Two of the most cerebral science fiction movies in recent memory, namely Her and Ex Machina, join Netflix this August. So even though summer’s almost over, there’s still plenty of great science fiction on Netflix to get excited about. (The Good Place Season 2 also hits Netflix later in August, but does that count as sci-fi?)
July saw a welcome influx of Jurassic Park dinosaur movies and other delights, and August brings with it some great features, including the sleeper hit Extinction. Not to mention that Netflix also has some Disney-owned 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.
Netflix’s habit of rescuing troubled Hollywood blockbusters may have finally paid off with Extinction, a star-studded sci-fi film with a mind-blowing ending. Michael Peña (Ant Man) plays the lead, a family man in the near future experiencing visions of an alien invasion that suddenly come true, alongside Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex, Party Down) and Mike Colter (Luke Cage). Extinction takes a little while to get going, but once the action starts you’ll be glad you stuck it out.
10. 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.
8. 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.
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. Iron Giant
If you haven’t seen this ‘90s animated classic just yet, then you need to immediately. Writer-director Brad Bird recently released his long-anticipated sequel to The Incredibles, but Iron Giant might be his best work.
After a young boy from Maine befriends a giant made of iron who crash-landed near his home, the two of them work together to avoid the government — which wants the giant as a weapon — and ultimately save the day in an inspirational story that understands the nature of Superman better than anything Zack Snyder has produced.
Arguably Duncan Jones’s best film, sci-fi thriller Moon is a bonafide modern classic from 2009 that sees a lonely astronaut mining the moon by himself. Over time, he realizes the startling truth about his mission that’s just too good to spoil here. Do yourself a favor and watch this one as soon as you can.
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.