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Best Netflix Sci-Fi

For a binge on the best sci-fi on Netflix, enjoy an eclectic collection of vintage and contemporary favorites.

By Frank WhitePublished 8 years ago 21 min read

Move over Syfy channel, Netflix is moving at light speed. For science fiction fans, Netflix is a destination point for great content. Whether you are watching your favorite film for the 100th time or looking for something new to binge watch, Netflix has an enormous pool of sci-fi movies and TV shows to choose from. Netflix is incredibly popular with the demanding sci-fi fanbase. Boasting a wide selection of science fiction oldies, cult favorites, and new picks, Netflix takes you down a deep rabbit hole. After the introduction of original content, Netflix firmly established itself both as studio and distributor. Sense8 took original science fiction programming to a new level, and the BBC's Black Mirror gave the millennials their own version of The Twilight Zone. The list is sure to generate debate amongst die hard sci-fi fans.

Possibly the best campy sci-fi movie of the 1990s, this movie has it all. It's got romance, alien creatures (called bugs), plenty of overacting and loads of violence. In the distant future, mankind has mastered intergalactic travel and colonized untold numbers of worlds. Some worlds, though, are inhabited by a monstrous alien species referred to as bugs. Lacking a conscience but perfect at disposing of humans, a war begins when the Earth is attacked by an asteroid propelled using the bug's power. Starship Troopers is filled with memorable moments, but the satirical news stories throughout are what make this a true gem. They cut into the film as though the government is putting on commercials and feature hilarious promos for the war against the bugs like a group of elementary school children stomping on hundreds of cockroaches as their teacher laughs and cheers them on. Do not pass up an opportunity to see this cult classic.

Darkman is an early 90s foray into a mix of horror and action. A scientist played by Liam Neeson discovers a way to produce synthetic skin for humans. The only barrier in his breakthrough is that the skin only lasts for 100 minutes before it dissolves into mush. Unfortunately, mobsters want the property his lab is on and have no problem blowing up his lab with him in it to clear the pier it's located on. Somehow Neeson survives, though 90 percent of his body is burned beyond recognition. Upon waking, he moves to seek revenge against those who tried to kill him. Using his synthetic skin recipe and computer imaging of any picture he inputs, he can become anyone he chooses for 100 minutes. The movie was well enough received to spawn multiple sequels, but the heart and soul of the franchise rests with this 1990 classic.

Aeon Flux is a 2005 live action movie loosely based on a series of animated shorts from the 1990's of the same name. Charlize Theron plays the title character, Aeon, a scantily clad secret agent. Along the course of the film Theron shows that even those trained to kill have a soul. While the movie was a critical failure at the box office, over the years it's gained a fan base as being underrated. Filled with over the top action scenes sometimes reminiscent of The Matrix trilogy, Aeon Flux is a decent sci-fi movie worth its hour and a half length.

The 90s had a plethora of sci-fi television shows, and many consider Sliders the cream of the crop. A young scientist named Quinn Mallory invents a technology that opens a wormhole into an alternate version of Earth. The device looks like a remote control and lets Quinn know when and where the next wormhole home will open. Other characters end up caught in a wormhole with Quinn and are transferred to an Earth in the middle of an ice age. While trying to escape from the path of a tornado, Quinn activates the portal before the time has come to go home, which throws them into yet another alternate dimension. This makes them lose the ability to return to their home Earth. So the troupe is forced to slide from one Earth to the next, discovering the variations from their own reality and sometimes changing the course of that world in the process. Every episode is a new Earth, which leads to a new story every episode. Always entertaining, Sliders was a pioneer in alternate reality fiction that's a show not to miss.

With puppets by Jim Henson Productions, and truly memorable alien characters, Farscape still rests in the hearts of sci-fi fans as an awesome series. An American astronaut, while on a mission in space, accidentally flies into a wormhole which sends him careening into a distant galaxy. A galaxy in the midst of war. This astronaut named John becomes trapped with a crew of intergalactic fugitives aboard a living ship called Moya. Many feel the best elements of Farscape are how John the human interacts with his compatriots, specifically how funny it is. For instance, Ka D'Argo, an alien warrior resembling a dwarf from the Lord of The Rings series, lets it be known he'd enjoy killing John. Excellent character arcs, and popular enough that plans are in the works to make a feature length Farscape film despite the series having ended years ago.

