The 10 Best TV Shows Based on World Mythology


Tales of gods and heroes have been told since ancient times. Whether they were used to explain the complexities of the world or entertain the masses with epic adventures, myths have been the cornerstone of storytelling since humanity’s beginning. As time has passed, these stories have changed for new audiences, and new storytellers have added their own spin to the classic stories. With the dawn of filmmaking, creators have even brought these mystical narratives to life on the big and small screen, adding a new chapter to these ages-old adventures.

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Many series have sought to capture the wonder of mythology, but some have seen more success than others. The following 10 television series represent some of the best. This list pulls from series themed around a number of different cultural traditions from across the globe, as well as those directed at different audiences, meaning that several great series could not be mentioned due to their more specific foci. With that said, the following series do an incredible job capturing the tone of these ancient narratives, and outside their excellent storytelling, they act as excellent starting points for those looking to delve into these fantastical beliefs.

10 American Gods (2017)

american gods

american gods

Release Date
May 1, 2017

Seasons
2

Shadow Moon is the lead character of American Gods, the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal novel. Shadow is soon to be released from prison, but his wife’s sudden death throws a wrench into his post-incarceration plans. On the way home for the funeral, Shadow is approached with a job offer by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, a man claiming to be the Norse god Odin. You see, the old gods followed their believers to the New World, but new values have given birth to new gods that don’t much care for their predecessors. A heavenly war is on the horizon, and Shadow stands at the center of the conflict.

American Gods Brings the Gods of Many Different Cultures Together

American Gods largely finds its place here as a representative of a vast suite of different world mythologies. Neil Gaiman’s novel is a great modern work of literature, and its themes of immigration and the values of the modern age are brilliantly executed. While the series deviates from the novel in several regards, the show is an excellent reimagining of the book, led by incredible performances from Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle, and its representation of various world mythologies is utterly fascinating. An honorable mention also goes out to Netflix’s adaptation of Gaiman’s The Sandman,which created an entirely new mythology inspired by tales of old.

Stream on Prime Video

9 Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2023)

Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, holding a blade into the sand while massive waves rise around him in a poster for Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians

Release Date
December 20, 2023

Seasons
1

At the time of this writing, Disney+ has recently adapted the first book of Rick Riordan’s award-winning series. Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows 11-year-old Percy Jackson as he discovers that the Greek myths are all real. Sent to Camp Half-Blood to protect him from the monsters now hunting him, Percy learns that his father, Poseidon, broke a decades-old pact with his siblings by conceiving him, and now, with Zeus’ lightning bolt stolen, all fingers point to the new, illegal demigod. In order to clear his name (and live to see his twelfth birthday), Percy must team up with his satyr best friend and the daughter of Athena to find the true thief.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Makes Up for the Mistakes of the Movies

The newest entry on this list, Percy Jackson and the Olympians has surprised fans with its stunning accuracy to Rick Riordan’s original novel series. It definitely carries some artistic license with its storytelling and characterization, but overall, it is a brilliant look at the beloved novels. This means that it is also an incredible and accessible entry point for those interested in Greek mythology. Riordan and the series took some liberties with the original myths (which are often too violent and sexual for a Disney audience), but they still act as a great starting resource for young readers and viewers wanting to explore the stories that birthed Western culture.

Stream on Disney+

Related: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Moments We Hope to See From the Books

8 Blood of Zeus (2020)

Based on Greek Mythology, the Netflix original series Blood of Zeus follows the adventures of Heron. Born a bastard, Heron and his mother are outsiders in their small village, but when a demonic army arrives, Heron discovers that he is the inheritor of a divine legacy. He is the illegitimate son of Zeus, and he is destined to save humanity from the demons. However, the gods are known for their scheming, and Hera is none too happy to learn that her husband has been unfaithful again. With the demon army on the hunt for him and Hera standing in his way, can Heron truly hope to stop an ancient evil from being resurrected?

Blood of Zeus Tells an Original Story with Classic Inspirations

If you want a series that accessibly approaches Greek mythology without losing the bloodshed, then Blood of Zeus is for you. It is a thrill ride from the first minute, and the action rarely slows down. It transforms the Greek gods into superheroic figures, and the animation quality throughout the series shines. With that said, Blood of Zeus never loses sight of its storytelling. Heron’s quest is a purely original story, but it contains many elements from the classic myths that inform the characters and plot. Zeus and the gods are prime examples, acting as mostly accurate caricatures of their original appearances with a nuanced focus informing their roles.

