Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now (August 2021)

Science-fiction is arguably the best genre in the entire cinematic arena. It’s an incredibly flexible and encompassing field that allows writers, filmmakers, and actors to show off their creativity without being hampered by the confines of other genres. All sci-fi films can have elements of action, drama, romance, adventure, and mystery (with the best ones having a mixture of sub-genres) without blurring the lines; the same cannot always be said the other way around. In essence, science-fiction is a genre that offers something for everyone.

With that in mind, we’ve gone through the available sci-fi films that are currently streaming on Netflix to provide you with a range of movies for a variety of tastes. If you’re looking for something family-friendly to watch with the kids, or something action-packed to share with friends, or something unusual that you’ve never even heard of before, we’ve got you covered. We’ll update this list on the regular, so be sure to check back in as we rotate through the sci-fi films streaming on Netflix now!

We’ll be updating this list on a monthly basis as new titles become available.

Editor's Note: This post was most recently updated on August 27. Recent additions include Deep Blue Sea, Terminator 2, and Snowpiercer.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron and William Wisher

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Joe Morton

When it comes to fusing blockbuster action with sci-fi, James Cameron is one of the greats, and Terminator 2 is fittingly one of the best action movies, sci-fi movies, sequels - well, you get the gist, it’s just one of the best dang movies ever made. Following up his groundbreaking 1984 sci-fi film The Terminator, Cameron expanded his robot-apocalypse franchise with a sequel that brought back Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor years later. But he flipped the script, making the T-800 a protector of Connor and her now-teenage son, John (Edward Furlong). With his new big bad, Robert Patrick’s chilling T-1000, Cameron offered an even more terrifying human-hunter from the future - a shape-shifting, liquid metal design; embracing the real-world, behind-the-scenes science of cutting-edge FX tech to enhance his science-fiction storytelling. Decades (and many imitators) later, T2 still holds up as one of the best, most innovative sci-fi movies of all time. -Haleigh Foutch

Inception

Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine

Perhaps Christopher Nolan’s most striking, stirring film, Inception holds up more than a decade later as one of the great sci-fi films of our time. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, who leads a team of dream thieves hired for a bit of high-concept corporate espionage. Using their dream-sharing tech, Cobb’s team has a mission to implant an idea in a dying CEO’s subconscious, traveling through several of their own dreamscapes - dreams within dreams, each with their unique set of rules - along the way. From the slick visuals to the dilating perspectives of time, Inception reflects all of Nolan’s signature cinematic fascinations in their most cohesive, effective form. He builds a fascinating world out of the human mind along the way, making Inception one of the most compelling sci-fi stories of its era, not to mention one of the most technically accomplished. - Haleigh Foutch

Deep Blue Sea

Director: Renny Harlin

Writers: Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers, and Wayne Powers

Cast: Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, LL Cool J, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson

Deep Blue Sea may not be the best sci-fi movie on this list, but it definitely has one of my favorite sci-fi setups: a bunch of scientists in an underwater research lab accidentally create a trio of genetically modified super-smart sharks on their quest to cure Alzheimer’s. It’s a cheeky, cheesy riff on the Frankenstein archetype, directed by Renny Harlin to fuse the sci-fi/horror set-up with big-budget blockbuster action and a refreshingly upfront B-movie humor. It checks a lot of genre boxes, and does so with reckless abandon, delivering genuinely scary shark set-pieces, surprise deaths, big laughs, and explosive disaster movie action. - Haleigh Foutch

Snowpiercer

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writers: Bong Joon Ho and Kelly Masterson

Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, Ko Asung, John Hurt, Ed Harris

