One of my favorite genres of television shows has always been centered around different worlds where society is facing and trying to overcome widespread suffering and/or injustice that reigns free. This is what we would call a dystopian universe - and believe it or not, there are plenty TV shows featuring them out there.
From some of the best shows on Netflix to some awesome ones on Amazon Prime, there are plenty of options for you to pick from if you want to watch some great dystopian TV shows, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Black Mirror, and more. Here are some of the best that you can find streaming.
An international show on Netflix, 3% follows the story of several 20-year-olds, who all live on the impoverished “Inland.” Now, they have one opportunity to advance in society and live on the “Offshore” settlement in peace. Some are eliminated and others fail to survive, leaving only 3% of candidates who succeed.
3% sort of reminds me a little of The Hunger Games series, except without all the killing. It’s a battle royale without killing each other - more like the wealthy trying to kill the poor rather than the contestants doing so. It’s a battle of wits, smarts, and bravery to make it to the end, which results in formidable friendships, compelling relationships, and characters who you really want to root for - that is until they die. But, even so, it’s still a fun show to watch. Definitely one of the best Netflix TV shows, in my opinion.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
In this Hulu original series, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the life of women in Gilead, a totalitarian society that is located in what was the United States. The society is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treat women like property, and because of this, a revolution starts.
The Handmaid’s Tale has won so many awards, and for good reason. The whole The Handmaid’s Tale cast is so talented, led by their star, Elisabeth Moss, in one of her best roles so far in her career. The story can be dark at times, but powerful all the same. This show pulls no punches.
Black Mirror (Netflix)
In this popular sci-fi series, Black Mirror is all about parallel universes not that distant from our own, often telling stories about the impact of certain kinds of technology on their societies, and how it can either make lives better or turn lives upside down.
Black Mirror is certainly one of those shows where some of the episodes might make you scratch your head in confusion, but for every episode like that, there are several other amazing Black Mirror episodes that are truly great pieces of dialogue about the impact of technology and what it’s doing to our society. My personal favorite episode is “Nosedive,” a commentary about the impact of social media, but honestly, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The 100 (Netflix)
The 100 was a popular CW show that centered on a group of 100 disobedient young adults who are sent down to the destroyed Earth from what’s left of human society on the Raft in space. However, when they get down there, they find that what they were expecting is not what is there, and that they are not alone.
Out of all of the CW shows I’ve watched, The 100 is certainly one of the best. The world-building is fantastic, the characters extremely fun to watch, and the relationships that are formed are some of the best ones in teen TV, much more believable than other certain CW shows (looking at you, Riverdale). It’s also really interesting to see ideas of what the Earth would look like after a nuclear extinction, meaning some of the wildlife that has come out of it, or how some people have evolved.
Snowpiercer (HBO Max)
In this TV series based on the movie of the same name, Snowpiercer is set in 2026, seven years after the world turned into a frozen wasteland. Now, what remains of human society is located on a perpetually moving luxury train.
Snowpiercer is definitely one of my favorite new shows that has come out in the last couple of years, mainly because the idea is so fresh. A lot of the times, many worlds fall apart in fictional movies and TV because of nuclear wars or asteroids or something else, but here, Earth straight up just froze over due to climate change, and they build a really thrilling story with plenty of action. Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly are fantastic in their starring roles, as is the rest of the cast.
Raised By Wolves (HBO Max)
In this HBO Max original series, Raised by Wolves focuses on two androids, both aptly named Father and Mother, who are tasked with raising human children on Kepler-22b after Earth was destroyed by a great war.
While I do love dystopian series, Raised by Wolves was one of the few that really made me shiver. Not in a bad way - more so that these robots felt way too real and it was uncomfortable watching them raise human children as if they were human, but that’s a testament to the amazing effects team and make-up department that Raised by Wolves has. With plenty of action, enthralling characters, and an interesting story, Raised by Wolves is one of the best originals that HBO Max has to offer so far.
Attack On Titan (Hulu)
Attack on Titan is an anime where what is known of human society is located within three giant walls to protect themselves from creatures known as Titans, humanoid-looking monsters that will eat mankind. However, when an almost indestructible Colossal Titan brings destruction among the city, a group of young adults band together, train in the Scout Regiment, and swear to find a way to stop these Titans once and for all.
I know - anime sometimes isn’t for everyone, but let me tell you that this is an anime that you should watch. From the first episode, I was hooked. They don’t slow down for a second. There is maybe five minutes of peace before you are thrown into the action, and it doesn’t stop at all. You’ll come to love the characters, cry when you lose them, love how badass they are, and learn so much more about the fantastical dark fantasy world that is Attack on Titan.
You didn’t think we'd have a dystopian list without mentioning something to do with aliens, now did you? Colony focuses on a family in the near future who are trying to stay together and stay alive after a mysterious alien invasion, forcing them to make difficult decisions constantly.
While there were only three seasons of this awesome sci-fi show, I still feel, even now, that Colony deserved so much more hype than it received. What I really love about this show is that it’s not the typical alien invasion you would think of. These aliens aren’t massive killers who will suck out your brains or probe you - at first, it just seems like they want to take over humanity - but over time, everything begins to get a little darker, and the stakes are raised.
The Leftovers (HBO Max)
In this supernatural TV series, The Leftovers begins three years after what is known as “the Sudden Departure,” a global event that resulted in 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappearing without a trace. Adjusting to that life without their loved ones, we follow a group of people struggling to move on.
I know that 2% of the world’s population doesn’t sound like a lot, but hear me out - we have 7.753 billion people in this world. 2% of that population is 155,050,000. That’s well over one hundred million people that suddenly just up and vanish. That’s actually terrifying to think about - but The Leftovers handles that crazy concept well, and creates a story that anyone will find enjoyable, heart wrenching, and interesting to view.
The Walking Dead (Netflix)
In this long-lasting AMC show, The Walking Dead follows the lives of survivors of a sudden outbreak of a virus, turning everyone into zombies, or what is known as “walkers” in this world. Now, it’s up to them to try and survive not only the dead, but the living too.
I know that The Walking Dead is a little more post-apocalyptic at first, but as the series proceeds it definitely turns more dystopian as societies are built, lines are drawn, and stakes are raised higher. Through all this, there are some beautiful relationships that are formed, friendships that make you smile, and villains who you’ll love or hate. With ten seasons to watch - the eleventh and final one should be streaming before too much longer - there’s so much to love about this series.
The Man In The High Castle (Amazon Prime)
Lastly, we take a look at The Man in the High Castle. In this dystopian world, America lost the second World War, and has been taken over by Nazi Germany and Japan. However, as time moves on, a revolution starts to begin from within, creating a ripple effect across the country.
To me, The Man in the High Castle is one of the scariest shows because it feels a little too real. Just think about it - maybe something like this actually could have happened in our world back then, but thankfully, it didn’t. It’s an enthralling story from beginning to end, with several twists that will have you clicking “Next Episode” as soon as the one you’re on is done. Truly one of the best Amazon originals they had.
There are so many awesome dystopian worlds to enjoy from afar, and hopefully, now you might get a brand new TV show to binge too. Let’s just hope that none of us end up in these far-off worlds ourselves one day. That would be unfortunate.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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