Skip to main content

Main Area


The 50 best Sci-Fi shows of all time

  • The 50 best Sci-Fi shows of all time
    1/ BBC

    The 50 best Sci-Fi shows of all time

    In the second half of 2009, two films about South Africa and Apartheid hit theaters: “Invictus” and “District 9.” The former was a biopic about the first post-Apartheid Rugby World Cup and the latter told of extraterrestrial refugees in camps in modern-day South Africa. “Invictus” took a soft-lens approach, focusing on an uplifting, unifying moment rather than the years of South African disgrace. But “District 9,” shielded by otherworldly unreality, could dig deep into the most appalling parts of a nation’s worst era.

    The best sci-fi can use the cover of space, unrealized tech, or the future to tell the stories about ourselves we’re afraid to hear, and because of that, it’s often one of the best ways to understand an era. In 1961, Rod Serling’s TV show “The Twilight Zone” showed network viewers what happens to our ability to be civil in the face of nuclear fallout. By 1966, Gene Roddenberry was using “Star Trek” to explore how a nation can be a force for good without becoming imperialist. And by the 1990s, Chris Carter’s “The X-Files” was much more concerned with our own government’s overreach within the nation. These days, sci-fi asks and asks again, what will technology bring to our society?

    Incredibly, Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” like many on this list, was unsuccessful at the time, but clearly “Star Trek” built an army of devoted fans over time. These 50 shows rarely broke rating records, but those that loved them, loved them intensely — as evidenced by cosplay, conventions, letter-writing campaigns, and the mobs hounding McDonald’s for Szechuan sauce. These shows told stories about the future with vision, ambition, and many times, humor. Let’s boldly go from #50 to #1.      

  • #50. The Expanse
    2/ Rafy // Syfy

    #50. The Expanse

    IMDb score: 8.3
    IMDb votes: 52,222
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2015–Present

    Based on the books by James S. A. Corey — the pen name for the writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck — “The Expanse” tells the story of a future in which dueling factions of humans on Earth and Mars battle for the rights to an evermore-limited resource: water. The first three seasons of the series played on SyFy with Thomas Jane (“Boogie Nights,” “The Punisher”) plays a noirish, hard-nosed detective looking into a missing girl and a vast conspiracy. Just last week, Amazon Studios was rumored to be stepping in to revive the series for a fourth season.

  • #49. Star Trek
    3/ We hope // Wikicommons

    #49. Star Trek

    IMDb score: 8.3
    IMDb votes: 61,686
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1966–1969

    Truly the granddaddy of them all, Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” is sci-fi that’d be hard to fathom in 2018. This was 1960s utopian fiction: an integrated spaceship, committed to equality and the common good, traveling the galaxy as a sign of how the world could be if liberalism won the day. The original “Star Trek” starred William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, and George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, and though it had low ratings and was canceled after three seasons, the series launched 13 films and six spinoffs. It continues to be one of the most influential pieces of television in history.

  • #48. Misfits
    4/ E4

    #48. Misfits

    IMDb score: 8.3
    IMDb votes: 82,507
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2009–2013

    This British series follows five troubled youths who acquire supernatural powers while caught in an otherworldly thunderstorm during their community service hours. What could’ve been a cheesy teen superhero story is instead dark and hilarious all at once. Iwan Rheon, who plays Simon Bellamy—one of the delinquents who gains the ability to become invisible—went on to portray the wonderfully terrifying Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones.”

  • #47. Orphan Black
    5/ BBC America

    #47. Orphan Black

    IMDb score: 8.3
    IMDb votes: 87,175
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2013–2017

    This Canadian series, which ran in the United States on BBC America, stars the incredible Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles. The show opens with a con artist witnessing the suicide of her doppelgänger and inhabiting her identity, which ultimately leads the con artist to come face to face with many other doppelgängers and she begins to understand her dark history. Maslany wasn’t nominated for an Emmy for the first two seasons, much to the outspoken chagrin of fans and critics alike, but was nominated for Season three, and finally won for her many outstanding performances in Season four.