If you love Bong Joon Ho’s brilliant class warfare tragicomedy Parasite, you should definitely watch his 2013 genre-bender Snowpiercer. Set in an environmental apocalypse, on a train full of survivors speeding through the icy wastelands on an infinite loop, Snowpiercer investigates the same upstairs/downstairs dynamic but skews it through an escalated genre lens that elevates the class conflict to literal warfare. The folks who boarded the train’s economy section pre-apocalypse now starve in a post-apocalyptic slum, barely surviving, while those lucky enough to have been in the premium cabins feast and flourish in decadent disregard for the suffering next door. When the poorest citizens decide to fight their way to equity, battling cabin-to-cabin on a mission to take over the engine room, each new chamber offers a distinct look at the cruelties of upper-class indulgence, and Director Bong takes every opportunity to showcase it through his stunning and unconventional blend of style, story-telling, and sci-fi world-building. - Haleigh Foutch

Real Steel

Director: Shawn Levy

Writer: John Gatins

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand

Real Steel is one of those movies that it just seems like everyone likes. The film was never quite a critical or box office darling, but a crowd-pleaser to boot, the 2011 gem has endured as a crowd favorite that always seems to elicit enthusiasm whenever it comes up. And for good reason because it's a dang delight. Hugh Jackman stars as a deadbeat former boxer scrapping for cash in low-rent rings when he winds up with custody of his long-estranged young son. Learning to care about something other than himself and his bottom line, Jackman's character winds up back in the ring and rekindles his passion for the sport... but this ain't your dad's boxing movie, this is a robot boxing movie. Infusing all the underdog charm of a great sports movie with the childlike wonder of robots that go smash, Real Steel is just an old-fashioned good time at the movies. Speaking of old-fashioned, Stranger Things director and EP Shawn Levy directs, and fans of the hit Netflix series will find Reel Steel shares a similar passion for genre storytelling and Spielbergian throwbacks. - Haleigh Foutch

Jupiter Ascending

Directors/Writers: The Wachowskis

Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth

Even if you haven't seen Jupiter Ascending, you may be familiar with the wild sci-fi film thanks to Eddie Redmayne's quivering, screeching performance as the film's full-tilt diva space emperor, which has gone quasi-viral in the years since. Make no mistake, Redmayne's performance is a spectacle of great wonder and yes, the movie is worth watching for that element alone, but that's just but one of so many bizarre elements that make Jupiter Ascending such a fun and inventive sci-fi movie, even when it's not always completely successful in its ambitions. Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, a secret space princess who gets to escape her dreary life on Earth and soar away into space with Channing Tatum's Cain Wise, a sexy man-dog hybrid soldier who flies around on anti-gravity boots. That's honestly just scratching the surface of all the weird, wondrous, and often downright wonderful creativity and wtf-ery The Wachowskis bring to Jupiter Ascending, proving once again that the Sense8 and The Matrix filmmakers are among the most unique and innovative storytellers in the industry. - Haleigh Foutch

Synchronic

Directors: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Writer: Justin Benson

Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Ally Ioannides

The Endless and Spring filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return to cinema's strangest, scariest cinematic universe with Synchronic. With clever ties to their previous films, Synchronic further unfolds the wonders and the horrors sprung from a mysterious force manipulating the world in ways that ripple through time. In Synchronic, those ripples manifest in the form of a designer drug that's leaving behind a trail of inexplicable deaths and injuries, a pattern that quickly catches the attention of a BFF pair of paramedics (Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan). Synchronic establishes a compelling puzzle with striking, unnerving imagery and pays off ever step it takes to solve it with revelations that surprise, sometimes shock, and always up the stakes. Synchronic works just fine as a standalone film if you haven't seen Benson and Moorhead's previous work (though you should), but I have to admit, with each new film, I've grown consistently more intrigued by the sprawling, genre-building world they're building, and the obvious attention to detail they've put into their design from project to project. - Haleigh Foutch

RELATED: From 'The Endless' to 'Synchronic': How Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead Built the Trippiest Shared Universe