Stream on Netflix

7 Ragnarok (2020)

ragnarok

Ragnarok

Cast
Gísli Örn Garðarsson , Henriette Steenstrup

Ragnarok is a Netflix original Norwegian fantasy series that focuses on the deities of Norse mythology, though these aren’t the gods as you know them. Thor, Odin, Freyja, and Loki have all been reincarnated in the modern day with no memories of their past lives. Magne Seier is at the center of this story. The reincarnation of Thor, Magne is a high school student who, after the death of his close friend, begins a campaign against the local Jutul family, a group of jotnar who are destroying Edda with industrial pollution. With the other gods at his back, Magne walks the road to Ragnarok, the end of the world, with his hammer Mjolnir in his hand.

Ragnarok Brings the Viking Gods into the Modern Day

Ragnarok has all the teen drama that you’d expect from a CW series, just with a deific twist. The mythology angle adds a fun spin to the series that sets it apart from other, similar supernatural dramas, and the allusions to the original stories are fascinating. The conflict between jotnar and god has been popularized time and again, especially in the modern day with films like Thor. However, the conflict here feels far more grounded. Yes, there are some brilliant special effects and a handful of fights, but the series truly brings the myths into the modern day, meaning Thor has to dole out justice with more than just a few swift hammer strikes.

Stream on Netflix

Related: Netflix’s Ragnarok: How Close Does the Series Get to Norse Mythology?

6 Trese (2021)

Based on the comic books by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, the Netflix original series Trese brings the myths and monsters of the Philippines to life. Alexandra Trese inherited her father’s legacy upon his death, becoming the arbitrator between the supernatural and mortal worlds of Manila. When the police are in over their heads dealing with vampires, zombies, and murdered ghosts, they call in Alexandra and the Kambal twins to find a solution. However, her recent cases have all begun to tie together, and a connection to an investigation from her past seems to signal that an ancient entity is on the brink of breaching the veil between worlds.

Underrepresented Filipino Myths Find New Life in Trese

The folklore and mythology of the Philippines have gone criminally unnoticed in modern media, and Trese gives viewers a bite-sized snippet of the fascinating supernatural world of the island nation. The overarching story is a bit rushed, meaning some of the details get lost in translation, but the unique focus on this culture makes it a must-watch for mythology nerds. For fans of urban fantasy and light horror series like Supernatural and Constantine, Trese is sure to scratch that magic-in-the-modern-day itch. The series flew under a lot of viewers’ radars, but with plenty more likely on the way, now is the perfect time to dive into this exciting show.

Stream on Netflix

5 Hercules: The Legendary Adventures/ Xena: Warrior Princess (1995)

Starring Kevin Sorbo, Hercules: The Legendary Adventures follows the adventures of the mythological powerhouse as he travels Ancient Greece and defends its people. Enraged by Zeus’ infidelity (a common theme in Greek mythology), Hera sends monsters and other gods to Earth to defeat Hercules, but using his incredible strength and relying on his closest allies, Hercules manages to always save the day. Spinning out of these legendary adventures is Xena: Warrior Princess, the adventures of an Amazonian warrior and her companion as they attempt to help those in need as redemption for Xena’s villainous past.

Xena and Hercules Paved the Way for Modern Fantasy Series

While Xena: Warrior Princess has had a larger impact on popular culture (Lucy Lawless is still inseparable from her iconic role almost thirty years later), these two series make this list for their shared continuity. Both changed the game during their mid ’90s runs by making mythology the centerpiece of a long-running action series. The success of these fantasy epics allowed for the production of other modern hits, showing the storytelling potential in fantasy and mythology despite its higher production values. They weren’t the first fantasy hits, but they were the first to truly take off and inspire a generation.

Stream on Prime Video

4 Cleverman (2016)

Inspired by Aboriginal Australian worldviews, Cleverman sees the emergence of “Hairypeople” or “Hairies” into the world. Originally hidden from humanity, this humanoid species is covered in thick hair, has incredible strength, and is connected to the mystical Dreaming. After his Uncle Jimmy dies, Koen West inherits the powers of the Cleverman, a powerful heroic being tied to the Dreaming. Now the defender of the Hairies after months of exploiting them, Koen becomes a target for the CA and the Australian government. He also comes into conflict with his older brother Waruu, who always dreamed of inheriting the Cleverman identity.