Torchwood is like a British cousin to The X Files, with a larger cast of main investigators. The Torchwood institute acts as the English version of America's Area 51. As the result of a time rift that's opened in their institute, aliens and other beings travel to our dimension to wreck untold amounts of havoc. It's up to this small team of alien hunting specialists to save humanity. The alien presence isn't the world's only problem however, as other villainous humans are up to no good as well. Unlike the famous British sci-fi show Doctor Who, Torchwood caters to more of an adult audience. The plot lines often deal with non-linear relationships and, of course, how the world and individual people can be corrupted without much effort.

Alphas is a two season program that's a mix of super powers and crime fighting. Dr. Rosen has spent his life studying the existence of people who develop abnormal abilities. A key witness in a court case is murdered, and Rosen proves that an Alpha (person with enhanced abilities) is the killer. He's given funding by the government to put together a team of Alphas to identify and capture other criminal Alphas. Unlike superhero movies, the abilities of enhanced humans are able to be explained by scientific evidence. One character has complete control over his "fight or flight" reflex, meaning he can turn on his adrenaline at any time to give him enhanced speed strength and endurance. Another interesting Alpha is named Kat. Kat can perfectly master any skill she sees be it a trade such as welding, or even become a master swordsman by watching a Samurai movie. The cases the team are sent on become more and more interesting as the character relationships develop, and is a show deserving of more seasons.

Stephen King fans rejoice! Based off a Stephen King story called "The Colorado Kid," Haven is a series set in a small town where some people manifest special abilities. Without explanation, various people become afflicted with supernatural powers the townsfolk call "The Troubles," and it isn't the first time this town has been faced with such troubles. An FBI agent name Audrey Parker is sent to the town of Haven, Maine, on a typical case but soon finds herself thrust into the problems of the town. Throughout the series there are many Easter eggs from Stephen King novels that bring a sense of nostalgia to the episodes. More sci-fi than horror, some of the interesting plot points revolve not around the supernaturally afflicted characters, but how the regular townsfolk deal with them. Suspenseful with enough twists to keep the viewers guessing, this is a binge-worthy series.

Life is going on as it normally does then the power goes out. All power. Planes start falling from the sky, satellites crash to the Earth, no phones, no television, no internet. You and the world are thrust back into the dark ages. The series Revolution plays on exactly this premise. Skip ahead 15 years and the world is a quiet, powerless place lit and heated by fire and candles. A young woman is living her life with her father as best they can, then one day a militia arrives to their property and kills her father. Apparently because he played a part in the blackout of the world and paid the price for it. Following what she knows about her father's past and the pre-blackout world, she and two other truth-seekers embark on a journey to discover what really happened and try to fix it. Though there are plenty of plot twists throughout the series, it's the characters themselves that make this a worthwhile show to watch.

With Jericho we have the Cold War's worst nightmare come true in modern times. The story revolves around the residents of Jericho, Kansas, after witnessing Denver be destroyed by some kind of nuclear detonation. Imagine living a normal day in a small town when suddenly a mushroom cloud appears over a city in the distance. All communications to the rest of the world are cut off, all electronic devices stop working, and life as you know it is lost forever. Scared and cut off from the rest of the population, the citizens of Jericho begin to rebuild a new life. Eventually the citizens meet other survivors of a nearby town, but after the apocalypse can anybody be trusted to be civil for long?

Joss Whedon, director of Marvel's The Avengers, has helmed a plethora of popular television series over the years, including the cult-classic Firefly. Firefly is a space drama that follows a futuristic smuggling crew and their adventures through space. Think Star Wars meets a classic western. In their universe's past, a number of different worlds rebelled against the main source of power and government but eventually ended up losing the war. The captain of the smuggling ship Serenity, Malcom, was once a rebel leader during the war. The intergalactic government, called "The Alliance," constantly get in the way of the Serenity's jobs but have ulterior motives as well.

