So that you don’t have to spend hours searching through thousands of movies, some good, some bad and everything in-between, we’ve compiled a list of the best science-fiction movies and television shows currently on Netflix (opens in new tab).
1. The Adam Project
Synopsis: Adam Reed, age 13, and still grieving the sudden death of his father a year earlier, walks into his garage one night to find a wounded pilot hiding there. This mysterious pilot turns out to be the older version of himself from the future, where time travel is in its infancy. He has risked everything to come back in time on a secret mission. Together they must embark on an adventure into the past to find their father, set things right, and save the world. Adding to the challenge of the mission, the two Adams discover they really don’t like each other very much, and if they’re going to save the world, they’re first going to have to figure out how to get along.
Why you should watch: Ryan Reynolds leads an all-star cast in this family action drama that incorporates much of Reynold’s dry wit. While not paying too much attention to the so-called rules of time travel, it brings drama and the complexities of human relationships into a spirited science fiction movie aimed at older kids and young adults. Joining Reynolds is an impressive line up, including Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana and Catherine Keener. Plus it’s directed by Shawn Levy, who also gave us “Free Guy” and “Real Steel.”
2. Apollo 10½: A Space Age Adventure
Synopsis: The story of the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 from two interwoven perspectives. It both captures the astronaut and mission control view of the triumphant moment, and the lesser-seen bottom up perspective of what it was like from an excited kid’s perspective, living near NASA but mostly watching it on TV like hundreds of millions of others. It’s ultimately both an exacting re-creation of this special moment in history and a kid’s fantasy about being plucked from his average life in suburbia to secretly train for a covert mission to the moon.
Why you should watch: This is, in essence a rotoscoped home movie about the space race from the perspective of writer and director Richard Linklater, who lest we forget, gave us the epic animated interpretation of Philip K. Dick’s “A Scanner Darkly.” It focuses less on actually going to the moon and more on what it was like to actually grow up during that chapter of history. This might not appeal to everyone and Jack Black’s “Wonder Years”-style narration might be appealing to many, it’s not for everyone. Zachary Levi (“Shazam!”) joins the voice talent along with Glen Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and Josh Wiggins (“Greyhound”).
3. Blade Runner 2049
Synopsis: Set three decades after the events of “Blade Runner” (1982), a new Los Angeles Police Department Blade Runner, Officer “K” (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner, who has been missing for 30 years.
Why you should watch: Simply put, this is one of the best science fiction movies of modern times and a worthy sequel to the original. The story is intelligent and thought-provoking and the cinematography is mindblowing. Director Denis Villeneuve has made some pretty impressive movies including, “Arrival,” “Sicario” and of course, “Dune,” but in all honesty, this is his best picture, so far. Aside from a teeny-tiny bit of overacting from Jared Leto, this is an otherwise faultless flick and would receive a 9.9 review score as a result. The stellar cast also includes Ryan Gosling, who delivers a sublime performance, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks.
4. Captain Nova
Synopsis: In 2050, Earth has become a dry and desolate place. Fighter pilot Nova is forced to travel back in time to prevent a devastating environmental disaster, however an unforeseen side-effect of time travel makes Nova young again and she crash lands into 2025 as a twelve-year old. Nobody seems to take her and her mission seriously, except for Nas — a neglected teen who tries to keep this mysterious girl and her little flying robot ADD out of the hands of the secret service. Will Nova and Nas succeed in saving the future world?
Why you should watch: This Dutch children’s movie is not without its charm. Both Kika van de Vijver and Anniek Pheifer play Nova, as different ages and Marouane Meftah plays Nas. The story is interesting and the production values are high, combined with quality cinematography and a relevant underlying message, this feature from writer and director Maurice Trouwborst will more than likely appeal to many adults as well.
Synopsis: In the near future, the crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg in South Africa are patrolled by law enforcement robots. When one police droid, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. Needless to say, the criminals see the opportunity to have a robot on their side and immediately set about attempting to train the robot to help them in their illegal activities.
