Netflix July 2019: The 11 Best Sci-Fi Movies and Shows to Watch
'Stranger Things' is only the beginning of this summer's sci-fi.
“One summer can change everything,” the Stranger Things Season 3 poster reads. Of all the series or movies to look forward to on Netflix this summer, the third season of this Cold War meets Lovecraftian horror series is a real highlight. It does make some radical changes to the series, for better or worse, and nothing will ever be the same.
But Stranger Things 3 is just one of the many sci-fi TV shows and movies on Netflix that are worth viewing this summer. In recent months, the streaming platform has gotten new seasons of originals like Black Mirror and Dark, while also adding a classic anime in the form of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Netflix has more than enough to whet your appetite for sci-fi shows and movies. If you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow this July, here are the 11 best pieces of science fiction on Netflix with a focus on the new, exciting, and original — but more importantly, we’ll always have the very best recommendations.
11. Stranger Things
‘80s nostalgia never looked as cool as it does in Netflix’s Stranger Things, a sci-fi dark fantasy series set firmly within the decade of arcades and power rock ballads. Government conspiracies set amidst the backdrop of the Cold War come into focus in the generic town of Hawkins, Indiana. There, in a government lab where questionable men tried to weaponize a young psychic, they ripped open a portal to a dark dimension called the Upside Down.
Stranger Things follows a wide cast of characters, mainly a group of young D&D-loving kids who get swept up into the adventure that will have them fighting for their loves against a demonic new enemy.
In Season 3, out July 4, they discover that the sinister Mind Flayer from the Upside Down remains in the real world exerting its influence, and it might just might have what it needs to eradicate everyone.
Stranger Things has a totally grim German cousin on Netflix, and it’s called Dark. In a small German town, the disappearance of two children exposes the double-lives and dirty secrets among four families, ultimately revealing that a wormhole connects at least three separate points in time at the some location.
As the timeline expands further into the past and future while more residents of the town discover the secret of time travel in Season 2, mysteries about its origin and purpose heighten the intrigue and conspiracy.
9. Neon Genesis Evangelion
One of the most famous and beloved anime of all time landed on Netflix in late June. For the first time ever since its debut in 1995, all 26 original Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes are now available to stream in one place, along with The End of Evangelion film and the bonus extended episode EVANGELION: DEATH (TRUE)². Altogether, the series is a must-watch for any anime fan.
This complex sci-fi universe grapples with heady concepts like existential uncertainty in familiar mecha anime trappings: Humans pilot giant robots to fight monstrosities. Neon Genesis Evangelion uses this familiar premise as a vehicle to explore how religion influences culture, particular one on the brink of apocalypse. But more importantly, this groundbreaking sci-fi epic established tropes you’ll recognize from across anime and even live-action sci-fi.
Two companion films, The End of Evangelion and EVANGELION: DEATH (TRUE)², are also available on Netflix.
8. Black Mirror
Black Mirror’s three-episode Season 5 only just hit Netflix in early June, with stories about a Street Fighter-esque video game, a smart home device based on Miley Cyrus’ personality, and the hot priest from Fleabag trying to attack a Mark Zuckerberg-type tech tycoon.
Though it dips into the realm of horror and satire, Black Mirror consistently focuses on exploring what impact technology can have when taken to extremes. Some episodes of this sci-fi anthology series 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.
7. 7. Dark Matter
Syfy’s Dark Matter is the hidden gem of fun and easily accessible sci-fi TV on Netflix. Trap a bunch of outlaws aboard a ship, wipe their memories while they’re all in cryo sleep, and wake them all up at once. It makes for one hell of a start to a show.
Dark Matter feels a lot like fan favorite Firefly in that it features a motley crew with its mission of the week, but the way Dark Matter delicately unravels the complicated backstory of each character is perfectly paced. Various, fun technologies are presented in addition to the mind wipe that starts the series off along with a fun side-plot involving the development of super-powered individuals.
6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
We’ve gotten more Spider-Man movies in the last 20 years than any other solo superhero, yet somehow Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was able to do something surprising, exciting, and totally fresh. Spider-Verse functions as an origin story for Miles Morales, a black-hispanic teenager who’s bitten by a different radioactive spider than the one that gave Peter Parker his powers.
Netflix just added this Oscar-winning animated feature film in June, and it’s a must-watch for all superhero fans out there, especially because of the way it explores the science behind the multiverse.
5. Ralph Breaks the Internet
Imagine an old arcade game character invading the internet, and you have barely grasped the delightful, colorful insanity of Ralph Breaks the Internet, the direct sequel to Wreck-It Ralph that examines the internet through a kaleidoscope from very far away. The distorted picture is saccharine sweet and lacks any kind of critical analysis, but at least it’s cute and fun, right?
This Ralph-verse is all about video game characters coming to life via their arcade machines (sort of like Toy Story), but after Wreck-It Ralph breaks his best friends’ machine, the pair wind up connecting to local wifi and exploring the internet instead. The whole idea is weird and wild, but also a lot of fun, especially if you adore an overwhelming amount of Disney cameos.
4. I Am Mother
Netflix’s best original sci-fi film so far is I Am Mother, a haunting story about a teenager raised by “Mother,” an A.I. robot tasked with repopulating the Earth after humankind goes extinct … except that was all a lie.
With the arrival of a living human outsider to Mother and Daughter’s fallout shelter comes the revelation that the outside world isn’t what Mother claims, and what unfolds is a tense thriller that one reviewer called “James Cameron crossbred with Ridley Scott.”
3. The Wandering Earth
After its February release, The Wandering Earth rapidly became the second-highest grossing film in Chinese box office history. The Mandarin-language sci-fi action movie is set in a distant future where the Sun is primed to expand into a red giant that will consume the Earth. Rather than build an arc to travel far away, humanity instead straps a bunch of huge jet engines to the planet to blast it out into space for a 2,500 year journey to a new home.
Reviews for The Wandering Earth are mostly mixed, but such a ridiculous concept winds up being a lot of fun for casual viewers. The biggest surprise, however, is how seriously the film addresses the real-life science at play.
Must Read: Could ‘The Wandering Earth’ Actually Happen? Here’s What a NASA Engineer Says
In Her, the always excellent Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with a disembodied A.I. voice — think Siri or Alexa but much more advanced and with Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Set in the near-future of Los Angeles, Her explores the depression of a sensitive guy mourning the end of a long-term relationship who fills an emotional void with an A.I.
What sounds like a bit of a crazy premise is sold by filmmaker Spike Jonze as nothing short of delicate tenderness. Her won Best Original Screenplay at the 86th Academy Awards, making it a must-see for any fan of science fiction.
1. Ex Machina
A programmer from a massive tech company wins a contest and gets to visit the company’s brilliant billionaire founder. On his remote compound, the founder’s been developing an A.I. with a realistic synthetic body. He 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.
I didn’t know what “edge of your seat” really meant in terms of thrillers until I saw Ex Machina in the theater. Anyone who enjoyed Alex Garland’s Annihilation will probably like this, his previous feature, even more.