The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Science-fiction is arguably the best genre in the entire cinematic arena. It’s an incredibly flexible and encompassing field that allows writers, filmmakers, and actors to show off their creativity without being hampered by the confines of other genres. All sci-fi films can have elements of action, drama, romance, adventure, and mystery (with the best ones having a mixture of sub-genres) without blurring the lines; the same cannot always be said the other way around. In essence, science-fiction is a genre that offers something for everyone.
With that in mind, we’ve gone through the available sci-fi films that are currently streaming on Netflix to provide you with a range of movies for a variety of tastes. If you’re looking for something family-friendly to watch with the kids, or something action-packed to share with friends, or something unusual that you’ve never even heard of before, we’ve got you covered. We’ll update this list on the regular, so be sure to check back in as we rotate through the sci-fi films streaming on Netflix now!
- Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now
- Best Movies on Amazon Prime Right Now
- Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now
- Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
- Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now
- Best Animated Movies on Netflix Right Now
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany
Netflix has become uber popular for its original features and series in recent years, but it’s long been a place to check out films you might have missed while they were in theaters. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a perfect example of this latter category. As a perfectly fine installment in the Star Wars story so far, this flick follows the title smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo in the early days of his criminal career. It features some absolutely phenomenal practical work from the production’s art departments, many of which are highlighted on the movie’s home video release, all bolstering a serviceable story about one of the franchise’s most recognizable characters. In other words, it’s worth a watch, even if Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s original vision for the movie would have had a lot more style. - Dave Trumbore
Children of Men
This post originally appeared in our Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 2000s.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, P.D. James (Novel)
Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, Charlie Hunnam, Danny Huston
Alfonso Cuaron is one of our greatest living filmmakers, so it’s no surprise that his first foray into sci-fi territory ended up being a masterpiece. His 2006 adaptation of the novel Children of Men is at once bleak and hopeful, chronicling a future in which humanity faces its extinction as women are no longer able to have children. Clive Owen, our reluctant hero, finds himself shepherding the first known pregnant woman in years as a world in crisis threatens to destroy its last chance at survival. Visually, Children of Men is magic. Cuaron and master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki capture this future world with an immediacy that puts you directly into the story from the opening sequence and never lets go. There are many long takes in the film that are downright incredible, and Owen anchors the picture with reservation and dismay, but also a hint of hope—ever crucial to the story both structurally and thematically. Children of Men is a hard film to shake, one that shows humanity both at its worst and its best, and it’s undoubtedly solidified its place as one of the best sci-fi films ever made. – Adam Chitwood
Writer: Joss Whedon
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Ron Glass, David Krumholtz, Michael Hitchcock, Sarah Paulson
Though the premature cancellation of the cult series Firefly still sticks in the space-craw of my fellow Browncoats, the healing balm of the 2005 film Serenity helped to ease the pain a bit. It reunited the crew of the title spaceship, bringing Zoe, Wash, Jayne, and Kaylee back under Captain Mal’s command, with Simon and River Tam along for the ride. The movie also folds in the beloved Firefly characters of Inara Serra and Shepherd Book as the crew attempts to evade the sadistic Reavers and prevent an intelligence agent known as The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) from kidnapping the Tam siblings. (Personally, I prefer Jubal Early; does that seem right to you?)
If you’re not familiar with either Serenity or Firefly, I’d highly recommend starting with the series before concluding with the movie (and then starting all over again.) You can check out both the series and the movie on Netflix. It’s your lucky gorram day! – Dave Trumbore
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writers: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Cast: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
While filmmaker Neill Blomkamp has yet to match the heights of his debut feature, District 9 still stands tall as an astounding directorial debut. The film boasts the best aspects of the sci-fi genre in marrying incredible visual spectacle/effects with a socially relevant premise, as Blomkamp contextualizes the internment of an alien species in South Africa as a metaphor for apartheid. Moreover, the visual execution of the film is terrific—it begins in mockumentary style and then slowly begins to morph into a traditional cinematic point of view, but the transition is so graceful the audience is blissfully unaware, allowing them to become fully enraptured in the thrills of the movie’s third act. And that’s not to mention a breakout lead performance by Sharlto Copley, with Blomkamp essentially framing an entire movie with a hero akin to The Office’s David Brent. The result? Four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Blomkamp burst out of the gate with ambition to spare, and while his follow-up films have paled in comparison, District 9 remains a spectacular film.
