15 Shows Like Manifest That Are Worth Your Time
“Manifest,” the supernatural drama that aired on NBC for three seasons went well under the radar while it was on the air, but is receiving renewed attention thanks to being added to the Netflix streaming catalog in summer of 2021 (for a 2022 release). Re-entering the “most viewed” charts on the streaming service has saved the show from cancelation — and Netflix ordered a 20-episode run for its final season (via Deadline).
Focusing on an airline flight that makes an emergency landing during a violent storm only to discover that five years have past and they were all declared dead, “Manifest” chronicles the effect their return has on the people in their lives, as well as the many questions posed in the wake of their return. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear there is more going on than an inexplicable passage of time, as the passengers begin having strange visions.
“Manifest” is not the only show of its kind, however. We’ve come up with a list of similar past series’ that might whet your appetite for the strange and unusual; supernatural dramas about the missing, the returned, and downright unexplainable mysteries. Keep reading for a list of 15 shows like “Manifest” that are well worth a watch.
Of all of the many sci-fi drama’s that landed on TV screens in the mid-2000s, “The 4400” is definitely in the top tier. If you’re only familiar with the recent reboot on the CW, we urge you to at least double back and check out the original. With Mahershala Ali in one of his earliest roles, the series chronicled the mysterious return of 4,400 people who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances, some as far back as 1946, without aging a day. As the group of refugees from limbo attempt to reintegrate into society, their return is complicated when they each begin to exhibit their own unique abilities. Their gifts range from classic superhero powers like super-stength, mind control, and telekenesis, to more sci-fi powers like the ability to see into the future.
As the series progresses across its four seasons, shocking reveals and new answers give way to even more questions, with a potentially dangerous and diabolical plot by unknown forces. As the world attempts to deal with the emergence of super-powered people, the 4400 themselves begin to fracture, with some fighting back against government control, while other factions have more sinister goals.
The Crossing was a one-season series that aired in 2018. Variety noted in its review that it felt like a relic of the post “Lost” era, but that shouldn’t be seen as a knock on the series. The biggest criticism of the show might be that the story is complicated and involved, making it not-so-easily-digestible for casual binging. If you’re up for focusing on a heavily plot-centric series with a supernatural mystery premise, however, this one is for you. Starring Steve Zahn, the drama begins when a small town sheriff in the pacific northwest is called in to investigate a series of bodies that have washed up on a nearby beach.
What he finds is not a shipwreck or plane crash, but a group of refugees who are injured and dying and looking for a safe haven. But they’re not here to escape the despotic rule of a far-off land, or flee the miserable conditions of a developing nation — instead, they are seeking salvation from a war nearly 200 years in America’s future. While The Crossing only lasted one season, the story is fairly well resolved and not left hanging like some other prematurely-canceled shows of its type.
Under the Dome
Based on the book by horror icon Stephen King, “Under the Dome” shows a city encased in a massive impenetrable dome of unknown origin, leaving the people inside to fend for themselves. As the government outside looks for a way to free them — with no success — the townspeople within look for answers on their own. But while some hope to find the truth behind the dome and look for a way out, others see it as an opportunity to advance their own interests, as the mystery of the dome gives way to a dramatic fight for survival.
Running for three seasons, “Under the Dome” starred Mike Vogel (“Cloverfield”) and Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”). It was one of the most talked about event series’ of the summer of 2013, and its first season was a hit, and well rated by critics. Though its follow up seasons couldn’t quite maintain the same quality as its strong opening year, it still delivered a solid adventure that’s sure to thrill fans of “Manifest” looking for a good sci-fi mystery.
Starring “Lord Of The Rings” alum John Noble, “Dawnson’s Creek” star Joshua Jackson, and newcomer Anna Torv (who would go on to star in David Fincher’s “Mindhunter”), the sci-fi police drama “Fringe” was one of the best shows of its kind throughout the 2010s. Created by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, the series started out as a supernatural/sci-fi procedural akin to “X-Files” with new cases and new horrors each week for the trio to investigate. But as the series progressed it embraced long-form storytelling and evolved into a serialized tale of parallel realities.
Set within the Fringe Division of the FBI, veteran agent Olivia Dunham is aided by civilian consultant Peter Bishop and his eccentric scientist father Walter, who was once a government researcher tasked with experiments into fringe scientific theories. A series with some of the most deep mythologies that would make even fans of “Lost” blush, “Fringe” is the kind of series that will quickly have you clicking the “next” button at the end of every episode. We don’t want to spoil too much for viewers who may never have seen it, but the series builds to a war between realities (with the cast all playing multiple versions of themselves) and features a memorable recurring character played by guest star Leonard Nimoy in one of his final roles.
