We spend a lot of time watching post-apocalyptic TV series here at Post Apocalyptic Media. Probably more than you. Nothing personal.
So we polled several of our writers to list their top 5 favorite post-apocalyptic TV series of all time. Fight us about it in the comments.
#1 Falling Skies
By the start of Falling Skies, mankind has already lost the war with the aliens. What remains of humanity is being hunted like rats. This is the story of the very last humans and their fight for survival against an intergalactic empire.
Steven Spielberg is an executive producer on this series, and I’m a huge fan of his work. One of the most prolific movie directors of all time, Spielberg has outdone himself with TV series including his most famous work, the HBO series Band of Brothers. If you want a great story, special effects, good cliffhangers and a satisfying conclusion, Falling Skies has got you covered. It delighted me from start to finish and that is why I name it the best post-apocalyptic series of all time.
#2 Battlestar Galactica
Another tale of humanity being hunted to extinction by a technologically superior adversary, Battlestar Galactica follows the remains of humanity as robots seek to destroy them. The politics, intrigue, mystery, and action are all superb. Space battles have never felt so real. Everything about BSG feels genuine. And the opponents truly are a terrifying enemy, more than willing to wipe out their own creators. The robots are held back only by their desire to emulate the humans and by their devotion to God.
Battlestar was a modern reboot of a classic series, and boy is it exciting. And moving. The soundtrack is excellent, as is the acting. This one had great mainstream appeal as well. This series would likely have taken the top spot if not for a series finale that I very much did not like. You would be better off stopping just one episode shy of the end and making up your own resolution.
#3 Sarah Connor Chronicles
Unlike every other series in this list, Sarah Connor Chronicles ended incomplete. Despite that glaring drawback, this Terminator story is just insanely entertaining.
This series covers the early “childhood” of Skynet and of competing AI. The mysteries of this show may never be solved, but the journey is just too good for anyone to pass up. Especially those who, like me, appreciate the “humanity being hunted to extinction by a technologically superior adversary” motif.
#4 Adventure Time
Breaking the mold in more ways than one is the children’s show Adventure Time. Yes, it’s for kids. Yes, this is an adult website. So why would Adventure Time be on the list? Because it’s just that good.
While early seasons of this show certainly catered to the young, there is plenty for adults to enjoy. But the show actually ages with the original audience, and by the final season is dealing with fully adult themes and philosophy. It is truly a masterpiece that builds and develops over the whole story. And the nuclear “Mushroom War” features prominently, setting events in motion that create the dangerous world that Finn “the Human” and his dog Jake go questing in.
#5 Z Nation
If you think all zombie shows are the same – think again. There is nothing on television like Z Nation. For starters, the zombies are actually fast and clever, not lumbering oafs. But formidable zombies isn’t what makes Z Nation great. It’s the story arc.
Not content to stay in one place, Z Nation builds and evolves, setting up a post-apocalyptic world full of interesting a believable characters. It also mixes the realism with a kind of goofiness that can be immersion breaking. But how important is immersion anyway? More important than seeing a group of Abe Lincoln cosplaying zombies being crushed by a giant wheel of cheese? Maybe. But the finer parts of this series and the character development make this easy to see past. As an added benefit, I appreciate the emphasis on weed smoking – which I find suspiciously lacking from other end-of-the-world fare. Smoke em if you got em!
Into the Badlands
The Walking Dead
The Last Ship
Sure, it’s more of a space western, but Firefly is unarguably post-apocalyptic and just a work of art in and of itself. I enjoyed so many aspects of this show from the wardrobe to the unique environment to the plot, but it was the characters that really stuck with me after all these years.
#2 The Colony (Reality show)
Not to be confused with the TV show with Josh “Sawyer” Holloway, or the movie, or the other movie, or the other TV show, this reality TV version bearing the “Colony” name was such a great mix of Survivor and MacGyver, complete with a bunch of stuff they can’t do on TV anymore, like hire a band of raiders to kidnap contestants.
#3 The Last Man on Earth
I’m a sucker for a comedy that is barely funny to most people, and that’s this show to a tee. Obscure post-apocalyptic humor is the best humor.
#4 The 100
I absolutely loved the first couple seasons of this show. The costumes and wardrobe blew me away (Grounders ftw!), the main plot was brilliant, but it got too off-track in later seasons for me to rank it much higher on my list.
This one always had Jericho/The Postman vibes, which are both plusses in my book.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Fear The Walking Dead
#1 Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is my favorite post-apocalyptic TV series, hands-down. I was in love with that series when it aired, and it’s still my measuring stick for great apocalyptic series ever since. It’s among my Top 5 favorite TV series of all time, in fact. Although I will always be angry about the very last episode and some plots that were never explained, the rest of the series aside from that part was phenomenal. It had plot twists that I wasn’t expecting, and it really covered the desperation, angst, and hardship that you endure in an apocalyptic world. The emotions were raw and authentic, and the space battles were among the best done. The mythology was intricate and well explored, and the characters grew and changed over time. There were mysteries I was always theorizing about and that kept me guessing until the very end.
Lost is my second-favorite post-apocalyptic show and second-favorite TV series too. Although not technically post-apocalyptic, it essentially was just that for the survivors. They were forced to find a way to survive on their own, as they lived through their own personal apocalypse. I loved it for the same reasons I loved BSG: three-dimensional characters, mysteries that kept me guessing, and a raw look at human emotion. There were more filler episodes in Lost because it had regular-length seasons, but that’s OK. I was so obsessed with the show at the time that I made thematic music videos about the characters and I wrote blogs about my theories. Back in 2008 I wrote a “Top 10 Most Annoying Lost Moments” story that kind of went viral, haha, and was featured on the front page of “Digg” at the time. I thought the ending was beautifully done and tied the series together.
#3 The Leftovers
The Leftovers gets third place. It’s apocalyptic in the sense that it covers a world where 2% of the population just disappears. The world doesn’t fall apart like in most apocalyptic tales, but it still explores what happens after a huge paradigm shift takes place. It’s a beautifully woven story with intricate plotlines, well-developed characters, and intense moments. I loved the soundtrack that went with the series too, and it was wrapped up perfectly.
#4 The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead gets fourth place. I struggled a bit with placing it ahead of Leftovers, since it’s covered so many more seasons. The show has spawned two spinoffs and it’s been on forever. The first couple of seasons were groundbreaking television. It hit that apocalyptic feel perfectly and it explored zombies in a way that had never been done before. It wasn’t campy like so many zombie series before it, but took things seriously in a way that was unexpected for me. I didn’t love the love triangle that dominated the beginning of the show, but the acting was top-notch and the storyline was compelling. Sometimes it’s lost its way a bit since then, but I still enjoy watching the series.
Jericho is my fifth favorite because it hit the post-apocalyptic theme perfectly. I’ll never forget how intense that first episode was, as we watched nuclear bombs over the horizon. I was always so curious about what Hawkins was up to, and Jake Green was the leader that you couldn’t help but support. Funny that Robert Hawkins’ actor, Lennie James, ended up on another apocalyptic series as another leading character.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Umbrella Academy