Summer might be ending soon, but Netflix’s dominance in terms of streaming great pieces of sci-fi is only continuing.
July saw a welcome influx of Jurassic Park dinosaur movies and other delights, August had the fantastic Her and Ex Machina, and September has one of the highest grossing movies of all time. And before Disney takes away Star Wars and Marvel movies, Netflix also has greats like Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So there’s plenty of sci-fi for any type of audience here, be it young or more mature.
So the next time you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow, here are the 11 best pieces of science fiction that Netflix has to offer right now, with a focus on the new, exciting, and original but more importantly, good recommendations.
11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This 2005 movie is based on the very weird Douglas Adams novel from 1978 by the same name, in which a totally regular Earthling named Arthur Dent is saved from Earth’s imminent destruction by way of interstellar bureaucracy. Bonkers is a great word to describe the tone of this sci-fi universe, and it’s thoroughly infused with a kind of comedic sensibility that only dry British wit can bring. In some ways, Hitchhiker’s Guide feels like one very long episode of Doctor Who written and performed by the Monty Python crew.
10. Black Panther
Marvel’s Black Panther smashed through tons of box office records for totally legit reasons. King T’Challa of Wakanda was introduced to the world in Captain America: Civil War, but Black Panther follows the character in his own solo movie as he returns home to his fictional nation to sort out exactly what kind of king he wants to become. He fights a usurper cousin and winds up changing his nation — and the greater MCU — permanently.
- Black Panther will be available to stream on Netflix September 4.
9. Next Gen
A lonely girl’s life changes completely when she befriends a high-tech robot destined to save the world. Much like animated buddy-robot film Big Hero 6, Next Gen has colorful characters in a near future full of robots. Big hearts and big personalities abound in what might be Netflix’s cutest animated feature of 2018.
- Next Gen hits Netflix on September 7.
8. Ex Machina
I didn’t know what “edge of your seat” really meant in terms of thriller movies until I saw Ex Machina in the theater. Anyone who enjoyed Alex Garland’s Annihilation from earlier this year will probably like his last feature Ex Machina even more.
A programmer from a massive tech company wins a contest and gets to visit the company’s brilliant, billionaire founder. But on the founder’s remote compound, he’s been developing synthetic A.I. robot technology and wants someone to help … test them. Ex Machina goes from quirky, to strange, to creepy, to horrifying with enough cerebral tension to make you question whether you’re a human yourself.
In Her, the always excellent Joaquin Phoenix plays a man that falls in love with a disembodied voice akin to Siri or Alexa. Set in the near-future of Los Angeles, he’s a sensitive guy mourning the end of the long relationship. What sounds like a bit of a crazy premise is sold by filmmaker Spike Jonze with nothing short of delicate tenderness.
Considering Her won Best Original Screenplay at the 86th Academy Awards, it’s basically a must-see for any fan of science fiction.
6. Jurassic Park
You probably saw this one coming. If Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom left a nasty, ash-flavored taste in your mouth, then there’s no better palate cleanser than rewatching the incomparable original Jurassic Park movie. Under the direction of Steven Spielberg, this first dino-flick captured a captivating kind of natural majesty that we really haven’t seen since. If you can’t get enough, Jurassic World III is indeed also on Netflix this July, but it’s nowhere near as good.
5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson’s Star Wars movie might be the most controversial ever in that it defies all your expectations while drawing the ire of many fanboys. Episode VIII picks up right where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey meeting Luke Skywalker and the remaining members of the Resistance on the run from the First Order.
If you had Luke-warm feelings about The Last Jedi on your first viewing, then it’s time to give it another show. Or, you know, just rewatch that badass fight scene in which Rey and Kylo Ren fight Snoke’s guards over and over again.
4. Thor: Ragnarok
One of the best Marvel movies in recent memory is director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, which resembles something much closer to a fun-loving Guardians of the Galaxy movie on the cosmic scale than it does anything like the first two Thor movies. Waititi basically fixes Thor’s character in the MCU by infusing him with charm and a genuinely hilarious sense of humor. Along the way, he makes Thor’s world feel way more sci-fi than fantasy, which is great for the character.
Thor has to face an enemy more powerful than any he’s ever faced: his sister Hela, the goddess of death. The god of thunder loses his hammer, gets blasted half-way across the universe, and has to form his own small team of heroes to save his people. It’s just too bad that at least half of them wind up dying in Infinity War anyway.
3. The 100
One of The CW’s best non-Arrowverse programs, The 100 is a veritable YA dystopian drama with a hard sci-fi premise. Following the nuclear apocalypse, a portion of humanity took to a series of connected space stations to survive the radiation. Almost a century later, supplies are diminishing, and a group of 100 delinquent children is sent down to test survivability on Earth’s surface. What they find is a planet with treacherous terrain, a few horrific monsters, and — against all odds — savage, surviving humans. The A-plot on the ground of Season 1 feels like Lord of the Flies, whereas the B-plot on the space station feels remarkably like Battlestar Galactica. While The 100 stumbles a bit by Seasons 3 and 4, it remains a solid option for contemporary sci-fi.
2. Lost in Space
This Lost in Space reboot is a classic spacefaring adventure reinvented for a contemporary audience. The Robinson family goes into space to write a new chapter in human history when the Earth is in crisis. This family of pioneering space colonists literally gets “lost in space” after their ship enters a rip in spacetime that sends them to an alien planet. The results are thrilling, gripping, and a lot of fun.
1. Black Mirror
Though it dips into the realm of horror and satire, Black Mirror is consistent with one question: What can technology do to us when it’s taken to extremes? Some episodes have more to do with social media or YouTube obsessions, but others dive deep into the implications of many hard sci-fi concepts, including the cyberization of the human mind, technological surveillance, and human-like A.I. machines. It’s provocative and exciting at its best and downright disturbing at its worst — but even then, it’s still high-quality science fiction.
Season 4 offers bleak and oftentimes disturbing analyses of not just the startling things technology might be able to do in the future, but also the dark and horrific things people choose to do with it. The episode everyone will probably talk about looks like a Star Trek parody, but in Black Mirror fashion it’s a much more sinister meditation on the dark wish fulfillment of technology.