Best Netflix sci-fi movies: fantastic films to stream right now

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

A universe without boundaries needs heroes without limits.

Date: 2017 | Director: Luc Besson | Stars: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen | Rating: 12A/PG-13 | Runtime: 137 min

Visually stunning
Packed with Luc Besson stylings
A bit of a mess
Acting could be better

When it was announced that Luc Besson was getting back into driecting fully fledged sci-fi there was audible whoop in the office. This is, after all, the director that made the masterpiece that is Fifth Element. But Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets isn't quite the movie we wanted. Yes, it's visually stunning and it has the off-beat quirkiness that we have come to expect from Besson. But it's all a bit of a chaotic mess. It's definitely worthy of a watch, however, just don't go into this expecting to know exactly what is going on and when.

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: Cloverfield

Cloverfield

Here be monsters.

Date: January 2008 | Director: Matt Reeves | Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas | Rating: 15/PG-13 | Runtime: 85 min

Suspenseful
Horrifying
Monster's origin is a question mark
Shaky cam the ENTIRE movie!

Most people think of Cloverfield’s brilliant marketing campaign way before they actually remember the movie, but it’s still worth watching this thrilling monster movie event directed by one of today’s brightest cinematic minds – Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, the upcoming Batman film).

The film revolves around a group of New Yorkers that find themselves trapped as a terrifying monster falls on New York City. The survivors, with the help of a portable camera, attempt to document the atrocities that follow.

Now, while Cloverfield likely won’t go down in history as a sci-fi masterpiece, this handycam-riddled thriller has already gained quite a faithful cult following and received two distantly related sequels (essentially in name only, but still). If you’re looking to kill some time, you certainly can’t go wrong with Cloverfield. Just don’t think about it too much.

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

Monsters come in many forms.

Date: January 2016 | Director: Dan Trachtenberg | Stars: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr | Rating: 12A/PG-13 | Runtime: 103 min

Brilliantly tense
Great as a standalone movie
Not enough sci-fi for some
Ending a little too rushed

When Cloverfield came out, everyone was expecting the movie to be just another found-footage shock fest. While this is pretty much what it turned out to be, the footage may have been shaky but the mythos about a giant monster attacking New York was not. It turned out there are plenty of ways to do stories about the monster without recapping the original movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane does this - it's is a tense thriller with a nod to science fiction. For the most part it is a claustrophobic study into the human psyche, but when it finally changes gear it turns into something wholly different. 

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: World War Z

World War Z

Remember Philly!

Date: 2013 | Director: Marc Forster | Stars: Brad Pitt, Peter Capaldi, Mireille Enos | Rating: PG-13/15 | Runtime: 116 min

Some great set pieces
The re-jigged ending works
A blood-free zombie movie
Suffers from too many changes

It wasn't looking good for World War Z. Its script was given a hefty rewrite, the ending was completely reshot to make it a little more coherent and the film, essentially about zombies eating people, had to adhere to a child-safe PG-13. The result is a movie that's a bit of a mess but is still watchable thanks to the star power of Brad Pitt and some sound scripting decisions by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof. Based on the book by Max Brooks, World War Z throws out the interview format of the novel but keeps the globalisation of the story - which means it really feels like the entire world has been overrun by zombies. 

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: District 9

District 9

You are not welcome here

Date: 2009 | Director: Neill Blomkamp | Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope | Rating: R/15 | Runtime: 112 min

Superb debut movie
Fantastic special effects
Definitely a movie of two halves
Filled with plotholes

Yes, it’s a thinly veiled metaphor for the apartheid horrors South Africa faced in the ‘80s but what perfect way to showcase feeling alien in your own land by filling your movie with aliens? District 9 was the debut of visual effects artist Neill Blomkamp and it’s a riveting docudrama-styled ride through the slums of South Africa and beyond. With (naturally) superb visual effects and a brilliant central performance by Sharlto Copley as the shady government agent that’s after the alien’s advanced technology, District 9 is one of the most original sci-fi flicks to come out this century. 

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: X-Men 2

X2: X-Men United

The time has come for those who are different to stand united

Date: 2003 | Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry | Rating: 12A/PG-13 | Runtime: 134 min

One of the best comic-book sequels
Jackman in his Wolverine prime
Looks a bit dated now
Some actors are miscast

Bryan Singer’s original X-Men was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre when it was released back in 2000. He managed to show the world that you can have a film about mutants that is also, well, intelligent. He improved on the formula with X2: X-Men United, switching the story so that it was about Wolverine - easily the most interesting of the X-Men. The introduction of William Strider (a menacing Brian Cox), the person who literally made Wolverine what he is, was a fantastic move - as was the notion that even though Magneto and Professor X are rivals in battle, their ideologies and goals are actually quite similar. Fantastic stuff.

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: Elysium

Elysium

A tale of two worlds.

Date: 2013 | Director: Neill Blomkamp | Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley | Rating: 15/R | Runtime: 109 min

Fantastic special effects
Superb premise
The second half really suffer
Plot points just don't make sense

After District 9, director Neill Blomkamp had a tough ask to make a movie that would live up to the brilliance of his debut. Elysium doesn’t quite hit the same heights, unfortunately, but it is a brave attempt at trying to create a sensible sci-fi movie. Matt Damon stars as Max, a man on a mission to try and bring some balance to a world where the rich and poor are severely divided. After a promising start, things do go downhill but it’s still an impressive, great-looking watch.

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: The Martian

The Martian

Bring Him Home.

Date: 2015 | Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig | Rating: 12/PG-13 | Runtime: 144 min

Great wise-cracking script
Superbly paced
Not enough peril
A bit predictable

Robinson Crusoe in space - that was pretty much the elevator pitch for The Martian, a self-published novel that became a huge bestseller. Drew Godard adapts the book brilliantly for the big screen, keeping much of the dry humor and breezy nature. While Ridley Scott adds a little bit of sheen to the novel's rougher edges. But it's Matt Damon that steals the show as the shipwrecked Mark Watney who has to get his ass away from Mars.

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

A log time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....

Date: 2015 | Director: JJ Abrams | Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac | Rating: 12A/PG-13 | Runtime: 136 min

A worthy sequel
Fantastic bursts of nostalgia
Maybe too nostalgic
Essentially a retread of Episode IV

Director JJ Abrams had the hardest job in Hollywood when he took on Episode VII. He had to appease the braying breed of Star Wars fanatics, as well as coax a whole new generation of fans to the franchise. He pulls it off by steeping the movie in the nostalgia of the Original Trilogy but also introducing new and exciting characters. Yes, it's pretty much a retread of Episode IV but cut it and it will bleed Star Wars, and that's the only thing that really matters.

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: The Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy

All heroes start somewhere.

Date: 2015 | Director: James Gunn | Stars: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper | Rating: 12A/PG-13 | Runtime: 121 min

Hugely entertaining
Highly original
Too out-there for some
Loses it at the end

Nobody expected James Gunn's superb The Guardians of the Galaxy to be as good as it was. Given it was about a bunch of Marvel characters that weren't mainstream and was directed by someone best known for b-movie horror, the odds were against it. But how wrong the world was: Guardians is a refreshing, funny and jam-packed sci-fi flick that's packed with retro references and the sort of space fun that's not been seem since, well, Star Wars.