Often resorting to disturbing and bizarre imagery that often depicts the unconscious mind, the surreal genre is one of the most intriguing. Throughout the years, viewers have been introduced to countless mind-bending movies, including those of the iconic director David Lynch, such as Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive. Nevertheless, many small-screen stories also manage to capture the same indescribable feelings these renowned films do.
From well-known critically acclaimed shows that revolutionized television like Twin Peaks (also from Lynch) to lesser-known, somewhat overlooked series that are just as good, Redditors share their favorite surrealist picks.
10 ‘Hannibal’ (2013 – 2015)
When FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is recruited to investigate a serial killer in Minnesota, the head of Behavioral Sciences of the FBI decides to have him supervised by a spine-chilling psychiatrist named Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), with whom the former develops an unusual and unlikely relationship.
Hannibal is evidently among the most visually stunning and stimulative TV shows of recent times, and part of it has to do with the strong surrealist elements it features. On Reddit, a user can’t help gushing over the series: “That show was beautifully done. Very surreal elements all artistically done.”
9 ‘The Leftovers’ (2014 – 2017)
One of HBO’s very best, The Leftovers is a binge-worthy dystopian mystery revolving around the aftermath of the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world’s human population. The series follows a group of people in a small New York community as they attempt to cope with everyday life post terrible consequences.
Sergiocamposnt was one of the people on the platform who openly admitted that the intriguing and thought-provoking Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta series is definitely among the best of its genre: “The Leftovers is incredibly surrealist, especially the last season. Amazing show.”
8 ‘Severance’ (2022 – )
Last year’s Apple TV hit series Severance quickly became a fan-favorite show on Reddit as well as one of the most praised shows of the genre, and that is all thanks to its absorbing, mind-bending storyline that focuses on a biotechnology company that uses a mindwipe medical procedure called “severance” to separate the memories of their employees between their personal and work lives.
On the platform, some users like themehboat named “Severance” one of the best surreal TV shows. No doubt, the Dan Erickson series provides food for thought by illustrating provocative near-future tech in a very realistic way. On top of that, it also features amazing cinematography.
7 ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ (2016 – 2017)
Based on the novel series of the same name by Douglas Adams published in 1987, this Max Landis show follows a holistic detective (Samuel Barnett) who investigates cases involving the supernatural. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency makes for an entertaining series with a prominent surrealist angle.
Not only does the series count on great critic scores but also general audiences’. When a Redditor asked other users on the platform for surreal TV show recommendations, whooobaby mentioned the series: “Maybe Dirk Gently a little.” In a reply, Fickle_Succotash3566 enthusiastically typed that they “second this.”
6 ‘The Eric Andre Show’ (2012 – )
Obviously hosted by comic Eric André and with a sixth season on the way, this 2012 American sketch late-night show is a parody of other series of the genre. Part of what makes it stand out is the bizarre environment it features as well as the surrealist pranks.
When the question was “surreal TV shows?” a now-deleted Redditor replied “Eric Andre Show,” a comment with which many agreed. Surely, it is a very appealing show for those who enjoy absurdist themes and delivers hilarious comedy. Funnily enough, The Eric Andre Show also features a very Being John Malkovich-like poster.
5 ‘The OA’ (2016 – 2019)
Centering on a young woman (Brit Marling) who suddenly reappears after having gone missing for several years, The OA is a captivating fantasy mystery series that captures the audience’s attention from the moment it begins thanks to its immersive suspense.
According to KibethTheWalker, it is just the right show for those who enjoy the genre: “The OA is for you,” they commented. Also produced by Marling (alongside Zal Batmanglij), this trippy series blends science fiction, fantasy, and mystery to impressive results. Its surrealism and acting performances it features are often praised by critics, which is why it’s a shame it was canceled prematurely.
4 ‘Dark’ (2017 – 2020)
Netflix’s German drama mystery series Dark is also the subject of enormous praise, and for good reason. The engrossing plot centers around the characters of the fictional town of Widen in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance, observing the relationships among four different families.
“Dark. Show on Netflix. Best is in original language (German) with English subtitles,” loreamuno suggests. The way the spooky supernatural TV series depicts time travel is part of what makes it so intriguing, and its elements of surrealist horror certainly add to that. No wonder it has been mentioned in the same breath as Twin Peaks.
3 ‘Legion’ (2017 – 2019)
Based on the Marvel Comics character David Haller, Legion portrays Dan Stevens‘ character — who has been in and out of mental health facilities over the years — as he lives with schizophrenia. In the meantime, he discovers that his new-found special powers will likely alter his life forever.
It is quite clear that Redditors have a spot for Noah Hawley‘s trippy series in their hearts. According to klaxterran, Legion is the wildest and “most inventive” show they have ever seen. In a different comment, a Redditor mentions that they cannot “recommend” the show more.
2 ‘Man Seeking Woman’ (2015 – 2017)
Easily one of the most mentioned shows on the platform, Man Seeking Woman combines comedy, fantasy, and romance as it tells Josh Greenberg’s (Jay Baruchel) story: a naive, desperate romantic who attempts (but struggles) to find true love after heartbreak. It also stars Eric André.
Based on the book by Simon Rich, this gripping surrealist series is very endorsed on Reddit. “Man Seeking Woman was an underappreciated gem, especially the first two seasons,” WeDriftEternal said. “It’s like nothing you’ve seen, trust me it’s brilliant and every episode is just more absurd,” another Reddit user wrote.
1 ‘Twin Peaks’ (1990 – 1991)
It is a known fact that Twin Peaks is the blueprint of supernatural surrealism, and understandably so. The narrative centers around an FBI agent’s (Kyle MacLachlan) investigation of young homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) murder in the eerie town of Twin Peaks.
Released in 1990, David Lynch and Mark Frost‘s iconic series stands the test of time all these years later, and proof of that is how well-received the third season of the show was in 2017. “Twin Peaks and for me it isn’t really close,” AHH_CHARLIE_MURPHY remarks. The series’ absurd mystery is arguably what makes it an enthralling, one-of-a-kind crime thriller.
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