The 8 Best Sci-fi Movies on Netflix to Stream in 2022!
Science fiction is the favorite genre of many of us at Paste. And Netflix has gotten better at sci-fi movies in the last year, so they now have several of our 8 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time.
Streaming films like Okja and Looper from the 21st century, as well as Netflix originals like Project Power, is some of the best in the library. And of course, you should always watch Blade Runner when you can. It’s an exciting time for speculative fiction, whether you’re looking for aliens, superheroes, space travel, technological dangers, or imaginative glimpses into the future.
You can also check out all of our What to Watch on Netflix guides, which are updated each month.
1. Blade Runner
- Year: 1982
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edgar James Olmos
- Rating: R
- Runtime: 117 minutes
In the same way that The Road Warrior set the look and feel for many post-apocalyptic movies that came after it, Ridley Scott’s grim, wet, and crowded Blade Runner did the same for pre-apocalyptic dystopias. But he also had Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, and a bunch of other actors who brought this Philip K. Dick-inspired story about a replicant policeman who retires to gritty, believable life.
Underneath the film’s impressive set design and great performances is a thought-provoking meditation on the underlying loneliness of the human (and maybe not-so-human) condition that continues to resonate (and inspire new works, like Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049) to this day.
- Year: 2010
- Director: Christopher Nolan
- Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger
- Rating: PG-13
- Runtime: 148 minutes
The “it was all a dream” twist is one of the most annoying in the history of movies (notable exceptions like The Wizard of Oz aside). With Inception, director Christopher Nolan makes a thrilling, high-octane sci-fi drama in which the main idea isn’t just a plot device but the whole story. The plot and visuals move at a steady, measured pace, and Nolan regular Wally Pfister’s beautiful, on-location cinematography from all over the world shows near-obsessive attention to detail.
The movie ends and plays out like a clockwork beast, with each small detail coming together to make a huge whole. Nolan’s movies and Inception’s exploration of dreams have the same goal: to give us a simulation that plays with our ideas of what is real. As that, and as a summer popcorn movie, Inception does a great job.
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It leaves us with images and memories that tug and twist our perceptions, daring us to wonder if we really understand it or if we’re just half-remembering a dream. Andrei Tarkovsky wrote a book called “Sculpting in Time” about how he thought about making movies. Christopher Nolan, on the other hand, doesn’t build things, he takes them apart.
He makes movies to break up time so he can put it back together in any way he wants. Tarkovsky was a spiritual person, and his films showed how poetic transcendence can be. As a rationalist, Nolan wants to cheat both time and death. His movies don’t always talk about death head-on, but they do show it. What Nolan is able to show more powerfully is the weight of time and how fragile and short-lived our hold on life is. In Nolan’s movies, time is always running out.
A ticking clock is a common theme, and Hans Zimmer, who has worked with Nolan for many years, used it literally in the scores for Interstellar and Dunkirk. Nolan rebels against the way time work, and the film is his weapon, his tool, the paradox stairs or mirror-upon-mirror of Inception. He comes up with and builds film structures that show how tight time is but also offer a way out.
In Inception, the dream world is made up of different layers, and the deeper you go into your subconscious, the more time seems to stretch out. If you could go deep enough, you could live in your mind’s bottomless pit for as long as you want. “To sleep, perhaps to dream” is the closest Nolan has ever come to touching the afterlife.
- Year: 2013
- Director: Spike Jonze
- Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
- Rating: R
- Runtime: 126 minute
Spike Jonze had too much talent to be stuck in MTV’s orbit. This was clear as soon as his first feature-length film, Being John Malkovich, got him an Oscar nomination for Best Director. After that small postmodern masterpiece, he and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman took the hilariously off-kilter Adaptation as the next step in their journey into solipsism.
Kaufman’s screenplays are hard, but also fun and easy to understand. Jonze’s Her answers any questions about whether those two movies’ (well-deserved) success came only from Kaufman’s words. He pulls off one of the hardest things to do in filmmaking: a beautiful, deep romance dressed up in sci-fi clothes.
It does this by keeping the best parts of Malkovich’s quirky characters, psychosexuality, and hard-wrung pathos. Jonze’s latest movie is one of the best of 2013. It has amazing sets and cinematography, and Joaquin Phoenix delivers some of the best lines of the year. It also shows that, like Her, the director has everything he or she needs.
