IMDb Picks: Our Favorite Sci-Fi Mystery Series

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 1 month ago

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Louis Hofmann in Dark (2017)

"Dark" | Now Streaming on Netflix

Plot: A family saga with a supernatural twist, set in a German town, where the disappearance of two young children exposes the relationships among four families.

Our Take: It brings me joy to see the IMDb community embrace "Dark," because it shows that audiences aren't afraid of slow-burning, complex narratives. Impressively, the show manages to sustain its brilliance throughout all three seasons. A must-watch for anyone with a casual interest in sci-fi mysteries. — James

Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno in Devs (2020)

"Devs" | Now Streaming on Hulu

Plot: Computer engineer Lily Chan investigates the secretive development division in her company, which she believes is behind the disappearance of her boyfriend.

Our Take: Alex Garland's foray into scripted sci-fi took a minute to hook me, but I was, as usual, blown back by his themes and characters, as well as Sonoya Mizuno's understated work as Lily — a performance that generated a lot of online debate. For once, Garland delivers an ending that isn't ambiguous or abrupt; "Devs" offers a potential way for us to feel happiness forever. And ever. I'm into that, regardless of the algorithm. — Arno

Brit Marling and Kingsley Ben-Adir in The OA (2016)

"The OA" | Now Streaming on Netflix

Plot: Having gone missing seven years ago, the previously blind Prairie returns home, now in her twenties with her sight restored. While many believe she is a miracle, others worry that she could be dangerous.

Our Take: I feel a bit guilty recommending this series. Yes, it’s hands down one of the most ambitious, original, and out-there TV series I’ve seen in a very long time, but it was abruptly cancelled after 2 seasons and ends on such a massive cliffhanger that you’ll be left yelling in dismay at your TV. I’m still leaning towards suggesting you give it a try it anyway, as knowing that disappointment is on the horizon will perhaps soften the inevitable blow. — Vanessa

Janelle Monáe in Homecoming (2018)

"Homecoming" | Now Streaming on Prime Video

Plot: An anthology series centered around the mysterious Geist Group, an unconventional wellness company and their equally unorthodox program, the Homecoming Initiative.

Our Take: Season 1 only just began to uncover the mysterious goings-on within Geist Group by unpacking the dual timeline story of Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) and her involvement with a fishy PTSD treatment plan for war vets. Now I’ve got Season 2 on my watchlist, not just to watch Janelle Monáe or get more info on the odd fruit that Geist harvests for its drugs, but also to enjoy more of the show's unique, noir style that brings classic Hitchcock films to mind and evokes an intriguing sense of paranoia and unease. — Hannah

Byron Foulger and Gig Young in The Twilight Zone (1959)

"The Twilight Zone" | Seasons 1-5 Now Streaming on CBS All Access

Plot: Ordinary people find themselves in extraordinarily astounding situations, which they each try to solve in a remarkable manner.

Our Take: A sci-fi staple for a reason, the original "The Twilight Series," an early adopter of the anthology format, has influenced the plots of movies like The Stepford Wives, The Truman Show, Get Out, The Sixth Sense, and TV-shows like "Black Mirror," to name a few. Watching this series for the first time, three years ago, I found the 30-minute episodes to be extremely bingeable, so consider (re)watching this series over the weekend. — Sneha

Rupert Penry-Jones in The Strain (2014)

"The Strain" | Now Streaming on Hulu

Plot: As a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient strain of vampirism ravages the city of New York, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather assembles a team to wage war for the fate of humanity itself.

Our Take: This is my fave Guillermo del Toro creation next to The Devil's Backbone (don't unfriend me). The show reminds me of "Buffy" but the focus is on adult characters — similar to the fabulous "Penny Dreadful," which ran concurrently with "The Strain." A virus designed to turn loved ones against each other has extra resonance these days, and GDT helped populate the show with heroic Black and Latino characters. — Arno

Joshua Jackson, John Noble, and Anna Torv in Fringe (2008)

"Fringe" | Watch Free on IMDb TV and Prime Video

Plot: FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham is assigned to the bureau's Fringe Division which investigates unusual crimes and occurrences. Assisting Olivia in her investigations are once-institutionalised scientist Dr Walter Bishop, his jack-of-all-trades son, Peter, and FBI Junior Agent Astrid Farnsworth.

Our Take: Created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, "Fringe" started out as an "unexplained mystery of the week" series and evolved into a sprawling multi-dimensional epic that got grander and crazier with every season. Absolutely one of my favorites. — Vanessa

Keenan Lehmann and Luca Villacis in Channel Zero (2016)

"Channel Zero," Season 1: "Candle Cove" | Now Streaming on Shudder

Plot: An anthology series based on popular Internet Creepypastas Candle Cove, The No-End House, Butcher's Block, and The Dream Door.

Our Take: Remember that creepy kids' show from your childhood that no one else seems to remember? I enjoy speculating on the underlying insidiousness of '70s and '80s children's shows, and "Channel Zero" creator Nick Atosca ("The Act," "Hannibal") adapted the internet Creepypasta, "Candle Cove," into a clever story that shares elements with Netflix's "Dark," but with a more straightforward horror vibe. — James

Westworld (2016)

"Westworld" | Now Streaming on HBO and DIRECTV

Plot: Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence.