Why you should watch: This is the third of Neill Blomkamp’s big-budget sci-fi movies, following the epic “District 9” “and the only-ever-so-slightly-less-epic “Elysium.” Despite an impressive cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley however, “Chappie” is arguably the weakest of the three — but that’s not to say it isn’t well worth a watch, consider this a bronze medal winner. It remains infinitely more entertaining than many of the why-did-they-make-this sci-fi features that somehow still end up on Netflix, “Cosmic Sin” for instance.
6. The Colony
Synopsis: Cataclysmic climate-related disasters have left most of the world submerged, causing the Earth to be abandoned and forcing a mass exodus to a distant planet. However, the colonists who escaped have found themselves unable to procreate. So generations later, a crewed mission returns to Earth to assess whether it’s possible to procreate there
Why you should watch: This could very well be the surprise hit of 2021. Nora Arnezeder, who plays the sole survivor of the expedition, is a force to be reckoned with. Don’t let a less-than-epic rating on IMDb fool you, this is an exceptional indie sci-fi movie that’s full of nice ideas. The plot is, in essence “Waterworld” meets “Children of Men,” but thankfully it’s better than both of those. Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”) and Sebastian Roché (“The Man in The High Castle”) round off a solid cast, but the children really steal the show. We hope to see great things in the future from both Arnezeder and Swiss writer/director Tim Fehlbaum.
7. Dark Skies
Synopsis: As the Barrett family’s peaceful suburban life begins to unravel as an escalating series of disturbing events take place around their home. They come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them, one which may have arrived from beyond the stars.
Why you should watch: More science fiction/thriller/horror than purely sci-fi, this is a longer, darker version of Barry’s abduction in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” More suspenseful than scary, the predatory aliens we see in this movie like to mess with people’s minds before actually abducting them. It’s effectively unsettling and is a little like “The Twilight Zone” meets “Poltergeist.” The cast includes a lot of people you’ll recognize from something you watched at some point, including Keri Russell (“Mission Impossible III”), Josh Hamilton (“Alive”) and J.K. Simmons, most recently seen in “The Tomorrow War.”
8. Don’t Look Up
Synopsis: Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), an astronomy grad student, and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem is that it’s on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem is that no one cares. Turns out warning mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest is an inconvenient fact to navigate.
Why you should watch: Not only does this boast an amazing cast, including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman and Mark Rylance, but the writer and director behind it is the same individual who gave us “The Big Short” and “Vice” And “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” Adam McKay. It has all the signs (opens in new tab) that it’s going to be a well-written, very funny, deeply disturbing and beautifully observed dark comedy-cum-satire. It is, in essence, a message about climate change and mocks those who willfully, repeatedly scoff at the science. And sadly, that could be applied to a number of things, including the pandemic, pollution, orbital debris…etc etc.
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future having children has become a matter of selecting the best DNA. One couple choses to let nature decide and as such that child grows up suffering from being less than the children around him. However, knowing he is capable of much more, he assumes the identity of a perfect genetic specimen, who is cripled as a result of a car accident and he fulfills his dream of joining an elite scientific school called Gattaca. He learns to deceive DNA and urine sample testing, but just when he is finally assigned to a mission to Titan, there is a murder at the school and the police begin an investigation, jeopardizing his secret.
Why you should watch: This is one of the most original sci-fi movies in modern history that succeeds on the basis of its story rather than relying on visual effects. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now. The plot is clever and uncomplicated, focusing on a very unique kind of discrimination based on an individual’s genetic code. As aptly stated in the film, this future society has “discrimination down to a science.” The production design is refreshingly retro and the cast delivers exceptional performances, in particular Jude Law. Joining him are Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Alan Arkin.
10. I Am Mother
Synopsis: In the wake of humanity’s extinction, a teenage girl is raised by a robot designed to repopulate the earth, but their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news.
Why you should watch: Before “Raised With Wolves” came “I Am Mother,” which also deals with the notion of robots raising humans. This Australian indie film stars Hilary Swank and features the voice of Rose Byrne; the story is well-written and relative newcomer Grant Sputore does an excellent job of directing, keeping your attention focused, right up until the plot twist at the end. It’s simple and very effective.
Synopsis: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. His rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible: their task is not to steal an idea, but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.
Why you should watch: Writer and director Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi-thriller is simply gorgeous to look at and the well-paced mix of drama and action make it enjoyable to watch. Joining DiCaprio is a stellar cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Page Elliot, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Caine. There are one or two significant plot holes, but you might not even notice them if this is your first time watching this, as the impressive VFX and dynamic plot are extremely enticing.
