The best sci-fi movies on Netflix UK
Mark Harrison | On 19, Mar 2017
Science fiction fans are well served by Netflix UK’s selection of TV series, offering bingeable flights of fancy, such as Stranger Things, The OA and Sense8, alongside other the new series of Doctor Who and every episode of Star Trek produced to date. For films on the other hand, their selection is fairly modern, mostly comprising films from the 21st century, but there are still some great choices.
From big blockbusters to acclaimed indie films, here’s our pick of the 10 best sci-fi flicks available to stream now on Netflix UK, in alphabetical order. (Bookmark this: We’ll continue to update it as new things arrive and old titles leave.)
A mind-bending, mostly-improvised indie film that starts with a fancy LA dinner party between long-time friends and serves up an extraordinary dollop of sci-fi horror. We don’t want to give too much away, but this is a film which appears to take place in a single location, but reveals its much larger scope as the story becomes trickier and more complex. With strong performances from an ensemble of paranoid characters, particularly Buffy’s Nicholas Brendon as a self-loathing teetotaller, this is existentially terrifying stuff.
What if vampires took over the world? The Spierig brothers’ sci-fi posits that when the bloodsuckers finally win, they’ll find themselves facing a blood shortage, due to the lack of regular people. In the course of searching for a solution, scientist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) winds up teaming with a small band of renegades looking for a cure to immortality. Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill play great supporting roles in this surprisingly thoughtful creature feature.
Teenage outcasts Ben, (Ethan Hawke again) Wolfgang (River Phoenix) and Darren (Jason Presson) share visionary dreams of flying over a giant circuit board, inspiring them to build the means to travel beyond our world in a makeshift shuttle called the Thunder Road. Director Joe Dante’s charming adventure is peak 1980s family fare, with the boundless imagination and escapism of our young heroes underscored by a bittersweet twist and an attention-grabbing turn by the mighty Dick Miller.
Wouldn’t you build a robot that looked like Alicia Vikander, if you could? That’s the question that misanthropic genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) asks of his employee Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) in writer Alex Garland’s directorial debut. This is a thought-provoking consideration of artificial intelligence, here represented by Vikander’s Ava, with darkly comic cynicism. Next to the humourless drudgery of 2014’s Transcendence, this is as virtually flawless as its humanoid invention.
A sci-fi comedy that asks for no quarter on account of its perceived silliness, and makes a gift of a premise into a film that’s as inventive as it is funny. A marine ecologist (Russell Tovey) discovers that the bloodsucking alien creatures who have overrun a remote Irish island are allergic to alcohol. It’s down to the Garda (Ruth Bradley and Richard Coyle) to rally the locals in a united front against the “Grabbers”, which naturally involves getting absolutely plastered. It’s a great one to watch when you have friends around for a drink or two, and it also sets the new high watermark for referencing That Scene from Aliens.
In the future, the mob disposes of murder victims by sending them back in time to get whacked by assassins called loopers instead. One of these loopers, Joe, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets embroiled in something much bigger when he comes face to face with his older self, (Bruce Willis) who has deliberately travelled back with a mission of his own. Writer-director Rian Johnson starts with a strong premise and keeps building upon it in this tense and hugely entertaining runaround, with a grim sense of humour and a complex morality underpinning the sci-fi shenanigans.
Predator is rightly held up as an action classic, but it doesn’t get enough credit for its characters and cast-iron script structure. Deep in the jungle, an elite special forces team goes head to head with a super-advanced alien soldier, who bests their efforts to defeat it until their commander, Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), starts using his brains. Endlessly quotable and rewatchable, Predator holds up as both a solid work of science fiction and as an action extravaganza.
Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow
Back in 2004, this wildly ambitious throwback illuminated the way forward for special effects and virtual environments in blockbuster filmmaking. Drawing on influences as varied as comic books, James Bond, King Kong and The African Queen, the feature-length serial adventure follows daring pilot Sky Captain (Jude Law) and his ex-girlfriend, Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), as they battle with giant robots and their creator, the mysterious Dr. Totenkopf (a reconstituted Lawrence Olivier). The breathless plot doesn’t always scan, but it’s a cult classic in waiting, with its gorgeous visuals and constant entertainment value.
Star Trek: First Contact
The best of the Next Generation films sees Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew trying to stop the Borg, who have travelled back in time to the mid-21st century and are trying to interfere with humanity’s historic discovery of warp travel and first contact with extraterrestrial life. This is as close to the cinematic high watermark The Wrath Of Khan as this generation of film spin-offs got, telling a story that’s immensely personal to Picard (whether you’ve seen his previous adventures on Netflix or not), while reconnecting with the franchise’s initial “wagon train to the stars” outlook.
Under The Skin
If you like your sci-fi a little more advanced, this is as abstract as it gets. Jonathan Glazer adapts Michel Faber’s novel about an alien visitor, who takes on the appearance of a human woman (Scarlett Johansson) in order to seduce and abduct men. There’s no surer way to convey alienness on a low budget than to put ScarJo in a white van in the middle of Glasgow, but every choice this film makes, from the eerie score to the partially improvised dialogue, feeds into the unsettling and undefinable tone of the piece. It will burrow into your brain for days afterwards.
Did we miss any? What are your favourite sci-fi movies on Netflix UK?