Oxygen

Director: Alexandre Aja

Writer: Christie LeBlanc

Cast: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi

Mélanie Laurent gives one of the most commanding and technically impressive acting performances of her career in Oxygen, the clever Netflix sci-fi thriller about a woman who wakes up in a futuristic medical pod with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or how to get out. And she's running out of oxygen. Directed by Crawl filmmaker Alexandre Aja, the tightly contained thriller manages to consistently ramp up the tension with each new reveal while expanding the world and the stakes of Laurent's fight to survive, even while trapped within the tiny confines of her chamber. The reveals usually aren't quite as surprising as the movie seems to think they are, but they do make for a twisty-turny survival movie that's tightly crafted enough to pull off the wild ride, and a full embrace of sci-fi storytelling that allows a movie that's almost entirely set in a small box to feel like a much bigger adventure. - Haleigh Foutch

Okja

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writers: Bong Joon Ho, Jon Ronson

Cast: Ahn Seo-Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Steven Yeun, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins

One of the highest-profile movies to hit Netflix but bypass a traditional theatrical rollout was Okja, Bong Joon Ho's follow up to 2013's Snowpiercer. It's an eviscerating takedown of both the modern agricultural industry and the intertwined science of genetic engineering. The story takes the science to extreme and, at times, ridiculous proportions and makes no attempt to portray beneficial real-world achievements in an equal light. However, the moral of the story is hard to miss: Humans who play God soon lose their very humanity.

Okja follows the title character, a genetically engineered super-animal raised naturally/organically in South Korea by caretaker Mija. Since Okja is the choicest of the bred animals, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation seeks to take back their property and study it exhaustively in order to recoup their investment and improve their stock, both agriculturally and financially. Mija does everything in her power to bring her friend back home, though animal rights activists, hired corporate muscle, and even the media will complicate matters. It's a tough watch at times, especially for those on the front lines of the fight for animal welfare, but it's a lesson worth repeating just the same. - Dave Trumbore

Freaks

Writers/Directors: Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, Amanda Crew, Lexy Kolker

I’m going to save one of the major things that wows me about Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein’s Freaks for the very end of this blurb because I would suggest jumping into this story knowing as little as possible. But, do know that this is one of the best character-driven sci-fi thrillers of 2019. The movie features a show-stopping performance from Lexy Kolker as seven-year-old Chloe. She’s spent her entire life completely isolated from the world inside her home with her father, Henry (Emile Hirsch). He’s always told her that the outside world is a dangerous place, but the older Chloe gets, the more tempted she becomes to venture out - and then she finally does. Okay, are you ready for that semi-spoilery detail to further emphasize how wildly impressive this film is? Here it goes; I love a good big-budget superhero film as much as anyone, but if you’re looking to see what can be accomplished with a limited budget in the genre, Freaks is an absolute must-see. It’s one of those movies that’ll have you leaning in more and more with its early curiosities before absolutely exploding with creativity as Chloe discovers more and more about her reality. - Perri Nemiroff

RELATED: 'Freaks' Filmmakers Break Down Their Innovative Superhero Sci-Fi Movie in 60-Minute Q&A

Total Recall

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Ronal Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, and Gary Goldman

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox

If you’re in the mood for a great throwback 80s/90s sci-fi actioner, you cannot possibly go wrong with Total Recall. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who suddenly finds himself thrust into the world of espionage involving a colony on Mars. It’s crazy and weird and funny and thrilling, and Schwarzenegger is perfectly cast. Get your ass to Mars! – Adam Chitwood

Beyond Skyline

Writer/Director: Liam O’Donnell

Cast: Frank Grillo, Jonny Weston, Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Antonio Fargas, Lindsey Morgan, Betty Gabriel

Beyond Skyline is a special kind of WTF. Of all the movies to spawn a franchise, I never would have guessed the much-derided 2010 sci-fi pic Skyline could pull it off, much less that the follow-up film would be such a gleeful, globe-trotting action-packed adventure. A proud, pulpy B-movie featuring aliens that rip the brain right out of your skull, Beyond Skyline stars Frank Grillo as a cop at odds with his son (Jonny Weston) when an alien attack sends them scrambling for their lives. Once the aliens make contact, the film ricochets through settings and characters at a breakneck pace, packing in a paperback book series worth of sci-fi lunacy into a single feature film that travels from subterranean tunnels to the nuclear wasteland of Los Angeles to an alien ship, and all the way to Laos, where Mark teams with rebels to battle the alien threat. You’ve got Frank Grillo playing hero with a baby in one hand and a space-blaster on the other, Antonio Fargas as a Vietnam vet who calls everybody “bitch”, Iko Uwais and Yaya Ruhain beating the shit out of giant aliens, and there’s even an honest-to-god Kaiju battle. Beyond Skyline won’t be for everyone, but if you love a bananas B-movie, the feature debut from writer-director Liam O’Donnell ticks all the right boxes. – Haleigh Foutch

