You've heard the joke a million times: "2020 was the worst episode of Black Mirror ever!" Har dee frickin' har. Black Mirror is no punchline for lowest-effort Twitter gags. Around here, we do not joke about one of the best modern sci-fi classics that has forced is to tape up our web cams, use VPN just to turn on our phone, and lock our Roombas in the basement. Something else that's not funny? No new Black Mirror episodes since 2019! What will we watch now?
Well, I've been secretly watching you from your smart fridge's web cam so I know you'd need some Black Mirror alternatives, which is why I put together this list of shows you should definitely watch next. Most of these are sci-fi, some are anthologies, and some are from Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, but all of them will leave you saying, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"
If you wish Black Mirror episodes were about eight hours long, then you're going to want to check out this miniseries from visionary director Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective). Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star as two lost souls in a dystopian future who join a pharmaceutical experiment for a drug that maps people's minds, resulting in some dream-state trips through surreality when they undergo testing. Though it's not an anthology like Black Mirror, their characters' mental adventures come off as individual stories spanning various movie genres, like a '70s crime film, a fantasy drama, or a spy flick. Plus, like Black Mirror's best episodes, it all wraps up in something relatable -- but it's not nearly as depressing. In fact, it's kind of uplifting? Do Black Mirror fans want that? [Watch on Netflix]
Charlie Brooker's first big scripted project, the five-episode miniseries Dead Set, is essentially one long episode of Black Mirror. Satirizing England's obsession with reality television and blending it with the zombie craze of the late 2000s, Brooker unleashed a zombie apocalypse as seen through the eyes of contestants during a season of Big Brother; while the rest of the world burned down and ran from bitey monstrosities, the Big Brother contestants were none the wiser, locked up in the safety of the house... for a little while, at least. Dead Set has Brooker's trademark mix of social commentary, violence, and absurdity. The series was recently remade as a Netflix Brazil original called Reality Z, too. [Watch on Netflix]
Some watch Black Mirror for the cool technology, some watch for the perverse sense of humor. But let's not forget about the rush you get from starting every new episode, not knowing what's coming. The anthology format and loose sense of tone gives Black Mirror the feeling of opening up a grab-bag every time you start an episode. The same is true of HBO's anthology Room 104, which takes the mystery of Black Mirror and, if you can believe it, ramps it up a few more notches. The half-hour series from Mark Duplass takes place, in some capacity, in the same hotel room in each episode. That's the only rule. Some episodes are absurd comedy, some are thoughtful emotional journeys, some are full of tense horror! But all are weird, and Duplass is able to attract big-name and up-and-coming guest stars for some really twisted drop-ins. [Watch on HBO Max]
The success of the primarily British production of Black Mirror opened the doors for other British series to embrace the quirky anthology format, and one of the best is this 2014 oddball series. Inside No. 9 was created by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, a pair of sketch comedy pros who acted in and wrote The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville, and though its primary focus is on comedy, its unexpected turns and wide variety of tones will really remind you of Black Mirror. Like Room 104, which clearly borrowed from the basis of Inside No. 9's concept, the only common thread between episodes is that each story is set in an apartment or house with a No. 9 address. Beyond that, anything goes, including a Season 1 episode that features zero dialogue but is as zany as anything else out there. Overall, there's a bit more consistency in quality among episodes than Black Mirror, especially Black Mirror's recent seasons (sorry, it's true!), but since you can hop around, if you want to get straight to the good stuff, watch Season 2's "The 12 Days of Christine," a horror-tinged punch-in-the-face that's the most reminiscent of Black Mirror at its best. [Watch on Hulu, BritBox, HBO Max]
At times, Black Mirror finds aching humanity beneath its perverse takes on techno-horror, leaving viewers both fascinated and, frankly, a little bummed. There's a similar feeling to Amazon's Tales From the Loop, another sci-fi anthology series that shares a unique world with all of its episodes. Set in an alternate universe that I can only describe as 1980s pastoral steampunk, the stories connect to a mysterious underground lab known as The Loop, which practices experimental physics in Mercer, Ohio. Though robots abound, Tales From the Loop uses its beautiful science-fiction background to highlight the emotion of the human experience, covering topics such as death, aging, and loneliness in a stirring way. Though some characters have their own overarching stories throughout the season, it was designed so that episodes can be watched in any order. [Watch on Amazon Prime | TV Guide review]
Though there is some debate about what episode of Black Mirror is the best, Season 3's "San Junipero" (sing it with me, "Ooooh heaven is a place on Earth!") is frequently atop any sane person's rankings. The love story centered around a digital afterlife where you get to relive your best life is the rare episode of Black Mirror that will make the sides of your mouth curve upwards, with its bizarre technology connecting it to the rest of the series. All of that is at the heart of Upload, Greg Daniels' sci-fi comedy about a young man who is nearly killed by a self-driving vehicle and, before he can die, has his consciousness uploaded into Lake View, a posh post-life community that allows its population to live a virtual life while also still interacting with the living. There's a heavy dose of very cool technology, dark futuristic humor, and secrets, and its subject matter makes it a spiritual successor to "San Junipero." [Watch on Amazon Prime]
If it's science fiction you're looking for, then your best bet is to go to the source, the godfather of sci-fi, Philip K. Dick. In addition to writing the stories that inspired Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall, and The Man in the High Castle, Dick published more than 100 short stories, which serve as the basis for this Amazon limited series. Each of the 10 episodes is based on a story written by Dick, covering several different avenues of sci-fi, from the hardcore super techy stuff to the more philosophical journeys stemming from a simple sci-fi concept. The results aren't entirely consistent, but go with "The Commuter" for a quiet, emotional episode, or "Kill All Others" for something more dystopian and relevant today. [Watch on Amazon Prime]
Remember when YouTube thought it would be the next big streamer and started asking people to BUY a subscription to YouTube Premium? Yeah, that sounds like a perplexing nightmare straight out of Black Mirror, but it actually happened! One of the better series to come out of the company's brief lack of judgment was this obvious Black Mirror rip-off co-created by Jordan Peele and Key & Peele writer Charlie Sanders. If you've seen any of the more sci-fi sketches from Key & Peele, that should give you a sense of the show's tone. The six-episode anthology is set in the city of Weird, which is divided into two halves, one for the rich and one for the poor. That detail isn't essential to the episodes, which tell their own unique tech-centric sci-fi stories with a ton of humor, such as the premiere that accidentally hooks Dylan O'Brien up with Ed O'Neill through a heterosexual dating app glitch, only to find that the two of them start to fall in love with each other. [Watch on YouTube (two episodes available free for sampling), YouTube Premium (complete series)]