The 20 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix (Feb. 2023)

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The 20 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix (Feb. 2023)

Science fiction is the favorite genre of many of us here at Paste. And Netflix has upped their sci-fi movie game over the last year and now includes several of our 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time. The catalog of streaming films is especially strong when it comes to 21st-century indie movies like Okja and Sorry to Bother You, while being supported by Netflix originals such as Project Power or The Platform. And maybe revisit Spielberg’s Minority Report? It’s an exciting time for speculative fiction, whether you’re looking for alien arrivals, superheroes, space travel, technological dangers or imaginative glimpses at the future.

You can also check out all of our What to Watch on Netflix guides, updated each month.

Here are the 20 best sci-fi movies on Netflix:

1. Sorry to Bother You

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Year: 2018
Director: Boots Riley
Stars: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Stephen Yeun, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Terry Crews, Danny Glover
Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Sorry to Bother You has so many ideas busting out of every seam, so much ambition, so much it so urgently wants to say, that it feels almost churlish to point out that the movie ends up careening gloriously out of control. This is rapper and producer Boots Riley’s first movie, and it shows, in every possible way—good, bad, incredible, ridiculous—as if he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to make another one, so he threw every idea he ever had into this. There are moments in Sorry To Bother You that will make you want to jump giddily around the theater. There are also moments that will make you wonder who in the world gave this lunatic a camera. (Some of those moments are pretty giddy too.) The former far outnumbers the latter. Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius, a good-hearted guy who feels like his life is getting away from him and thus tries his hand at telemarketing, failing at it (in a series of fantastic scenes in which his desk literally drops into the homes of whomever he is dialing) until a colleague (Danny Glover, interesting until the movie drops him entirely) recommends he use his “white voice” on calls. Suddenly, Stanfield sounds exactly like David Cross at his most nasally and has become a superstar at the company, which leads him “upstairs,” where “supercallers” like him go after the Glengarry leads. That is just the launching off point: Throughout, we meet a Tony Robbins-type entrepreneur (Armie Hammer) who might also be a slave trader, Cassius’s radical artist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), who wears earrings with so many mottos it’s a wonder she can hold up her head, and a revolutionary co-worker (Stephen Yeun) trying to rile the workers into rebelling against their masters. There are lots of other people too, and only some of them are fully human. It’s quite a movie. —Will Leitch


2. Minority Report

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Year: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Samantha Morton
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 145 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The more we become connected, the more any sense of personal privacy completely evaporates. So goes Steven Spielberg’s vision for our near future, couched in the signifiers of a neo-noir, mostly because the veil of safety and security has been—today, in 2002 and for decades to come—irrevocably ripped from our eyes. What we see (and everything we don’t) becomes the stuff of life and death in this shadowed thriller, based on a Philip K. Dick story, about a pre-crime cop John Anderton (Tom Cruise) whose loyalty and dedication to his job can’t save him from meaner bureaucratic forces. Screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen’s plot clicks faultlessly into place, buoyed by breathtaking action setpieces—metallic tracking spiders ticking and swarming across a decrepit apartment floor to find Anderton, the man submerged in an ice-cold bathtub with his eyes recently switched out via black market surgery, immediately lurches to mind—but most impressive is Spielberg’s sophistication, unafraid of the bleak tidings his film prophecies even as it feigns a storybook ending. —Dom Sinacola


3. Okja

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Year: 2017
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, An Seo Hyun, Byun Heebong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Woo Shik Choi, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal
Rating: NR
Runtime: 118 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Okja takes more creative risks in its first five minutes than most films take over their entire span, and it doesn’t let up from there. What appears to be a sticking point for some critics and audiences, particularly Western ones, is the seemingly erratic tone, from sentiment to suspense to giddy action to whimsy to horror to whatever it is Jake Gyllenhaal is doing. But this is part and parcel with what makes Bong Joon-ho movies, well, Bong Joon-ho movies: They’re nuanced and complex, but they aren’t exactly subtle or restrained. They have attention to detail, but they are not delicate in their handling. They have multiple intentions, and they bring those intentions together to jam. They are imaginative works that craft momentum through part-counterpart alternations, and Okja is perhaps the finest example yet of the wild pendulum swing of a Bong film’s rhythmic tonality. Okja is also not a film about veganism, but it is a film that asks how we can find integrity and, above all, how we can act humanely towards other creatures, humans included. The answers Okja reaches are simple and vital, and without really speaking them it helps you hear those answers for yourself because it has asked all the right questions, and it has asked them in a way that is intensely engaging. —Chad Betz


