Life

These dystopian TV shows will give you serious end of the world vibes

Posted by
Lauren Geall
Published
The Handmaid's Tale

Fill yourself with existential dread with this selection of stand-out dystopian TV shows. 

There’s a unique kind of horror which comes from watching a gripping dystopian TV series or film. Instead of the blood-splashed, monster-filled fear fest of a classic horror movie, the dystopia is much subtler in its terror: and that’s exactly what makes them so scary.

The opposite of utopia, dystopia is a fictional state or society in which things are going wrong: whether it’s extreme injustice at the hands of a totalitarian state, or societal breakdown as a result of climate change, most people will be suffering. Some worlds may be post-apocalyptic or futuristic, but the core of the issue is the same: it’s all going downhill.

It’s no secret why dystopia is such a popular genre nowadays. With the climate crisis threatening the future of the planet, and abortion bans becoming commonplace in states across the US, the prospect of dystopia has become more real and frightening than ever. 

Dystopian TV series and films are (obviously) not an easy watch – they’re a stark reminder of the darkest depths of humanity – but that’s probably what makes them so popular. Just like with true crime, we’re attracted to the extremes of darkness for often inexplicable reasons: it’s gripping, dramatic and downright addictive. 

You may also like

16 powerful dystopian novels that every woman should read

So, without further ado, here’s our pick of the best dystopian films and TV shows out there at the moment. Just don’t blame us when you lose some of your faith in humanity.  

The best dystopian TV shows

  • The Handmaid’s Tale

    Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale
    Best dystopian TV shows: Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale

    The HBO adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a must-watch for any budding dystopian fan. Based in a futuristic, highly-religious United States in which fertile women are stripped of their rights and forced to bear children for the families of the elite, The Handmaid’s Tale follows one woman called June (Elisabeth Moss) as she fights to survive. You can read Stylist’s take on The Handmaid’s Tale here.

    All three seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale are now available to buy on Amazon.

  • Black Mirror

    Black Mirror
    Best dystopian TV shows: Black Mirror

    Each episode of Black Mirror taps into a collective unease or anxiety we as a society share in the modern world. Charlie Brooker’s futuristic series has tackled everything from social media to artificial intelligence across its five seasons. You can read Stylist’s take on Black Mirror here.

    All five seasons of Black Mirror are now available to stream on Netflix.

  • The Society

    The Society
    Best dystopian TV shows: Kathryn Newton and Jacques Colimon in The Society

    Netflix’s original series The Society is such a gripping watch that we struggled to look away. The series follows a group of teenagers who find themselves transported to an identical version of their New Hampshire town, except for the fact their parents are nowhere to be seen. It’s a Lord of the Flies-esque drama for the 21st century – with a supernatural twist. You can read Stylist’s take on The Society here.

    The first season of The Society is now available to stream on Netflix.

  • Westworld

    Westworld
    Best dystopian TV shows: Westworld

    Westworld portrays a future in which a futuristic amusement park allows visitors to live out their wildest fantasies through artificial intelligence, exploring what happens when life has no consequences. You can read Stylist’s take on Westworld here.

    The first two seasons of Westworld are now available to buy on Amazon.

  • 3%

    3%
    Best dystopian TV shows: Bianca de Souza Mendes Comparato in 3%

    3% is a Brazilian-language drama exclusive to Netflix, set in a post-apocalyptic future where a group of young people are selected to join a privileged “offshore” society separate from the impoverished “inland” group. But there’s a catch: to pass into the 3%, they must face a test of extremely difficult challenges, some of which will put their lives at risk. 

    All three seasons of 3% are now available to stream on Netflix.

  • The Rain

    The Rain
    Best dystopian TV shows: Alba August in The Rain

    The Rain is a Danish-language drama which follows the story of two siblings as they navigate a world devastated by a deadly virus that lives in the rain. Emerging from a bunker six years after the rain first fell, the pair must navigate a world which has been completely transformed by disaster.

    The first two seasons of The Rain are now available to stream on Netflix.

  • Years And Years

    Years and Years
    Best dystopian TV shows: Russell Tovey and Max Baldry in Years and Years

    Years And Years aired recently on the BBC, but if you didn’t catch it, here’s a quick summary. The drama, which follows the story of one central family, spans over 15 years as the world around them rapidly destabilises. This one’s extremely close to the bone, picking on topics, stories and ideas we see in the world today and predicting where we might be headed. You can read Stylist’s take on Years And Years here.

    The first season of Years And Years is now available to buy on Amazon.

Want must-binge culture tips and chic interiors hacks? Sign up for the Stylist Loves Staying In email

Images: Hulu/Netflix/HBO/BBC

Topics

Share this article

Author

Lauren Geall

Recommended by Lauren Geall

Books

The Handmaid’s Tale: the real life events that inspired Margaret Atwood’s dystopian drama

Think Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is fictional? Think again.

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
Books

Elisabeth Moss on why you shouldn't binge watch The Handmaid's Tale

"You may need a second to step back and think about what you’ve seen"

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe
Published
Life

Black Mirror fans just learned why the show is *really* called Black Mirror

And it’s safe to say that they are “beyond shook”…

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
Life

“I watched every episode of Netflix’s The Society in 2 days, and I have a LOT of thoughts”

Set aside some time for bingeing.

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
Published
Life

Five things we can take from the future in Years And Years

The future’s not so bleak after all, phewf

Posted by
Gareth Watkins
Published