The selection of sci-fi films is one of its strongest departments within the larger list of movies on Netflix, and it has a nice mix of classics alongside a number of newer, stranger films. Navigating the volume can be a little tricky, but the fact is that most of its selection makes for an enjoyable watch. Still, there are always going to be films that skip through the cracks, and that’s why it’s good to seek out recommendations. For a little help navigating that 3500+ Netflix inventory, these are some of our favorite selections.
You can also take a look at our list of the best sci-fi movies of all time for a deeper selection.
In this sci-fi parallel to Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Little Mermaid, a number of reality-bending bubbles are isolated to the city of Tokyo after an explosion at Tokyo Tower, but they make the city uninhabitable for the general population. Despite the danger, a number of young people engage in high-stakes parkour tournaments, bouncing around the abandoned city with Tokyo Tower considered the ultimate, as of yet unreachable, goal.
A teen named Hibiki is shocked to find a girl who appears to have little to no context for human interactions who he names Uta. As the bubbles become increasingly unstable and threaten all who reside within the city, Hibiki and Uta are forced to act.
Attack on Titan and Death Note creator Tetsurō Araki has created a number of influential anime series, but Bubble hits a decidedly more fanciful note. The central characters are charming, but this is a film that leans into the full action capabilities of parkour and anime combined to weave a gorgeous vision of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. It might not necessarily break new ground, but it’s a beautiful movie to take in nonetheless, and full of all the bleak overtones one might expect of any proper dystopian film.
The Midnight Sky (2020)
Taking a reclusive work-addicted scientist seeking out habitable planets for humanity should earth become uninhabitable as its central character, The Midnight Sky visits Earth’s very near future to show a planet on which an unspecified disaster has decimated the population. Our protagonist identifies a shuttle returning from Jupiter’s apparently habitable moon K-23, which he himself discovered. The ship’s crew believes it has simply lost contact with Earth, and so it falls upon our hero, isolated in a remote bunker in the Arctic, to tell them not to return home.
Directed by and starring George Clooney, this humanistic view of “the end of the world” shows us a very flawed man who nonetheless finds himself plagued with regret, detachment, and perhaps most terribly, hope for the future. Poignant and occasionally heart-wrenching, The Midnight Sky vacillates between the melancholy and the uplifting to tell a story that isn’t particularly unique, but is telling of our concerns as a species.
Jill and her children, along with the rest of the world, find themselves suddenly unable to sleep. Regardless of the impossibility of rest, humanity begins suffering all the known effects of sleep deprivation, including fatigue, hallucinations, mood instability, and an inability to tell the difference between reality and dream. With a deteriorating understanding of consequences, the world rapidly becomes a more dangerous place. Meanwhile, Jill’s daughter is sought after by a government that seeks to use her for experimentations due to her apparent immunity. Not limited to overall societal observations that are par the course for dystopian sci-fi, choosing a single mother forced to extremes to make ends meet before the chaos breaks out adds an extra element of commentary to the bleak feeling of the movie. Though it’s a film that has left critics polarized, to say the least, the level of paranoia and dread that permeates Awake will be catnip for audience members that enjoy sci-fi that goes heavy on the horror vibes. Another film with an A+ cast, including Gina Rodrigez, Shamier Anderson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and many more, this is a well-acted anxiety-driven thriller that fits nicely in the modern sci-fi canon.
Sporting a legendary cast including Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson, and Toni Collette, Stowaway takes the Bugs Bunny-style concept of our protagonist falling asleep in a rocket to Mars and turns it into a tense sci-fi flick about human resiliency and sacrifice. After our lead is told there’s no way to get him back to safety until the ship has completed its mission, things get even worse as they realize that the oxygen supply is rapidly leaking and won’t last through the trip. For anyone who is a little exhausted by some of the bleaker dystopian themes that sci-fi has long made a home for, Stowaway manages to be heartbreaking and heartwarming all in one go. Focusing on the sense of horror that would come realizing that you’re trapped in space to the escalating fear of hearing you may indeed never get back, it leans into character development amid the high-stakes action and encourages its audience to bond with the cast as they struggle with one no-win situation after another.
