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Home / Features / The 25 best sci-fi movies and TV shows on Netflix

The 25 best sci-fi movies and TV shows on Netflix

From space adventures to mind-expanding drama, we've found the best sci-fi for streaming. Updated for February 2023

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Kyo Ra as Rose Walker in episode 108 of The Sandman. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022

Look at the sci-fi of years gone by, and among all the shiny rocketships and teleporters, there’s one thing that they didn’t predict: streaming video at the touch of a button. Fortunately, we live in Earth Year 2022, where we have such things as Netflix; no longer are we bound by the tyranny of the DVD shelf. But with so many films and TV shows available on the service, how do you whittle it all down? Here’s our guide to the best sci-fi on Netflix.

With our help, of course: we’ve picked out the best sci-fi on Netflix, from mind-bending time travel flicks to big-budget action.

The Sandman (S1)

There have been several abortive efforts to adapt Neil Gaiman’s beloved comic book series for the screen, but Netflix’s millions have finally made it happen.

Bottling the appeal of this dark fantasy tale of metaphysics, gods and dreams in a TV series can’t have been easy, but the makers have actually pulled it off (to be fair, having Gaiman himself involved in the production has probably helped no end). The Sandman is a bewitching and entertaining series with fantastic visuals, a dark adult-oriented tone and compelling plotlines.

Watch The Sandman on Netflix

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (S1)

Anime and cyberpunk have gone hand-in-hand for decades, thanks to classic films like Ghost in the Shell and Akira, the latter of which was released in 1988, the same year as Mike Pondsmith’s influential tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020. Developer CD Projekt Red would swap pen-and-paper for polygons over 30 years later; now things have come full circle with spinoff series Edgerunners.

You don’t need to have played the game to enjoy it, thanks to an all-new cast of characters, but the way it reimagines locations from Cyberpunk 2077 is a treat for those that have. It’s uncompromisingly gory in places, and visually stunning in others courtesy of Japanese animation team Studio Trigger. It can be seriously bleak too, but there’s a relatable story behind the dystopian setting. A must for genre fans.

Watch Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (S1) on Netflix

The Hunger Games

Set in a future USA where randomly picked ‘tributes’ must fight each other to the death in an annual televised gladiatorial event known as the Hunger Games, this young adult adaptation manages to balance its teen-friendly elements with some (slightly) harder-edged social commentary and sci-fi pondering.

Even if it’s not based around the most original of concepts (Battle Royale, anyone?) and often strays into some quite cheesy territory, this movie is slickly made, emotionally charged and exciting eye fodder that makes ideal family viewing.

Watch The Hunger Games on Netflix


A ‘first contact’ film in which the aliens don’t shoot first and ask questions later, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is cut from the same high-quality cloth as Interstellar or Contact. Think lofty, intelligent, character-driven sci-fi full of interesting concepts, “aha!” plot twists and big emotional payoffs. Independence Day this ain’t – and it’s all the better for it.

Amy Adams is typically superb as the linguistic expert brought in by a frantic US government when several alien craft rock up on Earth. Can she decode the extra-terrestrials’ image-based language, find out what they’re looking for and possibly avert a catastrophic human-versus-alien conflict? You may guess the answers, but you’ll likely find yourself sideswiped by the ending anyway.

Watch Arrival on Netflix


A crew of astronauts on the ISS, rendezvousing with a satellite carrying soil samples from Mars, are understandably over the moon (no pun intended) when they discover microscopic signs of life within. Joy quickly turns to disquiet when the organism, dubbed “Calvin”, turns out to be intelligent, resourceful, capable of rapid growth and absolutely determined to stay alive – no matter the cost to its hosts.

It’s b-movie stuff at heart, but with a strong cast (including Ryan Reynolds, Jack Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson), superb visual effects and some disturbing twists and turns, this tense creature feature doesn’t disappoint.

