By the end of February, Netflix will thrive after a surge in quality sci-fi stories. Plenty of sci-fi shows and movies are getting added, including new adaptations that will probably feel incredibly familiar
Across this list of several items from Netflix’s sci-fi best, you’ll encounter more than a few dark futures meant to frighten you, tried and true exploration sci-fi classics, cautionary tales of more than one kind, and even props to everyone’s favorite Eggo-loving telekinetic.
Science fiction is a lot more than just casual spacefaring romps through galaxies near and far. It’s also about computerized simulations that we’re probably living in right now, and alternate histories that make the world similar but totally different. Unfortunately, sci-fi can also mean even darker visions of the future than our own.
Netflix has you covered with a motley assortment of sci-fi in the form of both movies and television shows. So here are the 11 best pieces of science fiction that Netflix has to offer right now for the next time you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow:
1. Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon is Netflix’s sci-fi television alternative to Blade Runner with a premise that might as well be an “altered carbon” copy: The lone survivor of an elite group of soldiers is resurrected into a new body 250 years after his last death to solve a murder. Most people have their consciousness put into a chip — called a “stack” — in their spine. After death, the stack can be inserted into a new “sleeve” body, which looks and feels just like a humanoid Cylon or Replicant.
Whereas Blade Runner might opt for brooding, contemplative sequences absent of dialogue, Altered Carbon explodes into Matrix-esque high-tech action sequences that feel almost too good for a TV show. Rest assured, protagonist Takeshi Kovacs is a total badass, even in a new body.
Plagued by hallucinations of his former companions, Kovacs explores his own distant future seeking the truth in a show that’s stylistic and surreal. Despite bearing a striking to resemblance to much of the sci-fi that’s come before it, the story feels novel all the same.
- Altered Carbon released on Netflix February 2, 2018.
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.
Just released in late December 2017, 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 is a much more sinister meditation on the dark wish-fulfillment of technology.
Set in a dystopian near-future Los Angeles, Colony follows a family reeling in the aftermath of an alien invasion that led to a regime of military occupation. Most viewers will recognize the lead, Josh Holloway, from his role as Sawyer in Lost. In Colony, he’s a former FBI Special Agent that just wants to find his lost son Charlie amidst the horrific circumstances.
With Season 2 dropping on the streaming service soon, there’s no better time to finally give this compelling sci-fi drama a watch.
- Colony Season 2 hit Netflix January 12, 2018.
4. Knights of Sidonia
One of the earliest and best of Netflix’s exclusive anime programs, Knights of Sidonia is a solid entry into the mecha subgenre of anime while also being hard sci-fi.
In 3394, the last remnants of humanity live aboard a massive arc — called Sidonia — after being driven off Earth by the shape-shifting aliens called Gauna. Using giant mecha, referred to as Gardes, pilots like Nagate Tanikaze have to defend the arc and its inhabitants from extinction.
With impeccably clean CG animation and carefully scripted character movements, Knights of Sidonia is a visual spectacle while also being solid sci-fi set in the far-flung future. While aspects of the show might be alienating to viewers unused to the trappings and tropes typical of anime, this one could be an accessible entry point.
5. Neo Yokio
“What if Wes Anderson made an anime?” seems to be the question that Netflix’s Neo Yokio asks and answers in a hilarious magi-futuristic animated series created by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, starring Jaden Smith. There’s also a slew of other top talents in the cast of voice actors.
In the future of an alternate history, a drowned New York is called “Neo Yokio.” Kaz Kaan is the pink-haired “magistocrat” tasked with protecting the city from supernatural (mostly demonic) threats. Neo Yokio celebrates anime tropes, upper-class society, and classism just as much as it criticizes such things. If you delight in the truly weird, then don’t hesitate watching the hilarity that is Neo Yokio.
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 a bigger adventure set a year later.
7. Star Trek
You can only find Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access, but Netflix has an ample collection of the sci-fi TV juggernaut. Not only is there the original Star Trek from the late ’60s, but there’s also the animated series from the early ‘70s, along with The Next Generation, Voyager, Enterprise, and Deep Space Nine. Strong opinions among hardcore fans vary about which is best, but with such a massive franchise, how could you go wrong?
The third film set in the sci-fi universe built by Duncan Jones with Moon and then Source Code, Mute stars Alexander Skarsgård as a mute bartender investigating the disappearance of his girlfriend in 2052 Berlin. A deeper mystery brews as he comes up against the city’s gangsters, and more so when U.S. Army surgeons factor in somehow.
It’s tough to tell what kind of hard sci-fi underpinning might be lurking under the Blade Runner aesthetic, but given the plot twists in Jones’s other two movies, you can bet Mute will deliver.
- Mute was released February 23, 2018.
9. When We First Met
You’ve got to have a little fun with your sci-fi every now and then, right?
Though only as sci-fi as something like Groundhog Day or About Time, When We First Met has the look and feel of a more accessible and less crass alternative to Workaholics, where most will recognize its lead actor from.
Adam DeVine plays a guy who gets friendzoned by the girl of his dreams only to realize that the photo booth they used on the night they first met is actually a time machine. If anything, it’s a fun and silly application for time travel.
- When We First Met was released on Netflix February 9, 2018.
In an alternate reality that looks an awful lot like the present day, fairies, orcs, and elves have existed alongside humans for seemingly forever. What’s more or less a modern day fantasy story — or more accurately “urban fantasy” — feels an awful lot like fantastical science fiction.
Will Smith plays a cop opposite Joel Edgerton’s Orc police officer as partners thrust into an adventure to protect a female elf and the forgotten relic she holds that could destroy the world.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
We’re not to keen on including the Marvel Cinematic Universe on this list, which is usually reserved for somewhat harder science fiction, but we’ll make an exception for James Gunn’s second Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
Whereas other MCU adventures focus on superheroes and billionaires with flying armor, Guardians of the Galaxy offers a bonafide sci-fi adventure in the Andromeda galaxy with plenty of aliens, space travel, and other heady sci-fi concepts like wormhole travel. A literally and figuratively colorful assortment of heroes battle to save the galaxy — again — this time from Peter Quill’s biological father, an ancient entity as old as the universe itself. Added bonus: a totally rad soundtrack.