12. Johnny Mnemonic
Synopsis: In the year 2021, the most valuable of information is transported in implanted memory chips in the heads of professional mnemonic couriers like Johnny (Keanu Reeves). But he has to dump his own memories to make room for the information he smuggles. To buy them back, he agrees to deliver priceless data that has already set an army of professional killers on his trail. However, the massive upload is too much for his brain and Johnny must find the secret codes to download the information or he will die.
Why you should watch: This movie was made back in 1995 when the wonder of the ‘net and cyberspace were still being imagined by sci-fi writers – other examples form the time include “The Net,” “The Lawnmower Man” and “Strange Days.” It also undoubtedly contributed to the casting of Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix,” made just a few years later. This is an entertaining — albeit slightly dated — action romp, but fans of William Gibson, who wrote the source novel, should not expect anything resembling that.
13. The Midnight Sky
Synopsis: Set in the near future, where Earth has recently undergone an apocalyptic event and a lonely scientist in the Arctic (George Clooney) as he races the frozen tundra to reach a radio transmitter powerful enough to contact an exploration spacecraft still in space and warn them not to return home. Along the way, he finds and rescues a very young girl and the two form an inseparable friendship.
Why you should watch: This is a low-on-action, character-driven movie, that only just sneaks in under the genre banner of sci-fi. It’s directed by and stars George Clooney and is very much a portfolio piece for him. If you like Apple TV+’s “Invasion” then you’ll enjoy this, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The cinematography is stunning and this features an impressive cast, all in cameo roles, including David Oyelowo, Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, Ethan Peck and Tim Russ. Clooney however, has coaxed an outstanding performance from newcomer Caoilinn Springall. Aside from one or two liberties taken with the laws of thermodynamics, this is an enjoyable, in-depth illustration of Clooney’s skills, both in front of, and behind the camera.
14. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Synopsis: At the very heart of the Apollo space program was a team of hundreds of engineers, scientists, doctors and astronauts based in Houston, Texas, who monitored every single aspect of every single mission. This was a unique group of people whose purpose was to ensure the safety and success of every Apollo mission; they were the NASA mission controllers, the men and women behind the scenes who made the moon landing possible.
Why you should watch: Documentaries like this are always great to watch, plus any new footage of Gerry Griffin, Gene Kranz or Chris Kraft sharing their stories, is worth making time for. That said, while it’s fascinating to learn every single detail about how much effort was needed to make the Apollo program work, it would’ve been nice to learn more about exactly why Mission Control was located in Houston after Gemini: there were many factors, but the facts that the Vice President was a Texan and the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee in charge of NASA represented Houston was without a doubt an influence.
15. The Mist
Synopsis: The morning after a storm hits a peaceful town in Maine, an approaching cloud of mist appears the next morning. As the mist quickly envelops the area, a group of residents get trapped inside a small grocery store, among them, David (Thomas Jane) and his five-year-old son. The people soon discover that actually within the mist are horrific, unworldly creatures that entered through an inter-dimensional rift, possibly caused by a secret project on a nearby military base. As the world around them quickly unravels, the horrified citizens try desperately to survive this apocalyptic disaster.
Why you should watch: This is Stephen King at his very best. The premise isn’t complicated and the horror comes from within as each character struggles to deal with the strange and savage situation, as their own fear proves to be as much of a threat as any Lovecraftian-style creature that may be outside. An impressive cast including Toby Jones, William Sadler, Alexa Davalos and Marcia Gay Harden make this genuinely terrifying.
Synopsis: Berlin. Forty years from today. A roiling city of immigrants, where East crashes against West in a science-fiction Casablanca. Leo Beiler (Alexander Skarsgard), a mute bartender has one reason and one reason only for living here, and she’s disappeared. But when Leo’s search takes him deeper into the city’s underbelly, an odd pair of American surgeons (led by Paul Rudd) seem to be the only recurring clue, and Leo can’t tell if they can help, or who he should fear most.