Watch Life on Netflix

In the Shadow of the Moon

This sci-fi thriller that has all the makings of a hot mess: time travel, serial killers and melting brains. Against all odds, it manages to pull its various strings together to create a surprisingly satisfying and emotionally charged whole as a Philadelphia cop (Boyd Holbrook) investigates a spate of seemingly unconnected but startlingly similar murders

If you’re into noirish, mind-bending movies (think Looper or Inception), it’s well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Watch In the Shadow of the Moon on Netflix

Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to Ridley Scott’s visionary cyberpunk thriller was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Blade Runner 2049 is up there with the most visually arresting movies ever made; Sir Roger Deakins’ cinematography brings director Denis Villeneuve’s nightmarish vision of a future California to vivid life.

The film as a whole doesn’t land quite as flawlessly as its visuals. At nigh-on three hours it’s too ponderous for its own good, despite retaining the original Blade Runner’s spirit through a mix of exhilarating action sequences, philosophical meditations and well-drawn characters – including some familiar faces. It’s all tied together in a decent detective yarn, with our hero – Ryan Gosling’s latest-gen replicant – seeking answers to a deadly mystery.

Watch Blade Runner 2049 on Netflix

Stranger Things (S1-4)

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.

A drama series (now two seasons strong) 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

Star Trek: The Next Generation (S1-7)

With Paramount+ poised to arrive, any form of Star Trek on Netflix may have a limited lifespan – so we suggest subscribers who want to experience the beloved franchise at its best dive into The Next Generation as soon as possible.

This classic second outing of the Enterprise, with Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard in the captain’s seat, is Star Trek at its most effective and, well, Star Trekky: it’s not overly action-packed, it’s properly episodic in structure and it focusses on exploring interesting plots and situations rather than the crew’s interpersonal relationships (although these certainly get explored as the series progresses). For better or worse, we’re unlikely to ever see another series like it.

Watch Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix

Love, Death & Robots (S1-3)

Like androids, ultra-violence and philosophising about intelligence, free will and the very meaning of life itself? This collection of adult animated sci-fi tales packs all of the above and more. It also showcases an impressively broad swathe of animation styles, and the short length of the films (they’re all between seven and 18 minutes) means you can binge watch your way through the whole collection in no time at all.

Watch Love, Death & Robots on Netflix

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Sometimes sci-fi is concerned with aliens, killer robots, laser beams and men in silly costumes waving giant glow-sticks at each other; at other times, it’s about creating a vision of the near future, or even a parallel present, that’s close enough to our reality to properly sting. This is one from the latter pile.

Eternal Sunshine is mostly a modern love story, the inspired twist being that in this world you can pay to have all memories of a specific person erased from your mind. It’s complicated and clever but ultimately warm and honest; most impressively of all, it’s got Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in it and you don’t want to slap either of them.

Watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on Netflix


Directed by Rian Johnson (who went on upset lots of fanboys with Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Looper is a mind-bending time travel action-thriller about an assassin (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose job consists of putting a bullet in the head of people teleported back to his timeline by a mob organisation from the future. Still with us?

It’s a lucrative gig, but when the poor sap that appears before him is his own future self (played by Bruce Willis), things get a bit complicated. The intricate plot is complimented by plenty of action and strong performances from all, although Gordon-Levitt’s Willis-like prosthetic nose can be a little distracting at first.

Watch Looper on Netflix

Squid Game (S1)

Subtitle-haters, you’re missing out if you choose to avoid this dark drama series on account of it being Korean (yes, you can watch it dubbed into English, but that just feels so utterly wrong). The gripping story of a sadistic life-or-death game show and the effects it has on its desperate contestants – each of whom willingly signed away their “bodily rights” for the prospect of a fat winner’s cheque – Squid Game has already become not only one of Netflix’s most popular foreign language series, but its most popular debut series full stop.

