Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans were devastated last month when Joss Whedon’s magnum opus disappeared from Netflix after years of being available on the streaming service. The landmark series recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and the impact that this beloved genre mash-up has had on popular culture is undeniable. It remains one of the most groundbreaking and influential shows in television history. The series is still streaming on Hulu and many of us continue to treasure our DVD box sets, but to quote “Once More with Feeling”, “Where do we go from here?”
What if you’ve watched the entire series so many times that you know every word by heart? Maybe you’ve even devoured the comics – currently up to season 11 and counting – and are desperately looking for your next fix. Perhaps it’s time to find a new object for your affections. We know that there is no replacing BtVS, but despite the current bevy of revivals, it’s a safe bet that Buffy’s onscreen adventures ended with season 7.
Fear not, whether you’re craving the humor, the heartbreak, or you just need a little girl power, we’ve got you covered! Here is a list of 15 Comics, TV Shows and Movies That Are Similar To Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
High school is hell, right? Joss Whedon may have literalized this idea, but you can’t talk about teen angst without bringing Heathers into the conversation. Close to thirty years later, this razor-sharp, pitch-black comedy has lost none of its bite.
The film starred Winona Ryder as Veronica, a girl who wasn’t quite mean enough for the mean girls that she ran with; and Christian Slater as J.D., the charismatic, but murderous new kid in town. Written by Daniel Waters, a twenty-four year old video store clerk with a passion for Stanley Kubrick films, this brilliant satire about a high school in Ohio where suicide becomes the latest craze was a box office flop that became a cult classic. Darkly funny, subversive and endlessly quotable, there will never be another film quite like Heathers.
Kara Zor-El never quite fit in on CBS, but thankfully Supergirl has truly found a home on The CW. Although the series was off to a shaky start, it has slowly been proving itself to be the best of the Arrowverse bunch. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supergirl is chock full of strong, complex female characters who are far from stereotypical. Aside from Kara, there is Lena Luthor, Alex Danvers, and Cat Grant – who we still miss – just to name a few. Even many of the show’s villains are women.
Tackling real issues, bringing us a Superman we can actually get behind, and proving what a hero the Girl of Steel can truly be, the show has truly found its footing in season 2. In the current superhero film and television climate, Supergirl is an exciting change of pace and has brought the Arrowverse some much-needed heart.
13 Alias/Jessica Jones
Comic fans were introduced to Jessica Jones when Alias launched in 2001. She was like no one else in Marvel Comics. The failed superhero turned PI was a caustic, bellicose woman who drank too much and made no apologies. She was also powerful, clever and courageous. Despite her torment at the hands of a sadistic psychopath, Jessica Jones managed to dispel her personal demons and use her abilities to help people.
Although the Netflix series diverges quite a bit from its source material, one thing the show definitely got right was Jessica. The writers never tried to clean her up, which is good, because she was meant to be a mess. The show and the comic differ greatly from one another, so it makes sense to both read the book and watch the series. Both were groundbreaking in their respective mediums.
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will enjoy following Jessica on her reluctant hero’s journey, as well as the layered, realistic portrayal of women much stronger than they are given credit for being.
12 Freaks and Geeks
Few series have captured the high school experience with as much heart, humor, and empathy as Freaks and Geeks. Heartbreakingly, the 1999 show was axed after a mere eighteen episodes. Paul Feig created the series, which was executive produced by Judd Apatow and starred a cast of then-unknowns, including Jason Segal, James Franco, and Seth Rogan.
Taking place in the 1980s, the heart of Freaks and Geeks was Lindsey and Sam Weir (Linda Cardellini and John Francis Daley). Lindsey was a former mathlete, who had recently begun running with a bunch of rebellious outsiders or “freaks”. Her brother Sam and his pals were the “geeks” of the piece. F
reaks and Geeks may not incorporate elements of the supernatural, but what it does accurately portray the mundanities, awkwardness, and heartbreak of being a teenager. The premise may be wildly different from BtVS, but the feelings it evokes are very much the same.
11 Wonder Woman: The Hiketia
We can’t very well recommend comics that are like BtVS without paying some serious respect to Buffy’s superhero predecessor. Despite the strange and fascinating history of her creator, William Moultan Marston, Wonder Woman is one of the greatest feminist icons of all time. She has had a myriad of writers on her book since her first appearance in All Star Comics #8 in 1941, and some of them have understood the Amazon better than others.