V for Vendetta
Director: James McTeigue
Writer: Lilly and Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers), David Lloyd (graphic novel art)
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Rupert Graves, Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Tom Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam
In this modern era of superhero and comic book movies, the highly stylized feature film adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel V for Vendetta ranks among the best. Containing some of the hallmarks of classic science-fiction stories—a dystopian future, a tyrannical government, and a super-powered hero created in a secret lab—V for Vendetta is a film that succeeds quite well at crossing genres even as it wears its sci-fi badge proudly on its sleeve.
Consider for a moment that the hero of this piece is played by Hugo Weaving, who had previously starred as both the Man in Black antagonist Agent Smith in The Matrix films and as a long-haired elf lord in The Lord of the Rings movies. So it was a particularly clever move to place him behind a Guy Fawkes mask for the duration of the film, where his voice and physical presence would have to bring the enigmatic character of V to life. This remains one of the most satisfying tales out there when it comes to vengeance, justice, and all the murky middle ground between the two. – Dave Trumbore
Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Sonoya Mizuno
Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina may have one an Oscar for its visual effects work–which is deservingly spectacular–but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface in this new sci-fi classic. Destined to be revisited for years to come, Garland’s tightly focused tale centers on a contemporary love triangle between a curious programmer, a highly advanced and convincing A.I. creation, and her gifted but eccentric creator.
Like the best sci-fi stories, Ex Machina keeps you guessing until the very end as to just what’s going on. And once that end hits, and hit you it will, we’re left to wonder, ponder, and discuss what could possibly happen next. This movie is right up there with Her and Solaris when it comes to exploring the relationship between humans and highly advanced “Others”, be their artificially intelligent creations of our own minds and by our own hands, or wholly alien intelligences for which we have no precedent. Truly remarkable stuff on display here, so move it up on your watchlist if you haven’t already! - Dave Trumbore
Directors: Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Writers: Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Cast: Richard Neil, Savannah Liles, Jolene Andersen, Emilio Palame
Prodigy is an interesting entry on this list because it’s “the little indie that could.” I had a chance to check it out earlier this year, and now, you get to do the same thanks to Netflix’s pick-up. If you’re interested in exploring a subversive take on the current contemporary superhero trend, or are a fan of stories like X-Men, Firestarter, or Stranger Things, you’ll want to add this one to the queue.
The premise of the feature directorial debut from co-writers/co-directors Haughey and Vidal is a familiar one: An unnaturally powerful young girl is held captive by government officials as scientists treat her as a research subject to discover the secret to her abilities. But they’ve yet to crack the highly intelligent, dangerous, and abrasively antagonistic child, so they bring in a psychologist who specializes in treating children. The way everything ultimately plays out may seem predetermined, but Prodigy will keep you guessing. And despite it’s indie appearance, its strong focus on character is a major part of its appeal. - Dave Trumbore
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Writers: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Frank Oz, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong’o
The debate over whether Star Wars is sci-fi or space fantasy will continue as long as there are Star Wars movies, and the only debate that might go on just as long is the one arguing the merits of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So whatever side of the divide you land on, love it or hate it, The Last Jedi is now on Netflix for your streaming enjoyment. Revisit it and rekindle those conversations all over again!
Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII continues the chronicles of Luke Skywalker, though that storyline is just about at its end. Instead, newcomers Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Rose Tico will carry the torch from Luke, Leia, and Han, just as Kylo Ren follows in the very evil footsteps of the likes of Darth Vader and Supreme Leader Snoke. This controversial installment feels like a shift in generations on more than just a narrative standpoint; it also features a strong Disney stamp as the franchise moves on from the characters and creations of George Lucas and into the future. There are plenty more Star Wars movies and TV shows in the years ahead, but Star Wars: The Last Jedi will long be remembered as a franchise turning point, for better or worse. What side are you on? - Dave Trumbore
Director: Duncan Jones
Writers: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong
The following excerpt comes from The 37 Best R-Rated Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked list.
