Netflix’s well of English-language content is so overwhelmingly deep that US viewers can be forgiven for not watching (or even recognizing) the streamer's dramatic expansion of global offerings in recent years. Not only is Netflix picking up popular series from countries around the world, it's also signing production deals for original series of their own in many foreign markets. Given the success of original series like Stranger Things, Sense8, and Black Mirror, it's not surprising that sci-fi content is particularly abundant among the site’s international offerings, with each country’s unique cultural influences offering a fresh spin on the genre.
So, while you're warming up the couch for that July 4th Stranger Things binge-fest, why not travel overseas with one of the streaming service's other quality sci-fi/fantasy series? Listed below are six that are worth your time. (And yes, they're subtitled, but if reading’s not your thing, don’t worry: Netflix has dubbed most in English, as well.)
Premise: In a small town, a search for missing children leads to the discovery of a network of caves that violate the space-time continuum. A troubled teenage boy and the local chief of police are among those attempting to figure out what’s going on as the race against time gets increasingly dire. But the similarities to Stranger Things end there...well, almost. Set across three different timelines (so far), viewers yearning for another hit of 80s nostalgia ought to find something to love about Season 1’s first big plot twist, which sends a character through a time portal to 1986. The series’ second season dropped this week, with a third and final season set to begin production.
Check it out if you like... Stranger Things, obviously. While arguablyndarker than Stranger Things, and certainly a little less kid-focused, Dark is tonally similar enough that it’s a logical next step after you run out of Stranger Things episodes. The series has also been compared to Twin Peaks. Or, if you’ve just finished watching Chernobyl, you might enjoy immediately diving into this for a fictionalized look at the disaster’s aftermath.
Premise: In Season 1 of this critically-acclaimed drama, teenage Simone (Alba August) and her younger brother Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) spend six years living in an underground bunker after toxic downpours begin infecting everyone with a deadly virus. Once they leave the bunker, they team up with other survivors as they tried to track down their father, a scientist working for Apollon, the sinister organization that unleashed the virus. By Season 2 which premiered on May 17, the rain has stopped killing everyone, but Scandinavia is now walled off from the rest of the world, the virus is still on the loose, and Apollon soldiers are after the siblings.
Check it out if you like... Lost or The Walking Dead. The show marries Lost’s flashback-driven narrative structure and creepy scientists with the bleakness of a Walking Dead-style post-apocalyptic universe.
Premise: Set in a dystopia resembling a near-future Brazil, six teenage residents of an overcrowded, impoverished “Inland” begin a rigorous set of tests (known as “The Process”) designed to find the most extraordinary individuals (the test has a pass rate of the titular 3%) . The winners will be allowed entry to “Offshore,” a paradise where their every need will be fulfilled. As the principal characters go through the process, some pass the test, while others are drawn to a mysterious resistance movement bent on exposing the secrets of The Process and Offshore. Now in its third season, this drama has been praised by critics for its strong performances, well-developed characters, and surprisingly immersive universe.
Check it out if you like... the Divergent series or The Hunger Games. This is a little more Orwellian and a lot darker than either of the two film franchises, but if you’re over the age of 16, that may be a welcome tonal shift.
Premise: High schoolers take a field trip to Petra, Jordan (you know, the big pink temple from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). When a few of them wander away from their tour group, they accidentally awaken a supernatural being that follows them home. Back at school, their classmates begin dying, and they realize that the creature they’ve unleashed has the potential to destroy the world.
Check it out if you like... The Vampire Diaries, Riverdale, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The tried and true combination of dark, gritty mystery and teenage social drama works well tin bringing this Arabian-folklore-inspired tale to life.
Premise: Based on a popular novel by Prayaag Akbar, Leila is set in an imagined near-future world called Aryavarta, where communities in India are deeply stratified and walled off from one another. The protagonist, Shalini (Huma Qureshi), is on a search for her missing daughter, the titular Leila, who was taken from her as a young child. Shalini will navigate a seemingly endless morass of dehumanizing bureaucracy to find her daughter.
Check it out if you like... The Handmaid’s Tale. This universe feels vaguely reminiscent of Gilead, and the series appears to explore some of the same themes of motherhood, religion, and family values, but rather than taking its cues from the Christian bible, Aryavarta is a society founded on a more extreme version of Indian social castes.
Premise: With a literal cast of hundreds, this complex, epic tale of warring tribal factions takes place in and around the mythical land of Arth and its capital city, Arthdal. As tribes begin to become less nomadic and settle into cities, heroes vie for Arthdal’s first kingship, including Tagon (Korean A-lister Jang Dong-gun), a master military strategist, and Eunseom (Song Joong-ki), a strange-looking outsider who’s been prophesied to “bring calamity” to the city.
Check it out if you like... Vikings or Game of Thrones. It may take a few episodes to fully immerse yourself in this incredibly complicated world, but the characters are as compelling, and the gore just as abundant, as in either of these English-language epics.
Jessica Liese has been writing and podcasting about TV since 2012. Follow her on Twitter at @HaymakerHattie.