The 7 Most Bone-Chilling Television Shows Set In The Future

Terrifying futuristic sci-fi shows include 12 Monkeys, The Expanse, and Altered Carbon.

By TeeJay Small | Published

The medium of film and television has allowed us to peer into the terrifying world of what-ifs through an audio-visual lens like never before. While many TV shows, such as The Walking Dead and The Last of Us portray the dystopian post-apocalyptic world in a modern context, other shows, such as Continuum, portray the world as it could be in the distant future. Here are seven of the scariest and most intense television shows set in the future.

7. 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys was adapted for television by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, and loosely follows the 1995 Brad Pitt film of the same title. The science fiction series premiered on the Scyfy network in 2015, and takes place in the not-so-distant future of 2043. In the show, a scavenger utilizes dangerous and untested sci-fi technology to travel back in time to prevent a growing plague.

The series starred Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, and Emily Hampshire in 3 leading roles reimagining the same characters that Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Madeleine Stowe played in the original film. 12 Monkeys concluded its run in 2018 with a staggering 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for its fourth and final season.

6. The Expanse

Another Syfy channel original, The Expanse, centers on human colonizers in space hundreds of years in the future. The human inhabitants of Mars have become an independent military power, threatening an intergalactic war against Earth in a clear allegory for real-world geopolitics and modern military conflicts. All of this plays out in the exquisite world-building of the acclaimed series, as the main plot follows a detective hot on the trail of uncovering the greatest conspiracy in the history of mankind.

After running three seasons on Scyfy before pivoting to Amazon Prime Video, The Expanse was eventually canceled for good following the conclusion of its sixth season. While there are currently no talks of reviving the show for another outing at this time, many fans continue to hope for another chapter in the saga.

5. The 100

The 100 ran for seven seasons on The CW before coming to a close in 2020. The series, which takes place in the distant year of 2149, follows a group of 100 juvenile prisoners who venture back into the long-abandoned planet Earth as guinea pigs for the planet’s habitability. Facing the terrifying fate of unknown beasts and monsters, harsh weather conditions, and nuclear winter, these teens must work together to ensure the continued future of humanity or die trying.

The series is loosely based on a novel of the same name, written by Kass Morgan, and features a much better stab at replicating post-apocalyptic conditions of Earth than films such as After Earth starring Will Smith. All seven seasons of The 100 are currently available to stream on Netflix.

4. Altered Carbon

Another book adaptation, Altered Carbon, aired for two seasons on Netflix, concluding with an anime film set in the same universe as the show. The cyberpunk series stars The Suicide Squad‘s Joel Kinnaman as a host body for the consciousness of a grizzled former soldier turned investigator, who is released from prison in order to assist with an ongoing investigation.

Altered Carbon takes place in a world where human consciousness can be downloaded into avatars, allowing Anthony Mackie to step into the second season as the new host body for Kinnaman’s character while retaining Kinnaman in the cast to portray the character through flashbacks. The series was canceled after two seasons but is still available to stream alongside the anime film, Altered Carbon: Reseleeved on Netflix.

3. Westworld

Westworld premiered on HBO back in 2016 with the highest watch numbers for a premiere season in the premium network’s history. The dystopian Western sci-fi series is based on the 1973 film of the same name, written and directed by Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton and its 1976 sequel, Futureworld.

Westworld takes place in the 2050s, in which an enormous corporation maintains a number of immersive theme-park experiences featuring humanoid robots indistinguishable from real people. While living out their lives through pre-scripted narratives, the automated inhabitants of the park are frequently harassed, assaulted, or killed by the park’s wealthy patrons. The series originally had plans to produce a fifth and final season, though Warner-Discover CEO David Zaslav canceled the program in November of 2022, citing production costs and dipping viewership.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale

best dystopian movies

Premiering on Hulu in 2017, The Handmaid’s Tale adapts the events of the 1985 literary masterpiece of the same name, written by Margaret Atwood. The dystopian series takes place in a distant future where dropping fertility rates threaten to collapse society as we know it, turning large portions of the United States and Canada into a fascist theocratic police state following a border-shaping civil war.

The series stars Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss and features a number of intense themes, such as women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and the invasive claws of an imposing government. The Handmaid’s Tale concluded its fifth season in November 2022, with news that the upcoming sixth season would be its last.

1. Black Mirror

Black Mirror is an anthology series developed for Netflix by British writer-producer Charlie Brooker, focusing on a number of dystopian possibilities stemming from modern society’s increasing reliance on screens and technology. The series features a number of huge A-list stars who each appear for single-episode sequences, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Jon Hamm, Jesse Plemons, Miley Cyrus, and Daniel Kaluuya.

Black Mirror‘s sixth season was recently announced with a teaser trailer on Youtube and is set to arrive on the streamer next month. The teaser features a glimpse at some new big names joining the illustrious cast, including Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Atlanta and Deadpool 2‘s Zazie Beetz.