Most readers will probably be happy to say goodbye to 2020 at the end of this month, but unfortunately, we'll also have to say bid adieu to some of the very best science fiction stories that Netflix has to offer.
November was full of dark dystopias in terms of sci-fi films, and while December doesn't look that much brighter, there's still plenty to enjoy this month as we careen towards the full holiday season.
For anyone hankering for a taste of tomorrow, here are the 11 best science fiction shows and movies available to stream on Netflix with a special focus on whatever's new, original, or leaving soon. And yes, we'll throw in just a touch of holiday flair for fun.
11. The Midnight Sky
George Clooney stars and directs in this frigid post-apocalyptic film. A lonely scientist in the Arctic, he struggles to warn a group of astronauts returning to Earth of the global catastrophe that's devastated the planet.
The story is adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s acclaimed novel Good Morning, Midnight. The astronauts had discovered a new and shockingly inhabitable moon of Jupiter, but the Earth goes cold and silent before they can return home. Clooney himself has described the film as a cross between Gravity and The Revenant. That's quite a bold claim, and while early reviews haven't been published just yet, this seems like a film worth keeping an eye on.
The Midnight Sky will be released on Netflix on December 23, 2020.
10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Perhaps the best animated feature film of the last decade, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an absolute must-see triumph in which several alt-reality versions of Spider-Man team up to save the day. And none of them are the normal, heroic Peter Parker that you're probably familiar with.
Our hero is the young Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican teen from New York City who's bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers on the same night that Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, rips open a hole in space-time. The hijinks and superheroics that ensue are fun for the whole family and complex enough for even the most hardcore of comic book nerds.
As an added bonus, the film does take place in the winter around the holidays. And a different version of Miles also stars in the PlayStation exclusive video game released alongside the Sony PlayStation 5. The game even has a few clever tie-ins to the movie, so if you're a fan of one then you'll love the other. But you better act fast: This one's leaving Netflix this month!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will swing out of the Netflix library on December 25, 2020.
9. Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) — the sequel to 2012's Wreck-It Ralph (2012) — is one of the best non-Pixar Disney animated films in recent memory. Almost like a digital Toy Story, all of the video game characters in a dusty old arcade come alive and travel through power cables to socialize when real people aren’t around.
Protagonist Wreck-It Ralph is a villain in one game who dreams of becoming a hero, and his misadventures through a digital landscape are fun and exciting. That goes double in the sequel where Ralph winds up in a hostile new terrain: The Internet. The kid-friendly, fun-filled movie chock full of cameos from Disney princesses and even Stan Lee. One of the very last Disney films to seemingly leave Netflix for good, Ralph Breaks the Internet will soon only be available to watch over on Disney+.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is leaving the Netflix library on December 10, 2020.
In this gripping film, the always-excellent Joaquin Phoenix plays a man named Theodore who falls in love with his new A.I. called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Samantha learns at an exponential rate, and the way she evolves over the course of the film to fill the emotional void in Theodore’s life is a fascinating cautionary tale about the increasing complexity of technology — and how it can be more trouble than it's worth when it only serves to isolate humans from each other.
Her won Best Original Screenplay at the 86th Academy Awards, and with good reason. So consider it a must-watch in the coming weeks, doubly so because it's leaving the platform very soon.
Her will be removed from the Netflix library on December 31, 2020.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Her might be the best sci-fi romance on this list, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is my personal favorite — and it's also leaving at the end of the month after only rejoining the platform back in August 2020.
Seldom does Jim Carrey ever take a serious acting role, but when he does, he really knocks it out of the park. Written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a cult classic that takes place in what we might as well call an alt-reality where scientists have developed a full understanding of how to manipulate memory in the human mind. There are many different directions a story with this pseudoscience could go in, but this film narrows the focus to one dysfunctional couple and the scope of their entire relationship.
Told in a nonlinear fashion and riddled with suspenseful elements that'll remind you of a thriller, it's a compelling and emotional watch that'll leave you contemplating the value of your own memories. Carrey's Joel Barish and Kate Winslet's Clementine Kruczynski are a memorable pair of misfits, and their chemistry really elevates the story. There's also a great wintery scene on the beach.