  • #46. Invader ZIM
    6/ Nickelodeon

    #46. Invader ZIM

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 17,034
    Rating: TV-Y
    Years on the air: 2001–2004

    This Nickelodeon animated series follows an alien bent on a quixotic and doomed mission to take over Earth and enslave humanity. The series, which was aimed at Nickelodeon’s older demographic of 11 to 15-year-olds, lasted only two seasons, but was critically acclaimed — so much so that Nickelodeon announced that a new “Invader Zim” special will appear in its 201819 programming. “Invader Zim” was created by Jhonen Vasquez, who is best known for the alternative comic book series “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.”

  • #45. Life on Mars
    7/ BBC One

    #45. Life on Mars

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 26,040
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2006–2007

    This British series tells the story of Manchester police officer Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, who is hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up as a cop in 1973. Throughout the show, we see Tyler try to grasp his new reality while the series does a great job keeping its own reality ambiguous: is Tyler dead, in a coma, or actually a time-traveler? Simm was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards for his performance, and the show was adapted for American television by ABC, but only lasted one season. 

  • #44. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
    8/ BBC America

    #44. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 28,840
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2016–2017

    Based on the novel by Douglas Adams, who also wrote “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” this BBC America series follows Dirk Gently, played by Samuel Barnett, a “holistic detective” who looks into strange cases that can be understood through the interconnectivity of the universe. Elijah Wood appears as Dirk Gently’s assistant on the show, which was created by Max Landis—the praised director of “Chronicle” and maligned director of “Bright.”

  • #43. Red Dwarf
    9/ BBC Two

    #43. Red Dwarf

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 29,292
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1988–Present

    This cult-favorite series ran from 1988–1999 on BBC Two and was rebooted in 2008 on the U.K. channel Dave. Centering around the last-living human Dave Lister, played by Craig Charles, and a hologram of his deceased bunkmate, played by Chris Barrie, the show follows the conventional “Odd Couple” framing, but in space. An American pilot was filmed, recast, and then re-filmed again, but never aired. 

  • #42. Doctor Who (1963)
    10/ BBC

    #42. Doctor Who (1963)

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 30,629
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1963–1989

    The original incarnation of “Doctor Who,” which aired on the BBC from 1963–1989, tells the story of a daring and helpful extraterrestrial who goes by “the Doctor,” and who can travel through time. The show is perhaps most notable for its history of changing the lead actor who portrays the Doctor—always explaining the change within the plot. In its first 26-year run, seven different actors portrayed the show’s titular character. The series was successfully revived by Steven Moffat, who also is the showrunner behind “Sherlock.”

  • #41. Legion
    11/ FX

    #41. Legion

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 61,613
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2017–Present

    This FX series by Noah Hawley, who also created the television adaptation of “Fargo,” follows the “X-Men” character Legion/David Haller, portrayed by Dan Stevens. Telling the story of a mutant diagnosed with schizophrenia, “Legion” is a mindblowing and visually striking series—and it’s also sometimes hard to follow. Aubrey Plaza from “Parks and Recreation” plays Haller’s friend Lenny, and Jemaine Clement from “Flight of the Conchords” is a welcome addition in Season two.

  • #40. Stargate SG-1
    12/ Showtime // SyFy

    #40. Stargate SG-1

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 73,273
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1997–2007

    Somehow, the 1994 Roland Emmerich film “Stargate,” which starred Kurt Russell and James Spader, and has a Rotten Tomato score of 48%, launched a spin-off television series on Showtime. By the time it wrapped—23 years after the film and 214 episodes later—the source material was a distant memory. The story follows an Air Force special ops team that is tasked with traveling through a stargate to alien planets, searching for tech and allies in a battle against a dangerous, extraterrestrial parasite. The show was later rebooted in 2009 as “Stargate Universe,” and that same year, Emmerich made “2012,” which Roger Ebert actually liked.

  • #39. Sense8
    13/ BagoGames // Flickr

    #39. Sense8

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 107,385
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2015–2018

    This Netflix series, made by Lana and Lilly Wachowski—creators of “The Matrix,” and comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski, follows eight strangers from different parts of the world who are psychically connected. As the eight try to unscramble their odd supernatural circumstances, they are chased by a high-ranking “sensate” in an international group of the psychically interconnected. For all the “Splash”-heads in the building, Daryl Hannah plays a sensate in the show. The show was canceled after two seasons, but fans rallied and as a result, Netflix is releasing a two-hour finale on June 8.