Why you should watch: This is Duncan Jones second major sci-fi motion picture set in the “Moon” universe and it does not disappoint. (The trilogy was concluded with the graphic novel “Madi (opens in new tab).”) Rudd and Skarsgård lead the cast — they’re joined by Justin Theroux — and together they all deliver strong performances in this vastly underrated, gritty sci-fi thriller set in the not-too-distant future.
Synopsis: A woman wakes in a cryogenic chamber with absolutely no recollection of how she got there. Unable to exit the status pod and slowly running out of oxygen, she must try to rebuild her memory in order to find a way out of her nightmare.
Why you should watch: One of the good things streaming services have enabled is for relatively low-budget sci-fi movies — that would never have seen the light of day 10 or 15 years ago — to be made. And this is one of them. “Oxygen” follows a simple premise and demonstrates that less quite often can be more. It has very little in the way of set changes and is focused entirely on the incredible performance of Mélanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds,” “Beginners,” “Enemy”). Another French heavyweight, Mathieu Amalric (“Munich,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Quantum of Solace”) provides the voice for the Medical Interface Liaison Officer or MILO, the AI incorporated into the cryogenic chamber.
18. Project Power
Synopsis: In the very near future, on the streets of New Orleans, a new pill that unlocks superpowers unique to each user is becoming popular. However, the catch is that you don’t know what will happen until you take it. While some develop bulletproof skin, invisibility, and super strength, others exhibit a deadlier reaction. A local cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) teams with a teenage dealer (Dominique Fishback) and a former soldier fueled by a secret vendetta (Jamie Foxx) to fight power with power and risk-taking the pill in order to stop its production.
Why you should watch: Netflix’s homegrown sci-fi often makes you wonder who on Earth is giving the green light to some of these projects, (“Another Life,” nuff said), but this one is worth a watch. Gordon-Levitt is guaranteed to be outstanding in just about any movie he’s in and Fishback also gives a stellar performance. It has a gritty, indie feel, with some nuanced layers to the story, making an enjoyable, interesting sci-fi noir. The cinematography in this movie is what Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 sci-fi noir thriller “Strange Days” desperately needed.
Synopsis: A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. They’ve secured a contract to harvest a large deposit of the elusive gems hidden in the depths of the moon’s toxic forest. But there are others roving the wilderness and the job quickly devolves into a fight to survive. Forced to contend not only with the forest’s other ruthless inhabitants, but with her own father’s greed-addled judgment, the girl finds she must carve her own path to escape.
Why you should watch: Just like “Oxygen” above, “Prospect” would most likely never have been made, much less snagged Pedro Pascal, aka the Mandalorian, had it not been for Netflix investing in smaller-budget movies. Consequently, greater emphasis is placed on the story, the dialogue and the quality of writing in general. As such, this is an entertaining science fiction thriller that will captivate from start to finish.
20. Return to Space
Synopsis: This documentary follows the rise of SpaceX and Elon Musk’s two-decade effort to resurrect America’s space travel ambitions. Featuring rare access inside the first crewed mission launched from U.S. soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, it offers an intimate portrait of the engineers and astronauts chosen for the historic moment.
Why you should watch: Sadly, at the time of writing, Netflix had not released advance screeners for the press and while you might not exactly be the president of Elon Musk’s fan club, this has been produced by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, who both won the 2019 Academy Award for their work on the documentary “Free Solo” — the story of Alex Honnold’s attempt to become the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan. So, I for one, am going to give it a go when it drops on April 7.
21. The Signal
Synopsis: Three college students on a road trip across the Southwest experience a detour — the tracking of a computer genius who has already hacked into MIT and exposed security faults. When the trio finds themselves drawn to an eerily isolated area, suddenly everything goes dark. When one of the students regains consciousness, he finds himself in a waking nightmare.
Why you should watch: This little-known movie is a tense thriller with an epic twist at the end. A great cast — including Olivia Cooke, Brenton Thwaites and Laurence Fishburne — together with a well-written script, add up to an edge-of-seat sci-fi thriller.
22. Space Sweepers
Synopsis: In the year 2092, space is full of dangerous floating garbage like discarded satellites and deserted spaceships. The crew of The Victory trawls between the Earth and the Moon looking for the garbage they can sell to make money, while also competing with junk collector ships from other countries and using the speediness of their craft to defeat their rivals.