4. Black Mirror

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Year: 2011-2019
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Rating: N/A

Watch on Netflix

There are probably times in most of our lives when we see our technological world as more of a dystopia than a utopia. The way it curbs our freedom, diminishes our privacy, and subjects us to anonymous attacks can feel like an unforgivable violation. But the worst part is, we’re complicit—we’ve accepted the intrusion, and in some cases, or even most cases, we’ve become addicted. The ubiquity of technology is a reality that we can’t fight against, and to maintain our sanity, we have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth questioning, which is exactly what Black Mirror is all about. The title is nearly perfect, as explained by creator Charlie Brooker: “The black mirror of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” The job of this show is to reflect our society in an unflattering light, and they do it with a new cast and a new story in each episode. This is not fun watching—it’s mostly horrifying—but even if our brave new world is inescapable, the show represents a kind of protest that feels more necessary than ever. —Shane Ryan


5. Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack

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Year: 1988
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Stars: Toru Furuya, Shuichi Ikeda, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Maria Kawamura, Nozomu Sasaki, Koichi Yamadera
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 119 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The first Gundam theatrical film and final chapter in the original saga begun in 1979 with the “Universal Century Timeline” of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series, Char’s Counterattack has the weight of three seasons of TV behind it. Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of the Gundam series, directed and wrote the film, adapting it faithfully from his novel, Hi-Streamer. Widely considered the best film in the Gundam franchise, Char’s Counterattack is most successful at wrapping up the 14-year rivalry between the “hero” of the Earth Federation, Amuro Ray, and the leader of Neo-Zeon, Char Aznable. The story involves a classic Gundam dilemma: Char’s Neo-Zeon force attempts to drop an asteroid filled with nuclear weapons onto Earth, which would free the colonies from the yoke of oppression by their rivals, the Earth Federation, and kill everyone on Earth in the process. As with all of the best Gundam tales, Tomino approaches the story from a hard sci-fi point of view, clearly laying out the science behind things like giant mobile suits and “newtypes” (humans that have evolved to acquire psychic abilities). Tomino carefully lays out the reasoning behind Char and Amuro’s passions and hatreds, not allowing the viewer to choose a clear side. Gundam series have always been willing to take on discussions about the horrors of war and how mankind, for all its advancements, never seems to be able to free itself from humanity’s baser instincts. Char’s Counterattack attempts this as well, yet it’s mostly concerned with wrapping up the rivalry between Amuro and Char—and on that note, it succeeds wildly. Featuring gorgeous, tense fight sequences set in space, an excellent soundtrack by Shigeaki Saegusa, and some of the most lauded Gundam designs in the history of the franchise, the film is inarguably one of the high points of the Gundam Universe. One downside: If you don’t have the investment of spending hundreds of episodes of television with these characters, the plot can be confusing, and Char/Amuro’s ending will likely not resonate as strongly. Regardless, Char’s Counterattack remains a key moment in the Gundam universe, one still worth checking out almost 30 years later. Hail Zeon! —Jason DeMarco


6. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

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Year: 2021
Director: Mike Rianda
Stars: Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen
Rating: PG
Runtime: 109 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Animated generational divides have never been more like a sci-fi carnival than in The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Writer/director Mike Rianda’s feature debut (he and co-writer/director Jeff Rowe made their bones on the excellently spooky, silly show Gravity Falls) is equal parts absurd, endearing and terrifying. It’s easy to feel as lost or overwhelmed by the flashing lights and exhilarating sights as the central family fighting on one side of the title’s grudge match, but it’s equally easy to come away with the exhausted glee of a long, weary theme park outing’s aftermath. Its genre-embedded family bursts through every messy, jam-packed frame like they’re trying to escape (they often are), and in the process create the most energetic, endearing animated comedy so far this year. —Jacob Oller