  • #38. Person of Interest
    14/ CBS

    #38. Person of Interest

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 145,705
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2011–2016

    Created by Jonathan Nolan—Christopher Nolan’s brother who went on to create “Westworld”—this CBS show follows a CIA agent and ex-Green Beret played by Jim Caviezel who uses a supercomputer with the power to predict location and suspects of terrorist attacks to solve future crimes. The show began as a somewhat episodic crime-fighting network drama, but turned into a deeper serialized piece of sci-fi as the question of the machine’s sentience and the implications of tech implicating future wrongdoing was investigated. Taraji P. Henson starred alongside Caviezel.

  • #37. Fringe
    15/ FOX

    #37. Fringe

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 198,020
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2008–2013

    This Fox series created in part by J.J. Abrams, who’s behind “Lost,” “The Force Awakens,” “Star Trek,” follows an elite FBI unit that uses fringe science to solve otherworldly occurrences; the show is a bit like “The X-Files” meets “CSI.” “Dawson Creek’s” Joshua Jackson stars alongside Anna Torv, and Lance Reddick, who played Lt. Daniels in “The Wire,” reprises his role as a supervisor of a ragtag, but effective unit.

  • #36. Lost
    16/ ABC

    #36. Lost

    IMDb score: 8.4
    IMDb votes: 431,000
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2004–2010

    Opening with an impressively shocking plane crash on a desert island, this classic J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof series just gets more bizarre from there. The first few seasons deal with the complications of building a small tribe and discovering more inexplicable things on the island—unfortunately, the show was too popular for its own good, and the creators seemed to be grasping for straws by the end. Still, the Emmy Award-winning show’s ensemble cast overflowed with talent and it rightly made a star out of Lindelof, as well as shooting Abrams to another stratosphere.

  • #35. The Venture Bros.
    17/ Adult Swim

    #35. The Venture Bros.

    IMDb score: 8.5
    IMDb votes: 20,711
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2003–Present

    Creator Christopher McCulloch tried to place this animated show at a few networks, but only Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim would let him tell the story without toning it down. “The Venture Bros.” follows fraternal twin teenage brothers, their scientist father, and their family bodyguards as they battle The Monarch. The show borrows heavily from the 1960s cartoon “Jonny Quest.” 

  • #34. X-Men
    18/ FOX

    #34. X-Men

    IMDb score: 8.5
    IMDb votes: 30,445
    Rating: TV-Y7
    Years on the air: 1992–1997

    This entry in the “X-Men” universe was highly important for late-’80s babies. The cartoon, which followed Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and the rest of the mutants, ran on Saturday mornings on Fox and blew the minds of viewers of a certain age. A few years after the show finished airing, the first X-Men film was released — met with varying degrees of both excitement and critical malaise, the films continue coming year after year: “Deadpool 2” was the 11th so far, with two more set for next year.


  • #33. Utopia
    19/ Channel 4

    #33. Utopia

    IMDb score: 8.5
    IMDb votes: 32,904
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2013–2014

    This series, which ran on the U.K.’s Channel 4, follows a group of people who find the unpublished sequel to a graphic novel that had successfully predicted the disasters of the last century. The show follows them as they try to unscramble the conspiracies while dodging an evil group called The Network that hopes to kill them and get the manuscript back. The series sparked controversy for a school shooting scene, which ran soon after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

  • #32. Samurai Jack
    20/ Cartoon Network

    #32. Samurai Jack

    IMDb score: 8.5
    IMDb votes: 36,106
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2001–2017

    This Cartoon Network series tells the story of a young samurai prince from feudal Japan who is sent to the distant future by an evil demon. Throughout the series, Jack must find his way back to his homeland and home-time to defeat the demon and restore his reality. Showrunner Genndy Tartakovsky also created the much-loved “Star Wars: Clone Wars” animated series, and “Samurai Jack” won multiple Emmy awards.    

