Atlas is Netflix’s most-watched movie despite being truly terrible – here are 3 better sci-fi epics

A still of Jennifer Lopez taken from the Netflix Atlas movie trailer
(Image credit: Netflix)

Jennifer Lopez hasn't had reviews like this since Gigli. Her new movie, Atlas, may be atop the Netflix streaming movie charts. But it's not going to be topping the critics' movie of the year polls. It's currently sitting with a terrible 19% from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a fairly unimpressive 50% from viewers, despite being a curious mix of Terminator and Neon Genesis Evangelion

According to the New York Times, the sci-fi drama "feels like pure pastiche" at times. "It looks, in a fashion we’re getting used to seeing on the streamers, kind of cheap, dark, plasticky and fake, particularly in the big action sequences." The San Francisco Chronicle isn't impressed either. "Imagine two hours of Lopez trying to deadlift 1,000 pounds, and you’d have an idea of what Atlas is like," it says. But the We're Watching What? podcast says it best with: "Legitimately afraid this film was written by someone being held hostage by a hostile AI".

Here are three better options to stream on Netflix in the US now.

Looper

It's hard to watch Looper now without feeling sad about Bruce Willis, who is magnificent here. Although it's a sci-fi movie and an inventive one to boot, at heart it's an old-school buddy action movie of the kind Willis so excelled at before degenerative disease forced him to retire. Looper is smarter than the average action movie, with great direction by Rian Johnson and superb performances by both Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt. As Stuff put it, "Looper joined Moon, Inception, Interstellar and Source Code in proving that the thinking-person's sci-fi, last truly prominent in the 1970s, came back with a vengeance during the past decade."

Also available to stream on Now/Sky in the UK and Stan/Foxtel in Australia.

Upgrade

Upgrade feels like a long, violent episode of Black Mirror, and that's a compliment: it's a pulpy revenge thriller set in a believable sci-fi future where a man wakes up from an accident with his wife dead and his body paralyzed. Will he accept an artificial implant that will give him his body back and help him wreak revenge? Take a wild guess. This is old-school sci-fi delivered with wit, verve and considerable style, and its relatively short running time helps keep it taut and tense. It's enormous fun, what Daily Grindhouse called "a wickedly funny, unassumingly smart, and ultra gory slice of cyberpunk."

Only available to rent or buy outside of the US currently. 

Ready Player One

If it's spectacle you're after, there's plenty of it here. Steven Spielberg's talents mean that this movie is never less than incredibly entertaining, and while the script isn't brilliant the set pieces are so spectacular you won't mind. As Autostraddle said, it's "a heckin fun movie, full of stunning action sequences and laughs and winks at the kids who grew up watching Back to the Future and Jurassic Park and E.T. and Indiana Jones." According to Empire: "Spielberg has seemingly done the impossible: balancing sugar-rush nostalgia with an involving story to create a pure, uncynical, cinematic ride that recaptures the magic of his early films."

Also available to stream on Netflix in Australia and Sky/Now in the UK.

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Carrie Marshall
Contributor

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.