Our Take: Many "Westworld" fans worried that the third season’s crossover into the human world would ruin the show, which until then was set within a theme park, meticulously crafted both visually and conceptually. However, the first episode alone, packed with striking futuristic visions and the introduction of Aaron Paul as Caleb Nichols, certainly quelled my fears. The series’ sci-fi vibes, disguised by the park’s Old West charm in previous seasons, come front and center. — Hannah

Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo in The Outsider (2020)

"The Outsider" | Now Streaming on Prime Video and HBO Max

Plot: As Detective Ralph Anderson investigates the murder of a local boy, the mysterious circumstances surrounding the crime lead him to bring in Holly Gibney, an unorthodox private investigator with the ability to explain the unexplainable.

Our Take: I was so ready for this series after being supremely let down by Doctor Sleep; I wanted to reconnect with the Stephen King Multiverse, and "The Outsider" is one of the finest adaptations of King's work to date. The depictions of brutality are a tough sit, and Ben Mendelsohn's character is a Scully type to an extreme, but Cynthia Erivo's take on the Mulder role is so extraterrestrial, the balance between these two forces is surely enough to defeat an ancient evil, right? I truly hope creator Richard Price makes like "Fleabag" and resists the call to continue this story. — Arno

Regina King and Andrew Howard in Watchmen (2019)

"Watchmen" | Now Streaming on HBO

Plot: Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, Watchmen embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own.

Our Take: I'll admit that—despite having read it several times—I appreciated the "Watchmen" comic more than I enjoyed it (and don't get me started on the movie). But Season 1 of HBO's "Watchmen" might have been one of the best seasons of TV I've seen in years. — James

Matt Dillon in Wayward Pines (2015)

"Wayward Pines" | Now Streaming on Hulu

Plot: Secret Service agent Ethan Burke goes to Wayward Pines, Idaho, in search of two federal agents who have gone missing in the bucolic town. He soon learns that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

Our Take: It’s best not knowing anything going in to the series as the story is all about uncovering the mystery that surrounds the town. Based on the "Wayward Pines" novels by Blake Crouch, the series was produced by M. Night Shyamalan, with the Duffer Brothers writing on the first season before moving on to "Stranger Things." Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after two season but the source material is there to fall back on to see how the crazy story ends. — Vanessa

Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner (1967)

"The Prisoner" | Now Streaming on Prime Video

Plot: After resigning, a secret agent is abducted and taken to what looks like an idyllic village, but is really a bizarre prison. His warders demand information. He gives them nothing, but only tries to escape.

Our Take: This highly influential series has all the style and arty edits you'd expect from late '60s England, but did you know there are several ways you can watch all 17 episodes? There's a whole subculture of devotees who have their preferred episode orders mapped out, each of them designed to give you a fresh perspective on the sinister plot against Number Six. — Arno

Esther Hall, Jonas Karlsson, Kelly Macdonald, and Faye Marsay in Black Mirror (2011)

"Black Mirror" | Now Streaming on Netflix

Plot: An anthology series exploring a twisted, high-tech multiverse where humanity's greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide.

Our Take: Whether I’m shuddering at the idea of an attack by killer mechanical bees, or getting warm and fuzzy over the thought of spending the afterlife in a simulated California beach community, "Black Mirror" broadens the reaches of my imagination in incredible ways. However, it can often provide an unsettling look at the modern, tech-obsessed world we live in. Watch every episode of this brilliant series, but try spacing them out — the genius plot concepts are just close enough to reality to keep you up at night. — Hannah

Jason Isaacs and Laura Allen in Awake (2012)

"Awake" | Now Streaming on Netflix

Plot: After a car accident takes the life of a family member, police detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) lives two alternating parallel lives, one with his wife and one with his son.

Our Take: The severely underrated "Awake" might have only lasted for 13 episodes, but it’s still one I consistently recommend when asked for a mind-bending mystery. Has grief driven Michael to madness or is he actually living in two realities? It's a compelling question that keeps you guessing until the end. Although canceled after one season, the show manages to end with a sense of closure, so although you might be left wanting more, you won’t be left disappointed — Vanessa

Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej in BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural (2016)

"Buzzfeed Unsolved: Supernatural" | Seasons 1-6 Now Streaming on Hulu, Prime Video, and YouTube

Plot: Ryan, ever the believer, embarks on a quest to convince his skeptical friend Shane that the paranormal exists by investigating the evidence around the most notorious supernatural folklore.

Our Take: A fan of supernatural mysteries, I enjoy learning more about hauntings and ghosts, yet find a lot of docu-series too spooky to watch. Hosts Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej add a more lighthearted spin to the genre here, making it possible for me, someone who leaps at jump-scares, to also have a good time! — Sneha

Noah Schnapp in Stranger Things (2016)

"Stranger Things" | Now Streaming on Netflix

Plot: When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief and his friends must confront terrifying supernatural forces in order to get him back.

Our Take: There’s certainly something supernatural at work in "Stranger Things," but there’s also a scientific aspect to the slow spread of the Upside Down into Hawkins, Indiana. The Duffers are said to have drawn inspiration from Alien to craft aspects of the alternate dimension, but throw some plotting Russians and colorful 80s references into the mix, and you’ve got something completely new and addictive. — Hannah

Kyle MacLachlan and Michael J. Anderson in Twin Peaks (1990)

"Twin Peaks" | Seasons 1-2 Now Streaming on Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and CBS All Access. Season 3 Streaming on Showtime

Plot: An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Our Take: Putting "Twin Peaks" into the science-fiction category might be a stretch, but Agent Dale Cooper has always felt like a spiritual brother to one of my other favorite TV sleuths, Fox Mulder. I won't get my hopes up, but these two were destined for a crossover event. — James