Life is short, so don’t waste time watching a bad movie. To keep you out of harms way, here are five sci-fi Netflix Recommendations that are totally worth a couple of hours. This isn’t just any list, though–to keep things spicy, I’ve broken the criteria into five distinct categories: box office bombs that deserved better, classic sci-fi, indie offerings, date night specials, and blockbusters.
Box Office Bomb That Deserved Better
In a future where emotions are suppressed by a drug pushing totalitarian government, an enforcement officer (Christian Bale) begins to resist the status quo and starts an all out war with the powers that be. Unfairly slighted as a Matrix rip-off, Equilibrium actually has more in common with classic dystopian literature like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. It isn’t a fantastic movie, but Equilibrium features a great cast (including Taye Diggs, Emily Watson and Sean Bean) and a fairly intelligent–if a little overstuffed–storyline. There’s also quite a bit of action, specifically in the form of martial arts (hence the Matrix comparisons), so those who need a little visceral pleasure with their cerebral entertainment should be effectively satisfied.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Day the Earth Stood Still tells the story of an alien visitor who has an important message for the nations of Earth. For film buffs, this one is no brainer. For everyone else: don’t let the black-and-white presentation fool you. The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made, containing an anti-war message in a format that set the standard for tons of films that came after it. Director Robert Wise would later go on to make The Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Political commentary runs deep in this debut film from director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), a story about two Americans trying to flee an alien-contaminated Mexico. Monsters is a compelling movie thanks to an original narrative, but it’s more notable for the ingenious techniques Edwards used despite having the tiniest of budgets. Read the full review here, and definitely give this one a try if thought-provoking, minimalistic sci-fi is your thing.
Date Night Special
Upside Down (2012)
Set in an alternate reality where two nearby planets share opposing gravitational points, Upside Down tells the story of two star-crossed lovers attempting to overcome the laws of physics and societal prejudice in an effort to be together. It’s absolutely a love story at heart, but Upside Down tackles some interesting themes–segregation and unchecked capitalism are big ones–all the while remaining solely grounded in the realms of speculative sci-fi.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
A vocal handful of hardcore trekkies claim that Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t deserve the franchise attribution, but don’t let them deter you away from experiencing this exciting and wildly entertaining sequel to J.J. Abrams 2009 reboot. Star Trek Into Darkness is an awesome movie with a spectacular villain and the greatest Trek cast since The Next Generation went off the air.