7. The Mist

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Year: 2007
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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A lot of the monsters and ghosts that terrorize a large and diverse group of protagonists in King’s work are excuses to deliver deft sociological studies on how easily members of a “civilized” society can toss out their polite and calm pretensions and let their reptilian brains, infused with fear and paranoia, take over in order to do horrific shit in the name of individual survival. From The Stand all the way to sub-par material like Trucks, there are many examples of this approach, but none are executed as efficiently and satisfyingly as Frank Darabont’s take on The Mist, King’s tale of a bunch of normal townsfolk gradually turning into a death cult when they’re trapped inside a grocery store after a mysterious mist that harbors a bunch of not-so-friendly monsters covers their town. The leader of the cult is the crazy, bible-thumping zealot played by Marcia Gay Harden, who’s mocked by others as she spews a bunch of apocalyptic bible verses but becomes a more and more credible voice, much to the chagrin of the more logic-based intellectual minority, as the creatures slither closer and closer to annihilating everyone. Thus a microcosm of our contemporary world is intricately mirrored, with a majority of weak minds ruled by fear, and the minority of levelheaded individuals powerless to stop the madness. Even if we were to take out the societal symbolism of the story, The Mist would still work as a terrific 1950s style monster flick that would have made William Castle drool. The shocking ending is a big plus or minus, depending on how much you like being traumatized by a work of fiction. —Oktay Ege Kozak


8. Oxygen

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Year: 2021
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
Rating: NR
Runtime: 101 minutes

Watch on Netflix

If you decide to watch the new sci-fi horror offering Oxygen during your latest Netflix and chill, allow me to impart a word of caution: This film isn’t what you think it is. Alexandre Aja, the acclaimed New French Extremism director responsible for the subgenre’s classic Haute Tension, is known for just that: Extremism. He’s no stranger to pushing his characters into heightened, blood-curdling scenarios where the very fabric of their beings dangle at impossibly high stakes. But where Oxygen differs from the rest of his work is that, ultimately, it is a love letter to human survival—a horrorshow with catharsis running through its veins. A woman (Mélanie Laurent), awakens in a cryogenic chamber with no memory of her identity or how she got there. M.I.L.O. (Mathieu Amalric), the pod’s onboard computer system, informs her that she has only 33 percent left in her oxygen reserve. We only see the inside of this pod, making her true location a terrifying unknown. Needless to say, escape couldn’t be more critical. —Lex Briscuso


9. The Midnight Sky

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Year: 2020
Director: George Clooney
Stars: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demian Bichir, Kyle Chandler, Caoilinn Springall
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Set in 2049, The Midnight Sky is a meditative journey which sees our planet as a rapidly decaying wasteland and the expanse of space as a dangerous, yet hopeful, new frontier. Cutting between the Arctic and an elaborate spaceship called the Aether, the film follows dying scientist Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) as he races to warn those upon the Aether to abandon their return to Earth, after an alluded to cataclysmic event renders most of the world uninhabitable. Although it has its share of cliches, it remains a gripping, chilling story throughout—one that strikes a little too close to home in the context of 2020. —Joseph Stanichar


