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11 must-see science fiction movies and shows on Netflix in July 2020

Umbrella Academy is back.

Christos Kalohoridis / Netflix

Streaming movies and television, along with video games, continue to offer a welcome distraction from the ongoing pandemic, and some of the best escapism out there comes in the form of science fiction. Netflix's lineup of sci-fi is taking some heavy hits this July, doubly so when we can't stream Independence Day anywhere on the 4th.

July is also the last gasp for Marvel Studios on Netflix and for Star Wars as well: Both Ant-Man and the Wasp and Solo: A Star Wars Story will be leaving Netflix for their new forever home on Disney+, which means we may never see a Marvel Studios or Star Wars movie on Netflix ever again. Her and Ex Machina — two of my favorite sci-fi films from the last decade — are also leaving Netflix. Despite having to say goodbye to so many beloved classics new and old, at least we can find solace in new additions like Spaceballs, the original Total Recall, and some show about a Warrior Nun.

If you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow this July, 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.

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Ava is a highly complex cyborg A.I. who feels human.A24 Pictures

11. Ex Machina

A programmer wins a contest to visit his company’s brilliant billionaire founder on a remote compound. As it turns out, that founder’s been developing an A.I. with a realistic synthetic body and needs someone else to help… test it. 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.

Anyone who enjoyed Alex Garland’s Annihilation will probably like this, his previous feature, even more. Ex Machina is a master class in cinematic pacing and tension, and it's a tragic loss for Netflix this month.

Ex Machina leaves Netflix on July 25, 2020.

A deeply sad man finds fulfillment through a relationship with a bodiless A.I., but can it last?Warner Bros. Pictures

10. Her

In Her, 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 July 28, 2020.

E.T. is kinda cute, right?Universal Pictures

9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

You have every right to be a bit confused here. Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial only just landed back on Netflix in June, and already he's going back where he came from on July 31. Spielberg’s classic story about a gentle alien befriending a young boy in California suburbia is a must-watch for any and all generations. When E.T. falls ill and the government catches wind of the alien, this charming adventure becomes a race to get E.T. home.

Even though it's now almost 40 years old, this heartfelt adventure really holds up as one of Spielberg's greatest — and it's fun for the whole family!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial leaves Netflix's library on July 31.

Small heroes. Big stories. 'Ant-Man and the Wasp'.Disney / Marvel Studios

8. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Say goodbye to the Marvel Cinematic Universe folks, because Ant-Man and the Wasp — the first MCU film to be released after Avengers: Infinity War — is finally leaving Netflix and traveling through the Quantum Realm to permanently settle on Disney+. So unless you also subscribe to Disney's streaming platform, July 2020 is the perfect time to watch one of the most fun Marvel films to date.

Starring the enigmatic and charming Paul Rudd as the shrinking superhero Scott Lang, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a curious entry in the Infinity Saga because it takes place out-of-sequence: Scott is under house arrest following the events of Captain America: Civil War, but he's dragged back into active duty as the shrinkable super-hero to team up with Evangeline Lilly's Wasp.

She and her father Hank Pym, the inventor of the Pym Particle technology, are on the run from the government and a new supervillain. The thrilling adventure concludes right when Thanos snaps his fingers and wipes out half the universe's population, making this essential viewing as a lead-up to Avengers: Endgame. It's also quite simply a lot of fun and some of the hardest sci-fi the MCU has to offer.

Ant-Man and the Wasp will leave Netflix on July 28, 2020.

A young Han Solo and a younger Chewbacca in 'Solo.'Disney / Lucasfilm

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Despite being met with mixed reviews, this Star Wars anthology story focused on a young Han Solo's origin story is one of the most fun and sexy adventures to ever take place in the beloved sci-fi universe. "Instead of armchair philosophy about the fate of the galaxy, Solo is about people who are lovelorn, horny, desperate, and daring," Inverse's Ryan Britt wrote in his Solo: A Star Wars Story review. "It’s a refreshingly sexy sci-fi movie, but the best part is, Han isn’t even the sexiest person in it."

Solo chronicles the title rogue's early years as an orphan up to a point shortly before A New Hope. Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is separated from his beloved Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and conscripted into Imperial military service, before pivoting into a life a crime. He meets Lando Calrissian, and we learn how he came to possess the Millenium Falcon. Seriously, everything about this movie is very cool! And like Ant-Man and the Wasp, this one's about to fly over to Disney+ permanently, so watch it before it's gone.

