BREAKING NEWS

The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix

The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix
28 May
11:54

Gone are the days when the best science fiction movies on Netflix included a Tarkovsky gem or Re-Animator or a Star Trek joint or (during the true halcyon beginnings of the streaming service) Blade Runner. Today, much of Netflix’s sci-fi library is filled with recently-released-to-VOD micro-budget titles with the exception of a classic or two.

In other words, sci-fi isn’t exactly a strong point in the realm of what Netflix has for genre offerings, but there is still plenty to pick from if you feel like bemoaning the destiny of our technological world, wrecking your every conception of reality and human potential, from a new South Korean superhero origin story to an animated classic, from late-’80s gems to those new to the service as of two or three weeks ago.

For other genres and types, check out Paste’s many, many Best Movies lists, and then make your way through the following. Whatever the future holds, for the time-being check out our choices for the 15 best sci-fi movies on Netflix.

psychokinesis-movie-poster.jpg 15. Psychokinesis
Year: 2018
Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Following up Train to Busan, his adroit add-on to the endlessly alive zombie genre, Yeon Sang-ho offers another interpretation of the zeitgeist with Psychokinesis, building a deft, vaguely political room of South Korea’s own in the cinematic superhero universe. Ryu Seung-ryong plays everyman nobody Shin Seok-heon, a dopey security guard estranged from his family, brought back into daughter Roo-mi’s (Shim Eun-kyung) life after a gang of unionized construction workers accidentally kill her mother while attempting to evict the young fried chicken entrepreneur from their small storefront. Also, Seok-heon has burgeoning superpowers of the titular variety, contracted when he drank from a public spring polluted with an alien substance recently released into the earth via crashed space rock. Though Yeon (who also wrote the film) typically confuses comic book sensibility with a total lack of deeply written characters struggling under actually interesting motivations and backstories, Yeon isn’t particularly driven by the same forces as the MCU or the DCEU: Psychokinesis has an unfettered heart, an unfussy melodrama, in ways films of those brands don’t, not burdened by the same economic pressure—and also declaring very clearly that the police are bad. It’s all pretty refreshing in the wake of an Infinity War. —Dom Sinacola


death-race-2050.jpg 14. Death Race 2050
Year: 2016
Director: G.J. Echternkamp

The first official sequel to Paul Bertel’s Death Race 2000—43 years later—the almost mathematically sound Death Race 2050 is almost worthy of inheriting its predecessor’s cult lineage, but can’t quite get an insightful enough bead on the many issues it attempts to skewer. It’s dumb, and it knows it’s dumb—knows that it should be dumb—but it doesn’t actually want to be dumb, which is probably where it goes from sci-fi action romp to dour thriller and pushes to a climax that literally burns everything to the ground. Just as our country deserves. Still, director G.J. Echternkamp—who’s on Netflix five times, twice as the director of the documentary and the film based on the documentary about his dysfunctional parents—knows how to squeeze every drop of insanity from an already-strangled budget, which makes the scope of Death Race 2050 even more impressive. It’s a big dumb movie about a future cross-country race in which killing innocent people is rewarded and mass destruction a given, but it’s also a Marxist screed against a dystopic future in which the means of labor are taken from us and society is subdued by virtual reality fantasy, as well as the best representation in over a decade of Malcolm McDowell at his purest: puerile, pompous and entirely game for whatever. —Dom Sinacola


mr-nobody.jpg 13. Mr. Nobody
Year: 2013
Director: Jaco Van Dormael

So much of our lives is out of our control: Shouldn’t that fact terrify us? What makes Mr. Nobody work so well is that Belgian writer-director Jaco Van Dormael balances both the awe and terror of that eternal mystery. This existential sci-fi drama stars Jared Leto as Nemo Nobody. Waking up one morning, Nemo discovers he’s an elderly man living in the late 21st century—and that he’s the last mortal left alive in an advanced civilization that views him as a fascinating oddity. Nemo has no memory of how he got so old—last he remembers, he was born in 1975 and living his life in the early 21st century. The film is structured around old Nemo’s stories to a journalist who’s writing a story on him. We see much of Nemo’s younger life, but the problem is that we’re not sure which version of his life is correct. According to the old man, he either grew up in the U.K. and fell in love with a woman named Elise (Sarah Polley) or he moved with his mother to Canada and fell in love with a woman named Anna (Diane Kruger). But even those versions have their own divergent narratives: Did Nemo meet Anna as a teen (Juno Temple) and then never reconnect with her in adulthood, or did they find each other again? This storytelling complexity is not new for Van Dormael, who helped make his name on the world stage with 1991’s Toto the Hero, which also told the story of a man’s life in flashbacks that weren’t always accurate. Fantasy and reality mix just as readily in Mr. Nobody; in one plot strand, Nemo adventures to Mars to be part of a colony, although we assume what we’re seeing is a product of Nemo’s imagination as a boy. In Mr. Nobody, despite the myriad variations of Nemo he’s playing, there’s a consistent damaged quality to the character that binds them together. Leto isn’t trying to essay distinct personalities for each Nemo—they’re really all versions of the same soul. —Tim Grierson


