Much like an alien threat from another world, the multiverse is taking over. Some of the biggest movies and TV shows of our time are tackling the idea of multiple alternate realities that can often bleed into or connect with our own, with great results.
The idea of realities parallel to our own isn’t new, though it has taken a certain hold in popular culture in recent years. We spoke about why the multiverse is so popular at the moment earlier this year, so check out that article for a more in-depth look at the burgeoning sub-genre. Part of that is its relevance to the exciting field of quantum theory, but there’s no denying the story potential of infinite worlds – as well as the commercial potential for burgeoning franchises, as we’re seeing in the current phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (with some top MCU picks listed below).
But the best multiverse stories find a way to make the concept feel necessary to the plot – using fantastical sci-fi ideas about other worlds as a way to better understand our own – and that’s why we’ve brought together our top 10 picks of the best multiverse movies and TV shows, to help keep you scientifically entertained.
10. Star Trek
If you thought space was the final frontier, you’d be wrong. There are barriers beyond which lie whole other universes, which is something Star Trek has explored in aplomb – often seeing Starfleet crew face off against evil doppelgängers from another dimension.
Possibly the best multiverse gag comes from Futurama, which (in one episode, at least) asserts that there is only one other alternate universe – exactly the same, except that everyone is a cowboy. But even Star Trek’s more ethically binary explorations helped lay the ground for today’s widespread use of the multiverse as a story vehicle, and is well worth exploring to freshen up your multiverse history in this long-running, much-beloved sci-fi series.
9. Spider-Man: No Way Home
There have been no shortage of Spider-Man movies over the past 20 years, nor shortage of actors playing the webslinger in consecutive reboots – so why not get all of them into one movie?
2019’s Spider-Man: Far from Home may have set up the prospect of villains arriving from distinct universes, but No Way Home is where the idea really blossomed. A medley of villains from both Sam Raimi’s and Marc Webb’s film series collide with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker after a spell gone wrong, accidentally conjuring big bads like Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, and setting the stage for Marvel’s later multiverse hijinks.
We won’t list every returning face, in case you haven’t heard the spoilers – but trust that you simply do not get better fan service than this.
8. Russian Doll
While the second season of this hit Netflix show dropped the ball somewhat, the first flurry of episodes offer one of the funniest, weirdest and most thought-provoking explorations of quantum theory.
A foul-mouthed game developer in New York (played by Natasha Lyonne) finds herself in a time loop, replaying the same day over and over as they try to figure a way out of their predicament. We won’t spoil too much, but questions over how decisions can split our reality into different universes are well chewed through.
7. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
It can’t compete with the first place entry in this list, but Sam Raimi’s Marvel flick shows that 2022 truly is the year of multiverses. It sees Benedict Cumberbatch’s sorcerer Doctor Strange join forces with a young woman named America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez), who has the ability to hop between universes.
While not as horror-focused as some early hints and teasers made it appear, Multiverse of Madness does deliver on the title, with interdimensional chaos ensuing between Strange and various alternate versions of himself – along with Elizabeth Olson’s Scarlet Witch.
The real multiverse, as ever, is all the other Marvel media you’ll feel obliged to watch to make sense of everything happening.
6. His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman’s trilogy of universe-hopping books offer truly epic fantasy, and this TV series succeeds where the 2007 film didn’t, offering the space to delve extensively into the rich lore of the books – where human souls walk alongside their owners as animal companions, magical devices can chart a person’s fate, and a mysterious substance known as ‘Dust’ holds the key to travel between worlds.
With a screenplay by Jack Thorne, in a co-production between HBO and the BBC, His Dark Materials has had two strong seasons, with a third commissioned and arriving in November 2022.
5. Doctor Who
Doctor Who has a long history of playing with parallel universes and timelines – perhaps most notably during the reign of David Tennant and Billie Piper, the latter of which ends up in an alternate universe, living happily ever after (after some other plot) with a duplicated, single-hearted version of her beloved timelord.
But multiple iterations of The Doctor have touched on the multiverse, and that only looks set to increase in the years ahead with the return of Russel T Davies as showrunner – especially given his comments on taking inspiration from the MCU (opens in new tab), and the casting of Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney as a new iteration (and possibly multiverse counterpart) of Billie Piper’s Rose.
This sci-fi British treasure has plenty of multiverse lore to get your teeth into then, and looks only to have more going forward. Check out our Doctor Who streaming guide if you want to catch up on the series, or check out our rundown of the Doctor Who Doctors, ranked worst to best,
4. The Midnight Gospel
This trippy, animated Netflix show from the creator of Adventure Time, Pendelton Ward, is a lot deeper than you might think at first glance.
It starts from a fantastical premise – a space podcaster (or ‘spacecaster’) traveling to simulated universes to interview their digital denizens. But the interviews delve deep into issues of loneliness, addiction, and enlightenment from unlikely sources – a politician from a world overrun with zombies, a treasure-hunting fish, and the like.
Much of the dialogue is ripped directly from the podcast Duncan Trussell Family Hour, offering a thoughtful mashup of cartoon visuals and deep introspection. It was unfairly canceled after just one season, but you can find 8 existing episodes up on Netflix.
3. Rick & Morty
Originally an animated parody of Back To The Future, these days the release of a new Rick & Morty season is a massive cultural event, charting the interstellar adventures of alcoholic scientist Rick Sanchez and their whiny grandson.
The show does a great job of twinning domestic squabbles with galactic stakes, and excels in chaotic bits that don’t overstay their welcome, usually with aliens, space bug police, or time travel baked in. But the key sci-fi technology here is interdimensional travel, with Rick using a ‘portal gun’ of green goop to travel across infinite universes, making for infinitely surprising gags and story beats, but with the occasional nugget of emotional and existential depth in the science-entangled lives of the show’s central family.
In the words of Morty, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV”.
2. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Not just one of the best multiverse movies, but one of the greatest animated features ever made. Sony’s foray into a Miles Morales-fronted Spider-Man property offers truly jaw-dropping visuals, with a cartoonish, comic book style that’s nonetheless capable of immense emotional range and humor.
Half of the fun is the unlikely cast of Spider-Men from across different Spider-Man continuities, from a black-and-white Spider-Noir voiced by Nicholas Cage, to a Looney Tunes Spider-Pig voiced by John Mulaney. For such a well-tread superhero, this is a movie that continues to thrill and surprise on every watch.
Just try and watch it before the sequel, Across The Spider-Verse, lands in 2023.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
If you haven’t watched this movie already, be glad that there’s a version of you in another universe who has. The latest feature film from filmmaker duo ‘Daniels’ (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) is a chaotic mix of speculative sci-fi, martial arts action, and heartfelt family drama. It’s also very, very funny.
Michelle Yeoh plays a down-on-their-luck laundromat owner being audited by the IRS, when she discovers she’s the key to saving every possible universe from a great and destructive force.
Many multiverse plots are inherently nonsense – and Everything Everywhere All At Once leans into this in a big way, with its characters having discovered a way to inhabit the lives of parallel versions of themselves, by doing increasingly improbable things. Chewing gum you find under a desk? Professing your love to an evil tax collector? And a few things too NSFW to list here? The combination of slick action, sci-fi parody, and hot dog fingers will leave you thinking and laughing for days.