What better time to catch up on some cult classic television shows than now? Join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at some of the best cult hits to ever grace the small screen… starting with "Veronica Mars." The series, which debuted in 2004, follows the life of the titular character (Kristen Bell), a popular girl-turned-outcast and teen detective. Creator Rob Thomas expertly tackles the story of Veronica's quest to not only solve her best friend's murder but to investigate the details of her own sexual assault — her sassy remarks and pointed one-liners allow for moments of levity throughout the series. What makes it a cult classic, though, is its dedicated fanbase: As a result of their efforts, there's since been a feature film (entirely funded via Kickstarter) and an eight-episode fourth season that was released in 2019. All seasons of the beloved mystery series are available to stream now on Hulu. Keep reading for more cult classic TV shows…
"Firefly" on Hulu
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon penned 2002's "Firefly," a Western-meets-outer space series that takes place in the year 2517 after a universe-wide civil war. It follows the lives of the nine-person fleet aboard Serenity, a Firefly-class vessel — or as Joss famously pitched it, "nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things." The show — which scored a 2005 movie, "Serenity" — was essentially about space cowboys protecting themselves from the cannibalistic Reavers, and the intergalactic Alliance agents who are on a mission to recapture River (Summer Glau), a child prodigy who's gone insane. The short-lived series was a hit among fans for its genre blending. Who knew watching a group of misfit space cowboys could this be thrilling?
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"My So-Called Life" on ABC & Amazon Prime Video
Winnie Holzman created a series that attracted a small though dedicated audience. 1994's "My So-Called Life" tells the story of 15-year-old Angela Chase, a sophomore who's going through the motions of high school. From trying to decode the signals from her unintelligent crush, Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), to saving her troubled best friend, Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer), from overdosing to her own poignant moments of introspection delivered to us through voiceover, the show explores common high school tropes in ways that don't feel preachy. The series hit cult status because of the way it articulates the adolescent experience. It was a high school drama that didn't feel like an overwrought after-school special. It was messy, unpretty and wildly complicated — just like growing up.
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"Twin Peaks" on Hulu
Leave it to David Lynch to create a surreal and otherworldly horror soap set in an eerily quiet town in the Pacific Northwest. 1990's "Twin Peaks" follows oddball FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he tries to track down the killer of distressed teen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). While it goes without saying, David's artful sensibility is what made this series the cult classic it is today — its fringe, offbeat approach to storytelling made it especially intoxicating (albeit really unnerving) to watch and sparked an extraordinary pop culture phenomenon. In a pre-Reddit era, "Twin Peaks" was one of the first shows to develop a hardcore fan base. It also spawned a movie and a 2017 revival run.
"The O.C." on Amazon Prime Video
Aside from introducing teens around the world to the greatness of angsty emo music (we love you, Death Cab for Cutie!), "The O.C." developed a dedicated fan base when it debuted in 2003 largely because of its charismatic ensemble cast. Anchored by Ben McKenzie, the series served as the launching pad for the careers of Young Hollywood stars Ben, Adam Brody, Rachel Bilson and Mischa Barton and gave actors like Peter Gallagher, Melinda Clarke and Tate Donovan a platform to showcase their acting chops once again. The show's melodrama is what makes it so addictive — over its four-season run, it developed a cult following that even tried to campaign to save it from cancellation (which ultimately failed).
"The X-Files" on Hulu
FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), a conspiracy theorist and believer in paranormal activity, and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a rational theorist and doctor, investigate unsolved purported extraterrestrial cases dismissed by the government. From alien abductions to deeply disturbing monsters, Chris Carter's 1993 sci-fi series — which ran for nine seasons — sparked an incredible pop culture phenomenon. The "The X-Files" fandom progressed from a small, albeit devoted base of "X-Philes" to a global cult audience. With the heavy incorporation of technology in its storylines, it "may have been the first show to find its audience growth tied to the growth of the Internet," according to The New York Times. It also spawned a movie and came back for two seasons in 2016 and 2018.
"Xena: Warrior Princess" on Amazon Prime Video
The concept is a simple one that packs an influential punch: "Xena: Warrior Princess" tells the story of the titular character (Lucy Lawless) who, in an effort to seek retribution for her dark past, uses her skills to fight evil. "Xena," which aired from 1995 to 2001, left a lasting impact on popular culture and has been credited with pioneering a new generation of female heroines like Buffy of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Sydney Bristow of "Alias" and the bride in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" franchise (In fact, Lucy's stunt double on "Xena" went on to be Uma Thurman's in "Kill Bill"). Xena has been praised as being an iconic feminist and lesbian heroine — her friendship with Gabrielle was seen as barrier breaking for LGBTQ representation in the mainstream media during this time. "The name Xena means 'stranger,'" Lucy told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "She felt she was irredeemable. That friendship between Xena and Gabrielle transmitted some message of self-worth, deservedness and honor to people who felt very marginalized, so it had a lot of resonance in the gay community."
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on Hulu
It's hard to fully comprehend the impact this series had on popular culture. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which debuted in 1997 as a continuation of the 1992 comedy-horror film of the same name, charts the experiences of a teenage vampire killer and her loyal friend group known as the Scoobies (played by Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon and Anthony Stewart Head) as they fight the forces of evil and deal with the typical perils of growing up. There are a lot of reasons why Joss Whedon's supernatural drama gained the cult following it has. Perhaps it's the way Sarah Michelle Gellar expertly breathes life into this complicated teen who's forced to balance her destiny with her yearn for normalcy. Or maybe it's Joss's quippy, quick dialogue that's since been dubbed "Buffy-speak." Or maybe it's the smart use of metaphor to articulate those pivotal, often painful moments of growing up (like when Buffy sleeps with Angel and he turns into a literal monster the next day). We could go on forever about this one, but rest assured — it's a cult classic for many, many reasons.