10. The Old Guard

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Year: 2020
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Stars: Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Van Veronico Ngo, Henry Melling, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli
Rating: R
Runtime: 125 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Gina Prince-Bythewood, given a budget more than worthy of the best DTV action flick anyone could hope could make it to permanent Netflix browsal, succeeds in towing, and then mildly subverting, the genre line: She proves she can capably steer a high-concept action blockbuster while cobbling together something that feels like the kind of movie “they” just don’t make anymore. All of it amounts to a one-step-forward-one-step-back appraisal: There is much to cull from the travails of Andromache the Scythian (Charlize Theron), an immortal warrior who, thousands of years later, still questions the purpose of her own endlessness, and sequels, given Netflix’s ostensibly unlimited resources, are all but guaranteed—but one wishes for more capably clear action auteurism, even when Prince-Bythewood’s action chops confidently step up. Still: There are countless joys to behold in The Old Guard, most of all the emergence of Kiki Layne—last seen as hyper-dramatic personae #1 in If Beale Street Could Talk—as exceptionally promising action star, executing a one-handed pistol cocking so confident and so unremarked-upon it automatically achieves cinematic canon. Otherwise, trigger-happy editing gets in the way of itself too often, admirable set-pieces sometimes chopped to shit, though plenty of violence—squelching and tendon-splitting—abounds, and the final villain is dispatched with such disregard for the human body that one can’t help but applaud Prince-Bythewood for getting it—for knowing that the key to good action filmmaking is treating the human body like a pile of wet meat. —Dom Sinacola


11. The Platform

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Year: 2019
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Stars: Iván Massagué, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan, Emilio Buale Coka, Alexandra Masangkay
Rating: NR
Runtime: 94 minutes

Watch on Netflix

The Platform benefits immensely from the strength of its simple, high-concept premise and all the superfluous information that is withheld from the viewer. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know why exactly people are placed into this diabolical, vertical prison structure, in which the only sustenance arrives once a day in the form of a steadily descending, increasingly gross stone slab piled high with perishables. Nor do we really need to know how this apparent social experiment operates, although the repeated glimpses we get at cooks slaving over perfect dishes to be sent down to the doomed convicts is no doubt designed to needle at our curiosity. What matters is that we observe the differences in human reaction to this plight—the ways that different personalities react to adversity with an “us or them” mentality, or a predatory hunger, or a spontaneous drive toward self-sacrificing altruism. The fact that the position of the prisoners is constantly in flux is key—it gives them both a tangible reason to be the change they want to see in their world, and an almost impossible temptation to do the exact opposite out of distrust of their neighbors. One expects a nihilistic streak here, and you won’t be disappointed—but there’s a few glimmers of hope shining through the cracks as well. Just enough, perhaps, to twist the knife that much deeper. —Jim Vorel


12. Don’t Look Up

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Year: 2021
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

Watch on Netflix

In 2021, there are more reasons than one might have been previously comfortable with for legitimately fretting about the end of the world. And while the downfall of humankind likely won’t be coming as expediently as an extinction-level threat heading on a crash course for Earth, director Adam McKay’s new doomsday comedy/“timely” political satire Don’t Look Up attempts to congeal populism and the pandemic and climate change and all that which causes us to recoil against the unknowable future into one immediate, planet-killing orb. If that seems like a better and quicker way for us to go out in retrospect, McKay doesn’t make the path towards potential desolation easy. He plays out scenarios that, now, come across less like Idiocracy and more like genuine, scientific hypothesizing about how our world would react to the knowledge that we have six months left to live. Businessmen and politicians would attempt to financially leverage the situation at the cost of human lives; brainless hashtags would proliferate on social media; half the population would believe it to be a hoax; and the people who broke the story would be branded as cranks…to some extent. So, who better to articulate this existential dread at large than resident Hollywood goofball comedy director-turned-political theorist McKay, in his first wholly fictionalized film since Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? The result is a star-studded Netflix affair. The film isn’t bad; it’s just boring, and long. There is no reason that a comedy—even a purported “prestige” one—needs to run 145 minutes (though I have a feeling that Judd Apatow would beg to differ). I can imagine an alternate universe where Don’t Look Up was a sharper affair, if not a better one, trimmed down to two hours, or even a scant 100 minutes, which would alleviate the weight of the burdensome political satire and, perhaps, even the long-winded non-jokes. As is, Don’t Look Up is an exhausting and meandering “What if? But also, what now?” If the world really is going to end in my lifetime, these were 145 minutes that I’m never getting back. —Brianna Zigler


