Cowboy Bebop, developed by André Nemec, is a live-action neo-noir space western series based on the TV anime of the same name and the 2001 anime film Cowboy Bebop: Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door. The story takes place in the year 2171 and follows the bounty hunter crew of the spaceship Bebop, who track down and capture some of the worst criminals in the solar system.
Spike Spiegel is a handsome and charming cowboy or bounty hunter and a member of the bebop crew whose dark past catches up with him when the criminal organization known as the Syndicate finds out he is still alive and uses all of its resources to order to rectify this. If you’ve seen Cowboy Bebop and enjoyed it, here is a list of recommendations for you. Most of these cowboy bebop-like series can be seen on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, or Funimation.
7. Dark Angel (2000-2002)
Developed by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee, Dark Angel is a standout example of a select group of action-adventure series from the late 1990s and early 2000s that featured a strong female lead. At the center of the plot is Max Guevara, or X5-452, a genetically enhanced super soldier who escapes the government facility that made her what she is and later goes in search of young men and women to be with her were in the program. Both Cowboy Bebop and Dark Angel are science fiction series in the truest sense of the word. But they also contain enough elements of other genres, including romance, thriller, and crime, to create a complex and healthy story.
6. Miami Vice (1984-1990)
Michael Mann’s and Anthony Yerkovich’s Miami Vice is probably the highest claim of the neo-noir genre. The plot follows MDPD undercover detectives James Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Rico Tubbs, who take on the criminal elements in and around Miami. Miami Vice revolutionized police drama when it came out, focusing on 1980s new wave culture rather than being a traditional police procedure. Aside from the neo-noir elements that both series have in common, both Cowboy Bebop and Miami Vice make great use of fashion and music in their respective narratives. In addition, both series indulge in the decadence of violence and sexuality.
5. Mob City (2013)
Photo credit: Doug Hyun / TNT
The short-lived series Mob City revolves around LAPD detective Joe Teague, who gets caught up in the brutal, real-world conflict between the Los Angeles Police Department, led by Captain William Parker, and elements of organized crime led by Bugsy Siegel. The story takes place in Los Angeles in 1947 and shows the darker shady side of contemporary Hollywood. While Cowboy Bebop looks to the future to find neo-noir elements, Mob City looks into the past, into the time of noir itself. Both series explore topics such as organized crime, violence and corruption through music, fashion and a protagonist, who stands on the border between chaos and order.
4. True Detective (2014-2019)
True Detective is an anthological neo-noir series with a distinctive style, themes, and characterization. The series tells a different story with different characters each season, but crime and violence are always the central themes. In the first season of True Detective, the complex relationship between partners Rustin Rust Cohle and Martin Marty Hart forms the core of the plot, just as the initial camaraderie between Spike and Jet drives the narrative in Cowboy Bebop.
3rd Carnival Series (2019-)
If Cowboy Bebop is a neo-noir set in a science fiction setting, Carnival Row is a neo-noir with a historical fantasy setting. In both series, a forbidden romance forms the core of the story. In Cowboy Bebop, it’s the one between Spike and Julia, Spike’s best friend’s girlfriend. And in Carnival Row it is the one between the person Rycroft Philostrate and the fairy Vignette Stonemoss. In addition, the time is skipped in both series in order to create a certain distance between the timeline of the romance and the current events that portray the two lovers as bitter, broken and disaffected.
2. The Expanse (2015-2022)
Photo credit: Rafy / SYFY
Based on a series of books by James SA Corey (the shared pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse is a great space western series. As in Cowboy Bebop, humanity has expanded beyond Earth in The Expanse and colonized the entire solar system. A seemingly ordinary crew of a space freighter uncover an interplanetary conspiracy that threatens to destroy the fragile peace in the system. Meanwhile, UN agent Chrisjen Avasarala and Ceres police detective Joe Miller stumble upon pieces of the big puzzle that they must solve before all-out war breaks out. Both Cowboy Bebop and The Expanse serve as vehicles for commentary on topics such as war, crime and corruption.
1. Cowboy Bebop (1998-2000)
Since this is a list of television series like Cowboy Bebop, it is only fair to mention the television anime that inspired it as well. Since it aired, Cowboy Bebop has secured its spot as one of the best anime series of all time. The Netflix live-action series is a largely faithful adaptation of the anime, but it’s not entirely devoid of creative liberties. Ultimately, the remake aims to expand the Cowboy Bebop universe to introduce the evergreen tale of Spike, Jet, Faye, Ein, Ed, Vicious, and Julia to new audiences who may have never seen the original anime.