  • #31. Futurama
    21/ Fox

    #31. Futurama

    IMDb score: 8.5
    IMDb votes: 181,299
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1999–2013

    From the strange and wonderful mind of “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, “Futurama” follows Fry, a pizza boy who wakes up after being cryogenically frozen for a thousand years. The world is delightfully bizarre, and Fry is accompanied by a one-eyed captain, a cursing cranky robot named Bender, and a lobster doctor. Fun fact: in the live-action “Futurama” fan film, Bender is played by a puppeteer who also worked with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on an ill-fated puppet show

  • #30. The Prisoner
    22/ ITV

    #30. The Prisoner

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 10,415
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1967–1968

    This British sci-fi classic—created by and starring Patrick McGoohan—tells the story of an unnamed man who wakes up in a recreation of his apartment in a strange seaside village. The man, who is dubbed Number Six, is continuously badgered, coerced, and tortured by the village administrator—Number Two, and must work to hold onto his identity throughout the series. The series was hugely influential, especially for 1960s musicians—The Beatles and the Rolling Stones loved the show.

  • #29. Mystery Science Theater 3000
    23/ KTMA-TV

    #29. Mystery Science Theater 3000

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 20,882
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1988–1999

    Any short summary of this groundbreaking show will not do it justice. Created by Joel Hodgson, “MST3K” featured alien puppets that sat in silhouette in the front row of a theater and riffed over terrible b-movies that played on the silver screen. This bizarro comedy was revolutionary in its snide and weird humor, and the show won a Peabody Award. When Hodgson started a Kickstarter to revive the show, it raised $6.3 million—the revival on Netflix featured comedians including Patton Oswalt and there will be a Season two.

  • #28. Neon Genesis Evangelion
    24/ TV Tokyo

    #28. Neon Genesis Evangelion

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 33,189
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1995–1996

    “Neon Genesis Evangelion” was a mammoth success in Japan, reigniting anime in the country — and turning the term otaku from an insult for obsessive fans into a badge of honor for superfandom. The story follows a boy brought into an organization to control a giant robot machine built to kill aliens. During the course of the series, the boy learns that he may not be on the right side of the conflict. Even decades after the show aired, Evangelions continue to be hugely popular memorabilia, as costumes for cosplay, and in media.  

  • #27. Justice League
    25/ Cartoon Network

    #27. Justice League

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 33,282
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2001–2004

    Though DC Comics’ A-listers arrived on the silver screen with a dud, they hit television screens in animated form with a flourish a decade and a half before. The cartoon “Justice League” tells the story of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl as they fight evil to save the world.

  • #26. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
    26/ Mutant Enemy Productions

    #26. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 38,335
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2008

    Things got weird on television during the Writers Guild Strike — picket lines halted new television from being made, and Joss Whedon and his brothers made a three-part musical mini-series for the internet. “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” follows a supervillain on the come-up, played by Neil Patrick Harris, as he falls into a love triangle with his nemesis, played by Nathan Fillion, and their shared love, played by Felicia Day. The show was a bizarre side project, but Harris is a gifted musical theater performer, which turned the three 14-minute episodes into a humorous and powerful piece.

  • #25. Dragon Ball
    27/ FNS

    #25. Dragon Ball

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 42,958
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1995–2003

    The Japanese anime series, which ran from 1986–1989, was based on the megahit manga comic about a Goku, a strong boy in search of seven magic dragon balls. The series was brought to the United States and dubbed into English in 1995, but initially failed to catch on. Finally, it was picked up by Cartoon Network in 2001 and ran successfully for two years—some credit a better dub and a respect for the original music for the newfound fandom. It’s sequel, “Dragon Ball Z,” continues to be a megahit.

  • #24. Battlestar Galactica (2003)
    28/ SyFy

    #24. Battlestar Galactica (2003)

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 56,922
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2003

    “Battlestar Galactica” has been around, in different forms, since its first run as a television series in 1978. The story is a great one—humanity lives on 12 planets in deep space, but when an alien species wiped out the colonies, only one battleship full of humans survive. The show follows their journey toward the mythical 13th human planet: Earth. This version was a 2003 three-part miniseries, which served as the pilot for the subsequent weekly show. Both were critically acclaimed and passionately loved by a group of fans—“BSG” won multiple Emmys and a Peabody Award.

  • #23. Adventure Time
    29/ Cartoon Network

    #23. Adventure Time

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 59,209
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2010–2018

    This Cartoon Network animated series follows best friend Finn (Jeremy Shada) and Jake, played by John DiMaggio, who also voiced Bender in “Futurama.” Finn is a brave boy, and Jake is wise and loyal dog with the power to change shapes and sizes. The two explore a post-nuclear apocalyptic planet called the Land of Ooo. The show is goofy and aggressively loved by kids and adults—it’s won Emmys, it's a favorite for cosplay, and it even got reviewed by “The New Yorker.”

