17 World-Ending (Post) Apocalyptic TV Series

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There’s something about the end of the world that is just inherently fascinating to us. How will it happen? Will it be the fault of humans? Or aliens? Perhaps humanity will meet its end at the hands of some unforeseen disaster from space?

But most importantly of all, what happens afterwards? What will those who are left behind – those isolated, ill-prepared or maybe even oblivious people – do to survive? And will luck be on their side as they try to rebuild society?

Selection of TV series covers, text reads: Post-Apocalyptic TV Series

Fortunately, plenty of television studios have spent untold millions in order to answer these questions for us. From intergalactic hijinks and mutated new life forms to alien invasions and utter devastation, these apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic TV series each give us a different glimpse into the unthinkable … and beyond.

They may not be upbeat, but boy are they entertaining!

PS: Because streaming services vary greatly from country to country, and we probably don’t live where you do, we have only listed buying options for the following TV shows. The exception being where a show is a platform original and ONLY available to watch on that streaming service. However, we 100% recommending checking if the show is available on Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever you use where you live, as well.

DVD cover of The Last Train, group of people standing in a forest, text reads "When a rock hits Zambia... Half of Sheffield falls over... Take a ride on... The Last Train... Next Stop... An Apocalyptic Future

The Last Train (1999)

On an everyday train journey from London to Sheffield, one passenger is travelling with grim purpose. Harriet Ambrose knows that an asteroid is about to strike the Earth, and is heading to a secret government facility where she will be part of a team that will be cryogenically frozen in order to survive the impending catastrophe.

Unfortunately, the asteroid strikes too soon, and the train Harriet is on derails in a tunnel, spilling the contents of a container she was carrying and prematurely freezing everyone in the train compartment.

When they finally emerge from their artificial hibernation, the train occupants find themselves in a very different England to the one that – to most of their recollections – they were in only yesterday, though more time has passed than almost all of them know.

This British survival drama had an extremely limited run – just six episodes and it was done. But a show that’s done properly and doesn’t outstay its welcome is historically rare in the grand scheme of television.

And because it’s British, it’s nice and bleak.

Watch The Last Train

DVD cover of Invasion Earth, main cast standing with planet Earth behind them and an alien creature

Invasion: Earth (1998)

Speaking of bleak, this late 90s dark science fiction mini series was not the cheeriest thing to sit down and watch on a weekday evening in the UK.

With just six 50-minute episodes, Invasion: Earth follows both the British military and a group of civilian researchers as they try to make sense of some disturbing and hard-to-explain events occurring in Scotland.

More than forty years since an unidentified craft crashed into suburban England, another similar unidentifiable object is discovered travelling over the North Sea. When the vehicle is brought down by British aircraft, those on the scene discover that the pilot is one of the men who investigated the first UFO – yet he is seemingly un-aged by the decades in-between the discoveries.

Unfortunately for the military, this sighting marks the beginning of a conflict beyond anything they could have thought possible.

Grim, gloomy and with an increasing sense of impending doom, don’t watch this apocalyptic TV series if you’re looking for something to lighten your mood.

Watch Invasion: Earth

Poster for Adventure Time, all the characters running around and having fun

Adventure Time (2010)

I know what you’re thinking: What? Isn’t this a goofy kid’s show? And the answer is yes.

BUT it’s also a post-apocalyptic TV series, according to its own lore.

On the surface, Adventure Time is about the escapades of Finn the human boy and his best friend (and adoptive brother) Jake the shape- and size-changing dog. Together they often get themselves into challenging situations while they attempt to help out – or, depending on the circumstances, defeat – everyone who lives with them in the Land of Ooo.

What is only mentioned in passing in the early episodes of the show is that the Land of Ooo is the result of an apocalyptic event known as the Mushroom War, in which the world as we know it was destroyed by nuclear events about a thousand years ago. 

Finn and Jake’s shenanigans may be colourful and fancy free, but they’re literally living in post nuclear recovery, where society has been brought back to a time where citizens live in huts, castles, caves and treehouses (but they still have electronics occasionally).

However, that level of doom and gloom is rarely addressed in Adventure Time, and watching it will mainly leave you feeling happy and a little silly.

