Sci-fi is one of the most diverse, versatile genres. Here are the best science fiction movies on Netflix right now.
Editor’s Note: This post is updated monthly. Bookmark this page and come back every month to see what other excellent Sci-Fi films join the Netflix roster.
Updated for March 2018
Even if the present feels more and more like science fiction every day, actual science fiction is still here to inspire and terrify you.
Science fiction is one of our more dynamic and inspired genres as a species. We need something to aspire to as much as we need something to fear. Science fiction provides both. And the best science fiction can provide even more. Here is our list of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now. Come back often to see what the future holds.
The notion that Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 post-apocalyptic masterpiece The Road was unfilmable was a popular notion around Hollywood…for three years. And thank God they got around to filming it as a good Cormac McCarthy adaptation will always have a place in the cinema. Viggo Mortensen stars as the unnamed “Man” and Kodi Smith-McPhee as his son. Together, they navigate a harsh, apocalyptic landscape after an unnamed world-ending event.
There is little dialogue in The Road and as a matter of a fact, there’s very little sound in general. The Road is one of the “smallest” science fiction stories possible and it’s a perfect example of how the genre can focus on the human rather than the larger than life.
Lost in Space
We’re going to be honest with you. Lost in Space is a mediocre film at best that received apocalyptically bad reviews. Here’s a choice quote from The Washington Post review: “A galactic slump of a movie that stuffs its travel bag with special effects but forgets to pack the charm.”
But we say that perception is unfair. Yes, Lost in Space is a strangely deadly serious adaptation of a fun, campy ’60s Star Trek knock-off. Still, it’s kind of…cool? Watch it for yourself and see how advanced the set and costume designs are for a “bad” ’90s film. That’s not even to mention the unexpectedly modern reliance on time travel as a plot point.
Ignore the wooden dialogue as much you can and appreciate a movie that at the very least produced some very cool toys.
1927’s Metropolis can likely lay claim to being the first feature length science fiction film (1902’s A Trip to the Moon being the first non-feature). It’s legitimately amazing how “modern” it seems, too. Metropolis is a German silent film and tells the story of an urban dystopia in 2026 (woah, we’re almost there!). It’s more than a little influenced by the Communist revolution of the time.
The film follows Freder, the well-off son of the city’s ruler and Maria, a poor worker and the relationship between them. Beyond just the modern influences, Metropolis is visually impressive with landscapes that are somewhere between steampunk and outright Biblical.
John Dies at the End
John Dies at the End is not just a movie for spoilers-in-titles enthusiasts. It’s also a deeply funny, wickedly creative science fiction flick. Even its origins are properly sci-fi. It began as a webserial from Cracked writer David Wong (real name Jason Pargin) and then made it’s way to becoming a novel and finally was adapted into a 2012 film.
John Dies at the End crams a remarkable amount of sci-fi trappings into one film. There are designer drugs that cause the user to time travel, monsters, and alternate dimensions. It’s a perfect distillation of the genre crafted by a fan.
Armageddon is an easy target to the disaster-movie-phobes and you should not listen to their lies. Sure, it’s directed by explosion fetishist Michael Bay. Sure, it’s essentially a two-hour music video for Aerosmith’s worst song. And sure, Roger Ebert counted it as one of his least favorite films.
But Armageddon also happens to rule. It’s both preposterous and preposterously entertaining. An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and humanity’s only hope to save itself is NASA…and Bruce Willis’ team of oil drillers. They’ve got to land and drill a hole on the asteroid so the nuke will work, you see.
Armageddon definitely leans far more toward the “fiction” part of “science fiction” and every now and then that’s exactly what we need.
Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver is likely many young people’s first introduction to science fiction. It’s sneakily done, too. The front of a novel featuring simply an old man doesn’t suggest that inside is a story of a utopia gone horribly awry where all feelings and memories are suppressed to create the “perfect” society.
The movie version of The Giver is an ultra faithful adaptation, right down to the black and white film. Jonas (Brenton Thwaite) is given the enviable job of “The Giver” in his society and must train with The Giver, himself (Jeff Bridges). The Giver will teach Jonas about the kind of pain and joy humans are really capable of experiencing.
