HBO Max is slowly but surely stacking intriguing sci-fi TV shows into its streaming shelves. Prestige dramas with high production values and long episode times come first, swiftly followed by smaller, quirkier entries that offer something new. The shelf is a big one.
Scroll down for the best sci-fi TV shows on HBO Max.
Believe any hype you hear about Station Eleven. One of the best shows of 2021, the meditative dystopian thriller (the latter descriptor can only be applied to certain episodes) is prestige TV that whisks you off on a journey to surprising, moving and unique destinations. Following two timelines, the focus is mainly on brilliant heroine Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis), a woman who survived a world-destroying pandemic and now travels around the remains with a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony. Created by Patrick Somerville, whose writing work on The Leftovers can be felt here, Station Eleven casts an optimistic lens over the end of the world.
Raised by Wolves will satisfy those who want to spend a lot of time (nearly 10 hours) in a world brought to the screen with the help of Ridley Scott. Two androids, Mother and Father, attempt to establish an atheist human colony on a new planet, after a war with a religious order destroys Earth. But they soon discover controlling the beliefs of humans is a tricky task. Directing the first two episodes, as well as pulling the strings as an executive producer, Scott sets up a provocative exploration into AI and religious beliefs. There’s blood, big performances and a powerful lead in Amanda Collin’s Mother.
What would you do if your husband fitted a chip into your brain to watch your every move? Hazel Green (Cristin Milotti) faces this dilemma and promptly goes on the run with the not totally useful assistance of her dad (Ray Romano). Traverse the tricky territory of this satirical relationship drama with a Black Mirror edge and a helpful dolphin. Yep, Made for Love is as full of surprises as it is ultimately disturbing.
While it’s 90% a superhero show, Peacemaker features visitors from another planet, so it lands itself a spot on this list. The Suicide Squad spinoff series centers on the titular Peacemaker, an outrageous John Cena who explores where his catchphrase — “I cherish peace with all of my heart. I don’t care how many men, women and children I kill to get it” — came from. Sweary, bloody and bouncing to a rocking soundtrack, the James Gunn-written series is a rollicking time with surprising heart.
Of course, you’re best off catching Snowpiercer the 2013 sci-fi actioner directed by Bong Joon-ho, but the TV adaptation offers a few excellent accoutrements. One of those is Jennifer Carpenter’s Melanie Cavill, the head of hospitality on the perpetually moving luxury train that keeps its passengers safe from the frozen wasteland the world has become. Yet this small section of humanity can’t escape class struggles, the lower carriages building toward revolution. An outstanding story that works on the big and small screen.
At this stage, new fans might be hard to come by when it comes to this long-running British show. But if you’re interested in dipping into the wildly inventive, genre-bending, barnstorming adventure, try the later Jodie Whittaker episodes. Whittaker steps into the Doctor’s shoes, a time-traveling, space-faring alien adventurer with a kind heart and a far-out-of-this-world sense of humor. Serious fun.
Five seasons of this sci-fi procedural await you. Dive into parallel universes and alternate timelines with the Fringe Division, a team of agents tasked with investigating unexplained phenomena. After a middling first season, Fringe found its way, bringing inventive ideas and a moving emotional core along for the ride.
Alice in Wonderland meets an awful lot of robots. The truly mind-bending sci-fi Western might be going in complex circles by season 3, but its first exhilarating season kicked down the barn door. Set in a violent and lurid amusement park, where rich guests can shoot, kill and violate the android hosts in various ways, the focus is pulled to Dolores, a host who begins to become sentient. No, she’s not best pleased with how she’s been treated. Addictive and thought-provoking, Westworld demands you figure out the pieces of its puzzle.
This sci-fi crime drama, created by Jonathan Nolan, has carved its place into the best sci-fi TV shows of all time plaque. The series centers on a piece of Precog-esque technology used by the government to predict terrorist attacks. However, the machine can also warn of smaller, yet still deadly crimes, and a splinter team of underground investigators set out to help related persons of interest. Dealing with tricky questions such as the concept of “the greater good,” Person of Interest is a fascinating, spectacular and complete espionage procedural.
HBO’s first Norwegian series is an addictive sci-fi crime drama with the most odd couple detective pairing you could imagine. Senior detective Lars teams up with Viking-era recruit Alfhildr to investigate a Stone Age woman’s murder. Oh, right — the series is set in an Oslo where migrants, or “Beforeigners,” from the Viking Age and more appear in present day. With plenty of fertile fish-out-of-water comedy ground, Beforeigners is one unique murder mystery.
An influential legacy show, Babylon 5 might have dated edges nowadays, but it would be blasphemy to overlook it on this list. The basic premise sees a group of humans and alien species working together on the Babylon 5 space station as Earth carves its place in the galactic community. Political intrigue, character studies and the threat of war ensue.
Boasting executive producer Steven Spielberg, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi brings family drama to alien invasions. Falling Skies centers on a band of survivors who plan to fight back after a global invasion by extraterrestrials. Five seasons introduce multiple alien races, space travel and a satisfying final standoff.
If you were blown away by Russell T Davies’ It’s a Sin, Years and Years is a must-watch. The ambitious sci-fi series spans 15 years, jumping ahead each episode to capture the ups and downs of the eclectic Lyons family. From technological developments to jaw-dropping life upheavals, the Lyons go through the ringer without ever relinquishing a heartwarming sense of humor.
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