Buy Adventure Time

BBC cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, image of several items floating in space: alien creature, planet with a large sign, another planet, the number 42 and words 'Don't Panic'

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

It’s easy to forget that this very British whimsical odyssey has quite a tragic beginning, and is essentially an exploration of how one man might deal with the most ultimate of apocalypses. Namely, that he can’t even try living in a post-apocalyptic world because the whole entire planet is gone.

And to make way for an intergalactic bypass, of all things.

Yes, poor old Arthur Dent is just your average English human. One day he finds his morning routine rudely interrupted by a wrecking crew hellbent on demolishing his house. While trying to stop them – by literally lying on the ground in front of the bulldozer they’ve brought – his unusual friend Ford Prefect arrives and whisks him off the Earth and into space, moments before the planet is obliterated.

Against his will, and his cautious nature, Arthur Dent has become an intergalactic hitchhiker. From here on out, there will be alien bureaucrats, a depressed android, poetry that can kill you and a man with two heads … and three arms.

At least he has a copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” with him.

From the absurdist mind of creator Douglas Adams, this post apocalyptic TV series was originally conceived as a production for radio, where the sci-fi worlds, creatures and devices could be easily implied through sound as opposed to having to actually build anything.

Here, in a visual medium, the early 80s production value may well make things look dated and precarious, but for many that just adds to the charm.

Buy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Netflix poster for Umbrella Academy, main cast standing under a drawn umbrella that is protecting them from the rain

The Umbrella Academy (2019)

In this super-powered, supernatural post apocalyptic TV series, only some of the characters are living in a post apocalyptic world. The others haven’t had to deal with it yet. But that’s one of the quirks when time travel is involved.

On a day when 43 women around the world give birth without having been pregnant when they woke up that morning, eccentric entrepreneur Sir Reginald Hargreaves manages to collect seven of them in order to form his new heroic venture: The Umbrella Academy.

Each child, numbered 1 to 7, has an incredible power, and together they fight crime and undertake dangerous missions. After some difficult years under Hargreaves, the team disbanded following the death of one member and the disappearance of another.

But the gang comes back together following the news of their adoptive father’s death. Each has gone on to a different life, and everyone has plenty of emotional baggage.

Things then take a strange turn when the missing member, Number 5, appears in a blast out of thin air and informs them that the world is going to end in ten days. The trouble is, he has no idea how, or why (phew, that’s a hefty set-up).

Based on the graphic novel series written by Gerard Way, this is one of the best post-apocalyptic shows on Netflix. The action is frenetic, the humour is super dark, and the performances – especially “young” Number 5 – are fantastic.

Watch The Umbrella Academy

Netflix poster for Into the Night, image of two people looking out of an airplane cockpit on a runway at night

Into the Night (2020)

(Author’s note: This blurb was written by Dagney, who is obsessed with this show)

Imagine, if you will, you are boarding a red-eye flight to Moscow (from Brussels). As you do so, one of your fellow passengers is on the phone with a friend elsewhere who suddenly convulses and collapses. In the background, news footage shows people collapsed in fields; anchors passed out at their desks.

Meanwhile, a strange man has suddenly attacked a security guard, procured his gun and forced the plane to take off with most of the crew and passengers still on the ground.

But rest assured, this man isn’t a terrorist; he’s saving your life. Except now you’re headed west – not east – away from the impending sunrise. Because he knows something you don’t about that sunrise, and the apocalypse it brings with it.

If you love this apocalyptic TV series as much as I do, you’ll be excited to know there is a Turkish spin-off called Into the Deep coming in 2022 that takes place on a submarine. At least, I’m excited, because that sounds amazing.

Watch Into the Night

poster for Revolution, main cast standing amidst post-apocalyptic city looking forward

Revolution (2012)

What would happen if everything powered by electricity stopped working at once? That’s the main premise of this near-future sci-fi dystopia.

One day, with no known explanation, all electricity just disappears. Cities go into blackout, planes fall from the sky. All cars stop, no phones work, and the internet is gone. As you can expect, it’s chaos.

This apocalyptic TV series picks up 15 years after that event – the “Blackout” – in the near-future year of 2027. Following the collapse of, we presume, most of the governments of the world, society has re-emerged in pockets across the land.

In this new world we zone in on the Matheson family, one of whom has a pendant that may be a clue to what happened all those years ago. When agents of the new self-appointed “government” come after it, they have to go on the run as they try to solve this apocalyptic mystery.