One of the most celebrated runs of Wonder Woman would have to be Greg Rucka’s stint from 2003-2006. The writer recently returned to the title for DC: Rebirth. Before he jumped onto Wonder Woman’s monthly title, Rucka wrote an original graphic novel with gorgeous art by J.G. Jones called Wonder Woman: The Hiketia. Whether you are familiar with the character or not, this is great standalone story.
The tale is presented as a Greek tragedy in which Wonder Woman is caught between honor and justice. Rucka portrayed Diana as a real woman, rather than some idealized version of what a woman should be. The story itself is both gripping and thought provoking – and side note, she totally kicks Batman’s butt.
10 Kill Bill
If you loved the knock down, drag out brawls of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, what better film to scratch that itch than Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 martial arts masterpiece. Presented in two volumes, Kill Bill follows a betrayed former assassin on her quest for well-deserved vengeance. It also features some of the most epic fights in movie history. Aside from that, the film has several brutally strong female characters-- some more complex than others, but all of them compelling.
Of course, we’re sitting on the Bride’s side of the aisle in this fight. Uma Thurman was exceptional in the role of Beatrix Kiddo; a character whose thirst for retribution is infectious. Between its incredible cast, awesome soundtrack, and amazing fight sequences, this homage to Grindhouse Cinema still stands out as one of Tarantino’s best films.
9 Veronica Mars
With Veronica Mars, creator Rob Thomas combined the central mystery of Twin Peaks with the socioeconomic divide of The Outsiders and developed a heroine who was kind of an amalgam of Buffy Summers and Nancy Drew. The follow-up film broke Kickstarter records by meeting its goal of $2,000,000 in less than eleven hours. Not bad for a series that was canceled after only three seasons. It has also spawned two excellent mystery novels.
Tonally, Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are pretty similar. Plus, both have fearless, sarcastic heroines attempting to survive high school while fighting their personal demons – although in Buffy’s case the monsters are literal as well. The writing is stellar on both shows and the characters are layered, realistic and so relatable.
If you’ve got a Buffy shaped hole in your heart, we promise this excellent and underrated series will at least provide a patch.
8 Elektra: Assassin
According to BtVS writer, Doug Petrie, the character of Faith was partially inspired by Elektra Natchios, the greatest assassin in Marvel Comics. Created by Frank Miller, Elektra first showed up in Daredevil #168 in 1981. Miller originally planned on that being the character’s sole appearance. However, she went on to not only become one of the most pivotal figures in Matt Murdoch’s life, but also one of the most formidable, fascinating women in Marvel Comics.
While Miller’s seminal run on Daredevil is not to be missed, his eight issue limited series Elektra: Assassin, drawn by the incomparable Bill Sienkiewicz, remains one of his finest works. At once cerebral and emotionally engaging, with achingly beautiful artwork, the series was like nothing that Marvel had released before. Elektra has since appeared in other titles, as well as more of her own – much to the chagrin of Miller – but there has never been another story like this one.
7 Cabin in the Woods
From the minds of Joss Whedon and BtVS writer Drew Goddard, Cabin in the Woods is easily one of the smartest horror movies released in the past decade. As funny as it is subversive, the film was Whedon and Goddard’s attempt at resuscitating a genre that had become unrecognizable to them. Part of the genius of the film is that it sells itself as a typical horror movie, full of all the tired tropes that we are used to. However, it then proceeds to deconstruct said tropes in the best possible way, all the while winking at the audience.
If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will probably feel similarly about Cabin in the Woods. Aside from trademark Whedon wit and humor, Goddard’s fingerprints are also all over the movie – the first that he’d directed. Although he didn’t join the BtVS staff until season 7, he wrote some of that season’s finest episodes. Goddard was also instrumental in adapting another series you may have heard of: Daredevil. Recently, he was brought in to consult on the script for Deadpool 2.
This lesser known series from Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan and Miss Marvel artist Adrian Alphona – if you haven’t read Saga, you should do so immediately – has recently been adapted into a Hulu series to be released sometime in 2018. Runaways follows the adventures of six teenagers who are forced to unite when they discover that their parents are actually supervillains. Funny, intelligent, heartfelt, and action-packed, this Marvel series is one of Vaughan’s most underrated works.
