The age-old ‘What do I watch on Netflix?’ question is almost as old as time itself, isn’t it? But fear not, for we have you covered.
In no particular order, here’s our rundown of ten must-see sci-fi movies, ranging from classics to underrated gems, currently available on Netflix ANZ.
There’s not really a lot you need to know about that time Guillermo Del Toro brought a giant robot to a Kaiju party. Pacific Rim is as self-explanatory as it is deliriously enjoyable. For all its simple maths, Pacific Rim grabs you by the hand and leads you straight down into an intricate universe laden with heroic mech pilots, colossal inter-dimensional beasts from the depths of the sea and eye-popping black markets in monster guts. It’s got ludicrously named characters, mad scientists and tonne of chewy B-movie dialogue to get your head around. Some folk take issue with the accents (particularly the dicey Australian offerings). but it’s all part of the fun, and they’re missing the point entirely. It’s like going to Niagara Falls and complaining about the quality of the hot dogs. Del Toro will garner acclaim for his more cerebral fare (admittedly also great), but he’ll never get the credit he deserves for Pacific Rim. It’s a glorious, knuckle-headed ride into the world of big things hitting other big things, and I love it to pieces.
Natalie Portman joins an expedition into an unknown meteorite crash zone known as the Shimmer in Alex Garland’s wistful, team-on-a-mission movie Annihilation. Full disclosure: it’s not as interesting as Garland’s magnificent Ex-Machina, but it is operating entirely on its own terms and that is always worth investigation. With an excellent cast, subtle nods to the Strugaskys’ Roadside Picnic and an impressive visual identity, it’s hard to argue Annihilation isn’t essential Netflix viewing, and a stone cold debate starter. It’s worth watching as a vote for uncompromising and slightly off kilter sci-fi, because viewing statistics might prove to be the only effective counter argument to studios’ fear of originality.
Did you read 1984 and think “I suppose it was alright, but it needed more guns and martial arts”? If the answer is ‘yes’ then Equilibrium might just be the movie you’ve been looking for. In the near-future, humanity’s volatility and propensity for war has been deemed to stem from our feelings, and thus we are all forced to suppress them with drugs. Preston (Christian Bale) is the future cop charged with tracking down ‘sense offenders.’ But instead of nice, logical, Vulcan style peace and quiet, we end up living in some totalitarian nightmare straight out of an Alan Moore comic. Bale is literally the fun police as he plods about the city deploying his gun-based martial art, Gun Kata, on anyone fool enough to have a pop at him. Taking a few ideas from The Matrix and THX 1138, amongst others, Equilibrium runs them all through a blender and comes out looking like the anti-Logan’s Run. Instead of fun pastels, smiley Michael York and geodesic domes, we get dour uniforms, a scowling Christian Bale and brutalist architecture. Equilibrium was forged in the post-Matrix cash grab of the early 00s and despite taking itself super, super seriously, it ends up being a lot more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Self/Less is a great, underrated body swap/identity crisis action sci-fi. Directed by Tarsem Singh, the man responsible for the unfairly maligned The Cell (which looks like a perfume advert and J-Lo and Vince Vaughan travelling into the mind of a serial killer). Self/Less also found itself on the wrong end of the critical stick. It rates a staggering 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is borderline insanity. I personally guarantee* you will get more than 18% enjoyment out of this movie. For starters, let’s look at the plot. Terminally ill Damien Hale (Ben Kingsley) uses his rich-guy influence (and money) to undergo a ‘shedding’ process to transfer his consciousness into a new body, in an idea similar to those expanded upon in Altered Carbon. Turns out, the body he’s given belongs to deceased family man Mark (Ryan Reynolds), rather than organically grown, as promised. And so begins a duel struggle to get to the bottom of things: the external struggle of fleeing from the menacing doctor who performed the procedure (Matthew Goode) and the internal struggle between Damien and Mark for control and existence within their shared body. I’ll also contend that it’s the first movie in which Ryan Reynolds stepped away from his comedy persona and turned in a performance of genuine quality. Self/Less is strong conceptually, poking around themes of identity and existence, it has some fun action and is pretty much the poster child for underrated ’00s sci-fi.
*note: personal guarantee will not be honoured.
It’s dystopia time again, and this time the planet has deteriorated into a frozen wasteland, too cold for humanity to survive outside in the elements. Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi actioner is class war on a train, as the remaining population exists in segregation on board a massive locomotive. The lowest class live at the back of the train, while the rich elite live in luxury at the front. Curtis (Chris Evans) heads up a passenger revolt, methodically working toward the front of the train and the engineer / ruler Wilford (Ed Harris). Snowpiercer is hardly what we might call subtle, but it is hugely entertaining, chock full as it is, with outlandish ideas and an absolutely bonkers universe build. We’ve got John Hurt and Jamie Bell lending excellent support, and Tilda Swinton has perhaps never been better than in her turn here as Mason, an unholy meld of right-wing dictator and officious bureaucrat. Looking like an extra from Coronation Street, Swinton essays a perfect, patronising, authoritarian shit. She’s wonderful, in the most deranged way possible. Snowpiercer deals with themes of class inequality, wealth distribution and environmental disaster with an ingenious and idiosyncratic delivery. And while Snowpiercer’s unique take means it might not be for everybody, one thing’s for certain: you’ve never seen another film like it.