  • #22. The Handmaid's Tale
    30/ Hulu

    #22. The Handmaid's Tale

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 67,345
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2017–Present

    Hulu’s first great series is an adaption of Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Starring “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss, the show tells the story of America after a second civil war, in which the few still-fertile women are treated as sex slaves in the religious and repressive new society. The show’s first season won eight Emmys and two Golden Globes—Moss won Best Actress at both award shows.

  • #21. The Legend of Korra
    31/ Nickelodeon

    #21. The Legend of Korra

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 78,445
    Rating: TV-Y7-FV
    Years on the air: 2012–2014

    This Nickelodeon series is a follow-up to “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” another popular and loved English-language, anime-influenced cartoon that was made into a 2010 M. Night Shyamalan film, which was the opposite of popular or loved. “The Legend of Korra” exists in the same universe where some warriors have learned to bend air. In this series, we follow teenager Korra, who must deal with a modernizing world less in touch with the ancient practice. The cast of voice actors is ridiculously stacked: J.K. Simmons, Aubrey Plaza, Steve Yueng, Lisa Edelstein, and Henry Rollins, just to name a few.    

  • #20. Star Trek: The Next Generation
    32/ CBS

    #20. Star Trek: The Next Generation

    IMDb score: 8.6
    IMDb votes: 79,051
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1987–1994

    Though a reboot, many Trekkies swear by “The Next Generation” as the best of “Star Trek.” William Shatner’s Capt. Kirk is replaced by Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard, who now captains the starship “Enterprise.” Unlike the original “Star Trek” series, TNG was a huge hit, reaching 30 million viewers for its finale. The series led to multiple spinoffs and reboots, and five feature films. It also starred Donald Glover’s favorite person: LeVar Burton. 

  • #19. Young Justice
    33/ Cartoon Network

    #19. Young Justice

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 23,421
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2010–Present

    As Marvel has learned by casting an actual young person to play Spider-Man, there’s something fun about watching super-teens. “Young Justice” tells the story of the Justice League’s young sidekicks who set out to be superheroes of their own. The animated Cartoon Network series follows Aqualad, Kid Flash, Robin, Speedy, and Superboy as they come up as their own, slightly younger, slightly angstier Justice League.

  • #18. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
    34/ JNN

    #18. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 35,536
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2006–2012

    This anime series first ran in Japan and then was broadcast in English on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim starting in 2008. The series tells the story of a world where Japan has been taken over by western forces, a superpower called Britannia, and follows a young hero who gains the power to control people through eye contact, using it to start a rebellion. At the time, DVDs and Blu-Rays were still a common purchase, and almost 1 million “Code Geass” discs were sold by 2008.

  • #17. Dragon Ball Z
    35/ Fuji TV

    #17. Dragon Ball Z

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 94,109
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1996–2003

    The sequel to “Dragon Ball,” this anime series is perhaps the biggest and most internationally recognized of them all. This series, which first aired in Japan before it was dubbed and shipped to countries around the world, follows a slightly older, still spiky-haired Goku after he learns he is a descendant of a dying breed of extraterrestrial. “Dragon Ball Z” is aggressively loved by many, including rappersNFL players, and Sacramento Kings PG De’Aaron Fox.  

  • #16. The Punisher
    36/ Netflix

    #16. The Punisher

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 98,002
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2017– Present

    Another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — or, in this case, the growing stable of Marvel television series — this Netflix original follows Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) on his quest for revenge for the murder of his family. Throughout the course of his vengeful journey, he begins to uncover a larger conspiracy taking place in New York City. Steve Lightfoot, “The Punisher’s” showrunner, also created the critically acclaimed NBC series, “Hannibal.” Being connected to Marvel and Netflix, this series was destined to succeed — but more surprisingly, the critics seem to like it.

  • #15. Battlestar Galactica (2004)
    37/ SyFy

    #15. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 134,504
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2004–2009

    Picking up where the three-part mini-series left off, “Battlestar Galactica” tells the story of the last human survivors, stranded on a battleship headed toward the mythologized 13th Colony: Earth. The Sci-Fi Channel series stars Edward James Olmos as Admiral Bill Adama, and went on to win four Emmys on 17 nominations. At least one writer believes that it might even be better than “The Wire.”