hellboy-2-movie-poster.jpg 12. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Year: 2008
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
The Golden Army is a somewhat divisive sequel to Hellboy, with some proponents possibly praising del Toro’s vivid imagination in crafting an even better film than the first, while others could consider its an example of Lucas-ian drift from character and story into a world-building wonderland. Regardless of the comparison, though, it’s a sequel that gives us more of the first film’s better elements—the genius of Ron Perlman, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, a bit of John Hurt—and the addition of the eccentric Johann Krauss, the disembodied, ectoplasmic professor contained in a diving suit. The elven antagonist, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), can’t quite measure up to the first film’s villains in terms of how they fit into the mythology of Hellboy’s creation and destiny, but the MacGuffin of the titular Golden Army makes for a spectacular final fight sequence. Also neat: Seeing an expansion of the fantasy/fairy world that coexists next to the human one in the Hellboy universe, including their memorable trip to the Troll Market existing in a parallel dimension under the Brooklyn Bridge. The story is ultimately slightly less focused on Red himself, but The Golden Army is never anything short of entertaining. —Jim Vorel


turbo kid poster (Custom).jpg 11. Turbo Kid
Year: 2015
Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Turbo Kid is a joyous experience, the kind of insane indie wish-fulfillment that I can only imagine inspires other indie filmmakers to say “Well if that guy can pull off this movie, then I need to make a movie of my own.” It’s a gloriously absurd ode to ’80s era kids movies, apocalypse fiction and gore-centric horror, full of neon colors and exploding heads. The hyper-bloody ultraviolence in particular is insanely impressive, on a level rarely seen outside the likes of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. Add a twist of Michael Ironside playing a ham-fisted parody of his villain roles in movies like Scanners (talk about exploding heads…) and Total Recall, and you have a serious cult classic in the making. Turbo Kid sells itself on its premise and iconography, but it’s far better than it truly has to be. —Jim Vorel


donnie-darko.jpg 10. Donnie Darko
Year: 2001
Director: Richard Kelly

Apparently, at some point in its burgeoning cult ascendency, director Richard Kelly admitted that even he didn’t totally get what’s going on in Donnie Darko—going so far as to release a “Director’s Cut” in 2005 that supposedly cleared up some of the film’s more unwieldy stuff. Yet another example of a small budget wringed of its every dime, Kelly’s debut crams love, weird science, jet engines, superhero mythology, wormholes, armchair philosophy, giant bunny rabbits and Patrick Swayze (as a child molester, no less) into a film that should be celebrated for its audacity more than its coherency. It also helps that Jake Gyllenhaal leads a stellar cast, all totally game. In Donnie Darko, the only thing that’s clear is Kelly’s attitude: that at its core cinema is the art of manifesting the unbelievable, of doing what one wants to do when one wants to do it. —Paste Staff


april-extraordinary-world-poster.jpg 9. April and the Extraordinary World
Year: 2015
Director: Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci

Keeping real life global history straight in narratives that leapfrog across decades and centuries is tough enough—making sense of alternate history when it’s articulated at breakneck speed throughout multiple eras of European cultural advancement is just downright strenuous. Think of April and the Extraordinary World as an intense workout for your brain, during which the film shapes a surrogate Earth in the span of mere minutes and fires off salvos of detail, visual and aural alike, in the pursuit of recalibrating the past. The inattentive and unimaginative need not apply. Good news for diligent viewing types, though: April and the Extraordinary World is pretty great, a compact exercise in world building without handholding that rewards a patient, observant audience. If you can keep pace with the film’s plot deployment, you’ll be in for a wonderful ride littered with talking cats, fabulous steampunk backdrops, rollercoaster excitement and terrific characters, all drawn through the fundamental beauty of cel animation. April and the Extraordinary World reminds us of the aesthetic value of traditional animation and the necessity of human ingenuity, all without treating its audience like idiots. —Andy Crump


doctor-strange.jpg 8. Doctor Strange
Year: 2016
Director: Scott Derrickson
Rating: PG-13