Taking a trip back to 2005, Carla Gugino starred in “Threshold,” alongside Charles Dutton, a pre-“Game of Thrones” Peter Dinklage, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Brent Spiner. Gugino is Dr. Molly Caffrey, a high-ranking official within the fictional Blackwood Institute, a government think tank tasked with creating procedures to handle unlikely crisis scenarios. In Caffrey’s case, her work involves preparing contingencies for a possible alien encounter, whether it be a peaceful first contact or a hostile invasion. Her work remains largely theoretical until the discovery of a U.F.O. by a U.S. Naval vessel, and she is brought in to enact what are called the Threshold Protocols.
Another series inspired by the runaway success of “Lost,” it didn’t quite catch on in the ratings. More than worth a watch — as viewers who’ve rediscovered it years later will attest (via Reddit) — it was unfortunately canceled after its first season. The show doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and its conclusion is both satisfying and incomplete — so be prepared to have some questions going unanswered. If you like your alien invasions with a bit more mystery and realism, “Threshold” will be right up your alley.
The 2015 series “The Returned” came from the mind of “Lost” creator Carlton Cuse. The series followed a group of people who returned from the grave under unknown circumstances, this time in a small town that was thrown into chaos upon their arrival. But we’re not recommending it, because it was unceremoniously canceled after a single season. Instead, we’re suggesting you check out its original French cousin, “Les Revenents,” the series that “The Returned” was based on. In the original version, that received two incredible seasons, a variety of townsfolk return after their deaths, including a young murder victim, several teenaged passengers of a fatal bus crash, and a vicious serial killer.
What follows is a tense and thrilling character study that examines themes of loss and grief. Delightfully creepy, the series received universal acclaim from critics, even better reviews than Cuse’s remake, which was sadly ended without a proper conclusion. “Les Revenents” meanwhile proved to be a gripping drama and a change-of-pace from the usual supernatural mystery, with the critical consensus on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes noting that it was “a must-see oddity that’s both smart and sure to disturb.”
The ABC series “FlashForward” seemed like it had all the makings of a hit sci-fi drama. The all-star cast included John Cho (“Star Trek”), Dominic Monaghan (“Lost”), Joseph Fiennes (“A Handmaid’s Tale”), Peyton List (“Mad Men”) — and recurring roles for Alex Kingston (“Doctor Who”), James Callis (“Battlestar Galactica”), and Shohreh Aghdashloo (“The Expanse”). Unfortunately, a spate of similar series released around the same time led to a muddled landscape, and so it only got one season, but it definitely ranks among the better shows of its kind from the era. It opens with the world’s entire population falling unconscious for two minutes and 17 seconds, and receiving fragmented visions of a devastating future 10 years hence.
As the series unfolds, the government attempts to gather as much information from these visions as possible and piece together a future puzzle so they might unravel a mystery and avert disaster. With such a fascinating concept, it’s a shame the series didn’t get further seasons, but it remains top-notch drama. Produced by Brannon Braga (“Star Trek: Voyager”) and David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight”), it’s become a cult hit with the site 25 Years Later giving it positive reviews — “FlashForward” is worth a watch for those who want a mystery mixed with a dash of the post-apocalypse.
Based on the 2000 feature film of the same name that starred Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, “Frequency” starred actress Peyton List nearly a decade after her role in “FlashForward,” this time as a young NYPD officer who discovers an old ham radio that allows her to speak to her dead father Frank some 20 years in the past. They work together to solve a case in two different time periods, altering history and saving her father from death. But their attempts to use the radio for good cause unintended side affects, creating problems that they must somehow find a way to make right.
Airing on the CW, “Frequency” is ultimately a timey-wimey drama that will recall shades of the “Doctor Who” episode “Blink” or the Ashton Kutcher sci-fi drama “The Butterfly Effect,” and pulls classic sci-fi tropes and delivers them with new context to a new audience, making them feel fresh and original. Though it was canceled after its first season, a final tack-on episode resolved any dangling plot thread and capped off the series nicely.
Another single season series on this list, “The Messengers” aired in 2015 and starred a mostly lesser-known cast, with the exception of “Black Panther” co-star Winston Duke. When a mysterious object falls to Earth, sending a massive pulse across the globe, five strangers are killed and immediately revived, but upon their rebirth find they possess unusual supernatural abilities. They soon discover that the object that crashed on Earth was a vessel that contained a being who seems to be no less than the devil himself, while the five strangers are The Messengers Of God, who are gifted incredible powers so they may have the weapons to stop him.
A science fiction and supernatural mystery series with decidedly religious overtones, “The Messengers” is essentially a superhero series injected with a biblical flavor. There’s a megalomaniacal super villain with a tyrannical plan, and a group of reluctant heroes who must come together to stop his scheme. With as much suspense as it has mystery, it weaves together modern science and religious texts in a clever way, and makes for a bizarre and bold drama that will have you questioning everything.
Another series based on a work by Stephen King, this time the novel “The Colorado Kid,” the SyFy original series “Haven” followed FBI Special Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) and a town called Haven that was once riddled with inhabitants that had displayed supernatural powers, called “Troubles.” Drawn to Haven by a new case, the return of the “Troubles” ignites a new investigation she also hopes that will lead her to her mother, who went missing years before during another incident.
