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The Top Ten Indie/Foreign Sci-Fi Movies On Netflix Instant, Ranked

By Rebecca Pahle | Netflix Movies and TV | June 5, 2014 | Comments ()


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This list is dedicated to all the amazing sci-fi movies not on Instant, like Sunshine, Attack the Block, and Moon. Get your shit together, Netflix.

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10) Antiviral / Troll Hunter
Yes, I will start this list by cheating and putting two films, because I want you to never feel secure in my authorly presence. Wildcard, bitches! Yeeeehaw! Brandon Cronenberg’s (progeny of David) Antiviral and André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter are both solid, inventive films: The former’s about a future in which average Joes and Janes infect themselves with viruses of infected celebrities in order to feel close to them, and the latter’s a found footage mockumentary about… guess. While I enjoyed both of them, neither ever quite clicked for me. Antiviral got bogged down by its heavyhanded commentary on celebrity culture, and I honestly found Troll Hunter a bit dull. But Caleb Landry Jones turns in a great lead performance under Cronenberg’s direction, and I think most people who saw Troll Hunter like it better than I did. So they’re there if you want to try them out.

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9) Upstream Color
Shane Carruth’s more famous Primer, a big ball of time travel WTFery, is not available on Netflix Instant anymore, but Upstream Color, is. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, because I literally couldn’t: Any explanation would just be a lot of shrugging and “I dunno”s. But I will say this: One of the things that made Primer cool is that, though it appears at first that the plot makes no sense, the time travel shenanigans of its main characters actually can be unravelled with repeated viewings. So when I started watching Upstream Color I thought that it, too, would be “figure out-able.” It’s not. It’s much more impressionistic than Primer. Just go with the flow on this one. You’ll save yourself a whopper of a headache.

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8) Iron Sky
I love indie sci-fi, because I can write a list about it that follows up a blurb about an artsy-fartsy intellectual movie like Upstream Color with one about space Nazis. Because that’s what Iron Sky is: Space Nazis The Movie. Udo Kier’s in it. It’s a perfect movie to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you have a bunch of popcorn and alcohol that you need to get rid of. Into your mouth.

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7) Monsters
This is the movie that got director Gareth Edwards his Godzilla gig, and watching it, you can see why. Edwards reveals himself here as filmmaker who’s able to make a quality monster movie on an extremely low budget (seriously, miniscule—”way under $500,000”) because he prioritizes story over special effects for their own sake. Don’t get me wrong. The special effects in Monsters were still really solid. But given how often Hollywood prioritizes flash over substance, a knowledge of how to make the whizz bang serve the story instead of the other way around is a great thing to have. There are aspects of Monsters that I don’t like. The acting’s pretty poor. And I don’t want to spoil you for anything here, but there are certain things that I expected to see that I didn’t, and I understand why they weren’t there (see: no money), but it still felt like a cop-out. That said, when you watch Monsters you really feel like you’re seeing the birth of a new filmmaking talent out of the primordial ooze of prosumer cameras. Star Wars is in good hands.

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6) The Host
Is this blurb an excuse for me to talk about how great Snowpiercer, the newest film by The Host director Bong Joon Ho, is? Hahahahamaybe. I saw Snowpiercer a few weeks back, and you can expect a fuller post from me on the film closer to its 6/27 US release, but suffice to say Bong Joon Ho is an amazing director who directs amazing, amazing movies that you should all see. One of those is The Host, a South Korean monster movie chock-a-block full of metaphors about the relationship between South Korea and the American military that I probably missed most of the intricacies of. Occasional heavy-handedness aside, it’s still a monster movie that’s fun without being fun-dumb.

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5) Pi
Oh, the good things Darren Aronofsky was doing before he was making a Biblical movie with a buncha white people. Pi’s high place in this list might be the result of bias: I saw it when I was in high school, and it was one the first movies that made me sit up and appreciate film as art, not just entertainment. Granted, now I acknowledge that many of the films I saw earlier in my youth were just as artistically valid, and I just didn’t pick up on it. Like Beavis and Butthead Do America, the second movie I remember ever seeing in a theater. What a masterpiece.

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4) Safety Not Guaranteed
The sci-fi-itude of Safety Not Guarnteed kind of sneaks under the radar. At its core, it’s a comedy about growing up and deciding who you want adult-you to be. Maybe this is just the fact that I only have a few months left in my 20s talking (God, no), but I found it a particularly poignant film. The fact that there’s a dude in it who claims to have invented a time machine is just a bonus (if a big one, because holy hell time machine).

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3) Donnie Darko
I wonder at times whether my love of Donnie Darko stems from a particularly teenage part of my psyche that’s changed too greatly since I first saw the movie for me to appreciate it as much now as I did then. But then I remember this is the movie that made Patrick Swayze a washed-up motivational speaker with a “kiddie porn dungeon.” I have no second thoughts about how high up on this list I am putting it.

