Netflix surprised sci-fi fans on Sunday night by dropping big news: The Cloverfield Paradox would be streaming on their service, immediately after the Super Bowl. Dropping the title out of nowhere like they’re Beyoncé, Netflix tried to lead with bravado. But Bey they ain’t. Those who gave into the frenzy and watched this Cloverfield spinoff have been underwhelmed, to say the least. If you’re looking for better science-fiction to wash away the stank of The Cloverfield Paradox’s shoddy action, confusing plot, and eyeroll-inducing ending, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s the best sci-fi titles now available on Netflix.
Europa Report (Watch it here.) Want a spacestation-set thriller that’s actually thrilling? Check out this underseen gem from 2013. Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, and Embeth Davidtz star as an international crew of astronauts, tasked with investigating signs of life on Jupiter’s 4th moon. In his review, Steven declared, “Europa Report is everything I want out of my hard science fiction. It takes the science seriously, grounds it within the constraints of the real world and then wraps those ideas around human drama.”
Men In Black (Watch it here.) Want to have fun with aliens? Revisit Barry Sonnenfeld’s wild action-comedy about a streetwise cop (Will Smith) who joins a buttoned-up government agent (Tommy Lee Jones) on a mission to track down a dangerous extraterrestrial. It’s just as entertaining and delightfully weird as you remember. And come on, that theme song’s already stuck in your head, isn’t it?
Metropolis (Watch it here.) Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent epic is set in a distant future where the rich woefully oppress the poor, and a robotic woman has the power to throw their world into absolute chaos. As Rebecca put it,”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.”
Monsters (Watch it here.) Before Gareth Edwards was helming Godzilla and Rogue One, the English director made his daring debut with a gritty indie about a jaded photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) and a rattled American tourist (Whitney Able) traversing a war-torn Mexico, rife with invading aliens. In his review, TK offered, “That journey is a fascinating one, and what’s perhaps most striking about Monsters is that it is very much not a monster movie, but more an emotionally-based sociopolitical road movie — that has monsters in it…It’s a carefully thought-out, introspective piece that takes its look at interpersonal relationships and geopolitics with surprising gentleness.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Watch it here.) This prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope follows thief-turned-rebel Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her band of misfits on a mission to secure information that could help the Alliance take down the Empire. In his review, Steven raved, “Rogue One is the epiphany of what Star Wars can be. It is dark and inhabits every area of moral grey to tell its story. It’s a tragic story and one well told of a universe that feels huge and rich, recapturing on a larger scale that feeling from the Mos Eisley Cantina that we were only glimpsing a fraction of a real and vibrant universe.”
Never Let Me Go (Watch it here.) Mark Romanek’s tender adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel (Blue Harvest) is a tale of cloning and organ harvesting told with a breathtaking tenderness. Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley, and Andrew Garfield star as three friends trapped in a love triangle, and painfully aware of how every day is a gift. Sci-fi is rarely this subtle and romantic. And Romanek crafts a soul-rattling yet satisfying tearjerker out of Ishiguro’s unnerving concept.
Okja (Watch it here.) Writer/director Bong Joon-ho brings us the story of a determined little girl named Mija, and Okja, the genetically-engineered super pig she loves like a sibling. So when a perky industrialist (SWINTON) and a manic TV personality (Jake Gyllenhaal) abduct her beloved animal pal, Mija (An Seo Hyun), will stop at nothing to get her back. In her review, Kristy raved, “Okja offers escapism with a generous dose of politics that makes it fascinating, funky, and fabulous. It’s not for all ages. It’s not for everyone. But to those craving something strange and daring, Okja is a gamble worth taking.”
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Watch it here.) The MCU’s rag-tag team of heroes is back in action. There are epic space battles, sprawling fight scenes, and Kurt Russell with stellar hair as an out-of-this-world dad. But the real standout was Baby Groot. As Hannah noted, “Baby Groot totally steals Guardians of the Galaxy 2, whether he is dancing to “Mr Blue Sky,” eating popcorn in a crisis, or trying not to press the death button, but my favourite moment has to be when Groot tries really hard to fetch the fin. This is essentially just a montage of Groot being cute and not too bright, but the comic timing is flawless, as are the reactions from Yondu and Rocket, veering from bemused to frustrated to horrified.”
Chappie (Watch it here.)Director Neil Blomkamp gave us a Short Circuit for the new millennium. Sharlto Copley as the titular robot who becomes self-aware while palling around with Afrikaans rap duo Die Antwoord. In his mixed review TK grapples, “Chappie is tragic, amidst all of its gleeful, tongue-in-cheek humor and wondrous, wide-eyed awe. Its lows are brutal and unexpected, and there are moments of savage cruelty and viciousness that were totally unexpected. Copley’s depiction of Chappie himself is its own kind of seat-gripping terror, because when Chappie feels fear, it is fear, base and primal and gut-clenching. When he feels hurt, it is heartbreaking. It’s a solid depiction of artificial intelligence actually learning and feeling, and doing it with a terrible honesty, that I’ve seen on film.”
Armageddon (Watch it here.) You don’t want to close your eyes. You don’t want to fall asleep, you don’t want to miss one single moment of Michael Bay’s over-the-top odyssey about Bruce Willis’s band of gruff but lovable deep core drillers, who are destined to save the planet from a Texas-sized asteroid on a collision course with Earth. TK declares, “I fucking love that movie, I don’t care. I literally do not care about criticism of it, no matter how valid. It’s mawkish and manipulative and stupid and hole-ridden and I DO NOT CARE. I own the Criterion version. When it comes out on 4K, I will own that version too.”
Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.