This world stinks, but until those rich guys succeed with their plans to colonize Mars, we're stuck here. The least we can do for ourselves is escape into fantasy shows that will transport us to lands where doing magic is the norm, dragons can be kept as pets, and jumping between time periods is just another afternoon activity. Our list of recommendations for the best fantasy shows to watch on Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max, and more includes more than just Game of Thrones, the golden child of fantasy programming (but Game of Thrones did make our list, because of course it did).
The following shows will send you to another world and allow you to forget, just for a little bit, about the real world outside your window. At least until you remember that we're still waiting on that adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicle. Until then...
Looking for more recommendations of what to watch next? We have a ton of them! We also have hand-picked selections based on shows you already love, as well as recommendations for Netflix (movies/shows), Amazon Prime Video (movies/shows), Hulu (movies/shows), Disney+ (movies/shows), HBO Max (movies/shows), Apple TV+, and Peacock.
Netflix's big gamble on an animated series based on the popular PC real-time strategy game League of Legends paid off for the streamer, as it went on to become one of Netflix's biggest hits of 2021. You might not know that if you lived in America, as most of the show's noise was made overseas, where it was the No. 1 show in 52 countries at one point. Come see what the rest of the world has already figured out: that Arcane is a gorgeous, tense, and emotional series about two sisters (voiced by Ella Purnell and Hailee Steinfeld) split apart by a class war in a world with burgeoning technology and magic. You don't need to know a lick about League of Legends to enjoy it, because its storytelling and themes are universal (and the animated action is incredible). Season 1 won all nine Annie Awards — the Oscars of animation — that it was nominated for, including best series for adults. This is, quite simply, one of Netflix's greatest triumphs. -Tim Surette
Before Amazon gets to tackling that OTHER adaptation based on well-known fantasy books (the Lord of the Rings TV show will be here this September!), it put out its adaptation of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. It's another massive world with a huge cast of characters trying to fit inside a television show, so it's no surprise it's often compared to the current fantasy series heavyweight, Game of Thrones. The series follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of a female group of sorcerers, who takes four young people on an epic quest to determine which one of them is the reincarnation of the Dragon, an entity who will either save the world from dark forces or destroy it. -Tim Surette
Don't let the memes fool you. The reason so many people were up in arms about the final stretch of Game of Thrones is that the show was mostly excellent up until that point and set an impossibly high bar for fantasy series. The adaptation of George R.R. Martin's book series became a must-watch thanks to its well-crafted characters and elaborate narratives. And by leaning into its spectacle appeal, it became a full-on event series. Set in the fictional realm of Westeros, the drama was always high-stakes; no character was ever safe from violence, sacrifice, or other consequences, and there were surprises aplenty in store for every single person who ever even dreamed of having power. If you somehow missed out on the show that had absolutely everyone talking, now's as good a time as any to figure out why all of your pals ponied up for an HBO subscription for all those years. -Amanda Bell
One of the reasons The Witcher was such a divisive show when it premiered on Netflix was because it isn't the type of sexy, spectacle fantasy that mainstream audiences found so appealing in Game of Thrones. The Witcher is very much classic high fantasy, complete with quests, strange monsters, and a world in which humans may be the dominant species but are far from the only one. The story, about a mutant monster hunter for hire, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), still tackles important issues -- including racism, socioeconomic oppression, and war -- but wraps everything up in a familiar, and somewhat nostalgic, traditional fantasy TV show framework. As a result, The Witcher may not appeal to everyone (or even to everyone who played the video games), but it's sure to please die-hard fans of the genre. And while the Netflix hit does deliver delightful (and sometimes gruesome) monster-of-the-week stories, the overarching narrative of a prophecy that binds Geralt to a young princess, Ciri (Freya Allan) -- and Geralt's staunch resistance to give in to his own destiny -- gives the show a narrative hook that will leave you wanting to toss a coin to The Witcher. -Sadie Gennis
There are so many ways that Netflix's prequel to the seminal 1982 film The Dark Crystal could have gone wrong, but The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance managed to avoid them all. The temptation to turn the dark children's fantasy film into a CGI extravaganza must have been strong, but common sense ruled and Age of Resistance honored Jim Henson's puppeteering and practical effects for a series that truly feels like an extension of the classic nearly four decades later. The somewhat surprising tone -- it might be the first "scary" movie your kid watches -- remains in this series, as an intricate but accessible plot explores Thra and its characters before the events of the film. But the highlight once again is the imagination displayed in the gorgeous world and fantastical creatures. This one's an engaging eye-popper that's truly different from anything else on TV. -Tim Surette
Amazon and the BBC's adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's beloved fantasy-comedy novel Good Omensis about a demon and an angel who team up to prevent the Antichrist from bringing about the end of the world because they've grown rather fond of Earth and its inhabitants, and it features some of the best casting television has ever seen. David Tennant as the hedonistic demon Crowley is so good it's like he was born solely for this purpose, and the way he plays off Michael Sheen's angel, Aziraphale, makes for a perfect odd-couple pairing that leads to the show's best moments. Although the limited series is faithful to the novel (perhaps to a fault), it doesn't always retain the same magic and whimsy, so it's really the cast, which also includes Michael McKean, Frances McDormand, and Jon Hamm, that makes it worth your while. Plus, it's a quick binge at only six episodes. -Kaitlin Thomas