Duncan Jones‘ 2008 directorial debut Moon is an instant sci-fi classic. Physically contained but conceptually grand, the film follows Sam Rockwell as an astronaut working alone on the moon who stumbles onto a dreadful truth that calls his whole reality into question. That’s about as vague as plot summaries get, but to reveal any more is to ruin the countless surprises that lie ahead, as each new reveal redefines your concept of the film and its stakes. Jones has plenty to say about corporate ruthlessness in his tale of the lonely moon man, but if Moon‘s concepts are impressive, it’s the character drama that cements the film as an all-timer. Aside from some faces on the video screens and a lovable low-tech robot voiced by Kevin Spacey, Rockwell carries the entire film on his back with a remarkable performance. The film demands extreme nuance and screen presence from its star, and Rockwell delivers at every turn, keeping the audience on track with the twisty plot without ever having to spell it out for them. Moon is a fearlessly smart film that has faith you’ll keep up, and the rewards are only greater for it. –Haleigh Foutch
Directors: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Writers: David Mitchell (Novel), Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Chris Lindsay
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi
If you’ve got three hours to spare, an open mind, and a love of multi-layered thoughtful sci-fi, Cloud Atlas is a nice way to pass the time. The Wachowskis rarely do anything halfway, so the fact that their sprawling adaptation of Mitchell’s equally sprawling tome covers six eras and the variety of colorful characters that live within them shouldn’t surprise you too awful much.
And honestly, Cloud Atlas is worth watching if only to see stars Hanks, Berry, and their supporting cast turn in multiple performances while drawing from the entire spectrum of the human experience. Even if you’ve seen it before, the epic cinematic exploration of personalities and possibilities offers up a lot to chew on: How does our actions or inactions shape the future for those around us and those we’ll never meet? Is there something greater that ties our fates together in ways we may never understand? Is life in the far-flung future going to be remotely recognizable to life as we know it, or will it be an alien, incomprehensible thing? And just how will the defining traits of humanity change in the years, centuries, and millennia to come? We, today, will never know, but Cloud Atlas allows us to imagine. - Dave Trumbore
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Directors: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Wen Jiang, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen
The first of Disney’s planned anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story travels back to a time between the original trilogy and the much-maligned prequel trilogy to tell a tale of rebellion. Nestled between the rise of the Empire as we know it and the improbable destruction of their space-based super-weapon is this contained story about a group of anti-heroes and their risky mission to obtain the Death Star blueprints. It’s this key piece of information that allows the rebellion to not only kick off in earnest but to thrive for generations.
Rogue One is part heist film and part war movie, as if Ocean’s Eleven and The Dirty Dozen came together in what’s arguably the best space drama ever to unfold. Edwards’ tale doesn’t succeed fully in either regard, but it does offer up plenty of fan service for the Star Wars faithful who want to see connective tissue strung together between existing films. It introduces a handful of colorful characters, including some referenced outside of the cinematic universe, but ultimately only uses them for this solitary film since the rebellion’s greatest victory also comes with their greatest sacrifices. - Dave Trumbore
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writers: Bong Joon Ho, Jon Ronson
Cast: Ahn Seo-Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Steven Yeun, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins
One of the highest-profile movies to hit Netflix but bypass a traditional theatrical rollout was Okja, Bong Joon Ho‘s follow up to 2013’s Snowpiercer. It’s an eviscerating takedown of both the modern agricultural industry and the intertwined science of genetic engineering. The story takes the science to extreme and, at times, ridiculous proportions and makes no attempt to portray beneficial real-world achievements in an equal light. However, the moral of the story is hard to miss: Humans who play God soon lose their very humanity.