Netflix will forget Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on December 31, 2020.
Vanessa Hudgens stars as a typically overworked and lonely woman heading into the holidays, wishing she might finally discover her knight in shining armor. That’s when she runs over a literal medieval knight wearing shining armor in the middle of the snowstorm who accidentally time-traveled to the present.
Writing for Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth called The Knight Before Christmas “goofy but perfect,” writing that the film “makes no sense,” and yet “frankly, I love that.” The movie feels like a ridiculous but fun story like Kate & Leopold but set during the Christmas season. Because it’s time travel, it definitely counts as science fiction.
The sappy romantic film debuted during the 2019 holiday season. Is it a modern classic? That's for you to decide.
5. Jurassic Park
Dino-mite! Just when you thought Steven Spielberg's seminal dinosaur movie, Jurassic Park, was extinct, it comes roaring back to Netflix on December 1.
Relive the captivating sense of natural majesty that we really haven’t seen since from the franchise. This 1993 film may have launched a wildly lucrative sci-fi blockbuster series, but none of the sequels are as good as the original. (The second and third films are also back on Netflix, if you're so keen.)
Based on Michael Crichton's 1990 novel of the same name, the titular Jurassic Park is the name of a park created on a tropical island where genetic scientists figured out how to clone dinosaurs based on ancient DNA found in mosquitos. While the science doesn't make a ton of sense, it sure does make for a wildly entertaining premise for a movie. What ensues is an exciting adventure that involves many different species of dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park reopens on Netflix as of December 1, 2020.
4. Alien Worlds
A curious collision of documentary series and speculative science fiction, Alien Worlds applies the laws of human life on Earth to the rest of the galaxy to imagine what life could look like on other worlds.
It offers a lot of provocative and realistic-looking imagery about what life might look like on other worlds. Could it possible be true? We may never know, but this series is aimed at making you wonder.
Alien Worlds will land on Netflix December 2, 2020.
Neo Yokio is a criminally under-appreciated animated series on Netflix that will probably never get a legitimate Season 2, but a 2018 Christmas special called “Pink Christmas” is the next best thing.
In the future of an alternate history, a drowned New York becomes “Neo Yokio.” Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith) is the pink-haired “magistocrat” tasked with protecting the city from supernatural (mostly demonic) threats with the magic powers wielded by everyone in his family tree. Neo Yokio celebrates anime tropes, upper-class society, and classism just as much as it criticizes all of these things. If you delight in the truly weird, then don’t hesitate to watch the hilarity that is Neo Yokio.
“Pink Christmas” is presented as festive holiday tale told to Kaz by his robotic butler, and it captures the spirit of the show as much as it does the capitalistic spirit of Christmas.
Netflix’s beloved series of cautionary tales about the future dangers of emerging technologies, Black Mirror, did a scary Christmas special in Season 2, Episode 4 with “White Christmas.” At a remote outpost covered in snow, two men share a Christmas meal together and swap eerie tales of their earlier lives in the outside world where different technologies led to death and misery for everyone involved. Their newfound isolation initially seems like them avoiding their problems altogether, but there’s a shocking twist at the end that makes this episode the darkest Christmas story ever told.
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? “White Christmas” is no different.
1. Stargate SG-1
Star Trek's more realistic cousin with far less campiness going on, Stargate SG-1 is an excellent spin-off series based in the same universe as the film Stargate (1994). The hard sci-fi series takes place in a universe where mankind discovered a Stargate that can access a network of similar alien devices spread out across a multitude of planets.
The titular SG-1 is one team tasked with exploring the universe through these portals, and along the way, they encounter all sorts of alien beings in interesting worlds. The show's many adventures are often based loosely on human mythology, often grappling with heady themes of morality in a more accessible way than the grittiness of something like Battlestar Galactica. This series is on my list for best sci-fi series of all times, so for it to make its way into Netflix's galaxy is a big deal.
Stargate SG-1 arrives on Netflix on December 1, 2020.