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2) The Europa Report
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting all that much out of Europa Report. “Ugh, found footage again?!,” I scoffed a few minutes in. “A small crew trapped on a spaceship as they embark on what’s in all likelihood a suicide mission? I saw that already. It was called Sunshine.” But Europa Report quickly won me over. It has less of the creeping horror of Sunshine and more of the wonder and majesty of space travel, which is something at I think we need more of in film. (“Space is scary! So scary! Yes. And it’s also awesome.”) For all that the trials of our main characters—a group sent out to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, to discover whether there could be life here—make for a suspenseful story, it’s also strangely optimistic.

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1) Metropolis
From the youngest movie on this list to the oldest. Look, Metropolis is a classic, and there’s a reason for that. It’s a stunning movie, and one that’s surprisingly modern for being nearly a century old. Brigitte Helm’s weird facial expressions and funky dance moves have no expiration date. And the version on Netflix, Metropolis Restored, even has that new footage that was found in Argentina. Everyone should see it at least once.

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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • katyushaRocket

    "Biblical movie with a buncha white people."

    Who knew that racism was so prevalent on this site? But seriously, "The American Astronaut" needs an honorable mention.

  • Scorptilicus

    I'm glad I've seen a good number of these. Easier to finish the list.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    Thank you for this! I love these kinds of movies. I've seen Monsters, Europa Report, Upstream Colour, Donnie Darko and Safety Not Guaranteed so really looking forward to the others.

    Really agree with Europa Report too, so glad to see it on this list! I actually didn't know it was a found footage movie going in, actually had no idea what it was about. Just mildly scary (like Dr. Who scary) but really good.

  • Parsnip

    And this is why I love this site. Some great suggestions, thank you.

  • BarbadoSlim

    Truth be told I still can't make heads or tails out of Darko but after looking oit at Southland Tales Im really digging what Kelly is trying to flesh out in all his weird universe.

  • Berry

    I haven't even seen Iron Sky, which makes me a bad Finn. They're probably coming to take my passport away as we speak. I wonder if they'd let me keep it if I promised to see the Rare Export guy's latest with Samuel L. Jackson?

    Edited *insert a ragey comment about Rebecca daring to leave District 9 off the list here*

  • The Host, Troll Hunter and Monsters are gifts that keep giving. Fun fare, done in the right spirit of crafted entertainment. Europa Report is very good, but not sure I'd watch again. Alright, damn it, I'll make Upstreanm Color a priority.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Pretty darn great list.

    Upstream Color is one of those rare films where even if I can't exactly put into words what it's all about it still resonated deeply with me on a personal level and I can only encourage you to seek the same experience, even though there's a great chance of you telling me that it's just a vague art project.

    At its core, and without dismantling the mechanics of the plot (mind-controlling parasites, sampling the sounds of the universe, pigs, Henry David Thoreau), I would say that it's one of the most mature portrayals of an adult relationship that I've ever seen and how people are sometimes not compatible with each other. Though the beauty of it is that you might have a completely different interpretation than mine given its lyrical approach, and it would be absolutely valid as well. It's the sort of movie that could be about everything and without an ounce of pretentiousness.

    If I had to describe it I would say it's sort of a maximalist Rorschach's test, you can see as far as willing to read into it.

  • John W

    I need to get Metropolis, it's been awhile since I've seen it.
    Antiviral was pretty good.
    Troll Hunter was real good.
    The Host was awesome.
    Donnie Darko was awesome.
    Safety Not Guaranteed was awesome.
    Pi was real good.
    Monsters was awesome.
    Have not seen Europa Report or Upstream Color.

    Iron Sky sucked.

  • BWeaves

    The newly restored Metropolis is fantastic. And the footage that isn't found has at least been replaced with still photos and a description of the bit that's missing, so you almost get the complete movie as it was originally seen.

    Mostly, I just like to make up my own dialog, as certain parts of this movie cry out for Lord of the Rings references (the hero is named Fredo) or classic Star Trek references (there's a character I call Scotty down in engineering). Also, see through ladies clothing in a few early scenes. In other words, BYOOBS!

  • BWeaves

    Brandon Cronenberg’s (progeny of David) Antiviral . . . about a future in which average Joes and Janes infect themselves with viruses of infected celebrities in order to feel close to them,

    Getting herpes has never been so romantic.

  • Loved Troll Hunter. I loved the idea that the hunter himself wants to show you because he's fed up with his shitty gig but the government wants it all kept quiet. And foreign death metal is always cool.

    I saw Europa Report and Monsters back to back. Of the two, ER is the better because it has a thorough line and it sticks with it. And I dug that it's not necessarily interested in an "astronauts run from monsters" idea but "if you're going to go into space, it's a dangerous thing." Monsters was cuter, but it all depends on your patience to unfold. I could see people getting hella fed up with the meetcute photog and the blonde girl -- specially after they fight and miss their boat.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    I had a completely different reaction watching Europa Report and Monsters, but I see what you mean. Though ER asks what is the cost of unveiling the mysteries of the universe through a no return expedition and its scientific implications, I simply did not care for those questions because I wasn't invested in the characters.

