We love sci-fi here at TechRadar and what we find most exciting is the future tech imagined in sci-fi books, movies and TV shows often serves as inspiration for real world tech later down the line.
That’s why we like to watch sci-fi movies about future technology, worlds filled with machines and the fascinating and frightening possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to see what might be coming soon.
We know the last thing you want while you’re recovering from food overload is to trawl through streaming services looking for the best flicks to watch, so we’ve collected together our favorite sci-fi movies and TV shows about future tech that you can enjoy right now.
Sci-fi is a huge genre and the definition is likely to be different depending on who you speak to. But for this list, we’ve collected together the sci-fi set firmly in a fictional future that’s focused on technological advances and scientific breakthroughs rather than too much fantasy - but of course it’s often hard to separate the two.
Our list is filled with robots, future technology and plenty of space-based disasters. We’ve divided it up by the top services and we’ve made it as clear as possible which regions will get which films so you’re not left feeling disappointed.
But do remember all of these streaming services change their catalogues regularly. So although we’ll be updating this list, make sure you double check availability before you snuggle up all excited to watch the downfall of humanity.
And, if you can’t find something to stream for free through a service you already have, remember you can potentially rent many of these movies via Amazon Prime or iTunes too.
So prepare your festive leftovers and strap into your spacesuits. Let’s take one giant leap - or one small, kinda scared step - into our sci-fi future.
The best sci-fi movies and TV shows on: Netflix
Altered Carbon - UK & US - Set more than 300 years in the future, Altered Carbon is a TV series that follows the story of a mercenary who has been tasked with solving a murder. So far so normal, right? The difference is that in this future your memory and consciousness is stored in a device called a cortical stack that lives in your neck. This means if your body dies, you can have your ‘stack’ put into a new physical body, also called a ‘sleeve’. The one caveat is that if your stack gets destroyed, that’s it, you’re gone forever.
What this means is that in the Altered Carbon universe some of the characters have existed in various forms for hundreds of years, which brings a lot of drama, deceit and complicated relationships to the story. Be warned if you’re looking for a family-friendly watch this Christmas season, Altered Carbon isn’t it. There’s a bit of violence, but lots of sex.
Ex Machina - US only - Starring Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, this gothic sci-fi story from the wonderful Alex Garland is about a programmer who wins the trip of a lifetime to visit the reclusive CEO of his company at his remote retreat.
Once he arrives he finds out his role during his stay is to get to know an android called Ava that the CEO has created. It’s full of twists and turns, so we won’t say much more. But if you’re interested in artificial intelligence, it truly is a must watch.
Star Trek Beyond - UK only (Head to Hulu for US viewing) - We weren’t sure whether this felt too much like fantasy for the list, but there’s something warm and comforting about the Star Trek universe that makes it perfect for Christmas viewing.
It’s the 13th film in the Star Trek film franchise and the 3rd since the more recent reboot series behind Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Just like these last two instalments, it stars Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock.
In this movie the USS Enterprise is attacked by alien forces on the fringes of Federation space. The crew are stranded and have to fight off a ruthless enemy. Sure it’s not a particularly groundbreaking synopsis, but a fun watch and perfect for Star Trek fans.
Moon - US only - Written and directed by Duncan Jones, Moon is about an astronaut called Sam Bell who lives on the Moon harvesting helium-3. His contract is 3 years long and he only has a robot called GERTY for company.
He soon becomes impatient for his contract to end and starts questioning his true purpose during his time on the Moon base. It’s a great watch for those interested in space exploration, future tech and exploring how we interact with AI.
Oblivion - UK only - Tom Cruise stars as the main character in this movie about a future in which Earth has been devastated after a long war with aliens called Scavs. His job is to repair drones, but during a mission he spots a crashed spacecraft, which forces him to question everything he knows about the story he’s been told about what really happened to Earth.
The best sci-fi movies on: Amazon Prime Video
Interstellar - UK only - Earth is in a really bad way. There are disasters, famines, droughts, people are getting sick and no one has enough of anything. So the only answer is finding somewhere else to live or some other kind of resource.
