Discovering captivating dystopian TV shows can be quite a quest, despite the abundance of this genre in the realm of science fiction. Dystopian tales have always captivated audiences, with masterpieces like Metropolis offering glimpses into flawed societies yet to come. However, the pursuit of remarkable dystopian TV shows is a relatively recent endeavor.
These shows embody a seemingly flawless society of the future that gradually unravels once you delve beneath the surface. Consider Altered Carbon, where cutting-edge technology empowers humans to conquer distant planets and evade death itself. Yet, as the story unfolds, you’ll realize that things are far from ideal in this mesmerizing universe.
Surprisingly, even animated TV shows like Futurama depict a future that might appear enjoyable at first glance, but it is far from flawless. Many of the same challenges we face in our present-day lives are mirrored in this show, set more than a thousand years in the future.
This compilation brings together the crème de la crème of dystopian TV shows, be they animated or live-action. If you’re seeking recommendations, feel free to explore this list and contribute any similar series that you believe should be included. And, if you find yourself enthralled by these shows, don’t forget to check out our collection of mind-bending dystopian future movies.
1. The 100
For nearly a century, Earth has been declared unfit for human habitation. But brace yourself, because things are about to take a wild turn. In a daring experiment, a bunch of 100 rowdy teens get shipped back to the planet. And guess what? Survival isn’t exactly a cakewalk.
Leading this ragtag crew are Clarke Griffin (played by the talented Eliza Taylor) and Bellamy Blake (the ever-charming Bob Morley). These folks must navigate through treacherous terrain, deal with warring factions, and confront their own inner demons.
Let me tell you, this show is the epitome of a top-notch dystopian series. The 100 serves up a buffet of moral dilemmas in a world that’s been through the apocalypse. Every choice made here can be a matter of life or death. And boy, does it keep you on the edge of your seat.
Premiered: March 19, 2014
Actors: Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Bob Morley
2. The Handmaid’s Tale
Set in a place called Gilead, which is a totalitarian society, women are stripped of their rights and forced into subservient roles. The main character, played by Elisabeth Moss, is Offred/June Osborne. She is a handmaid who fights to survive in a world ruled by oppression, all while desperately searching for her kidnapped daughter. This series is really intense and delves into themes of power dynamics and the struggle to resist against seemingly insurmountable odds. It’s truly a standout example of dystopian television that will leave a lasting impression.
Premiered: April 26, 2017
Actors: Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski
3. Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a show that really grabs your attention. It’s a bit unsettling, but at the same time, it’s incredibly captivating. The show’s strength lies in its standalone episodes, each one exploring the dark side of technology and the complexities of human nature.
What makes Black Mirror so fascinating is that each story presents us with unique characters who are forced to confront ethical dilemmas in futures that are disturbingly believable. Whether it’s a virtual reality game gone horribly wrong or social media having complete control over our self-worth, the scenarios the show presents are thought-provoking and make you question the direction our society is headed.
The show also boasts an impressive cast, with stars like Jon Hamm and Bryce Dallas Howard. Their performances bring an extra layer of depth to the already gripping narratives. It’s safe to say that Black Mirror is one of the most engrossing dystopian series out there, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re into that kind of thing.
Premiered: December 4, 2011
Actors: Daniel Kaluuya, Toby Kebbell, Rory Kinnear
Aboard a never-ending train that circles the frozen Earth, following an apocalyptic catastrophe that made the planet unlivable, the passengers are split into different classes with striking disparities between them. In this captivating dystopian tale, Daveed Diggs portrays Andre Layton, a lower-class passenger who becomes an unwilling revolutionary. His struggle is against the oppressive powers led by Melanie Cavill, played by Jennifer Connelly. Snowpiercer skillfully combines exhilarating action scenes with sharp observations on social inequality, weaving them into its thrilling storyline.
Premiered: May 17, 2020
Actors: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Sean Bean
5. The Society
Teenagers from a small town are unexpectedly transported to a parallel world without any adults. In this new reality, they are forced to create their own set of rules in order to survive. One of the main characters, Allie Pressman, played by Kathryn Newton, steps up to the plate and manages to navigate the complicated dynamics and relationships that arise. The Society delves into the captivating dystopian setting, examining themes of power struggles and the complexities of human nature.
Premiered: May 10, 2019
Actors: Rachel Keller, Kathryn Newton, Alex Fitzalan
In a not-too-distant Los Angeles, aliens have taken over, and we find Will Bowman (played by Josh Holloway) compelled to work with the enemy. Meanwhile, his wife Katie (portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies) joins the resistance, but she keeps it hush-hush. Colony throws us into a world where families are tested by constant surveillance and explores the lengths people are willing to go for their freedom. It’s a captivating TV show that truly captures the essence of a dystopian society.
Premiered: January 14, 2016
Actors: Josh Holloway, Sarah Wayne Callies, Peter Jacobson
Firefly takes place 500 years from now, when humanity has left Earth behind for new planets. The story centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his diverse crew on the spaceship Serenity. This awesome series combines western and space elements, all while hinting at a dystopian future. It digs into heavy topics like government corruption and the struggle between individualism and conformity. Despite its short-lived run, Firefly has gained a dedicated fanbase who absolutely adore it.
Premiered: September 20, 2002
Actors: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk
In Westworld, a futuristic theme park filled with lifelike robots called hosts, rich visitors can indulge in immersive experiences without facing any consequences. But, as some hosts start gaining consciousness and memories, chaos breaks loose. With Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy and Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay, Westworld offers breathtaking visuals and raises intriguing questions about humanity’s darkest desires in its captivating dystopian storyline.
Premiered: October 2, 2016
Actors: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, Ed Harris
Imagine a world where electricity suddenly disappears, plunging society into utter chaos. That’s exactly what happens in Revolution. Fast forward fifteen years and we meet Charlie Matheson, played by Tracy Spiridakos, who sets out on a perilous mission to uncover the truth behind the global blackout. Along the way, she unravels hidden agendas and power struggles, giving viewers a captivating glimpse into a dystopian society grappling with life without technology. Revolution offers an intriguing exploration of how humanity adapts in a world stripped of its technological comforts.
Premiered: September 17, 2012
Actors: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito
10. Altered Carbon
In a future world, human consciousness can be transferred to new bodies known as “sleeves.” Takeshi Kovacs, portrayed by Chris Conner and later Anthony Mackie, is a former soldier turned investigator. His mission? To crack a murder case. Altered Carbon, with its intricate plotlines, mind-blowing visuals, and thought-provoking exploration of the repercussions of immortality, stands out as an outstanding dystopian series.
Premiered: February 2, 2018
Actors: Anthony Mackie, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Lela Loren
11. The Rain
In the aftermath of a brutal virus spread by rain, Scandinavia is left devastated. The story follows Simone and Rasmus Anderson, two siblings who find themselves thrust into a dangerous post-apocalyptic world. They must navigate through perilous situations at every corner to survive.
The Rain has gained recognition as one of Europe’s top dystopian TV shows. It captivates viewers with its gripping characters and suspenseful storytelling. The show keeps you on the edge of your seat, eagerly anticipating its thrilling conclusion.
Premiered: May 4, 2018
Actors: Alba August, Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard