Summer has long been a time for movie releases — from drive-ins in the 1950s, to multiplexes in the 1980s, to today’s streaming services. And one thing we can always count on for old-fashioned summer fun is science fiction movies on Netflix.
Summer means blockbuster sci-fi flicks with special effects and plots chock full of adventure and suspense. Dashing heroes, kick-ass heroines, questionable science. And it holds us riveted to our seats until the final credits: Think “Star Wars,” “Wrath of Khan,” “Blade Runner,” and “Aliens.”
Although very few drive-ins remain, and movie houses have become too spendy for all but the most-anticipated new releases, that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the adventure.
Science Fiction Movies on Netflix Are Perfect for Movie Night
Why not pop up a big bucket of corn and settle down for your own at-home drive-in movie featuring sci-fi movies?
Throw some cushions and blankets down in front of the flat screen, get everyone in their jammies, dim the lights, and push “play.” Not only will you avoid the mosquitoes, but the snacks will also be a lot cheaper too.
But if you’re hankering for more authenticity, you can always set up a drive-in in your own back yard. Check out this DIY tutorial from Popular Science on how to create an outdoor theater space.
You’ll need the app on your phone or tablet to watch science fiction movies on Netflix, as well as a projector. But, if you’re sentimental for the good old days, it’s totally worth it.
Choosing the Right Science Fiction Movies on Netflix to Watch
Now, all you need to do is find the right movie. Luckily, Netflix has plenty of great science fiction movies to choose from. You’ll find everything from revered classics to campy groaners.
Keep your audience in mind when choosing which of these sci-fi movies to stream. If you’re watching with small children, you probably want to choose something light and fun with the minimum of violence or gore.
On the other hand, if it’s all grown-ups, take a chance and check out something a bit more cerebral or action-packed.
But remember, double features weren’t just a ploy to get you into the theater. Start with something just right for the kids, and then switch to something more M-rated after they fall asleep.
Science Fiction Movies on Netflix You Can Stream This Summer
From light and funny to space opera adventure to thoughtful dramas, you’ll find these science fiction movies on Netflix. So, set up your own summer movie night at home or in the back yard.
We haven’t listed them in any particular order.
1. ‘The Fifth Element’
“The Fifth Element” is great, campy fun, and surely now considered a sci-fi classic. This 1997 science fiction flick features action star Bruce Willis as a former special forces commando turned cab driver.
He must find the “Fifth Element” — the mysterious weapon that will save the world from evil.
Set in the 22nd century, the sets and costumes are glorious cyberpunk fun.
The violence may be a bit much for small kids, and parent guidance site, Common Sense Media, rates it 14+, but you should make your own call.
Rotten Tomato users give it 87/100.
2. ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’
Everyone loves a big blockbuster for summer movie viewing. The latest installment of the Star Wars saga is now one of the most popular science fiction moves on Netflix. Subscribers who missed it in the theaters can now catch it at home. And superfans can watch it over and over.
In “The Last Jedi,” young Jedi Rey learns more about the powers of the Force on an isolated island with the help Luke Skywalker. Internally, she battles the Dark Side influences of Kylo Ren.
For old-school sci-fi fans, this is a bittersweet addition to the Saga. It features the final appearance of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. But most tragically, it’s also the final performance of Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, who passed in December 2016.
Critics loved “The Last Jedi,” giving it a score on Rotten Tomatoes of 91/100. Viewers were less kind, giving it only 44/100. However, if you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan, you’ll need to see it at least once to keep up with the story.
Common Sense Media rates it for age 10 and up, and notes that it features females in positions of authority and saving the day, providing kids with excellent role models and positive messages. For that alone, it’s worth a watch.
3. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has been translated to book, TV, stage, and radio. This 2005 Hollywood version manages to hold onto most of its original dry British wit, despite some questionable casting.
In the minutes leading up to the destruction of Earth by an indifferent alien construction crew, Englishman Arthur Dent is saved by his friend, Ford Prefect. Prefect is an alien, stationed on Earth to update its listing in the travel guide, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Hijinks ensue as Arthur and Ford travel to safety, especially after meeting up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, the over-the-top President of the Galaxy.
Penned by a “Doctor Who” alum, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a hilarious romp through the universe and clever mind of author Douglas Adams.
If you enjoy “Hitchhikers” and have a Netflix subscription that includes DVDs, make sure you order the disks of the 1981 TV show from the BBC. While the special effects are as cheesy as any 1980s BBC production (think Tom Baker-era “Doctor Who”), the series is more faithful to the original radio script and retains all its uniquely British humor.
4. ‘I Am Legend’
Definitely not a sci-fi flick for the kids, mainly because it features an end-of-the-world scenario with infected quasi-zombies. And who wants to fall to sleep with that in the background?
But “I Am Legend” is smarter and more thoughtful than the usual creature feature. Although you won’t lack for action and excitement. Starring Will Smith – whose ability to save the world is no longer questioned – it tells the story of Robert Neville. He seems to be the last man left alive that hasn’t been transformed into a mindless killer zombie.
5. ‘A Clockwork Orange’
Here is another one of those science fiction movies on Netflix best suited for an all-adult crowd. “A Clockwork Orange” from 1971 is a classic in both film and literary form, and a must for any serious fan of the genre. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this disturbing story imagines a dystopian future world peopled with out-of-control teen gangs. The authorities must resort to abusive and ultimately futile social experiments to control them.
