The 16 best sci-fi movies and TV shows on Netflix

UPDATED! From space adventures to mind-expanding drama, we've found the best science fiction for streaming

Look at the sci-fi of years gone by, and among all the shiny rocketships and teleporters, there's one thing that they didn't predict: streaming video at the touch of a button.

Fortunately, we live in Space Year 2017, where we have such things as Netflix; no longer are we bound by the tyranny of the DVD shelf. But with so many films and TV shows available on the service, how do you whittle it all down? We've picked out the best sci-fi on Netflix, from mind-bending time travel flicks to big-budget action.

In the mood for something from another genre? Check out our list of the 40 very best movies and TV shows on Netflix.

District 9

A fantastic piece of indie filmmaking, District 9 tells a story of alien refugees stuck on Earth – and their mistreatment at the hands of unsympathetic human officials – that draws clear parallels with the apartheid South Africa in which director Neill Blomkamp grew up.

When a company field agent assigned to evict aliens from illegal settlements contracts a DNA-twisting virus, he is forced to seek refuge himself – and can only do so inside an alien ghetto called District 9.

Watch District 9 on Netflix

Orphan Black

When petty crook Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks identical to her, she isn't troubled by existential questions; she just sets about nicking her doppelganger's identity and emptying her bank accounts as quickly as possible. Naturally, that brings its own set of complications, and before long she's winging it as a detective, hiding bodies and uncovering a conspiracy of human cloning.

Tatiana Maslany anchors the show with a superb performance, slipping between different roles with aplomb - even if some of the supporting cast let the side down by playing to the cheap seats.

Unlike some high-concept shows, Orphan Black’s been thought through beyond its initial premise; it's skillfully written, with Sarah's decisions leading to one complication after another in a logical, coherent manner - even as the sci-fi weirdness mounts.

Watch Orphan Black on Netflix

Looper

Looper is a superb, mind-bending, futuristic, time-travelling action-thriller that sees Joseph Gordon-Levitt assume the role of an assassin whose job consists of putting a bullet in the head of people teleported to his time by a future mob organisation (holy plot line, Batman).

But when the poor sap that appears before him is his future self (played by Bruce Willis), things get rather, well, complicated.

The intricate plot is strongly complimented by plenty of action and strong performances from all, although Gordon-Levitt’s Bruce Willis-like prosthetic nose is initially a little distracting.

Watch Looper on Netflix

Words by Esat Dedezade

The OA

In the seven years that Prairie Johnson has been missing she's regained her sight and apparently changed her name to 'The OA' - and that's really just the start of the weirdness in this Netflix Original.

Comparisons to Stranger Things are easily made: most of the protagonists are students, albeit teenagers here, and there's a hearty helping of fantasy mixed in with the sci-fi. Those comparisons aren't particularly favourable towards The OA, either, which is lacking the coherence and charm of the D&D-inspired sleeper hit.

But just because The OA isn't as good as Stranger Things doesn't mean it's not worth a watch. After all, what is as good as Stranger Things?

You will, though, have to be prepared to go with some very out-there ideas and some very unexpected shifts in tone. The OA definitely won't work for everyone, but it really is worth giving at least the first of the eight episodes a go to find out if it's up your street.

Watch The OA on Netflix

Equilibrium

It's the future, and everything sucks. Big time. Human emotions are banned, as they always lead to pesky things like love, war, and fights down the local pub. The masses are kept in check through daily compulsory doses of emotion-numbing drugs, and Christian Bale is is on hand with guns and kung fu skills to help enforce the law.

That is, until he stops dosing himself, turns on the Orwellian government, and fights the establishment with a spray of bullets and slick martial art manoeuvres. Oh, and a katana may enter the fray at some point too.

It might not be Mr Bale's finest work (it definitely isn't), but it's fun nonetheless.

Watch Equilibrium on Netflix

Words by Esat Dedezade

Star Trek: First Contact

When the Borg attempt to travel back in time to prevent mankind making first contact with the Vulcans, it's down to Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise to thwart them. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisaged a utopian future free of conflict; First Contact chucks such lofty aspirations out of the airlock, gleefully pitting the phaser-toting Enterprise crew against remorseless cyborg adversaries in what amounts to a restaging of Die Hard aboard a spaceship.

It's smart in borrowing from the series' best entries; Picard's obsessive pursuit of the Borg echoes the Moby-Dick allusions from The Wrath Of Khan, while a fish-out-of-water time-travel comedy subplot is taken straight from The Voyage Home.

If you want more Picard (and why wouldn't you), the entire back-catalogue of Star Trek: The Next Generation is also now available on Netflix.

Watch Star Trek: First Contact on Netflix

Tomorrowland

Fancy giving your eyeballs a visual treat tonight? Then settle back with Tomorrowland.

George Clooney stars as Frank, a jaded former boy-genius now lost in an existential funk and living out his days as far away from the rest of humanity as possible. When spirited teenager Cassie seeks his help after a run-in with some murderous robots who want her magic pin (don’t ask), the pair embark on a time-travel jape to a futuristic world. Got all that?

Tomorrowland is a curiously mixed bag of a film: it manages at various times to be both delightfully full of wonder at the possibilities of technology and also overly negative about the dangers of science; at times needlessly convoluted in its plot but also at times brilliantly exciting.

Still, it looks absolutely amazing and has its heart in the right place. Oh, and it’s a Disney film and a PG, so it’s one the whole family can enjoy together. 

Watch Tomorrowland on Netflix

The Lobster

Say ‘sci-fi’ and most people think of robots, spaceships and flesh-eating aliens. The Lobster is a sci-film about dogs, flamingos and a plump, bespectacled Colin Farrell living in a lakeside hotel. Farrell plays David, a single man sent to a home for other single people, where he must find a partner within 45 days or be turned into an animal of his choice and set free into the world. It’s wonderfully eccentric, hilariously funny and strangely touching, with a contemporary world that, in its own weird way, is far more discomforting than 100 of the same old dystopian wastelands.

Watch The Lobster now on Netflix

Words by Tom Wiggins

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