Just as everything is imploding, a wormhole is discovered on the edge of the solar system. A group of astronauts, led by Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper, go on a mission to find answers. It’s a fantastic space story, but it’s also an extremely emotional tale about family, connection and love too. Get the tissues at the ready.
Looper - UK only - This smart movie from Rian Johnson is about a group of hitmen called loopers. But the twist is that rather than kill targets in their present, they kill targets that have been sent back in time from the future by the mob. The more we tell you the more it’ll ruin the twists and turns of this mind-bending story, but it’s a very clever look at time travel that’ll have you deep in thought for days.
Inception - UK & US - Like a heist story warped for the future, Inception is about a thief who uses a kind of dream-sharing technology to steal ideas, secrets and anything else that can make him money. But he’s approached by someone who wants him to do with opposite - use the tech to plant an idea in someone’s mind rather than steal it.
The best sci-fi movies on: Now TV - all UK only
Strange Days - Watch here -Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Strange Days is set in a near future where people’s emotions and memories are recorded onto discs. These recordings are obtained illegally from peoples’ cerebral cortex and whoever has one can then view and experience everything they saw and felt. An LAPD officer who deals in illegal discs is sent one that contains a violent crime, which he decides to investigate.
Blade Runner - Watch here - One of the best sci-fi movies ever made, Blade Runner is set in a dystopian future in which a blade runner called Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, must hunt down and terminate a group of replicants who have stolen a ship. The future city scenes are truly a sight to behold, as are the flying cars, but there’s also some fascinating discussions to be had after you’ve watched it about the moral minefield that comes with creating androids.
Blade Runner 2049 - Watch here - Set 30 years after Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 is about an LAPD officer called K, played by Ryan Gosling, who is hunting down the last of an old series of replicants. On a mission he uncovers a deep, dark secret that could throw the whole world into turmoil.
It’s a great film, despite it falling a little flat with some reviewers, and is a truly astounding movie aesthetically, with plenty of those flying cars we loved in the first movie, as well as long, sprawling shots of a future Los Angeles and plenty of brilliant tech.
Minority Report - Watch here - In the not-so-distant future, the authorities are able to accurately predict who is going to commit a crime before they actually carry it out. What this means is people are arrested before they do anything, there are practically no murders and everyone feels safer. Although that wouldn’t make a particularly compelling movie, which is why the system goes wrong and Chief John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, has to go and find out the truth behind the anomaly.
Based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick, the movie has a great story full of twists, but also contains great examples of future tech, including a gesture-based, holographic screen that Anderton operates with special gloves.
The Terminator - Watch here - A badass cyborg called The Terminator is sent from 2029 back to 1984 in order to assassinate Sarah Connor, a woman whose unborn son will eventually lead a war against machines. But, to even out both sides, a soldier from that future war is also sent back in time to protect her against Arnie’s indestructible android. Its classic action Arnie at his best with a heavy dose of rogue robots and a promise of a dystopia controlled by them.
The best sci-fi movies on: Hulu - all US only
The Fly - Played by Jeff Goldblum, Seth Brundle is a brilliant scientist carrying out a series of experiments in which he transports matter. He thinks everything is going smoothly, so he decides to transport himself. The catch? A fly has got into the transmission booth with him. Uh oh.
Robocop - In a dystopian future, an injured cop returns to the streets as a super powerful cyborg. It’s a classic sci-fi story about the melding of man and machine that might be a bit cheesy at times, but is really worth a watch if you’ve never got round to it before.
Ready Player One - It’s the virtual reality future from both your dreams and your nightmares. The good news is that VR is so realistic that it’s incredible and no one wants to leave it - but that’s also the bad news.
Everyone is obsessed with VR and living in a sprawling virtual world called The Oasis. Everyones’ lives are kinda screwed and the world is falling apart, but that’s not really an issue until the creator of The Oasis dies and the ownership of it hangs in the balance.
- Not in the mood for sci-fi? Here's where to watch Die Hard: stream online from anywhere