Part of the ship's crew is a former Alliance doctor named Simon, and his disturbed but psychic sister River. For years The Alliance performed experiments on River in an attempt to make her a psychic super soldier. Simon spent years infiltrating the inner workings of the Alliance and saving money in order to break his sister out of a secret compound. Now on the run, Simon works as the doctor for Mal and his crew in lieu of payment to be hidden from the evil clutches of The Alliance. A truly entertaining show, it could be considered a futuristic spaghetti western filled with excellent characters and plenty of laughs.

A spiritual successor to The X Files, Fringe differs because the supernatural events being investigated in their world actually happen. Spanning five seasons, the story follows a ragtag group of scientists and an FBI agent with more than meets the eye as they discover the hows and whys of the strange happenings. The FBI agent, named Olivia, is ordered to lead a team made up of an insane mad scientist named Walter, his son Peter, and a slew of other interesting characters over time. Walter used to work for the government, but eventually his ideas on scientific advancement took a turn towards danger. Peter is brought into the mix because he's the only person who has any hope of keeping Walter in line. Walter is hilarious in everything from his strange understanding of the world, to consistently finding answers while tripping on LSD. Alternate realities, time travel, evil empires, and the destruction of the world are taken on by Walter and his team, with considerably more twists and turns than most sci-fi programs.

At one point or another most people who've ever lost a loved one, been through a breakup, or been generally depressed have wished that they didn't have to feel their pain, to be emotionless. In Equilibrium, the entire "civilized" world lives without emotion. In this dystopian future the choice to eliminate all emotions via a daily injection has been made to prevent war, chaos, and promote order. All forms of art, be they music, movies, books, and so on have been eliminated because they evoke feelings. Feeling in itself is a crime whose punishment is execution.

Christian Bale plays the main character who is what's known as a Cleric, essentially an elite squad of the world's police force. They are trained to hunt down "feeling offenders" and deliver their punishment. Apart from being trained in ancient weapon techniques such as with swords, they are taught a firearms martial art which allows them to contort their bodies to make the most accurate shots at any given time. There is a resistance to this new world order however, people who still feel. People like you and me who cry, laugh, people who love. The action of the film is intense, matched only by the realization of how heartbreaking it would be to no longer feel anything. The film begs the question: without emotions, are we still human?

In the early 90s a television show premiered that put the science fiction genre into the hearts and minds of the world as Star Trek did decades before The X Files. The story follows two FBI agents, Fox Moulder and Dana Scully, who are tasked to investigate the cases deemed unbelievable. Moulder, played by David Ducovney, is considered a crackpot by the agency for his beliefs in extra terrestrials and supernatural creatures; while Scully's level headed female scientist character is portrayed by Gillian Anderson. The two work well together because they play off of their differences.

Moulder is especially invested in discovering the truths behind aliens because he claims that as a child his sister was abducted and never returned. Scully of course refuses to believe this, but over the series comes by so many cases that cannot be explained by science that her view of the world is thrown into chaos. Some episodes deal with legendary creatures like werewolves and vampires, while others give peaks beyond the veil of reality into other dimensions and government conspiracy. The show isn't always so serious though, as many episodes play out as comedic because not every theory pans out and can at times be ludicrous. That's part of the fun, the show remembers to laugh at itself occasionally, making this a gem of science fiction programming. The truth is out there.

Black Mirror makes you rethink picking up your smart phone. In the same vein as The Twilight Zone, this show examines the dangers of technology in the not-too-distance future. Each episode is different, so it features a different cast and storyline. One episode titled "Be Right Back" sees a woman lose her husband and is so stricken with grief that she downloads an app that mimics him so she can instant message, video chat, and then invite an android version of him into her home. Another titled "The National Anthem" sees a fictional member of the royal family kidnapped only for the kidnappers to demand that the fictional prime minister of England must have sex with a pig on live television for the princess to be returned. This episode from 2011 has recently garnered a lot of attention since it was revealed in September of 2015 that David Cameron, the real prime minister of England, is rumored to have placed his genitals in the mouth of a dead pig while he was at school. Then there’s "The Entire History of You," which is about a future where all memories are recorded so you can rewind and watch moments over and over again to your heart’s content. In 2013, Robert Downey Jr. (Weird Science) expressed interest in turning this episode into a full-length film. Netflix is also in talks to produce more episodes of the show since it has a four ½ star rating on the website.

