Netflix’s zombie drama Black Summer brings such a break-neck, addictive, and action-packed approach to the zombie genre, it’s pretty hard not to binge-watch. So if you’ve already made your way through the latest episodes and you’re looking for something to watch next, we’ve got you covered with a list of recommendations for the best shows like Black Summer to watch next.
From the creative team behind Z Nation, the Netflix original series offers an entirely different approach, following Jaime King‘s Rose in a brutal fight for survival. Season 1 introduced the character as an everyday wife and mother separated from her family during the initial outbreak, following her transformation into a hardened survivor amidst the chaos. Season 2 takes a chillier approach, not just in the frost that settles over the survivors, but the fact that the survivors left are just as hard and dangerous as Rose, hungrier than ever, and so are the undead. It’s a brisk, brutal approach that takes the zombie genre back to its survivalist roots, and we’ve got some recommendations for folks who are looking to keep that vibe going.
Yes, both series technically share creatives and supposedly, a universe, but Black Summer and Z Nation really couldn’t be more tonally different, so you won’t find that one here (but it’s a fun watch, all the same). However, if you’re looking for more old-fashioned zombie dramas, uncompromising survival thrillers, or meditations on the human condition, we’ve got a handful of binge-worthy series to help keep you busy while you wait for news on Black Summer Season 3.
Inspired by the book trilogy of the same name from Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain offers an action-packed take on a different kind of undead apocalypse — vampires. And not the romancin’ kind. These bloodsuckers, called “Strigoi,” are monstrous creatures spawned from an ancient bloodline; parasitic creatures of varying power and intelligence, with gigantic serpentine tongues that can drain a human being’s blood as fast as they pass along the infectious vampiric plague. With a fantastic ensemble that includes Corey Stoll, Kevin Durand, David Bradley, Jonathan Hyde, and scene-stealing baddie Richard Sammel, along with a genre-loving sensibility and striking aesthetic you’d expect from a series with Del Toro’s name on it, The Strain makes for an entertaining and gory horror survival story.
The series ran for four seasons on FX; some are better than others. The Strain shares Black Summer‘s flourish for frustrating character decisions (there’s also the problem of Zach, one the most irritating TV characters in recent memory), but the highs are worth the lows, and if you’re looking for another blood-soaked apocalypse story, The Strain delivers exciting set-pieces, high production-value, and a brutal battle for the survival of the human race.
The Walking Dead
You probably already knew this one was going to be on here. The Walking Dead is the juggernaut success of zombie TV, commanding audiences for over a decade, launching spinoffs, books, and year-round theme park attractions. AMC’s apocalypse drama set the template for a lot of the shows that followed and commanded audience attention by getting back to the old-school basics of zombie survival stories, from embracing practical effects to committing to traditional walker-zombies and letting humanity’s tendency for self-destruction fill in the gaps between their slow, hungry strides.
As with almost any series that’s run for as long as The Walking Dead, some seasons are better than others, and it definitely falls to bouts of repetition (especially in its focus on bigger and badder human threats), but if you’re looking for the show that’s the most like Black Summer, this is probably the pick. In a time when zom-coms and subversive dramas make up most of your on-screen zombie options, both series share an interest in the classic stripped-down, human-driven approach to the undead apocalypse, putting the focus on the struggle between grace and human failing in the face of near-certain extinction.
Into the Night
You won’t find any undead monsters here, but if you’re looking for a grounded take on the apocalypse survival story, Netflix’s Into the Night delivers. The Belgian Netflix thriller opens on your standard international red-eye flight, where tensions are already running high for all the normal reasons — seat-mate bickering, travel delays, you know the drill. But after an armed man boards the flight, demanding they take off immediately, the passengers soon discover they’re among the few lucky survivors of the human race after an apocalyptic event; namely, the sun is killing anyone it touches, even if they’re indoors. With a mix of luck and quick thinking, the survivors aboard the flight devise strategies to keep flying ahead of the light, running up against dwindling supplies, corroding relationships, and the tricky matter of keeping enough gas in the tank to keep going.
The high-concept hook does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to the plot, and the writers are smart enough to use that opportunity to lean into quieter character moments, fulfilled by an excellent ensemble of international actors. And if you’re feeling a bit bummed out by the cynicism of Black Summer, this one makes for a nice reprieve. Don’t get me wrong, people still do bad things in Into the Night, but it’s a show that has an increasingly rare willingness to attribute a certain measure of decency and empathy to the human race. It’s a refreshing recent spin on a genre that’s grown more and more nihilistic in recent years, and it never slacks in tension, even without over-relying on the “people are the real threat” trope.
It’s not the apocalypse and there aren’t any zombies, but you better be willing to do what it takes when it’s Purge Night. Inspired by the hit Blumhouse film franchise of the same name, the two-season USA Network series kicks off its first season between the events of The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year, side-stepping the grander political scope in favor of a more micro, on-the-ground survival story.
If you’re not familiar, The Purge is set in a dystopian near-future America ruled by a party called the New Founding Fathers, where the U.S. Government has instituted an annual “holiday” called The Purge — a 12-hour hour window in which almost all crime is legal (no nukes, and priority government officials are off-limits, natch). Murdering, thieving, and… well, honestly, it’s mostly murdering… are all legal once a year, billed as a means to stabilize American society amidst rising crime, unemployment, and economic crises. The film franchise kicked off in 2013 and has proven alarmingly prescient – or perhaps just perceptive – about the brewing sense of division and polarized disdain in America, and with each new installment, it’s become more and more incisive about the political and social mechanisms that foster and flourish on that self-immolating strife.
The series, which debuted in 2018, isn’t quite on the level of the films in terms of action or insight, but it still prods at the uncomfortable social, political, and economic truths beneath the high-concept fiction. Mostly, however, it’s a fast-paced and action-packed survival story about a society entirely without rules or boundaries – a shared trait with Black Summer, even if it’s for 12 hours a year.
They don’t just share similar titles; if there’s one show on Netflix that goes toe-to-toe with Black Summer with its cynical view of humanity, it’s Black Mirror. But before their celebrated feel-bad sci-fi sensation, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones took on the zombie genre with their 2008 miniseries Dead Set. Working from one of those clever concepts that immediately gets you hooked, Dead Set takes place on the stages of Big Brother, where the locked-in contestants squabble and flirt, blissfully unaware there’s a zombie apocalypse ravaging the U.K. — until the zombies start breaking down the set.
All five episodes are directed by ’71 filmmaker Yann Demange (and if you’ve seen that one, you already know how tense this is going to get), who embraces the tropes of both zombie cinema and reality TV to tremendous effect. Where Black Summer builds terror out of the uncertainty of its sprawling, migrating geography, Dead Set mines for claustrophobic paranoia, and it’s fascinating to see how those seemingly opposite approaches yield a similar dread of disaster around every corner. It also stars an early-career Riz Ahmed, so yeah, you should watch it.
I was recently explaining a particularly upsetting Black Summer scene to a friend, who immediately replied “That’s like some The 100 shit.” And you know what? Yeah, it absolutely is. When it comes to bleak and despairing portraits of post-apocalyptic survival, you’d be hard-pressed to find another show that’s as relentlessly unflinching as The 100. Do not, I repeat, do not let the “CW teen series” label fool you. If you think Rose has to make tough choices in the zombie apocalypse, wait until you see what Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and company do in the name of survival (it’s so much more genocide than you’re probably expecting).
Set decades after a nuclear apocalypse ravages Earth, The 100 takes place in bunkers, on remaining habitable earth, and in freaking space – bouncing between those settings throughout the seasons with often clever, always staggering narrative swings. But beneath the exterior of flesh-eating creatures, tribal warfare, and sci-fi trappings, The 100 is ultimately a show about what it takes to survive and what it means to be a survivor when each choice is worse than the last.
If you’re looking for a zombie apocalypse show that’s unlike anything else on the air, you should definitely add Netflix’s Kingdom to your watchlist. The South Korean series reimagines a zombie plague through the lens of a period drama, adding plenty of political machinations to the mix by layering the on-the-ground survival action with Machiavellian royal subplots and tactical resistance efforts that struggle to survive among the undead hoards. It’s a bit denser and demanding than your average zombie survival yarn, sharing a lot of narrative complexity with the kind of fantasy epics that require maps and indexes, but it pays off all that extra effort with well-earned character arcs, riveting twists, and plenty of high-stakes action that hinges the fate of the kingdom on who lives or dies in extraordinarily horrific times.
It’s all accomplished with tremendous, immersive production value and attention to detail that makes it stand above its peers in the zombie TV field. So if you’re a fan of the complex character dynamics and mysterious approach that Black Summer takes to its tale of survival, Kingdom is another fantastic choice for a zombie show that demands your attention, but rewards it in full.
KEEP READING: The Best Zombie Movies of All Time
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