There’s nothing quite as exciting (or terrifying) as science fiction, which provides windows into potential — often cataclysmic — futures and fictional universes. Over the years, Netflix has amassed quite the collection of content, including thousands of shoddy sci-fi movies that feature poorly-animated hybrids of sharks, crocodiles, giant squid, and the like.

Still, it’s not all bad. Sift through the waste for long enough, and you’re sure to find something of value. But nobody wants to spend hours scrolling through a collection of movies they’ve seen and movies they never want to see, so we took the liberty of doing it for you. From big-budget dystopias to independent time travelers, these are the best sci-fi movies on Netflix.

Further reading

Midnight Special on Netflix

Midnight Special (2016)

Not a lot of people caught Midnight Special in theaters, but writer and director Jeff Nichols’s critically acclaimed sci-fi film deserves a second chance to find an audience on Netflix. Michael Shannon headlines the film as Roy Tomlin, a father who takes his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) on the run after the young boy begins exhibiting otherworldly powers. Unfortunately for the father and son duo, the authorities aren’t the only ones they have to worry about. There’s also a religious cult that wants Alton and his powers for themselves. Midnight Special has a particularly strong supporting cast led by Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard. Don’t go to sleep on this one. It’s waiting to be rediscovered by viewers as a hidden gem of science fiction cinema.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver
Director: Jeff Nichols
Rating: 
PG-13
Runtime: 
112 minutes

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Real Steel on Netflix

Real Steel (2011)

It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to call Real Steel the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots Movie. But the original story, by sci-fi luminary Richard Matheson, has a strong pedigree. It was originally adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone before heading to the big screen decades later. And the film works even better than the TV version by creating a great father and son dynamic between Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo’s Charlie and Max Kenton. Together, they salvage a robot they call Atom and turn it into a contender in the ranks of robot boxing. Evangeline Lilly also has a very entertaining performance as Bailey Tallet, a gym owner who forms a bond with the Kentons. But it’s the rousing underdog story of the boy and his robot that makes Real Steel work.

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly
Director: Shawn Levy
Rating: 
PG-13
Runtime: 
127 minutes

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on Netflix

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Get ready for a sci-fi love story. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind simultaneously chronicles the end and the beginning of a relationship. After a tumultuous breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure that erases all memories of her ex-boyfriend, Josh (Jim Carrey). In retaliation, Josh attempts to cut Clementine out of his mind as well. However, Josh ultimately tries to hold on to his good times with Clementine by taking a mind-bending trip through his own memories. Even though Josh’s quest is doomed from the start, his shared connection with Clementine may be more powerful than either of them suspects.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Michel Gondry
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
108 minutes

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Splice on Netflix

Splice (2009)

Sci-fi and horror collide in Splice, as Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley portray Clive and Elsa, a pair of romantically entangled scientists who decide to play God together. Delphine Chanéac nearly steals the entire movie as their enigmatic creation, Dren. As the world’s first successful cross between human and animal DNA, Dren represents an unsettling vision of the future. Elsa even begins to see Dren as her child. However, Dren has her own agenda and ambitions. Remember the expression, “Life finds a way”? In this film, it most certainly does.

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Stars: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
104 minutes

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Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, on Netflix

Total Recall (1990)

Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Total Recall follows Arnold Schwarzenegger as a 21st-century construction worker named Quaid who discovers that his entire memory of the past is based on a memory chip implanted in his brain. That memory chip has suppressed Quaid’s memory of his life as a secret agent. Turns out, he became a threat to the government so they implanted the chip and pushed him into a docile, domestic lifestyle. Once he realizes his identity, however, Quaid travels to Mars to piece together the rest of his identity and seek vengeance upon the man who took his life away.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
113 minutes

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Frank Grillo in Beyond Skyline, on Netflix

Beyond Skyline (2017)

The long-delayed follow-up to 2010’s Skyline is one of the rare instances where the sequel is vastly superior to the original. This unapologetically pulpy, alien invasion B-movie shows what happens when civilians are left to defend themselves against a superior species of aliens. Frank Grillo stars as a cop at odds with his son when the aliens strike. Suddenly sent running for their lives, the father-son duo move at a breakneck pace, traversing through subterranean tunnels to the nuclear wasteland of Los Angeles to an alien ship to a rebel human base in Laos to mount a final defense. Beyond Skyline is absolutely nutty, but if you like big action, ludicrous sci-fi tropes, and good ol’ fashioned human versus alien violence, this one’s for you.