Why you should watch: The South Koreans have produced some quality movies in the past that should really be watched if you have any interest in contemporary foreign cinema, including “The Brotherhood of War,” “Parasite” and “The Host” and while this might not be up to quite the same standard of dramatic quality, it’s an enjoyable sci-fi action romp with high production values and extremely effective special effects.
Synopsis: Set in the not too distant future, a US special forces unit fighting somewhere in Europe in what appears to be a global conflict encounters a weird, ghost-like entity that can be killed and is only visible in certain light spectrums. Before long, more of these phenomena are detected and troops are being wiped out, left and right. Can a scientist from DARPA work out how to defeat these deadly, ethereal demons?
Why you should watch: It’s a little bit “Aliens,” a little bit “Battle Los Angeles” and maybe even a little bit “World War Z” and if you like all of those, you’ll enjoy this too. A great cast including James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Bruce Greenwood and Gonzalo Menendez — all veterans of quality action movies — carries this straightforward, but stylish sci-fi drama that shows off extremely high production values.
24. Starship Troopers
Synopsis: Set in the near future, the human race lives in a fascist, militaristic age and is at war with giant alien bugs that live on the other side of the galaxy. In the movie, we follow three friends Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) and Carl Jenkins (Neil Patrick Harris) as they each have their own adventure once they’ve signed up for military service. Joining them are Dina Meyer, Clancy Brown and Michael Ironside.
Why you should watch: Based loosely on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, the film, like the book, is a commentary – and arguably a satire – on a number of socio-political themes, including militaristic philosophy and right-wing political irony. It also has an underlying anti-war message, but on top of all that is an amazing and extremely entertaining movie by Paul Verhoeven, the man who also gave us “RoboCop,” “Total Recall” and “Hollow Man.” Like those other sci-fi smash hits, “Starship Troopers” features Verhoeven’s unique brand of over-the-top brutality, which is not only comical, but is intended to ridicule violence. The movie also spawned a few sequels, but you’re better off ignoring those.
Synopsis: The crew of a spaceship headed to Mars on a two-year scientific mission discovers an accidental stowaway shortly after takeoff. Too far from Earth to turn back and with the fuel and oxygen resources depleting, the crew faces an agonizing ethical dilemma. Their situation worsens further when they are informed of an incoming coronal mass ejection.
Why you should watch: Once you get past the hilarious situation engineer Michael Adams (Shamier Anderson) is in — waking up from taking a nap behind bulkhead to find himself two million miles from Earth — this is an OK movie. However, if you’re a stickler for accurate factual representation, then this might not be your bag. The performances are strong and the movie is boosted by the presence of Toni Collette, who — let’s face facts — is brilliant in just about everything.
26. Total Recall (2012)
Synopsis: When lowly construction worker Douglas Quaid visits Rekall for a virtual vacation memory of Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events unfolds, leading him to discover along the way to the Red Planet that he might be a secret agent under deep cover. If that sounds the same as the film above, that’s because this is basically a remake.
Why you should watch: You shouldn’t watch this, it’s that simple. We’ve included it on this list as a warning to stay away from it, especially if you enjoyed the Verhoeven 1990 version. An impressive cast is utterly wasted and it relies much more heavily on computer generated effects to wow the viewer into thinking this is a quality flick, ’cause it isn’t. Gimmicks have been added as excuses to use extensive VFX and it just cheapens the memory of the vastly superior earlier version. Total Waste of Time.
27. The Wandering Earth
Synopsis: Set in the distant future when the sun is about to expand into a red giant and devour the Earth, mankind makes an audacious attempt to save the planet. People all around the world unite and build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail Earth to a new star system. Yet the 2500-year journey comes with unexpected dangers, and in order to save humanity, a group of young people in this age of a wandering Earth fight hard for the survival of humankind.
Why you should watch: This is without the Chinese equivalent of a Michael Bay sci-fi movie and as such it’s utterly bonkers, but beautiful to watch. The performances are good, but the VFX, along with the out-of-this-world concepts, are truly the stars of this flick as our now frozen planet begins its slow journey through space, powered by hundreds of giant “planet engines.”