13. Space Sweepers

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Year: 2021
Director: Jo Sung-hee
Stars: Song Joong-ki, Kim Tae-ri, Jin Seon-kyu, Yoo Hae-jin
Rating: NR
Runtime: 136 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Netflix introduced its audience to Southeast Asian big-budget sci-fi with the Chinese film The Wandering Earth, a mess of a story that was still beautiful to look at. Space Sweepers, from Korean filmmaker Jo Sung-hee, is a much more cohesive and coherent offering with just as much flash. The dystopian setting sees the head of a giant tech company creating an Eden on Mars, essentially consigning most of humanity to poverty and pollution. A ragtag team of space-junk collectors is each looking after their own self-interest when they find a mysterious young girl who entangles them in much larger worries. With compelling characters, thrilling action sequences and an engaging plot, it’s a strong entry for Korea’s first sci-fi blockbuster. —Josh Jackson


14. Blame!

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Year: 2017
Director: Hiroyuki Seshita
Stars: Sora Amamiya, Kana Hanazawa, Takahiro Sakurai
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 105 minutes

Watch on Netflix

When it comes to dark industrial sci-fi, Tsutomu Nihei is a visionary. Trained as an architect before pursuing a career as a manga author, Nihei’s art is simultaneously sparse and labyrinthine, his body of work defined by a unifying obsession with invented spaces. Byzantine factories with gothic accents spanning across impossible chasms, populated by bow-legged synthoids and ghoulish predators touting serrated bone-swords and pulsating gristle-guns. His first and most famous series, Blame!, is considered the key text in Nihei’s aesthetic legacy, going so far as to inspire everything from videogames, to music, and even art and fashion. Past attempts have been made to adapt the series into an anime, though none have been able to materialize successfully. That is, until now. With the support of Netflix, Hiroyuki Seshita of Polygon Pictures has delivered that long-awaited Blame! film. Set on a far-future Earth consumed by a massive, self-replicating superstructure known as ‘The City’, Blame! follows Killy, a taciturn loner, wandering the layers of the planet in search of a human possessing the ‘net terminal gene,’ an elusive trait thought to be the only means of halting the city’s perpetual hostile expansion. Boasting a screenplay penned by Sadayuki Murai, famed for his writing on such series as Cowboy Bebop and Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, and supervised by Nihei himself, Seshita’s film abbreviates much of the manga’s early chapters and streamlines the story into an altogether more narrative and action-driven affair. Art director Hiroshi Takiguchi deftly replicates Nihei’s distinctive aesthetic, achieving in color what was before only monochromatic, while Yuki Moriyama capably improves on the uniform character designs of the original, imparting its casts with distinct, easily identifiable traits and silhouettes that greatly improve the story’s parsability. Blame! is as faithful an adaptation as is possible and as fitting an introduction to the series as the manga itself. Blame! builds a strong case for being not only one of the most conceptually entertaining anime films of late, but also for being one of, if not the best original anime film to grace Netflix in a long time. —Toussaint Egan


15. Spiderhead

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Year: 2022
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Miles Teller, Chris Hemsworth, Jurnee Smollett, Mark Paguio, Tess Haubrich
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Paste’s Steven Petite called George Saunders “a master of creating worlds that are close enough to mirroring our own to be deemed realistic while not familiar enough to entirely resemble the world we live in” and “perhaps the greatest living English language short story writer, whose bizarre brand of humor is both dark and refreshing.” Netflix’s Spiderhead, adapted from Saunders’s 2010 short story “Escape from Spiderhead,” is darker than it is funny (or fun), but it is refreshing to watch Chris Hemsworth drop his superhero persona to play a mad genius running an unorthodox prison where the inmates have volunteered as lab rats in exchange for good meals and personal space. Directed by Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski, the film imagines a future where changing someone’s mood and perception is as easy as an iPhone app and oversight of our private prisons is—well, even less than it is today. Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett star as inmates who begin to question whether life back in gen pop was actually better. —Josh Jackson