See You Yesterday
While the title might make it sound like this is a run-of-the-mill time travel story, See You Yesterday is a surprising entry to one of the genre’s favorite tropes. Deceptively light in its opening scenes, the central premise of the story kicks off when teenage scientist CJ loses her brother in a police shooting, leaving her and her family reeling. However, unlike so many that have experienced a similar loss in the real world, CJ can actually change things to ensure it never happened. Implementing her newly discovered secret of time travel, she and her friend Sebastian go back in time to prevent this tragedy from ever occurring. Yet, the cyclical nature of time means that new threats and disasters appear every time she attempts to correct the mistakes of the past.
While staying soundly in the realm of an improbable sci-fi adventure, See You Yesterday deals with some of the heaviest real-world issues imaginable while remaining disarmingly good-intentioned. Full of lovable homages to sci-fi of yesteryear while keeping its feet firmly grounded in the possibilities of the future, this is a remarkable debut from director Stefon Bristol that is braced by impressive performances from lead actors Eden Duncan-Smith, Dante Crichlow, and Astro.
I Am Mother
Mother is a humanoid robot that tends to embryos in an apparently deserted underground facility. Raising one of these to young adulthood and referring to the young woman as Daughter, the two form an emotional bond that is both unsettling and endearing. When a stranger appears at the base telling Daughter of the genocide that AI like Mother has unleashed on the human population, the once safe (if creepy) world that Daughter has known becomes uncertain and terrifying.
Hinging on its disturbing, horror-infused vibes and solid acting by Hilary Swank and Clara Rugaard along with the collaborative performance of Mother, this is not to be missed by fans that love a good ominous sci-fi film. I Am Mother is one of those stories that is remarkably difficult to describe without inevitably giving away a major twist, but that’s all the more reason for genre fans to seek it out for themselves. Claustrophobic dystopian tales that keep you on your toes until after the credits roll like Solaris (1979) or Moon (2009) will delight in the heady concepts tucked into a roller coaster plot.
The Adam Project
Encountering serious issues mid-flight, rocket ship pilot Adam flies right into a wormhole that takes him into the “distant past of 2022.” Immediately connecting with his younger self, the two Adams must work together to return the elder to his respective time. Though time travel is a tried and true staple of sci-fi, one of the most intriguing elements of this story is the way it shows how the early trauma in the young Adam has crystalized into a serious lack of emotional connection in later years, giving this one an unexpected punch to go along with the fast-paced action sequences. Fun but not as light-hearted as one might think, The Adam Project leans just as hard into the skill of its actors as it does the kookiness of its premise. Surprisingly providing one of Ryan Reynolds’ most down-to-earth performances after a long series of successes capitalizing on his over-the-top antics, The Adam Project asks heavy questions and never forgets to lead with its heart.
For more of his best work, check out our guide to the best Ryan Reynolds movies of all time.
In a eugenics-based future, parents are allowed to genetically engineer their unborn children to ensure “perfect” results. Though discrimination against those who have not had their DNA tampered with is supposedly illegal, they are forced into menial labor as a general rule. Enter Vincent Freeman, who has lofty ambitions of space travel, though his short life expectancy and genetic makeup disqualify him from consideration. Using subterfuge to climb company ranks, Vincent gets increasingly closer to his ultimate goal just as the walls begin closing in on him. Much of Gattaca’s story revolves around the admission that nothing can ever be as flawless as we’d like it to be regardless of how hard we try to make it so. Questioning eugenics is nothing new for the sci-fi genre, but this underrated ‘90s gem manages to wrest an impressively emotional journey through its leads, a relatively early-career Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
Sorry to Bother You
Cash Green is forced to take a soul-sucking job as a telemarketer to make ends meet but finds himself struggling in the position until his coworker tells him about using “white voice,” which convinces the people he deals with that they can put faith in him. Suddenly successful, Cash supports union workers through protest and is surprised to find himself promoted, though he feels increasingly conflicted about the interests of the company through which he works. Realizing how corporate interests leak into every aspect of our lives including outsider art, Cash finds himself enduring a series of humiliating scenarios that alternate between hilarious and painful to watch. Like all the best sci-fi movies, the line between fact and fiction is dangerously thin in Sorry To Bother You, and its commentary on the slippery slope of success in today’s corporate landscape can be a little close for comfort, making it an absolute must-watch.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
While not particularly appreciated on its release, Mars Attacks! has gone on to be regarded as one of the great sci-fi comedies. Directed by Tim Burton and featuring a truly off-the-wall cast of celebrities, the story is based on the comical TOPPS trading card series that told of an aggressive alien invasion. Bringing the vibe of old school sci-fi movies of the 1950s into the 1990s and turning the satire levels way up, this serves as a humorous counterpart to the much more serious Independence Day, released the same year.