Although the series was canceled after eighteen issues, fan demand revived it for a second volume that ran for thirty. One of the comic’s many fans was Joss Whedon, who was asked by Vaughan to finish up the second volume of the series. Not long after, Whedon returned the favor and Vaughan wrote one of the best arcs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8. Although Vaughan wasn’t a Buffyverse writer, he understood the characters and completely nailed both tone and dialogue.
If you’re not convinced that Runaways is for you, read “No Future for You” and it’ll make you a believer.
5 Joss Whedon's Other Shows
When it comes to the work of Joss Whedon, if you love one of his shows, you will probably love – or at least like – all of them. For one thing, he often recycles the same excellent actors. For another, his writing is consistently great, with snappy dialogue and masterful storytelling. Whedon is constantly evolving and while all of his shows are obviously his creations, they are also distinctly different from one another.
Angel should be the first show of Whedon’s oeuvre that you check out. The Buffy spinoff may never have quite reached the same heights as its parent show, but it definitely came close. Then, of course, there’s Firefly and its follow up film Serenity, which are pretty much universally beloved by fans of BtVS and basically anyone else who has seen them. Dollhouse is definitely the most divisive of Whedon’s projects, having received as much hate as it has love. If you can make it past that awful third episode, we promise it gets awesome. Let’s also not forget about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which is kind of brilliant.
Remember that amazing scythe that Buffy wielded in the show’s final season? BtVS may have been that weapon’s small screen debut, but that wasn’t where it made its first appearance. Whedon created the scythe for his eight-issue limited series, Fray, which was published by Dark Horse Comics from 2001-2003.
Fray is about a future slayer named Melaka “Mel” Fray, who has since appeared in BtVS season 8. Demons had been banished by an unnamed slayer in the 21st century and it had been hundreds of years since a new one was called. However, vampires – called "lurks" in the book – had returned, and Mel, a thief by trade, was forced to become the new Chosen One. What follows is a truly memorable story that was indicative of the excellent work Whedon would later contribute to comics with his run on Astonishing X-Men.
This is the second entry on this list with Rob Thomas’s name attached, but iZombie is a worthy successor not only to Veronica Mars, but also to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The CW fan-favorite just began its third season and is currently the most underrated show on television.
Very loosely based on the Vertigo comic of the same name, iZombie follows Olivia “Liv” Moore, a zombie who has taken a job at the morgue for easy access to brains. When Liv ingests a brain, she gets a glimpse into the life of that person and also picks up some of their traits. Under the guise of a psychic, Liv helps to solve crimes with information granted her by the murder victim’s grey matter.
A completely fresh take on very well-worn territory, iZombie is unburdened by typical tropes of the genre. It deftly balances both procedural and serialized elements and Rose McIver does an incredible job basically playing a different character every single episode. If you loved Veronica Mars or BtVS for that matter, you will love iZombie.
In many ways, Supernatural is this generation’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Aside from the obvious similarities, both series began with a Monster of the Week format, which later built upon a rich mythology, giving way to a more serialized form of storytelling. While they are both genre shows – although BtVS forever altered what that means – they are also incredibly character driven. Both seamlessly blend humor and heartbreak, and use literal demons as metaphor for personal ones.
At its core, Supernatural is a story about family; in particular, the complicated relationship between Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles). The brothers have literally gone to hell and back for each other for twelve seasons and counting, with no signs of slowing down. While it lacks the feminism at the heart of BtVS, Supernatural has was obviously very much influenced by the series.
Crazyhead makes the top of our list, because while it shares many similarities with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it also subverts just about every expectation that BtVS fans might have when they sit down to watch this brilliant series. Helmed by Misfits creator Howard Overman, Crazyhead is about two women (Susan Wokoma and Cara Theobold) navigating their terrible twenties, while also trying to save the world from demons.
So much about the series; its sly sense of humor, seamless mixing of genres and clever use of metaphor, peg it as a direct descendant of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, rather than retread some of that show’s most iconic aspects – revolutionary at the time, but now worn weary – Crazyhead deconstructs them instead.
We won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that while BtVS paved the way for Crazyhead, the British series is blazing its own trail.
Did we miss anything else that Buffy the Vampire Slayer loves? Let us know in the comments!
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