Created by the Lana and Andy Wachowski, the plot revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world who suddenly become mentally and emotionally linked. Ultimately, the show aims to explore subjects that its writers feel sci-fi tv shows tend to ignore such as politics, identity, sexuality, gender, and religion. Sexuality and gender in the show are directly influenced by Lana, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in the late 2000s. This Wachowskis are well known for created films such as the Matrix franchise, V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, and Jupiter Ascending. Rotten Tomatoes's review states, "Some of the scenarios border on illogical, but the diverse characters and the creative intersections between their stories keep the Wachowski's Sense8 compelling." According to the show’s executive producer J. Michael Straczynski, Netflix representatives told him that viewers are watching the entire season "straight through – three, four, six times.” Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos praised the success of Sense8 in the up-and-coming French and German markets but also globally. The show holds four ½ stars in Netflix.

Reboots generally aren’t good and sequels to reboots are worse, but Star Trek: Into Darkness defies these assumptions. This 2013 continuation of the Star Trek films stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, and many more. After someone destroys more of Starfleet, the Starship Enterprise goes on a mission to find the person or things that has called for war. Into Darkness has an 87 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a review that reads, "Visually spectacular and suitably action packed, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a rock-solid installment in the venerable sci-fi franchise, even if it's not as fresh as its predecessor.” The film took place in deep space, with the Enterprise and the crew dealing with an initially unrevealed crisis. This film was more similar to the original Star Trek series than its predecessors were.

You’ve never seen Jane Fonda like this before. She stars in 1968’s Barbarella, a film about a woman and her blind guardian angel, Pygar, who are assigned with stopping an evil doctor from destroying Earth. It features Fonda along with Ugo Tognazzi, Anita Pallenberg, Milo I’Shea, Marcel Marceau, and Claude Dauphin. Fonda even posed for the cover of Penthouse as Barbarella. However, the film was both a box office and critical failure in the US on its release. Variety's review at the time stated, "Despite a certain amount of production dash and polish and a few silly-funny lines of dialogue, Barbarella isn't very much of a film. Based on what has been called an adult comic strip, the Dino De Laurentiis production is flawed with a cast that is not particularly adept at comedy, a flat script, and direction which can't get this beached whale afloat." However, the film has gone on to be a cult classic over time. Today,Rotten Tomatoes’ review reads, "Unevenly paced and thoroughly cheesy, Barbarella is nonetheless full of humor, entertaining visuals, and Jane Fonda's sex appeal."

Doctor Who is a science fiction institution. While it was created in 1963 and ran until 1989, the show was continued in 2005 and has stayed on the air ever since. The show follows a Time Lord who goes by the Doctor as he flies through space and time with his companion in the TARDIS, or Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. In the continued series, the actors who have played the doctor include Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi while the companions have included Billie Piper, Catherine Tate, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman, and many more. There have been spin-offs, books, video games, museums, exhibitions, films, and comics all created in the franchise that has made Doctor Who one of the best sci-fi British TV shows to ever air. As a British series, the majority of its nominations and awards have been for national competitions such as the BAFTAs, but it has received nominations in American awards, most notably a nomination for "Favorite Sci-Fi Show" in the 2008 People's Choice Awards and the series has been nominated multiple times in the Spike Scream Awards, with Smith winning "Best Science Fiction Actor" in 2011.