The man who created Revolution (Eric Kripke), also created the vampiric TV series Supernatural. But while that show ran and ran and ran (and ran some more – some would say outstaying its welcome), sadly Revolution was cancelled after two seasons.

But fear not! Due to the show’s continued popularity with fans, a four-part comic book series was created in order to wrap up any loose ends that were left after it went off the air.

Buy Revolution

RELATED: Post Apocalyptic Books by Indigenous Authors

Poster for Cowboy Bebop anime series, image of main characters faces with title in both English and Japanese

Cowboy Bebop (1998)

(Author’s note: a live-action version has now joined the ranks of the best post apocalyptic TV shows on Netflix, but here we’re talking about the original animated version)

In 26 episodes, just ONE glorious season, Cowboy Bebop manages to take viewers on such a wonderful journey. A space western infused with jazz, comedy and some of the best hand-to-hand fight scenes ever committed to paper, this post apocalyptic series is widely regarded to be one of the best anime shows ever produced.

It is sophisticated and has plenty of depth, both in tone and in the characters. It’s certainly one of the best post-apocalyptic shows on Netflix.

Set in the year 2071, we find Earth to be in a sorry state of affairs. Some fifty-ish years previously, an accident involving a hyperspace gateway left the planet almost uninhabitable. Humans have moved away to colonise most of the other planets and asteroids in the solar system, and because of the high rates of crime, bounty hunting has become the norm, with groups of “cowboy” guns-for-hire roaming space looking for anyone on the most-wanted list.

One such bounty hunter ship is the Bebop, owned and operated by Spike Spiegel (quick with his fists and his mouth) and Jet Black (former cop). Together, they stumble from one job to the next – rarely hovering above absolute poverty – running into one life-or-death situation after another. And they’re all AWESOME.

I won’t lie; I love this show.

As with many anime series, there are two versions available for native English speakers: Japanese with English subtitles, and English dubbing.

I personally think that the English dubbing is really well done. But then, I was introduced to the show in this way, and have not tried the original Japanese language version. So please feel free to try both and see which you prefer. Either way, the content is still exceptional.

Once you’ve finished the series, why not try the accompanying animated film?

Buy Cowboy Bebop

Netflix poster for The Rain, group of people standing in front of wall covered in plants with city in the background and cloudy sky above

The Rain (2018)

In this apocalyptic TV series from Denmark, the plot focuses on siblings Simone and Rasmus – two survivors of a deadly virus carried by the rain that wiped out seemingly everyone in Scandinavia.

Before the rain came, their father took them to a fortified and well-supplied bunker, but then left and never returned. After spending six years inside their makeshift home, the two are forced to leave when their oxygen supply begins to run low.

Emerging into a desolate world, and attempting to avoid the rain at all costs, Simone and Rasmus must contend with nature, dangerous terrain and the few other remaining survivors as they search for their father, and the answer to the ultimate question: what caused the virus?

Understandably, this 3 season apocalyptic series may well be a little triggering for anyone wanting to avoid scenarios of easily-transferred lethal diseases. But those who give The Rain a chance will be rewarded with a well-made survival story that contains plenty of drama and twists.

The show employs the use of flashbacks – usually from one person’s perspective per episode. This often overused narrative device might not have been the best choice in other hands, but they actually work well here, leading to well-rounded characters with relatable motivations.

Watch The Rain

DVD cover of the Planet of the Apes post apocalyptic TV series, a man and ape riding horses over desert terrain with a large ape in silhoutte in sky pointing

Planet of the Apes (1974)

On 14 June 3085 a spaceship from Earth with three astronauts onboard crashes on what appears to be a different planet – one where apes rule and humans are slaves.

One of the astronauts dies on impact, but the two survivors are rescued by a human who teaches them about the history of the planet through a ‘picture book.’ And it turns out they’ve actually landed on Earth in the very distant future (none of this is a spoiler, it happens mid-way through the first episode).

Of course, the apes are worried that these humans will sow discontent and incite revolt amongst the other humans. So, they become determined to track down, question and possibly kill the humans, whom they view as a threat to apekind.

Well, most of them do; one begins to question everything they’ve ever known upon learning that these two new humans are smarter than any human they’ve ever known.

Although based off of the original film series of Planet of the Apes (and its sequels), the post-apocalyptic TV miniseries of the same name has its own plots and characters (but also a fair share of overlap). If you love that original film series, you’ll probably enjoy the show.