- Year: 2017
- Director: Bong Joon-ho
- Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, An Seo Hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je Moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Woo Shik Choi, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal
- Rating: NR
- Runtime: 118 minutes
Okja takes more creative risks in its first five minutes than most movies do in their entire runtime, and it doesn’t stop there. Some critics and audiences, especially in the West, seem to have a hard time with the movie’s tone, which seems to jump from sadness to suspense to giddy action to whimsy to horror to whatever Jake Gyllenhaal is doing.
But this is a big part of what makes Bong Joon-ho films: They are nuanced and complicated, but not exactly subtle or understated. They pay attention to details, but they don’t treat things with care. They all have different goals, which they bring together to make music.
They are creative works that build momentum by switching between parts and their opposites, and Okja may be the best example yet of how rhythmically the tone of a Bong film swings like a pendulum. Okja is also not a movie about veganism. Instead, it asks how we can find integrity and, most of all, how we can be kind to all living things, including people.
Okja’s answers are simple and important, and even though it doesn’t say them out loud, it helps you hear them for yourself because it asks all the right questions in a way that is very interesting.
- Year: 2012
- Director: Rian Johnson
- Stars: Bruce Willis, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan
- Rating: R
- Runtime: 118 minutes
Joseph-Gordon Levitt plays a younger version of Bruce Willis by letting out his inner badass. With the help of CGI and prosthetics, he nails Willis’s signature action presence. Rian Johnson, the writer and director of “Blade Runner,” makes the best case on film for the saying, “If time travel is illegal, only criminals will be able to do it!”
He does this by treating the technology as a given and focusing instead on the dramatic situations that would happen when people used it. The result is one of the most exciting movies about time travel in the last few decades. It combines its paradoxes with a story about whether or not people can really change.
- Year: 1997
- Director: Andrew Niccol
- Stars: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law, Loren Dean, Ernest Borgnine
- Rating: PG-13
- Runtime: 106 minutes
Andrew Niccol’s 1997 movie is less about gadgets and special effects and more about characters you care about. It’s about a near-future where almost all children are made in labs and genetically changed to fix any mental or physical “imperfections.” Vincent, played by Ethan Hawke, is a “God child” who was born naturally and is therefore irreparably flawed.
Vincent goes to a DNA broker for help and takes on a new identity that is genetically better so that he can pursue his career goals. The movie is built in an archetypal way, and it uses a beautiful orchestral score by veteran composer Michael Nyman (The Piano) to create a mood that is both sad and thoughtful.
This is on top of excellent production design. Every visual part of the movie, from the saturation of the colors to the way the sounds are made, helps to create an atmosphere that is both familiar and strange, like those beings that are just one step away from being artificial.
- Year: 2021
- Director: Alexandre Aja
- Stars: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
- Rating: NR
- Runtime: 101 minutes
If you decide to watch the new sci-fi horror movie Oxygen while you’re watching Netflix and chilling, let me warn you: This movie isn’t what you think it is. Alexandre Aja, the well-known director of the New French Extremism film classic Haute Tension, is known for just that: being extreme. He isn’t afraid to put his characters in high-stakes, terrifying situations where the very fabric of their beings is at risk.
But Oxygen is different from the rest of his work because it is, in the end, a love letter to human survival. It is a horror show with a strong sense of catharsis. Melanie Laurent wakes up in a cryogenic chamber, but she doesn’t remember who she is or how she got there. The computer inside the pod, M.I.L.O. (Mathieu Amalric), tells her that she only has 33 percent of her oxygen reserve left.
We can only see the inside of this pod, so we have no idea where she is. Es goes without saying that getting out of there is very important.
8. Project Power
- Year: 2020
- Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
- Stars: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
- Rating: R
- Runtime: 111 minutes
Take a pill and for five minutes you’ll have a new superpower. It’s not the most original idea for a science fiction movie, but it should have been enough to set up a fun, if unremarkable, two hours on the couch. Even though Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jamie Foxx are usually very charismatic actors, they couldn’t save this dull story.
We don’t get to see a lot of people take the pill and get cool new powers. Instead, only about six people do. And while it’s nice to see a movie like this set in one of the most interesting cities in the U.S., even New Orleans doesn’t get much attention here.
The best parts of the movie are when Dominique Fishback, who plays Robin, is in the spotlight, whether she’s freestyling rap or making a connection with Art, who is played by Jamie Foxx as a damaged military test subject.