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50 best Sci-Fi shows of all time

  • 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.

    Stacker pulled data on all sci-fi series and ranked them according to IMDb user rating, #1 being the best. To qualify, the series had to have at least 10,000 votes and be in the English language. Limited series were considered. These shows told stories about the future with vision, ambition, and many times, humor. Let’s boldly go from #50 to #1.

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  • #50. Life on Mars (2006–2007)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 28,696

    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.

  • #49. Final Space (2018–present)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 32,266

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  • #48. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (2016–2017)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 42,479

    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.”

  • #47. Forever (2014–2015)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 52,819

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  • #46. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008–2020)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 61,264

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  • #45. Star Trek: The Original Series (1966–1969)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 73,176

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  • #44. Orphan Black (2013–2017)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 100,780

    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.

  • #43. Sense8 (2015–2018)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 138,425

    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.

  • #42. Lost (2004–2010)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 492,652

    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.

  • #41. Violet Evergarden (2018)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.4
    - Votes: 11,153

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