Netflix’s enormous movie catalogue has helped make it the most popular streaming service the world over, with millions signing up to watch endless hours of content on phones, TVs, tablets, desktop, games consoles, and more.
The constantly refreshed Netflix library offers plenty of incredible movies to choose from and it caters to all different kinds of movie fans. That includes the ever-popular sci-fi genre. Cyberpunk, steampunk, space opera, superheroes, science fantasy, dystopian, utopian, time travel — all of the science fiction genre’s greatest hits are represented on Netflix.
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As with horror movies on Netflix, however, there are plenty of duds out there that aren’t worth your viewing time. To help you choose the perfect celluloid escape to other worlds and dimensions, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best sci-fi films on Netflix.
Editor’s note – We will update this post as more great Netflix sci-fi movies are added to the service’s catalog and others are removed.
A Clockwork Orange
The debate will forever rage on over which Stanley Kubrick movie is the auteur director’s finest work. In the world of sci-fi, 2001: A Space Odyssey remains a touchstone of the genre, but its absence on Netflix paves the way for Kubrick’s masterful adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. The 1971 movie is a razor-sharp interpretation of Anthony Burgess’ infamous dystopian novel that retains some of the book’s bizarre slanguage, as well as its dark humor, scathing social commentary, and penchant for indulging in “a bit of the old ultraviolence”. Malcolm McDowell’s performance as twisted anti-hero Alex and the fusion of classical music with synthesizer-laden soundscapes complete an unsettling, but unmissable classic.
1999 was supposed to be the year of Star Wars, with the release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. As it turned out, 1999 was actually the year of The Matrix. Written and directed by the Wachowskis, this tale came at exactly the right time. The internet was just starting to explode in the mainstream, and the movie took that interest and expanded it into a future where all of humanity was unknowingly hooked up to machines, believing they were in a dream world set in the present day. Only a relative few freedom fighters know the truth, and they believe that Keanu Reeve’s character of Thomas Anderson, also known as Neo, is their savior; the man that can defeat the machines at their own game.
With anime-inspired action and visual effects that had never been done before (“Bullet time” became a legend), The Matrix is still one of the best sci-fi movies of all time and one of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix. Netflix also has its two bigger, but not better, sequels to stream: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
After writing the screenplays for Sunshine and Dredd, novelist Alex Garland took the director’s seat for the sublime sci-fi thriller Ex Machina. The movie follows Blue Book (a.k.a. Basically Facebook/Google) employee Caleb (Domhall Gleeson) who is invited to visit the secluded, futuristic home of the company’s reclusive genius CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who just so happens to have created an AI humanoid robot (Alicia Vikander) capable of passing the Turing Test. The result is a stylish, cerebral dive into what makes us truly human and one of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix.
V For Vendetta
The Wachowskis are back again on this best sci-fi Netflix movies list. They scripted the adaptation of the classic comic book from writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd for this 2005 film, and it was directed by James McTeigue, the assistant director for all of the Matrix movies. While Moore has disavowed this movie, don’t let that stop you. The film version of V for Vendetta is a powerful work of drama, set in a near future version of Britain that’s ruled over by a fascist state. One man, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and calling himself V, has decided to fight this oppressive goverment, while also trying to rescue, and then recruit a woman to his cause. Hugo Weaving gives an excellent performance as V, even though we almost never see his face. Natalie Portman is his equal as Evey, a scared young woman who is transformed into something else because of V.
Finding love is hard enough, but imagine a world where you had to find that spark of romance in no more than 45 days or risk being transformed into an animal. This absurdist dystopia is brought to life in a humorous, yet moving fashion in The Lobster — the work of Greek visionary Yorgos Lanthimos who also created the Academy Award-winning film The Favourite. Starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, The Lobster is an idiosyncratic love story that beautifully skewers the harsh realities of dating in the Tinder age.
Made on a shoestring budget with a tiny cast, Moon is a note-perfect throwback to smart sci-fi movies from the 1970s and 1980s. Sam (Sam Rockwell) becomes marooned on Earth’s titular satellite after spending almost three years working for a lunar mining corporation. What follows is a merging of hard science with science fiction as the isolation and a series of hallucinations cause Sam to question his own memories. Director Duncan Jones would go on to helm the Blade Runner-esque neo-noir Mute, which can also be streamed on Netflix.
This 2013 movie from famed Korean director Joon-ho Bong has an unusual setting; a train that is traveling what seems to be an endless track around the world, through a snowy post-apocalyptic Earth. The train has its lower class passenger, led by Chris Evans. They are trying to get their way into the upper class portion of the train, where the rich and privileged people, like the character played by Tilda Swinton, reside. This is a movie that offers up commentary about class, poverty and more inside an entertaining movie, and is one of the best sci-fi films on Netflix.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Ignore the stupid petitions, The Last Jedi is the best installment in Star Wars movie franchise since Return of the Jedi. The eighth episode in the Star Wars saga and the second entry in the sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi bravely refreshes the Star Wars formula by putting its new heroic trio — Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) — front and center, while also staying true to the series’ legacy. Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) sort-of-triumphant return to the big screen is judged perfectly and Adam Driver’s superb work finally puts Kylo Ren on the same level as the franchise’s many other memorable villains. Watch it, you must.
We already gave The Terminator a spot on our best action movies list but it’s also easily among the best sci-fi movies on Netflix too. James Cameron’s 1984 classic casts Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular implacable cyborg — one of the action star and sci-fi cinema’s most iconic bad guys. The first movie in the Terminator franchise is arguably its best, as the man (or woman) vs. machine war plays out on a smaller, yet more threatening scale.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Black Mirror is one of the best original TV shows on Netflix, but its creator and writer Charlie Brooker decided to release a great Black Mirror feature film in late 2018 on Netflix as well. This is great news on its own, as we get to watch how developing a fictional video game starts to affect the reality of its programmer. However, this “movie” is, in fact, an interactive experience as you will be asked in the middle of the narrative to make choices that will affect the storyline. There are several different ways the storyline will end, and of course, once you reach it, you can always start over again and make different choices, to see if you can get to all of the endings.
Best sci-fi movies on Netflix – honorable mentions
- 9 — While the storytelling can’t match the impressive “stitchpunk” animation design, 9 is a post-apocalyptic journey that both kids and parents will enjoy.
- Under the Skin — Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien being who preys on hitchhikers in Scotland in an occasionally slow and ponderous, but visually engaging abstract sci-fi drama.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story — The origin story of iconic smuggler Han Solo bombed at the box office, but the flawed spin-off is a decent sci-fi romp.
Those are our choices for the best sci-fi movies on Netflix. Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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