“Remember, remember! The Fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!” This English folk verse from circa 1870 factors heavily into James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta, a dystopian sci-fi film that’s somehow 13 years old.
V for Vendetta might be more about political upheaval in the not-so-distant future, but many of our titles this month border on the totally apocalyptic. We’ve got a modern classic Kaiju film, an infertility epidemic that’s not The Handmaid’s Tale, and so much more.
For anyone into a cerebral television outing, Maniac is a visceral but intense viewing experience. (It may or may not leave much of a lasting impression, but the viewing experience is totally worth it.)
The next time you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow, here are the 11 best pieces of science fiction on Netflix with a focus on the new, exciting, and original — but more importantly, the good recommendations.
11. V for Vendetta
The only reason I didn’t include V for Vendetta on this list when it hit Netflix at the start of October was because it doesn’t really count as horror and wasn’t deserving of a spot on a list that was decidedly sci-fi horror. But even better is including it now, a mere few days before the wicked anniversary the film celebrates.
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,” begins the mantra spoken by the story’s protagonist V, a man who wears a Guy Fawkes mask to celebrate the man who tried to blow up Parliament. The man was basically a terrorist in 1605, but in 2027, the world is in shambles and the government corrupt. One masked crusader tries to change all that.
Do yourself a favor and watch this on November 5 if you haven’t already.
10. Children of Men
Years before a dystopia caused by infertility went mainstream with The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón did Children of Men. It’s 2027 (a popular dystopian year) and a child hasn’t been born in over a decade. A former activist played by Clive Owen at his most grave has to rekindle a spark of hope to escort an impossibly pregnant woman to safety across a ravaged, dystopian landscape.
Found footage never looked so good as it did in the capable hands of director Matt Reeves when he started a new bizarre sci-fi kaiju universe with the original Cloverfield. A mysterious giant monster begins attacking New York City, but our perspective is limited to the jumbled scenes recorded by a personal camera on the night of the attack.
Train to Busan’s premise is ostensibly just “zombies on a train,” but writer and director Sang-Ho Yeon infuses it with enough excitement and humanity to create one of the best zombie stories in quite a while.
The central story involves a selfish, workaholic father taking his daughter on a birthday trip to see her mother. When the zombie outbreak deters their travel plans, a struggle for survival plays out as the two try to connect as father and child.
7. 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.
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.
Netflix’s apocalyptic horror story will remind you of The Happening but with bad rain and a sci-fi dystopian lean. A virus in the rain wiped out most of the world’s population, and a band of survivors has to figure out what life looks like in such a world. Young kids struggling to survive works pretty well for The 100, and it does here as well.
Netflix’s latest 10-episode limited series, Maniac, tells the stories of Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) in the late stages of a mysterious pharmaceutical trial that promises to cure their differing but equally severe mental disorders.
Emma Stone’s character calls it some “multi-reality brain magic shit” after the drugs they’re taking seemingly take them to entire different realities, leading to really intense, nightmarish shared hallucinations. Think Inception meets Legion meets Roy: A Life Well Lived from Rick and Morty.
The story comes from novelist Patrick Somerville, who wrote for The Leftovers. But what has me truly excited is director Cary Joji Fukunaga, the same guy who made True Detective Season 1 one of the greatest seasons of television ever.
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.
2. 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.
Netflix’s wildly popular and totally awesome ‘80s nostalgia show about pre-teens combatting interdimensional threats came back for its second season just before Halloween. Though it inches towards dark mythical fantasy, Stranger Things represents some of Netflix’s best original programming.
In Season 1, after the young Will Byers goes missing from the small town of Hawkins, Indiana and a mysterious telekinetic girl appears, it’s up to Will’s friends and family to uncover the truth about the mysteries surrounding his otherworldly disappearance.
Stranger Things 2 brings the whole gang back — along with some newcomers — for an even bigger adventure set a year later.