Rotten Tomatoes viewers give it 93/100. Common Sense Media rates it for 17 and up, and I can’t disagree. It’s not only extremely violent, but it also requires the ability to understand the nature of dystopian fiction.
There are no good guys in this flick to save the day. It’s a fascinating — but chilling — watch.
6. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’
Now, something both kids and parents can enjoy, open your family-friendly movie night with “A Wrinkle in Time.” This big-screen adaption of Madelaine L’Engle’s classic young adult book features beautiful cinematography, a diverse cast, and positive messages of love and loyalty. All in a sci-fi movie!
While viewers on Rotten Tomatoes were disappointed with the adaption and only gave it 27/100, critics were kinder with 42/100.
Common Sense Media tags it for age 10 and up and calls it “inclusive but imperfect.” Frankly, we think it’s worth adding to any sci-fi movie playlist for young people based on it’s positive and diverse role models.
7. ‘Black Panther’
Another great choice if you’re seeking African-American representation in sci-fi. And besides, it’s an amazing movie with brilliant special effects, moving dialogue, and breathtakingly choreographed action scenes.
Franchises struggle to keep up with the audience demand for diverse casts. They’ve tried reimaging stereotyped roles with different actors. But, “Black Panther” delivers a true original!
Although well-intentioned, bending character gender and ethnicity isn’t always the answer to engaging a quickly widening market. What we really need are original diverse characters telling authentic stories from their unique POV.
“Black Panther” does this and it does it brilliantly.
T’Challa is the heir to the kingdom of Wakanda. However, to lead his people into the future, he must battle an enemy from the past.
Wakanda – a technologically advanced country hidden in the depths of Africa – may need to reveal itself to the larger world. But is it finally safe to do so?
Rotten Tomatoes viewers gave it 79/100, but I have to agree with the critics’ higher rating of 97/100. This movie is stunning.
Common Sense Media rates it a 12 and up and lauds this comic-book movie with its distinctive “Great for Families” sticker. While there is some violence, it’s unrealistic violence, and of course, the good guys win.
8. ‘V for Vendetta’
“V for Vendetta” is one of those science fiction movies on Netflix you’ll find strangely uplifting, despite the title. A masked freedom fighter, known as “V,” enlists a young woman to fight against a future tyrannical government in this 2006 movie starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman.
While somewhat political, “V for Vendetta” is a cult favorite, with Rotten Tomatoes viewers giving it big thumbs up with an average rating of 90/100.
Common Sense Media says “adults only,” but both parents and kids disagreeing and countering with recommending it for 14 and up.
Some say it’s too complicated for younger kids. And while it does feature a lot of violence and foul language, it can teach older teens important lessons about standing up against fascism. And everyone knows that revolution is rarely pretty.
9. ‘Ex Machina’
Of all the science fiction movies on Netflix, Ex Machina is probably one of the most anticipated to be added to the stream. This striking and cerebral thriller takes the time-honored “Frankenstein” premise into the 21st century.
Exploring the dangers and moral implications of artificial intelligence, it’s a dark, gritty film that will make you think.
Rotten Tomatoes viewers give it an average rating of 86/100, calling it elegant, intriguing, and even unsettling.
Common Sense Media rates it for 17 and up while acknowledging its brilliance and saying it can give older teens “plenty to think and talk about.”
10. ‘Cloud Atlas’
“Cloud Atlas” is another of the science fiction movies on Netflix best left to the adults. However, it’s not for display of bad behaviors. This somewhat thoughtful and complicated film was based on the 2004 book of the same name. It features six nested and interconnected stories that weave throughout the centuries, from the 1800s to a post-apocalyptic future.
Starring America’s sweet-spot cast — Tom Hanks and Halle Berry — many people have speculated that it’s just too much book for one movie. If you’re one of those who like their speculative fiction served up with thought-provoking insight and even a little philosophy and metaphysics, “Cloud Atlas” should be on your to-see list.
While the movie crashed at the box office, some fans say that it just wasn’t the right time for the movie’s ambition. One reviewer speculates that with its focus on climate change, diversity, and human rights, “Cloud Atlas” is more relevant now than when it was released in 2012.
Audiences at Rotten Tomatoes give it 66/100, with some saying that the producers tried to bite off more than they could chew.
Common Sense Media rates it for 16 and up, mainly for its complexity and violence. Most amusingly, most of the kids that reviewed it on the site agreed. While some were blown away by the scope of the movie and loved it, the majority of teens said it wasn’t a good fit for anyone under 15.
And if you struggle a bit understanding a few of the plot points, Salon has a great analysis of the flick that might help answer any lingering questions.
Why We Love Science Fiction Movies on Netflix
Sci-fi flicks give us a chance to escape our humdrum and stress-filled days and visit other worlds. Do traffic jams even exist on Ursa Minor Beta? I bet not! After all, if they’re alien and have space travel. So, they’re probably smarter than we are and have figured out how to plan for hyperspace bypasses.
But along with escapism through exciting adventures, science fiction offers us a chance to speculate how we — on Earth — can do better. Alternatively, some of the best spec-fic paints a chilling portrait of what happens when we do much worse.
Science fiction offers us all an incentive to harness our imaginations. It also teaches us about society, tolerance, and the quest for knowledge.
So, how can we not love science fiction movies?
Featured Image: Promotional Image via IMDb