The 11 best science fiction movies and shows on Netflix in January 2020
Danger, Will Robinson! But also sci-fi adventures across space and dreams.
New year, new Netflix. Now that December’s over, the streaming giant has officially lost major Disney sci-fi films like Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi because they’ve migrated over to Disney+. Fret not, however, because there’s still plenty of other sci-fi to go around, whether new or nostalgic.
Late December brought a new season of Lost in Space but also every James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan from the ‘90s and early 2000s, and January’s additions included Christopher Nolan’s Inception, both of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies, and the first two live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the early ‘90s. What a Netflix bounty for 2020 already! Whether it’s alt-reality, the far-out reaches of space, or the deep subconscious realm of our own dreams, January’s selections have a lot to offer.
If you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow this January, here are 11 of the best science fiction shows and movies available to stream on Netflix, with a focus on whatever’s new, original, or leaving soon.
11. Lost in Space Season 2
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. And the robot is hot now. Go figure.
This is hard sci-fi set in the far reaches of space, and because it’s about an entire family, it feels like a nice series for your entire family to watch together. Season 2 just hit Netflix on December 24, so now’s the time to get into the show.
10. The Witcher Season 1
You’re probably surprised to see The Witcher on a list of science fiction titles on account of it being high fantasy, but the actual story presented doesn’t feel anything like The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. There are elements of this universe that give off X-Men or The Shannara Chronicles vibes in that we’re dealing more with fantasy that has a touch of sci-fi added. Even though magic permeates this world, there are also scientific aspects that give it a different feel.
In this fantasy universe “mutagens” essentially alter the DNA of certain people, Witchers included, giving them fantastical mutant powers. It straddles the line between magic and science just enough that you might as well call it sci-fi.
Former Superman actor Henry Cavill stars as Geralt of Rivia, a white-haired super-powered Witcher who hunts monsters for cash, but things change for Geralt as he’s drawn into a mysterious prophecy involving a young princess.
9. The Magicians Season 4
The Magicians is more accurately a mature magical dark fantasy series set in the modern day, but it’s a dynamic show that delves into sci-fi elements as well. It began as an R-rated Harry Potter where a bunch of brilliant, edgy millennials went to a magical grad school, but over time, The Magicians has expended its multiverse in a multitude of exciting ways that incorporates travel through time and various worlds.
Season 4 might be its darkest yet: An enigmatic organization has seized the source of all magical power while Eliot, one of the central characters, has been possessed by what we might as well call an ancient demon. It was added to Netflix in December, and with Season 5 scheduled to premiere on January 15, you better catch up ASAP.
8. Love, Death & Robots
Love, Death & Robots is an animated sci-fi anthology series from Deadpool director Tim Miller in collaboration with David Fincher. These short episodes vary between 5 and 15 minutes and use different animation styles to tell stories within the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and comedy.
In one episode, three robots go sightseeing in a post-apocalyptic city long after humanity is gone. In another, Hitler dies in various ways across several alternate realities. The series is wildly entertaining and a visual spectacle, although a few episodes feel incredibly regressive. With Season 2 confirmed and probably due for a release sometime later this year, now’s the time to catch up.
Only visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan could pull off a bizarre, cerebral premise like Inception (2010), a heist-based action movie that takes place almost entirely within dreams. His first film after the tremendous success of The Dark Knight in 2008, Nolan’s Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who extracts information from people using advanced technology that hacks into a person’s subconscious.
Inception was groundbreaking at the time of its release, landing on many lists for the top films of 2010 and picking up Academy Awards for cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, and visual effects. The movie essentially created an entire pseudoscientific set of rules based on dreams that has been adapted in other sci-fi like Rick and Morty. Inception introduces compelling sci-fi concepts, with astounding, complex visuals in ways that still resonate on a deep emotional level.
This is a great scoop for Netflix considering Nolan’s mysterious TENET is slated for release this summer.
A slew of Pierce Brosnan-led James Bond movies were added to Netflix on December 31, so now’s as good a time as any to revisit his first and best: the iconic GoldenEye.