When the folks at Marvel Studios truly realized, likely via The Avengers in 2012, that these films were comedies just as much as they were action-adventure stories, it crystallized the format in ways both positive and somewhat limiting. The result is that one can never quite take seriously claims that a new film is going to “break the mold” of the MCU, but at the same time it’s hardly something to complain about, when that mold is fundamentally solid and entertaining. To that end, Doctor Strange is crowd-pleasing and exciting—funny when it should be, sober when it has to be and crackling with a magical mystique that adds a veiled layer of depth to the inner workings of the Marvel universe. Even without too many overt references to the rest of the MCU, everything in Doctor Strange makes one wonder how the revelation of the Marvel Multiverse will affect the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and others. —Jim Vorel


batteries-not-included.jpg 7. *batteries not included
Year: 1987
Director: Matthew Robbins
Old people and aliens partner to fight gentrification for the crowd-pleasing win! Spouses both on and off the screen, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn play a couple who are among the low-income residents of an apartment building at odds with The Man, who goes so far as to hire a local gang to vandalize the couple’s downstairs diner and further drive out the tenants. As luck would have it, a pair of friendly flying saucers dubbed “the Fix-Its” are in town, and squat on the top of the building while repairing anything and everything there in miraculous time. Oh, and the UFOs aren’t just do-gooding Fix-Its, they’re fertile, family-minded Fix-Its at that. Exec produced by Steven Spielberg and co. and with a script co-penned by Brad Bird (his first feature screenplay), *batteries not included is smart and cute, in the best sense of that term—the Fix-Its are positively adorbs. The cast (which also includes Elizabeth Peña) is pitch-perfect, especially the sprightly Cronyn. There’s a childlike innocence to the whole thing, and darned if it doesn’t charm you. —Amanda Schurr


rogue-one-210.jpg 6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Year: 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards’ venture into a galaxy far, far away is the Star Wars film we never knew we needed. It’s a triumphantly thrilling, serious-minded war movie that is incalculably stronger for the fact that it’s NOT the first chapter in a new franchise. Rogue One is a complete film in a way that no other Star Wars movie other than A New Hope is capable of being. It doesn’t “set the stage” for an inevitable next installment, and its characters are all the realer for the fact that they’re not perpetually sheathed in blasterproof Franchise Armor. It is, so help me, a satisfyingly complete story, and I had no idea until I watched the film how refreshing that concept would be. Our protagonist is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a plucky young woman whose brilliant scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) has been controlled throughout her life by the Empire and coerced into designing superweapons of the moon-sized, planet-killing variety. Forced into a young adulthood on the fringes of the Rebel Alliance, she’s assembled a Jack Sparrow-esque rap sheet and, as the film begins, finds herself in Imperial prison on various petty charges. What Rogue One is, most accurately, is what it was sold as all along: a legitimate war movie/commando story, albeit with some familial entanglements. —Jim Vorel


guardians-galaxy-vol2-movie-poster.jpg 5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Year: 2017
Director: James Gunn

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn shows that “second verse, mostly same as the first” can serve the viewer (and, inevitably, the box office) well, especially when one has most of the Marvel universe to pull from. To a large extent, GotG Vol. 2 follows the playbook from its predecessor, though now, with the entire cast familiar faces to the audience, Gunn skips introductions and goes right to the funny. In this case, that means an opening credits sequence featuring the entire team and what amounts to a highlight reel of character traits meant to amuse: rapid banter from Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), humorous ’roid-rage from Drax (Dave Bautista), quiet bad-assitude from Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and an extended cute-Groot frolic. During this sequence and throughout the movie, the comic elements of this particular space opera feel as if they have been ratcheted up, but, though he doesn’t seem to want the audience to have too much time between laughs, Gunn also seems determined to match the increased comic volume with more heart. The audience is unlikely to feel they’ve seen anything that different from Vol. 1, but it’s clear that Gunn and company knew exactly what qualities made the first film so enjoyable, and what they needed to do to make sure this particular sequel was worth the wait. —Michael Burgin