28. War of the Worlds (2005)
Synopsis: Tom Cruise plays a divorced dockworker and less-than-perfect father, but not long after his ex-wife and her new husband drop off his teenage son and young daughter for a weekend visit, a peculiar and powerful lightning storm suddenly starts in the skies above New Jersey. What follows is the extraordinary battle against Martian invaders seen through the eyes of a dysfunctional American family struggling to stay alive in this contemporary adaptation of H.G. Wells classic sci-fi story.
Why you should watch: Here’s the thing: once you get past the absurd part of the plot that has the Martian tripod war machines having been buried on Earth, then this is actually a pretty good movie. Cruise is frankly brilliant and so is Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins, it’s just such a shame that Justin Chatwin’s character is so incredibly annoying. There is a massive underlying theme reflecting on the events of 9/11, but thankfully it’s not too obvious and Steven Spielberg handles the set pieces as you’d expect, with creative cinematography and masterful direction.
29. Zone 414
Synopsis: Set in the near future in a colony of state-of-the-art humanoid robots. When its creator’s daughter goes missing, he hires private investigator David Carmichael, to bring her home. David teams up with Jane, a highly advanced and self-aware A.I., to track down the missing daughter. Moving through the dangerous iron jungle, they rapidly piece together the mystery, uncovering a crime that leads them to question the origins of Zone 414 and the true purpose behind the “City of Robots.”
Why you should watch: This is not the world’s best cyberpunk-set science fiction movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it you still have a soft spot for 80s, low-budget sci-fi — and especially movies like all five “Trancers” flicks — then you might enjoy this. A cast of incredibly underrated actors includes Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz (who more less plays Joi from “Blade Runner 2049”), Travis Fimmel (“Raised By Wolves”), Jonathan Aris (“Vivarium,” “Avenue 5”) and of course Guy Pearce. When you’re not picking out sound effects or camera angles that have clearly been borrowed from “Blade Runner,” you’ll probably be wondering about Pearce’s choice of roles he’s accepted over the years. It’s hard to imagine Mike from “Neighbours” delivering the performance he did in “Memento,” “LA Confidential” and “The Rover” and then ending up in something like this. It’s a big-budget, B-movie blockbuster that won’t need to be paused when you get up to make a fresh gin and tonic.
1. Altered Carbon
Synopsis: After 250 years on ice, a prisoner returns to life in a new body with one chance to win his freedom: by solving a mind-bending murder
Why you should watch: Season 2 is now available, so if you haven’t seen Season 1, you’ve got 8 hours and 52 minutes worth to get through first. The second season is considerably better than the first, but to get maximum enjoyment, we suggest taking in the first season as well. The production design on this is incredible and thankfully Anthony Mackie helps bring the story up to the same standard of the Blade Runner-esque visual aesthetic. Tragically, Netflix canceled “Altered Carbon,” so there won’t be a third season, but these are without a doubt still worth watching.
2. Another Life
Synopsis: Set in the not too distant future, an anomaly from space appears in Earth’s orbit and plants a stalk-like object into the ground. Humans attempt to determine what it is, why it’s been placed there, and what’s going to happen next, but it’s taking too long to crack the code so they send a team into space to the source of the object to investigate further.
Why you should watch: Why you should watch this? Well…er, it’s got Katee Sackoff in it, isn’t that reason enough? No..? Oh, OK. There’s no other way to put this, “Another Life” is a mostly below par sci-fi and frankly we’re amazed that it got renewed for a second season. Sackoff herself seems to bounce around like a pinball inbetween amazing and atrocious sci-fi: “The Mandalorian” and “Battlestar Galactica” for example…and then “Riddick” and then this show. But, some people – mostly young kids – do enjoy it and if you’ve watched all the other sci-fi on Netflix, it couldn’t hurt to give it a go, right..?
Synopsis: An US astronaut struggles with leaving her husband and daughter behind to embark on a dangerous mission with an international space crew.
Why you should watch: This drama set in space really looks at the issues around family and relationships and in particular being a long distance away from them and what better backdrop is there than the life of a married astronaut. Hilary Swank stars in this 10-part series and while it’s not perhaps as extreme as “Lucy in the Sky,” it covers much of the same emotional ground. Granted, some liberties have been taken with some of the plot points, but then that just wouldn’t make for compelling television would it?