The first Bond movie to avoid using any plot elements from the Ian Fleming novels about the character, GoldenEye follows 007’s adventure to stop a rogue MI6 agent from using a satellite weapon to cause a global financial meltdown. Released in 1995, it was also the first Bond movie created after the end of the real-world Cold War, and the film reflects a more modern context for the franchise that was necessary at the time. For gamers out there, it also gave rise to one of the most beloved first-person shooters of all time in the form of GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64.
5. Kill Bill: Volume 1 & Volume 2
Arguably some of Quentin Tarantino’s all-time best work, the two Kill Bill movies dive into extreme gratuitous violence with the director’s signature sense of bawdy style and panache. Added to Netflix January 1, this double-feature epic tale stars Uma Thurman as the Bride in what we might as well call a “neo-samura film.”
A highly skilled assassin in her own right, the Bride swears revenge on the team of assassins and their leader, Bill, who ordered them to kill her and her unborn child. Together, Volume 1 and Volume 2 offer around four hours of extreme violence and gore that pays homage to grindhouse cinema in general with a focus on celebrating martial arts, samurai cinema, blaxploitation films, and spaghetti Westerns.
Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin gave us the most raucous, hilarious zombie film of the early 2000s in the form of Zombieland. The sequel Zombieland: Double Tap hit theaters in October, but the original is about to end its three-month stint on Netflix when it leaves the platform on January 31. So you better watch it now while you still can.
From the director of Venom and the writers of Deadpool long before they made mature but silly superhero movies, the original Zombieland is the pinnacle of the zombie horror satire, celebrating the ridiculous, gratuitous violence and gore that entertains and frightening. In it, four unlikely strangers form a strange family in the zombie apocalypse, banding together to survive.
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
Stop everything, because as of January 1, the first two live-action Ninja Turtles movies are on Netflix. Neither Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie nor the sequel The Secret of the Ooze boast high acclaim from critics, but for any millennial fans of these four turtles and their rat sensei Splinter, these are the definitive stories featuring the characters.
Less violent and more lighthearted than the 1990 original, this sequel is a lot of fun and has more heart than the soulless 2014 remake. Following up on the conflict with the Foot Clan from the first film, this one delves deeper into the mysterious ooze that mutated the turtles, explaining their origin story in complex ways. This one’s for any true fans of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael — or anyone who loves ‘90s vibes.
2. Wild Wild West
Will Smith’s raucous 1999 steampunk Western action-comedy, Wild Wild West, just hit Netflix on January first. Loosely adapted from a 1960’s TV show with a similar premise, Wild Wild West follows two mismatched U.S. Secret Service agents who team up to protect U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant from bizarre threats during the American Old West of the late 1860s. Critics and more casual audiences alike under-appreciate Wild Wild West, because despite being a bad movie by most accounts, it’s still fun to watch. Isn’t that what counts?
Despite a large number of negative reviews, Wild Wild West is a surprising and ridiculous adventure where Will Smith flaunts his unique brand of charismatic swagger more aggressively than he does in any other film. Truly, the ‘90s were Will Smith’s time to shine, and watching him as a gunslinging cowboy is a delight — especially when he comes up against a giant mechanical steampunk spider in the film’s final battle.
1. Æon Flux
Long before Charlize Theron kicked butt in Atomic Blonde, she played a sci-fi superhero-type character in 2005’s Æon Flux. File this one under “so bad it’s good” because the film sits at an abysmal nine percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Theron’s titular character is a rebel soldier in a dystopia four centuries after a virus eliminates 99 percent of the world’s population. She’s ordered to assassinate the leader of the regime in power of the humanity’s last walled city, but soon uncovers a deeper conspiracy aimed at controlling mankind’s few survivors.
Overly serious and mired with too much exposition, Æon Flux feels like a bit of a slog at times despite decent action and a compelling overarching story (on paper, anyways). Because it leaves Netflix on January 31, this might be your last chance to ever see it in all its blasé glory.