16. Project Power

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Year: 2020
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

Watch on Netflix

Take a pill, get a new superpower for five minutes. It’s not the most original concept for a sci-fi film, but it should have been enough to lay the groundwork for a fun-if-not-groundbreaking two hours on the couch. Unfortunately not even the cast of usually charismatic actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jamie Foxx could save this dull affair. Instead of an array of imaginative new superpowers, we get to see no more than about a half dozen people take the pill. And while it’s refreshing to see a film like this set in one of America’s most unique cities, even New Orleans gets short shrift here. The brightest moments in the movie are when Dominique Fishback takes center stage as Robin, whether she’s freestyle rapping or connecting with Foxx’s damaged military test subject, Art. —Josh Jackson


17. Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus

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Year: 2017
Director: David Soren
Stars: Richard Steven Horvitz, Rosearik Rikki Simons, Andy Berman
Rating: PG
Runtime: 71 minutes

Watch on Netflix

At a time when original Nickelodeon cartoons included Rocket Power and The Fairly Oddparents, Invader Zim was the network’s attempt to attract the slightly older Cartoon Network crowd. They wanted something edgy and a little bizarre. They got it tenfold with Jhonen Vasquez, a comic-book writer and cartoonist whose previous projects included the hyper-violent comic series Johnny: The Homicidal Maniac, Squee and I Feel Sick. His concept for Nickelodeon was simple: Invader Zim was the story of naive but psychotic Zim, the smallest member of an alien species in which social hierarchy is determined by height, who is assigned to conquer an insignificant planet on the outskirts of the universe: Earth. Although dispatched simply to collect undercover surveillance and stay out of the way, Zim—along with his malfunctioning erratic robot drone, GIR—decides to conquer our planet himself. However, all his attempts to take over are either thwarted by his own inexperience or by Dib, a young paranormal investigator who realizes Zim is an alien. Now, a new Netflix movie brings back Zim and his maniacal laugh, along with the show’s original creator and voice cast. Set in a near future after Dib has grown feeble and disgusting after months of doing nothing but watching his surveillance monitors for a sign of Zim, whose been hiding in a toilet with his useless pizza-loving robot sidekick GIR—Phase One of his evil plan. If only he could remember Phase Two. With Zib demoralized, Dib’s goal shifts from saving the world to finally getting credit for doing so—particularly from his father. But teaming up with Zim proves to be a very bad idea. The new film captures the gloriously dark absurdity of the original with moments like GIR inspiring the children of the world with his song about peace…and chicken and rice…and alternate-realities colliding that include a variety of illustration styles and even claymation. —James Charisma and Josh Jackson


18. Beyond Skyline

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Year: 2017
Director: Liam O’Donnell
Stars: Frank Grillo, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Jonny Weston, Bojana Novakovic, Callan Mulvey
Rating: NR
Runtime: 106 minutes

Watch on Netflix

In which Frank Grillo’s “Mark” joins the cinematic pantheon of “hard-living L.A. cops somehow able to defeat a technologically advanced, warlike alien civilization” alongside Danny Glover’s Lt. Mike Harrigan. Mark, a police detective suspended for—one can only guess in retrospect—some infraction having to do with violence, has barely any time to catch up with his estranged son Trent (Jonny Weston), fresh out of the clink, before an alien invasion quickly decimates Mark’s scummy West Coast metropolis. Though the debatably successful 2010 Skyline ended on a clear setup for a sequel, with the brain of Jarrod (anthropomorphic goatee Eric Balfour) bringing an alien exoskeleton to life to protect pregnant girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson), Beyond Skyline works overtime to justify its existence, sucking up its predecessor’s humorless worldbuilding and disaster movie plot to spit out a wildly imaginative barrage of setpieces and sci-fi wonkery. Mark’s adventure takes him from LA to outer space to Laos, affixing a Mega-Man-brand hand cannon to his beefy middle-aged arm for a final shoot-out and bone-splitting melee involving Yayan Ruhian and Iko Uwais from The Raid movies assaulting the ever living shit out of aliens among ancient Southeast Asian ruins. Along the way, Mark helps Elaine give birth, on the alien ship, to a baby girl who grows at such an accelerated rate she becomes a three-year-old in just a day, and who just may hold the key to defeating the aliens in her DNA. It’s pretty fucking nuts. Wall-to-wall action, buttressed by dependable fight choreography and a script that refuses to back down, Beyond Skyline is a relentless delight—all the better for the fact that it maybe should have never existed at all. —Dom Sinacola