okja-movie-poster.jpg 4. Okja
Year: 2017
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Okja takes more creative risks in its first five minutes than most films take over their entire span, and it doesn’t let up from there. What appears to be a sticking point for some critics and audiences, particularly Western ones, is the seemingly erratic tone, from sentiment to suspense to giddy action to whimsy to horror to whatever it is Jake Gyllenhaal is doing. But this is part and parcel with what makes Bong Joon-ho movies, well, Bong Joon-ho movies: They’re nuanced and complex, but they aren’t exactly subtle or restrained. They have attention to detail, but they are not delicate in their handling. They have multiple intentions, and they bring those intentions together to jam. They are imaginative works that craft momentum through part-counterpart alternations, and Okja is perhaps the finest example yet of the wild pendulum swing of a Bong film’s rhythmic tonality. Okja is also not a film about veganism, but it is a film that asks how we can find integrity and, above all, how we can act humanely towards other creatures, humans included. The answers Okja reaches are simple and vital, and without really speaking them it helps you hear those answers for yourself because it has asked all the right questions, and it has asked them in a way that is intensely engaging. —Chet Betz


evolution-2015-poster.jpg 3. Evolution
Director: Lucile Hadžihalilovic
Year: 2015

Hadžihalilovic’s gorgeous enigma is anything and everything: creature feature, allegory, sci-fi headfuck, Lynchian homage, feminist masterpiece, 80 minutes of unmitigated gut-sensation—it is an experience unto itself, refusing to explain whatever it is it’s doing so long as the viewer understands whatever that may be on some sort of subcutaneous level. In it, prepubescent boy Nicolas (Max Brebant) finds a corpse underwater, a starfish seemingly blooming from its bellybutton. Which would be strange were the boy not living on a fatherless island of eyebrow-less mothers who every night put their young sons to bed with a squid-ink-like mixture they call “medicine.” This is the norm, until Nicolas’s boy-like curiosity begins to reveal a world of maturity he’s incapable of grasping, discovering one night what the mothers do once their so-called “sons” have fallen asleep. From there, Evolution eviscerates notions of motherhood, masculinity and the inexplicable gray area between, simultaneously evoking anxiety and awe as it presents one unshakeable, dreadful image after another. —Dom Sinacola


moon.jpg 2. Moon
Year: 2009
Director: Duncan Jones
First-time director Duncan Jones is overt about his stylistic appropriations of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, right down to the sweeping orchestral music that frames the opening shots of the titular satellite and Earth. Yet where Kubrick tapped into existential fears about human extinction and the future of civilization, Jones hypothesizes the logical conclusion of that dark vision: a world where the need for more energy has rendered humanity a manufactured cog of multinational corporations whose reach now extends beyond the boundaries of Earth. The film’s plot centers on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only human on a lunar mining facility that harvests Helium-3, a clean fuel that can meet a near-future Earth’s ballooning energy demands. Base computer system GERTY (Kevin Spacey) is his sole companion on Sam’s three-year caretaking mission, since a supposed satellite failure means he can only send and receive pre-recorded messages. When an accident nearly kills Sam, he’s saved by a clone of himself and begins to unravel the sinister nature of the base, and his existence. Moon cribs heavily from the retro-futuristic look of ‘60s and ‘70s sci-fi for its claustrophobic and sanitized depiction of the moon base. But this high-tech eye candy is only the backdrop to a larger morality tale about humanity’s ever-shrinking position within a technologically-saturated society: when the human experience can be synthesized (and thus made disposable,) does such a thing as “humanity” even exist? There’s a host of challenging philosophical threads throughout—cloning, masculinity, energy, corporate power—but those individual issues complement rather than engulf the larger narrative. Moon is a superlative example of science fiction that hearkens to the genre’s roots: social commentary on the human condition, without the easy catharsis of overblown special effects and space opera. It’s the ultimate rarity in modern cinema: a mature, engaging and thoughtful sci-fi movie, and proof that there’s life yet left in the genre. —Michael Saba


iron-giant.jpg 1. The Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Director: Brad Bird

Brad Bird’s feature debut championed traditional hand-drawn art at a time when computer animation was gaining in popularity, released by studio folk who didn’t realize just how special of a film they had on their hands, putting little to no marketing behind it. Luckily, The Iron Giant received its due recognition on home video. Set in the 1950s and drawing off of nuclear fears of the time—as well as Bird’s personal tragedy regarding gun violence—The Iron Giant incorporates the hallmark of the era’s science-fiction—a giant metal robot—into a touching coming-of-age story. Bird effortlessly moves between riotous comedy (such as young Hogarth’s efforts to hide his enormous new robot friend from his mother), high-spun action and poignant moments of fear and friendship. —Jeremy Mathews

Source: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/05/the-best-sci-fi-movies-on-netflix.html

Recommended

« »