Severance has, thankfully, been renewed for a second season. Still, it could take a while before new episodes emerge. While we’re busy theorizing about a myriad of mysteries — What will happen to the innies? What do all the numbers mean? What’s up with all the goats? — here’s a list of genre-hopping films and TV shows that can fill up some valuable brain space. Whether you’re craving workplace satires, corporate conspiracies, or memory-bending sci-fi, these are some of the most creative and self-referential analogs that are sure to hold you over until season two. Queue up this watch list, fire up the waffle iron, and enjoy some weekend viewing.
If Severance took place in outer space, you might get something like Moon. After almost three years in isolation mining helium on the moon for Lunar Industries, Sam Bell is excited to finish his contract and return to his family on Earth. However, as his return date nears, he experiences a wave of hallucinations and injuries that cause him to question both his career and his identity. A conspiracy of clones and mangled memories slowly unravels — putting Lunar Industries up there with Severance’s Lumon in terms of nefarious fictional corporations we love to hate.
Moon is streaming on HBO Max.
This slept-on workplace satire tackles the soul-sucking drudgery of office politics in a bitingly dark way. The pilot episode finds multinational corporation Hampton Deville bribing a suicidal employee with birthday cake. Much like Severance’s bleak incentive offerings (finger traps, anyone?), Corporate nails the absurdity of everyday life under ruthless global capitalism.
Corporate is streaming on Paramount+.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Severance is almost as visually stunning as Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine. Both use surreal imagery in a mind-bending way that reflects the memory-addled minds of their protagonists. Jarring images of beds on the beach or oil spilling from computers impart the same message to the viewer: Whether it’s romantic or professional, even the most difficult relationships are worth remembering.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Lacking the ability to form new memories would complicate anyone’s life, but it becomes a full-on dilemma for Leonard Shelby as he seeks vengeance for his wife’s death. Throughout Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, there’s an increasing reliance on Polaroid pictures to guide the unreliable protagonist’s journey — much like how photographs provide Mark with shocking revelations in Severance’s nail-biting season finale.
Memento is streaming on HBO Max.
This sci-fi anthology often explores the power of memory in mind-bending ways. Nowhere is this better seen than in the episode “The Entire History of You,” in which everyone has rewatchable access to all of their life experiences. However, it’s “Crocodile” that’s most akin to Severance in how it shows the lengths someone will go to bury and destroy potentially damning eyewitness recollections. There’s little difference between Andrea Riseborough’s cold-blooded killer Mia and Patricia Arquette’s unhinged Harmony Cobel — both crave self-preservation at any cost.
Black Mirror is streaming on Netflix.
Waltz With Bashir
This is an animated true-life tale of memory compartmentalization taken to the extreme. Haunted by nightmares of the 1982 Lebanon War, documentarian Ari Folman questions his own involvement in the massacre as a 19-year-old Israeli soldier. What follows is 90 minutes of memory interrogation that includes interviews with friends, experts, and eyewitnesses in an effort to undo self-inflicted amnesia. When shocking found footage of the actual event emerges, there’s no denying Folman’s own culpability in the carnage.
Waltz With Bashir is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s surrealist takedown of capitalism brings corporate conspiracies to an even more extreme place than Severance does. Memory deletion might be one way to increase productivity; transforming your employees into literal workhorses is quite another.
Sorry to Bother You is streaming on Netflix.
This docudrama series recounts the saga of Elizabeth Holmes and her disgraced biomedical company, Theranos. Holmes’ unscrupulous lack of ethics fueled her drive to build an empire — while many who worked for her were purposely unaware of their roles in perpetrating fraud at a literally life-threatening level. The few whistleblowers who strove to uncover the truth faced obstacles almost as harrowing as Mark, Helly, Dylan, and Irving do in Severance. It’s an extreme, real-life example of what it means to interrogate and negotiate our personal selves and professional values — and at what cost we’re willing to do so.
The Dropout is streaming on Hulu.
Richard Linklater ponders all sorts of existential conundrums in this animated film, in which an unnamed young man stumbles through life in a perpetual dreamlike state. A series of false awakenings has him questioning the state of his consciousness and the state of the world. If you thought Severance’s office mates had a hard time breaking through metaphysical boundaries, Waking Life presents an even more convoluted set of challenges that are just as riveting.
Waking Life is streaming on Cinemax.
Imagine if the innies and outies of Severance were separate physical entities forced to confront each other to a mercilessly bloody end. That’s essentially what happens in Jordan Peele’s Us, in which a vacationing family comes face to face with creepily vengeful doppelgängers.
Us is streaming on FuboTV.
The Truman Show
Truman Burbank’s entire life is a tightly constructed reality-television show, and everyone knows it but him. The Truman Show is another example of an individual on a quest for answers as the only life he knows unravels around him.
The Truman Show is streaming on HBO Max.
Terry Gilliam’s darkly humorous dystopia has it all: mind-numbing bureaucracy, Orwellian surveillance, absurdist humor, and whimsical machinery. It’s one of Severance’s clear influences.
Brazil is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Well before becoming a short YouTube horror film, the urban legend of “The Backrooms” had already haunted the internet for years. Essentially an endless and nightmarish labyrinth of office hallways bathed in buzzy fluorescent light and jaundiced paint, the creepypasta is a key influence on the unsettling set design in Severance, creator and showrunner Dan Erickson has said.