The best sci-fi movies to watch on Netflix
Let's grab some spacey.
Netflix’s collection is massive, and even when narrowed down by genre, there is just too much for any single person to look through.
This is where we step in. We aim to save you time by selecting the best of the best, whether it’s the finest thrillers, horror, comedy, action movies, or just the top Netflix movies.
Today, we’re going to get spacey and chat about the finest sci-fi movies on the platform. There are interesting independent ventures, major blockbusters (including two that qualify as “the first large space movie from a prolific filmmaking nation”), and all-time masterpieces.
Let’s get started!
BEYOND SKYLINE AND SKYLINES
Skyline, an alien invasion epic with the heart of a DIY special effects reel, was nothing to write home about in 2010. So no one would blame you for passing on the uninvited sequel… and yet here we are, enthusiastically endorsing it. Bruiser from a B-movie Beyond Skyline, starring Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), finds his LAPD detective rescuing his son from abduction, then rescuing his son from inside the hull of a brain-extracting vessel, then rescuing a hybrid alien-human baby from a battalion of slobbering aliens, then assisting a band of Laotian freedom fighters in rescuing humanity from the final wave of the invasion.Beyond Skyline orchestrates mayhem like the best direct-to-DVD schlockfests, hands Grillo the conductor baton, then gives The Raid’s Iko Uwais just enough extraterrestrial-smashing solos to qualify as a romp, with full-bodied alien action (whatever the opposite of Alien’s hide-the-creatures-in-the-shadows scariness is, this is it). Skylines, the sequel, pushes things even farther, with an enthralling superpowered tale that propels the franchise to new heights.-Matthew Patches
50 individuals find themselves playing the most literal game of Survivor ever, with no notice and no idea how they ended themselves restricted to a circular death grid. Every two minutes, the participants, who range in age, race, and career, cast telepathic ballots to select who will be the next victim of an energy-blasting extraterrestrial orb. And every two minutes, the remaining men and women strive to make sense of the situation, befriend their fellow inmates, chat about their personal histories, and put aside their disagreements to choose who is worthy of escaping alive. The low-budget, highly powerful Circle analyzes modern society’s morality through horrible ways, much like a brutal sociology 101 experiment. How would you react? —MP
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 masterpiece about the delinquency, reeducation, and ultimate destruction of a British boy named Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is still considered one of the greatest and most unsettling films ever created. The first part of the film concentrates on Alex’s mayhem and brutal violence, up until the time he is captured. Instead of being a moral allegory about adolescent misbehavior, A Clockwork Orange explores what would happen if the government abandoned ideals like jail and rehabilitation and decided that smashing criminals’ minds and throwing them out on the street was the best option for everyone.
All of this contributes to A Clockwork Orange being one of the darkest and most postapocalyptic films ever filmed. It’s set in a near future replete with brutalist concrete buildings, classical music swells, a mishmash of inspirations from several decades, and an unbelievable lot of violence. Despite its horrors, it remains one of the greatest and most intellectual sci-fi horror films ever made. Goslin, Austen
ILLANG: THE WOLF BRIGADE
Kim Jee-2018 woon’s film, based on Hiroyuki Okiura and Mamoru Oshii’s 1999 sci-fi anime thriller Jin-Roh, moves the original’s concept from an alternate 1950s Japan to a newly unified Korea in 2029. Im Joong-kyung (Gang Dong-won) is a member of a militarized police force who has a moral dilemma following a chance encounter with a lady who may or may not be involved in a conspiracy to topple the government. Illang: The Wolf Brigade is a byzantine alt-history political thriller that gradually settles into fascinating action drama, replacing Okiura’s film’s gloomy wistfulness and weariness with a scorching exhibition of ballistic shootouts and exhilarating hand-to-hand fighting. —Egan, Toussaint
MEN IN BLACK
One of the best buddy comedies of the 1990s is also a sci-fi blast, with an all-time leading performance by one of our generation’s greatest leading men, Will Smith, alongside a delightfully cantankerous Tommy Lee Jones. Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub, David Cross, and an incredible performance by Vincent D’Onofrio as the bug-infected Edgar round out the large ensemble cast. —PV
THE MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM TRILOGY
The Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy, one of the first instances of an anime television series being reedited into a feature-length film, follows the story of Amuro Ray, a young boy living aboard a space colony in the future who unwittingly becomes the pilot of a prototype “Mobile Suit” known as the Gundam. Amuro is compelled to fight against the Principality of Zeon in the hopes of ending the conflict after fleeing home onboard the White Base spacecraft with his friends and neighbors.All three films — Mobile Suit Gundam I, II: Soldiers of Sorrow, and III: Encounters in Space — are not only an excellent introduction to one of the most influential mecha series of all time, but also an important work in the history of anime, transforming a floundering franchise into a cultural phenomenon in Japan. —TE
MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: HATHAWAY