Solo will be leaving Netflix on July 7.

Chewbacca? C-3PO? Leia? Han?MGM / UA Communications Co.

6. Spaceballs

Out with the new ... in with the ... old? Within a week of Solo leaving Netflix, the gloriously outdated Star Wars parody called Spaceballs from 1987 is arriving on the platform. The movie stars John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, and Daphne Zuniga in a campy story that falls squarely in the realm of "so good it's bad." (It has a 57 percent critics score and 83 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.)

The story is pretty formulaic and basic, with most of the laughs coming from director Mel Brooks' dumb but delightful sense of humor in the writing. Actor Rick Moranis is particularly memorable as "Dark Helmet," a milquetoast Darth Vader knock-off who is goofy and ineffective at being an imposing menace on the galaxy.

Spaceballs arrives on Netflix July 1.

5. Total Recall (1990)

"Get your ass to Mars!" I can still remember hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger say this to his future self in this unforgettable 1990 sci-fi film co-starring Sharon Stone. Loosely based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," Total Recall takes place in 2084 in a time when memory modification and implants are almost as common as interplanetary space flight.

Schwarzenegger in his prime plays a construction worker who learns that all of his memories may be fake implants, and he's thrust into some action-packed espionage that takes him to Mars to save the entire planet. Total Recall is campy, goofy, and a lot of fun, like so many of Arnold's blockbusters from the '90s.

Total Recall got its ass to Netflix on July 1.

Gene Wilder is an absolute treasure as Willy Wonka.Paramount Pictures

4. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Forget the awkward but colorful 2005 remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp, the original 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a beloved classic that scarred me for life with that nightmarish tunnel sequence and some of the film's creepier tunes. This weird fantasy film is about a group of children who win a contest held by a world-renowned candy-creator, and they're granted a personal tour of Willy Wonka's candy and chocolate factor. In the more modern context, the whole film is also some excellent meme odder, whether it's the Condescending Wonka meme or the Hating Grandpa Joe meme.

Whether you find it frightening, fun, or both, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a classic that you simply must see at least once.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory will be removed from the Netflix library on July 31.

Run! There's a tornado behind you!Warner Bros. Pictures

3. Twister

Dr. Joanne "Jo" Harding (Helen Hunt) and Bill "The Extreme" Harding (Bill Paxton) are a separated married couple of meteorologist storm chasers who really like tornadoes. For Jo, this is a lifelong obsession since her father died during a tornado when she was a young girl, but Bill wants out of the dangerous lifestyle permanently so he can settle down as a charming on-camera weatherman. Things come to a head when Bill tracks Jo down on the road just as she's primed to deploy a new technology that could provide some major breakthroughs in meteorological research.

Aside from all the fun science, Twister is a well-acted disaster movie with a ton of great action sequences and even laughs. The image of a cow drifting through the air mooing loudly at the camera is one that I'll treasure for my entire life! There's also a reboot in the works, so it's definitely worth checking out the original.

Twister is leaving Netflix on July 31, so watch it now before it's gone.

2. Japan Sinks: 2020

Speaking of natural disasters: Netflix has a new sci-fi anime disaster series coming out called Japan Sinks: 2020 based on the bestselling novel written by Sakyo Komatsu and published in 1973. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Devilman Crybaby) and animated by Science Saru (also Devilman Crybaby), the series follows an ordinary family after Japan is struck by a series of devastating earthquakes that threaten to sink the entire country. The 10-episode series will follow this apocalyptic struggle for survival while the family, initially separated by the disaster, struggle to survive and reunite in a ruined world.

Japan Sinks: 2020 will be available on Netflix July 9.

1. Umbrella Academy

Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy adapts the comic series from My Chemical Romance frontrunner Gerard Way in an engaging, action-packed, and sometimes hilarious series. In 1989, 43 women around the world spontaneously give birth to babies — despite never being pregnant. An eccentric billionaire buys seven of the children, and after they begin to develop superpowers, he trains them to become a superhero team destined to save the world.

Much of the series focuses on six of the surviving kids in the present day as an apocalypse looms in the near future. The Umbrella Academy is delightfully weird and, despite some derivative plot points, remains a really compelling watch. With Season 2 debuting at the end of the month, there's no better time to give this fun series a watch.

The Umbrella Academy Season 2 will be released July 31, 2020.

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