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Are you looking for the best sci fi movies on Netflix right now? It’s hard to imagine it now, but there was a time when a service like Netflix was the stuff of science fiction. It’s a repository of motion pictures, available to watch at the push of a button. It’s a magical, wonderful concept, and the only thing that would make it better is if they actually had all the movies you want. But that’s where we come in with our monthly updates on the best new movies on Netflix.
Are you spending too much time with your giant, blue, naked friend? Are you rapidly transforming into a prawn? Do you feel the urge to make a Close Encounter? Then you’re in luck, because there are a bunch of good sci fi movies to choose from on Netflix…
Here you’ll find the best sci fi movies on Netflix right now. Many of the best films in the genre are absent from the service lately, but there are still plenty of gems among the new releases in sci fi that are on Netflix right now. From the fantastical to the dystopian, the funny to the frightening, there’s plenty worth watching, including many of the top recent sci fi movies from 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015, as well as many of the all-time greatest classics, underrated b-movies, family-friendly flicks and ultraviolent action. They all await you in our picks for the hottest new sci fi movies on Netflix!
Oh, and when you’re done here, be sure to also check out our list of the 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies Ever and what’s new to Netflix this month.
Or follow these links for the best of other genres:
The best action movies on Netflix
The best comedy movies on Netflix
The best horror movies on Netflix
The best drama movies on Netflix
The best horror TV shows on Netflix
The best anime series on Netflix
Please note: This list pertains to U.S. Netflix subscribers. Some titles may not currently be available on international platforms.
Best Sci Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Zack Snyder’s noble attempt to translate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ comic book masterpiece to the big screen comes pretty close to getting it right. Watchmen is the epic story of an alternate reality where superheroes showed up in the 1940s and changed the course of history, leading to a dystopian 1980s on the verge of nuclear annihilation. Against that backdrop, a disturbed vigilante named Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) starts investigating a killer who’s targeting former masked heroes, and stumbles onto a gigantic conspiracy. The emphasis on action and spectacle undermines the story’s grounded, noir sensibilities but for extended sequences Watchmen is spectacular, especially the extended flashbacks on Mars, revealing the complex origin and mindset of the godlike Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup).
Neill Blomkamp’s smart and subversive sci-fi thriller District 9 was such an unexpected smash that it earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (a rare feat for any sci-fi film). Sharlto Copley stars as a South African government underling in a world where aliens crash-landed on Earth and are forced to live in shanty towns on the outskirts of society. Copley is a cog in that system of oppression, who gets a crash course in just how despicable he is when he’s infected with alien DNA and transformed into an alien creature himself. Blomkamp’s allegory for apartheid is on the nose, but vicious, and he punctuates that tale with spectacular action and unusual imagery.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Steven Spielberg’s 1977 opus tells the story of mankind’s first contact with extraterrestrial life, and unlike most films about that same subject, it’s not purely hopeful and it’s not terrifying. The arrival of alien life on Earth is portrayed as terrifying in some moments, inspirational at others, but more than anything it’s a life-changing event from which there is no return. Spielberg captures an epic scope without every leaving the planet Earth, building mystery and conspiracy on top of stories of troubled parents, played by Melinda Dillon and Richard Dreyfuss, who are inexplicably called to a strange locale, for astounding purposes. Few, if any, films have ever captured the awe we would no doubt experience if we actually found out we aren’t alone in the universe, but Close Encounters nails it.
Children of Men
Lots of movies tell a story about the end of the world, but Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men is more concerned about what happens just beforehand, as humanity realizes we are really and truly doomed. Clive Owen stars as a man living a near future, in which people are incapable of bearing children, and it’s only a matter of decades before humanity dies out altogether. You’d think the discovery of an infant would be a miraculous revelation that saves the world, but it’s entirely possible that we’re just too far gone down the rabbit hole of self-destruction for anything to matter. Filmed with astounding, long takes and a full appreciation for the depressing horrors of our species’ demise, Children of Men is one of the best sci-fi films of the century (at least, so far).
Oscar Isaac stars as a brilliant billionaire inventor, who invites one of his low-level peons, played by Domhnall Gleeson, to his secluded estate. But this isn’t a friendly visit. He’s actually here to test the humanity of Isaac’s new invention, a realistic robotic woman named Ava, played to perfection by Alicia Vikander. As they question the robot’s humanity, and what it means to be human, we gradually realize that what they really can’t figure out is the female mind. Brilliant performances and a thought-provoking screenplay make Ex Machina one of the best sci-fi films of the century so far.