Buy Planet of the Apes

Poster for American Horror Story: Apocalypse, red baby on red background with creepy black hand silencing the baby

American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018)

I mean, it’s in the title right?

This season of the horror anthology series, American Horror Story, is set in a near future where nuclear warfare has caused an apocalypse thanks to the help of the antichrist. The chosen few survivors (i.e. rich people and their hired help) are brought to bunkers to wait it out.

Of course, this is AHS, so there’s also lots of weird, horrific goings-on and plenty of unsettling twists and turns.

By the time Apocalypse (season 8) finally aired, I know a lot of people had lost faith in AHS. And after Cult (season 7), which is generally regarded as the worst season (hard agree), we almost skipped this season. But it wound up being one of the best in the anthology, and a massive breath of fresh air! 

I highly recommend it if you’re looking for high-concept post apocalyptic shows that aren’t afraid to get a little gory (but definitely not as bad as some previous seasons).

However, this one is kind of a cheat because to get the full genius of this season of AHS you should technically have watched the Murder House and Coven seasons (1 and 3 respectively). While I know some people have watched it without seeing them and still enjoyed it immensely, I think something is lost without that prior knowledge.

There is also a callback to Hotel (season 5), but they pretty much rehash the connection in the episode, so you don’t actually need to have watched that season.

Buy American Horror Story: Apocalypse

Netflix poster for To The Lake, person with sleeves covered in blood covering the eyes of a small boy

To The Lake (2019)

When a deadly, fast acting pandemic hits Moscow, the city is cut off from the rest of the country (and the country is cut off from the rest of the world).

With chaos breaking out everywhere and militia groups raiding homes, Sergey, his new girlfriend Anna, and her autistic son Misha are forced to flee their very expensive home just outside of Moscow. They bring with them Sergey’s dad and their horrible neighbours, as well as Sergey’s son and ex-wife once he rescues them from Moscow.

As the group travels across Russia in search of a safe haven, the virus continues to spread rapidly and becomes increasingly dangerous. At the same time, Russia itself is also becoming more dangerous and lawless.

After great success in Russia, Netflix bought the show … and To the Lake aired right in the heart of the pandemic. So unfortunately it never quite found the audience it deserves. But if you are looking for new post apocalyptic shows on Netflix to watch, this is a solid show.

A note on the autism in the show from an autistic person (i.e. me): While the character of Misha falls into very tired stereotypes and other characters are not always kind to him, it is by no means the worst representation I have seen (it isn’t great, though). I appreciated that he has actual agency; he jokes, he flirts, he has moments of impulsivity in line with his morals. My understanding is that autism is not well understood in Russia and general views are somewhat outdated, so given that, this came across as a somewhat progressive portrayal. Of course, I’ve only spent a grand total of 5 days in Russia, so take that for what it’s worth.

Watch To the Lake

Netflix poster for Sweet Home TV series, three bloody people with weapons, title and words in South Korean

Sweet Home (2020)

Based on one of our favourite horror graphic novels, Sweet Home is a South Korean apocalyptic TV series set inside a large apartment block as the residents fight for their lives during a monster apocalypse.

Following the sudden death of his family, Cha Hyun-soo, a young teenage boy, moves into the aforementioned apartment block looking for solitude. Hyun is depressed and suicidal, and on the brink of ending it all.

But when people suddenly and inexplicably find themselves transforming into monsters, he realises he’s not yet ready to die. To survive the apocalypse, Hyun must work alongside his neighbours and figure out what’s causing the transformations.

Like many k-dramas, this apocalyptic TV show doesn’t shy away from gore or gritty realism. And it is a wild ride.

If you haven’t read it, we also highly recommend reading the original horror manhwa first.

Watch Sweet Home

Cover of Battlestar Galactica reboot series, main cast standing together on a ship and looking forward

Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Set in a distant solar system, this post apocalyptic TV series follows a group of planets called the Twelve Colonies of Kobol after they are attacked by sentient robots known as Cylons. The twelve colonies are destroyed, obliterating almost the entire human race. Approximately 50,000 humans are all that remain in the galaxy.

Most of those who survived are onboard civilian ships with no defensive capabilities, which is where the titular Battlestar Galactica comes in. The Galactica is an old warcraft that is in the process of being retired and converted into a museum when the attacks happen.