If you love a fantasy show but don't want your head to explode with the nitty-gritty mechanics of intricate world-building, welcome to Outlander. Starz's roving adventure story centers on Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a WWII nurse who accidentally travels back in time 200-plus years to 18th century Scotland. It's there she meets the true love of her life, a strapping highlander named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Together they try to change history, manipulate royalty, and -- most importantly -- find time for hot, steamy romance. That's right, this is an R-rated adventure series, so don't watch it with your kids. You'll be intrigued by the premise, be awed by the cinematography, and find yourself sticking around for the love story that defies the ages. -Megan Vick
When The Magiciansfirst premiered, Syfy's adaptation of Lev Grossman's hit fantasy trilogy was billed as Harry Potter for adults. But what started off as a coming-of-age tale about a group of twenty-somethings discovering magic at a secret university blossomed into a darkly comedic look at power, family, love and how they shape us. Over five seasons (and often within the same episode), The Magicians served up unexpectedly fantastical highs and astonishingly grounded emotional lows, garnering one of the most devoted fandoms Tumblr has ever seen. This is a binge-watching quest you just can't turn down. -Krutika Mallikarjuna
Fans of Phillip Pullman's books know that His Dark Materials is set in one of the most alluring fantasy worlds -- one in which every human is born with an animal embodiment of their soul, known as a dæmon; the North is home to massive armored polar bears who are as intelligent as they are skilled in battle; and there are countless universes that anyone can access if they simply know how. But this world is also a dangerous one, as the show's heroine, Lyra (Dafne Keen), soon discovers. The series follows the young girl as she sets out to learn why children are going missing all over the country, only to realize that it's all part of a deadly conspiracy that she's prophesied to play a crucial role in. While the HBO series fails to live up to Pullman's best-selling trilogy, the star-studded cast -- which includes Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda -- deliver standout performances that make it easy to get lost in Lyra's world. -Sadie Gennis
Did the violence of Game of Thrones and the profanity of The Magicians turn you off? We humbly put forward The Letter for the Kingfor your wholesome consideration. Set in a medieval realm where knights are still very much a thing, a young boy, Tiuri (Amir Wilson), finds himself on a mission to deliver a letter to the king warning him of a great darkness threatening the kingdom. If you loved The Witcher, you've absolutely got to check out this more teen-oriented fantasy series. It has a lot of the same elements: a super-smart horse companion, a singing sidekick, and a whole bunch of magic that threatens the fate of the realm. Plus, with only a six-hour runtime, it's a perfect way to spend a day. -Lindsay MacDonald
There's a reason #SaveTheOA was cluttering up your Twitter feed for several months of 2019. Netflix's existential fantasy series was cut down in its prime, after two seasons of wonderful weirdness, so do be warned that you'll absolutely be left wanting more if you watch this one through. The show, which was co-created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, follows Marling's Prairie (who later reveals she has many names) as she invites viewers to come on an absolutely wild journey through space, time, and beyond. Throughout its all-too-brief run, The OAproduced some of the most unpredictable, emotionally provocative, and truly WTF scenes imaginable, and if you get into it, you will absolutely be In. To. It. To say much more would be a spoiler, but brace yourself for an incredible performance by Jason Isaacs and a giant octopus that will break your heart right in half. Yes, really. -Amanda Bell
In this clever take on classic fairy tales, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), and all the other members of the Enchanted Forest have been cursed by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) to live in the worst place imaginable: our world. With no memory of who they really are, it's up to one very skeptical orphan, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), to break the curse and help everyone get home. This quirky drama relies heavily on some questionable CGI, but the ingenious ways it twists some of your favorite fairy tales will make it hard to care aboutOnce Upon a Time's sometimes subpar visual effects. -Lindsay MacDonald
This martial arts fantasy series aired on AMC from 2015 to 2019, and it never quite caught on the way that it should have -- though now that the complete series is on Netflix, people may find it and appreciate its dazzling fight choreography, vibrant color scheme, and clever post-apocalyptic fantasy world-building. Set hundreds of years in the future after America has collapsed and what remains is ruled over by feudal barons, it tells the story of Sunny (Daniel Wu), a warrior in the employ of the Badlands' most powerful baron who leaves the life he knows behind when he meets a boy from another place who may hold secrets of his own mysterious past. Together, they go on a perilous journey to find the truth. Into the Badlands has magic, mystery, and Walking Dead-levels of blood, with stylized martial arts violence that gorehounds will drink up. -Liam Mathews
Netflix's biggest fantasy series of 2020 so far is Cursed, a comic book adaptation starring 13 Reasons Why's Katherine Langford. It's an origin story of The Lady of the Lake, the sopping wet legend who would eventually give Excalibur to King Arthur, beginning with her humble upbringing as an enchantress who, obviously, denies her destiny. The show wobbles between being a YA fantasy series and a violent, Game of Thrones-style drama (one of its creators is 300's Frank Miller), giving it tonal whiplash, but so far it's received mixed reviews. Count me in on the lower end of reviews, as I found the production to be sloppy and writing to be amateurish, but what do I know? Some people love it. Maybe you will be one of those people! -Tim Surette