Watch Squid Game on Netflix


District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s big budget debut doesn’t disappoint. When a downtrodden factory worker (Matt Damon) suffers a lethal dose of radiation on the job, his only chance of avoiding a painful death is to get to one of the miraculous Med-Bays used by the upper classes. The problem being that the wealthy and powerful have abandoned Earth – (it’s polluted, overcrowded and downright hellish) for a luxurious orbital space station – and they’re not about to let any old pauper in to use the facilities. Come for the spectacular visuals, stay for the scathing political message.

Watch Elysium on Netflix


Arguably the movie kicked off the West’s ongoing obsession with anime and manga, this Japanese cyberpunk classic – a tale of teenage biker gangs, political upheaval and creepy wizened psychic children played out against the backdrop of crumbling megalopolis Neo-Tokyo – remains eminently compelling over three decades after its release. The hand-painted animation is stunning, the grimy dystopian setting evocative and the soundtrack unforgettable. Very few animated movies have aged as well as Akira, or proved as influential. Our advice: watch it now, before Hollywood’s upcoming live action remake inevitably ruins everything.

Watch Akira on Netflix

Love and Monsters

A fun, family-friendly adventure set in a post-apocalyptic USA might seem tonally off, but this colourful, fast-paced and involving flick gets almost everything right. Seven years after an event caused cold-blooded animals to swiftly evolve into huge monsters, shifting human right down the food chain, cowardly but loveable Joel decides to leave the relative safety of his bunker to find the girlfriend he hasn’t seen in the best part of a decade. Between the pair lies 80 miles of predator-infested wilderness – and that’s assuming the hapless lad can even point himself in the right direction. What follows is an enjoyable 90 minutes of strong character-building, breathless action, surprisingly well-written romance and laughs that’ll keep you and your kids glued to the screen.

Watch Love and Monsters on Netflix

Neon Genesis Evangelion (S1)

Giant robots fighting giant monsters might seem like an anime cliché, but Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s more nuanced approach to the mecha genre has established it as one of Japan’s most beloved cult phenomena. The series revolves around three teenagers who pilot the Evas, towering robots that may be humanity’s last hope against a race of mysterious and otherwise unstoppable creatures called “angels”. But the fights are far from the most interesting thing going on here – it’s the complex characters and rarely explored themes that elevate Neon Genesis Evangelion to the level of classic anime.

As well as the series, Netflix includes the two feature-length movies that conclude the story.

Watch Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix

The Umbrella Academy (S1-3)

Based on the award-winning comics series created by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, this dark fantasy series about a dysfunctional, squabbling family of superheroes – including Ellen Page and Robert Sheehan – comes off like a mash-up of The X-Men, Hellboy, Misfits and Skins.

Fifteen years after drifting apart, six unconventional siblings must reunite to save their world (an alternate reality Earth in which JFK was never assassinated) from impending apocalypse – not to mention contend with a sociopathic hitwoman played by R&B legend Mary J. Blige.

Watch The Umbrella Academy on Netflix

Dark (S1-3)

In the mood for a lazy comparison? Then Dark is the German version of Stranger Things: both follow a group of kids trying to unravel a supernatural mystery; both feature a missing child and frantic parents; both are set (at least partly) in the ’80s. And both are really, really good TV shows.

But there the similarities end, because Dark is, as the name might suggest, a somewhat more difficult watch than its US counterpart (and not just because of those German subtitles). This is a complicated, surprising series that delights in constantly pulling the rug out from under you just when you think you know what’s going on; it’ll leave you with brain-ache at times. It’s also seriously gruesome and really puts its characters through the emotional wringer. Don’t let that put you off though, because this is one Netflix Original you don’t want to miss.

Watch Dark on Netflix

Colony (S1-3)

Earth has been invaded by extraterrestrials, and they’re not here to do a spot of sightseeing. With much of the world destroyed, the remaining population live in locked-down cities patrolled by human collaborators who’ve quickly worked out that the best way to survive is to take the aliens’ side.

