Cowboy Bebop: 12 Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next

Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation finally blasts into orbit, but there’s a lot more content out there for the die hard fans.

Faye Valentine, Spike Spiegel, and Jet Black on a couch in Netflix's Cowboy Bebop
Photo: Netflix

Anime is not for everybody. However, there are certain emblematic series, like Shinichiro Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop, that are able to transcend the medium and become pillars of pop culture that are adored by mainstream crowds. Cowboy Bebop is a science fiction series that focuses on a misfit crew of bounty hunters who travel the galaxy to make a big score and survive their own neuroses. Cowboy Bebop’s space setting allows the series to embrace sci-fi archetypes, but the anime is a delirious stew of ingredients that means that riffs on westerns, film noir, and even the horror genre are all fair game. All of these cultural reference points are held together with an electric jazz score that’s as unpredictable as the series’ stories.

Much like the indelible crew of the Bebop, this series plays by its own rules and is thoroughly impossible to define. Netflix’s new live-action take on the anime classic explores its universe in unique ways that should satisfy fans of the original, complete newcomers, and those who just appreciate loving experiments in genre storytelling. Fans can’t go wrong with either the original anime Cowboy Bebop or it’s new live-action reimagining, but there’s also tons of other TV shows, films, and anime series that conjure a comparable atmosphere and will appease audiences until the crew of the Bebop is ready for their next bounty. Here are 12 options.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Firefly


For those who are hungry for a very surface level translation of what Cowboy Bebop brings to the table, then look no further than the short-lived sci-fi series Firefly and its follow-up film, Serenity. Joss Whedon’s genre mashup quickly became a cult hit due to its radical mix of science fiction and western staples and a deeply entertaining collection of crewmates. Firefly feels both futuristic and lost in the past, and there’s such elegant world-building that’s present.

Malcolm Reynolds and the rest of the Serenity’s crew draw many parallels to Cowboy Bebop’s cast of characters where everyone is as swarthy and unpolished as they are heroic. Firefly throws a lot of bold concepts at the audience and its episodic adventures feel a lot like some of the Bebop’s clumsier missions, but at the core of both of these series is the strong makeshift bonds of family that these misfit outlaws build together. 

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Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Blade Runner

Blade Runner

Blade Runner is a definitive piece of cinema that helped redefine what the future could look like and its presentation of a gritty, neon-soaked, urban dystopia has become the foundation for countless other pieces of science fiction. Harrison Ford plays Deckard, a bounty hunter who must hunt down four renegade Replicants. Ford’s performance is perfect, but Blade Runner excels due to how it melds together sci-fi with film noir and the detective genre. The end result is such a wholly original vision and its ability to take big genre swings to create something special is just like how Cowboy Bebop remixes science fiction in so many ways. These worlds, both in look and tone, feel incredibly similar.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Space Dandy

Space Dandy

Space Dandy is an absurdist anime assault on the senses that follows around a “dandy guy in space.” Dandy and his atypical crew that consists of a cute robot and a feline alien are a down on their luck team of bounty hunters that immediately bring the crew of the Bebop to mind. Space Dandy is also helmed by Cowboy Bebop’s Shinichiro Watanabe and it almost feels like a more playful and meta remake of his ’90s anime.

What makes Space Dandy such a standout series is that each episode deconstructs a different genre as Dandy and his team explore contrasting planets. On a storytelling level, Space Dandy is brilliant, but it also assembles an enviable creative team that makes sure that weird alien species and extraterrestrial terrain looks completely different. Space Dandy even dips its toe into multiverse surrealism and there’s even a vague tease that Dandy and his bounty hunter crew are just an alternate universe’s version of Spike and company.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

So much to appreciate in Cowboy Bebop comes down to the world that it successfully builds through a surprising lack of exposition. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is a movie that conjures an extremely similar aesthetic to Cowboy Bebop with its look, society, and characters. The Fifth Element is absolutely gorgeous and its rainbow version of the future runs parallel with Cowboy Bebop

As much as these projects visually match, Bruce Willis’ put-upon flying taxi cab driver character feels like an amalgamation of Spike and Jet, while Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo comes across like a mix of Faye and Ed. There’s such an excellent team of totally different weirdos that come together to save the universe in The Fifth Element, just like in Cowboy Bebop. A lot of the same things can also be said for Besson’s more recent Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - The Killer

The Killer

Part of what makes all of Shinichiro Watanabe’s anime series, not just Cowboy Bebop, so compelling is that he gleefully pulls from many cinematic reference points. The filmography of John Woo has inspired many ambitious action filmmakers and the director’s earlier works deliver such kinetic chaos. John Woo’s 1989 classic, The Killer, has zero sci-fi sensibilities. However, Chow Fun-Fat’s disaffected mob assassin, Jeffrey, and his malaise over his career, plus the circumstances over the woman who wakes him up, are incredibly similar to Spike’s connection to Julia.

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There are clear parallels between The Killer’s characters and Spike and Julia, but Cowboy Bebop even explicitly references action setpieces from Woo’s film. Cowboy Bebop’s “The Ballad of Fallen Angels” models its epic cathedral shootout after The Killer, and the scene where Spike and Vicious exchange weapons also riffs on Woo’s A Better Tomorrow 2.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Samurai Champloo

Samurai Champloo

Samurai Champloo follows a young woman named Fuu who enters the orbit of two rogue samurai, Mugen and Jin, and the unlikely trio of strangers form an endearing bond together. Also coming from Shinichiro Watanabe, Samurai Champloo shares a lot of the same DNA and feels like the director’s riff on the past instead of the future. Set back in Japan’s Edo Period, Samurai Champloo remixes history with modern customs that presents such a fun depiction of the past. 

