The Duffer brothers’ blend of ‘80s nostalgia and Carpenter-esque sci-fi horror came out of nowhere back in 2016. It went from being Netflix’s curious new drama series to a pop culture phenomenon pretty much overnight. The team behind Stranger Things are taking their sweet time with the third season.
This will probably result in a better season of television, so we have to let them take their time, but at the same time, we need something to tweak on. We need more sci-fi mysteries and addictive drama to binge on. So, here are 10 shows to watch if you like Stranger Things.
A lot of the success of Stranger Things can be attributed to the questions it makes its audience ask. Where did Will go? What are the lights in Joyce’s living room trying to communicate to her? What’s the deal with the Upside Down? We keep watching because we want to know the answers to these questions.
This follows the model set by a previous hit sci-fi mystery series produced by J.J. Abrams. The first show to hook millions of people across the world with dozens of questions about the mysterious plot was Lost. A bunch of plane crash survivors find themselves on an exotic remote island filled with polar bears, smoke monsters, and a whole community of other people – so many questions!
9 Black Mirror
As an anthology series, Black Mirror may not have the gripping serialized narrative of Stranger Things, but it does have the creepy sci-fi thrills and the devastating plot twists. The series is created and mostly written by Charlie Brooker, with each episode being set in a startlingly familiar near-future world and focusing on a different kind of technology and how it would impact society.
For example, how would technology that records all your memories break up a marriage? Could robotic bees used to pollinate flowers be hacked and used for evil? These are the questions tackled by today’s answer to The Twilight Zone.
8 Freaks and Geeks
As a high school dramedy set in the ‘80s, Freaks and Geeks is like Stranger Things without the supernatural elements. A bunch of big names got their start on this show: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, Martin Starr, the list goes on. The production was led by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig and Knocked Up director Judd Apatow.
Its blend of humor and drama is pitch-perfect, while its characters and their situations feel more real and identifiable than any other high school show ever made. It’s a crime that this show was canceled after just one season, but at least it has enjoyed a second life as a cult classic.
7 Orphan Black
Tatiana Maslany gives one of the most compelling lead performances in TV history in this creepy science fiction thriller series. She plays a whole bunch of characters, all clones of each other, and the show itself follows one of those clones who assumes another clone’s identity after watching her take her own life.
It only goes deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole after that. With Jordan Peele tackling the surreal idea of doppelgangers in his new movie Us, now is the perfect time to catch up on Orphan Black. The show has five seasons and 50 total episodes, which is substantial yet manageable.
If your favorite elements of Stranger Things are the intriguing story arcs, the long-running mystery threads, and the cliff-hanger endings of every episode, then look no further than Westworld to fill that void in the hiatus. Based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, this show goes much deeper into its premise and gets far more existential than the previous movie adaptation starring Yul Brynner.
It’s a complex story with many different concurrent narrative threads happening at different points in time, but what will keep you hooked is the very human struggle of robots becoming self-aware and contemplating their existence. In our own weird way, we can all relate to that.
5 The OA
This one is on the list because it’s basically the same show, at least at first. It’s a supernatural sci-fi mystery on Netflix in which a blind girl who’s been missing for years suddenly reappears, now with the ability to see and the nickname “The OA.” So, a girl with paranormal powers wanders into town – sound familiar?
But as the series progresses, it becomes something else entirely, mixing in fantasy elements and surprising political commentary. The series got a mixed response from critics, but whether it was positive or negative, it was a very strong reaction, so either way, this show is going to make an impact on you.
4 Rick and Morty
Stranger Things shows us our world contrasted with another parallel dimension, termed “the Upside Down,” but Rick and Morty presents endless parallel dimensions. In case you’ve been living under a rock and have missed Adult Swim’s hit show, it’s about the smartest man in the universe, Rick Sanchez, and his grandson Morty going on intergalactic, interdimensional adventures together.
The show has all the mind-boggling sci-fi concepts and earth-shattering plot twists of Stranger Things, but takes those ideas and story elements even further. There are episodes that will make you ponder the pointlessness of existence and how small we are – but in a good way.
3 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This show is very similar to Stranger Things. It’s set in a small town located above the gates of Hell, and therefore filled with supernatural creatures bent on death and destruction, and it follows a group of teenagers trying to stop them from taking over.
Joss Whedon created the title character of this series to subvert the horror movie cliché of the blonde girl who gets taken out by the villain in the first scene. He created a blonde girl who dated a lot of guys and also defeated the horror movie monsters that came after her. That’s why Buffy Summers is a feminist icon.
2 The X Files
In the first episode of this hit sci-fi drama series, an FBI agent named Dana Scully is assigned to work in the basement with Fox Mulder, the nutjob who believes his sister was abducted by aliens and investigates supernatural crimes. Over the years, Mulder and Scully developed one of the most interesting relationships in the history of television, all told through the lens of science fiction and horror.
The monsters in Stranger Things have a lot in common with those in The X Files. You can’t predict what will happen from episode to episode in The X Files – it’s like The Twilight Zone where the spooky things happen to the same two people every week.
1 Twin Peaks
If you enjoy Stranger Things for its supernatural mysteries affecting the residents of a small town, then check out Twin Peaks immediately. It’s the same sort of thing, with a bunch of people in a sleepy rural town encountering all kinds of ghosts and monsters in the wake of the homecoming queen’s murder.
The series is overflowing with David Lynch’s uniquely surreal vision, as it combines the paranormal with a typical soap opera setup. Twin Peaks also has the occasional moments of humor that help to keep Stranger Things’ characters and situations somewhat grounded. The cinematic influences are different, but the shows are essentially the same.