UPDATE: Two brainy science fiction films from visionary directors have been added to our list of the best Netflix sci-fi movies this week in Denis Villeneuve's Arrival and Christopher Nolan's Tenet. Find out more about each film below!
As geeky enthusiasts with a keen interest in burgeoning technological advancements, it probably won't come as surprise to hear that we're obsessed with science fiction here at TechRadar.
Science fiction is a special genre, in that it asks us to imagine how mankind would be affected by advancements in technology which haven't happened yet. Sci-fi can offer us a glimpse at our hypothetical future, past, or even an alternate present day.
For instance, the arrival of an imagined technological breakthrough could result in a story set in a radically different society to ours. Or it could just mean flying cars and space ships.
From futuristic action movies to thought-provoking films that make you examine the world in a different light, there's something for everyone on our list of the best sci-fi movies available to stream on Netflix in Australia.
A brilliant subversion of the 'aliens arrive on Earth' trope, the extraterrestrial visitors in the film Arrival aren't here to conquer and destroy, but to enlighten and advance the human race. Worried about the aliens' true motives, the US military enlists the country's top linguist (Amy Adams) to not only make contact with the mysterious beings, but also find a way to communicate with them. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the visionary filmmaker behind Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming sci-fi epic Dune, Arrival is a smart science fiction film which opts to deliver thought-provoking concepts over explosions.
Visionary director Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster is easily his most mind-bending yet, set in a world of espionage in which agents must master the concept of 'time inversion' in order to stop a renegade oligarch from ending the world. In essence, Tenet is about a new kind of war in which people fight against a future scenario that's moving backwards in time. Imagine spies carrying out secret missions in situations which have already happened while everything around them moves in reverse and you might have some idea of at what Nolan is going for with Tenet – a film which makes Inception look rather pedestrian by comparison.
I Am Mother
A smart, slow-burn science fiction film that favours suspense over explosions, I Am Mother is more akin to the likes of Ex Machina and Moon than it is The Terminator or I, Robot. The mother in question is in fact a robot (voiced by Rose Byrne) who has been raising and preparing a young girl (Clara Rugaard) within a scientific facility since birth, with no contact with the outside world, for reasons unknown. Though the girl, referred to only as 'daughter', loves her 'mother', the arrival of an outsider (Hilary Swank) turns her world upside down with a startling revelation, forcing the girl to question her allegiance to the machine that raised her and its motives. Featuring a story that will keep you guessing, and an incredibly-convincing practical robot suit devised by Weta and performed by Luke Hawker, I Am Mother is a must-watch for sci-fi fans.
If you've seen writer-director Alex Garland's previous sci-fi masterpiece, Ex Machina, you'll know to expect a wild ride with his follow-up, Annihilation. Based on the highly regarded novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation follows a group of women who set off on an expedition into an environmental disaster zone where the laws of nature don't apply. Natalie Portman leads the pack as a biologist searching for her missing husband, and she's joined by Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and more. Though the film has only just been released in theatres in the US, Australia is lucky enough to be one of the countries getting the film on Netflix right away. Equally brainy and terrifying, Annihilation has all the makings of a modern science fiction classic.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Set in the distant future of 2019 (hehe), Ridley Scott's cyberpunk classic Blade Runner imagines a world in which artificial people known as 'replicants' are part of our society. While they are essentially labour robots, these replicants exhibit free will and emotions of their own, leading some to occasionally break free from their assigned purpose. Enter Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a Blade Runner whose job it is to track down rogue replicants and "retire" them. Deckard's latest assignment is to pursue and terminate a group of killer replicants who have stolen a ship and returned to Earth to find their maker. A brilliant, complex film which explores what it means to be human, Blade Runner is a must-watch movie for sci-fi enthusiasts.
Blade Runner 2049
Picking up 30 years after the original, director Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 follows a new Blade Runner named K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant who uncovers a long-buried secret which leads him directly to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has spent the last few decades in insolation. While the film is more plot-driven than Ridley Scott's 1982 original film, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy follow-up that explores many of the same philosophical themes, expanding on them by asking whether true humanity is about the legacy we leave behind.
Celebrated horror filmmaker Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension) tones it down a little with his latest film, Oxygen – a claustrophobic thriller set within the confines of locked cryo-chamber that's quickly running out of oxygen. Unfolding more or less in real-time, the film stars Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) as Liz, the woman desperately trying to escape the chamber before her time is up.
Aussie director Alex Proyas (The Crow, I, Robot) delivered one of the best sci-fi thrillers of the '90s with Dark City – a noir-styled film that begins with an amnesiac man (Rufus Sewell) waking up with a dead woman in his hotel room. Sounds like a fairly standard mystery tale, doesn't it? In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth. Before long, the man, supposedly named John, realises that daylight never comes in this city, and that something is causing everyone but him to spontaneously fall asleep like clockwork, allowing a group of mysterious figures known as 'the strangers' to go around performing weird experiments on them. On top of this, these strangers are able to erect entire buildings and shift the town around by sheer will alone – an ability which John also seems to have. Made in Sydney a full year before The Matrix, Dark City was perhaps too obscure at the time to reach a mainstream audience. That said, this visually stunning film is an underseen science fiction classic.
Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise has an impressive roster of science fiction movies on his filmography, including Minority Report, War of the Worlds and Oblivion. However, 2014's Edge of Tomorrow may very well be his best yet. Cruise stars as Cage, a demoted military officer who is thrown into an unwinnable battle with an invading alien race. In this instance, it wouldn't be spoiling anything to reveal that Cruise dies immediately, because Edge of Tomorrow follows the Groundhog Day storytelling principle, in which the lead character is caught in a time-loop that sees him repeat the same day over and over again. In an effort to end this never-ending cycle and win the war once and for all, Cage teams up with Rita (Emily Blunt), a badass soldier who previously experienced the same time-loop and then lost it. Featuring excellent writing, terrific acting and exciting exo-suit action, Edge of Tomorrow is exceptional blockbuster entertainment.
Before he swept the 2020 Academy Awards with his film Parasite, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho made his English-language debut with Snowpiercer – a brilliant allegorical sci-fi film about a train powered by perpetual motion that continually circles the globe after a climate change experiment kills all life on Earth. The train contains all that's left of humanity, and unfortunately, its previous societal failings have found their way onboard, too. A new class system has emerged, with all the poor and impoverished struggling to survive at the back of the train, while the rich live it up at the front. Living in squalor and ruled over with an iron fist, the poor (led by Chris Evans) mount a revolution against Wilford (Ed Harris), the train's creator. If you love the film, make sure to catch the Snowpiercer TV series, also available on Netflix.
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Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible.
He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.