Ever since the release of The Last Jedi earlier this month, the whole world has gone Star Wars crazy. Everyone and their mother is discussing the plot twists, the highs and lows, and Kylo Ren‘s shirtless scene. Seriously though. More of that in Episode IV please, J.J. Abrams! ANYWAY. The point is, it’s pretty much impossible to escape either Star Wars adoration or hatred at the moment. It’s like it’s the only sci-fi franchise that’s ever existed. We can’t imagine a time when Twitter won’t be flooded with memes, complaints, or cute pictures of Porgs.
Thing is, there are a ton of other amazing sci-fi franchises that don’t get nearly as much attention as the Star Wars saga. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything Jedi-related and still kind of hope the Force will awaken within me. However, it’s time to show some other top-notch space operas some love. Has everyone totally forgotten about Star Trek? What about Red Dwarf, the best space comedy series ever made? And don’t even get the Firefly fandom started on the ridiculous lack of love for their franchise. If you’re looking for a sci-fi show or movie to watch that is totally Skywalker-free, there are loads of options out there for you to choose from.
Joss Whedon‘s Space Western drama series Firefly was tragically short-lived. The show focuses on the crew of the spaceship “Serenity,” a motley bunch who are living in the aftermath of a future civil war. Some of them were actually on the losing side – awkward – and are consequently hiding out in a far-away frontier. Despite quickly gaining a cult following, Firefly was canceled after just one season. The subsequent outcry led to the release of movie sequel, Serenity. Both are top-quality pieces of sci-fi viewing, and the show is incredibly easy to binge-watch. For comic-book fans out there, Serenity has a huge extended universe of comic mini-series to keep you going after there’s nothing left to watch.
The Stargate franchise first got going back in 1994 with the release of the series’ titular movie. It focuses on an Einstein-Rosen bridge device that basically lets you travel anywhere in the universe in a matter of seconds. Pretty cool, huh? Following the success of the movie, the iconic series Stargate: SG-1 was released, and it’s definitely worth a watch. It ran for over a decade, and even after it concluded in 2007, the franchise just kept on going. TV shows Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe both ran into the late 2000s and early 2010s, and a brand new prequel web series is being released in 2018. This franchise has a lot of life left in it yet!
14. Red Dwarf
There aren’t exactly many space comedy series out there, but Red Dwarf is still the best thing to come out of this limited genre. It originally ran for a decade in the late 1980s and 1990s, but was brought back in 2012 and is still going strong. The show focusses on the hapless crew of the eponymous mining spacecraft, Red Dwarf, who are stuck with each other in the middle of deep space. They get into numerous scrapes and hilarious situations but always manage to save themselves in the end. The main character of the series, Dave Lister, is a bum originally from 22nd-century Liverpool. His constant attempts to get back to his home planet are always thwarted, and he’s therefore stuck on the ship with a hologram of his former co-worker, a humanoid cat, and a robot. It’s a recipe for disaster that’s definitely worth a watch.
13. Doctor Who
This BBC drama about a time-traveling alien’s adventures in space has been around for even longer than Star Wars. These days, most people only really watch the rebooted series and totally forget about every episode from 1963 to 2005. However, some of the classics are just as entertaining as the reboot (if only for the hilariously bad special effects and alien costumes). The show is also notable for its most recent casting choice: the titular Doctor is FINALLY going to be played by a woman! All you have to do to prepare for Jodie Whittaker‘s soon-to-be-iconic turn in the show is catch up on over 50 years of previous programs. It’s totally doable… Right? Even if you don’t want to go THAT far back, David Tennant‘s Tenth Doctor is always worth a watch. Warning: his last episode may give you many feels.
12. Battlestar Galactica
When you talk about Battlestar Galactica, even the most ardent sci-fi fans think you’re just referring to the popular mid-2000s series. However, that series was actually a reboot of a franchise that’s been going since the late 1970s! The general concept of Battlestar has remained fairly consistent: a load of human colonies in deep space are threatened by some aliens, and a big war ensues. This doesn’t go very well for us humans, and the Battlestar Galactica is the only ship left standing. The survivors thus decided to go and search for their fabled home planet, Earth. It’s a really solid franchise that doesn’t get nearly enough love.
11. Blade Runner
Interest in the Blade Runner franchise was revived a bit this year thanks to the release of the long-awaited sequel to the original 1982. For those not in the know, it turns out playing Han Solo Star Wars wasn’t Harrison Ford‘s only space-based role! He also played the main character in this neo-noir space classic and returned for its sequel, Blade Runner: 2049. The franchise has always divided opinion: people either think it’s super lame, or the best cult-classic ever created. The sequel’s reception was equally mixed. Despite getting mostly positive reviews, it failed to meet any of its box office targets. Don’t let that put you off, though: these films are a must-watch for any self-respecting sci-fi fan.
10. Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes franchise has been a consistent sci-fi favorite since the late 1960s. The original movie was hailed as groundbreaking due to the huge leaps it made in the development of prosthetics. The ape masks may look pretty dodgy by modern standards, but they’ve made great strides since then! This original hit spawned four commercially successful sequels and two TV series – it must have done something right! The new millennium has spawned two separate reboots of the franchise – one by Tim Burton in 2001, and the better known Apes trilogy released from 2014 to 2017. The franchise is well-regarded for its treatment of the issues of race, animal rights, and war, and it features some generally high-quality storytelling.