4. Black Mirror
Synopsis: A contemporary British re-working of “The Twilight Zone” with stories that tap into the collective unease about our modern world. Over the last 10 years, technology has transformed almost every aspect of our lives before we’ve had time to stop and question it; in every home; on every desk; in every palm — a plasma screen; a monitor; a smartphone — a black mirror of our 21st-century existence.
Why you should watch: There are only a few episodes in each season and among those are some truly inspired moments of genius from the show’s creator Charlie Brooker. The first episode “The National Anthem” will frankly shock you into watching more and the standalone episode entitled “Bandersnatch (opens in new tab)” was the world’s first interactive television experience, where you determine what happens to the principal character.
5. Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space
Synopsis: Follow four civilians as they launch into space on a three-day trip orbiting Earth and reaching an altitude higher than that of the International Space Station (254 miles). The SpaceX Dragon mission, dubbed Inspiration4, was the most ambitious step to date in the rapidly-developing age of civilian space exploration, making history as the first all-civilian mission to orbit. The mission launched on Sept. 15, 2021 and returned to Earth three days later.
Why you should watch: This five episode miniseries is the closest many of us will get to experiencing what it’s like to train and then travel into space. The crew will embark on a three-day mission to orbit Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The mission launched on Sept. 15, 2021 from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and returned to Earth three days later. The privately funded mission will raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
6. Dark Matter
Synopsis: The six-person crew of a derelict spaceship awakens from stasis in the farthest reaches of space. Their memories wiped clean, they have no recollection of who they are or how they got on board. The only clue to their identities is a cargo bay full of weaponry and a destination: a remote mining colony that is about to become a war zone. With no idea whose side they are on, they face a deadly decision.
Why you should watch: Sadly, this show is yet another example of poor judgment by the studios as it was canceled while still very much in its prime. Despite there only being three seasons, it’s still well worth a watch. The action scenes were enthralling and fun to watch, especially on a nice, big TV screen, but at the heart of the show was the relationship that slowly developed between the characters as they all found themselves in the same position and were forced to work together.
7. Lost In Space
Synopsis: The human race has been forced to organize an evacuation from Earth and a giant spacecraft has been built that’s made up of smaller ships, designed to act as landing craft that can each accommodate one family. On the way to Alpha Centuri, the Robinson’s landing craft crash lands on an uncharted planet and they struggle to survive against all the odds as they must deal with weird indigenous creatures, alien robots and potentially fatal flora and fauna.
Why you should watch: Remember how “Battlestar Galactica” was reimagined? The same has been done to the old 1965, black and white show that came from the mind of Irwin Allen. And the result is amazing. The first season is marginally better than the second, but both are worth binge-watching in their entirety. You’ll laugh, you’ll definitely cry and you’ll be on the edge of your seat as you watch John Robinson, his wife, Maureen, their children (Judy, Penny and Will) and Major Don West fight to survive against the natural elements of an alien world. In the third and final season, the stakes are higher than ever and the Robinson family’s survival instincts will be put to the ultimate test.
8. Love Death + Robots (Seasons 1 & 2)
Synopsis: A collection of short stories, ranging from eight minutes to 18 minutes, each one in a different style of animation with the occasional live action one thrown in. They usually incorporate technology and /or robots in the plot and often taking place in a dystopian future.
Why you should watch: This is the best original series Netflix has produced since “Lost in Space.” Each story is totally different and while some follow a familiar theme, or perhaps feature some ideas seen before, each one has a totally unique twist. Some episodes are dark and disturbing, while others exhibit a very dark, but hilarious, sense of humor, but every one is creative, well written and beautifully produced. The first season contains 18 episodes and the second just eight and quite often there are very subtle nods to well known sci-fi franchises, including “The Terminator” and “Aliens.” The really good news is that Season 3 is in production!
9. Love Death + Robots (Season 3)
Synopsis: Even more short stories, each one totally unique not only the style of animation, but the story they tell. As we mentioned above, the great news was that a third season was in production…and here it is!
Why you should watch: An unlikely source for such consistently good story telling, this is like…if “The Twilight Zone” had been made in a parallel universe and we’d somehow been able to get a copy on a data crystal. Or something. There’s a lot going on in the world of sci-fi at the moment, plus streaming services and TV networks are falling over themselves to get as much glorious, sensational science fiction on our screens as possible. But this…this is different. Totally different. It captures your imagination and never lets go.
