It’s too late. Westworld isn’t on HBO Max anymore. (It’s heading to Roku and Tubi.) That’s either bad or indifferent news, depending on how you feel about that season 4 finale.
So what can you watch following the HBO Max cost-cutting TV show and movie cull of 2022? Thankfully, there are still a few decent options. The only one you absolutely need to watch is Station Eleven. If you gave up after the first couple of episodes, no excuses. Try it again.
Here are the best sci-fi TV shows on HBO Max as of Feb. 16.
The Plot Against America (2020)
This miniseries, based on Philip Roth’s novel by the same name, presents an alternative history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh. Morgan Specter, Zoe Kazan, Winona Ryder and John Turturro star in the critically acclaimed six-episode limited series, mainly following a working class Jewish family as the new president introduces facism.
Warner Bros./YouTube/CNET Screenshot
If a proper binge is what you’re after, five seasons of this sci-fi procedural starring The Last of Us’ Anna Torv are ready and waiting. The Fringe Division is a team of agents tasked with investigating unexplained phenomena, including parallel universes and alternate timelines. After a middling first season, Fringe found its way, so stick with it for the inventive ideas and a moving emotional core.
If you’re into sci-fi comedy, Avenue 5 has impressive chops. Veep creator Armando Iannucci brings this space trip starring Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad. In the near future, an interplanetary cruise ship is sent slightly off course. With years added to their return trip, the crew and passengers must figure out how to survive on dwindling resources.
HBO Max/YouTube screenshot
This action-adventure out of Spain is big, silly fun. The titular Garcia (Francisco Ortiz) is a classic endearing action hero with the twist that he was reanimated from a cryogenic frozen sleep. Originally from the ’60s, Garcia must navigate modern-day Madrid — where oat milk coffees are also a thing — amid engaging in all the espionage antics.
Does The Last of Us count as a sci-fi show? Why not. It’s that good; you should be watching it regardless. Pedro Pascal stars as Joel, a man navigating horrendous loss amid a zombie apocalypse. A scene-stealing Bella Ramsey stars as hilariously foul-mouthed teen Ellie, who might have the key to survival. Trust HBO to make this faithful-where-necessary video game adaptation the best ever.
Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
This gem of a comedy-drama wisely taps the charms of Lee Pace, who stars as Ned, an oddball pie-maker with the ability to bring the dead back to life. This Tim Burton-esque show sees Ned use his abilities to help solve sometimes grotesque murders without sacrificing fairy tale eccentricity. A unique, critically acclaimed series that deserves a rewatch.
Falling Skies (2011-2015)
Boasting executive producer Steven Spielberg, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi brings family drama to alien invasions. Falling Skies centers on a band of survivors who plan to fight back after a global invasion by extraterrestrials. Five seasons introduce multiple alien races, space travel and a satisfying final standoff.
If you were blown away by Russell T. Davies’ It’s a Sin, Years and Years is a must-watch. The ambitious sci-fi series spans 15 years, jumping ahead each episode to capture the ups and downs of the eclectic Lyons family. From technological developments to jaw-dropping life upheavals, the Lyons go through the ringer without ever relinquishing a heartwarming sense of humor.
Photograph by Ian Watson/HBO Max
Believe any hype you hear about Station Eleven. One of the best shows of 2021, the meditative dystopian thriller (the latter descriptor can only be applied to certain episodes) is prestige TV that whisks you off on a journey to surprising, moving and unique destinations. Following two timelines, the focus is mainly on brilliant heroine Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis), a woman who survived a world-destroying pandemic and now travels around the remains with a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony. Created by Patrick Somerville, whose writing work on The Leftovers can be felt here, Station Eleven casts an optimistic lens over the end of the world.
This Doctor Who spinoff series from Russell T Davies centered on Captain Jack Harkness and his team of alien hunters. While it may not have fully achieved its goal of becoming the “adult” Doctor Who, it did find its footing with its later shorter story arcs. Season 3, known as Children of Earth, in particular produced genuine compelling sci-fi drama. If anything, give those five episodes a watch.
While it’s 90% a superhero show, Peacemaker features visitors from another planet, so it lands itself a spot on this list. The Suicide Squad spinoff series centers on the titular Peacemaker, an outrageous John Cena who explores where his catchphrase — “I cherish peace with all of my heart. I don’t care how many men, women and children I kill to get it” — came from. Sweary, bloody and bouncing to a rocking soundtrack, the James Gunn-written series is a rollicking time with surprising heart.
The Leftovers (2014-2017)
Maybe it’s considered more supernatural than sci-fi, and it’s definitely nowhere near hard sci-fi, but come on. It’s The Leftovers. It’s Damon Lindelof, the genius who turned Watchmen into a lauded TV show. The Leftovers follows what happens after 2% of the world’s population inexplicably disappears. Amid the emergence of a number of cults, the three seasons focus on two families, the Garveys and the Murphys, and how the “Sudden Departure” event upends their lives.
Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET
At this stage, new fans might be hard to come by when it comes to this long-running British show. But if you’re interested in dipping into the wildly inventive, genre-bending, barnstorming adventure, try the later Jodie Whittaker episodes. Whittaker steps into the Doctor’s shoes, a time-traveling, space-faring alien adventurer with a kind heart and a far-out-of-this-world sense of humor. Serious fun.
Photograph by Courtesy of HBO
His Dark Materials (2019-2022)
This TV adaptation of His Dark Materials is the second attempt at bringing Philip Pullman’s classic fantasy novels to the screen. (The 2007 flop The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was anchored to a slow, shallow script.) Set in a world where people’s souls manifest as animal familiars, the source material isn’t exactly simple. Chuck in parallel universes, talking polar bears and a wildly imaginative story about growing up, and you have a thrilling, philosophical adventure. Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy and Dafne Keen bolster this slicker, more mature attempt. Season 3 premieres on HBO Max Dec. 5.