You’ll never want to travel by train again after watching this film. Snowpiercer is a 2013 film based on a comic of the same name. Starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Jamie Bell, the film takes place in an apocalyptic world where the Earth has frozen over and the only surviving people are living on a constantly moving train where the poor are stuffed in the back cars and the wealthy are in the front cars. Soon, the poor begin to fight their way to the front in order to find the man in charge of the train and change the system. Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Snowpiercer sucks you into its strange, brave new world so completely, it leaves you with the all-too-rare sensation that you've just witnessed something you've never seen before... and need to see again." Chris Evans was also praised for his role as main character Curtis Everett. James Rocchi of Film.com wrote, "If the film has one element that never flags or falters, it's Evans."

Probably one of the most iconic sci-fi TV shows of all time, The Twilight Zone mixed horror, sci-fi, drama, and comedy all into one. As each episode featured a different story, there were several stars on the show including Robert Duvall, Leonard Nimoy, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, Elizabeth Montgomery, and many others. One of the most famous episodes was "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" where Shatner’s character spots a gremlin-like creature on the wing of a plane he is flying in. Another, titled "It’s a Good Life," sees a young boy with psychic powers who holds all of the adults around him hostage if he doesn’t like what they tell him. Yet another titled "The Eye of the Beholder" in which a woman undergoes surgery to make herself beautiful. We won’t ruin this one for you because the reveal is one of the most iconic moments in The Twilight Zone history. The show has been nominated for four Emmys and won two for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for Rod Serling in 1960 and 1961.

There’s only one thing scarier than slow zombies: fast zombies. World War Z examines what the zombie apocalypse would be like if zombies could sprint and infect their victims in just 10 seconds. Starring Brad Pitt, the film follows a former UN investigator as the apocalypse unfolds around him and his family, and he is faced with the decision to stay and protect them or go and find the cure to save the rest of the world. It is based on a book of the same name but the film diverges from the text from the very beginning. There are talks to create a trilogy out of the book with Paramount, saying that the company and director Marc Forster "view World War Z as a trilogy that would have the grounded, gun-metal realism of Matt Damon's Bourne series tethered to the unsettling end-times vibe of AMC's The Walking Dead." However, there were a lot of issues during production of the first film so there are no signs of two sequel films being created at the moment. The review on Rotten Tomatoes reads, "It's uneven and diverges from the source book, but World War Z still brings smart, fast-moving thrills and a solid performance from Brad Pitt to the zombie genre." It holds four stars on Netflix.

Anything Joss Whedon touches is sci-fi perfection, which is probably why Dollhouse was such a hit. Airing on Fox from 2009 to 2010, Dollhouse is about a secret facility that erases people’s personalities so that they can be assigned personas for secret missions. Their personas are wiped clean so they forget who they are again, but Echo (Eliza Dushku) and a few others begin to remember who they are. The show stars Dushku along with Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, Olivia Williams, and many others. Ellen Gray of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote, "Dollhouse is less about the ninja kicks and witty banter than it is about instant transformations, and about making the audience care about a character who's likely to behave differently every time we see her. That Dushku mostly pulls this off is a happy surprise, as is Dollhouse, which has survived Firefly-like trials of its own to get this far." There are only two seasons of the show but it holds four stars on Netflix from devoted fans and newbies alike. However, there is also a comic book series writer by Whedon’s brother, Jed Whedon, so you can still experience the Dollhouse universe in comic form.

He’ll be back, since this franchise is still rolling. The Terminator was released in 1984 and was written by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and William Wisher Jr. With the human race nearly extinct and robots taking over, an AI called Skynet is in a war against John Connor, the leader of the human resistance. Skynet sends a Terminator robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back in time to kill John’s mother Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before he is born in order to stop the resistance from ever existing. In turn, John sends a soldier named Kyle Reese (Michael Beihn) back in time to protect his mother and ensure his own existence. This film garnered such critical acclaim that it won three Saturn awards for "Best Science Fiction Film," best makeup, and best writing and is still considered one of the best movies of 1984. The review on Rotten Tomatoes reads, "With its impressive action sequences, taut economic direction, and relentlessly fast pace, it's clear why The Terminator continues to be an influence on sci-fi and action flicks." The film spawned four sequels including Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, and Terminator Genisys.

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About the Creator

Frank White

New Yorker in his forties. His counsel is sought by many, offered to few. Traveled the world in search of answers, but found more questions.

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