10. The Movies That Made Us
Synopsis: A series of light-hearted, hour-long documentaries that focus on the production history of some of pop-culture’s favorite flicks.
Why you should watch: Chances are, you’ve probably seen this before on Netflix, but this third season includes a look two of the biggest science fiction blockbusters to come out in the 80s, “Robocop” and “Aliens.” We many of the cast recount their experiences along with former senior studio executives. No matter how much of a fan you already call yourself of these epic sci-fi flicks, you will almost learn something new. It’s great to see Sigourney Weaver offer her insight, but sadly Peter Weller is a no-show. However, if you’re a fan of “Robocop” you should definitely keep tabs on the fan-made “Robodocumentary” currently in production. And we’ll keep you up to date with all the latest news about that here on Space.com.
11. Mystery Science Theater 3000
Synopsis: Set in the not-too-distant future, a Gizmonic Institute employee is lured to the dark side of the moon by third-generation mad scientist Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and her flunky, Max (Patton Oswalt). He is sat in front of cheesy movies with his robot buddies and forced to tortuously watch bad B-movies in their entirety as these mad scientists study the effects on his mind.
Why you should watch: Arguably one of the best hangover cures or rainy day shows ever made for television. During each atrociously bad B-movie, the crew of the SOL space station, Jonah, Servo, Crow and Gypsy, mercilessly shred it, with sarcastic and side-splittingly funny comments. The current Netflix offering is two seasons; the first is called “The Gauntlet” (six episodes) and the second is “The Return” (14 episodes). Back in November 2019, Netflix canceled the show, but in April of 2021, creator and star Joel Hodgson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of more episodes and a dedicated platform to show every season of the show. The campaign reached its minimum goal of $2 million within 25 hours of launch and ended with more than $6.5 million, assuring that more episodes will be produced.
12. The Silent Sea
Synopsis: During a perilous 24-hour mission on the moon, space explorers try to retrieve samples from an abandoned research facility steeped in classified secrets.
Why you should watch: Korean television is undoubtedly on a hot streak in the west. This is an 8-episode series based on the short film “The Sea of Tranquility,” which was written and directed by Choi Hang-Yong, the man behind this show. Sadly this doesn’t have quite the same production budget as say, something like “For All Mankind” and the cross-lunar-landscape hike in the first episode was weighed down without the benefit of more expensive practical effects, but that’s not to say this show isn’t enthralling. Sadly however, what starts off as a few teeny-tiny, nitpicky issues, steadily grows to incorporate more than a fair share of clichés, which is a shame because they overshadow the clever, well-thought-out ideas that shone through early on.
13. Space Force
Synopsis: The second season of the space-themed satire “Space Force” picks up from the ending of the first, with the threat of nuclear war hanging over everyone’s heads, the arming, disarming and rearming of Habitat One, potential conflict with the Chinese and General Naird (Steve Carell) headed back to the Space Force to deal with the situation.
Why you should watch: The arid dry wit of this show is not for all, but if you enjoy shows like “Avenue 5” and even Amazon’s “Upload,” then this will almost certainly appeal. A dynamite cast, including John Malkovich (Dr. Mallory), Ben Schwartz (F. Tony Scarapiducci), Tawny Newsome (Captain Angela Ali), Lisa Kudrow (Maggie Naird) joins Carell and hopefully we’ll see more of both Jane Lynch (Chief of Naval Operations) and Patrick Warburton (Commandant of the Marine Corps) too. The first season is also available to watch. Just FYI, Netflix has cancelled this show, so there won’t be a third season.
14. The Twilight Zone
Synopsis: A series of unrelated, standalone stories containing drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and/or horror, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist.
Why you should watch: This, the original “Twilight Zone” that ran for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, should really be on the national curriculum. The iconic opening narration and music are instantly familiar and the show influenced an entire generation of sci-fi writers, including Harlan Ellison and Gene Roddenberry and other shows, like “The Outer Limits.” In fact, “the Twilight Zone” was a big influence on “Black Mirror” that we mentioned above.