WARNING: The following may contain SPOILERS for Outer Range, so just be sure you know what you are in for before going down this hole.
For me, it can be a really good sign when you are watching a sci-fi TV show and the more grounded and believable story elements are just as interesting as when things get weird, if not even more interesting. That is how I feel so far about Outer Range - an intriguing series from creator Brian Watkins that feels like Rod Serling’s version of Yellowstone.
The Amazon Prime original stars Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin as a Wyoming rancher whose battle with a wealthier rival family over control of his land is worsened by a series of concerning circumstances, including one startling, otherworldly discovery in his west pasture. If you have found yourself captivated by the unique blend of the Neo-Western genre with bizarre fantasy on Outer Range (or by each of these styles on their own) and you are curious to see what else like it may be out there, let’s dive in - starting with the most obvious choice.
A headstrong Montana rancher (movie star Kevin Costner leads the Yellowstone cast) and his family fight to protect their land from greedy companies, tourists, and more - often incorporating Wild West tactics to do so.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: Admittedly, the aforementioned Paramount Network hit from creator Taylor Sheridan is, in no way, a sci-fi show, but Outer Range has been referred to as a sci-fi fan’s answer to Yellowstone by many (myself included) and has earned the comparison by also having a rural setting, a major storyline involving a volatile feud over land control, and casting Will Patton as a main antagonist.
Hell Or High Water (Netflix)
A divorced father (Chris Pine) and his loose-canon, ex-convict brother (Ben Foster) pull a string of bank heists in attempt to save their family ranch, which attracts the attention of a veteran Texas lawman nearing retirement (Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: The gripping 2016 crime thriller and Best Picture Oscar nominee, Hell or High Water, is another Neo-Western favorite from writer Taylor Sheridan that Outer Range draws comparisons to, particularly in the more grounded storyline in which brothers Perry (Tom Pelphrey) and Rhett Abbott (Lewis Pullman) struggle to conceal their involvement in a crime from the local sheriff (Tamara Podemski) as other threats loom over their family’s ranch.
No Country For Old Men (HBO Max)
In the early 1980s, a married hunter and war veteran (Josh Brolin) becomes the target of a loose-canon killer (Academy Award winner Javier Bardem) after finding millions of dollars in drug money, which also attracts the attention of a veteran Texas sheriff considering retirement (Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: The captivating 2007 crime thriller and Best Picture Oscar winner, No Country for Old Men, is another Neo-Western favorite Outer Range draws comparisons to, particularly for the casting of Brolin (who also executive produces the show) in the lead role of Royal Abbott, who seems like the kind of person Llewellyn Moss (his character from Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel) might have become.
Signs (Amazon Prime)
A widowed former minister (Academy Award winner Mel Gibson), his brother (Academy Award winner Joaquin Phoenix), son (Rory Culkin), and daughter (Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin) begin to suspect that they are being taunted by visitors from another planet after a crop circle appears outside their home.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: Writer and director M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy alien invasion thriller, 2002’s Signs, has more in common with Outer Range than most movies for also following a faith-stricken, rural land owner and family man who finds something very strange on his property - not to mention how the show has offered a few hints of there being an extra-terrestrial presence.
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
After he is released from prison, a recovering alcoholic (Zach Gilford) returns to the secluded island community where he grew up at the same time that a mysterious, charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater) arrives and brings forth what initially seems to be an astonishing series of miracles.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: The theme of someone struggling with, or even renouncing, their own faith (which Josh Brolin’s Royal Abbott deals with on Outer Range) is a heavily prevalent theme of the brilliant, seven-part Netflix original horror series from Mike Flanagan, Midnight Mass, which also follows the very strange and deadly events surrounding a small town and some of its rivalrous inhabitants.
The Leftovers (HBO Max)
A divorced father and police chief (Justin Theroux) struggles to hold his community and his sanity together in the midst of the sudden, unexplained vanishing of millions of people from the face of the Earth years earlier.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: Once again, faith or the absence of it plays a major role in The Leftovers - HBO’s thought-provoking, inventive fantasy series that Damon Lindelof co-created with original author Tom Perotta - which also, initially, follows the bizarre circumstances affecting a small town (but as a result of a strange global tragedy), including an uptick in cult practices - which Outer Range has also hinted at.
Resident Alien (Peacock Premium)
After crash-landing in a quaint Colorado community, an extra-terrestrial (Alan Tudyk - known for playing various other sci-fi characters, including K-2S0 in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) disguises himself as a human doctor to blend in and earn the trust of its citizens, which soon causes him to have second thoughts about the reason he was sent to Earth in the first place: to destroy it.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: Another series similar to Outer Range in how it follows a small town plagued by a bizarre, otherworldly secret (but also offers a comparatively lighter take on the subject) is Resident Alien - a Syfy original hit from developer Chris Sheridan which, itself, is a much lighter take on the sci-fi graphic novel that inspired it.
Frequency (Amazon Rental)
In 1999, a New York City homicide detective (Jim Caviezel) is, at first, delighted that he is somehow able to use an old ham radio to speak to his late father (Dennis Quaid) in 1969, until their unusual reunion leads to a tragedy that they must work together to prevent.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: One of the strange circumstances affecting the Wyoming setting of Outer Range is time travel, although its constructs within the world of the show still have yet to be fully explained, which is similar to how there is never much of an explanation for how Quaid and Caviezel’s characters can reconnect across time in Frequency - an otherwise clever, heartfelt, and gripping sci-fi crime thriller.
A war veteran turned outlaw (Nathan Fillion) and his mismatched spaceship crew travel from planet to planet looking for work and evading government detection hundreds of years after Earth became uninhabitable.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: While certainly unique in tone to its contemporaries, Outer Range is really just one of a handful of TV shows that combine Western styles of storytelling with sci-fi themes - the most essential of which would have to be the short-lived, but much-loved Firefly, which is a Wild West adventure first and a space odyssey second.
Westworld (HBO Max)
The citizens of a town from the Old West discover that they are actually mechanical beings created for a theme park in which guests can live out their wildest fantasies in an authentic, 19th century-style setting.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: One of the more recent and acclaimed examples of an essential sci-fi/Western hybrid is the Emmy-winning HBO series, Westworld - which, unlike Outer Range, incorporates a more traditional aesthetic before revealing itself as a dystopian, technophobic parable loosely inspired by a cult favorite B-movie from 1973.
Wynonna Earp (Netflix)
The great, great-granddaughter of legendary gunslinger Wyatt Earp (Letterkenny cast member Melanie Scrofano) and the real, immortal “Doc” Holliday (Tim Rozon) team up to defend the Earth from deadly creatures and evil paranormal entities with their own unique abilities and the same kind of rough, unforgiving fighting style that would have been used at the O.K. Corral.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Outer Range: Another more recent example of a sci-fi TV show that borrows heavily from the style and tone of a classic Western story is Syfy’s series adaptation of the Image Comic book, Wynonna Earp, which also relates to Outer Range for having its fair share of high-stakes fantasy elements in a modern-day Western setting, but is entirely different in how it uses them.
Who knows? Maybe one day Outer Range could incorporate some more adventurous, traditional Western style into its plot, too. See for yourself by streaming its debut season on Amazon Prime, with new episodes arriving every Friday until May 6, 2022.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.