    Whereas I was so engrossed and captivated by the character interactions and the naturalistic performances in Monsters that I was no longer interested in the sci-fi part of it. It was sort of "Before Sunrise" meets "Godzilla" and damn did I love it, that final scene at the gas station was just masterfully executed. Although I did read a short review that made me chuckle: "dude, it's a chick flick".

  • Joe Grunenwald

    I should probably give Donnie Darko another try. I've watched it multiple times and while it has some really great performances, and my wife and I regularly tell each other to "go suck a fuck", I found the whole thing to be really full of itself. It doesn't help that everyone I knew in college swore up and down that it was the greatest movie of all time and then I watched it and it made no sense, and when I told them that it made no sense they acted like I was an imbecile. Which I might be, but that's not the point. My point is I knew shitty people in college.

  • Parsnip

    Donnie Darko is a favourite of my but I think I understand where you're coming from. When ET came out it was endlessly raved about, so much so it completely put me off from seeing it. Finally, after many years, I ended up watching it when it came on the telly, I was able to enjoy it, could see why it's universally loved, but it's not a movie I've repeatedly watched.

  • If it's makes you feel any better, I had the same reaction to 'Donnie Darko' and got the same reactions from people who had sworn to me that it was the greatest movie ever.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    I'm glad it wasn't just me. And the reactions just served to make me dislike the movie even more. I bet I could enjoy it now that I'm far enough away from it.

  • Maguita NYC

    Donnie Darko was at the time just perfectly f*cked up and made us sit up and notice one hot Jakey!

    ... Just trying to find an excuse really to post my favorite pic of Jakey. I haven't watched DD in ages, so I can't really say if it held up with time.
    And I apologize for those who are losing their panties and underwear upon looking at this fineness.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Ummm, not to rub it in, but Sunshine, Attack the Block and Moon are all on Canuckflix. You lose again, 'Murica.

  • Berry

    Attack the Block is on Euroflix too, the other two aren't. You win some, you lose some. Although Attack the Block is a pretty big win, if you ask me.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Attack the Block and Moon yes, Sunshine no, I think it got pulled recently. And unfortunately, most of Rebecca's picks are not available on Canuckflix, which sux.

  • emmalita

    I'm going to pout now, because I really wanted to watch Attack the Block the other night and couldn't.

  • Ian Fay

    Upstream Color was amazing, but I was so unsettled by it after watching it I had to re-watch Pitch Perfect just to relax.

  • NateMan

    I for one really enjoyed Troll Hunter. It was funny and freak in roughly equal measure, and hte matter-of-factness with which they approached it was highly entertaining.

  • JustOP

    I was bored to death by the end of Troll Hunter - but that may be my own fault as it apparently has a lot of social commentary on scandinavian culture that completely flew over my head. The film may as well been called 'Driving Around Scandinavian Scenery', because that's pretty much all I remember.

    The Host is pretty awesome though.

  • foca9

    As a Norwegian, I can confirm this. I loved Troll Hunter, and it's maybe one of my favourite films, at least Norwegian ones, but you're right, you'll miss a lot of the references to Norwegian (and to a lesser extent Scandinavian) culture, myths, society, and so on, which are an important part of it.

  • BWeaves

    See, now that sort of thing would make a good DVD commentary.

  • emmalita

    I think we should have a Troll Hunter watch party where we synchronize our watches and you explain the references we miss.

  • lowercase_ryan

    awesome list. I can't wait.

  • Jim

    Iron Sky is a laugh riot but you feel they're laughing along with you. That and The Host I highly recommend. Upstream Colour ... well. I didn't "get" it but I didn't get Primer either so no one should be surprised.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    I think I got Upstream Colour, but I might be wrong. I thought it was about interconnected-ness, drug/people/pigs/flower. I weirdly loved it, but there's no way I could explain it to someone who hasn't see int.

  • Jim

    We saw it in an almost empty high-end rep cinema, maybe a dozen people. A couple sat a few seats to my left - they seemed normal when they sat down but throughout the film, the fellow would say things like "Yes!" or "Right!" when characters said something he obviously agreed with. He's always laugh at times when nothing was really happening.

    High or listening to baseball on his iPod? You be the judge.

  • doctormew19

    I didn't "get" Upstream Colour either... but it is really beautifully shot, so the recommendation to go in not expecting a coherent storyline with any actual meaning is a good way to approach the film... wish I had that forethought I probably would have felt less like I wasted my time.

  • DataAngel

    And this is how I learned that "Alphaville" isn't available on Netflix Streaming.

  • The Last Days of Mars is streaming on there now, too. I haven't seen it yet, so I'm not saying it should be included, but it's sci-fi with Liev Schrieber. So, yeah.

    Good list!

  • CherryTraylingrif

    my Aunty
    Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  • Berry

    Liar. We all know Allison is currently in rehab.

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