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Expand Your Mind With These Cerebral Dramas

Updated January 21, 2021 509 votes 73 voters 2.4k views31 items

List RulesVote up the television drama series that aren't just well-written - these are shows packed with complicated ideas that keep you thinking and emotionally engaged.

Doppelgangers, alternate realities, and murder mysteries that twist and turn give viewers a lot to think about when watching the best cerebral drama shows. Whether you like detectives with a dark side or robots struggling with sentience, this list of cerebral TV shows will exercise your mind. A few of the best cerebral TV series have even compelled fans to debate the meaning of every secret that is revealed.

Twin Peaks is a mystery that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Blogs, YouTube channels, and books have been dedicated to the intellectual ins-and-outs of the plot. Giri/Haji – translated Duty/Shame – is a British series that finds a Japanese detective with the tough decision to choose between helping his family and honoring his profession.

When it comes to good cerebral shows, it doesn't get much better than the German series Dark. A child's disappearance provokes a mystery that spans several generations and parallel worlds in this Netflix original.

Stop racking your brain when trying to decide which cerebral series to watch next and instead check out this list to see what fellow fans recommend. Vote your favorites to the top and please add any other good shows that challenge viewers to think outside of the box.

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  • Dark1
    48
    14

    Dark

    Louis Hofmann, Oliver Masucci

    Premiered2017

    Dark (Netflix, 2017) is a German science fiction thriller web television series created by...  more

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  • Sherlock2
    45
    14

    Sherlock

    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman

    Premiered2010

    Sherlock (BBC One, 2010) is a British crime television series created by Steven Moffat and...  more

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  • Black Mirror3
    31
    5

    Black Mirror

    Daniel Kaluuya, Toby Kebbell

    Premiered2011

    Black Mirror (Netflix, 2011) is a British television anthology series created by Charlie...  more

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  • The OA4
    31
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    The OA

    Brit Marling, Emory Cohen

    Premiered2016

    The OA (Netflix, 2016) is an American mystery drama web television series created by Brit...  more

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  • Sense85
    22
    5

    Sense8

    Aml Ameen, Doona Bae

    Premiered2015

    Sense8 (Netflix, 2015) is an American science fiction drama web television series created by...  more

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  • Fringe6
    21
    5

    Fringe

    Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson

    Premiered2008

    Fringe (Fox, 2008) is an American science fiction television series created by J. J. Abrams,...  more

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  • True Detective7
    28
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    True Detective

    Mahershala Ali, Matthew McConaughey

    Premiered2013

    True Detective (HBO, 2014) is an American anthology drama television series created by Nic...  more

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  • The Queen's Gambit8
    18
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    The Queen's Gambit

    Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp

    Premiered2020

    The Queen's Gambit (Netflix, 2020) is an American drama miniseries based on the 1983 novel by...  more

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  • Twin Peaks9
    17
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    Twin Peaks

    Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn

    Premiered1990

    Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990) is an American mystery horror drama television series created by Mark...  more

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  • Mr. Robot10
    15
    4

    Mr. Robot

    Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin

    Premiered2015

    Mr. Robot (USA Network, 2015) is an American drama-thriller television series created by Sam...  more

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  • Orphan Black11
    20
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    Orphan Black

    Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce

    Premiered2013

    Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series created by screenwriter Graeme...  more

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  • Maniac12
    14
    7

    Maniac

    Jonah Hill, Emma Stone

    Premiered2018

    Maniac (Netflix, 2018) is an American dark comedy television series created by Patrick...  more

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  • Westworld13
    15
    10

    Westworld

    Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton

    Premiered2016

    Westworld (HBO, 2016) is an American science fiction western thriller television series...  more

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  • Stranger14
    10
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    Stranger

    Cho Seung-woo, Bae Doona

    Premiered2017

    Stranger (tvN, 2017) is a South Korean crime thriller television series. An emotionless...  more

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  • The Code15
    2
    0

    The Code

    Anna Wood, Ato Essandoh

    Premiered2019

    The Code (CBS, 2019) is an American drama TV series. The military's brightest minds take on...  more
  • Giri/Haji16
    5
    1

    Giri/Haji

    Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald

    Premiered2020

    Giri/Haji (Netflix, 2020) is a British television drama created by Joe Barton. A detective...  more

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  • Wormwood17
    2
    1

    Wormwood

    Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker
    Wormwood (Netflix, 2017) is an American six-part docudrama miniseries directed by Errol...  more
  • The Third Day18
    1
    0

    The Third Day

    Jude Law, Katherine Waterston

    Premiered2020

    The Third Day (HBO, 2020) is a drama television miniseries written by Dennis Kelly. The line...  more

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  • The Twelve19
    1
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    The Twelve

    Luc De Ruelle, Maaike Neuville

    Premiered2019

    The Twelve (één, 2019) is a Belgian crime thriller. Twelve ordinary people are called for jury...  more

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  • Equinox20
    1
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    Equinox

    Danica Curcic, Lars Brygmann

    Premiered2020

    Equinox (Netflix, 2020) is a Danish supernatural mystery thriller television series created by...  more

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  • Biohackers21
    1
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    Biohackers

    Luna Wedler, Susanne Jokiel

    Premiered2020

    Biohackers (Netflix, 2020) is a German drama sci-fi thriller television series created by...  more

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  • The Honourable Woman22
    0
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    The Honourable Woman

    Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stephen Rea

    Premiered2014

    The Honourable Woman is a 2014 British political–spy thriller television miniseries in eight...  more

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  • Paranoid23
    0
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    Paranoid

    Indira Varma, Robert Glenister

    Premiered2016

    Paranoid (Netflix, 2016) is a British crime drama directed by Mark Tonderai and Kenny Glennan....  more
  • Hinterland24
    7
    5

    Hinterland

    Richard Harrington, Mali Harries

    Premiered2014

    Y Gwyll, titled Hinterland in the English-language version (S4C, 2013), is a Welsh noir police...  more

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  • Walker25
    0
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    Walker

    Jared Padalecki

    Premiered2021

    Walker (The CW, 2021) is an American western, action-drama television series written by Anna...  more

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