Monsters is the little indie monster movie that could. In this case the “could” means getting first-time director, Gareth Edwards, the Godzilla reboot job and then later on a job directing a little movie called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Monsters, itself, however is plenty impressive regardless of what jobs it got its director. It does what should be nearly impossible: pull off a no-budget monster flick. It’s flashily directed and edited and is often truly intriguing and terrifying because of the monsters it doesn’t show.
The Prestige occupies a fascinating place in the Christopher Nolan canon. It’s not part of a franchise like the Dark Knight films. It’s an exciting indie like Memento or Insomnia. It’s not a huge budget sci-fi epic like Interstellar or Inception. It just kind of is.
That doesn’t mean it’s not awesome, however. There’s an argument to be made it’s Nolan’s best (though I won’t make it. Inception ’til I die). Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star as rival early 1900s magicians whose rivalry gets a little too serious. Why is it on the sci-fi list? Watch.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
It feels weirdly reductive to call a Star Wars movie a science fiction movie. Really they’re just…I don’t know, like movies, man.
They’re fun and poignant and adventurous but they also feature distant galaxies and spaceships so they are most certainly science fiction. Rogue One deftly sets the tone for all future standalone Star Wars movies to come. Despite a seemingly troubled production, this is a fantastic, fun and shockingly coherent film about rebellion in all its forms.
Donnie Darko is a cult classic for a reason. Young pup Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the titual Donnie – a normal high school student who suddenly sees tangible “timelines” pulling people around. Oh and there’s a demented hallucinatory bunny named Frank! Oh and there’s a plane crash! Oh and there’s the most amazing cover of “Mad World” of all time!
There’s a lot going on in Donnie Darko – not all of it perfectly coherent. But all its strange, disparate parts blend into a coming-of-age science fiction masterpiece.
Ok, so Neil Blomkamp hasn’t become the South African version of Steven Spielberg quite yet as we all thought he might after District 9. Still, credit where credit is due. He rebounded after the poorly received Elysium with the perfectly charming Chappie.
If we’re going to really drive this Spielberg comparison into the ground, Chappie is Blomkamp’s E.T. Chappie is a Johannesburg police murder robot in a dystopian future but after being captured and reprogrammed by a group of gangsters/unwitting freedom fighters Chappie catches a case of the old-fashioned adorable consciousness. Yes, Chappie the movie has far too much Die Antwoord to be sure but Chappie himself is appealing and charming enough to provide a welcome introduction into this science fiction world.
V for Vendetta
“Remember remember! The 5th of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” V for Vendetta takes one of the strangest routes to being a crowd-pleasing sci-fi action movie ever. It’s an Alan Moore comic book adaptation in which the only threat to a futuristic dystopian British fascism is a guy in a Guy Fawkes mask.
Still, somehow it works. And it works like CRAZY. V for Vendetta is an awesome, entertaining film. And not to mention that it’s suddenly timely since 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are in-demand literature.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Marvel movies tend to occupy a genre of their own – that of the comic/superhero movie. That’s all fine and good but what that neglects is that these are often very good science fiction films. Guardians of the Galaxy in particular is like a fun version of Star Wars in which every character is Han Solo.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 builds on the fun and enchantment of the original installment. Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Baby Groot are a more cohesive team this time around and embark on a mission to save the galaxy once again while addressing some daddy issues along the way.
Men in Black
Men in Black might be among the most purely appealing and entertaining movies of the ’90s. This is in no small part to the sheer star wattage of Will Smith and his chemistry with a typically surly Tommy Lee Jones. Smith stars as James Edwards, an NYPD officer who unwittingly becomes wrapped up in a matter of interstellar significance.
Agent K (Jones) is a member of the mysterious organization that inspects and regulates extraterrestrial encounters calls the Men in Black and he brings James (soon-to-be Agent J) into the fold ot help save the world. Men in Black is funny, fascinating, and a wildly entertaining science fiction watch.
Sam Rockwell is well on his way to becoming the movie star we’ve always known he was. One of the best exhibits of his star power, talent, and appeal is Duncan Jones excellent 2009 sci-fi film Moon.
In Moon, Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, a man living on the moon and mining a precious, valuable energy resource for the Lunar Industries corporation. He’s alone, his communications with Earth have been disrupted and his only friend is the artificial intelligence named GERTY. Bell goes through his day-to-day tasks then one day, two weeks before his return to Earth he discovers that me might not be as alone as he thought.
Moon is the wonderful sci-fi experience that at first feels completely foreign and bizarre before settling into a surprising, yet logical third act.