Mobile Suit Gundam (1981)
A compilation film collecting the first part of the Mobile Suit Gundam series that kicked off in 1979, this is on a lot of lists of the best anime of all time for great reason. When humans colonize outer space to solve the issue of overpopulation, some of the furthest colonies branch off and a war begins in which much of the human population on Earth perishes. Enlisting the help of a teen boy named Amuro Ray to pilot the enormous fighter robot RX-78-2 Gundam, the door swings wide open to giant robot fights in space. Yet, by treating the pilots as regular soldiers fighting an ugly war, Gundam revolutionized its genre and became one of the most important anime series ever produced. All the Gundam films are great, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
If you're looking for more like this, take a look at our list of the best anime on Netflix right now.
A film that combines survival horror with sci-fi elements to create a disturbing romp, Sweetheart is a great watch for anyone that likes an ominous vibe to their sci-fi. Taking its audience on quite a ride through a handful of tropes while dropping in new twists along the way, this is an underrated great. Following Jenn after her boat capsizes and leaves her stranded, the film puts her face-to-face with a deep sea monster that comes ashore to hunt for prey. Naturally, the scariest part of this is when she encounters her fellow survivors from the wreck and they nearly lead to her death, but the fights between Jenn and the monster remain epic.
What Happened to Monday (2017)
In a dystopian future where the solution to overpopulation is to limit each household to only one child, twins and other births involving more than one child result in euthanization. A grandfather works to hide seven identical girls by having each go out one day of the week pretending to be the same person. Naturally, this goes haywire in this film, and a dystopian sci-fi action movie is born. There is no getting out of this write-up without commending Noomi Rapace’s juggling of the various personalities of each sister. Watching the women interact, it’s easy to forget that they’re all quite literally the same person offscreen. Further, it’s the characterization that makes the story click as well as it does, as each death is meaningful, felt through the other sisters.
AI Love You (2022)
In this futuristic world, AI is powered by human emotion. A worker at an advertising firm named Lana goes on agonizingly bad blind dates, not realizing that she already has a secret admirer. The AI of her office building Dob possesses the body of a particularly bad date and uses him to woo her with its encyclopedic knowledge of the things that she loves. A strange rom-com as well as a sci-fi movie in which a woman quite literally falls for a building, this is custom-made for anyone looking for a little more romance in their science fiction.
Fans of Bong Joon-Ho rejoice! This film features a massive cast with many celebrity appearances, and it tells a surprisingly heartwarming tale of a young girl named Mija and her beloved genetically-engineered superpig. Though the corporation that created Okja inevitably wants their creation back at a point, Mija fights them tooth and nail, showing the level of dedication a person can have for their pets.
I Am Legend (2007)
Based on the 1954 horror novel by genre giant Richard Matheson, I Am Legend follows The Omega Man (1971) and The Last Man on Earth (1964) as the third adaptation of the story to hit the big screen. Though none have particularly captured the moody ambiance of the novel, they are all entertaining in their own right. I Am Legend leans into the sci-fi action side of the story, following Will Smith’s take on Robert Neville. Neville is quite literally the last man on Earth (or so we believe) when a virus intended to cure cancer leaves the human race mindless, vampiric zombies. Attempting to find a cure while fighting the odds to survive, this movie is a good showcase for Smith while remaining a fun take on a classic, even if it’s not particularly loyal to the source material.
The Black Mirror TV series is well-known for telling a number of challenging sci-fi tales set in a not-so-distant future where technology is rapidly advancing but humans remain very much the same as we ever were. Surprisingly, when given the opportunity to create a feature-length experience, the series opted to go to the past, looking at the Choose Your Own Adventure style of storytelling as well as the popularization of home video game systems in the 1980s to create this bizarre, sometimes-unpleasant, always trippy take on the genre. Regardless of whether you enjoy Bandersnatch or not, the fact is that there’s nothing quite like it, and it must be experienced to be believed.