Under the Skin
An alien entity takes the form of Scarlett Johansson, and stalks the streets, picking up lusty men and dragging them into a dark, inky abyss from which there is absolutely no escape. Jonathan Glazer’s experimental sci-fi film is unusually constructed, and looks and sounds like nothing else most people have seen, and Johansson gives an uncanny performance as an entity who struggles to understand what it means to be human, and to look outwardly beautiful.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams’s classic radio series and novels came to the big screen in a big way, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This underrated comedy stars Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel and Mos Def on a journey through a galaxy filled with incompetent computers, depressed robots and bureaucracy so lousy that it literally destroys the planet Earth. And if that wasn’t enough for you, it opens with a musical number sung by every dolphin on the planet Earth, and it’s glorious.
In an extremely recognizable future, in which people live their lives through their phones and computers, and are so divorced from human intimacy that they have to hire people like Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) to write their personal correspondence for them, a new operating system seems more human than human beings. So it is that Theodore connects to, and falls in love with an artificial intelligence named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). As directed by Spike Jonze, Her examines the melancholy of human disconnection in an increasingly connected world, and the complex way that emotions and romance will evolve as technology exceeds our psychological understanding.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson’s installment in the Star Wars saga follows many of the same patterns as the original trilogy, especially The Empire Strikes Back, while simultaneously subverting expectations and changing the rules. It’s as though someone finally noticed that Star Wars is as old now as the Flash Gordon serials that inspired Star Wars were when George Lucas’s original film came along, and decided to push the whole genre forward the same way Lucas did. The film is messy and controversial but dynamic and impressive, and its impact will be felt for many years – and many Star Wars films – to come.
Taika Waititi’s oddball Marvel Cinematic Universe movie sends Thor to an alien planet, where he becomes a gladiator who fights the Hulk, teams up with a drunken Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to start a revolution, and – GASP! – gets a haircut. Meanwhile, Hela (Cate Blanchett) has taken over Asgard, and the end of Thor’s world feels imminent. It’s an eccentric juxtaposition of the silly and the serious, the superficial and the complex, with meaningful issues like colonialism conveyed through crazy action sequences and witty banter.
Ben Foster wakes up from cryosleep and steps onto a spaceship overrun by mysterious monsters in Pandorum, a sci-fi thriller that owes a debt to films like Alien, but has plenty of surprises up its sleeve. Dennis Quaid co-stars as a fellow passenger who needs Foster’s help to save the day, but Foster’s journey deep into the center of the ship takes unusual and frightening turns. It’s an underrated and underseen sci-fi thriller that deserves a bigger audience.
One of the great low-fi sci-fi thrillers, Vincenzo Natali’s Cube begins with a group of strangers waking up inside of a giant cube. On each wall of the cube is a doorway to… another cube. And so on, and so on. What’s worse, some of the cubes contain horrifying death traps. The mystery is tantalizing, the characters are intriguing (especially as they turn on each other), and the skill with which this simple, unsettling story is told is absolutely remarkable.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
In 2001, Disney tried to make a different kind of animated adventure, and it was basically their version of Stargate. Atlantis: The Lost Empire tells the story of an idealistic dreamer named Milo (Michael J. Fox) who thinks he knows the way to the lost city of Atlantis, but once he and an intrepid team of explorers get there, the real adventure begins. The film was a box office disappointment when it first came out, but it’s good enough – and beautifully animated enough – to have earned a big cult following.
*Batteries Not Included
The residents of a rundown apartment building are being forced out of their homes, but when they discover a family of pint-sized UFOs living on their rooftop, their story starts to change. *Batteries Not Included is one of the oddest sci-fi movies on Netflix, and treats robotic extraterrestrial life the way most movies would treat a litter of adorable stray cats, but the novel visual effects and a fantastic cast of characters make it a unique, family-friendly treat.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Jerks! In! Space! James Gunn brought his oddball sensibilities to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, which of course are about a group of damaged and antisocial outcasts who band together, against their wishes, to save the universe. The action is fun and the humor is hilarious, but the real draw here is how seriously Gunn and his ensemble cast take these bizarre creations. A humanoid tree will make you cry. Mark our words.
Before Sam Rockwell won his Academy Award, he was stranded on the moon. Duncan Jones’s debut feature stars Rockwell as a miner, maintaining an outpost on the moon all by his lonesome. Just when the loneliness seems unbearable, something impossible happens, which changes his life forever. To ruin Moon’s secrets would be a shame. See it for yourself and marvel at its cleverness.
So there you have it: what to watch on Netflix right now in the world of sci fi movies. Check back here each month for new titles as Netflix adds them!
Note: This article is frequently amended to remove films no longer on Netflix, and to include more sci fi films that are now available on the service.