9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started life as a radio comedy broadcast all the way back in 1978. However, this original program went on to spawn books, comics, a TV series, and a 2005 movie starring Martin Freeman. The series’ good humor and likable characters have made it a firm favorite in the sci-fi world. Every incarnation follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a pretty inept Englishman who has to leave Earth after it’s destroyed by aliens. He meets up with various aliens, robots, and other humans along the way — all of whom mildly annoy him. The movie is a good starting point for anyone looking to get into the series: while it diverges a lot from the plot of the radio play and books, it’s a nice introduction to all of the characters. Plus, it stars Zooey Deschanel. What’s not to love?
8. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
This is probably the second most talked about sci-fi franchise in the world now, after Star Wars. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown from being a couple of good-enough superhero movies to a massive cultural phenomenon. The series just keeps growing and growing with more characters being added each year. It would be easy for a franchise this massive to get a bit lost and put out sub-par films just to rake in money. In fact, that’s kind of what we all expected to happen. However, recent releases like Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok have proved us wrong. The latter especially is such a good film in its own right. With the Black Panther movie on the horizon and Avengers: Infinity War dropping next year, we’re excited to see where the series goes next.
Ridley Scott‘s 1979 horror/sci-fi flick Alien received pretty universal critical acclaim. It raked in millions at the box office, skyrocketed Sigourney Weaver‘s career, and gave millions of people nightmares about aliens bursting from their stomachs. It also spawned a huge media empire, with numerous sequels, prequels, novels, and video games appearing over the years. Now, full disclosure: some releases in the Alien franchise are really, really bad. This year’s Alien: Covenant was hugely polarizing, and some of the video games are basically a hunk of junk. However, it’s not all bad. Prometheus has strong acting from Michael Fassbender, and the original sequels are great.
6. Babylon 5
Babylon 5 was an iconic sci-fi show of the 1990s. It even described itself as being “Light Years ahead of anything else on television,” and it wasn’t entirely wrong! This popular space opera charts various adventures and escapades aboard the 23rd-century space station Babylon 5. The ship is mainly used for trade and diplomatic purposes, meaning a fair few fights crop up between humans and our alien neighbors. The show puts a huge emphasis on character development and is basically a tasteful soap opera set in space. It was so popular that it inspired numerous spinoffs, movies, and novels. There’s even a brand new movie reboot in the works! Now’s the perfect time to give the original show a watch.
5. Jurassic Park
Sure, most people reading this have probably already seen at least the original Jurassic Park, but I just wanted to remind you all how freaking good this series is! It’s one of the highest-grossing movie franchises ever, raking in $5 billion before the year 2000. The series has received even more attention than usual over the past few years thanks to the release of the Chris Pratt-led reboot. Still, it’s not all about the modern remakes – the classics are still worth a watch. The second film in the series, The Lost World, is actually pretty dark for a film about dinosaurs, and Jurassic Park III isn’t entirely awful. They’ll keep you going until the next movie, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is released next year.
V is probably the least-known franchise on this list. It’s a pretty freaky and dark show about a load of genocidal aliens – The Vistors – who come to Earth to take over. Some of us humans aren’t exactly cool with that and become resistance fighters; others decide to collaborate with the aliens to take down their own society. Man, people suck. Three original seasons aired on NBC between 1983 and 1985, and they were pretty popular. They didn’t shy away from a bit of gore from time to time, gaining a pretty big fan base. In 2009, ABC decided to bring the show back for a reboot. However, it simply couldn’t live up to the original and was canceled after two short seasons. If alien warfare is your thing, give this franchise a try.
Now is the best time to catch up on the previous installments of this horror/sci-fi franchise: there’s a new sequel being released next year! The Predator series focuses on a seriously creepy race of alien creatures that are fond of hunting humans for sport. The first film was an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic that had a thin plot but plenty of action. A few sequels have been made over the years, including two crossover movies with the Alien franchise. It’s not exactly the most intellectual or complicated series in the world, but the titular Predator is creepy as hell. Let’s see what this new film brings!
4. Star Trek
Come on, everybody’s heard of Star Trek. You’ve probably even confused it with Star Wars at some point in your life! However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the two are boringly similar. The Star Trek franchise is so extensive and varied that you’ll never get sick of watching it. The basic premise always remains the same: a crew on a spaceship go and explore things. However, each reboot, remake, or sequel has its own individual charm. If you want to laugh at William Shatner‘s overacting, the Original Series is for you. If you want to see Patrick Stewart being an absolute badass, give Star Trek: The Next Generation a try. For the more cinematically inclined viewer, the recent reboot starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto is actually pretty decent. There are so many options! Go give Star Trek some love!
3. Mad Max
Okay, calling Mad Max a pure sci-fi franchise is a bit tenuous. It’s more post-apocalyptic and dystopian than anything else. However, we’ve included it on this list anyway because a) it involves sci-fi-ish technology and b) it’s super cool. The original Mad Max films starred Mel Gibson in the title role and followed his exploits in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. The movies were popular, even if critics were undecided about their merits, and in 2015 the series got a reboot. To be honest, THIS is the Mad Max we were waiting for. It may star Tom Hardy in the title role, but it’s still basically a feminist masterpiece. Charlize Theron‘s character Furiosa is central to the plot and is also a total badass. We need more movies to be made that focus entirely on her. Sci-fi needs more strong female characters!