Married couple Vera and David move with their daughter Gloria into a house where seriously traumatic effects leading to several deaths occurred years before. One of the dead is a boy named Nico, who, during an electrical storm, appears to Vera through the TV. She urges him to avoid his death, then wakes up to a world completely changed in which her daughter was never born and her husband has married someone else. Haunting and strange, this film leans into the issues of using technology to change the timeline and features some brilliant performances along the way.
Anyone who loves Anthony Mackie’s portrayal as Sam Wilson in the MCU will be pleased to know that he’s a certified genre star, with break-out performances in Black Mirror, Io, and even Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. One of his best performances, genre or otherwise, remains Synchronic, in which he portrays a paramedic sent out to investigate a number of mysterious deaths. Apparently caused by a new designer drug, he takes the drug and discovers it has time traveling capabilities. An ominous film with likable protagonists, Synchronic is a must-watch in the realm of haunting time-travel movies.
Fast Color (2018)
In a desert that has not seen rain in eight years, we meet Ruth. Homeless and attempting to return home, her seizures cause earthquakes, which puts her in the crosshairs of a scientific researcher that immediately attempts to draw blood from her after pretending to be a potential friend. Reuniting with her mother, we discover that superpowers run in the family. Throwing a vital twist into superheroes as they’ve been portrayed on film up to now, Fast Color is one of the great hidden gems of sci-fi to have been released in recent years.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)
After an ugly fight between young filmmaker Katie and tech-phobic father Rick leaves her laptop destroyed, he tries to make it up to her by getting the family together in order to drive her to her new college. However, when a soon-to-be obsolete home robot decides to take vengeance upon her creator by launching all of humanity into space, the Mitchells find themselves suddenly on the run and fighting to survive. The Mitchells vs the Machines features an all-star voice cast with the likes of Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, and Eric Andre, this is a story of a family laying down their differences when it matters, but with plenty of chaotic robot fights in the mix.
In an isolated prison, inmate Jeff struggles with feelings of guilt and remorse after his drunk driving led to the death of his friend and girlfriend. A charismatic overseer named Steve allows for the prisoners to roam unguarded, but administers experimental drugs daily as part of their imprisonment. As circumstances grow more heated and one drug leads to the sudden death of another inmate, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to Spiderhead than meets the eye.
Unsettlingly taking inspiration from a number of real-world prison experiments, Spiderhead questions control, complicity, and the nature of accidental acts of violence while offering up a top-notch cast. Though criticized for not quite living up to the potential of its own ideas, there’s little denying that the actors fit perfectly into their roles, and the humorous dialogue and character work makes for an entertaining watch.
The Platform (2019)
Like many of the entries on this list, The Platform takes systemic injustices to the next level in order to question how much free will any of us truly have when necessities like shelter and food are weaponized against us. Inmate Goreng is dropped into a “Vertical Self-Management Center” nicknamed The Pit which consists of many different levels. A platform filled with food is lowered level by level, with those near the top eating as much as they want while those closer to the bottom end up with little or nothing. The platforms arbitrarily reassign, making it impossible to plan for when or how much one can eat.
Attempting to find new ways to beat the system, Goreng is faced with the truth that an essentially capitalist structure that leans into concepts of “survival of the fittest” is rigged in ways that makes it nigh impossible to get ahead of, making this a disturbing allegorical tale that darkly mirrors our own day-to-day reality.
A woman who has risen to the top of her field is primed to lose everything due to her status as “lesser” due to race and gender. She is fired suddenly due to simply aging out of the position according to her superiors, and the conditional privilege she experienced immediately vanishes as she fights to provide for her daughter.
As with so many of the best sci-fi films, Advantageous is about a sci-fi premise, but the important part of the story is the human cost. By showing us a mother struggling with a series of complicated decisions she makes in order to protect her daughter while sadly failing to change the future that will require much the same from the child, the lines between reality and fantasy all but disappear.
Best Movies on Netflix by Genre:
- Best sci-fi movies on Netflix
- Best comedy movies on Netflix
- Best horror movies on Netflix
- Best drama movies on Netflix
- Best horror TV shows on Netflix
- Best anime series on Netflix
- Best superhero movies and TV shows on Netflix
- Best Netflix original movies
Please note: This list pertains to U.S. Netflix subscribers. Some titles may not currently be available on international platforms. This article is frequently amended to remove films no longer on Netflix and to include more action films that are now available on the service.
Source: IGN.com Best Sci-Fi Movies On Netflix (August 2022)