The truth is out there and we mean to find it, going far beyond the perils of lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my) and into the realm of aliens, vampires, werewolves, parallel universes, and all things fortean as we binge watch our way through the 10 best supernatural shows on Netflix.
I have loved this genre of TV shows and movies for as long as I can remember, getting out of bed at around 8 or 9 years old, turning the TV on real low and watching the Chiller movies that came on at midnight and ran through the morning hours. Most of the time I was interrupted by a doting parent sending me back to bed, but once in a while I got to watch a movie all the way through — and stayed up all night frightened to pieces over it. Stephen King was my favorite author through my teen and young adult years, and when I was old enough to go to the movies with friends it was always a scary one. We always sat in the front rows. The Exorcist was an absolutely harrowing experience from that vantage point (I slept with a cross for weeks following).
Yet, I always went back for more. When a new series came out on Fox in the 1990s, I couldn’t wait to sample it, and it was love at first site: The X-Files. For seven solid seasons (yes, there were two more, but . . . ) Scully and Mulder chased down aliens, spirits, demons, and worse. While there were rarely any solid conclusions or real answers, which was pretty much the theme of the show, it made us want to believe and just a little bit more able to believe that there was something awaiting us in the dark, or wherever we might be alone. And also showed us that, yes, the neighbors might really be as weird as them seem.
The X-Files is undoubtedly the elder sibling of most supernatural-themed TV series that followed it, for there is always that family resemblance. Each has its own identity, but they all take after The X-Files in some way, maybe in the pairing of the characters or the link to the government. What it is will vary from series to series but there is always something that reminds you of the Scully and Mulder.
Netflix has a great collection of movies and among their many genres, supernatural TV shows and movies is a very strong category for them. If you aren’t a member already, sign up today and start watching these and other series you’ve been missing.
Of course you know that The X-Files was not the first only the first to run for so many seasons. Scully and Mulder had a predecessor to which their producer paid fair tribute all the way up to the 2016 reboot of the series. And before that precious one-season wonder, well, who didn’t chase down old reruns of The Twilight Zone whenever one could be found?
If you love supernatural TV, any of the shows in this list can satisfy your thirst for something new or different in the genre. Read the brief introductions, check out the links to Netflix and IMDB, and see what you think. There’s also a link in each piece for the newer shows to an article that explains how it takes after its elder sibling.
There is no better way to begin our list than with the series named after the genre, Supernatural. This popular series is ready to begin its 12th season in 2016. It tells the story of two brothers who follow in the footsteps of their father, a hunter of monsters, demons, ghosts, and all sorts of supernatural phenomena who taught his sons the tools of the trade. Often compared to the X-Files, Supernatural has outlasted its older sibling by two seasons so far; the first ten seasons are available on Netflix.
A team of five gifted people known as Alphas work for the Department of Defense to solve crimes committed by non-aligned but similarly gifted people using their talents for evil. A noted psychiatrist helps the Alphas learn to control and use their powers for good. While that might sound a little like X-Men or something like it, the show’s co-producer says, “the show is probably closer to The Mentalist or The X-Files in its pitch.” Both seasons are now on Netflix.
A spin-off of Doctor Who, Torchwood (the name is an anagram of “Doctor Who”) is the name of a covert agency involved in the investigation of alien activity on earth. Their role is to protect Earth from these aliens and other supernatural threats. You can decide for yourself if Torchwood succeeds at becoming “a British X-Files” as you watch all four seasons on Netflix.
4. Warehouse 13
Two secret service agents are assigned to Warehouse 13, a government storehouse for supernatural artifacts. The agents go on missions to retrieve missing artifacts or to investigate reports of new ones that have surfaced. It will remind you of Friday the 13th: The Series and the Librarian movies, but it has a different twist that makes it well worth watching. Maureen Ryan of The Chicago Tribune calls it, “surprisingly satisfying, especially if you’re in the mood for a light procedural with a dash of “X-Files” spookiness.” Catch season 3 on Netflix.
A misguided soul at Newsweek wrote in 2009 that, “Fringe is 10 million times better than The X-Files.” An ongoing IMDB fan poll proves her wrong, but Fringe is definitely an excellent supernatural show. The FBI team in Fringe gets to work with a genuine real-life mad scientist and his son. Agents in the Fringe Division get involved with parallel universes, transhumanism, and other fields on the far edge, or fringe, of scientific research. You can enjoy all five seasons on Netflix.
If the X-Files is not the daddy of all other contemporary supernatural series, it is at least the older, more capable, and far more popular sibling in whose shadow they all follow. Scully and Mulder – the names themselves make you ready for a binge session of at least half a dozen episodes like Squeeze, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, Piper Maru, Travelers, Duane Barry, and Max.
Debuting in 1993 and ending in 2002, for more than a decade fans begged Chris Carter to bring it back. In 2015, a six-episode limited series reboot was delivered and there is hope for another in 2016. The nine original seasons of this standard-setting show are on Netflix, and the first seven are really great. Go ahead and watch season eight even though Mulder is rarely there. In season nine he returns but for some of us the end of the series was rather unsatisfying so we just stick to the first seven seasons when we binge it.
7. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
In the 2015 series reboot of The X-Files,the series’ creator and producer, Chris Carter, paid tribute to Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which in this family of supernatural series might be considered the X-Files’ much older and under-appreciated cousin. In The X-Files’ original run, Kolchak’s Darren McGavin appeared in two episodes Arthur Dales, a former FBI agent who more or less invented the X-Files unit in the 1950s.
A lot of people today remember him best as the dad in A Christmas Story (1983), but years before that Darren McGavin made a mark on the hearts and minds of fans of this genre as Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In its brief solitary season (1974), Independent News Service reporter Carl Kolchak crossed paths with The Ripper, The Werewolf, The Energy Eater, The Zombie and many far more terrifying than these in 20 episodes you just have to see to appreciate.
8. The Twilight Zone
The granddaddy of them all, Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone all but certainly inspired every other show here at least in part. How many of us know its opening narration by heart? That’s a trick question. Probably none of us do because it changed in every season but the best remembered is probably from season two:
“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”
Can’t-miss episodes of this classic TV standard include Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Little Girl Lost, To Serve Man, and The Midnight Sun. For all the influence this series has had on us and our culture, it’s hard to believe it ran for only five seasons. You can catch four of them on Netflix.
And let’s not forget the little ones. R. L. Stine has been gently but thoroughly scaring kids for years, and they love him for it:
If only Goosebumps had been around when I was a child! An anthology series that might feel a little like The Twilight Zone for kids, R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps can frighten the bejeebers out of 5 to 7 year olds. Be sure they don’t miss The Haunted Mask, Stay Out of the Basement, and You Can’t Scare Me! Oh, and sit in the room with them when they watch. You’ll love it, too — I know I did.
10. The Haunting Hour
When they start to tell you Goosebumps is for little kids, introduce them to R. L. Stine’s series for 7 to 11 year olds, The Haunting Hour. Top episodes include Season 1’s two-parter Scary Mary, which plays off the Bloody Mary urban legend. Another good one is Season 3’s Funhouse.
Time to Binge!
O.K., my fellow fans of supernatural TV, now it’s time to go pop up some popcorn, grab your remote, and start enjoying some of the deliciously frightening, mind-bending, and perception-altering episodes of these 10 Best Supernatural Shows on Netflix. Of course, they’re fun to share with someone else on a Saturday afternoon, but you simply can’t beat watching them alone in the dark. Let us know some of your fave episodes in the comments!