A supernatural police procedural, it could be likened it to a modern updated version of “The X-Files,” as it focuses on an embittered paranormal investigator who uses her investigations as the means to find a long-lost family member. The mystery at the heart of the series should appeal to “Manifest” fans looking for another bizarre case to solve, and the pedigree of Stephen King gives it an air of respectability that other shows lacked. More successful than most on this list, “Haven” ran for five seasons, and while it departed wildly from the book on which it is rather loosely inspired, it became a strong drama on its own merits, and is worth watching for Audrey Parker alone, one of the more complex and interesting protagonists that you’re likely to find in a sci-fi drama.
“The OA” may be the best series on this list, with stellar reviews and high user ratings. Unfortunately, it may also be the most frustrating, as it was canceled by Netflix after its second season, and ends on an ambiguous note. Some, particularly fans on Reddit, feel that the vagueness and cancelation actually work to its benefit, while some weren’t convinced it wasn’t some elaborate hoax (via TVInsider). The series stars Brit Marling as a young woman who re-emerges after disappearing for seven years, and despite having been blind before, suddenly has the gift of sight given to her.
Calling herself “The Original Angel,” the woman keeps the secret of her disappearance to herself, telling only a small group of people she assembles, with a mission to return to where she had been while missing and rescue more people like her. The second season continues her journey, and while it wasn’t the kind of answer-filled resolution people wanted, the ending is perhaps one of the most unique and bizarre finales in recent memory.
Adapted from the Jason Mott penned novel “The Returned,” the ABC series “Resurrection” once again gives us a story not unlike “Manifest,” about a community in Arcadia, Missouri where life is turned upside down when a number of the townspeople’s long dead relatives are resurrected, at the same age they were when they died. It all begins when immigration officer J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps) starts working a bizarre case where a child from Missouri turns up in a rice field in China, only to find that the boy was supposed to have died by drowning decades before. When more people turn up similarly, all from the same town, the mystery widens.
And when the search for answers lead to even more questions, those who’ve been resurrected are suddenly alienated, with some becoming enemies of their loved ones. As the community comes to grips with the return of their lost family, the fact that many have managed to build new lives only adds to the drama. Though similar to “Les Revenants” in premise, “Resurrection” takes things in a very different direction.
The Australian drama “Glitch” may be seen on Netflix for American viewers thanks to international rights being gobbled up by the streaming network, as it was a big hit down under, and winner of a number of local awards. Taking place in the Australian city of Yoorana, Victoria, “Glitch” opens with a group of six seemingly random people who are raised from the dead, with complete and total amnesia — no memory of who they are, who they were, or why they’ve been mysteriously brought back. The series follows the six as they attempt to discover more about themselves, and find out what led to their untimely end.
As the story explores the human drama of loved ones returned after death, it also becomes clear that there’s more going on than some sort of zombie virus, and a vast conspiracy may be at work. Running for three successful seasons, “Glitch” was full of surprising twists that made it as compelling as it was a heartfelt story of love and loss.
One of the highest rated and best reviewed shows on this list, HBO’s “The Leftovers” wowed critics and audiences alike for three seasons before its natural conclusion in 2017. Created by Damon Lindelof, it follows the mysterious loss of hundreds of millions of people from across the world, and the chaos and panic that ensued. Starring Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Regina King, and Carrie Coon, the series was an emotional deadlift, with weighty themes, hard-hitting drama, and gut-wrenching, award-worthy performances.
Not as plot-driven as some, “The Leftovers” focused mainly on the personal struggles of the titular people left behind after the global event that erased 2% of the world’s population. Like “The Messengers,” its supernatural mystery had a religious angle, but this one was more subtle, and didn’t align with any single theology, instead exploring the more universal concept of faith. Described by MovieWeb as HBO’s “most underrated show,” where it was overshadowed by bigger names like “Watchmen” and “Westworld,” it is thankfully easily rewatched on the network’s streaming service where it’s found new life after struggling in the ratings while on the air.
Another Netflix original, this one out of the United Kingdom, “The Innocents” is a supernatural thriller about a teenaged young woman named June who develops strange powers, and runs away with her boyfriend to escape her overbearing and abusive father. A teen drama — rather than melodrama — “The Innocents” is full of all the angst and pain one would expect from the genre. The fantastical elements are used to great affect, helping to examine the series’ exploration of young love and teenaged rebellion, as the nature of June’s powers prove to be a satisfying twist.
Described by IndieWire as a “bonkers shapeshifting drama” that “revels in the chaotic messiness of love,” it’s much more about the romance between its two stars and the perceptions of life through their young eyes than any global conspiracy. The story rarely gets bogged down in heavy plots or complicated backstory, instead focusing on how June’s life has been affected by her powers, and how they’ve shaped her relationships and outlook on the world.