"Daria" on Hulu
"Daria," which aired from 1997 to 2002, follows the life of misanthropic teen Daria Morgendorffer and her best friend, Jane Lane, as they go through the monotony of high school. The MTV series developed a dedicated cult following for a slew of reasons — from its satirical depiction of high school life to its smart critiques of social classes and norms, it was an absolute breath of fresh air. Its self-awareness, pointed humor and thoughtful commentary on life through the lens of a monotone, judgmental yet entirely lovable protagonist made for brilliant television. In many ways, it articulated the adolescent experience more accurately than other series did at the time.
"Freaks and Geeks" on Amazon Prime Video
Sometimes absence makes the heart grows fonder… and that is certainly the case with this series. While "Freaks and Geeks" premiered on NBC in 1999 and ran for just one season, it's among the most mourned short-lived television series ever. Not only did the show give Hollywood its first real taste of a dream team that included Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Busy Philipps, John Francis Daley and Martin Starr, but it expertly articulated the complexities of being a teenager — height differences, poor decision making and all. Though 18 episodes were made, the network pulled the series after only 12 aired — a decision that eventually led to a fan-led campaign that pressured NBC to broadcast the remaining six. Despite its cancellation, "Freaks and Geeks" is constantly being rewatched and newly watched by audiences everywhere. Executive producer Judd Apatow, along with the show's creator, Paul Feig, created something incredibly special.
"Battlestar Galactica" on Amazon Prime Video
This 2004 reboot of the 1978 sci-fi series follows the tribulations of Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos), President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and their fleet as they search for Earth and protect themselves against the vengeful robot Cylons who are responsible for destroying almost all human civilization. In addition to being the most critically acclaimed series on Syfy, "Battlestar Galactica" gave us Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) and Cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer) — two iconic female characters.
"Community" on Hulu & Netflix
When ex-lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) is disbarred after his law firm realizes he lied about attaining a bachelor's degree from Columbia University, he enrolls at Greendale Community College, where he immediately develops a crush on Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs). In an effort to spend time with her, he forms a study group — but to his dismay, she ends up inviting a friend who invites another friend and so on. What results is this 2009 story about an oddball group of community college students who actually end up really liking each other. "Community" is a cult fave for its meta humor, pop culture references and its parody of common cinematic tropes. It managed to garner a loyal fanbase that its more popular competitors could never actually manifest.
"Aqua Teen Hunger Force" on YouTube TV
A series about the lives of human-sized misanthropic fast food items? Count us in. "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" is an adult animated series created by Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro that aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It follows the bizarre misadventures of Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad. The series, which made its official debut in 2001 and ran for 11 seasons (139 episodes) until 2015, was beloved for its exceptional writing and high-concept ideas. It was a show that firmly rooted itself in surrealism — from supercomputers that have the capacity to travel through time to cursed sandwiches that can literally send their consumer to hell, "ATHF" is as offbeat as animated television shows come. Its unpredictability and utter lack of regard for logic are what made it such a cult hit.
"Party Down" on Hulu
2009's "Party Down" follows the shenanigans of six aspiring actors, comedians and writers who work as caterers for wealthy Los Angelenos while awaiting their big break. The series, which was co-created by Paul Rudd, is a cult favorite for two big reasons — it's dream-team cast (Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, Ryan Hansen) and its charming, offbeat writing.
"Pushing Daisies" on Amazon Prime Video
The Bryan Fuller series "Pushing Daisies" follows the life of Ned (Lee Pace), a socially awkward pie maker who has the power to resurrect the dead with his touch. The only problem is that with a second touch, he has the capacity to revoke their second chance at life — a stipulation that makes his relationship with his best friend (and love of his life), Charlotte (Anna Friel) — who he brought back to life after she was killed — pretty complicated. This series, which ran for two seasons from 2007 to 2009, hit cult status because of its playful, whimsical nature — dedicated fans love it for its smart, refreshing depiction of love as something that isn't defined by intimacy or physical touch. That, coupled with the constant way in which it incorporates Kristin Chenoweth's Tony Award-winning vocals, is what makes it a (polarizing) hit.
"Arrested Development" on Hulu
"Arrested Development," which debuted in 2003, follows the lives of an affluent, spoiled family that loses everything after patriarch George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), who's also the CEO of the clan's real estate business, is sent to jail for committing fraud. As a result, son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is forced to stay in Orange County, California, and care for his eccentric clan. Mitchell Hurwitz's critically acclaimed series redefined what it meant to be a network comedy — its voice-over narration, joke density and faux-documentary style were just a few of the factors that contributed to its widespread appeal.
"Doctor Who" on YouTube TV
To put it far too simply, "Doctor Who" follows the adventures of a Time Lord known as "the Doctor," a two-hearted humanoid alien who travels through time and space through an English phone booth fighting all sorts of diabolical entities. The British sci-fi series, which debuted in 1963, has developed a dedicated fan base over the years because it is sci-fi at its absolute finest. It transitions effortlessly from quirky and fun (like when the Doctor attends a dinner party with the novelist Agatha Christie) to heartfelt and serious (like when the Ninth Doctor sends Rose back to Earth). Tonally, the series has this ability to take fans on an emotional, often unpredictable roller coaster.
"Farscape" on Amazon Prime Video
The Syfy series "Farscape," which debuted in 1999, follows astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder), who mistakenly flies into another part of the galaxy where he ends up leading a group of rebels on a living spaceship who are protecting themselves against a dangerous military force called Peacekeepers. The show hit cult status for a slew of reasons — in addition to the whole "Muppets in Space" thing it had going on, "Farscape" created complex, feminist characters and approached gender politics in a way that was ahead of its time. It was a trippy, progressive space opera that was in a league of its own.