The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Last Updated: November 16th
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!
ET The Extra-Terrestrial
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton, C. Thomas Howell
I shouldn’t have to do too much in the way of convincing in order to get you to check out E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the 1982, four-time Oscar-winning classic. It remains one of Steven Spielberg’s most beloved films 30-plus years later and is as endearing and innocent as ever. For those of you who had missed out on the story of a lonely boy who makes friends with an odd-looking extraterrestrial, or perhaps you have a new generation of movie-watchers who have yet to see this classic, now’s as great a time as ever to check it out! – Dave Trumbore
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Director: Kerry Conran
Writer: Kerry Conran
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Bai Ling, Omid Djalili
The 2004 action-adventure film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, from debut director Kerry Conran,was criminally underseen in theaters, but now it’s available for your viewing pleasure! It’s a throwback to an alternative 1939 in which zeppelins are still in use, elite scientists are disappearing, and indestructible robots attack New York City. All in a days work for “The Chronicle” reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and “Sky Captain” Joe Sullivan (Jude Law)!
The look of this film is fantastic even if the plot drags a little more than you’d expect given the description above. Conran was dedicated to using bluescreen technology to pull Sky Captain off, bringing in nearly 100 digital artists, modelers, animators and compositors to create the layered 2D/3D backgrounds for live-action footage. Sky Captain was one of the first major films to blend live actors with computer-generated environments, so it should earn a spot on your must-watch list just for that. Then again, the sci-fi fans out there should appreciate the diesel-punk aesthetic of this film, which you don’t find all that often. Oh, and did I mention the crazy scientist who wants to wipe out humanity and start from scratch? Yeah; it’s a fun ride! – 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
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Director: Robert Wise
Writer: Edmund H. North
Cast: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, and Hugh Marlowe
Amongst the most aggravating of all remakes is the piss-poor retelling of the minor classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, which casts Keanu Reeves as the constantly poised alien ambassador to a very scared Earth. That hopelessly convoluted film let its simplistic, unthinking politics land with an inelegant thud, whereas Robert Wise’s lovely original keeps many ideas roiling underneath the surface. Christianity and communism can be read into the film’s story of an extraterrestrial landing in America, which causes a governmental hoopla and more than a little national soul-searching. Wise’s film, adapted from Harry Bates’ story “Farewell to the Master,” considers what it would mean to know that all our power is essentially alien, and maybe even useless, to a more powerful creature or creation. What if even the H-bomb is little more than an impressive sparkler to new species that visits us? The director and screenwriter Edmund H. North focus less on the tension of the battle, the sweaty suspense of who will dominate, and instead consider a quieter feeling of powerlessness, and humanity’s propensity to understand that we’re not alone and definitely not the top of the food chain. – Chris Cabin
World of Tomorrow
Director: Don Hertzfeldt
Writer: Don Hertzfeldt
Cast: Julia Pott, Winona Mae, and Sara Cushman
At 17 minutes long, Don Hertzfeldt’s ingenious World of Tomorrow conveys more of the strangeness, melancholy, and loneliness of a world ruled by futuristic technologies than arguably any other director this decade. The follow-up to Hertzfeldt’s animated classic It’s a Beautiful Day, World of Tomorrow features a young girl who gets the chance to speak with her older self or, to put it more accurately, the umpteenth clone of her future self. The proceeding hop-along through time and space becomes a perfect canvas for Hertzfeldt’s avant-garde brand of animation, which makes great use of minimalistic drawing and video overlaying to evoke the disorientation and utter oddness of the world that Hertzfeldt envisions. That world, mind you, is a pretty cold and unsympathetic one, but Hertzfeldt smartly never turns out-and-out cynical, clearly seeing the impressive steps toward immortality and exploring the universe that technology will bring without ignoring the emotional numbness and turmoil that will remain, and likely worsen, as time goes by. – Chris Cabin
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
Director: Fritz Lang
Writer: Thea von Harbou
Cast: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, and Gustav Fröhlich
Every science fiction epic, from Blade Runner to Avatar, is eating off of Fritz Lang’s plate, and the silent classic Metropolis is the primary reason for that. Spanning nearly four hours in its restored cut, Lang’s masterwork has the tint of scripture in its tale of a world seduced by profits and industrial ownership, but it’s also a bold call for unionization, which was not all that popular at the time of its release in the 1920s. It’s a leftist opus, packed with visual cues and symbols of the suppression and exploitation of the working class, but the unexhausted thrill of the film comes from the riveting scale and design of the world Lang creates. The female robot, the product of a mad scientist who empowers the corporations, is one of Lang’s most iconic visions, but there’s also the wild, overgrown cityscapes and the isolated home of the scientist, which echo the worldview of modern society and the corrupted inventor respectively. The story is build off of a simple adventure structure, but Lang’s sense of visual storytelling goes a long way to imbuing the story with historical, cultural, and personal nuance, which makes the imposing runtime seem all too brief by the end of it all. – Chris Cabin
*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: John Hillcoat
Writers: Cormac McCarthy, Joe Penhall
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Garret Dillahunt
Not all post-apocalyptic tales have to do with world-ending epidemics or a plague of the living dead. In fact, Cormac McCarthy‘s source novel makes the dying world, a world covered in ash after some unnamed extinction-level event, all the more believable and all the more terrifying. The Road in question is traveled, ever southward, by Viggo Mortensen and then-relative newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee, known only as the Man and the Boy. They leave behind the life they knew, one in which only desolation, starvation, and unhappiness remained, for a chance at a better lot. Along the way, they’re beset by thieves, murderers, cannibals, and a nagging illness that will ultimately claim one of their lives. It’s a harrowing tale to be sure, but perhaps surprisingly, also a hopeful one. - 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
Director: Claire Carré
Writers: Charles Spano, Claire Carré
Cast: Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernández
Claire Carré’s debut feature Embers is an aching and ambitious gem whose grandiose scale defies its universal central theme. Connecting five seemingly disparate storylines taking place after an unknown plague wipes out humanity’s ability to establish long-term memory, Embers drops the viewer into a world both hauntingly alike and deftly alien to the world of our own, envisioning a technological climate just a few decades removed from our present
At the center of the film lies a poignant romance between a wandering couple (Jason Ritter and Iva Gocheva), doomed to wake up each morning as strangers, bearing small Memento-esque markers meant to help them learn their love for each other even as their minds remain empty. It’s an ambitious an aching take on the often overused post-apocalyptic dystopian premise, and it makes for a satisfyingly cerebral, if slight, genre exploration. - Aubrey Page
Need More Recommendations?
Want more movie and television recommendations? Check out our BingeBot on Facebook Messenger. Click here for responsive intel on the best streaming options for every genre under the sun, along with suggestions for movies you don’t want to miss in theaters now.
Be sure to keep checking back as we’ll be continuing to update our recommendations for the must-see titles currently playing on Netflix. Can’t get enough recommendations? Check out our partners at Complex’s 100 Best Movies On Netflix list. Happy viewing!