In the Shadow of the Moon

Writer/Director: Jim Mickle

Jim Mickle's sci-fi crime thriller somehow slipped under the radar this year despite being on Netflix and being a generally engrossing, well-executed science fiction tale. Boyd Holbrook stars as a police officer who stumbles into horrendous series of crimes and winds up locked in the cat-and-mouse change that will define decades of his life... and mix him up in some twisted, tragic time-travel saga that could save the future of the country. An obsessive crime drama that mostly keeps it lowkey despite the extreme stakes, In the Shadow of the Moon has an occasional unfortunate habit of thinking it's more ahead of the audience than it really is, but its still an intriguing, engrossing, and technically well-executed time-travel saga that's well worth digging into. -- Haleigh Foutch

Midnight Special

Director/Writer: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, and Jaeden Martell

If you’re into grounded, indie sci-fi movies you’ll want to check out Midnight Special. This underrated 2016 film takes place in Texas and follows a father (Michael Shannon) who is forced to go on the run with his son (Jaeden Martell) when it turns out his son has special powers. Chased down by both the government and a cult, the bond between father and son is tested in various ways. Adam Driver plays an NSA communications analyst who has his own vested interest in the boy, and while this sounds like the plot of a superhero movie, Nichols approaches the material in an extremely realistic and grounded manner. It’s a Sundance movie with stunning performances and minimalist visual effects, putting a heavy focus on character over plot twists or giant set pieces. And Shannon gives a deeply soulful turn as the boy’s father. – Adam Chitwood

Stowaway

Director: Joe Penna

Writers: Joe Penna and Mathew Morrison

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson, Toni Collette

If you're looking for space battles, robots, or intergalactic wars, you're gonna want to take a look at the other sci-fi movies on Netflix, but if you're looking for an intense, understated dramatic thriller about a space mission gone wrong, Stowaway is a pretty interesting one... as long as you don't mind your science fiction slow-burn and bleak. Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, and Daniel Dae Kim star as a trio of space travelers for an independent company, who discovers there's somehow an extra person aboard their spacecraft. But he's not a villain, there are no deadly plots at play, he's just a company employee who somehow got stuck in there during takeoff, which means it's a whole lot more difficult to make the choices they need to when his arrival compromises their life support system. It's a very slow, sad movie (if you like watching A-listers cry in space, oh boy, you are in luck), but the performers give it their all and there's something refreshing about the simplicity in the moral conundrums that threaten to throw this space mission entirely off the rails. - Haleigh Foutch

RELATED: 'Stowaway' Ending Explained: Director Joe Penna Breaks Down That Final Scene & Teases The Trilogy That Could Have Been

Mute

Director: Duncan Jones

Writer: Michael Robert Johnson

Cast: Paul Rudd, Alexander Skarsgard, and Justin Theroux

Mute is a weird-as-hell movie, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Paul Rudd play a despicable character and knock it out of the park, this is for you. The second in an unofficial trilogy of loosely connected films, Mute follows in the footsteps of Duncan JonesMoon and takes place in the year 2035. Alexander Skarsgard plays a mute bartender named Leo searching for the woman he loves who has mysteriously disappeared. Rudd and Justin Theroux, meanwhile, play pretty deranged surgeons who play a major role in the film. Mute is a gnarly film that doesn’t exactly offer up an optimistic portrait of the future, but if you’re on its wavelength it’s a darkly fun ride. - Adam Chitwood

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