready for some horrific deaths and heartbreaking decisions.

At the time of writing, you could stream The Expanse on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Apple TV, and Vudu.

No. 5: Westworld (2016-2022)

Picture evil Disneyland managed by amoral artificial intelligence (AI) systems capable of anything. That is Westworld; robotic hosts let human visitors pretend to be cowboys and outlaws for their own amusement. However, the distinction between simulation and reality becomes hazy as these hosts change and their programming malfunctions.

Westworld season 1 trailer from HBO.

I would argue that Westworld is a captivating series that stands out in the realm of science fiction for several reasons.

First, its intricate plot is intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging (but also morally debased).

The series cleverly weaves multiple storylines across different timelines, challenging viewers to piece together the narrative puzzle. This complexity ensures that each episode reveals new layers, keeping the audience guessing and deeply invested in the unfolding drama.

Second, the series excels in its exploration of philosophical and ethical questions. Set against the backdrop of a futuristic theme park populated by artificially intelligent hosts, Westworld delves into the nature of consciousness, the ethics of artificial intelligence, and what it means to be truly free. These themes are explored with nuance and depth, inviting viewers to contemplate the implications of our own technological advancements.

Finally, Westworld boasts exceptional production values and performances. The visual aesthetics are stunning, with meticulous attention to detail in futuristic and Western settings. The cast, including notable actors like Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood, delivers powerful performances that bring depth to their complex characters. This combination of storytelling, thematic depth, and visual splendor makes Westworld a must-watch for any science fiction fan looking for a series that entertains and provokes thought.

It is worth noting  Westworld is neither family-friendly nor for everyone. If you want to learn more about the level of intensity in the series, there is a good Westworld review on PluggedIn.

As of January 2024, you could stream Westworld on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Apple TV, and Vudu.

No. 6: Dark (2017-2020)

Brace yourself for a mind-bending time travel puzzle that will have you questioning your sanity (in the best way possible).

This masterwork from Germany intertwines the tales of four families spanning three generations, all linked by an enigmatic wormhole and a kid gone missing.

The timelines twist and fold like a pretzel, secrets unfold layer by layer, and the ending will leave you speechless (and probably needing a rewatch).

Dark series teaser from Netflix.

Just a heads-up: prepare for some heavy themes, like grief, guilt, and the consequences of meddling with time. But trust me, the journey is worth every mind-boggling twist.

Moreover, Dark stands out for its character development and how it handles the science fiction elements of time travel. Unlike many time-travel stories that focus more on the mechanics, Dark uses this concept to explore the emotional and psychological impacts on its characters. This emotional depth, combined with the show's thematic richness and narrative complexity, makes Dark a must-watch for fans of thought-provoking and well-crafted science fiction.

Dark is a Netflix series, and that is where you need to stream it.

No. 7: The OA (2016-2019)

The OA on Netflix is a mesmerizing series that defies conventional genre boundaries, making it a compelling watch for any science fiction enthusiast.

The story begins with Prairie Johnson, a once-blind woman who reappears after years of being missing, with her sight restored.

Her tale of abduction by a mysterious force and the subsequent events weave a tapestry of mystery and speculative fiction that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. The narrative juggles elements of sci-fi, fantasy, and gripping real-world drama, creating a unique and unpredictable viewing experience.

The OA series trailer from Netflix.

What sets The OA apart is its fearless storytelling approach. The series masterfully combines surreal elements, such as interpretive dance sequences and complex, philosophical dialogues, with intense emotional narratives. This blend serves as a vehicle for the show's larger mysteries and grounds the fantastic elements in a relatable human experience. The result is a series that doesn't just tell a story but also evokes deep, introspective questions about life, death, and the nature of reality.

The show's commitment to ambiguity is one of its most intriguing aspects. Unlike many mainstream series, The OA doesn't offer easy answers. Instead, it invites viewers to engage actively with its mysteries, encouraging interpretation and discussion. This aspect, combined with its good cinematography and powerful performances, ensures that The OA lingers in the mind long after the final episode concludes. This enduring impact makes the series a must-watch for fans seeking a thought-provoking and unconventional science fiction journey.

No. 8: Love, Death + Robots (2019-present)

Love, Death + Robots is an animated anthology series treasure trove for science fiction fans.

Each episode is a distinct, self-contained narrative, exploring various themes and styles. The series spans the spectrum of science fiction subgenres, from dark humor to profound philosophical questions. You'll encounter stories ranging from rebellious robots and post-apocalyptic worlds with unusual twists to deeply introspective tales about consciousness and human nature. The variety ensures that every viewer finds something that resonates with their specific science fiction or fantasy preferences.

The official trailer for the Love, Death + Robots series.

The series is also a visual spectacle. The animation techniques vary dramatically from episode to episode, showcasing different styles and artistic approaches. The craftsmanship is consistently impressive, whether it's photorealistic environments or more stylized, abstract visuals. This diversity not only keeps the series fresh and unpredictable but also serves as a testament to the creative possibilities within the realm of animation.

However, it's worth noting that Love, Death + Robots caters to a mature audience, with some episodes of this Netflix series featuring disgusting content. Fortunately, the beauty of this anthology format is that you can skip an episode if it doesn't suit your taste —I skipped a few— without missing out on the overarching experience of the show. This flexibility makes it a series that can be tailored to your comfort level while offering a rich and diverse array of sci-fi storytelling.

No. 9: For All Mankind (2019-present)

For All Mankind is an intriguing alternate history series that reimagines the space race as an ongoing competition, offering a blend of nostalgia and futuristic vision.

The series presents a world where the US and USSR extend their Cold War rivalry to space, continuously vying for lunar and cosmic supremacy. This backdrop sets the stage for thrilling space missions, intense political drama, and characters driven by the desire to push the boundaries of human achievement.

For All Mankind trailer from Apple TV+

The series excels in its detailed portrayal of an alternate space age, combining historical accuracy with imaginative speculation. Focusing on the grand scale of space exploration and the personal struggles and triumphs of the characters enriches the storytelling. This approach makes the series relatable and amplifies the sense of wonder and possibility inherent in space travel.

If there is a downside, it is that For All Mankind is "woke" and unnecessarily fights a few skirmishes in the libtard culture war. These elements are distracting, but if you can put them aside, the show is a thought-provoking and well-crafted reimagining of space history, For All Mankind offers a compelling and unique viewing experience.

This one was only on Apple TV at the time of writing.

No. 10: Severance (2022-present)

Severance on Apple TV+ is a compelling psychological thriller that delves into the concept of work-life balance in an unprecedented manner.

The show revolves around Mark S, an employee who undergoes a procedure to separate his work and personal memories. This premise sets the stage for a thought-provoking exploration of identity, privacy, and corporate control. As the story unfolds, it reveals the sinister underpinnings of the company and raises profound questions about the nature of consciousness and the ethical limits of technology.

Severance official trailer from Apple TV+.

Its meticulous pacing and atmospheric storytelling characterize the series. Severance excels at building tension and intrigue, gradually peeling back layers of its central mystery. This approach ensures that each revelation is surprising and impactful, keeping viewers deeply engaged. Complex characters enrich the narrative, each grappling with the consequences of their bifurcated lives.

Severance also stands out for its visual style and cinematic quality. The production design and cinematography create a distinct and immersive world that reflects the show's themes of duality and disconnection. Be prepared for an unsettling journey, as the series does not shy away from dark themes and offers a breathtaking and emotionally charged finale. This show is a must-watch for fans of science fiction who appreciate a series that not only entertains but also challenges.