The 12 best sci-fi movies and TV shows on Netflix

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

STRANGER THINGS

Yes, we know it's a TV series and not a movie, but Netflix Original Stranger Things hits so many of the same tonal marks as classic sci-fi movies like E.T.Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Flight of the Navigator that it would feel weird not to include it.

An eight-part drama concerning the mysterious disappearance of a young boy and his family and friends' efforts to find him, it has everything you could want in from a 1980s sci-fi thriller: a small town, creepy government goons, psychic powers and a seemingly invincible monster. Go on: binge on it this weekend, you know you want to.

Watch Stranger Things now on Netflix

ELYSIUM

Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9 features a starrier cast in Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, but retains the earlier film's mix of gritty sci-fi and social conscience.

When Damon's downtrodden worker suffers a lethal dose of radiation, he knows his only hope is to get to one of the Med-Bays used by the upper classes. Only problem is, the upper classes have abandoned Earth for a luxurious orbital space station – and they won't let any old pauper in.

Come for the spectacular visuals, stay for the scathing political message. 

Watch Elysium on Netflix 

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS

The rebooted Enterprise crew, headed up by Chris Pine's Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, face off against Benedict Cumberbatch's intergalactic terrorist in the latest installment of the venerable sci-fi franchise. Into Darkness delivers thrills and set pieces galore, though it does occasionally come across as a Greatest Hits collection, bringing back old villains and rehashing iconic scenes from past entries in the series.

Given that the previous film spent so much time and effort using time travel mechanics to reboot the series and strike off in a new direction with its characters, it seems a little perverse to immediately plunge them into a reprise of an earlier story. But director JJ Abrams' new Enterprise crew (just about) carries it off on the strength of their personalities and chemistry alone.

Watch Star Trek: Into Darkness now on Netflix

RICK AND MORTY

Despite being rooted in sci-fi staples like multi-dimensional travel (and generally coming off as pretty convincing, science-wise - at least to our non-astrophysicist brains), adult animated series Rick and Morty is focussed mainly on being hilarious and irreverent as it follows the misadventures of a misanthropic, booze-addled inventor, his teenage grandson and his neurotic family. 

Netflix features three seasons of the series, making it the perfect binge-watch material - particularly for those lazy hungover Sundays when your mind can't handle serious sci-fi. 

Watch Rick and Morty on Netflix

WATCHMEN

Comic fans had been clamouring for a live-action Watchmen movie for years, such was their (deserved) adoration of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons DC Comics series – and after several false starts, the job of adapting and directing finally fell to Zack Snyder.

Being regarded as something of a shallow style-over-substance type, Snyder might not have been purists’ ideal choice for the job, but considering the complexity, density and length of the source material, we think he did a sterling job with his 2009 release.

A dark, cynical, revisionist take on the idea of costumed crimefighters (and originating in the 80s, a time when such a take wasn’t anything like as common as it is today), Watchmen concerns a group of retired superheroes drawn back into their old roles when one of their number is murdered. The twist? The story takes place in an alternate version of the 1980s, where one of the heroes’ superpowers have given the USA the edge in the Cold War – ironically resulting in a greater likelihood of nuclear annihilation.

It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it’s as close as we’re going to get. If you like your sci-fi dystopian and dingy, Watchmen fits the bill.

Watch Watchmen now on Netflix

THE EXPANSE

The Expanse definitely wants to be the next Battlestar Galactica, and while at times it's more reminiscent of Babylon 5, it should still find a place in the heart of those longing for a new space opera to sink their teeth into.

This is a future in which humans have colonised the solar system, but in which the governments of Mars and Earth have split from one another and are constantly on the brink of all-out war. As is so often the case, it's the people in the middle who suffer the most in times of tension, and in The Expanse it's The Belters, who live and work in the asteroid belt, stripping it of resources that are then sent to the wealthy colonies.

This class system is this 10-part series' most interesting aspect, with each of the specific strands of the multithreaded story (a detective on the hunt for a missing girl and a rag-tag group of Belters stumbling into a conspiracy) taking a long time to get interesting.

But if you're into this sort of thing (and if you're reading this list you probably are) you'll most likely find yourself reeled in by The Expanse by the end of the feature-length first episode.

Watch The Expanse on Netflix

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