Although the ship is not at full fighting capacity, it fortunately still has full crew and enough supplies on board to keep them and the surrounding civilian fleet alive … at least for now, as they search for their fabled true planet, Earth.

However, the Cylons are determined to track them down. And now they have humanoid Cylon agents hidden on board the ships – agents that are indistinguishable from the rest of the human race.

Buy Battlestar Galactica

Poster for The Strain, image of the Statue of Liberty in NYC with an open mouth and spiked red tongue coming out

The Strain (2014)

The Strain is another show that takes place as an apocalypse is unfolding rather than after. In fact, the first episode is named Night Zero and we watch the entire nightmare happen.

The CDC is called into New York’s JFK airport after a flight from Berlin loses contact with ground control, but lands anyway. Except the flight still isn’t communicating, no one tries to evacuate the plane and, mysteriously, all but one window shade is down.

Fearing the potential of a horrible new contagion, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team board to investigate. They find all but four people dead, with seemingly no signs of trauma.

In the cargo hold is a strange, old wooden box full of what looks like soil that isn’t on the manifest. Ephraim receives a cryptic warning from an old man who claims to know what is happening that he cannot, under any circumstances, let the box cross the river into Manhattan.

But someone in the city is hell bent on ensuring just that – and once they do, an unstoppable, ancient virus that carries a strain of vampirism will spread throughout the city.

This apocalyptic series is based on a book series by the same name. The books were written by Guillermo del Toro (creator of one of our favourite underrated vampire movies) and Chuck Hogan, who also created the show, so it isn’t afraid to get dark … or a little gross. Buuut, some of the CDC procedures – or more specifically, the serious lack of procedures – will have you SCREAMING at the screen.

Buy The Strain

Poster for Snowpiercer TV series, image of two people's heads facinga way from each other, surrounded by ice and a train driving between them

Snowpiercer (2020)

Based on the 2013 film of the same name (which was based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige), Snowpiercer is now one of the most popular best post apocalyptic TV shows on Netflix.

The show is set in a world that has completely frozen over due to climate change. Now the only survivors in the world are those who made it onboard the Snowpiercer – a self-contained train that continuously circumnavigates the globe.

Not surprisingly, most of those aboard were the rich – those who could afford a ticket no matter the cost. In the tail of the train are people who managed to fight their way onboard before the doors closed. These Tailies are treated as less than human, fed on increasingly smaller rations and sterilised.

Amidst planning a rebellion, one of the Tailie leaders, Layton (David Diggs), is taken to the upper classes to investigate what might be a serial killer. Layton is a former homicide detective, and notably the only one on the train as no one thought the rich would murder each other. From the front, he tries to continue the revolution.

Unfortunately for the show, the film is one of my favourite post-apocalyptic films, and one season in, the show just isn’t as good. It’s not bad, and I like the detective aspect of the story, but every time I sit down to watch it, I just want to watch the film. And consequently it’s taking me a long time to get through it.

However, if you’ve never seen the film, or if you watched the film and really wished for less action and a more fleshed-out train world, you’ll probably enjoy Snowpiercer.

Buy Snowpiercer

Poster for The Leftovers, man without shirt standing in front of wall with cracks that look like angel wings, woman hugging him from behind

The Leftovers (2014)

Three years ago an event now referred to as the “Sudden Departure” instantaneously disappeared 2% of the world’s population into thin air. This amounted to 140 million people.

No one knows why. No one knows what happened to them. Everyone is searching for answers.

This has resulted in cults sprouting like weeds around the world. In the USA, two prominent cults have emerged.

One is one led by a man known as Holy Wayne who claims to be able to cure anyone’s pain with a hug. The second is a nihilist cult called the Guilty Remnant whose members have stopped speaking and spend all their time chain smoking.

I’m a big fan of TV shows about cults, and was excited by the premise. Unfortunately, The Leftovers is probably our least favourite on this list, but we know many who love it, and were sad it didn’t quite work for us. Still, we always recommend trying it out if it sounds interesting to people.

Of all of our picks for the best post apocalyptic TV shows, The Leftovers is also probably the least apocalyptic just because 98% of the population still exists. But 140 million people suddenly disappearing isn’t insignificant, and the society and communities we are introduced to are definitely cracking due to grief and unanswered questions.

Buy The Leftovers

RELATED: Best Podcasts About Cults