In short, it’s 1940s occupied France transplanted to 21st century Los Angeles, complete with secret tunnels, resistance groups and family members finding themselves on different sides of the fence. The story’s not particularly original, perhaps, but it is frequently gripping and raises plenty of interesting questions about how you’d behave in similar circumstances.

Watch Colony on Netflix


Writer-director Alex Garland’s follow-up to the dazzling Ex Machina had a tricky inception. Originally slated for release in cinemas worldwide, in the end its studio Paramount granted it only a limited US theatrical release, with the rest of the world getting their first chance to see it on Netflix. Why? Because they likely figured it’d flop in cinemas, being chilly, complex and brainy; right or wrong, big studios don’t credit the average filmgoer with much intellectual curiosity.

Don’t let Paramount’s disappointing decision deter you from watching it, though. This is one of the most accomplished and interesting science fiction movies of recent years – a visually and sonically outstanding film that’ll leave you with more questions than answers, but enough clues to work everything out too.

When an unexplained “shimmer” engulfs a tract of land in the southeastern United States, then starts growing, authorities are confused and powerless to stop it. Everything and everybody they send inside disappears, never to return – with one exception. When Natalie Portman’s biologist finds herself personally drawn into the mystery, she joins a team venturing into the Shimmer and slowly uncovers the shocking truth.

Watch Annihilation on Netflix

The Cloverfield Paradox

This third entry in J.J. Abrams’ burgeoning Cloverfield franchise is an entertaining (if perhaps ultimately forgettable) sci-fi thriller in much the same vein as Danny Boyle’s Sunshine: an international group of scientists is sent into space to harness an unlimited power source that can save the Earth from famine, war and ultimate extinction – and, wouldn’t you know it, things don’t go as planned. At all. We’re far too kind to spoil anything, but The Cloverfield Paradox also links up nicely with the other two Cloverfield movies, and paves the way for even more new additions to the series.

Watch The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix

Altered Carbon (S1-2)

This glossy, gory cyber-noir takes us 300-odd years into the future, where Earth has become an overpopulated, dirty, decadent, neon-lit Bladerunner-esque mess – but outright death is a rarity.

That’s because (due to some alien tech discovered off-world) everybody can have their consciousness digitally backed up in a “stack”, a disc-shaped computer stored where the skull meets the spine. Flattened by a lorry? No probs: the paramedics can pop out your stack and – provided it hasn’t been smashed – put it in safe storage until a new body (or “sleeve” in the show’s vernacular) is available. But it’s far from a deathless utopia: rampant capitalism has ensured that only the wealthy can afford decent sleeves, with downtrodden proles being kept in storage for decades or transferred into the first available body, regardless of its suitability.

Into this grave new world comes our hard-boiled hero Takeshi Kovacs, released from prison and dropped into a snazzy, buffed-up Joel Kinnaman-shaped sleeve after a couple of centuries on ice. Why has Kovacs been brought back from the dead after so long? In order to solve a murder, of course – a mystery that the insanely wealthy victim (who’s now reincarnated in a new cloned sleeve, natch) believes only Kovacs’ unique skills can unravel.

Watch Altered Carbon on Netflix

Rick and Morty (S1-5)

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 all four 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

3% (S1-4)

This Brazilian series presents an intriguing concept: a world where the lucky few live in an Earthly paradise of gleaming spires and incredible technology, inhabited by beautiful people eating the best food and enjoying free healthcare – while the other 97% of the population reside in slums. Yes, it’s Broken Britain 2018. Ahem.

To gain entrance to this paradise, poor plebs must pass a series of gruelling tests designed to separate the wheat from the chaff; it’s this process that the first season of 3% follows. It quickly goes very Battle Royale, with factions forming and alliances breaking as the desperate teens compete to earn themselves a better life.

If it all sounds a bit YA fiction, don’t worry: 3% is a superior take on the genre, thanks to some well-rounded characters and a few genuine surprises.

Watch 3% on Netflix