Okja follows the title character, a genetically engineered super-animal raised naturally/organically in South Korea by caretaker Mija. Since Okja is the choicest of the bred animals, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation seeks to take back their property and study it exhaustively in order to recoup their investment and improve their stock, both agriculturally and financially. Mija does everything in her power to bring her friend back home, though animal rights activists, hired corporate muscle, and even the media will complicate matters. It’s a tough watch at times, especially for those on the front lines of the fight for animal welfare, but it’s a lesson worth repeating just the same. - Dave Trumbore
Director: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writer: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Cast: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffrey, François Simard, Anouk Whissell,
Turbo Kid – This 2015 action comedy that pays homage to ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s culture looks and feels like it could have been pulled from any one of those decades. This dystopian adventure centering on a young comic book fan living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of an alternate Earth in 1997 was one of the great surprises of the year, one which the SXSW Film Festival rewarded with the Audience Award. It’s a classic boy-meets-girl, girl-saves-boy, boy-and-girl-defeat-a-tyrannical-overlord kind of story … oh and there’s a badass arm-wrestling cowboy for good measure.
Turbo Kid falls in line with modern films like Kung Fury in its unabashed love for pop culture and nostalgia while simultaneously feeling like it was lifted from the pages of a comic book or the frames of a video game. It’s just plain fun; gory, over-the-top, low-budget fun. Check this one out if that sounds like your idea of a good time. – Dave Trumbore
*batteries not included
Director: Matthew Robbins
Writers: Mick Garris, Brad Bird, Matthew Robbins, Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson
Cast: Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Frank McRae, Elizabeth Peña
One of the criminally underrated and oft-forgotten Amblin Entertainment classics of the 80s, *batteries not included was a family-friendly film that ran into the box office buzzsaw of such films as Eddie Murphy Raw, Three Men and a Baby, Throw Momma from the Train, and Wall Street. It was a rough time for cute little metallic UFOs that could easily be mistaken for hamburgers. Strangely enough, this film feels like it would be better received by modern audiences than it was in 1987.
As a kid, I remember this movie for its cool flying robots and its crazy old lady; 30 years later, I’m struck by the movie’s depiction of gentrification, class warfare, and the very real issues of mental illness. At its heart, *batteries not included is about romantic relationships: there’s love story between a long-married husband and wife who are dealing with the death of a son, a collapsing home/business, and increasingly difficult medical issues; a burgeoning romance between a single mother and a starving artist; and a newly created family of little “fix-it” robots learning to live alongside humans. The hook is that these little saucer-shaped critters can fix just about anything and everything, mechanical or emotional, as it turns out. They help the humans in the story put their lives and livelihoods back together. It’s a great watch, even if it’s fairly simplistic in its portrayal of hope and help. But honestly, we could all use a little extra helping of each now and then.
As some bonus trivia, two time Oscar-winner Brad Bird ended up getting his first share of a screenwriting credit on this film after working on a pair of episodes for Spielberg’s Amazing Stories series. That should be reason enough to give it a go. – Dave Trumbore
Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno, Robert Roy Pool
Cast: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, William Fichtner, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, Ken Hudson Campbell, Jessica Steen, Keith David, Jason Isaacs, Chris Ellis
The year was 1998 and we were perilously close to all perishing in the assured destruction caused by Y2K, so the threat of the world-ending asteroid at the center of Bay’s Armageddon didn’t seem all that far-fetched. It’s another apocalyptic film, but about as far from the aforementioned Melancholia as you can get. (I’d love to see the Venn diagram of Michael Bay and Lars von Trier fans.)
The premise of this action-packed, spectacle-filled epic is decided blue-collar: When NASA determines that an asteroid big enough to cause an extinction-level event is bound to collide with Earth, they recruit a team of roughneck (and rough-around-the-edges) oil rig veterans. The team trains together alongside the more high-brow NASA scientists and eventually makes their way to the space rock with the intent of blowing it to hell by drilling down into it and detonating nuclear bombs within it. 100% Michael Bay. With a little bit of romance and a lot of explosions, Armageddon remains a fun watch almost 20 years later. -Dave Trumbore
Need More Recommendations?
Want more movie and television recommendations? Check out more of our Netflix lists and other streaming suggestions below: