I’m culling this from an article in Entertainment Weekly entitled “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years”. Netflix has 13 of the 25 series available on instant.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2002)
“Despite her desire to live a normal life at Sunnydale High, tough-as-nails teenager Buffy Summers fulfills her mystical calling as a Slayer to protect humankind from vampires, demons and other supernatural creatures- with some help from her friends.”
Although nowhere near as good, the spinoff series Angel does have its moments and is also available.
Arrested Development (2003-2005)
“This Emmy-winning sitcom follows the Bluths, a wealthy California clan gone to the dogs after patriarch George Sr. gets busted for fraud. Now, long-suffering son Michael keeps the family business afloat as he spars with his dysfunctional relatives.”
“There’s always money in the banana stand.”
Mystery Science Theater 3000
“The hit comedy television show about an ordinary man (Michael J. Nelson) and two robots being forced to watch the worst movies ever made becomes a movie about an ordinary man and two robots forced to watch the worst movies ever made. A demented scientist schemes to subject Nelson to unspeakable horrors, but his test subject has mankind’s ultimate defense: a sense of humor, which he and his robot companions use to make hilarious commentary.”
Netflix has the movie and thirteen of the movie episodes available on instant.
The X-Files (1993-2001)
“Tracing both their personal and professional lives, this award-winning Fox series centers on FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson), a skeptic, and Mulder (David Duchovny), a believer, and their efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide evidence of extraterrestrial activity. From voodoo curses to bodies found in California that are missing various internal organs, the chilling show also stars Mitch Pileggi and Robert Patrick.”
Not only does Netflix have all nine seasons of The X-Files available but they also have the series that inspired The X-Files, Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1993)
“In the year 2364, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard leads the new Enterprise on missions of discovery. First Officer William Riker, engineer Geordi La Forge, and Klingon crewmember Worf join Picard as they explore the universe and interact with alien species.”
Instant Netflix also has Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Enterprise available.
My So-Called Life (1994)
“Suburban teen Angela Chase (Claire Danes) is changing, but her hair color isn’t the only thing that’s different. She’s also pulling away from her parents to spend more time with a new crop of friends — and a major crush (Jared Leto) with amazing eyes. Along with launching the careers of Leto and Danes (who won a Golden Globe in the series’ first and only season), this teen drama garnered a loyal cult following before its cancellation.”
“After their plane crashes on a deserted island, a diverse group of castaways adapt to their new home in this Emmy-winning drama. As if learning to survive and get along weren’t enough, they soon must contend with the island’s mysterious forces”
“Set almost 500 years in the future, this short-lived but much-loved sci-fi series follows the adventures of the ragtag crew of the transport spaceship Serenity, who view no job as too small, too dirty or too close to the line of illegality.”
After you finish this marvelous series, watch Serenity, the movie sequel.
Twin Peaks (1990)
“In David Lynch’s surreal cult classic series, eccentric FBI agent Dale Cooper arrives in Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of teenager Laura Palmer. Soon, many secrets concealed beneath the small town’s façade of normalcy start coming to light.”
Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008)
“Deep in the universe, cybernetic Cylons have all but wiped out the human race, laying waste to the Twelve Colonies of Man. Cast out, the few survivors aboard the Battlestar Galactica search for a so-called 13th colony: the mythical planet Earth.”
Instant Netflix also has the original Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, and the prequel to the new Galactica, Caprica. While the 2003-8 Battlestar Galactica is fantastic, the others are not really worth the time.
“Raised by their dad to fight supernatural forces, grown siblings Dean and Sam crisscross the country in their 1967 Chevy Impala, investigating paranormal activity and picking fights with deadly demons, ghosts and monsters.”
The first six seasons are currently available on Netflix and by the time you finish those I wouldn’t be surprised to see season 7 be available.
“This Australian science fiction series follows the crew of Moya, a living spacecraft that houses a group of various beings united in their desire to escape from a corrupt military force known as Peacekeepers. American astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) joins them when he accidentally flies through a wormhole. As the series progresses, John makes enemies with brutal Peacekeeper Scorpius, while developing a relationship with crewmate Aeryn”
Better Off Ted (2009)
“As head of research and development at soulless conglomerate Veridian Dynamics, conflicted single father Ted (Jay Harrington) attempts to balance his personal code of ethics with each of his immoral assignments, such as freezing co-workers or weaponizing pumpkins. This scathing corporate culture satire co-stars Portia de Rossi as Ted’s heartless supervisor and Andrea Anders, the new product tester whom he longs to bed.”
“Sophisticated spy Archer may have the coolest gadgets, but he still has issues when it comes to dealing with his boss — who also happens to be his mother — in this wicked animated spoof of spy flicks and the sex-crazed agents who populate them.”
Netflix has the first two seasons of Archer on instant.
Amazon Prime has Pushing Daisies, Better Off Ted, Farscape, the first three seasons of Fringe, Firefly (but not Serenity), Lost, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Buffy (& Angel), Arrested Development, The X-Files and while you don’t get Twin Peaks, Prime members get the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Amazon charges for some their MST3K content but they have a whopping 71 free ones with Prime – far more than Netflix.
Amazon Prime comes up a few shorter than Netflix but they are pretty close. Now if only Amazon shores up their movie selection, they can be a real Netflix competitor.