Much like with Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo uses music as its secret weapon and it further helps the anime’s contrasting ideas and genres come together. Both series have a very comparable energy thanks to their lovable losers that drive their stories forward. After the successful adaptation of Cowboy Bebop into a live-action series, Samurai Champloo could very well become one of the next anime that Netflix targets.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Final Space

Final Space

Final Space is a rare example of an animated series that’s heavily serialized and despite its comedic nature steadily skews more towards drama by the end of its three-season run. Gary Goodspeed is a kind-hearted but absent-minded astronaut who aligns himself with a deceptively powerful alien named Mooncake and an increasingly large cast of characters who set out to save the universe from Lord Commander and the other malevolent forces that are out there. Final Space begins in silly territory, but it grows into a sprawling space soap opera. Many of the similarities between Final Space and Cowboy Bebop are more superficial in nature, but it’s still likely that those that are drawn to Cowboy Bebop’s galactic adventures will appreciate Final Space’s serialized exploration of the universe.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Looper


Rian Johnson isn’t solely a sci-fi director, but he’s become a pivotal name in the genre and even the vibrant Canto Bight sequences from The Last Jedi feel like they could be invaded by the crew of the Bebop at any minute. Looper is an incredibly mature take on time travel, fate, and redemption as Joseph Gordon-Levitt wages war against a future version of himself. Looper’s hard-boiled characters and idiosyncratic technology feel very reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop.

In addition to the healthy Cowboy Bebop influences that are featured in Looper, Rian Johnson also specifically modeled the walk of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in Brick after Spike Spiegel, so clearly Johnson is a fan and is comfortable letting Cowboy Bebop’s flavor seep into his movies.

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Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Moonbeam City

Moonbeam City

A one-season animated wonder that aired on Comedy Central back in 2015, there’s likely a good deal of people who don’t even know that Moonbeam City exists. The exaggerated police procedural features an absolutely stacked voice cast that includes Rob Lowe, Will Forte, Elizabeth Banks, and Kate Mara, with Moonbeam City’s very distinct art style and retro electric soundtrack doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Moonbeam City exists in a nebulous world that embraces futurism, science fiction, and absurdity. This assembly of influences creates a unique world that’s not dissimilar to Cowboy Bebop. The characters in Moonbeam City are inept police officers, not bounty hunters, but the ridiculous episodic criminals that they take on feel like they’re pulled straight from self-contained installments of Cowboy Bebop, like “Venus Pop.”

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Kids on the Slope

Kids On The Slope

Slice of life anime series aren’t for everyone, but they can sometimes put a spotlight on the human condition in staggering ways and really culminate in something special. Cowboy Bebop is full of heightened battles and heists in space, but it’s also a really touching character study between the crew of the Bebop and how they heal each other. Kids on the Slope is a 12-episode anime series about a teenage introvert and social delinquent who bond together through a surprising love for jazz music. 

The stakes in Kids on the Slope are incredibly small, but the way in which these characters come into their own and become activated through jazz music is just so touching. Not only is Kids on the Slope directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, but its music also comes from Yoko Kanno, so anyone who’s drawn to Cowboy Bebop for its soundtrack should certainly give Kids on the Slope a shot.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Outlaw Star

Outlaw Star

Outlaw Star doesn’t just bear a lot in common with Cowboy Bebop, but the operatic space western actually aired at the same time as the original Cowboy Bebop and the two could be seen as sister series. Set far in the future where spaceships freely move at the speed of light, Gene Starwind becomes the captain of the Outlaw Star, which is designed to discover a galactic treasure and vast wonders. Outlaw Star is largely episodic in nature with each installment putting Gene and his odd crew on some new mission so that they can properly cover maintenance costs. The series is full of space pirates, bounty hunters, assassins, and outlaws, which all bring Cowboy Bebop’s similarly cutthroat universe to mind.

Cowboy Bebop: Similar Shows, Movies, and Anime to Watch Next - Carole & Tuesday

Carole & Tuesday

Another anime that comes from Shinichiro Watanabe, Carole & Tuesday feels like the biggest departure from the director’s past work. Carole & Tuesday is set in a futuristic version of space where there’s a healthy criminal enterprise that attempts to assert control over society, but it’s really about a lovable duo’s enthusiastic journey to become musical superstars. Carole Stanley and Tuesday Simmons come from very different backgrounds, but musically they’re able to not just empower each other, but inspire a nation.

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A series that’s devoted to the struggles of emerging musicians may seem considerably more low-key than Cowboy Bebop, but it perfectly taps into Carole and Tuesday’s emotional ride with the broadness of outer space always subverting expectations. Carole & Tuesday may have very different interests than Cowboy Bebop, but there’s endless thematic crossover between the two and the presence of Woolongs as currency in Carole & Tuesday technically means that they exist within the same universe. Maybe one day the Bebop crew will end up letting loose at a Carole & Tuesday concert on Mars.