Low-cost horror and high-cost superheroes rule the box office, but science-fiction and fantasy flicks often earn a nice bit of a cash, too. Hollywood knows to grab us geeks by the eyeballs and not let go.
It didn't take long for TV to glom onto that fact. Just look at SyFy, which reinvented itself with an excellent slate of originals.
But no one has the superb slate of nerd shows, and the money to make them, like Netflix. It started with a show about werewolves (Hemlock Grove). But Netflix has worked with the people behind The Matrix movies (Sense 8), and cut a deal to get a small slice of the Marvel Cinematic Universe all to itself, which culminated in a major cross-over series (The Defenders). It's snapped up series from other networks and countries, taken risks on programming that would have been too cerebral for network TV, and even revived a few classics. And I'm not talking about Fuller House.
If you are a fan of genre shows—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and the like—and don't have a Netflix subscription, you're missing out. And if you do, you don't have any geek-cred until you've watched these 10 programs at the very least. They're the best Netflix has to offer to the fandom at large.
(For options that aren't strictly geeky fare, check out the 10 Best Original Netflix TV Series. For a quicker watch, see The 10 Best Original Films on Netflix and The 10 Best Geeky Original Movies on Netflix.)
1 Marvel's Daredevil
After the run of comics by author/artist Frank Miller decades ago, Daredevil went from a low-rent Spider-Man to one of the all-time great characters: Matt Murdock, a lawyer burdened with far more than blindness, but gifted with far more than super-senses.
Then the movie came out and did almost nothing to capture that. Thankfully, Marvel made a deal to put The Man Without Fear on the small screen via Netflix, making it the cornerstone in a plan to bring the MCU's New York street-level fighters to the land of streaming, with eventual plans to team up. It never would have worked if creators like Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight, among others, hadn't embraced all that made the character great. They started by giving him a fantastic villain, Wilson "The Kingpin" Fisk, played by Vincent D'Onofrio.
The second season gets bogged down by a lot of setup for the team-up show The Defenders (Elektra and The Hand remain boring outside of the comics), but was bolstered a bit by also setting up another Marvel show, The Punisher. Hopefully season 3 this year will get it 100 percent back on track, as it follows the Devil of Hell's Kitchen back to the streets, and Fisk returns as a bigger threat than ever. Rumor has it (POSSIBLE SPOILER) the plot will follow that of the comics, where Fisk reveals Murdock's secret identity to the world.
2 The OA
A blind girl vanishes. She reappears years later, her sight has returned, and she calls herself The OA. That's not even the weirdest part of this series co-created by star Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij. It's a slow build to reveal the truth as The OA recruits a crew of misfit teens to whom she reveals it all.
3 The End of the F***ing World
Netflix scooped this 8-episode British gem up from Channel 4 to take it worldwide. The End of the F***ing World might sound dystopian, but most teenage angst does. Especially from a teen who believes himself to be an actual psychopath, who falls for a rebellious girl in his class with a mouth like a trucker. And when I say "falls for" I mean, he wants to find a perfect time to kill her. Though perhaps love will follow?
It's based on a graphic novel of the same name (sans the asterisks). No word yet on if there will be a second series. (Trigger warning: don't watch it if you like pets more than people.)
4 Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Where Jim Carrey failed, Neil Patrick Harris succeeds. A Series of Unfortunate Events started as an incredibly famous series of 13 children's books about the very put-upon Baudelaire children, constantly pursued for their so-called inheritance by Count Olaf. The movie version tanked; what it needed was the series treatment to fit the stories. Plus, the budget to give it movie-like production values. Enter Netflix!
It doesn't hurt to have many of the episodes directed by Barry Sonnefeld, the auteur behind the Addams Family and Men in Black films, who also is an executive producer on the show. The cast is perfect, but of course, Harris as Olaf is the true ace-in-the-hole, plying on make-up upon make-up to play the old actor with the murderous designs on the kid's money.
5 Altered Carbon
The plot to Altered Carbon, based on the 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan, is dense: Kovacs is a mercenary who's been frozen for 250 years after he tried to lead an uprising against the government, and he's got a choice: now go to prison, or solve a murder. Which might seem simple, but the person murdered is the one hiring him, since people in the year 2384 can upload their consciousness into devices that implant into other bodies. That's just the opening of this ultra-violent, nudity-filled 10 episode cyberpunk noir. No word yet on if it'll get a second season, but based on the premise, it could be all the same characters played by completely different actors.
6 Marvel's Luke Cage
Before Black Panther, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had one other show that was pretty woke about the black experience, even if it had to shoe-horn in super-powers. And that show was Luke Cage. Once called Power Man in the comics (a term that only comes up jokingly in the show), Luke's an ex-con who was experimented on and made utterly unbreakable and super strong. His wife was murdered, his life turned upside down, and that was all before he runs afoul of Cottonmouth (played by Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali) and Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey). Critics loved it; it won awards; fans went nuts, and it will be back in June (the trailer for season 2 just premiered).
7 Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Return
MST3K, as it's known, was and is a comedy legend, moving from Minnesota public access to Comedy Central and eventually the Sci-Fi Channel between 1988 and 1996. In that time, the denizens of the Satellite of Love were forced to watch an untold number of horrible B-Movies and make hilarious commentary on them. The show even won a Peabody award. The comedy style lived on for years with things like Riff Trax (created for former cast members who didn't get any ownership of the original), but a real MST3K revival became possible in 2015 when original creator Joel Hodgson crowdfunded the cash needed to make it happen. Those 11 episodes—which had a new cast, including Patton Oswalt, but still have robots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot in attendance—got picked up by Netflix.
8 Black Mirror
Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, co-run by Annabel Jones, is the heir-apparent to The Twilight Zone, telling a new buzz-worthy tale with each new episode. It started on Channel 4 in Britain, and did so well, Netflix is kept it alive, going from 3 episodes a season to 6 each in seasons 3 and 4.
The "black mirror" of course is a screen—the show's not-so-subtle quick-take is that technology hurts society. Sometimes, the dystopian nightmares of each new story are overshadowed by the handful of positive episodes (season 3's "San Junipero" is an uplifting and joyous take on future love). But every season has a standout. I love season 4's stunning "USS Callister," the second season's romantic and heart-wrenching "Be Right Back," and the first season's "The Entire History of You," which depicts a time where all of us have the equivalent of Google Glass implanted in our heads to record every single thing we see. That isn't as far off as you'd think. For more, read Every Episode of Black Mirror, Ranked From Best to Worst.
9 Stranger Things
What more can we say about Stranger Things? It's the phenom Netflix has always wanted; the program people talk about at the water-cooler. The series is like Stephen King meets Steven Spielberg, had they met in the 1980s and created a TV show. Netflix added 8.33 million new subscribers the same quarter it premiered the second season. Coincidence?
10 Marvel's Jessica Jones
Some may consider it pandering to name Jessica Jones the best show for geeks on Netflix on the week it premiered its much anticipated second season. Don't be as cynical as Jessica. Based on the first season alone, this is the superhero show we want and deserve.
Creator Melissa Rosenberg took a popular but obscure Marvel Comics character—a foul-mouthed PI with some basic super-powers—and expanded her backstory. It's mostly about the utter, abject abuse by Kilgrave, a person with the power to make anyone obey anything he says. As played by former Doctor Who David Tennant, Kilgrave is also arguably the greatest bad guy in the decade-long history of the MCU.
The series is a treatise on how to overcome abuse and gaslighting and much much worse—with or without super powers. Jessica, played to perfection by Krysten Ritter, is tough as nails and fed up with being a victim.