Editor’s Note: This post is updated monthly. Bookmark this page and come back every month to see the best sci-fi movies on Netflix.
Updated for December 2018. You can see a complete list of new Netflix releases here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea used to be a horror film. Hell, it still is. But we’re placing it in the science fiction category for a simple reason. At this point, massive murderous sharks would be a welcome respite from the social media era hellscape we already live in.
And don’t forget – the scientists’ plans for these sharks in Deep Blue Sea were pretty altruistic. It was all in the name of Alzheimer’s research. Instead it just created a hyper-intelligent, Samuel L. Jackson-hating shark in a claustrophobic research facility. We think scientists should take another run at it again though.
Thor: Ragnarok is a gleefully insane, heavy metal album cover of a movie. It’s easily the best Thor offering yet and one of the overall best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor Odinson. Thor is struggling to live up to the mantle of his father’s leadership and keep Asgard safe from those who would destroy it like fire demon Surtur or dominate it like the evil goddess Hela (Cate Blanchette). Things are even more complicated when Thor is cast out to the garbage planet Sakaar. There he will encounter the gleefully strange Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), an old Asgardian warrior (Tessa Thompson), and even an old friend or two.
Thor: Ragnarok has it all. It’s a sci-fi action superhero movie that also just happens to be deliriously funny.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Despite overwhelming great reviews and an obscene global box office figure, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has proven to be a divisive film amongst Star Wars fans. And director Rian Johnson probably wants it that way.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi really puts the “War” in “Star Wars.” The Resistance takes a big hit after the destruction of Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens and the remnants are being pursued across the galaxy by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Under the leadership of Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs), General Leia Organ (Carrie Fisher), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), the Resistance struggles to stay alive. Meanwhile Finn (John Boyega) sets off in search of an important person and Rey (Daisy Ridley) begins her training with a much-changed Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) takes his shirt off a lot.
This is exhilarating, risky filmmaking that all pays off in a thrilling final act. Let the past die. Kill it if you have to indeed.
Under the Skin
Writer/director Jonathan Glazer worked on developing Under the Skin for over a decade and it shows.
This is a carefully crafted, artful science fiction film with something to say…even if it doesn’t always know what that is. Loosely based on a 2000 novel of the same name, Under the Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as an otherworldly being who drives around Scotland preying upon men.
Part Under the Skin‘s M.O. is certainly forwarding an inverse of sexual politics with Johansson’s character as a “predator” as opposed to a male. But the movie’s thoughts go even a bit deeper than that, viewing all of its human characters as otherworldly creatures of their own.
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.
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 family show. 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.
Children of Men
Children of Men is not only one of the best sci-fi movies of the new millennium but one of the best movies full stop. Children of Men‘s concept is just the barest of sci-fi. It’s the near future and humanity is suddenly unable to reproduce. No new babies have been born in decades. As one would expect, our species doesn’t respond to this adversity very well.
Clive Owen stars as a disenchanted Londoner named Theo. Theo is thrust into the fight to save humanity when he is entrusted with ushering a young pregnant woman to safety. As directed by Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men tells a devastating story excitingly and urgently.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
This Steven Spielberg kid has a future, I’m telling ya’.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind arrived two years after Spielberg created the summer blockbuster with Jaws and is another unambiguous winner. Richard Dreyfuss stars as Roy Neary, an Indiana man whose life changes after he spots a UFO one day.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the best alien abduction movies of all time and a valuable entry into the sci-fi canon.
Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 Hellboy is one of the cooler comic book adaptations and action films of the new millennium.
Ron Perlman (under heavy makeup) stars as demon turned paranormal policeman Hellboy in…well, Hellboy. Hellboy works for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense alongside his friends Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones). Together the Bureau works to protect the world from paranormal and mythological threats. In this installment those threats include Nazis and Grigori Rasputin (not that Rasputin).
Hellboy is an exciting paranormal action thriller and occupies a unique spot in the recent superhero movie canon.
One of science fiction’s best gifts as a genre is it’s generous ability to “assist” other genres. The Lobster is really a romantic film all about love, intimacy and the soul-quaking fear of both.
But The Lobster couldn’t be as emotionally valid as it is without its initial sci-fi conceit. You see, The Lobster is about a resort where single people meet to pair up and become couples. Thing is, though, it’s compulsory. Also, if you don’t find a soulmate in 45 days, you are forever transformed into the animal of your choosing. The Lobster‘s science fiction concept perfectly sets up and complements the real human feelings that follow.
District 9 is a hell of a debut for South African writer/director Neil Blomkamp. Based on Blomkamp’s 2006 short movie, Alive in Joburg, District 9 is part sci-fi, part allegory to apartheid, and all awesome.
In 1982 an alien ship suddenly begins hovering over Johannesburg, South Africa. The ship contains thousands of impoverished aliens soon to be nicknamed “prawns.” The prawns are brough down to the Earth’s surface and housed in impoverished neighborhoods where they have second-class citizen status.
The film follows South African bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) who is “infected” by a mysterious alien liquid while doing his job relocating prawns to a new camp. Wikus must then seek the help of the creatures whose life he has helped make very difficult.