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Stars: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic
Director: Liam O’Donnell
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
106 minutes

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Okja on Netflix

Okja (2017)

Bong Joon-ho earned Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for Parasite, but he was making remarkable movies well before that recognition (Okja isn’t his only entry on this list). Okja is one of his most polemical films, taking on the meat industry and capitalism at large in this touching sci-fi drama for Netflix. The story follows Mija, a young girl who has grown up in the mountains of South Korea with a fictional super-pig best friend named Okja. But when the multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation kidnaps Okja and transports her to New York to launch an entirely new meat industry, it’s up to Mija to save her best friend. A caustic satire of the greed and grotesqueness of American food processing, Okja pokes fun at everyone from self-obsessed CEOs to bumbling, naive activists in a sci-fi romp that hits close to home.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Seo-hyeon Ahn, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Rating:
TV-MA
Runtime: 
118 minutes

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Snowpiercer on Netflix

Snowpiercer (2013)

It didn’t blow anyone away at the box office — though it didn’t necessarily do poorly, either — but Snowpiercer proved to be a thrilling ride through a future where the remaining population of the world takes refuge in a train, one that barrels through the snow-covered wasteland that used to be civilization. A class system rises up from within the train, with a Chris Evans-led back of the vessel staging a rebellion against Tilda Swinton’s first-class rule. Directed by Bong Joon Ho, Snowpiercer makes for an enticing and original look at a post-apocalyptic society.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang Ho
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
126 minutes

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Freaks movie on Netflix

Freaks (2018)

One of the most highly regarded sci-fi films of the past few years, Freaks follows a 7-year-old girl named Chloe who has spent her entire life completely isolated from the world inside her home with her father, Henry (Emile Hirsch). Henry has told Chloe that the outside world is a terrifying, dangerous place but as she gets older, Chloe becomes too curious to not venture out into the world. This character-driven movie is dripping in tension and mystery, which slowly becomes revealed as Chloe discovers more about the world in which she inhabits. It’s a master class in how to make high-quality sci-fi on a limited budget.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Lexy Kolker
Director: Zach Lipovsky
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
104 minutes

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Underworld on Netflix

Underworld (2003)

If you’re a sci-fi fan, you’ve at least heard of Underworld and maybe even enjoyed a few of the franchise’s six films. If you’re not, you may be surprised to hear that a Kate Beckinsale-led franchise about an epic war between vampires and werewolves amassed six movies between 2003 and 2016. The first three — which are the best three — are on Netflix. Underworld brings you into a world where vampires and werewolves (known as Lycans) have waged their centuries-long war in secret but when a human becomes a Lycan target, vampire Death Dealer Selene (Beckinsale) makes it her business to defend him. After he’s bitten by a Lycan, Selene must decide whether she must kill this man for whom she has developed feelings or go against her clan to save him. Turns out, it’s not as cut and dried as you think, as conspiracy abounds in this endless war.

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen
Director: Len Wiseman
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
121 minutes

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District 9 on Netflix

District 9 (2009)

District 9 may be a bit on the nose with its allegorical depiction of renewed Apartheid in South Africa but it is nonetheless an interesting take on the “first encounter” movie. When an extraterrestrial race comes to Earth not to invade, but to find refuge after their planet has been destroyed, humanity forces them to live in slum-like conditions. Oppressed, reviled, and marginalized, the aliens find their lives on Earth aren’t much better than living on a destroyed planet. But when a government agent is accidentally exposed to the alien biotech and transforms into one himself, he may become the perfect bridge to a brighter future.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Sharlto Copley
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Rating:
R
Runtime: 
112 minutes

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The Endless

The Endless (2017)

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead really wore a lot of hats when making The Endless. The duo co-wrote, co-directed, co-edited, and even co-starred in this unexpectedly affecting mixture of sci-fi and horror. Benson and Moorhead play Justin and Aaron Smith, a pair of brothers who lost years of their lives to Camp Arcadia, a UFO death cult. However, the Smith brothers find life outside of the cult difficult to navigate. That’s how the Smiths are ultimately drawn back to Camp Arcadia years after their initial departure. Aaron is able to convince Justin to visit their former cult for just a single day. But once the brothers are back in the fold, getting back out proves to be a problem. There’s more to this cult than either brother remembers, and the past has finally caught up with them.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez
Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Rating:
TV-MA
Runtime: 
111 minutes

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I Am Mother

I Am Mother (2019)

Director Grant Sputore turned a lot of heads with I Am Mother, a superbly made and terrifically acted sci-fi thriller. In the far future, humanity is seemingly extinct. An android called Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) fulfills its primary function by attempting to revive humanity. But first, Mother raises Daughter (Clara Rugaard) for practice and teaches her how to survive in this inhospitable world. However, Daughter’s reality is shattered when she encounters a woman (Hilary Swank) from the outside, who happens to be the first human that Daughter has ever met. And once the newcomer is inside of the bunker, I Am Mother takes a decidedly sinister turn. The truth will come out, but will anyone survive to see it?

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank
Director: Grant Sputore
Rating:
TV-PG
Runtime: 
113 minutes

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