  • #14. Doctor Who (2005)
    38/ BBC

    #14. Doctor Who (2005)

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 171,721
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2005–Present

    Following such an important cultural touchstone—the original "Doctor Who" ran for 26 years—should have been impossible, but the 2005 revival by showrunner Russell T Davies was a hit. The genius of the premise is the flexibility of the leading man, which came in handy when the revival’s Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, said he wouldn’t be back for the next season. He was replaced by David Tennant, who was then replaced by Matt Smith, then Peter Capaldi, and this year by Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor. The show has gone through showrunners at a similar pace: Davies, then Steven Moffat, and now Chris Chibnall. 

  • #13. The X-Files
    39/ FOX

    #13. The X-Files

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 173,932
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 1993–Present

    Showrunner Chris Carter’s “The X-Files” went from a cult favorite to a true megahit for Fox. The series follows Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), two hugely different, but perfectly matched FBI special agents who investigate paranormal and inexplicable cases. The show was a blend of a serialized mystery and what has been dubbed their standalone “Monster of the Week” episodes. Throughout the series, there was also a will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry between Mulder and Scully. “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan credits his time in “The X-Files” writing room for birthing his groundbreaking show.

  • #12. Daredevil
    40/ Netflix

    #12. Daredevil

    IMDb score: 8.7
    IMDb votes: 290,163
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2015–Present

    The first of the Netflix/Marvel shows, “Daredevil” tells the story of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a blind lawyer who moonlights as a crime-fighting vigilante. The standout in the series, as usual in comic book stories, is the villain: Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin. The show was loved by fans and critics, giving momentum to a flood of Netflix/Marvel collaborations: “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist,” “The Defenders,” and “The Punisher.”

  • #11. Steins;Gate
    41/ White Fox

    #11. Steins;Gate

    IMDb score: 8.8
    IMDb votes: 27,352
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2011–2015

    This anime series tells the story of a group of university students who create a time-traveling machine and use it to try to defeat an evil organization. The story may sound relatively rote, but the execution is expert in this series, which a Kotaku writer said “might be the single best anime I’ve ever seen.” The show is based on a video game of the same name.


  • #10. Gravity Falls
    42/ Disney Channel

    #10. Gravity Falls

    IMDb score: 8.9
    IMDb votes: 41,651
    Rating: TV-Y7
    Years on the air: 2012–2016

    This Disney Channel animated show tells the story of twins Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel Pines (Kristen Schaal) who spend the summer with their great uncle in a weird, otherworldly, supernatural town. The show featured guest appearances from both T.J. Miller and Will Forte, and was critically acclaimed. It won the 2015 Critics’ Choice Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation.

  • #9. Cowboy Bebop
    43/ TV Tokyo

    #9. Cowboy Bebop

    IMDb score: 8.9
    IMDb votes: 66,769
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 1998–2003

    Aside from having one of the silliest-ever titles, this anime series also has a badass story to tell. “Cowboy Bebop” tells the tale of a group of futuristic bounty hunters—Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward Wong, and a hyper-intelligent corgi—fighting crime from their spaceship, Bebop. This was the first anime series on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and became a sort of gateway drug for Westerners to catch an addiction to the genre. 

  • #8. Black Mirror
    44/ Channel 4

    #8. Black Mirror

    IMDb score: 8.9
    IMDb votes: 225,908
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2011–Present

    From the mind of Charlie Brooker, “Black Mirror” is an anthology series that posits a different technology-based dystopia in each hour-long episode. Beginning on the UK’s Channel 4 and then moving to Netflix, the series opens with a bang—the Prime Minister must have sex with a pig to save the Princess—and gets more thought-provoking, disturbing, and nightmare-inducing from there. Brooker is a bit of a genius, creating self-contained worlds with believable tech, and taking each scenario to its worst possible outcome.

  • #7. Westworld
    45/ HBO

    #7. Westworld

    IMDb score: 8.9
    IMDb votes: 277,892
    Rating: TV-MA
    Years on the air: 2016–Present

    Based on the 1973 film directed by the novelist Michael Crichton, “Westworld” tells the story of a futuristic theme park for the uber-wealthy populated by ultra-intelligent, human-like AI “hosts.” For the first season, the action is contained within Westworld, a Wild West-themed park in which guests can ride with bandits, frequent the whorehouse, or fall in love with the sweet and innocent Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood. The second season of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy creation follows the hosts as they revolt, and takes us to other themed worlds, while explaining the history of the technology.

  • #6. Stranger Things
    46/ Netflix

    #6. Stranger Things

    IMDb score: 8.9
    IMDb votes: 482,556
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2016–Present

    This Netflix show is the best kind of nostalgia-porn: self-aware, transportative, and interested in fun above all else. Set in Hawkins, Ind. in the 1980s, the show follows a group of kids who meet a strange, supernatural friend and have to unscramble a conspiracy going on beneath the Department of Energy’s research center. Showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer assembled a dynamic cast of adults — Winona Ryder, David Harbour, and Matthew Modine — but the real highlight is the magnetic kid actors. “Stranger Things” was heavily nominated, though failed to win any of the major Emmys—still, the kids and the show captured the zeitgeist for an entire year. Season 3 is in production, but probably won’t air until 2019.

  • #5. The Twilight Zone
    47/ CBS

    #5. The Twilight Zone

    IMDb score: 9.0
    IMDb votes: 54,282
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1959–1964

    Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” is inventive, moral, and manages to always deliver a gut-punch ending. The anthology series ran on CBS for five years and featured performances from countless young actors who would become gigantic stars, including Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper. Each episode was a self-contained story that posited an unlikely or supernatural occurrence—so much of the American sci-fi that followed borrows tropes first mainstreamed by Serling’s show. 

  • #4. One Punch Man
    48/ TV Tokyo

    #4. One Punch Man

    IMDb score: 9.0
    IMDb votes: 63,267
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 2015–Present

    This anime series follows Saitama, a super-strong superhero who can defeat any enemy with just one punch. In a world overrun with monsters and villains, where all the planet’s superheroes have banded together to fight evil, Saitama wrestles with the one demon he can’t effortlessly destroy: malaise. When one has worked so hard to become the best, what do they do when it becomes easy and boring? The English version of the show is available on Netflix, and new issues of the best-selling comic book have even made The New York Times best-sellers list for the manga category.

  • #3. Batman: The Animated Series
    49/ Fox Kids

    #3. Batman: The Animated Series

    IMDb score: 9.0
    IMDb votes: 66,737
    Rating: TV-PG
    Years on the air: 1992–1995

    Another fixture of the Fox Kids cartoon lineup, “Batman: The Animated Series” is considered by many the best Batman adaption. Riding the success of Tim Burton’s two frenetic, inventive Batman films, the series tells a dark, noirish version of Bruce Wayne’s rise in Gotham City. Batman: “The Animated Series” won four Emmys during its run, and featured an unexpectedly great performance by Mark Hamill as the voice of The Joker.

  • #2. Firefly
    50/ Fox

    #2. Firefly

    IMDb score: 9.0
    IMDb votes: 213,256
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2002–2003

    For those on the fence about checking out “Firefly,” here’s an elevator pitch: it’s a space western by the guy who brought you “The Avengers” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” takes place in 2517 in a future where China and the United States have made tenuous peace and the solar system is run by their combined alliance—with the fusion of culture evident on the distant planets. The show has a great ensemble cast—including Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres and the versatile Alan Tudyk—and delivers a space story that is less intergalactic blasting and more about surviving a new Wild West. “Firefly” was canceled by Fox after only two seasons, but lives on due to critical adoration and a devoted cult fanbase.  

  • #1. Rick and Morty
    51/ Cartoon Network

    #1. Rick and Morty

    IMDb score: 9.3
    IMDb votes: 211,565
    Rating: TV-14
    Years on the air: 2013–Present

    Birthed from the wonderful, weird mind of Dan Harmon—who also created “Community”—this Cartoon Network series follows the interdimensional adventures and home life mundanity of elderly mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his sweet, nervous grandson, Morty Smith. Sadly, “Rick and Morty” has become defined by its most toxic, misogynistic fans, who harassed the show’s female writers online, mobbed McDonald’s locations looking for Szechuan sauce, and were just generally troll-like online. But don’t let a few bad apples ruin a hilarious, inventive, mind-blowing piece of comedy sci-fi.

2018 All rights reserved.