The quality gap between film and television is getting smaller and smaller with each passing year. And huge shows sporting vast scale and unthinkable budgets now have the power to attract big name actors and match the excitement and grandeur we’ve come to associate with the big-screen.
While low budget productions undoubtedly have their place, here are some of the most ambitious TV shows available to watch on Netflix right now.
Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
The award-winning re-imagining of the 1978 sci-fi classic arguably excels its predecessor. The universe’s remaining human population eke out a living on a small fleet of starships after a cataclysmic war with their own robotic creations, the Cylons, pushed them to near extinction.
United under an ancient prophecy, the last of mankind sets out in search of a new home on a long-lost planet called Earth in this expansive space saga. Expect nail-biting space battles and complex, thought-provoking ruminations on war, terrorism and prejudice.
Following the controversial exploits of Counter-Terrorism agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), 24 is the longest running espionage drama in TV history. Each series follows a day-in-the-life of Bauer and his colleagues as they work to prevent Presidential assassination attempts, bio-terrorism and mass cyber attacks. After ending in 2010, the series returned for a single season special in 2014’s 24: Live Another Day. It’s all gripping, edge of the seat stuff.
The groundbreaking ensemble drama follows a group of people who begin discovering they possess superhuman powers. Soon however, a malevolent being intent on gathering powers for himself begins to stalk the heroes in the shadows. Featuring one of the largest main casts in TV history, this real-world Avengers esque drama is due to return to our screens this year in the form of rebooted series Heroes: Reborn.
This sadly short-lived series starred Scream alumni Skeet Ulrich as Kansas native Jake, who returns home to collect an inheritance. However, a nuclear blast cuts off the outside world and plunges the town of Jericho into chaos. Jake leads the town as they struggle to survive in the nuclear wasteland whilst one of the town’s newest residents, Lennie James’ Robert Hawkins, seemingly knows more about the nuclear blast than he’s letting on.
Despite being cancelled after two series there is talk that the post-apocalyptic drama could be set to enjoy the Netflix reboot treatment. Here’s hoping.
Frozen Planet (2011)
One of the many epic BBC nature series, Frozen Planet explores the coldest reaches of our Earthly home, the Polar caps. It’s an examination into the lives of the region’s many amazing animals and the problems faced in their daily lives, especially under the increasing effects of Global Warming. Stunning imagery of Polar Bears, graceful Orca and elegant Wandering Albatross are just some of the highlights in this record-breaking documentary.
Marco Polo (2014-)
Netflix’s very own big-budget TV series, Marco Polo follows the famous explorer’s adventures to Mongolia and his dealings in the court of Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. Lavish period sets and sweeping landscape shots are dispersed amongst action and political intrigue in this historical drama.
Prison Break (2005-2009)
When Michael’s brother, Lincoln, is wrongly incarcerated and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, Michael devises a plan to break him out of prison. However, that plan entails Michael getting on the inside himself. Meanwhile, in the outside world, the brothers’ life-long friend Veronica uncovers a conspiracy that is seemingly linked to the crime Lincoln did not commit. A heart-pounding drama that plays out like The Great Escape on steroids.
The cult-classic space western was canned after just 14 episodes, but that shouldn’t deter you from watching it. Heralded as one of the finest TV series ever and created by Avengers helmer Joss Whedon, Firefly follows the crew of the Serenity, a “Firefly-class” spaceship used for small smuggling operations.
When political fugitives Simon and River Tam smuggle themselves aboard the ship, the crew soon find themselves pursued across the galaxy by bounty hunters and dangerous Alliance agents alike.
This BBC-HBO co-production holds the record of the being the most expensive TV series ever produced (discounting the mini-series Band of Brothers and The Pacific). It’s an epic historical drama focusing on the many citizens of the ancient Roman empire, from tough-guy soldiers Lucius and Titus to real-life political figures such as Mark Antony and Julius Caesar. If you like Game Of Thrones, you’ll love this.
Attack on Titan (2013-)
Heralded as one of the most expensive animation series of all-time, the global success of the series has now seen both an Asian and a Hollywood live-action adaptation enter development.
For over a century, the last of the human race has lived behind three great walls, built to keep out giant man-eating Titans. When a new kind of Titan appears and breaks down the wall, young Eren and his friends join the resistance hoping to vanquish the beasts for ever.
When US trooper Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is released after years of capture at the hands of al-Qaeda, CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) believes he may well be acting as an undercover agent intent on instigating attacks on American soil. Can Carrie prove her theories to be true before it’s too late? One thing’s for sure: you’ll be hooked.
More Netflix inspiration:
- Stoner comedies on Netflix
- Scottish icons for Burns Night
- Inspirational Netflix films
- Feelgood films on Netflix
- Comedy Christmas specials on Netflix
- New things on Netflix this month (December 2014)
- Greatest double acts on Netflix
- Best stand up shows on Netflix
- Bizarre animated characters on Netflix
- Unlikely heroes you can follow on Netflix
- Craziest things you can watch on Netflix
- Best single season TV shows on Netflix
- Most memorable TV episodes on Netflix
- Fascinating antiheroes on Netflix
- Weird and wonderful documentaries on Netflix
- Surprising sequels on Netflix
- Bizarre foreign films on Netflix
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