Cleverman Shines a Spotlight on Aboriginal Australian Beliefs

Among the various mythologies on this list, the beliefs of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia are likely the least known. While there are many cultural groups and beliefs spread throughout the country, there are several overarching similarities, especially in the mystical realm of the Dreaming. Cleverman isn’t necessarily a primer on Aboriginal mythology, but it does a great job of incorporating it into this modern fantasy-superhero story. The plot is well-crafted, and the interpersonal struggles between the West brothers is fascinating. This series is one of the lesser-known on this list, but it wholly deserves your attention.

Stream on Prime Video

3 Maya and the Three (2021)

Based on Mayan and Mesoamerican cultures, Maya and the Three is a Netflix original animated fantasy series following the adventures of a young warrior princess named Maya. On the day of her 15th birthday, the gods of the underworld crash her party and announce that she must pay for her family’s misdeeds. However, Maya doesn’t go quietly, choosing instead to follow a mysterious prophecy and go out into the world to gather three great warriors. With their help, Maya will be able to confront and defeat Lord Mictlan and his deific army, saving humanity from their destructive reign.

Maya and the Three Gives Viewers an Incredible Latina Hero

Maya and the Three succeeds by subverting many of the traditional “damsel in distress” tropes you’d expect from this type of story. Maya doesn’t just send some hero off to save her. Neither is she the perfect, messianic chosen one figure; Maya has a lot to learn about leadership and heroism on her path, making her a brilliant lead focus for the series. What sets Maya and the Three apart, though, is its Mesoamerican origins. It does an incredible job leaning into the aesthetics of the culture, transforming traditional art into true character design. It’s a great choice that adds a level of authenticity to this hilarious, action-packed adventure.

Stream on Netflix

2 Moon Knight (2022)

Moon Knight

Moon Knight

Release Date
March 30, 2022

Rating
TV-14

Seasons
1

Oscar Isaac stars as both Stephen Grant and Marc Spector in Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight. After defying his commander’s orders, mercenary Marc Spector was killed within an Egyptian temple. Chosen by the temple’s patron deity, Khonshu, Marc Spector becomes Moon Knight, the god’s champion in the mortal realm and the defender of those who travel by night. However, Marc also suffers from disassociative identity disorder, and his alter, wannabe Egyptologist Stephen Grant, has recently become the target of a powerful cult. Stephen must come to terms with his powers and join forces with his alter identity in order to save the world.

Moon Knight Is a Breath of Fresh Air for the MCU

Moon Knight introduced a new layer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While gods had been explored through Thor, those characters were more technologically advanced aliens than true mystical deities. The gods of Egypt presented in this miniseries, however, were magical powerhouses, capable of empowering human champions to serve their causes. The series makes several changes to Egyptian mythology, but it does a great job introducing viewers to the complexities of this lore. Moon Knight has since become one of the MCU’s best miniseries to date, spearheaded by incredible performances by Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke.

Stream on Disney+

1 American Born Chinese (2023)

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese

Release Date
May 24, 2023

Seasons
1

Adapted from the graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang and inspired by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, American Born Chinese is a story of immigration, cultural identity, and coming-of-age in America. Jin Wang is your average high school student, but his life is turned upside-down when new transfer student Wei-Chen reveals that he is the son of the legendary Monkey King Sun Wukong. After seeing a vision of an uprising against the gods, Wei-Chen stole his father’s magical staff and journeyed to the mortal realm to find the “Fourth Scroll,” which will save the world, and he wants Jin to join him on his quest.

American Born Chinese Masterfully Captures the Heart of Chinese Myth

Despite its cancellation, this adaptation of Gene Luen Yang’s award-winning graphic novel is an incredible journey through Chinese myth and folklore. It captures the intricacies of Journey to the West with younger viewers in mind, and the cast, consisting of pop culture juggernauts like Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, masterfully bring these mythological characters to life. More importantly, though, this is a powerful, heartfelt story of growing up an outsider, of trying to nail down your identity in the chaos of high school. Jin Wang is a fantastic lead character, and the mythological story is an incredible analogue for his personal journey of self-discovery.

Stream on Disney+



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