19. Bigbug

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Year: 2022
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stars: Isabelle Nanty, Elsa Zylberstein, Claude Perron, Stéphane De Groodt, Youssef Hajdi, Alban Lenoir
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 111 minutes

Watch on Netflix

When French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet burst onto the scene with Delicatessen in 1991, not only did it quickly become recognized as one of the most promising directorial debuts in history, but it also did something rare: It managed to capture the world’s fragile social and political state through fiction. Which is why, when word got out that Jeunet was teaming up with Netflix for a futuristic, artificial-intelligence-based dark comedy, it was by all accounts an exciting thing. Set in 2050, Bigbug imagines a future where humanity has co-opted A.I. as friends, romantic partners, helpers and everything in between. Things take a dark turn, though, when a subset of robots called Yonyxs attempt to eradicate humankind, forcing the good robots to dutifully lock humans in their own houses for their protection. Caught in the crosshairs of this takeover is a quirky cast of characters who are stuck in a house together against their will: Alice (Elsa Zylberstein), her lover Max (Stéphane de Groodt), her ex-husband Victor (Youssef Hajdi), his lover Jennifer (Claire Chust), their kids, a nosy neighbor and a handy robot named Monique (Claude Perron). This is undoubtedly a compelling premise, and the film is immediately paced well enough to consistently move the action forward and engage the viewer. But where Delicatessen carved out a new, original kind of dystopian film, especially in its nuanced characters and their complicated motives, Bigbug unfortunately falls quickly into the realm of the predictable. From the outset, the film doesn’t seem to take itself, or its message, seriously. And while this isn’t inherently a drawback, in Bigbug’s case, it undermines its potential deeper meanings. We see this self-sabotage primarily in a cast of overwrought, archetypal characters. Perhaps most dire, though, is a lack of nuance provided to the robots, who are either quirkily wide-eyed and sterile, or Disney-villain evil. Despite Bigbug’s strange look, though, we are frequently reminded that this is indeed the work of an aesthetic visionary. Jeunet crafts his suburban hellscape with great care, with houses decorated by mid-century modern’s rebellious cousin—and who can forget a handmade, paneled robot who looks like Albert Einstein with spider legs? The robots also possess creative innovations: An on-switch that lives underneath the fingernail; hands that can adapt to open cans and whisk egg whites. If only Jeunet had instilled his story and characters with a little more of that ingenuity, then Bigbug might have been a more substantial watch. —Aurora Amidon


20. I Am Mother

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Year: 2019
Director: Grant Sputore
Stars: Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Almost all of I Am Mother takes place inside a secure, post-apocalypse facility where a robot named Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises a human child simply named Daughter (Clara Rugaard). Mother has provided an idyllic upbringing for the girl, who represents the hope for humanity with thousands more embryos ready to become her little brothers and sisters. She learns everything from engineering to medicine to ethics (that latter subject key to the questions the film will eventually raise).Grant Sputore’s Australian/American production is constructed around plot twists as much as characters, and although some of them are exactly what any sci-fi fan was probably expecting, there’s enough original thought to keep the tension level high. Everything Daughter knows is thrown into question by the arrival of a nameless woman (Hilary Swank) whose description of the outside world doesn’t match Mother’s. (There’s definitely a little 10 Cloverfield Lane going on here.) Daughter must balance her loyalty to Mother, to her future siblings and to her species, all while trying to uncover the truth. —Josh Jackson