Netflix November 2020: 11 gripping sci-fi shows and movies you can't miss
Dystopias are all the rage this November.
Netflix's October 2020 lineup may have been rife with the "Netflix and Chills" that the streaming platform has been so fond of in recent years, but let's let the undead die and move along to happier times. We may have lost Underworld and The Girl With All the Gifts, but at least we regained A Clockwork Orange and V for Vendetta.
But is it worth it to trade away vampires, werewolves, and zombies for dystopias that might feel a little too real? We'll see!
If you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow this November — particularly if you're keen on some of the best dystopian films of the last century — 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. A Clockwork Orange
Though it's not exactly heavy on the science fiction concepts, Stanley Kubrick's seminal adaptation of Anthony Burgess' dystopian novel of the same name is a must-watch. And it was recently added to the Netflix library on November 1.
The 1971 film stars Malcolm McDowell as Alex, a young delinquent prone to bouts of ultra-violence in a vaguely futuristic England. He leads his group of "droogs" in committing heinous acts, eventually leading to his capture and torturous psychological rehabilitation. The fascist nature of society is almost as disturbing as Alex's predilections, but the story is as thought-provocative as it is disturbing.
10. V for Vendetta
If you're in the mood for more than one fascist dystopia this month, then V for Vendetta is an even more timely and entertaining option also set in London, England.
V for Vendetta is one of the most important action films of the early 2000s. If Batman's arch-nemesis Joker is an agent of chaos and madness seeking to destroy the world that tortured him for years, then V in V for Vendetta exemplifies how radical heroes rise above trauma to build a new world. Villains just want to burn it all down.
In this dystopian political thriller fueled with sci-fi elements, a masked vigilante and anarchist freedom fighter seeks to undermine the neo-fascist totalitarian regime that's taken over the U.K. Though labeled a terrorist, his controversial — and yes, often terribly violent — actions inspire a much-needed revolution in an action-packed and thoughtful adventure based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore. It's a shame that Netflix couldn't get it in time for the "fifth of November."
V for Vendetta will be added to the Netflix library on November 15, 2020.
9. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Watch out for shrimpanzees, tacodiles, and jellyfish sandwiches in this hilariously weird animated film series based on a book by Ron Barrett.
A quirky young inventor accidentally develops a device that creates giant pieces of food that integrate with local weather patterns. It quite literally begins to rain meatballs, but that's only the beginning. This 2013 sequel to the original 2009 movie picks up soon after Flint Lockwood has seemingly saved the day. Except this time around, his obnoxiously named "Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator" (FLDSMDFR) has now created sentient food.
While it's objectively not as good as the first movie, this sequel makes up for it with stylish and charming visuals that are easy to enjoy at any time of the year.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 will rain onto Netflix November 15, 2020.
Spike Jonze's modern sci-fi classic, Her, endured a brief hiatus from Netflix earlier this year, but it's starting to feel like it's here to stay. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lovesick nerd named Theodore who falls in love with an A.I. voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
There's nothing really spooky about Her; It's just damn good science fiction. Samantha (the A.I.) 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.
7. 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.
As an added bonus, the film does take place in the wintertime, and a different version of Miles Morales will soon star in his own video game being 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.
6. Bird Box
If you're a sci-fi enthusiast who has Netflix frequents this monthly round-up often, then chances are you've already seen Bird Box. It's been almost two years since it was released, so it may be time for a rewatch.
The Sandra Bullock-led apocalyptic horror film that leans more towards Lovecraftian dark fantasy than it does overt science fiction, but the overall execution feels reminiscent of survivalist sci-fi horror like 28 Days Later or I Am Legend.
Unexplained entities suddenly emerge around the globe one day, and anybody who sees them instantly goes insane. In the vast majority of cases, a person will commit suicide almost immediately in the most straightforward way possible. Survivors who venture out into the world have to travel about blindfolded to avoid meeting such a grim fate. Told across two timelines at the start of the apocalypse and five years into it, Bird Box focuses on Malorie (Bullock), a frustrated woman who will do whatever it takes to survive.
Gripping, tragic, and eventually pretty uplifting, Bird Box is a fascination meditation on how difficult it is to retain one's humanity despite bleak circumstances.
5. Real Steel
Starring the lovable Hugh Jackman as a former (and still super-buff) boxer, Real Steel is about a washed-up dad who reconnects with his estranged son. Except instead of bonding over something you might expect, they instead build and train a robot to enter the hyper-popular underground robot boxing ring. It's more of a charming dad movie with just enough sci-fi to keep you entertained.
The whole thing is a bit goofy, and Real Steel garnered middling reviews upon its 2011 release. But you can't argue with $300 million in box office returns. Thanks to Jackman's charm, Real Steel is a watchable and easygoing good time.
Read our full recommendation here.
4. Back to the Future
Great Scott! Did you know some of the most important time travel movies of all time are on Netflix? Released in 1985 and 1989, the first two Back to the Future movies are cultural touchstones.
In these films, teenager Marty McFly is best friends with a disgraced nuclear physicist Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown who transforms a DeLorean into a time machine. Marty has to navigate high school with his parents in the first film after he goes back in time. In the second, he and Doc wind up in the future for other hijinks.
Back to the Future is basically just a series of lighthearted romps that never takes itself too series, but the lovable dynamics between these ridiculous characters is always fun. Consider them a must-watch.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
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.
2. Stranger Things
I really enjoyed Enola Holmes recently, in which Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown plays the much cooler younger sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) on a rowdy, charming adventure. Now that fall is in full swing, there's no better time to revisit the show that launched Brown's career.
The sensational first two seasons of Stranger Things take place in the fall of 1983 and 1984, respectively. The second season kicks things off in the days leading up to Halloween. Season 1, however, takes place in November 1983 — so it'll at least feel like right now.
After a local boy goes missing in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, a group of Dungeons & Dragons fans meet a mysterious girl with telekinetic powers while searching for their lost friend. They uncover a government conspiracy that ripped open a hole into an alternate dimension they call the Upside Down. There are nightmarish monsters, cool superpowers, and enough synthwave to give Boomers a bonafide flashback to better times.
1. The Umbrella Academy
On a random day in 1989, 43 women give birth to babies despite showing no signs of pregnancy beforehand. The baffling event attracts the attention of Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a famed and fabulously wealthy explorer who plucks seven of the children out of obscurity and nurtures their emerging superpowers within the titular Umbrella Academy so they might one day save the world. Most of Netflix's hit first season takes place in the present day, when these emotionally damaged adults reconcile their individual hangups and team up to prevent the apocalypse.
Season 2, which was only just released on July 31, takes the siblings back to the 1960s for some fun time travel shenanigans, where they have to prevent a totally different apocalypse. Their universe may never be the same. For anyone in need of a lengthy and wildly entertaining binge-watch, both seasons are the perfect escape filled with weird sci-fi and unconventional superheroics dreamt up by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way.
Read our review of Season 2.