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is the first installment in an ongoing trilogy of films directed by Shuko Murase (Witch Hunter Robin, Blade Runner: Black Out 2022) that chronicle the narrative of Hathaway Noa, the wayward son of Federation Captain Bright Noa from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. Noa flies the experimental RX-105 Gundam into the newest fight to determine the fate of humanity’s destiny, secretly conducting a guerrilla struggle against the Earth Federation’s attempt to commercialize the planet. Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway is an exciting sci-fi film that will have you riveted to your screen from start to finish, thanks to detailed, conventionally animated mecha designs, attractive character designs, and a dramatic, tightly wrapped narrative.-TE
It’s quite startling that Galder Gaztelu-horrific Urrutia’s first feature The Platform is his first feature: It’s polished and confident in a manner that implies a lifetime of filmmaking, and it’s very strange in a way that suggests a filmmaker with the cachet to fund any “one for me” picture within a specific budget. In an unsettling near-future, inmates are housed in a facility made up of stark concrete chambers connected by an open vertical shaft. A sumptuous dinner descends the shaft on a floating platform once a day, but the convicts in the uppermost cells consume all they can, leaving a picked-over mess (or nothing at all) for others below.It’s a basic, harsh metaphor for wealth inequality, but Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia compounds it with cruel regulations and creative variations, then with character choices, as the convicts debate how to respond to the system and each picks their own route. This smart, bloody metaphor movie is extremely unique, and one of the greatest and oddest movies on Netflix. It is darkly humorous at moments, depressingly gloomy at others, and continuously unexpected as the reality behind the bizarre institution gradually unfolds. —TR
Psychokinesis follows Shin, a fumbling, borderline-alcoholic security guard who drinks from a mountain spring recently contaminated by a meteorite and gets telekinetic skills, from Korean animator Yeon Sang-ho, best known for his 2016 zombie stunner Train to Busan (available on Netflix). As the oaf, Ryu Seung-ryong is a delight to watch as he learns to control his skills just as his estranged daughter re-enters his life and drags him into a real-estate-fueled class conflict.Psychokinesis makes fun of Shin’s “fighting technique,” and while it’s not as ludicrous as Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow’s genre mashups, the flying item mayhem can be both funny and exhilarating. The political edge lends weight to Shin’s superpowered judgments, but Yeon never loses sight of why everyone came: to push the psychic conceit to new heights. —MP
Space Sweepers has it all – trenchant capitalist criticisms! A motley team of space thieves together for a common goal! Trans topics as shown by a cute robot! Fight scenes that are badass! It is widely regarded as the first Korean space blockbuster. —PV
According to our review:
Space Sweepers manages to transcend beyond the familiarity of its notions, aided by the sheer charm of its actors. The back-and-forth between its motley crew of personalities and the minute features of its near-future planet provides the most thrilling and poignant moments. Imagining space as an extension of terrestrial capitalism isn’t novel, but Space Sweepers’ cast has the collective appeal to make the subject feel fresh and meaningful among the growing trash of streaming programming.
Tau is a found-family film about a girl and her AI friend that falls somewhere between an escape-room horror film and a found-family film about a girl and her AI friend. It stars The Guest’s Maika Monroe as the captive of a sleazy tech-bro genius, and sleaze extraordinaire Ed Skrein as that tech-bro genius. It’s only a bonus that Gary Oldman plays the AI that Monroe’s character needs to befriend in order to escape with her life. Tau is the epitome of a tiny, isolated sci-fi film: When Alex (Skrein) kidnaps Julia (Monroe) for research reasons, he confines her to his high-tech home, which is managed by an AI dubbed Tau. The entire film is built around a few simple sets:It’s largely about Alex and Julia’s battle of wits, as well as Julia’s efforts to get Tau to see her humanity and help her escape. It’s a taut, efficient micro-budget sci-fi thriller with some spectacular visual effects tossed in for good measure. —TR
THE WANDERING EARTH
The Wandering Earth, billed as China’s first sci-fi blockbuster and created on a scale designed to properly justify that moniker, presents its protagonists with a predicament straight out of Snowpiercer: the Earth is freezing and everyone is going to perish. Then it provides them a solution straight out of 1950s science fiction: humanity decides to strap a ton of rockets onto Earth and fly it out of the solar system and toward another sun like a spacecraft. Unfortunately, Jupiter’s gravity well is right there. The Wandering Earth, like the corresponding American sci-fi films it strongly mimics — Armageddon comes to mind — combines giggle-worthy science and a wide ensemble of vaguely defined people acting out their own personal crises atop the global calamity that connects them all.However, the spectacle is spectacular, the action is exhilarating, and the overall chutzpah is a lot of fun. The Wandering Earth, based on a short tale by Three-Body Problem author Liu Cixin, focuses sufficiently on family drama to make the plot fresh and accessible, but the main lure is the film’s scale and sweep, as well as all the astonishing images a blockbuster budget can buy. —TR