Sci-fi has been a popular genre for decades, going even farther back than genre staples like Star Trek and Star Wars. Audiences who love the genre revel in the complexity and intrigue it provides. Those who aren’t as enamored with sci, supernatural elements, and complicated jargon can still find shows that appeal to them.
Plenty of shows bend the genre in all kinds of ways to either reach a wider audience or show a new side to it. These shows manage to attract viewers who profess not to like sci-fi., having elements of the genre that can draw in veterans and newcomers alike.
10 ‘Silo’ (2023-)
A post-apocalyptic sci-fi series, Silo focuses on a group of survivors who reside in a tall silo that runs several hundred floors high after an apocalyptic event. They dutifully live by the rules of those in charge, but no one knows why, how, or by whom the silo was built. They trust what they’re told that the Earth is a wasteland, proven by live footage showing the nothingness beyond the doors. But a few inquisitive people begin to question the reality, and digging into the truth proves dangerous and deadly.
The series has several overarching themes and stories, and the compelling characters draw viewers in. There’s not a ton of sci-fi but rather a human-centric story about survival, instinct, and balancing blissful ignorance with potentially damaging truths.
Watch on Apple TV+
9 ‘The Outsider’ (2020)
Another series based on a book, this one is counted among many adaptations of Stephen King’s works. The Outsider is a psychological thriller-horror crime drama with sci-fi and the supernatural elements throughout.
Jason Bateman stars as a small-town father and Little League baseball coach who is arrested for the murder of a young boy. There appears to be irrefutable proof of his guilt, but a talented, eccentric private detective has other theories about what could have happened. The Outsider has its scary moments, but it’s a thrilling ride through the 10 episodes that anyone who’s a fan of the whodunit and crime mystery drama genre will appreciate, too.
Watch on HBO Max
8 ‘Severance’ (2022-)
Renewed for a second season, Severance earned many accolades for its first season, including 14 Emmy nominations. At the heart of the story is a company called Lumon that has developed a high-tech way to separate humans’ brains into two components: one for work and one for home. When at work, they completely forget about their personal lives and vice versa.
However, Mark (Adam Scott), who participated in the severance program to work through the grief of his wife’s loss, begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems. When his two “selves” become slightly aware of one another, other truths are revealed. Slow-paced and gripping, Severance is a sci-fi psychological thriller that gets fans talking about grief, repressing emotions, and what’s truly healthy. It also raises questions about the ethics behind companies, control, and innovation.
Watch on Apple TV+
7 ‘Black Mirror’ (2011-)
The great thing about Black Mirror is that every episode is its story with a unique theme, different characters, and a focus on eliciting a different emotion. The common thread is that each explores a dystopian future reality created because of scientific and technological advancements.
Inspired by The Twilight Zone, the speculative fiction anthology covers all kinds of grounds. What would happen if the world truly was ruled by social credits, like the ones placed on social posts and statuses today? If soldiers could fight wars, then have their memories wiped? What if people could press a button and recall every memory they ever had from a chip implanted in their brains? While the content is heavy, the type of show encourages conversation after each episode.
Watch on Netflix
6 ‘Orphan Black’ (2013-2017)
Tatiana Maslany is mesmerizing in Orphan Black playing several clones as they uncover a vast conspiracy about their genesis. Each has a distinct look, voice, and even mannerisms. Yet she’s believable as each one. With an equally compelling supporting cast, Orphan Black is a sci-fi thriller but has elements of drama and comedy.
As Maslany’s Sarah discovers more clones of herself, she investigates the truth about who she is, how the clones were created, and why. The show uses sci-fi to tell a deeper, more human story. Stay tuned for the upcoming spin-off, Orphan Black: Echoes.
5 ‘Solar Opposites’ (2020-)
Already renewed for a fifth season ahead of the season four release, Solar Opposites is, unlike the others, an adult animated sci-fi sitcom. This puts it in another class and makes it instantly appealing for those who aren’t enamored with the sci-fi genre on the whole.
A family of aliens crash on Earth and become stuck, starting new lives. Each has their perspective on human society, ranging from fascination to admiration to those who can’t wait to leave and get back home. With an impressive list of voice actors, including Thomas Middleditch, Sean Giambrone, Christina Hendricks, Sterling K. Brown, and Sutton Foster, Solar Opposites is pure fun while sneaking in a sci-fi premise.
Watch on Hulu
4 ‘Dead Ringers’ (2023)
Inspired by the 1988 movie of the same name (which itself is adapted from the Bari Wood and Jack Geasland novel Twins), Dead Ringers is a gender-reversed version of the story. Rachel Weisz plays two sisters, Beverly and Elliot, who work as gynecologists. However, they have an unconventional view of handling the care of expectant mothers.
Dead Ringers is a feminist psychological thriller that injects sci-fi concepts into the story. But it’s more twisted and chilling, with the larger story and message becoming the most powerful thing about the miniseries.
Watch on Prime Video
3 ‘Stranger Things’ (2016-2024)
Beloved by all, including self-professed haters of the sci-fi genre, there’s no denying that Stranger Things is a sci-fi show: it’s also a horror drama with nostalgic ‘80s moments, humor, and exciting stories.
There are evil monsters, nefarious scientists, and supernatural happenings, with half the series existing in an Upside Down alternate universe and the other half in high school: Stranger Things transcends the genre. The series, which has garnered a massive legion of fans and will end after its fifth and final season, has secured a spot in pop culture history.
Watch on Netflix
2 ‘Upload’ (2020-)
A hilarious parody of current technological times, Upload is both heartwarming and funny. It’s also filled with high-tech and sci-fi references, including cutting-edge virtual reality: it’s delivered in a palatable way to all viewers. The show takes place in a near-future world where humans can be uploaded to a virtual world right before they die, preserving their consciousness and likeness to continue to exist and virtually interact with loved ones.
Parodying our reliance on technology, invasive marketing, the control and power of media corporations, and the socioeconomic divide, Upload is more than just your garden-variety sci-fi comedy.
Watch on Amazon Prime
1 ‘Manifest’ (2018-2023)
Ending after the second part of its fourth and final season, Manifest became a surprise hit for NBC. The supernatural drama became so popular, in fact, that Netflix picked it up for a final season after its network cancelation.
The series tells the story of passengers aboard a flight that goes missing. They are presumed dead until five years later when they begin re-appearing in the same state they were in when they left. However, the rest of the world has already moved forward five years, and the passengers seem to receive premonitions about the future periodically. The mystery and urgency in every scene draw in viewers who can’t wait to find out what will happen in the end.
Watch on Netflix
KEEP READING: 18 Most Underrated Sci-Fi Shows You Haven’t Seen (Yet)